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This is a PHENOMENAL book and the author does an excellent job narrating it. Twilight of the Elites will make you think. A lot. I used the "back 30 seconds" button on my app constantly to make sure I got all of many of the points he makes. It's not that they aren't well articulated, they're just full of important information. You'll likely want to listen to this one twice.
If you have the same vague feeling I did, that things aren't quite working the way they're supposed to, but you're not sure why, Hayes will explain it to you. He breaks down many of the things we take as fact about how American society works, explains the components, presents a mountain of evidence, and then blows apart the conventions that you thought were true.
This book is about explaining the system in which Americans live. It's not about trashing the left or the right. Simply explaining what we have, why we have it, and how it works. This is an important book.
14 of 14 people found this review helpful
I've always been a firm believer in the concept of meritocracy; in a fair world, it is right and just that true merit, as embodied in hard work, intelligence intelligently applied, and excellence in execution, be rewarded.
The problem is, as Hayes so clearly points out, that the world is not fair. And in any civilization, even meritocracies deployed with the best of intentions wind up becoming oligarchies. Those who rise to the top eventually seek to protect their position, and generally will "pull up the ladder" behind them.
This, Hayes explains, is the root of America's current crisis. We are in an era when those who have supposedly "earned" their way into the upper echelons of our most sacred institutions are now so far removed from the rest of us, and so intent upon protecting their positions, that they are no longer capable of behaving ethically. Corruption runs rampant, and the majority of Americans now suffer a complete crisis of confidence in just about every one of these institutions.
I really struggle with this. I see Hayes' point; there is much truth to what he says. And yet.... As the daughter of a true Greatest Generation-er, I just cannot throw off my old-fashioned American idealism about fairness, hard work, and merit earning rewards. I can't reconcile myself to any artificial attempts at creating "equality of outcomes" rather than "equality of opportunity". But.... Hayes (and many other authors examining our current catastrophic state of affairs) illustrate that the very concept of "equality of opportunity" is very much in jeopardy in today's America. The game, as I think most of us in the middle class today are well aware, truly is rigged.
"Equality of opportunity" is an article of faith for me, a core belief. There should be no outright "gifts", but those who work hard, apply themselves, and make good use of the opportunities available to them should prosper. This is very much how things were in America between WWII and roughly 1980. But we now find ourselves in a time when gross abuses of power, coupled with destructive economic imbalances, truly call into question just how "equal" the opportunities are in America today.
As a political centrist, I find this beyond troubling. I see examples in today's middle and lower classes of individuals making poor life choices and suffering for them, but I also see individuals working hard, playing by all the rules, making sound life choices.... and still suffering. Likewise, in our elite classes, one can see individuals rightfully succeeding through their own hard work and merit, but one can also see people who are ignorant, lazy, unprincipled, and undeserving succeeding and enjoying outsized benefits way beyond their deserts.
How can any of this be institutionally balanced?
Given my own distrust of institutions (just as Hayes describes it!), I have little faith in any institution's ability to right the ship. But we are SO out of balance that I do believe something catastrophic will be needed to restore something approaching "normalcy" to our current economic and social state.
Those from the Right side of the political spectrum will undoubtedly despise Hayes' book. Those on the Left will praise it. Those of us in the middle will be sorely troubled by it--- I certainly am.
Aside from the content (and my own personal discomfort with its hard leftist bent), I found Hayes to be rather an annoying narrator. His delivery is cilpped and fast, and just a tad on the arrogant and self-satisfied side. It wasn't bad at first, but eventually came to grate on me. I frequently found myself rewinding passages in order to listen to them more carefully a second time, as he so often raced through some complex narratives.
Still, it's a worthy read or listen, if for nothing else than to make one think. It's no secret that America today is way out of whack on the equality scale and suffering some massive problems on the economic and social fronts. Hayes' particular analysis adds an interesting perspective to the debate on what ails us. Definitely troubling, but when grappling with complex issues, it is better to allow oneself to be troubled by difficult ideas than to remain comfortably unchallenged in one's beliefs.
18 of 21 people found this review helpful