COMPARING AMERICA’S NEW ARISTOCRACY WITH BRITAIN’S OLD ONE. The Economist (January 24-30) had a cover story on “America’s New Aristocracy” which is devoted to worries about “meritocracy”, a term coined by a British sociologist in the 1950’s. The lead article is entitled “An hereditary meritocracy’ and the subtitle is: “The children of the rich and powerful are increasingly well suited to earning wealth and power themselves. That’s a problem.” The problem comes from “assortative marriages” in America in which well educated men are marrying well educated women.

The caption of this post suggests that the post will contain a discussion of the comparisons between British and American experiences with meritocracy. I had expected a comparison in the Economist article, but despite the fact that the Economist is a British publication and that the British have had centuries more of experience with inherited privilege, the Economist makes no mention of the British aristocracy in its articles.

I could not resist the mischievous thought while reading the article that there was an implicit assumption that the inheritance of privilege by the British aristocracy had never presented problems because there were a number of dim bulbs in the aristocracy, thus avoiding the dangers of assortative marriages.

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