While we often talk about elites, we tend not to use that term. Elites are the people in any society who enjoy special privileges.
For a long time, elites were entitled to such status as a birthright, the most obvious example being royalty. If your father was King, it must be God’s will, and therefore the son must be qualified as well. Personally I don’t think God gets involved in politics, but you never know.
John Adams predicted that even though our constitution prohibited titles of royalty there would still be an elite class. He figured that those with educations would prosper, ensuring that their offspring would be afforded education and any wealth that the family had amassed, although in many cases the younger elites ended up with an education and the family debt. Nevertheless, they enjoyed the status.
The American dream is that we’re a meritocracy—anyone can achieve through ability and hard work, and sometimes this works. In fact, there have been periods in our history, such as the 1950s, when this was common, Nevertheless, it is not guaranteed.
Today, many of the elites once again obtain their status by birthright. There are many young men and women as, if not more talented, than the children of Tom Hanks, Will Smith, or the Barrymore family. However, it is the children of the elites who seem to land the acting roles. Is Eddie Van Halen’s son better than the band’s original bassist? Cheap Trick sold many albums with Bun E. Carlos as their drummer, but Rick Nielsen—the guitarist now has his son filling that spot. Julian Lennon didn’t have to work his way up from playing wedding and bar mitzvah gigs. How many Fords have been senior executives at their namesake auto company?
Do we as a society get our best value from this practice?
Steve, what fascinating topics: Birthright (or High Birth) and Meritocracy. I believe in them both, and can–to some degree–prove them and their basis
and destiny, respectfully.
I agree that Meritocracy is about achievement via ability and hard work. I also believe there’s a bit more to it, and that’s the natural Law of Compensation–which means that when we work more (smarter, longer and harder) than we are getting paid, we will be compensated in some way (more money, bonus, more benefits, promoted to a better position, or someone else will notice us and hire us away to a larger company, etc.) and we rise above and beyond what we are currently doing. That’s Meritocracy and how it always works for everyone, and it’s destiny for us.
With respect to Birthright or High Birth, there really is something to this, but not what we normally think–and it has nothing to do with wealthy families or social class per se, or education. I do believe it has to do with we learn at an early age, perhaps from our parents, about HIGH CONSIDERATION for others…common decency, kindness, goodness, thoughtfulness, concern, care for others. It’s like when we learn to love someone or something, we care “about” it, we also “care for” it, and we “are careful with” it.
These traits of goodness are moral qualities, and can be said to be of a
Birthright of High families, while “immoral conduct is of lowly birth,” respectfully. Lowly people are never high–even when elevated. High souls are never low, even when downtrodden.
So, if everyone can take advantage of Meritocracy and the Law of Compensation–and if everyone can be kind and be of High Birth, why aren’t we?