Great column by Ross Douthat today about the consolidation of power into the hands of an interlocking and not especially competent elite. Douthat writes "From the Troubled Asset Relief Program to the stimulus bill, from the auto bailout to health care reform, we've created a vast new array of public-private partnerships - empowering insiders at the expense of outsiders, large institutions at the expense of small ones, and Washington at the expense of state and local governments. Eighteen months after the financial crisis, the interests of the financiers, CEOs bureaucrats and politicians are yoked together as never before."
The worst part is that even when these elites fail, they manage to turn it into an excuse for another power grab because "This is the perverse logic of meritocracy. Once a system grows sufficiently complex, it doesn't matter how badly our best and brightest foul things up. Every crisis increases their authority, because they seem to be the only ones who understand the system well enough to fix it."
This put me in mind of a statement from a certain wise man who said "From time to time, we have been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. But if no one is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?"
I have only two points to add:
1. I hate the term meritocracy. It concedes too much. I see credentials and connections, but not nearly as much merit as the word implies.
2. The job of governing isn't one for a power hungry technocracy, but the problems of governing under present conditions really are complicated and will involve sometimes painful choices. Are there competent and thoughtful populists who are able to analyze our current predicament and explain to the general public, policies that will lead us to a less corporatist, less statist, less centralized and more market-oriented future?