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Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy    by Christopher Hayes order for
Twilight of the Elites
by Christopher Hayes
Order:  USA  Can
Crown, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

In 1770 William Pit the Elder, addressing the House of Lords in London, warned, 'Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.'

Over a century later in 1887, another Englishman, Lord Acton, echoed that same sentiment to a friend in a letter when he wrote, 'Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.'

Christopher Hayes, the author of Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy, couldn't agree more with the idea that influence, power and upper class standing can be a corrupting influence.

During the past decade Americans have watched as one institution after another has struggled with serious problems and watched its image deteriorate because of corruption, mismanagement and incompetence. From Wall Street to Congress, the Catholic Church to corporate America and even professional sports, there has been a rash of bad decision making and serious examples of malfeasance that have destroyed the trust ordinary citizens once had in these institutions, organizations and governmental agencies.

According to Hayes, meritocracy has elevated a more diverse group of men and women into power. This ascension heightened social distance and spawned a new American elite which is more prone to failure and corruption than any that came before it.

On every level, government, religion and business, we have a group of leaders who are totally out of touch with the rest of the population and have, in many instances, abused their power. Thanks to these misguided and often corrupt individuals there is now a serious crisis of authority in the country.

'We now operate in a world in which we can assume neither competence nor good faith from authorities, and the consequences of this simple, devastating realization is the defining feature of American life at the end of this low, dishonest decade,' explains the author. 'Elite failure and the distrust it has spawned is the most powerful and least understood aspect of current politics and society.'

In this enlightening book Hayes tries to not only explain how this sorry situation came into being but also how the three sources of power - money, platform, and networks - have adversely affected all of us in one fashion or another.

Besides defining the problem and describing what has been going on behind the last decade's dour headlines, Hayes also makes a few suggestions on how the problem can possibly be corrected. Don't expect a quick fix or easy solution to this mess. It will take a while to restore the lost trust and dispel the cynicism that is now so prevalent in our society.

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