A gentry, not an elite

Instapundit has been riffing for a few days now on the theme of the American ruling class being a credentialed gentry, not an elite — as well as being “credentialed, not educated”.

Angelo Codevilla’s article and book entitled “The Ruling Class” make a similar point. Let me illustrate this by comparing the USA with France.

At least as much as the USA, in fact even moreso, France is being ruled by the New Class. Not just are very few of its elected officials outsiders to the elite, but arguably the greater part of executive power is vested in a permanent, unelected, civil service bureaucracy. Not only are most of the “elite” politicians, and essentially all of the senior bureaucrats, just graduates of a few top tertiary institutions, but the lion’s share of those not in a technical or medical specialty are graduate of just a single institution: the ENA (Ecole Nationale d’Administration/National School for [Public] Administration).The French refer to this system as “l’ENArchie” and to the members as “les enarques” — and indeed, “enarchy”  would seem to be an appropriate name for such a closed “insider” government.

However, arrogant as this elite may be, and unbecoming as intellectual arrogance is in general, at least these people have something to be arrogant about. Admission to the ENA, and admission to the upper ranks of the civil service, are strictly by competitive exams graded anonymously. The end result is not only much more meritocratic than the US system, but (despite a certain homogeneity imposed by the common education) France’s New Class is ideologically more diverse than its US counterpart. All parts of the political spectrum can be found in its ranks.

In comparison, the US “ruling class” is increasingly becoming, as both Codevilla and Reynolds argue, a clique that admits newcomers based not on raw talent, but on how well they fit in with the existing members in terms of social backgrounds and sensitivities. Once upon a time, an Ivy League honors degree may have guaranteed an education as broad and deep as anything one can (still, albeit with more difficulty than yesteryear) gain in Europe. Exchanges with recent graduates of “elite” journalism schools or “studies” programs at Ivy League schools will very quickly disabuse you of that notion. Nowadays, once admitted to such a program, students are notoriously underworked and undereducated.

This “credentialed gentry” (Reynolds’ term), aside from being every bit as shallow as the current resident of 1600 Penn Ave, through self-selection and peer pressure has become an intellectual echo chamber and “mutual admiration society” (less family-friendly bloggers would use a word starting with “circle”) that is not only becoming ever more alienated from the “country class” but increasingly detached from objective reality.

In the real world, if you have an impressive marketing campaign for dogfood yet sales lag because the dogs don’t like the food, this is a business failure. In the rarified world of postmodern academia, the marketing campaign is all that counts, and the dogs that refuse to eat the food must surely be suffering from a ‘false consciousness’. A country being ruled by such people would be hilarious if it weren’t so tragic.

Let us tell them loudly, a week from now, that the joke has become stale and we are tired of being its props.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s