[FoRK] why is "elite" a dirty word?

rudy rouhana < rudy at comlaw.org > on > Thu Mar 16 09:10:31 PST 2006

> Are you thinking of Malcolm Gladwell's New Yorker piece?

> http://www.newyorker.com/critics/atlarge/articles/051010crat_atlarge

Yep.  By the way, did anyone else laugh their ass off when Bob Costas called out the Harvard admission's dean by name on the closing night of the Winter Olympics?  You know, because the guy voted by the national team with the honor of carrying the U.S. flag, who had won multiple medals, and had donated $40k medal bonus money to charity that led to almost $400k of other donations - was denied admission.  Regardless of what his SAT and GPA must have been, you've got to figure the 'essay' portion of someone with that sort of leadership and character was pretty strong.  

Anyway, as soon as Costas did that, I could just imagine the Outlook mail chime going off, over and over again on the Dean's computer as the guy was spitting out his evening coffee as soon as his name got blasted over the airwaves.

> (of course, arguing what defines "merit" seems to beg the question of
> measuring "human action".  also, inherited wealth can be likened to
> inherited genetic aptitude.)

  Ignoring the issue of genetic predisposition, that's still highly dependant on the assumption that the sort of wealth that is necessary to buy into 'elite' status (for example, attendance at a school like St. Paul's, where Kerry went I believe) is usually derived from traits that could be Inherited: IQ or Instilled: Work Ethic.  A counter argument would be that a lot of old money, concentrated wealth was acquired during periods where competition in the marketplace had very little governmental support and checks established (deregulation, anti-trust).  Therefore, wealth could have been acquired not necessarily by those who had the greatest social aptitude, intellect and hard work - but rather by those willing to stifle legitimate attempts of others to contest their position in the marketplace.  I'm not terribly sure that those are the traits that are worthy of granting status to by birth right.


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