I’m most impressed with the June 25 issue. Comments that linger: In “Obama’s Kill List”: This is “a prescription for endless war that will sap our moral core and put in jeopardy our most cherished freedoms at home.” In “Why Elites Fail,” Christopher Hayes, quoting a hedge-fund analyst: “America does what Wall Street tells it to do.” In “A Politics for the 99 Percent,” by Robert Borosage and Katrina vanden Heuvel: “Wall Street gets bailed out and the rich get lower tax rates, while the 99 percent get unemployment and cuts in education, government services, retirement security and affordable healthcare.”
Outstanding issue. Thanks.
Our Worst and Brightest
Staten Island, N.Y.
Christopher Hayes, in “Why Elites Fail” [June 25], reports that Lehman Brothers vice president Robert Hopkins says that Wall Streeters are “the smartest people in the world.” Hayes goes on to argue that “without qualities like wisdom, judgment, empathy and ethical rigor, extreme intelligence can be extremely destructive.” Well, duh! But without such attributes, so can average intelligence, or even less than average intelligence, if it is within reach of the levers of power. Need anyone be reminded of George W. Bush? Or Ronald Reagan? Wall Street insiders base such statements on a blinkered ignorance of fields outside the financial casino—ahem, profession—and on a crude equation of earnings with ability.
ERIC B. LIPPS
I enjoyed Christopher Hayes’s exploration of the flawed concept of meritocracy but was disappointed that he did not question its application to education more vigorously. To me, it is immoral and remarkably silly that access to the best possible education should be restricted like the number of seats in musical chairs when it ought rather to be, like home, “something you somehow haven’t to deserve.”
The denizens of Wall Street may seriously believe they are the smartest people in the world, but they all too obviously are not. Slick, yes, very, but not even smart enough to notice that their endless grasping leaves them always wanting. We cannot allow public discourse to be shaped by such mental defectives. The future of the Republic, and the development of a creative, humane economy, call for the cultivation and application of much broader and higher intelligence.
KATHARINE W. RYLAARSDAM
OK, Mr. Hayes: Why do elites fail? It seems to me elites are succeeding very well in their narrow world of hedge funds, derivatives, manipulation of the masses, and grabbing taxpayer money, government contracts and middle-class wealth. Progressives must accept class warfare as a given. We must divide and conquer the rich to deliver the democratically essential middle class from further damage and oppression. To refuse to fight class warfare is to lose democracy and prosperity, perhaps forever. We can’t expect the wealthy to destroy themselves without a push from us.
GERI A. MELLGREN-KERWIN
Christopher Hayes accurately pegs our current elite, Wall Street’s masters of the universe, as perhaps the most obnoxious the nation has known, but he overconcentrates on Michels’s “iron law of oligarchy” and ignores several other relevant theories: