Social Inequality Between Elites and Non-Elites

The elitism / populism issue is one of the richest themes right now in American politics.

1. David Brooks on Charlie Rose a few days ago touched on it, at around minute 10:14. Until 1964 college educated and non-college educated families were basically the same: voting rates were the same, divorce rates were the same, volunteer rates the same. That's changed. Now, college educated couples have half the divorce rates of high school graduate couples. College educated people trust government more. So in terms of lifestyle and social attitudes the differences are greater.

The economics differ too — educated folks make a lot more money now than before because there's a premium paid to those who can use their head over hands — but the promise of American democracy, according to Micky Kaus, was never economic equality but rather social equality. Douthat: "It's social equality, defined less by money than by manners and mores, that we're in danger of losing – social equality that's undercut both by the struggles of the working class and by the worship of success that defines too much of elite life." To be sure, the thickness of your wallet affects manners and mores.

Either way, America today can be sliced into two parts: the vast majority of citizens with high school diplomas or a little bit more, and then the 28% of the people who have bachelor's degrees. These two groups self-segregate in where they choose to live, who they choose to marry, what kind of media they consume, and how they relate to society's institutions. To enter either world from the other side is becoming an increasingly foreign experience.

2. Brooks says Obama needs to get out more and interact with "the people." (By that he means the non-coastal folks.) I'm never understood how this is supposed to happen, especially since it is a massive ordeal anytime the President physically travels somewhere. Does a two hour staged visit to a small town in South Dakota give him insight he doesn't otherwise have about their state of mind?

3. Michael Kinsley, who now writes for The Atlantic, writes a post in support of Jacob Weisberg's column blaming the country's problems on the "childishness, ignorance, and growing incoherence of the public at large." Kinsley says "the people" really are dumb and ignorant, and to have faith in their "bedrock of common sense" — as Charles Krauthammer would like — is actually more condescending than just calling a spade a spade. Arnold Kling analyzes the exchange.

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