The Rise of the Compassionate Case

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Since the days of Marx at least, scholars of various kinds have tried to delineate socioeconomic classes and use this class analysis to explicate political and cultural phenomena. The two books under review certainly attempt new class analyses, and while I am not persuaded that they have adequately addressed the issue, I am persuaded that there is indeed a new class ascending. I call this the Compassionate Class. Exactly who this class is and where it is headed are matters of some complexity.

David Lebedoff defends the thesis that our political system has become sickened by the rise of a new, antidemocratic elite. He first sketched this thesis in a 1978 article in Esquire entitled “The Dangerous Arrogance of the New Elite,'”based upon his experience while working for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in the 1960s. He saw the party being taken over by activists who felt entitled to impose their will on everyone else, because they considered themselves smarter than every- one else. This new class he called the New Elite; the rest of us he called the Left Behinds. He elaborated this thesis in his 1981 book “The New Elite,” and has greatly expanded his analysis in “The Uncivil War.”

He begins his description of this New Elite by harkening back to the election of the year 2000. He views Gore as the New Elite candidate, with Bush representing the Left Behinds. Yes, both Bush and Gore were born into politically powerful families, educated at elite prep schools and Yale. But while Bush hated the high-SAT grade grinds who took over Yale while he was there, Gore positively adored these wunderkinden. In fact, Bush outscored Gore on the SAT, but Lebedoff says that what matters is one’s commitment to the new class. As he puts it:

“The most important thing to know about the New Elite is that it is self- selected. It’s the values you choose to side with. If you perceive, as [Frank- lin] Foer puts it, “merit not as brainpower but as I character,”’ then, like Bush, you’re a Left Behind. If your central value is brainpower itself, above all else, you are a member of the New Elite, the club to which Gore chose to belong.” (6)

The New Elite is more focused on books than on feeling, more focused on values policy-wonk verbal ability than character.

Lebedoff believes that Bush and Rove knew the campaign was about the struggle between this New Elite and the Left Behinds, and that is what won the election for Dubya.

On Lebedoff’s view, through most of human histor~ up to the modern age, intelligence was distributed randomly in the population, not selected for in marriage. People generally chose a mate without regard for the mate’s intelligence. But this has changed in the modern era, and now, “For the first time in history intelligence is neither randomly distributed nor randomly transmitted” (13). This is because people have more mobility (so can meet more potential mates), they are routinely educated and tested (so others can more clearly see their intelligence), and, most importantly, intellectual ability is now rewarded more than ever. Our economy is knowledge-based, and people have access to higher education based. upon talent rather than socioeconomic class. More and more, high IQ marries high IQ. Equality of opportunity has led to stratification of IQ, education, and therefore income. In America, the rise of a new class was greatly accelerated by the G.I. Bill of Rights, which flooded colleges with students after WWII.

Behold the New Elite – the high IQ meritocracy. Their wealth and prestige are owed to their demonstrable,

The New Elite desires to impose its preferences even when it knows they are minority opinions, in the smug quasi-religious belief that its morals are superior.

measurable academic scores, and they know it. Besides marrying among themselves, they tend to self-segregate in other ways, living in enclaves built around colleges and high-tech business parks, and in upscale urban areas. (The Left Behinds become rusticated in traditional suburbs, rural areas, and blue-collar urban areas.) The new class has developed its own culture, morals, and mores. It strives to exhibit modest prosperity, not opulence. Its members are “the managers of society: teachers, commentators, planners, officials, and executives – the articulators of thoughts and standards” (21). This gives the New Elite power beyond its numbers.

Members of the New Elite differ both from ordinary workers, many of whom earn close to what New Elitists typically earn, and from businesspeople, who earn more, by a self-identity based upon measured intelligence. The formation of this new class had to wait until recently because

[s]everal preconditions had to be met: an industrial society so far advanced that its economy could justify a major allocation of resources to management, research, and explication; many new jobs that could be filled not merely by members of a preexistent economic or social elite but by those to whom this new employment represented an improved standard of living with which they would want to identify, rather than seeing it as the extension of a previous caste; a social arrangement that identified the testable skills of its citizens and made it inevitable that most of those with certain skills would identify with – and marry – one another; a clustering, a segregation, of these skilled workers by neighborhood, by employment, by lifestyle, and above all, by family unit. Finally, there had to be the sense – necessary to the formation of any class – that what these people had in common could be handed down to their succeeding generations. (37)

Class awareness for the New Elite resides in its rejection of traditional values-frameworks and its extreme valuation of testable intelligence. The New Elite fervently believe that there is a thing called “general intelligence” and that IQ tests measure it. (It is unclear to me how Lebedoff would explain the fact that the attack on IQ testing comes predominantly from left-wing professors, and its defense predominantly from a few conservative scholars.) This confidence in intellectual superiority produces another feature of the New Elite: their rejection of the view that matters of social policy (such as the appropriate level of taxation) should be determined by majority consent. No, since the New Elitists view themselves as intellectually superior, they are the ones who should decide for society what policies to adopt.

Two major political issues originally split the New Elite from the Left Behinds: the civil rights movement and the peace movement arising out of the Vietnam War. The New Elite supported civil rights and opposed Vietnam, while the Left Behinds tended to do the reverse. The New Elite came away with a sense of rightness, and often disdained the Left Behinds as stupid and selfish. This reinforced the anti-democratic mindset. Since the New Elite desires and feels entitled to control the country’s direction, and since it isn’t anywhere near a majorit~ it uses undemocratic strategies to subvert democracy when it needs to. These tactics include appointing themselves as spokesmen for various minority groups and then imposing their own agenda on the groups. So you have New Elites who claim to speak for all consumers, all women, all those concerned about the environment, all those who love the Bill of Rights, and so on. Another tactic is “negative consent”: unless someone (say, a student) explicitly requests not to be represented by some activist group, he or she is presumed to have consented. (Perhaps because he’s an old-time pro-union Democrat, Lebedoff doesn’t mention that labor unions typically employ the same pernicious tactic.)

The New Elite has obtained still more of its power by developing arcane party caucus rules, rules perfectly suited to advance its candidates and agendas. This has led to what Lebedoff calls the death of politics – an end to the traditional political system. The old political system encouraged ordinary people to become party regulars – donors, volunteers, precinct workers, candidates for lower as well as higher offices, convention delegates, etc. These regulars were the ones who chose candidates, put forward nominees for appointments (especially judicial ones), and channeled funding to candidates. The New Elite felt it was entitled to perform these functions, so it systematically changed the rules so as to castrate party regulars and assume their power.

After taking over, the New Elite pushed primaries (as opposed to caucuses) and opposed the “winner take all” rules that tended to make it hard for candidates with small but commit- ted bases of support. The elaborate new rules for determining proportional representation of delegates to national and county conventions allowed well-educated party members (such as teachers and lawyers) to manipulate the system much better than traditional party regulars (workers, small business owners, homemakers, etc.). The use of “citizen panels” to nominate judges empowered the New Elite, since they were more apt to be on those panels and were more ideologically driven. And the New Elite favored campaign limits, so that people who in their view were dumber but richer wouldn’t get as much of a political voice as they once did. (How Sen. McCain fits in here is uncertain – he doesn’t fit Lebedoff’s description of the New Elitists, yet he’s the major advocate of campaign spending limits.)

The tactics have varied, but the central goals have remained and intensified: the New Elite desires to impose its preferences even when it knows they are minority opinions, in the smug quasi-religious belief that its morals are superior. Lebedoff believes that this kind of deliberate antimajoritarianism is something new in American history: in the past, people with minority views would try to convince the majority by cool persuasion, hot agitation, or even

Pop culture is controlled by New Elite college graduates, and its quality is at an all-time low. Lebedoffattributes this to the New Elite’s contempt for the taste of the audience.


civil disobedience – accompanied by a willingness to accept the consequences. The New Elite just wants to impose its views, and accepts no risk:

All the strange new activity of the decades since Kennedy has shown how the efforts of the New Elite could deny the democratic process. The vilification of political parties; the ascendancy of image over issues; the disrespect for law (which is the codification of majority will); the substitution of stridency for debate, of rallies for elections, and of rigidity for compromise; the shifting of power from Congress to the courts; the growth of interest groups that bypass and disdain the political process; the self-appointment of spokespersons; the denigration and corruption of popular culture; the rejection of traditional values; the enthronement of the “expert”; the enactment of rules that limit political participation in the name of extending it – all these things are rooted in the new belief that the majority does not, cannot, know what’s best, that there exists a group that is measurably superior to everyone else, and that not statute or habit or procedure must be allowed to stand between that group and dominance. (29)

Lebedoff devotes a good deal of his book to addressing the influence of the new class on contemporary culture and politics. Some of his views are plausible, some not. His view is that in the 1930s and 1940s (which he seems to regard as the pinnacle of popular culture in the United States – and I would agree), literature, films, and music were aimed at a higher moral and intellectual level than they are now, despite the fact that culture was often produced and cultural industries were often controlled by immigrants and children of immigrants, who typically were not college-educated. Now pop culture is controlled by New Elite college graduates, and its quality is at an all-time low. Lebedoff attributes this to the New Elite’s contempt for the taste of the audience, a contempt completely absent in the early movie moguls and other cultural leaders, who understood the”average” people because they had lived among them. The New Elite doesn’t respect the intellectual and aesthetic potential of the public because it doesn’t know the public. This rings true: the controllers of our culture are younger, less familiar with ordinary life, and more callow generally than is the public as a whole.

Lebedoff less plausibly tries to tie the Enron scandal to the New Elite, suggesting that the Enron scandal would never have happened if the New Elite had done its job. The SEC lawyers, the accountants, the management consul- tants, the representatives of the shareholders – they were all high academic achievers, and they were all morally ob-

When in human history wouldn’t a woman prefer to marry a smart man rather than a dumb one?


tuse. The New Elite generation has been taught moral subjectivism, the ability to suspend traditional moral judgment. Moreover, he claims, the New Elite hates risk, because “Risk is for the marketplace, and the New Elite hates the marketplace” as an arena in which dumb people can get rich rewards (97). He belabors the point that high test scores don’t indicate high moral sensibility, as if anybody ever supposed they did. This is very unpersuasive. Business scandals have occurred regularly as long as business has been around, and is there any evidence that the scandals are worsening? Granting, for the sake of argument, that those who “allowed the Enron scandal to grow unchecked are members of the New Elite, the same applies to those responsible for monitoring the multitude of companies that have not been scandalous.

Even less plausible is Lebedoff’s discussion of the failure of America to deliver egalitarian public education. He notes that upper-class people often send their kids to private schools, that many schools track students into different classes, and that public schools in some suburban districts are highly funded and performing as well as private prep schools, while inner city districts (allegedly) receive less money and perform less well. This is only persuasive, if one accepts the old liberal cliche that funding determines educational quality, an idea I for one (jaded as I am from decades of teaching freshmen) reject. Poor Catholic schools do a better job of educating poor kids than public school districts (such as Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.) that are flooded with money.

But the least persuasive feature of Lebedoff’s book is his analysis of presidential elections: Carter ran as a farmer and a common man, but governed as a New Elitist, and lost when people saw that; Reagan became popular by appealing to Left Behind values; Bush Senior lost when he seemed to have been captured by his party’s undemocratic religious wing; Clinton won because he seemed more moderate, lost popularity when he seemed to be succumbing to the anti-democratic elite, but became popular again when he appointed Da- vid Gergen and appeared majoritarian. There is a much simpler explanation: people were reacting to actual political policies. Carter was a failure at defend- ing the country and at managing the economy. Reagan was unpopular during the recession in his first term, but recovered when his policies appeared to revive the economy and stymie Soviet expansionism. Bush Senior fell victim to a recession – and lost in a three-way race, when a third-party candidate, with rival policy suggestions, split the Republican base. Clinton ran as a moderate, but tried to govern as a hard leftist (remember Hillary Care) and lost the Congress as a result; when his politics (welfare reform, budget-balancing) became more centrist, he got the credit. Putting all that aside, how shall we assess Lebedoff’s fundamental contribution?

First, we should recognize that his analysis is similar in many ways to that of the late Christopher Lasch. In “The Revolt of the Elites,” Lasch argued that there is a rising cognitive elite of people who make their living by manipulating symbols (words, numbers, computer code). He estimated that this “talking class” is about 20% of the population, and he saw it as a threat to democracy because it tends to live in separate communities, sends its kids to private schools, and (because it makes its living off international assets) thinks globally rather than locally or nationally. He also felt that the cognitive elite is beginning to rule in place of the citizenry.

Second, we should recognize that Lebedoff as well as Lasch describes a genuine, recent phenomenon: the rise and growth of a large group of people who disdain American democracy and want to push their ideological vision on to our society whether it agrees or not.

Third, we should notice the basic problems with Lebedoff’s analysis, beginning with its biological account of how the new class came to be. What reason is there to suppose that people in the past didn’t consider intelligence when choosing a mate? When in human his- tory wouldn’t a woman prefer to marry a smart man rather than a dumb one? Worse, while Lebedoff never defines precisely what he means by “the modern age,” it is clear that he has in mind something on the scale of a few centuries, which seems far too short a time for any major change in hu- man popula- tions to occur.

I proceed to the problem of testing. Lebedoff is downright inconsistent in his treatment of IQ tests and SAT scores. Sometimes he rejects them as real tests of intelligence; at other times he accepts the idea that they indicate real intelligence but continues to assume that intelligence shouldn’t give anyone more power than anyone else in a democracy. He briefly mentions Herrnstein’s and Murray’s work, “The Bell Curve,” which offers a similar view of high-IQ types intermarrying, self-segregating, and moving up the socioeconomic ladder. His response is this:

The exceptionally controversial book, The Bell Curve . .. speaks approvingly of a new IQ class, which the authors call the “Cognitive Elite.” It is a class virtually identical to the New Elite described in this book, though Hermstein and Murray spend most of their time “proving” that the Cognitive Elite is really smarter and scarcely discusses the social and political ramifications of the new class. (160)

Lebedoff doesn’t clearly say whether the high-IQ types are smarter – the scare-quotes indicate doubt. He might do well to consider a third alternative: there are different types of intelligence, with different distributions. A high IQ may be the ticket to success in science or math, but what has been called a high “EQ” (emotional quotient, a measure of how much you understand the emotions and intentions of other people) may lead to success in business or literature. He might even consider a fourth alternative: in a meritorian society, it is not IQ or symbol-manipulating intelligence that gets rewarded, but moral virtue. What it takes to run a small business is, yes, a normal IQ, but more importantly the ability to understand what customers want, to work incredibly hard, to motivate employees and so on – virtues such as prudence, empathy, and perseverance.

Moreover, Lebedoff’s analysis of the kind of people who make up the New Elite is equivocal. Is it people of high intelligence (as indicated by high test scores, which is a dicey claim to make), or people with a certain profession, or a certain lifestyle, or a certain cultural identity, or simply a certain manner of self-perception?

As to high scores or grades defining this new class, Lebedoff’s examples undercut his own thesis. John Kerry, Al Gore, and Bill Bradley are all members of the New Elite, while George Bush isn’t. But all four of these politicians had mediocre SAT scores and college grades; indeed, Kerry’s transcripts from his Yale days show that he received lower grades than Bush (Kerry aver-

By the year 2000, more New Yorkers worked in social services than on Wall Street.


aged 76%, Bush 77%). Moreover, Kerry received four D’s in his freshman year alone, while Dubya got only one D in his whole time at Yale. And Dubya went on to earn an MBA from Harvard. So it is hard to see how Lebedoff can characterize Bush as a Left Behind and Kerry et al. as members of the New Elite.

At times, Lebedoff addresses this glaring anomaly by saying that what determines whether a person is a member of the new class is a matte! of self- image, or self-selection: “One need not have attended college to be a member of the New Elite; a privileged dropout qualifies. A professor of philosophy at Princeton could easily be one of the Left Behinds if his or her basic identity is with a traditional social or economic or ethnic group” (19). But he also characterizes the New Elite not so much by identity as by economic role: “Its members are the managers of society – teachers, commentators, planners, officials, and executives – the articulators of thought and standards” (21). Then again, he characterizes the New Elite by values: “The point of the example is this: membership in the New Elite is not determined so much by IQ or education as it is by rejection of traditional values” (36).

Yet clearly these diverse criteria don’t point to anything like coextensive classes.

The book is analytically weak. Lebedoff says there is only”some” correlation between the New Elite-Left Behind and Democrat-Republican dichotomies. As he puts it,

The New Elite was “liberal” at its inception, and its efforts to dismantle our majoritarian structures were originally confined to the Democratic Party. But aha! A virus so virulent soon spreads. Now both parties are on life support, the valves guarded by extremists.

The real battle that has turned this country into opposing and very hostile camps is not between conservatives and liberals. It is between those who believe in majority rule and those who believe in rule by experts. It is between those who rely primarily on experience and those who rely primarily on theories.

Yes, there is some correlation between the political parties – enough to make the red and blue of recent election maps a recognizable metaphor for our subject.

But our subject is not really political – or at least not partisan. The division of America is not between liberal programs and conservative programs, or big government and small government. The New Elite has no program. Its only real policy goal is that all policy be made by members of the New Elite. (x-xi)

One would be hard-pressed to name many New Elite figures who are Republicans. For example, it is the Democrats these days, not the Republicans, who want rule by the judiciary. This prompts the question, why? I will return to this point shortly.

Lebedoff’s analysis is simply not fine-grained enough. Consider SAT scores for graduating high school students by intended college major (table at right).

These figures just don’t seem to fit Lebedoff’s analysis. Sure, some m~jors that seem to fall into the category of Left Behinds have low scores (agriculture, home economics, and vo-tech), but so do some that seem to be paradigmatically New Elite (architecture and environmental design, education, public affairs and services). The middle range of scores is split between those majors generally considered Left Behind (such as business, commerce, and military science) and those generally considered New Elite (such as arts, communications, social science, and library science). At the higher end are majors that are clearly New Elite (philosophy, language and literature, and foreign and classical language), but among the highest are some that don’t jump out as New Elite, such as math and engineering.

In sum, while Lebedoff does identify what seems to me to be an interesting sociopolitical phenomenon, I don’t think his new-class analysis explains it. He is correct in thinking that there is a large, elitist group of Americans who wield great political power and have a profound contempt for democracy. And he is right, for reasons I will explain later, to think that their numbers are increasing. But he is off the mark in his own explanation. In particular, this new class has nothing to do with IQ or breeding. And, despite his denial of this obvious truth, the New Elite is very much an ideologically leftist class. This is a complex phenomenon better explicable by economic, psychological, and ideological factors than by evolutionary or biological ones.

We can get a better handle on all of this if we recall Milovan Djilas’ classic liThe New Class.” Djilas was one of the founders of the Yugoslav Communist Party, and he fought with other Yugoslav nationalists against the Nazis. After the war, he became vice president

in Tito’s government, and was widely thought to be in line to succeed Tito. But in 1953 he started writing dissident articles, essentially arguing for socialism with a human face, Le., more

Perhaps because he’s an old-time pro-union Democrat, Lebedoff doesn’t mention that labor unions typically employ “negative consent.”


democratic socialism, long before others did. He was kicked out of the government and resigned from the party. In his book he argued that the Communist Party (by then ruling Eastern Eu- rope as well as the Soviet Union) was not the party of egalitarian justice that it pretended to be, but was instead a vehicle for fulfilling the greedy aims of the elite higher party bureaucracy. Not surprisingly, he was imprisoned for his writings. The important insight here is that groups often employ ideology to mask self-interest. This is a truth that Lebedoff doesn’t see as clearly as either Djilas or Steven Malanga.

Malanga is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of its publication City Journal. His thesis, which is the product of another new-class analysis, is sure to alarm anyone with even modestly libertarian sensibilities, and he states it right off (p. 9):

Politics in America today is not a contest between left and right. A new political dynamic has slowly been emerging over the past 40 years, a face-off between those who benefit from an expanding government and those who must pay for it – the tax eaters versus the taxpayers. The vast expansion of the public sector is finally reaching a tipping point, giving tax eaters the upper hand, especially in American cities. There, coalitions of public employees, staffers at publicly funded social-services programs, and the recipients of government aid have emerged as effective new political forces.

Malanga’s claim recalls Thomas Paine: “There are two distinct classes of men in the nation, those who pay taxes, and tho·se· Who receive and live upon the taxes.” But Malanga feels that the tax-eating class has moved into dominance, and he has a wealth of new illustrations of this thesis.

He dates the rise of this New New Left to the formation of government employee unions. These unions not only bargain for higher wages (from government representatives who typically face no bottom line of profitability to keep them in check) but are major forces in electing politicians who advance their agenda, and in defeating initiatives that don’t. AFSCME was formed in the 1950s and won the right to bargain collectively in 1958. In the 1960s the AFT started using strikes to gain bargaining power. Membership in public employee unions grew exponentially in the ’60s and ’70s as the Great Society programs kicked in. Malanga illustrates this with a variety of statistics. For example, between 1975 and 2000 the number of New York social services employees increased from 52,000 to 183,000, which meant that by the year 2000, more New Yorkers worked in social services than on Wall Street. The coalition of public employee unions, social services employees, and health-care unions has systematically turned the nation’s cities into Democratic havens, even within Republican states.

Along with unions, the New New Left is driven by social activist “advocacy” organizations such as ACORN (Association for Community Reform Now) and Public Citizen, Ralph Nad- er’s group. These activist groups channel money from union contributions into voter registration drives, ad campaigns, and so on. Add to this the left~ ist “Labor Studies” programs at public universities and liberal-leftist institutions such as the Tides Foundation and the Ford Foundation, and you have a potent political force.

The power of the New New Left shows in the increasing number of cities passing “living wage” ordinances.

About a hundred cities nationwide have these ordinances, which jack up the minimum wage required for any firm doing municipal business. This of course decreases the total number of jobs and increases the amount a city has to pay for contracted services, which in turn raises the taxes that citizens have to pay. But these costs are largely invisible to the taxpayers, who are told by activists that only corporations have to pay the bill. Any community activist who wants to push a living wage ordinance can follow a manual produced by ACORN’s National Living Wage Center and get funding from a multitude of leftist foundations. The ACORN manual embodies the tactics of 1960s radical Saul Alinsky: build coalitions, mask your real agenda, demonize your opponents, organize demonstrations, and proceed from there.

On some college campuses, “labor” programs function as agitprop generators, radicalizing students., training new and ever more leftist union leaders, and spewing out biased research intended to provide propaganda for labor’s political campaigns. “Labor interns” are indoctrinated at summer programs run and funded by unions, then lead protests on campus against cuts in college budgets and the outsourcing of manufacturing. Even more egregious is the fact that some students receive academic credit for participating in these demonstrations. Professors are often willing allies in organized labor’s continuing fight to increase redistributive taxes, stop privatization, halt free trade, and generally oppose

“The New New Left” warns about what might be happening – New York as an apocalyptic vision of what the rest of the country could become.


free markets and corporate capitalism. Labor programs are often housed in interdisciplinary social science and urban studies departments, where standards of scholarship are typically much lower than in (say) economics departments. The result is a steady stream of anti-American and anti-free market propaganda, supported naturally by leftist unions and foundations, but also funded by the taxpayers who pay the professors’ salaries.

Of course, besides professors of Labor Studies, there are legions of scribblers, on campus and off, who are devoted to propagandizing the leftist creed. Malanga focuses on three writers of very popular books: David Shipler, Richard Florida, and Barbara Ehrenreich, who has made a fortune on book sales and college speaking fees from her tendentious tomes. Malanga devotes several chapters to review- ing their works in detail, exposing the shoddiness of their work. He also discusses in detail the coordinated attack by the New New Left on Wal-Mart, incidentally showing how beneficial the company has actually been to society.

In sum, Malanga’s book is a reasonably well-documented warning about the dangers of various activist organizations. He is right in believing that they are pushing an ideological agenda of ever-increasing growth of welfare-state programs, out of collective self-interest. But he doesn’t establish his initial claim that this New New Left, this tax-eating class, has come to dominate our society, or even that some kind of “tipping point” has been reached. To do that, he would have to address a number of interesting questions: has the percentage of aggregate national government spending (at all levels) gone up dramaticall}j decade by decade, over the past few decades, in absolute terms and as a percentage of GDP? How has the number of employees in U.S. welfare-state programs grown during the same period, in absolute terms and as a percentage of all workers? What about the recipients of these services: how much has their number grown nationally, in absolute terms and as a percentage of the population? And what is the actual voting behavior of these groups?

Unfortunately, instead of answering these fairly obvious questions, Malanga spends a good deal of time on what seem to me to be tangential issues, such as why Wal-Mart is a good company or why Richard Florida’s economic nostrums are silly. When he does talk about the growth of the tax- eating class, he confines his discussion to New York Cit}j which may not be typical of the country as a whole. Because he doesn’t address the relevant national issues, his book amounts to a warning about what might be happening – New York as an apocalyptic vision of what the rest of the country could become. That’s frightening, indeed, but as valuable as the warning might be, it leaves the reader unsatisfied about the original and motivating issues.

If Lebedoff characterizes what I call the new class too broadly, including high scholastic achievers who clearly don’t belong, Malanga takes too con-

Journalists scored higher in the need for power, fear of power, and narcissism, while businessmen scored higher on the need for achievement and the capacity for intimacy.


tracted a view, focusing too narrowly on organized labor and allied advocacy groups. A better approach would be to define the class, not by its grades or its IQ scores, but by its values.

Because the activists of this class speak constantly of the value of “compassion,” I would name it the Compassionate Class. This class certainly has interests and values that are tied (directly or indirectly) to the “social functions” of the modem state – education, health care, welfare, housing, and so on, as opposed to “defense functions” such as policing and military defense. Accordingly, the economic values of the Compassionate Class are classically leftist ones: redistributive taxation to support ever-increasing social spending; systematic shrinkage of defense spending in favor of social spending; ever-increasing regulation of private enterprise; desire for social insurance programs that seem to give people security; and deep opposition to the privatization of such social functions as education. The non-economic values are again classically leftist ones: strident secularism; multiculturalism; hostility toward patriotism; antagonism toward the police and military; aversion to historical tradition; opposition to traditional social structures, especially the “patriarchal” family; sympathy for deviancy (criminal and otherwise); egalitarianism (Le., more desire for equality than for merit); a profound desire for security and a profound antipathy toward competition. These values account for who is a part of the Compassionate Class, and why it is so anti-democratic.

Let’s begin with which professions constitute the new class. Lebedoff is right: our modem knowledge-based economy has resulted in a permanent move toward a more book-learned workforce, not just in this country but worldwide. The shift has accelerated with the dramatic advance of computerization. But not every knowledge worker is a leftist. There is a big difference between educated workers who aren’t tied to the social-welfare state and those who are. Health care professionals who are in private practice, private and corporate accountants, officers in the armed forces, teachers at private and parochial schools, entrepreneurs, corporate and business lawyers, and defense-industry engineers – these are some of the people who, unlike public school teachers, government-employed health care professionals, journalists, IRS and other governmentally employed accountants, trial and defense lawyers, union managers, and government bureaucrats, tend not to be in the Compassionate Class.

The difference is the organizations they work for. The educated professionals in the Compassionate Class all earn their money directly or indirectly from the welfare state, so it’s no surprise that they are statists. (Remember, professors at private institutions – and certainly the institutions themselves – generally derive income from government grants and other forms of state assistance.) But the Compassionate Class also includes people who are not highly educated: welfare recipients, service employees who work for the government, farmers who derive their income from government subsidies instead of farming, etc.

The split is clear in voting behavior. Consider just two segments of the Compassionate Class, journalists and academics. It has been evident for decades that the media elite are markedly more left of center than the country at large. S. Robert Lichter, Stanley Roth- man, and Linda Lichter studied that group back in the 1980s, presenting their results in the classic book “The Media Elite.” Over the 16-year period they studied, less than 20% of the media elite voted Republican even once in a presidential race. During that period, students at the Columbia School of Journalism (now middle-aged and presumably influential practicers of what they learned) rated Fidel Castro more favorably than Ronald Reagan. A visit to the Media Research Center’s website ( shows that media bias has not diminished. In the 1992 presidential race, 890/0 of Washington-based reporters voted for Clinton, while only 70/0 voted for Bush. The follow-up research by Lichter et al. also confirms the continuing bias.

Similar research shows a large and growing disparity in the academic world. Seymour Martin Lipset and his various collaborators have documented this disparity in voting behavior for the last 35 years. A recent paper by Daniel Klein and Charlotta Stem (http://www. reviews survey evidence from various fields. In one of their surveys of anthropologists, economists, historians, political scientists, philosophers, and sociologists, 80.47% voted Democrat, 7.87% Republican, 1.55% Green, and 1.17% Libertarian. They provide other statistics, all to the same point.

Lichter et al. reviewed results of personality tests that showed that “the journalists scored higher in the need for power, fear of power, and narcissism, while the businessmen scored higher on the need for achievement and the capacity for intimacy” (97) – an interesting commentary on the values of the Compassionate Class. Anecdotally, as a

The takeover of the Democratic Party by the Compassionate Class is a classic case of a revolution devouring its young, the earliest revolutionaries.

professor and a businessman, I haven’t noticed much difference in intelligence between people in the two professions, but I have noticed huge personality differences. People in private enterprise tend to be risk-tolerant and money-oriented; those in the public realm tend to be risk-averse (think “tenure” here) and approval-oriented. Women who want to raise a family are less likely to

The New Elite doesn’t respect the intellectual and aesthetic potential of the public because it doesn’t know the public.


become law professors than are women who can do without the traditional family. Other things being equal, men who are patriotic and are comfortable with the use of force are undoubtedly more likely to become soldiers or policemen than teachers of philosophy or sociology. Boys who play with mechanical toys .may be more likely to become engineers than interior design mavens. My point is not to show disdain for any particular profession: the world needs all kinds. My point is that economic opportunity and relatively unrestricted social mobility now permit a closer matching of psychological kinds and economic occupations.

The Compassionate Class is grow- ing, for several reasons. First, the social welfare state has itself been growing over the decades since WWII, in some decades explosively. Second, the Compassionate Class has become dominant in public education, especially in high- er education, as well as in the media, and it has grown ever more aggressive in pushing its ideology. Third, the number of students enrolled in programs related to the welfare state (e.g., social science, social welfare, law, education) has been growing much more quickly than the number enrolling in non-welfare-related programs (e.g., engineering, natural science, business). Finally – and this is a point hammered home by Malanga – workers for the welfare state have been extremely successful at unionizing, and forcing ever-increasing spending for social welfare projects.

Fortunately, however, the Compassionate Class is still a minority. The rest of society has numbers on its side. But the Compassionate Class has a great ability to manipulate both laws and minds. This accounts for its political behavior, which is indeed anti-democratic. If you want to, say, enact affirmative action, trying to correct historical wrongs by discriminating against people who did not have a hand in causing those wrongs, you won’t do it by openly passing laws – so greatly is popUlar sentiment against it. No, you will exploit the court system, getting life-tenured·judges to order the quotas and set-asides.

I think that what perturbs Lebedoff, a traditionalist liberal Democrat, is the takeover of the Democratic Party by the Compassionate Class, though he doesn’t quite understand the nature of that takeover. It is a classic case of a revolution devouring its young, the earliest revolutionaries. Traditionalist Democrats were pro-defense, proudly patriotic, and family-oriented; they wanted to increase government social welfare to “help the needy.” Now the cultural Left has taken charge of the par~ and the traditionalists are cling- ing to mere tatters of power. You can see the split in traditional labor: among non-governmental workers, the percentage of unionization has dropped to about 15%, and even among union members, the number of workers voting Republican hits 40% in many elections. The top contributors to the Democratic Party in most elections are
trial attorneys, followed closely by unions, especially government employee unions. As the Left takes control, non-economic values come out: hatred of the military, contempt for the traditional family, multiculturalism, and so on. The traditional Democrats who spawned this brood now find that it has marginalized them.

The salient question is whether the Compassionate Class will continue to grow, or whether it will be checked, and if so, by what. My sense is that what will check it will be the collapse of the welfare state, which by my reckoning is about 15 years out. The Baby Boomers, so disproportionately members of the Compassionate Class, are likely to be the instruments of destruction for the Glorious American Progressive Square Deal, New Deal, Fair Deal, Great Society candy-apple metastasizing welfare machine, as they overwhelm the Social Security “insurance” system. And the dissolution of the welfare dream will be the dissolution of the Compassionate Class – an ironic outcome, indeed.

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