Arnold Kling rounds up the latest articles criticizing the ruling class.
There are two ideas about the elite/lower-class divide that seem to be held by people who think about these issues.
The first idea, expressed in these posts, is that the elites need to spend more time with the lower classes so that they can (I’m not precisely sure about this) speak the language and understand the problems of the lower class. Speaking such language more broadly would be a terrible development and the problems of the lower class are not particularly difficult to understand. Anyway . . .
The second idea, best expressed by Charles Murray (though I doubt he’d put it the way I would), is that lower classes are basically falling apart. Murray seems to believe that the lower classes would benefit from exposure to the upper class, because the upper class still lives in a productive way.
On one hand, elites need to understand the poor so they can better help the poor, on the other hand, the poor need to see the example of the elite staying married, working and participating in civil life.
I see a few big problems with these ideas.
Obviously, they’re wildly unrealistic. Why would elites volunteer to spend time with an increasingly dysfunctional lower class? Even if you could convince a few, I’m highly skeptical that more cross-class exposure would actually do anything.
If you really read Murray’s work, I think you can’t help but draw the conclusion that the differences between the upper and lower are becoming more well-entrenched. Worse, as the lower class gets worse, the problems get harder to fix (though not even remotely difficult to understand). How do you fix the problems of an unmarried, unskilled, uneducated woman with a bunch of kids, especially if she’s never known any other way of living?
Finally, it’s not clear to me what’s supposed to happen to elites as they gain exposure to the lower class. Does exposure to increasing dysfunction make for better government or policy ideas? My own minimal exposure to the lower classes has made think that their problems are largely (and increasingly) insoluble. It certainly hasn’t left me with lots of good policy ideas (other than the obvious and unmentionable ones).