America is bogged down in an economic and political crisis, but the overarching problem is that of a failure of elites. The people who have gained top leadership positions in business, government, and non profit institutions in the last two decades have demonstrated extremely poor performance. Why can’t we replace this generation of bad leadership? Because the elites have learned how to defend themselves through elaborate networks of personal alliances.
Any attempt to remove a top leader is checked by that leader’s allies. You can’t get rid of idiot NY Times columnists like Friedman or Brooks, because they are defended by incompetent chief editor Keller. You can’t get rid of Keller, because he is defended by irresponsible owner Sulzberger. You can’t get rid of Sulzberger because he is defended by investors who owe him favors.
The same problem exists in just about every large, dysfunctional institution. Nobody bucks authority, because authority has the power to crush dissent. In a short time, America has changed from a pragmatic and independent nation to an enfeebled society dominated by cronyism. Managing “relationships” is now the crucial career skill, and every other consideration, including the public welfare, is secondary.
There will never be incremental reform of these elites. They must be replaced wholesale, and unfortunately that will not happen without considerable social turmoil. America’s elites have decided to defend their rich franchises against the public interest, but the public interest will prevail. This harsh and difficult struggle will define the next decade.