What Do Elites Know Of Ordinary Americans?

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 27 2012 @ 9:36am

Ilya Somin dissects Charles Murray's claim that "the people who have so much influence on the course of the nation have little direct experience with the lives of ordinary Americans":

[T]here is an important sense in which elite ignorance reduces the quality of public policy. In a complex society where people have a wide variety of preferences, not even the most knowledgeable elite experts can really have enough information to impose efficient paternalistic regulations that preempt individual choice. But this problem would persist even if all our elites had a deep and extensive knowledge of non-elite culture. The solution is not so much an elite that is better-informed about the culture of the masses, but an elite whose power over those masses is more limited and decentralized.

That said, I’m certainly open to the possibility that diminishing some types of elite ignorance would improve our society. But I’m skeptical that what we need to have a better elite is the kind of knowledge Murray emphasizes.