Why Anti-Elite Era?

This is fascinating:

During the great moments of social reform, at least 60 percent of Americans trusted government to do the right thing most of the time. Now, only a quarter have that kind of trust. The country is evenly divided about President Obama, but state governments are in disrepute and confidence in Congress is at withering lows. …

Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the past year.  The educated class believes in global warming, so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise. The educated class supports abortion rights, so public opinion is shifting against them. The educated class supports gun control, so opposition to gun control is mounting. … The educated class believes in multilateral action, so the number of Americans who believe we should “go our own way” has risen sharply.

More here.   Possible explanations:

  1. Folks trust authorities less in times of economic decline.
  2. US elites have over-played their hand, asking too much.
  3. US folks are morally balancing for electing a black president.

More theories?  Ideas for how to distinguish theories?

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  • keating

    People’s convictions/principles are more malleable than when times are good (where they can, presumably, intellectually and emotionally afford to be rigid). Nobody (imo) should be pro-choice one day and then turn anti-choice the next on account of our government screwing up – our government failing has nothing to do with whether a woman has a property right in her own body. I submit that such a belief, among many others you’ve posted above, should be consistent regardless of the competency of D.C.

    This is very terribly concerning. The first question should be not whether it’s about trust, or elitism or balancing for electing a black president….the question should be ‘why do external events have ANY effect on what would otherwise be fairly solid/rigid/inflexible convictions about rights and liberties?”

  • http://kburke.org Kevin Burke

    Perhaps the Internet’s turned everyone into an expert? Or as incomes have risen people become more politically active. As people become more politically active their trust in the elite class falls.

  • http://adequatelyreserved.wordpress.com bcg

    My guess is a lot of #1.

    • gwern

      But what if we checked the Great Depression era attitudes? I suspect we’d find a massive increase in trust from the pre-Depression bubble, as evidenced by FDR’s equally massive popularity & mandate.

      • Dan

        Well actually, the Hoover administration and their elites was viewed a lot worse than you think… people were seeing communism as an alternative… this was quite an indictment.

        FDR came in with bold policies and actions. So even when things were still declining at first he was immensely popular.

        Compare to today, FDR came in and swept away a rotten system and people were happy, they knew that things were not going to be okay tomorrow,but there was confidence in a new system that will fix stuff.

        Compare to today… people know that no-one is going to fix the problems overnight but were is the system that is going to fix stuff EVENTUALLY??

  • Joe

    It’s important to note that all of the issues mentioned are policy issues with a strong normative/moral component (belief in the reality of “global warming” is stratified into many layers, some involving only hard fact in principle, but difficult to disentangle from the surrounding ideology). The reduction in power of traditional information gatekeepers (universities, newspapers, schools, other elements of elite and government institutions) and diversity of accessible viewpoints due to the Internet certainly makes a huge difference. I have read many dissenting & conservative views thanks to blogs like this one (and Mencius, Roissy, Sailer) which I would likely never have encountered even though some are in print (e.g. Roger Scruton, F Roger Devlin) due to the ease of hyperlinking and searching for more context and counterpoint. My views on every issue listed have certainly moved away from the elite consensus because of this wider exposure. I don’t always end up at the opposite position, but having the *best* defense of dissenting views available with a few keystrokes takes a huge amount of power away from the traditional organs, at least with respect to someone who is genuinely curious and not looking for an echo chamber.

  • Chris

    The original author contends that various ideas associated with the educated class are becoming unpopular. As examples, he takes a list of leftist ideas associated with the educated classes.

    I’d be curious to see some right wing ideas, popular with the educated classes, which have also become unpopular.

    At the moment, I’m simply chalking this up to “the country is swinging right.”

    • Marc

      Open and unregulated financial markets?

      • Chris

        Are these ideas (open and unregulated markets, and free trade suggested by Hal Finney below) held by the elites?

        I always thought the elites supported markets/trade tempered by technocratic regulation. For instance, “free trade” but with protection for strategic industries, or allowing consumer credit securitization but with added consumer protections and regulations designed to extend credit to less creditworthy individuals. (My perspective might be informed by the fact that I’m currently an academic.)

        I’m not disagreeing, I’m genuinely curious. Apart from a general intuition, how does one determine whether a view is an “educated elite” view?

      • michael vassar

        More elite people are in favor of less regulated financial markets and freer trade than less elite people are (see Bryan Caplan’s Myth of the Rational Voter). Only fringe figures are ever in favor of totally unregulated financial markets or trade.

      • Hal Finney

        I suppose I was thinking of economists as the relevant educated elite; perhaps Marc was too. But even with a larger definition, wouldn’t you say that NAFTA is supported by a larger percentage of the educated class than the working class?

    • Hal Finney

      Free trade?

    • Vladimir

      Chris:

      I’d be curious to see some right wing ideas, popular with the educated classes, which have also become unpopular.

      Trouble is, when it comes to the possible ideological positions on most issues, “right wing” is nowadays pretty much a synonym for “unpopular with the educated classes.” On pretty much any issue that I can think of, If you go so far left that your view becomes really unpopular with the educated respectable opinion, you’re way out in the far left territory.

      I would be curious if anyone can offer any counterexamples, though.

      At the moment, I’m simply chalking this up to “the country is swinging right.”

      How many issues can you point out on which the U.S. public opinion has, on average, moved significantly to the right in the last (say) 10 years? Do you actually believe that this is the case for most relevant issues? (Which would presumably be implied by the claim that “the country is swinging right.”)

      • Chris

        Trouble is, when it comes to the possible ideological positions on most issues, “right wing” is nowadays pretty much a synonym for “unpopular with the educated classes.”

        This is quite true. The left has adopted “all smart people agree with us” as part of their tribal identity. This leads people to signal their intelligence by adopting left wing beliefs and a great many educated elites do this.

        Of course, when someone says “educated elites”, I generally thing of liberal arts grads in academia, reporters, writers, and various people who pontificate on politics. I don’t think of libertarian techies out in the valley or econ PhDs working at a hedge fund. Do the latter category of people count as “educated elites”?

        As for the country swinging right, I don’t believe it happened over 10 years. I believe it happened since Obama took office, and campaign promises that everyone can have a pony gave way to policy proposals which have costs as well as benefits. (This usually happens with a new president.)

      • Dan

        There is very little “libertarian techies” case of high visibility but micro-minority. Tech executives is heavily skewed Dem, most left in an increasing left-leaning professional community.

        Hedge funds / Finance, definitely socially left, otherwise selfish (doesn’t mind regulation/laws/sunsidies if it makes them money or of course bails them out…)

  • http://randommusingsbycliff.blogspot.com cliff

    You left out the most obvious explanation. The so-called educated class which thinks of itself as elite is just plain W R O N G ! On so many levels.

    • Jabberwocky

      Exactly correct. This is the simplest explanation. The simplest explanation is usually correct, and in this case it is correct.

      Anthropogenic global warning is a good example. It is wrong, it is a forgery, it is a ruinous scam for the whole world, and it is easy to see that it is wrong if you have the slightest inclination to think for yourself and get properly informed about the debate instead of being smugly satisfied with being brainwashed by the main-stream media.

  • Millian

    Lots of #1, some of #2, none of #3 except on race issues (no reason why they consider their new stances to be somehow immoral). In hard times, both #1 and #2 are prone to happen, if the big elite ideas involve large financial outlays.

    Distinguish #3 from others by looking at non-race issues like abortion. Distinguish #1 from #2 by looking at support for anti-elite policies enacted before the financial crisis, e.g. the invasion of Iraq. If you consider neo-conservatives to be part of the “elite”, you are pessimistic (perhaps paranoid?) about popular participation in public affairs and I can’t help you, reader.

    @Chris: Free trade, movement away from manufacturing towards service economy (especially financial services), liberal interventionism are all unpopular ideas associated with the right.

  • Robert Koslover

    Seems to me that one reason (admittedly, not the only reason) for this state of affairs is that the “educated class” is simply mistaken about three out of the four issues that you mentioned. 🙂

    • James Daniel Miller

      I agree with Koslover about the mistaken part, but are the elites more in error now than they were in the past?

  • Larry Johnson

    The ‘educated class’ has succumbed to group-think and is blind to the fact that they are objectively wrong on the issues of climate change, abortion, gun rights, multilateral action, etc.

  • http://jewishatheist.blogspot.com JewishAtheist

    The Republicans’ 50-year war on facts, experts, and (at least attempted) objectivity has paid dividends?

    • michael vassar

      Agreed except that I think it’s a 30 year war.

    • http://williambswift.blogspot.com/ billswift

      Don’t you mean the “Educated elite” Left’s 50 Year War on America?

  • http://thesingularitarian.blogspot.com Sean Taylor

    The so-called elites have vastly overplayed their hand, and now they’re going to pay the price. There’s something called “peasant wisdom” in every society that is very old and very successful — beliefs that are far more in tune with human genetic programming than the latest theories from the nerdocracy. I expect we’re going to see a dramatic reduction in social complexity in the coming years, a return to more proven tribal structures and an abandonment of some of the more utopian fantasies of the globalist elites. It’s amusing to see the contradictions in our every day lives — a good example being the way everyone is inconvenienced at the airports for the sake of an imaginary notion of equality. This is not sustainable. To put things even more succinctly, what we’re experiencing is a slow motion collapse and reordering of our civilization, though I expect it to start happening much more quickly in the next few years as the shit really starts to hit the fan.

  • vanveen

    there are more people of middling competence parroting the beliefs of the Intellectual Elite. most of them advocate global warming, gun control, and abortion rights with the arrogant presumptuousness and contempt that ordinary folk associate more or less correctly with status fakery and low credibility.

    in short, because the proportion of non-Elites pretending to be Elites by propounding popular Elite beliefs has increased dramatically. I would guess it is because the internet has made it easier to find concise summaries of what credentialed persons believe and prefer.

    • vanveen

      i should add quickly that the ‘ordinary folk’ discounting global warming, gun control, and abortion rights may not even realize those beliefs are popular with Educated Elite. they are just associated with loud, combative ”phonies”.

  • Matt

    I think American culture has an ingrained distrust for the elite, if you compare us to other countries. Our elites are beginning to get as much power as the elites in other countries and I think there is movement to go back to our equilibrium.

  • josh

    Its tribal. Progressive elites have formed a political alliance with the underclass against the white middle class and whats left of the non-progressive upper class. You may have heard about this; sometimes “Red” and “Blue” are used as shorthand.

  • Matt

    I think it’s mostly #1. People tend to see the elites as those who run our societies and therefore they get blamed when things are not going so well. Also, the issues that you are using to show American resistance to elites are liberal ones. I think a lot of attempts by the government to handle our current problems are not making significant changes in the lives of ordinary Americans and so they see their solutions as ineffective. America had shifted to the left in response to unpopular conservative leadership, maybe now they are readjusting. Elites usually seem to be left of the average American (I can’t provide you with numbers to back this up so I could be wrong, but this really seems to be the case) so they are losing favor during the adjustment.

  • http://neq1.wordpress.com Jason

    I’m disturbed by Brooks’ use of the word ‘so’ in the column because of the causality implications (e.g., “The educated class supports abortion rights, so public opinion is shifting against them.”). Is there really evidence that the public is reacting to what the educated class thinks?

    “Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the past year.”

    I’d love to see the comprehensive list of ideas that are associated with the educated class. Surely not all of them have grown more unpopular.

    The ones he listed happen to also be associated with the left, and he pointed out that opinion is shifting from left to right. Isn’t it fairly common for opinion to shift away from the party that had a big victory in the previous election?

    With all of that said, it does seem plausible that during economic downturns the public will have less interest in affiliating with the elite.

    • http://fasri.net Robert Bloomfield

      Yes, that was my first thought when I read the column. Brooks chose a very lazy path, making the word “so” do all his heavy lifting.

    • vanveen

      this is similar to what i suggested above. non-Elites are drifting away from Elite beliefs in part because more of their fellow non-Elites are adopting Elite beliefs and advocating them with low-status stridency and derision. the beliefs of the Elites are then not being discounted because they are the beliefs of the Elites but instead because their most outspoken advocates (all aspiration and pretention, no credentials) are setting off the status and crap detectors of many non-Elites.

  • anon

    Eric Steven Raymond’s post on the collapse of elite authority seems to agree with both #1 and #2. According to ESR, our society is becoming so complex and interconnected that our elites are increasingly unable to reason and effectively plan about it. The best strategies may now be decentralization and resilience, but the change from centralized to decentralized strategies runs counter to elites’ interests and will be opposed by them for the foreseeable future.

  • http://www.nancybuttons.com Nancy Lebovitz

    Am I the only one here who hangs out in leftish social circles? I keep hearing about the big, skillful, well-financed campaigns to convince people that the left elite points of view are wrong.

    • http://torontopm.wordpress.com Paul Hewitt

      I think you are on to something, here. The author confuses the elites with the educated (middle) class. Perhaps the “elites” (big money, big business) are manipulating the “uneducated” to serve their own needs. The unthinking masses rarely pose a threat to the elites. It is the middle class that scares the living daylights out of the elites.

      So, incite the masses (“public”) against anti-global warming measures and the likelihood of punitive legislation decreases. Get them to distrust big government (not hard to do) and you implicitly get their support for lower taxes and less government spending, despite the fact that the lower classes pay little or no income taxes. Get them to oppose gun controls, and you have them aligned with the elite instead of the educated middle class. Get them to think anything other than staunch conservatism is “socialist”, and socialism is the kissing-cousin of communism. Threat removed. It is an old story, and a sad one at that.

      It seems that the Tea Parties arose during the debate over health care policy. As an outsider looking in, it was simply astounding the level of information manipulation that was exercised over health care. The Tea Parties were nothing but stooges for big pharma and big HMO.

      • Tuttle

        I’m not so sure that hypothesis #1 is borne out by the public’s embrace of heavy handed government action from 1932-1944 and throughout the 1970s. However, the current recession may perhaps have characteristics which make it more likely to cause skepticism of elites than other past recessions. Or perhaps it has just been perceived as such.

        Hypothesis #2 certainly seems credible, given statements such as this (from parent comment):

        “It seems that the Tea Parties arose during the debate over health care policy. As an outsider looking in, it was simply astounding the level of information manipulation that was exercised over health care. The Tea Parties were nothing but stooges for big pharma and big HMO.”

        How are the “grass roots” folks who personally attend and fund “tea parties” to take such comments? Following sweeping Democratic gains last November, is it possible that liberal elites thought the last of the battles had been won, the war over?

        Hypothesis #3 should perhaps be reworded to reflect balancing for having elected an elitist president, no? A black president could very easily be quite un-elitist, perhaps more along the lines of Justice Thomas.

  • Yankee

    Because people are releasing their inner yankee.

  • Granite26

    This is a signalling blog, no? As the first poster acknowledges, people’s beliefs over time shouldn’t change.

    1: In times of economic downturn, there’s less value in signalling adherence to an ‘educated’ orthodoxy to gain status. ‘Educated’ people have lost status, so people stop bending their innate beliefs towards people they respect.

    2: As others have pointed out, ‘Educated’ seems to be a stand in for Progressive or Left wing. Since the immensely unpopular Bush is out of office, people are no longer signalling distrust/dislike of his party by bending their beliefs away.

    • anon

      People’s beliefs can change over time as a result of new evidence. The recent economic crisis was a huge indictment of elite beliefs about financial innovation and regulation. The CRU email leak gave the masses a valuable insight into just how little of “artificial global warming” theory is actually supported by data. And it’s plain to everyone that a militant totalitarian movement with radical Islam as its ideology has proclaimed a war on the Western world; yet our educated classes mostly refuse to overtly acknowledge this fact.

      Each of these facts alone would justify a dramatic shift in mass beliefs. Taken together, the evidence for failure of our elites is overwhelming.

  • http://akinokure.blogspot.com agnostic

    You can use the General Social Survey (free online interface at Berkeley) to see whether trust in various institutions is predicted by economic indicators. They ask about confidence in doctors, the federal government, the mass media, banks, etc., from 1973 to 2008. Then supply whatever measure of “bad times” you want, and plot them over time on the same graph.

    You can also do this for other elite-preferred opinions like abortion, gun control, etc. And you’d probably want a composite index of those things.

    The one about confidence in banks & financial institutions (CONFINAN) looks pretty cyclical, but that’s not very surprising. Whoever has some free time can look into the others.

  • Ed

    This is not a shift against the educational establishment elite or against educated authorities but against the upper class – conflating these two groups with the term “educated elite” is misleading. If people were turning against the former we would see widespread disagreement with experts in a partiucalr subject on that subject, but I do not see that. Criminologists are divided about the advantages of gun control, and economists are divided about government regulation. The only case I see where people are turning against the relevant authoities is on climate change, and even there I think that overall America believes more storongly in climate change than earlier.

    Brooks is mistaking social issues for cultural issues, as he does frequently I think.

  • Constant

    Timing. In principle you should be able to distinguish among the three theories by timing the shifts in opinion.

    Some other explanations, maybe overlapping.

    The elite had controlled public opinion through a near-monopoly on public communication, which they are in the process of losing.

  • Michael

    The internet.

  • John Wegerzyn

    I think some history is missing here. The distrust in authority has been growing since the Vietnam war and the Watergate scandal. Don’t forget about post-modernist thought and the idea that there are no absolutes.It’s not like educated elites are becoming more tolerant of other’s viewpoints. There are a million reasons for our fractionalized society all the orignal post does is put things in to simplistic us versus them dynamic. This is not exactly the case for most day to day folks. It is just easier to discsuss events in a fractionalized society by redefining the argument to make it less complex.

  • Anonymous

    To use gun control in this analysis is probably to mislead yourself, because it probably has somewhat unique determinants. Gun control support has been eroding very steadily for decades according to this graph (the first one I found):

    I’m sure the 60s drop probably had to do with the 60s crime wave. Later it may have had more to do with diversity reducing trust (see Robert Putnam). Also, the increased presence of higher-crime minorities (as opposed to mere diversity itself), and the prominent anti-sociality of underclass minorities from the 80s onward (70s?). (They having previously been more integrated in many ways, eg, blacks having the same unemployment as whites rather than ~2x… free trade probably harmed them, as well as technological advancement, and 60s morality changes.)

    Basically, there is zero hope for gun control now. It’s a third rail. Depending on what happens in the future, I would not be surprised if the popularity of handgun bans went from 29 to say 17 percent. I doubt that present-day crime rates, middling for the postwar period, can hold. Just look at the explosion in incarceration over the last 30 years — can we keep up these increases?

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

    Your “balancing” link isn’t very good. I suggest the posts Obama’s opportunity cost or Doing your good deed for the day.

    Why would a multi-decade Republican war yield dividends just as voters bring in a Dem president & Congress?

    Sean Taylor, I think you might like the work of James Scott. He’s very leftist though.

    I agree that it was very bad form of Brooks to write “so”. Not as bad as this
    though.

    Get them to oppose gun controls, and you have them aligned with the elite instead of the educated middle class.
    I had not heard the elite was more opposed to gun control than the middle class. Also, communism IS kissing-cousin to socialism. Revisionist socialism watered down into social-democracy is another story. Regarding the Tea Parties, they apparently had roots in the Ron Paul campaign and came to prominence over the issue of bailouts/stimulus (most famously with Rick Santelli’s rant), which preceded the health care debate. The use of town halls by supporters of health care reform merely gave the existing Tea Party infrastructure the chance to make more noise.

    The Tea Parties were nothing but stooges for big pharma and big HMO.
    In effect they could have been, see if you can corroborate your theory with evidence from movements in stock price.

    Agnostic, that’s a good idea. I know that the GSS indicates what year the survey was given, do we also know month?

  • Michael Turner

    “Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the past year.”

    I went and looked at the actual polling (not hard to find). My conclusion: Brooks should have written “Certain ideas that the Right prefers to associate with pointy-headed intellectuals and bleeding-heart liberals have grown *less popular* over the past year — but only by a percentage point or two in most cases.”

    Which wouldn’t leave him with much of a column to write.

  • Meta Qualia

    Every single idea associated with the educated [schooled] class has grown more unpopular over the past year. The educated [schooled] class believes in global warming, so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise. The educated [schooled] class supports abortion rights, so public opinion is shifting against them. The educated [schooled] class supports gun control, so opposition to gun control is mounting. … The educated [schooled] class believes in multilateral action, so the number of Americans who believe we should “go our own way” has risen sharply.

    ftfy

  • Robert Wiblin

    Would be useful to know when this trend started if we are to have any idea of explaining it. If it started two years ago, then #1 looks great, but I think congress has had terrible approval ratings for a decade or so now.

  • http://lorenzo-thinkingoutaloud.blogspot.com/ Lorenzo

    A simple suggestion: as the size of government has tended to grow, and the range of things it attempts to do has increased, perhaps experience have made people less optimistic about what government action can be expected to achieve. (I would include various foreign policy experiences among the disheartening examples.)

  • ian fairchild

    How about the idea that since the New Deal, we’ve had 70+ years of experts running government and very few outcomes which are widely considered to be successful. A problem for the left that I see emerging is that they now have a track record, and it’s not very good. When Roosevelt proposed the New Deal, nothing of that scale had ever been proposed in peacetime. If it had worked there would have been enormous credibility for experts today. But when your main proposition is to use government power to improve things and you don’t improve things for 70 years, people start to lose faith. The right does not tend to have this problem, because their main proposition is to maintain traditional systems which are perceived to be safe.

  • http://t-a-w.blogspot.com/ Tomasz Wegrzanowski

    “Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the past year.” is simply not true. Things like gay rights get more popular. I have seen no evidence that it’s significant on net.

  • Ryan Vann

    My theory: elites are always viewed through a lens of skepticism, and rightfully so. That skepticism becomes validated when (1) occurs, and thus the intensity of skepticism increases, often leading to outright contempt.

    Of course, the internet helps transmit such skepticism, and you have a pretty incredible reinforcing system as a result.

    To Tomasz point, I think you are very much off the mark. Just recently, gay rights took severe blows in one of the most liberal states in America (California). Secondly, I’m not sure Gay Rights is so much an elitist topic as a left right argument.

    • anon

      Gay rights != gay marriage. Gay marriage might have a lot of merit as a legal fiction devised to extend a bundle of common law rights to same-sex partnerships. Unfortunately, most advocates of gay marriage expressly state that their aim is to give an artificial status boost to same-sex couples. They are remarkably unconcerned about lowering the status of garden-variety, heterosexual marriage; it is no wonder that many advocates of the latter are pushing back.

      • Ryan Vann

        Reads like gobbledygook to me. The ability of consenting adults to enter a contract is a right granted by the State apparatus; gay people are excluded from that right, how is that not a gay rights issue?

        By what mechanism does an exclusive contract between two individuals affect the status of others not involved in the contract (unless you are asserting some perverted common pool resource argument to mate selection)? Are there actually heterosexual marriage advocates? Seems a redundant enterprise given the pervasiveness of hetero marriage.

      • anon

        The abiity to enter into contractual arrangements among consenting adults is undisputed. However, legally recognized marriages additionally confer a bundle of privileges, responsibilities and other legal effects, which are unrelated to any contract between the parties. These effects are what’s at issue here.

      • Dan

        I agree it’s the privileges conferred to “those people”. Garden variety prejudice.

      • Dan

        OK you refute your own argument nicely here, you aknowledged it is a right/privilege issue.

        Gay rights = gay marriage

        If marriage is reduced to a contractual agreement with no added privileges\rights all will be well.

        But for some reason some people is excluded from these rights/priviliges, by the simple reason for what they are.

  • Vladimir

    Chris:

    Of course, when someone says “educated elites”, I generally thing of liberal arts grads in academia, reporters, writers, and various people who pontificate on politics. I don’t think of libertarian techies out in the valley or econ PhDs working at a hedge fund. Do the latter category of people count as “educated elites”?

    They certainly belong to the educated elite, but they are nowhere near the top of its hierarchy of status and influence. With the exception of the political influence of professional opinions of economists, these people aren’t influencing public opinion and culture in any original way. Their behavior and views merely follow the trends set by people from the former group you mention. (Though of course, this does have the effect of further reinforcing these trends.)

    As a striking demonstration of how low business and tech professions stand in the elite status hierarchy, look at the “Bill Gates Retires” humor video. Here is one of the captains of industry, the richest man in the world, and the epitome of wildly successful tech entrepreneurship, making a video whose main purpose appears to be showing off about his social connections with people who enjoy much higher status. (Imagine any of these people trying to increase their status by palling around with Bill Gates!)

    As for the country swinging right, I don’t believe it happened over 10 years. I believe it happened since Obama took office, and campaign promises that everyone can have a pony gave way to policy proposals which have costs as well as benefits. (This usually happens with a new president.)

    Yes, but if the rightward movement of public opinion over the recent few months is significantly smaller than its entire leftward movement over the last decade, then it likely represents only a transient phenomenon that won’t have any lasting influence — a small downward glitch on a curve that has been going up almost continuously for many decades (if not even longer), regardless of who happens to be holding the elected offices. Making a big deal out of it is missing the forest for a tree.

    Of course, if you’re specifically interested in analyzing this glitch, it could be an interesting topic; my reaction was to the overblowing of the issue in the media.

  • Jackson

    The modern world has not really made the transition from Custom and Command to Supply and Demand. There will always be a place for custom and command but the market, Adam Smith style, is a powerful medium only things such as the Federal Reserve pervert it… Information Asymmetry is key, and the internet i.e Wikichains is promising but until such thing become effective leaders will be basically bumbling along.

  • TraceyJohnson

    Perhaps the problem is that you divide the country into “elite” and “educated” against the populace.

    Right wing zealots are still “elite” and “educated” By assuming that the engineer is superiour to the plumber, you forget that maintenence is what achieves the rewards after the initial investment is made.

    No one likes being talked down to, and pretentious people bore me. As much as I used to enjoy this blog, my toilet and the guy who fixes it is far more important than self-involved intellectuals.

    Also, global warming is silly. Global cycles are a much more likely explanation. Sometimes, the earth freezes. Sometimes, it’s hot. If you don’t like the weather, wait a few million years.

    I guess saying that makes me uneducated and standard. Good luck with all that.

    P.S. What happened to the other contributors? This site used to be fascinating.

  • Marcus

    I think you’re focusing on the more visible culture wars but it’s the class war that’s important. The “educated-class” as you put it is disappointed in the masses, but this is a prepackaged masses, packaged just as much to spur on more inanity, but also spurring yourself and myself and like minded to disdain.

    But the class war is so much bigger, and so obviously directs the culture war simply through the boardroom.

    The culture wars are frustrating, but those are mostly good people out there getting riled up by partisan messaging. Personally I’m trying to change to be less drawn in, and to focus on truly class issues, since that’s where the real rape is happening. We’ve been cowed into the cynics belief that it’s economically impossible have less poverty, less war, less corruption. But I think that’s only true if we’ve stopped looking for continuously better ways to govern and improve society. Social democracies are a clear improvement on the stock, but how to get the despotic superpowers to conform?

  • Rich Rostrom

    See this postby Charles Murray, Short version: per data collected by the GSS, over the last 35 years, all segments of the white population have moved from center to slightly right of center, except “Intellectual elite”, which has moved from center to well left of center,

    He’s constructed a graphic of this data; the trend is continuous across the entire period, not recent.

    Brooks has hit something, but he’s missing in several points. Gun control has been unpopular with “the masses” for decades. In this case he reverses cause and effect: the “educated elite” has incurred the contempt of the masses for embracing a policy they loathe, This has been the case with crime issues going back to the 1960s.

    Oh, and for those who fantasize that the recent eruption of disaffection is all a Capitalist Plot – the Big Money has been hand-in-glove with the “educated elite” for years, There are lots of left-wing billionaires, from George Soros to Warren Buffett (I could list at least a dozen more). Corporate money loves state intervention – they use it to suppress competition and enrich themselves.

    One big reason the Republican Party has failed to deliver anything the dissident masses want (such as immigration enforcement) is that it is dominated by corporate interests.

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