The Strange Failure of the Educated Elite

The chief accomplishment of the current educated elite is that it has produced a bipartisan revolt against itself.

.. A narrative is emerging. It is that the new meritocratic aristocracy has come to look like every other aristocracy. The members of the educated class use their intellectual, financial and social advantages to pass down privilege to their children, creating a hereditary elite that is ever more insulated from the rest of society. We need to build a meritocracy that is true to its values, truly open to all.

.. The real problem with the modern meritocracy can be found in the ideology of meritocracy itself. Meritocracy is a system built on the maximization of individual talent, and that system unwittingly encourages several ruinous beliefs:

.. Exaggerated faith in intelligence. Today’s educated establishment is still basically selected on the basis of I.Q. High I.Q. correlates with career success but is not the crucial quality required for civic leadership. Many of the great failures of the last 50 years, from Vietnam to Watergate to the financial crisis, were caused by extremely intelligent people who didn’t care about the civic consequences of their actions.

.. If you build a society upon this metaphor you will wind up with a society high in narcissism and low in social connection. Life is not really an individual journey. Life is more like settling a sequence of villages.

.. Misplaced notion of the self. Instead of seeing the self as the seat of the soul, the meritocracy sees the self as a vessel of human capital, a series of talents to be cultivated and accomplishments to be celebrated. If you base a society on a conception of self that is about achievement, not character, you will wind up with a society that is demoralized; that puts little emphasis on the sorts of moral systems that create harmony within people, harmony between people and harmony between people and their ultimate purpose.

.. Inability to think institutionally. Previous elites poured themselves into institutions and were pretty good at maintaining existing institutions, like the U.S. Congress, and building new ones, like the postwar global order. The current generation sees institutions as things they pass through on the way to individual success.

.. Some institutions, like Congress and the political parties, have decayed to the point of uselessness, while others, like corporations, lose their generational consciousness and become obsessed with the short term.

.. Diversity for its own sake, without a common telos, is infinitely centrifugal, and leads to social fragmentation.

.. The essential point is this: Those dimwitted, stuck up blue bloods in the old establishment had something we meritocrats lack — a civic consciousness, a sense that we live life embedded in community and nation, that we owe a debt to community and nation and that the essence of the admirable life is community before self.

Trump’s short-term achievements will cost conservatives

Amos went to Israel at a time of great prosperity to tell the nation God would destroy it for failing to care for its widows, its poor, its orphans and its refugees.

Everyone looked around at the success, riches, and plenty and mocked the prophet.

.. ch, and it has become far easier for conservatives to turn a blind eye to injustices than speak up.

.. More and more conservatives are modeling Trump’s bad behaviors. His vulgarity, his thin skin, his willingness to insult and demean, and his willingness to degrade his office are now reflected in conservative political leaders who increasingly see their goal as beating the other side instead of advancing ideas and sound public policy.

.. The party of small government is perfectly happy to grow government as long as Trump is spending the money. The party of limited government is perfectly happy to have a powerful chief executive as long as Trump is wielding the power. Trump and his supporters have also doubled-down on unwise precedents set by the Obama administration. President Barack Obama investigated leaks to reporters such as James Rosen; Trump now seems to revel in the idea of shutting down whole networks whose coverage he hates. Republicans who decried the left’s hostility to free speech in the Obama years now champion censorship of their opponents.

.. It is safe to say many of the president’s supporters have concluded that arguments and debates no longer work, so they will take what they can get as quickly as they can before the tide rolls in and washes this administration away.

.. The short-term gains of this administration, like those of the last, are being achieved by executive order and appointment. So too then can the gains of this administration be wiped out as easily as those of the last.

.. There will always be partisans on the left who hate anything those on the right do. But they are not who conservatives have to worry about. Conservatives have to worry about those in the middle who are persuadable. They have to worry about minority voters increasingly skeptical of the secular drift of the Democratic Party. They have to worry about younger voters.

.. It has become harder to make the case for family and morality as prominent evangelicals applaud and justify the bad behaviors of a thrice-married adulterer who believes immigrants should be judged based on their nation of origin, not the content of their own character.

.. not only has Anthony M. Kennedy not retired from the Supreme Court, but also he has drifted left.

.. the precedent is now there for Democrats to just ignore a replacement who Trump nominates. The conservatives who rallied to Trump to save the high court may very well lose it because of him.

.. Though many conservatives, myself included, have cheered the successes of this administration, most of them are easily reversible and, along the way, it will be harder and harder to separate the successes from the low character and behavior of the man whose name is connected to them. Conservatives may no longer care, but for most Americans, character still matters. At some point, those on the right will pay the price.

China Could Sell Trump the Brooklyn Bridge

Xi has been brilliant at playing Trump, plying him with flattery and short-term trade concessions and deflecting him from the real structural trade imbalances with China. All along, Xi keeps his eye on the long-term prize of making China great again. Trump, meanwhile, touts every minor victory as historic and proceeds down any road that will give him a quick sugar high.

What world are we in? One in which we’re going through three “climate changes” at once.

  1. We’re going through a change in the actual climate: Destructive weather events and the degradation of ecosystems are steadily accelerating.
  2. We’re going through a change in the “climate” of globalization: from an interconnected world to an interdependent one; from a world of walls, where you build your wealth by hoarding resources, to a world of webs, where you thrive by connecting your citizens to the most flows of ideas, trade, innovation and education.
  3. And, finally, we’re going through a change in the “climate” of technology and work: Machines are acquiring all five senses, and with big data and artificial intelligence, every company can now analyze, optimize, prophesize, customize, digitize and automatize more and more jobs, products and services.

.. while China hails globalization, it imposes a 25 percent tariff on imported cars (while America imposes only 2.5 percent) and 50-50 joint ventures and technology transfers for big companies that want to gain access to China’s giant market. But China gets away with it.

.. plowing government funds and research into commercializing 10 strategic industries while creating regulations and swiping intellectual property from abroad to make them all grow faster. These industries include

  1. electric vehicles,
  2. new materials,
  3. artificial intelligence,
  4. integrated circuits,
  5. biopharmacy,
  6. quantum computing,
  7. 5G mobile communications, and
  8. robotics.

.. And Trump? On the change in the climate, he’s promoting coal over clean energy, like wind and solar, and has appointed climate-change deniers to all of his key environmental posts. While China is run by engineers, Trump doesn’t even have a science adviser.

.. “This will be wounding to one of America’s gems,” its institutions of higher education, Drew Faust, the president of Harvard, said to me. And it’s basically being done to cut taxes for the wealthy.

.. the Chinese are focused on the giant winds of change, and Trump is betting on his gut and a grab bag of tax cuts based on no take on the world, other than dubious trickle-down economics.

.. When you don’t know where you’re going any tax cut will get you there, any replacement for Obamacare will get you there, any wall will get you there, any trade concession will get you there.

.. I’m certain our economic system is better than theirs — in theory.

But China, with its ability to focus, is getting 90 percent out of its inferior system, and it has brought China a long way fast. And we, with too little focus, are getting 50 percent out of our superior system. 

Tillerson Balances Trump’s Goals With His Own

In interview, secretary of state reflects on his role in administration, warns China on trade and territory

 “Most of the things he would do would be done on very short time frames. Everything I spent my life doing was done on 10- to 20-year time frames, so I am quite comfortable thinking in those terms.”

His solution: “Delivering the incremental wins,” he said. “Incremental progress is taking you toward the ultimate objective, which is, as I say is eight, 10 years down the road.”’

.. Mr. Tillerson said one of his top long-term priorities is shifting the balance of the trade and national-security relationship with China

.. Mr. Tillerson warned China that the U.S. has an arsenal of economic weapons to force Beijing to address trade imbalances and a continuing territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

 .. “We can do this one of two ways,” Mr. Tillerson said during the interview, seeming at times to speak directly to his Chinese counterparts. “We can do it cooperatively and collaboratively, or we can do it by taking actions and letting you react to that.”

Tools he might apply include tariffs, World Trade Organization actions, quotas and other mechanisms, he said.

.. If I were a world leader—doesn’t matter who—I wouldn’t talk to Tillerson,” said Larry Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, citing the public divide between the two men. “The president must feel that this person can do the work for him…this is not the case here. It’s becoming antagonistic.”

.. Mr. Trump has also disparaged his top diplomat, complaining that Mr. Tillerson doesn’t understand his “Make America Great” philosophy and has few original thoughts. “Totally establishment in his thinking,” he has told aides.

.. “I believe you solve a problem in Afghanistan not by just dealing with Afghanistan,” he said. “You solve it by solving a regional problem, and that’s the way we’re looking at the Middle East.”

.. said he spends the bulk of his time concentrating on North Korea, Iran, counterterrorism, China and Russia.