Despite having read other similar books I trusted the reviews and listened to this book as well. It explains well, why we are stuck in a society run by the top and why the elite have difficulty emphasizing with the rest of us.
good; limited scope.
I rather think he missed the mark wildly in a few places.
I think he managed to lay out quite a few of the problems in our current brand of "meritocracy" for instance, but attacking meritocracy in all its forms doesn't seem to be the answer. For after all, why shouldn't we want merit to have some influence on who is involved in government? It hardly seems like randomly choosing citizens to fill roles they aren't interested in or trained for, as the Greeks did, is more effective or less prone to corruption. Perhaps what we need to reconsider, though, is how we define merit. Being rich would seem to be a poor standard of merit, and yet the reason it's possible to conflate meritocracy and plutocracy as he does is precisely because that is how capitalists are expected to judge merit. Perhaps we would do just as well to maintain what he admits is a widespread belief in meritocracy, but work to change our perception of what makes someone meritorious.
I also found it interesting that one of the major "elite" groups that he ignored almost entirely was academia. Oh, he mentioned them in so far as he name-dropped Noam Chomsky, and in passing, the Penn State sexual abuse scandal, but otherwise, he had nothing especially positive or negative to say about it. Indeed, even the graduates of elite universities he mentioned only those that ended up on Wall Street, and not those who eschewed money in favor of less destructive pursuits like teaching (which are also considerably less well-paying). Academia would have been an interesting example in his litany of elites. While it certainly hasn't been entirely immune from scandal (look at all the papers that have been retracted from journals recently), academics have been attacked as elites, but as an institution have generally weathered the criticism far better than other types of elites in fact, if not in public opinion on the right. And the decentralized nature of science compares relatively favorably with the decentralized movements of both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street which he sought to highlight. (Though whether the Tea Party is as decentralized as it claims to be should probably have gotten more attention.) And the value of getting more academics like Elizabeth Warren involved in politics was also completely overlooked: the very types of people who had presciently warned about the immanent collapse of the market before it happened.
I also took strong exception to his attacks on intelligence. It's certainly true that we tend to see intelligence in the way he described financial elites, as an ever escalating hierarchy that has no upper limit. The analogy fails, however, on a couple of regards. For one thing, it's a ladder that is almost impossible to climb. One might improve one's performance on an exam from not quite making it to making it past some threshold, but one is not ever going to magically climb from an IQ of 100 to an IQ of 160 not matter how much studying you do. Financially, that kind of movement is possible,even if unlikely (and rather less likely than most people seem to think). So striving to climb that hierarchy is futile to a certain extent. And intellect is hardly the same as achievement. One can use or not use native intellect, work hard or not, but not really ever become a genius if you weren't born one. Nor does this particularly matter how one measures IQ or which kind of intelligence one measures. His analogy with height also falls short. Height is a useful comparison with intelligence in that it falls along a bell curve (again, however one measures it), and that it is determined both with some genetic components, and some environmental components, but no one disputes the existence of beauty just because it can't be measured precisely, or because more than one factor goes into calculating it (symmetry, general health, etc.) Beauty is real, and so is intelligence. But just as being beautiful doesn't make us more competent or a better human being (even though our brains sometimes act like it does), neither does intelligence necessarily. Intelligence coupled with a Randian worldview is certainly destructive, but then, Isaac Newton and Thomas Jefferson aren't famous for being of average intellect. Do people do anything to deserve high intelligence? No, of course not, but then neither did LeBron James do anything to deserve being born with preternatural sports abilities either. Somehow we manage not to begrudge him encouragement and support, but we do the intellectually gifted? The gifted are a double-edged sword of course. In the wrong hands they can do a great amount of damage, but applied to science and technology, they can also take us to the Moon. Intelligence and fostering it is not the problem, at least in principle. Furthermore, smarter doesn't necessarily mean better even in intellectual pursuits. It has been noted by researchers looking at affirmative action on college admissions and graduation rates, that as long as students meet some minimum threshold of intellect, outcomes do not necessarily improve with better test scores and similar things can be said of a number of fields that have rather high thresholds for intelligence, even physics and math. Do you think someone with an IQ of 170 will necessarily do better than someone with an IQ of 160? If you do, you'd be wrong. Because above the minimum threshold, other factors become paramount. So the attacks on Sotomayor's intelligence were probably misguided at best, but also probably rooted in other factors which he noticeably doesn't mention.
He also seems to rather circle around this notion of equality of opportunity vs. equality of outcome. Part of the issue here is what is considered opportunity and what is considered outcome. The right would have you believe that as long as they put no legal barriers in the way, all the rest is outcome, and here I certainly disagree. Getting into a good school would certainly seem to me to be part of the opportunity, not the outcome, so applying egalitarian principles at this level seems reasonable to me. The grades one gets once admitted would seem to be more the outcome here. Similarly for hiring practices would be opportunity, while job performance would be outcome. Opportunity doesn't merely stop at the court room door or the voting booth. The author's attacks on intelligence are sometimes rooted in his egalitarian principles, but how does it help us as a society to squander such intellectual assets by insisting our gifted kids should only get the same education as our most average ones? Having lived through that experience myself, the six years I thought about killing myself directly related to the boredom I experienced in school served no greater purpose than to waste my ability and damage my mental health. We should be helping every person reach their maximum potential in whatever they are good at. The author's experience of going to an elite school, indeed, puts him in a position to suffer a bit from some of his own criticisms of the financial elite in this regard: he simply doesn't understand what the alternative he's proposing really means. And what's worse, it seems to me that the radical egalitarianism he advocates is at its core anti-intellectual, and doesn't really address the specific problems that need to be addressed.
This is, of course, the flip-side to democracy. The part of democracy that our elite founders so worried about. That's why we aren't a pure democracy. There are lessons to be learned here, but radical and pure ideologies are too simplistic to work in the real world. Mixed strategies are more complicated, but as our founders realized in the mixed strategy they employed for our government, they are far more durable, flexible and stable than unmixed ones. If money is the problem (and I certain agree that it is both politically and in the financial markets), then address that problem directly. If the incentive structure is screwed up (as the emphasis on publishing created the retraction scandal in the sciences), then correct that. But casting the net so wide that it takes out good institutions along with the bad will ultimately do more harm than good.
The main thing I took away from this book was that problems the Founding Fathers were trying to prevent when they created our system of government have managed to return and we are essentially back at a similar point. The current people who occupy positions of power are unable to self-correct and want to continue with the status quo just like the British of the 18th century trying to run the distant colonies in North America. This book does a good job making the case that our government is no longer beholden to the people as it was intended but is instead run by a handful of elite lobbyists and political families that come from privileged backgrounds that do not represent the average American. Unfortunately, though there are a lot of great examples making this point, the book comes short of offering any real solutions. Only the last chapter gets into solutions, and they are pretty broad and vague.
Nonetheless, this book made me realize that we are at (or nearly at) a critical time in our country's history not unlike the revolutionary times of the 18th century. Massive changes must occur, so if we don't intentionally decide to self-correct, we are in for a massive collapse of our culture
Finally, I'm not a big fan of the author's performance. He seems to have trouble enunciate words and I found it quite annoying at times. It would probably be better having a professional "reader" read the book instead of the author himself.
My husband and I have seen Chris since he first started appearing on MSNBC. We have watched him grow as a TV personality. We lovingly call him 'junior."
As a talking head, Chris is OK, but we quickly saw where his talents lie. He is a wonderful moderator and has the most interesting discussions with his guests on his morning show, UP with Chris.
And the art of discussions is at the heart of what this book is about. The one thing that will make America a stronger country is open dialogue that gets to that heart of the issue and opens it up to many differet facets and points of view.
Chris does a great job of explaining why our current system is in the process of change and why this is inevable.
Sometimes I had listen to him on the slow speed to really digest what he was saying becasue he thinks as fast as he talks and it is a lot to take in at one time.
But he blew me away; I was so impressed with his book! I wish I could get more young people to read it because he has the antidote to apathy.
Yes, this is an accessible arguement about an important problem. Hayes, patiently but without condescention, gives his readers a coherent argument as to why meritocracy leads to an "entitled" elite that loses sight of its moral bearings.
Yes, I'm a liberal, so, I like him.
No, except I had to laugh at the stupid conservative Republicans.
One of the best books about what happened this last decade and how the elite have betrayed our confidence and set us adrift in an institutional black hole. The Church, Major-League baseball, the financial community and the political process are institutions that have failed us and left us looking for a new way to regain trust in anything in our lives. Chris carefully explains how our institutions have failed us and how we need to navigate in the world void of a trust in them.
Understanding Why !!
getting a better view and understanding of why things happen and how they are influenced will help get things changed for the better if you choose to do something about it :-)
One of the most informative, new thought, audiobooks I've listened to.
Hayes proves that the tea party and occupy wallstreet movement are one in the same.
"The teaparty wants to live back in the 50's and occupy wallstreeters want to work in the 50's." Love it.
It's liberal talk radio. I could get that on FM. I don't listen to talk radio, of any persuasion.
baseball steroid analysis earned the two stars.
disclaimer: Those who like this book may attribute my review to being part of "a group of hypereducated, ambitious overachievers who enjoy tremendous monetary rewards as well as unparalleled political power and prestige, and yet who manage to insulate themselves from sanction, competition, and accountability ..." -- Chapter 2. For the record, I don't think so.