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Top Down

by Helen Rittelmeyer
Pathology of the Elites: How the Arrogant Classes Plan to Run Your Life, by Michael Knox Beran (Ivan R. Dee, 312 pp., $26.95)

The ideology of the American ruling class has done great harm to those classes which do not have the privilege of ruling, and few people are better equipped to analyze the “pathology of the elites” than Michael Knox Beran, a regular NR contributor (indeed, some of the essays in this book have their origin in the pages of this magazine). Beran is not only the author of several acclaimed books, including studies of Robert F. Kennedy and Thomas Jefferson, but he has followed the prep school–Ivy League–law school–Westchester pipeline with great precision, so Pathology of the Elites is something of an inside job.

Beran’s exposé goes like this: The American ruling class purports to be liberal and humanitarian, but this is a soothing self-deception; what it really wants is power. The expansion of its bureaucratic and cultural power has, both by design and by accident, eroded the power of rival institutions. Pastoral charity has been replaced by the far less humane welfare office, “with its whiff of Lysol and futility.” The virtues of self-government have been denigrated and undermined by government programs. The common man once learned civic virtue in the public square and personal virtue from the Western canon; experts have excluded him from the former, for lack of credentials, and progressive educators have denied him access to the latter.

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