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The Houses of History: A Critical Reader in Twentieth-Century History and Theory
The Complete Calvin and Hobbes
Bill Watterson
Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy - Christopher L. Hayes I won Twilight of the Elites from Goodreads Giveaways.

In essence, what Hayes argues is that the current political, social, & business structure in America, that he identifies as Meritocracy, which is in theory based entirely on merits or intellectual prowess, is overestimated and not working properly, if not decaying rapidly. The system has produced an elite class that overtime has becomes so obsessed with themselves, with wealth and winning, so confident in their intelligence and legitimacy, and so far-removed from the actual interests of the people they are supposed to represent, thus, they have been slowly and disastrously brought the nation to crisis. Hayes regards the era after 1970 til the last decade as the time of deterioration in equality, when real income of the poorest in fact decreasing, while the few 1% riches amassing great fortune. He, in this book, asks for reformation, for radical rethinking of the system that is symbolically American.

I find the style of this book ok. At first I was wary of the journalistic style, in which one presents some anecdotes and analogies with much passionate cryings so as to plead to the audience' feelings. The style also features some certain definitions and scattered and patched theories, to impress and intimidate readers. This book, well, has it all, as expected, but fortunately, not overly so. The tone is strong, but not too full of emotions, and at times quite controlled. I imagine myself a normal reader instead of a more research-oriented audience, and so it is not bad.

The content of the book can be improved. The author touches several critical issues of the nation and criticizes many traits and points out the common pattern of the system. Unfortunately, he is not able to dig deep into these matters, but just gives a brief impressions. As a result, I feel quite dissatisfied. I want to know more about the internal working, the internal operation of a system that leads to its "bad" results. Why, for example, is Credit Default Swap being traded OTC a horrible idea. Sure, they are not as transparently regulated as standardized products being exchanged in clearing houses. But how exactly does this trait lead to (possibly) easy exploitation? What types of exploitation, who can take advantage and what did they do, and did they, evidence? I don't need detailed description (the book is not about financial crisis exclusively), but I need more than abstract criticism. On other occasions, Hayes stops at one point and just not elaborates more, not providing any more proof. He, for instance, uses the example of Greenspan and Bernanke's speeches to criticize the overly confident attitude of the elites, the privileged and well-educated class who pays no heeds to other dissent voices. What are some other voices? How prevalent are they? There are several examples like these, and the book would work better if it focuses on its well-researched points only.

I do not think that Twilight of the Elites presents materials too much astounding. Any system is prone to abuse, from times to times, and democracy is no great exception. I doubt there is a perfect system at all. There are always the elites, no matter of what type (wealth, race, religion, and now merits), and anyone in power for so long will gravitate towards being self-serving. There is no surprise that up to a certain point, the abuse becomes too obvious, too disturbing that social unrest and discontents are heard more often and (hopefully) acted upon.

Despite all of these weaknesses, there is one significant thing I like in Hayes' book: his close focus on Meritocracy, the ideology that America embraces. The ideology expresses the wish and the possibility of improving one's own life, of liberating, of emancipating oneself from whatever is hindering one, by one's own power. It is a very beautiful idea indeed. And the system based of meritocracy is indeed efficient, one can argue.

And yet it is problematic and far from perfect: the over-stress on intelligence, the inadequacy of education to create an equal level/background for all, the resulted conceited thinking of "knowing-all", the never ending competition for power, wealth, and recognition, the looking down on any other who did not make it, the disregarding of many random and societal factors playing in one's life & success, the disregarding of all other equally, if not more, important qualities in man. Yes, the over-appreciation of intelligence, or any other "innate" talents. Why? You have better scores than me, you earn more degress than me, but that does not mean you are without fault and mistake-free, and especially that does not mean you are a better person than me.