Although I disagree strongly with his IQ-based determianism, Charles Murray’s already chattered-about Washington Post op-ed on the rise of a new elite makes at least some valid points.
Income inequality has increased a good deal over the past 30 years. And as most Americans have seen their incomes climb relatively slowly — and even decline in the past few years — the number of people who qualify as “rich” has exploded. So, from an economic perspective, a divide between an elite and the masses is quantifiable and growing. And if Murray had left things there, well, I’d have to say, “QED.” But the cultural examples Murray gives leave me perplexed.
Ignorance among NASCAR fans? It is one of the most popular spectator sports in America. And NACSAR fans mostly have above average incomes and, surely, include some of the “elite.” Not watching Oprah end-to-end? My wife — a graduate degree possessing, D.C.-area liberal — watches Oprah. (How many men watch Oprah anyway?) Mixed martial arts? Slate, likely the most elite magaizne with a decent-sized readership, has written about Ultimate Fighting several times.
Going on cruises (except cruises to the Gallapagos)? Really? The three “mass market” cruises I’ve been on myself — and, for godsakes, I’m about as “elite” as you can get by Murray’s definitions — include art lectures, celebrity chef cooking, and plenty of other things that seem intended to cater to the “elite.”
If these are the strongest examples around, then the cultural divide is really that large.