In this country, we applaud those who have the brains to build themselves up from nothing—but it’s those very brains that got us into the current economic mess. Over the past decade, America’s elite has driven us “off a cliff—mostly by being too smart for its own good,” writes Ross Douthat in the New York Times. The trouble with a meritocracy is that too often, success turns to arrogance and recklessness.
Overconfident “meritocrats take risks that lower-wattage elites would never even contemplate, embark on more hubristic projects, and become infatuated with statistical models that hold out the promise of a perfectly rational and frictionless world,” Douthat writes. We saw the results last week in Jon Corzine’s exit from MF Global. All this is why the Republican race is “a search for outsiders with thinner résumés but better instincts.” Still, “in place of reckless meritocrats, we don’t need feckless know-nothings.” (Read more Ross Douthat stories.)