Civics: The New National American Elite

Michael Lind:

In the third decade of the 21st century, the Social Register still exists, there are still debutante balls, polo and lacrosse are still patrician sports, and old money families still summer at Newport. But these are fossil relics of an older class system. The rising ruling class in America is found in every major city in every region. Membership in it depends on having the right diplomas—and the right beliefs.

To observers of the American class system in the 21st century, the common conflation of social class with income is a source of amusement as well as frustration. Depending on how you slice and dice the population, you can come up with as many income classes as you like—four classes with 25%, or the 99% against the 1%, or the 99.99% against the 0.01%. In the United States, as in most advanced societies, class tends to be a compound of income, wealth, education, ethnicity, religion, and race, in various proportions. There has never been a society in which the ruling class consisted merely of a basket of random rich people.