Bobo’s latest whinefest about the erosion of elite authority is epic. I’ll give you a bit, but don’t hesitate to click through: you will find his salty tears very tasty.
The old adversary culture of the intellectuals has turned into a mass adversarial cynicism. The common assumption is that elites are always hiding something. Public servants are in it for themselves. Those people at the top are nowhere near as smart or as wonderful as pure and all-knowing Me.
You end up with movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Parties that try to dispense with authority altogether. They reject hierarchies and leaders because they don’t believe in the concepts. The whole world should be like the Internet — a disbursed semianarchy in which authority is suspect and each individual is king.
I don’t know if America has a leadership problem; it certainly has a followership problem. Vast majorities of Americans don’t trust their institutions. That’s not mostly because our institutions perform much worse than they did in 1925 and 1955, when they were widely trusted. It’s mostly because more people are cynical and like to pretend that they are better than everything else around them. Vanity has more to do with rising distrust than anything else.
Bad choice of years. In 1925, the country was in a (albeit soon-to-end) boom, in 1955 it was in the middle of the greatest 25-year-period in human economic history. Now, by contrast, we are at the end of a five-year stretch during which the average American family has seen its total assets drop in value by 40%, which means there has been no growth (zero) in the wealth of the average American family over the past 20 years. And then throw in a disastrous war that elites almost uniformly supported.
Elites have been making out like bandits, quite literally, through all of this. They’ve lost a little over the past couple years, but over the past 20 their income and share of the total wealth of the country has skyrocketed. At the Times itself, there’s been some outright looting by top execs:
Despite the shrinkage, the company has retained essentially the same top-heavy management, which it has kept well compensated. Even though the paper froze executives’ pensions in 2009, as it is threatening to do with union employees, the company created two loopholes, called the Restoration Plan and the Supplemental Executive Savings Plan, which allowed certain high-earning executives to take money out anyway. As a result, Janet Robinson received an additional lump-sum payment of over half a million dollars upon exiting the Times.
All in all, I’m happy to know that once elites have destroyed everything, at least they’ll cry about the fact that the peasants don’t respect them anymore.