Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Our elites / Follow-up: Some unfortunate words and uses

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A belated-because-too-long excursion to Some unfortunate words and uses:

A potentially problematic word, and one which should be used much more rarely, is “elite[s]”:

Many of the sources that I read make complaints about e.g. “our elites” or “our ruling elites”. (For various, usually correct, reasons ranging from poor results to a “rules for thee, but not for me” mentality.) Sometimes, the use appears ironic, e.g. when someone with a known low opinion of the competence levels of the “elite” uses the word—and that might be, barely, acceptable. Similarly, sometimes a clear implication of “self-appointed elites consisting of Dunning-Kruger victims” shines through. (Such writers also often use “midwit” or some other more suitable term.) Less acceptable are many uses that seem to take “elite” largely at face value, often with implied or stated ideas of “if only the elites could walk a mile in our shoes” or “[some negative thing] proves that rule by an elite is bad—we must let the people have a greater say”.*

*Note, with an eye on the below, that I do not disagree with the idea that even a true elite might benefit from that mile or that even a true elite needs some type of democratic check.

The latter presuppose that the “elites” actually are elites by a meaningful standard, which is, mostly, a faulty assumption. By all means, a typical U.S. senator (or similar figure in the country at hand) is likely to be above average in both intelligence and education, but the step from there to a true (intellectual) elite is quite large. If we look at some famous U.S. politicians, are Biden,* Hillary, Harris, Pelosi, AOC, or even Obama persons of truly great intellect?** If so, they have hidden it well, as they appear unimpressive even by the standards of politicians. The situation among Big Business leaders (another group often included in these “elites”) might be better, but is still not what it could be—and an increasing proportion of “diversity hires” on the higher levels does not help. Do not get me started on large parts of the academic “elite”.

*Even discounting his apparent severe mental degradation.

**The examples are all Democrat. This because (a) the problem almost consistently appears to be worse on the Left, (b) the Democrats are currently in charge (=> ruling elite), (c) the aforementioned sources tend to be more negative about the Left. Many cases can be found among e.g. Republicans too, however.

Correspondingly, to take current political “elites” as a sign that rule by (real) elites would be a bad thing is incorrect. Speaking for myself, I would be much happier and much more willing to trust or comply with politicians if they were true elite. (And I am on record as a proponent of e.g. IQ cut-offs both for voting and for holding office.) Many of the problems we have arise simply from non-elites presuming to make decisions for others—many of whom are more intelligent, educated, informed, whatnot, than the self-appointed nannies.

Written by michaeleriksson

April 5, 2022 at 12:27 am

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