This week, Ross Douthat and I offer columns about today's troubled elites.
"In hereditary aristocracies," Ross writes, "debacles tend to flow from stupidity and pigheadedness: think of the Charge of the Light Brigade or the Battle of the Somme."
[...] In meritocracies, though, it’s the very intelligence of our leaders that creates the worst disasters. Convinced that their own skills are equal to any task or challenge, meritocrats take risks that lower-wattage elites would never even contemplate, embark on more hubristic projects, and become infatuated with statistical models that hold out the promise of a perfectly rational and frictionless world.
Inevitably, pride goeth before a fall.
What happens to the self-regard of our elites after (or during) the fall Ross leaves up to our imagination. My take? Welcome to a cultural pity party so intense it's the political equivalent of resentment repellent:
“Optimism and self-pity [as Orwell’s contemporary Cyril Connolly once put it] are the positive and negative poles of modern cowardice.” Caught pathetically between, our elites have turned out to be the real bitter clingers.
Not much fodder for envy, is it? I'd say the real political vitality is in the hands of smart pessimists -- populist and otherwise -- as short on resentment as they are on pity. But they're still marginal figures. Our brooding elites are not about to take flight from their perches. From Obama to Berlusconi and far beyond, all indications are they'll have to be pushed -- by people, yes, but, more fundamentally, by events.