Meritocracy and the strange failure of the educated elite

Once upon a time, white male Protestants ruled the roost in the United States. You got into a fancy school if your father had gone to the fancy school. You got a job at a white-shoe law firm or climbed the corporate ladder if you golfed at the right club.

Then we smashed all that. We replaced a system based on birth with a fairer system based on talent. We opened up the universities and the workplace to Jews, women and minorities. University attendance surged, creating the most educated generation in history. We created a new boomer ethos, which was egalitarian (bluejeans everywhere!), socially conscious (recycling!) and deeply committed to ending bigotry.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2018, with the headline 'Meritocracy and the strange failure of the educated elite'. Print Edition | Subscribe