Saturday, December 21, 2013

Leadership after WASPs

Choate Headmaster Seymour St. John (left) greeting Yale President Kingman Brewster (right) - photo from TDP archives.
An essay appeared in the Wall Street Journal, was received this morning. The conclusion is as follows:



“What our new meritocrats have failed to evince—and what the older WASP generation prided itself on—is character and the ability to put the well-being of the nation before their own...  Doing the right thing, especially in the face of temptations to do otherwise, was the WASP test par excellence. Most of our meritocrats, by contrast, seem to be in business for themselves.

Trust, honor, character: The elements that have departed U.S. public life with the departure from prominence of WASP culture have not been taken up by the meritocrats. Many meritocrats who enter politics, when retired by the electorate from public life, proceed to careers in lobbying or other special-interest advocacy. University presidents no longer speak to the great issues in education but instead devote themselves to fundraising and public relations, and look to move on to the next, more prestigious university presidency...

Thus far in their history, meritocrats, those earnest good students, appear to be about little more than getting on, getting ahead and (above all) getting their own. The WASP leadership, for all that may be said in criticism of it, was better than that.”  

- Joseph Epstein, The Late, Great American WASP, The Wall Street Journal





100 comments:

David P said...

I read that article this morning and immediately thought of this blog. The qualities mentioned by Mr. Epstein that have vanished to a large degree still seem to have a home here. The WASP elite was imbued with a strong sense of noblesse oblige, stewardship, honor, graciousness, and thankfulness - hopefully, those qualities will return someday.

I do agree that the day of the WASP has come and gone. The U.S. is simply too diverse for one subset to wield so much concentrated power. Having said that, there still very much is an American elite; spanning business, law and government. However, instead of the divisor being origin, it is now educational attainment and wealth in general (usually self made, rather than passed down) that largely equates to power.

LPC said...

Here's a thought. Let's promote the best of WASP culture without bemoaning the current state of the country? My primary problem with public discourse on WASPs (not this blog but elsewhere) is the extent to which conservative politics have co-opted my heritage. WASPs can be liberal too:). And optimistic.

I want to parse the WASP analysis a little tighter, with more specifics, more emotion, more personal detail. That's why I started my blog, originally. I've done pretty much what I needed for my own therapy, so write less about High WASPs now, but I certainly failed in any attempt to move the public discussion.

Jack said...

From the same essay (one of the most ludicrous statements I've ever read):

"Apart from mathematics, which demands a high IQ, and science, which requires a distinct aptitude, the only thing that normal undergraduate schooling prepares a person for is... more schooling. Having been a good student, in other words, means nothing more than that one was good at school: One had the discipline to do as one was told, learned the skill of quick response to oral and written questions, figured out what professors wanted and gave it to them."

Bitsy said...

Interesting timing, as I am currently re-reading Baltzell’s ‘The Protestant Establishment’, which has started me thinking on these very things.

snowysailor said...

Hear, hear…!

Poppy Buxom said...

I read Epstein's article this morning. I thought it was pretty good, but a little derivative of David Brooks's Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There. As the Wikipedia article puts it:

The word bobo, Brooks's most famous coinage, is an abbreviated form of the words bourgeois and bohemian, suggesting a fusion of two incompatible social classes (the counter-cultural, hedonistic and artistic bohemian, and the white collar, capitalist bourgeois). The term is used by Brooks to describe the 1990s successors of the yuppies. Often of the corporate upper class, they claim highly tolerant views of others, purchase expensive and exotic items, and believe American society to be meritocratic.

In his article's emphasis on America-as-meritocracy, I think Epstein is echoing Brooks.

I also don't think Epstein realizes how much of the WASP milieu is still around--at least as far as "society" goes. There are still private clubs, debutante parties, hereditary societies and the like, and much of them are still WASP. It has just become much more discreet, and many people are vaguely shame-faced about their involvement.

Anonymous said...

New money, new political power, even new celebrity is so much louder than in the past. For every admirer of Warren Buffett, there are a thousand that genuflect to Donald Trump. I may appreciate a fair minded and committed public servant like Sheldon Whitehouse, but the it’s the Ted Cruzes of the world who garner all the attention. And gone are the days when one might want to learn more about a Gregory Peck or a Gary Cooper. Today, money making machines like Howard Stern, Madonna and Miley Cyrus lure followers like the Sirens of ancient Greek mythology. It’s a new and very different world.

In his New York Times obituary, E. Digby Baltzell, the noted chronicler of WASP culture, was quoted as saying, “American Protestantism in general showed a relative lack of involvement in producing art or pursuing purely intellectual matters.” He suggested that Jews have taken up the mantle. I applaud them for it. As an aside, I tried to get into Baltzell’s class at college, but it standing room only.

As a child in my church, I sat next to stained glass windows donated in memory of Gen. George S. Patton; today his descendants raise organic vegetables. But when one hears of Protestants on the cable channels, it can often mean the grossly ill informed, using religion to brandish their bigotry in a very public way. I’m sure my Yankee ancestors, Episcopalians, Unitarians and Congregationalists, are rolling in their graves.

I think of WASP culture as an eroding island in the face of a rising sea. Thus the appeal of this blog, a bit of high ground on which to stand.

MGC

Anonymous said...

WASPs were historically more liberal in nature than today's conservatives. These "Rockefeller Republicans" lost power after the Republican base, at the behest of political scholars such as Kevin Phillips, targeted Southerners and Mid-Westerners as the new core voters for the party throughout the 1970s.

In doing this, WASPs lost nearly all say in their once proud pro-business party.

Phillips has since criticized Southern Republicans for their far-right political beliefs.

I do not bring this up to start a debate. I do, however, feel that it is important knowledge in understanding the decline of the White Anglo Saxon Protestant in America.

Greenfield said...

Great article, Muffy, and thank you very much for posting. If I could cite the three biggest culprits for the current state of affairs, they would be the following:

(1) A culture of fawning "celebrity" worship that rewards appearance and image over substance and character.

(2) Economic pressures since 1988 which have all but forced the best and brightest minds into only the most lucrative majors and careers out of sheer pragmatism.

(3) Counter-cultural demands for "diversity" that in the name of social justice have all but drowned out the core American culture of WASP founding values.

Europe is just beginning to come to grips with this sort of thing now: "What does it mean to be Swedish if half of Sweden is Muslim North African emigres who are fundamentally changing the culture?"

In the U.S. it began to go wrong when the pursuit of wealth became divorced from the bigger picture of personal and societal responsibility, and when "success" no longer rewarded hard work and virtue.

But there are other forces here, too, hidden beneath the surface--an increasingly stratified workforce due to automation and outsourcing, the 24/7 "news" cycle and the new "sport" of tearing-down all our leaders and heroes even as they are made.

That doesn't mean that we all have to play along. The first step is to stop skulking around thinking of "Elitist!" as a dirty word. Lead by example, DO BETTER, and if you need some inspiration, put Emerson Lake & Palmer's "Jerusalem" on the box and let it RIP! :)

LPC said...

Anon 3:41 - Patton's offspring raise organic vegetables? I feel my entire point has been made in spades. Thank you. I plan to tell my father, who will love it.

Anonymous said...



You don’t have to be a Morgan or a Rockefeller to have a place in WASP society. Nor does one have to be Secretary of State or headmaster at Groton to exhibit those qualities we admire. I argue that the WASP ethos can be found on a much smaller scale. Take my mother’s Vermont family:

My great uncle George: Trinity, Yale
My great uncle Closson: Trinity, Harvard, University of Chicago
My grandmother: Wesleyan University
My grandfather: University of Vermont, Cornell

All graduating between 1890-1906 ; all from Vermont farms.

As an Episcopal minister, my great uncle George passed up posts in affluent communities, choosing instead a small parish in rural Connecticut where he devoted his life to helping the poor.

My great uncle Closson, who lived in Boston and Vermont, spent his life championing social causes, such as aiding in the defense of the wrongly accused Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. For many years after his father’s execution, Dante Sacco was a summer guest at Closson’s farm.

My grandmother, along with her brother and sister-in-law, devoted a year volunteering at Jane Adams’ Hull House in Chicago, after which she spent her long life giving shelter to members of her community who had lost everything in the Great Depression, a few living out the remainder of their lives under my grandmother’s roof.

My grandfather, an unassuming college professor of great dignity, was instrumental in getting the first Democratic governor elected in Vermont in over 100 years. And for many years, he headed up the March of Dimes in his county. He never mentioned this to my grandmother, until she discovered dozens of unused donation boxes hidden in a grain bin.

All examples of Jeffersonian democracy in the purest sense.

MGC

WRJ said...

It's not clear to me that the cause of the ills described in the article is not a change in the world itself, rather than the socio/ethnic composition of those in power. The "ask not what your country can do for you" ethos seems to be largely a cultural relic, though I guess that raises a chicken-or-egg question.

I found the article's most salient point to be its criticism of how we define merit. Today's definition largely centers around one's ability to afford standardized test tutoring and work punishingly hard towards no particular goal.

Anonymous said...

The custodian of this blog appears to be a WASP. However, I have never been under the impression that that fairly stringent barrier to entry (especially when 'privilege' is added to the mix) is approached from an attitude of condescension.

Preppy does not equal WASP. The heirs to the WASP culture do not share a common ethnicity, religion or even race - they share common ideals, style, interests and a way of carrying themselves. My area of the country, for example, has numerous Catholics who went to prep school and onto an Ivy, Georgetown, Notre Dame (or similar school) and look, dress and act the part of a traditional WASP. In the parlance of this blog, they are preps. I would suggest that they have far more in common in with today's WASPs sharing the same pedigree than those same WASPs have with white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants living in Appalachia and working in coal mines. The progeny of yesterday's WASPs can be found in many unsuspecting places.

DSF said...

I agree with Mr. Epstein. I know exactly where Mr. Epstein comes from (Ashland and Peterson). And I know, and know he knows, that the high character of the WASP leadership of fifty years ago also existed in the ethnic streets of the North Side of Chicago, and that it is gone from both for essentially the same sad reasons.

I don't know much about the Choate of old. But I suspect that if one were to recreate it, hardly anyone would sign up to go there. There is no use being trained to step out into a world that no longer exists.


Bernie said...

We're blaming the state of our country on meritocracy? So that is what's wrong with us? Really?? I think what is really wrong with us is that we've developed into a culture that blames our problems on meritocracy.

LPC said...

Anon at 9:49pm. While I agree that the descendants of the High WASPs are found in surprising places, I beg to differ with the rest of your statement. WASP is precisely an ethnic and racial acronym. I would prefer that we broaden "preppy" - which is a qualitative term in any case - than WASP. What I have tried - and failed in any broad way - to do, is to segment the WASP term into sub-categories. Hence, "High WASP," to refer to the generations of White Anglo Saxon privilege.

We are a dying breed, a dying culture. I hope that before we go, we can be a) seen clearly b) given credit for the good bits of how we lived c) reviled for the bad bits and d) not used as a flag for values we may or may not espouse.

Let's extrapolate, to the ridiculous. Can you imagine if we decided to call all the people who evinced some of the stereotypes for Italian-Americans, "Italians?" No. We wouldn't.

Call spades spades. Call peoples peoples. Examine cultures carefully, do not appropriate them, and use words precisely. Or so is my deep wish.

As someone said to me, we don't need a WASP anti-defamation league. High WASPs were privileged. But it's still not right to appropriate anyone's heritage, and make an actual group of people into a symbol, without their full participation.

R. Rafael said...

Auchincloss wrote that the WASP leadership (social, financial, cultural, political...) is still present but not the monopoly that it once was.

I especially enjoyed Epstein's description of the Kennedy's aping of the WASP lifestyle.

The thing about the WASP lifestyle is that it's THE lifestyle to emulate (a la Thorsten Veblen). Who wants to emulate Donald Trump or nerdy Bill Gates?

The hardest part of the WASP lifestyle to emulate is the conversational skills!

Reggie Darling said...

My father was a member of the last generation of Ivy league educated WASP leaders, having served his country in numerous appointed capacities (and also spent five years working for Kingman Brewster at Yale). Although benefitting from a wife whose trust funds freed him to pursue a nonremunerative career (at least compared with the private side), he was hard-wired to serve his country for the betterment of its citizenry, and mankind. I admire him for having done so. In the end, his final days, he was so disgusted and disenhearted by what had happened in the corridors of power here in America, as to be almost heartbroken. He felt, and I agree with him, that George Bush senior, who certainly should have known better, was beneath contempt for his sell out to the self-serving, smug, greedy boors who have come to own this country, who consider it nothing more than an ATM machine for personal enrichment. Don't get me started! Reggie

Anonymous said...

LPC,

I posted the comments on how the heirs of the WASPs can be found in many places. I agree with you in that WASPs, are and were, a specific group. My point was not to argue for dilution. It was actually meant to be positive; meaning the worthy ideals, classiness, look, culture, etc. can be found in many places, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity. That is also why I mentioned that Prep does not equal WASP.

WRJ said...

I must have missed where WASP culture is being misappropriated and denied the credit to which it is entitled. By whom? For what purpose? Have the Tea Party Patriots put George Plimpton on posters or something?

Anonymous said...

Interesting quote: "That the Kennedys did their best to imitate WASP life is perhaps not surprising, for in their exclusion, the Irish may have felt the sting of envy for WASPocracy more than any others. " Did this imitation of the veneer but not the values contribute to the subsequent cultural anti-WASP sentiment? Are today's phonies, attaching a Preppy subterfuge to vulgar and strip-mining behavior, going to similarly create animosity?

Bob Henkel said...

I look around and see the WASP culture alive and well in America today. However, they are not out in front getting the attention they had 40, 50 60 or 70 years ago.

I don't view that as a bad thing. Read The Presidents Club. Back channel, behind the scenes influences are far more effective, albeit sometimes for worse than better, than behaving like a WASP celebutante.

LPC said...

WRJ - I find that current pop culture, and current blogosphere/internet etc., very often wants to use the term WASP to mean a set of attributes, vs. a group of people. And that often the set of attributes are not in fact representative of the group of people the term actually refers to.

So I am referring to the history of ideas vs. the history of organized power.

Anonymous said...

My fellow TDP readers, the highly acclaimed writer, Joseph Epstein, lost me at the outset with his remark that, “The WASPocracy, as I think of it, lost its confidence…” Really, lost confidence? More likely lost interest.

Have you ever watched a Golden Retriever being nipped and barked at by a little yippy mutt? Eventually the annoyed noble dog turns in disgust and walks away. That’s in part what’s been happening over past fifty years. The noble WASPS’s have tired of being nipped and barked at by the – arguably talented and intelligent – rising diverse meritocracy.

Our country was basically established by Protestant Englishmen. They eventually became the WASPs Epstein refers to. They had the drive and the intelligence to accomplish what they felt, individually or as a group, needed to be done. From my perspective, the large influx of other nationalities and religions through immigration, is what caused the decrease in the influence WASP’s had had.

Additionally, the “dumbing down” of the electorate and the difficulty and expense of running for election likely has contributed to the general decline of WASP participation in government.

About the only aspect of this overly simplified history of the rise of meritocracy and the fall of the WASP Establishment I agree with is that the escalation of the Viet Nam War was a turning point. The “Best and the Brightest” were not looking so bright to the youth of the late 60’s and early 70’s, myself included.

Disclaimer: This loyal reader of TDP is posting anonymously to sidestep any controversy said comment may invoke. I will divulge, however, that unlike some anonymous commenters here who purport to be “of the manor borne WASPER’s,” I descend from modest WASP linage; yeoman farmers who were mostly followers Jeffersonian Democracy. I was, however, baptized in the Episcopal Church - my mother’s side of the family ;-)

Rachel said...

I think we can blame the "Me Generation" for this decline in real leadership. Children aren't taught humility they're taught they're special and should do what makes them happy. Of course they grow up living off parents or ripping off investors.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @12:36 - hear, hear! The golden retriever analogy is perfection.

Anonymous said...

Please educate this ignorant heathen (I.e., member of the dreadful meritocracy), oh wise ones:

Are WASPs only found in the Northeast?
Are 'true preps' (shudder) only found in the Northeast?
Is it correct that only inherited money and Ivy League schools attendance allows someone to be a WASP or a prep?
What exactly did those "Protestant Englishmen" do to become so, uh, wealthy? All 'honest' dealings was it? No opportunism, no capitalism, no questionable business practices? Right. Let the revisionist history continue.

m said...

..although Native Americans leadership wasn't so bad either. They had a constitution that was rated higher on a human rights scale than our own. (and our constitution is based on theirs) It was they who encouraged our founding fathers to draft the declaration of independence quickly (to their own demise no less).
I think when you start to single out one group of people over another as better, you find yourself on a slippery slope of going in the opposite direction and labeling others as "not so good". Was wasp leadership really that much better than say Jews, or Blacks or Native Americans? we celebrate diversity here in the states, lets not lose sight of that by labeling others as better and finding fault with still others.

Will said...

m - The point is not to set up a fight between cultures, as your question "Was wasp leadership really that much better than say Jews, or Blacks or Native Americans?" almost necessarily requires to answer. The superiority of a perfect meritocracy is self evident (although it should consider passion and mission as well). The challenge is in the mechanism. Further, record low polling numbers around Congress and Washington in general are fairly irrefutable, even if the root causes and solutions are worthy of debate.

Greenfield said...

The philosophical foundations of the United States actually owe far more to the Enlightenment, Deism, and Freemasonry than to the Episcopal church or the Ivies.

But party on . . . ;)

Anonymous said...

Greenfield....nice....`

Anonymous said...

The REALLY important question is... Who's preppier John Adams or Thomas Jefferson?

Anonymous said...

No contest, John Adams

Anonymous said...

I understand if you do not post this, but I felt it necessary for my own peace of mind to say that while there are many things I admire about the blog and its commenters, and there are many ways in which I feel it has enriched my day to day life, the politics of it -- implicit and explicit -- is not one of them. I am disappointed by the xenophobic nature of the article cited and by some of the comments of this blog's readers. The choice comments exemplify why it is a good thing that no one group holds the reigns of power for very long.

Will said...

@Anonymous 5:49 PM: I am feeling encouraged that this is a civilized place to have such conversations. Given that, which statements in particular do you find xenophobic?

Anonymous said...

Hello Will, you have a point that this is a cilivilzed place for such discussion and it is perhaps my affection for this place that is at the root of my disappointment. I am pressed for time, but will try to begin to answer your question. The article sets up a false dichotomy: meritocray vs. WASPocracy. First of all, this country does not operate on a true meritocracy, as I think you pointed out in your comment.
Another sticking point, how diverse is the current ruling class in fact?, what are the criteria for diversity used here. The article's use of terms is unrigorous at best, xenophobic at worst. For example, the author appears to use the word "diverse" as a thinly veiled reference to people who are non-white, non-privileged, non-male (in some cases), non-heterosexual (in some cases). "Meritocracy" as it is used in this context, so many sterotypres are implicated: the unwashed masses, the non-white, the non-uppercrust, etc. the list goes on, whose hard work is a sign of bad breeding, of their true nature as grasping greedy pigs, the implication that only WASPS have a moral compass, that those who are not WASP are less upstanding (less human?). Sorry these are random thoughts, I do have to run. But the uncritical acceptance of these terms, the author's argument and what it implies politically and ethically is no small matter, in my opinion.

Greenfield said...

6:46:

I think the whole WASP vs. "Merit" argument you cite could be summed up as, "But WEEEEEE got here FIRST!" ; )

It has been argued by everyone from Baltzell to Brooks that the reins were not "taken," they were handed over. The question really in play is whether the "horse" in question is now running loose in the absence of competent guidance.

Will said...

Anonymous 6:46 PM:
1) I am afraid I do not understand your first point: "The article sets up a false dichotomy: meritocray (sic) vs. WASPocracy. First of all, this country does not operate on a true meritocracy, as I think you pointed out in your comment. " I am not sure how this is a sticking point. The piece discusses the desire for a meritocracy, but challenges the execution. The WASP leadership was put up, not as being perfect in any way, but as having specific attributes that seem to have been lost.

2) Your second point is also a bit confusing for me. You wrote, "How diverse is the current ruling class in fact?" Is your concern that our country's leaders are not more diverse? Or that the author believes the country's leaders are diverse, when in your mind they are not diverse enough? If the second point, is that what makes the author xenophobic?

3) I agree with you that the author is using the term "diverse" as reference to people who are non-white, non-privileged, non-male (in some cases), non-heterosexual (in some cases). I don't think it is thinly veiled at all.

4) "Meritocracy" as I read it, is conflating people who do well in school with the best people . The question put forth by the author is, how sufficient is success in a school environment in bubbling people to the top. Very specifically, the "greedy pig" reference highlights the point that schools only evaluate performance on a thin set of metrics. I do not believe the author is critical of people who work hard. The author is critical of a system that is very comfortable using school performance as a sufficient filter for access to power.

5) I believe your last point is your most convincing. The author suggests that those WASPS who led the country for the first 250+ years did a pretty good job, and better than most other benchmark countries. Does this mean that WASPS are morally superior people? I don't think so. But if a culture does respect trust, honor, and character, I have a hard time not respecting those memes, if not necessarily those genes.

WRJ said...

Greenfield is, as usual, the voice of reason.

LPC, I'm still missing the point. You said earlier that "conservative politics have co-opted [your] heritage". I'm not a keen political observer, so I must have missed this. Examples? Seems to me that WASPdom is, in the political realm, something dangerous from which one should distance oneself. As the linked article mentions, see, e.g., George W. I'm not sure how one can co-opt something if one is afraid to touch it with a ten-foot pole.

As for the rest of your comment, it sounds like you're expecting better treatment from the media/culture/internet than any other group receives, the key difference being the culture you are tirelessly championing ran the country for a long time and enjoyed the spoils. Which is kind of like a plantation owner complaining about his negative portrayal in a slave narrative, to extrapolate to the ridiculous. There may be truth to it, but there's much to be said for picking your battles and quitting while you're ahead.

LPC said...

Point 1 - See most discussion of the Founders and what they intended.

Point 2 - Nope. Just to be treated with equal accuracy, and when not so treated, to be allowed to complain. With good humor, of course, since the inaccuracies in our case haven't lead being barred from power.

Also, I believe in never quitting. Certainly not when one is ahead;).

Anonymous said...

Reggie, I share your father’s disappointment. The same sentiment can be found in a paper prepared by the Miller Center at the University of Virginia regarding Thomas Jefferson’s concern for his nation:

“Jefferson worried that after the Revolution, the passion and quest for civility and virtue in public life would be supplanted by greed, as men searched for opportunities leading to individual fortune.”

It’s true, if one looks at WASP culture only from a Lilliputian perspective, every imperfection would be in plain view. But a Brobdingnag would see things differently, and his perspective would be equally distorted. Your father seemed entirely realistic in his viewpoint. His fears were played out in the mortgage meltdown, and that may be just the beginning. There are many other cultural factors that could be argued ad infinitum.

So why not study WASP culture? There are many positives to take away, many virtues to emulate. The contributions of Pilgrims, Puritans and their descendants cannot be overstated. This does not prohibit anyone from contributing now or in the future, as I’m sure Jefferson, an egalitarian at heart, would agree. But ignoring history is foolhardy and there are fools on the loose today, which worries me greatly.

MGC

LPC: here’s the link to the Patton Farm : http://www.gmfarm.com/

Anonymous said...

My favorite quote of this discussion is by Anonymous,
8:34 pm:
" But ignoring history is foolhardy and there are
fools on the loose today, which worries me greatly."

Old records stored in our local damp, courthouse basement
were recently discovered------years covering 1860-1960s. Local historical society offered their services
to inventory etc. County management decided to burn and destroy records instead..
..."fools on the loose today."

Anonymous said...

Greenfield,-------I always enjoy your wise comments and
observations in these lively discussions. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

@ LPC... By conservatives do you mean fiscal conservatives or social conservatives? Because I believe fiscal conservatism is really no different than Yankee thrift, and social conservatism no different than the moral directives of the Puritans. Oh and I understand William F.Buckley is loved by some in the Tea Party.

BlueTrain said...

I'll go along with Greenfield, although the truth of the matter is not necessarily encouraging. They were a very liberal lot, those revolutionaries. The established churches were in disarray for years. But even to call them revolutionary is the give the wrong impression.

The colonies had crown appointed governors, to be sure, and the laws were written in London but largely the country was run by the same people after the war who had been running it before the war. Mostly the landed gentry. They did not, however, all agree about their vision of the new country. Jefferson was perhaps the most idealistic. I suspect that all of them would have denied being elitist and "WASP" would have been unnecessary, except in Maryland.

Be aware, however, that not all who read this blog are WASPish, preppy, conservative, anti-union, or even American. Some of us just have time on our hands.

Anonymous said...

Amen!

It is a veritable cesspool out there now. Honor seems to be a thing of the past with most of the pols these days. I refuse to call them statesmen because that implies a respect they do not deserve.

David Phares said...

Now you know the real reason that those who grew up in the Great Depression and fought in WWII were the Greatest Generation. All of that ended with the death of JFK.

And what followed is the reason behind the Great Recession.

BlueTrain said...

No offense to those who think otherwise but the generation (mine) who went to Vietnam went anyway. They may have been drafted but so were most of those who went in WWII. My father was drafted in 1942 at age 28; I enlisted in 1965 at age 19. I get tired of hearing about the greatest generation. My son also enlisted, too, and served in Iraq at the age of 21. My son-in-law served in Afganistan. Please, those who actually serve are no different than our fathers.

WrySmile said...

If I may interject here concerning the greatest generation. My father, who grew up in NYC during the depression and served 2 tours in WWII, said that the greatest generation had one greatest failure. "We gave birth to and raised the most self-centered and selfish generation of offspring to ever walk the Earth. We did not want our children to suffer as we had and entirely missed the point that the suffering was what had made us who we were. Unintended consequences.", he said. So when the other kids played and watched cartoons on Saturday morning, he made us go work on our Grandma's farm. Just a thought, his not mine.

Anonymous said...

After reading these comments, I have some thoughts in my mind.

I am uncomfortable with the belief - implied and not - that unless one is a WASP one is some sort of moral degenerate. The anti-WASP would, by definition, be anyone who is not-white, not of Anglo-Saxon (i.e. European) origin, and not-Christian. Any combination of the three, or lack thereof, makes one a lesser person, or should I say citizen? For me, I judge each person individually. While my ancestors were WASPs, I'm also Irish-Catholic and the love of my life is a Spanish-speaking woman of Latin American and African descent. Does that make her, because she's not a WASP, less deserving of all she's worked for and achieved, on merit alone? I don't think so. Neither being a WASP nor a man has made her life any easier and merit is all she can move forward on.

I'm sure I've got the wrong end of the stick with this, and would appreciate some clarity.

I don't know Reggie, but am a great admirer of him and his blog, and I admire his father who served to better mankind. Surely that is what we should all strive for, regardless of who we are and where we come from. If we are so quick to say WASP good and not-WASP bad (and indeed vice versa, so I'm not accused of the same thing but the other way around), then I think we're all missing something bigger.

BlueTrain said...

I seem to have touched a nerve there.

Understand that technically I'm not a WASP. But I am white, Anglo-Rhineland-Palatinate, Protestant, if you want to split a hair. However, more to the point, I am not elite, nor preppy, nor Ivy educated, nor am I a Northerner. But my wife makes up for all my shortcomings and deficiencies. She is in Burke's Presidential Families and is a direct descendent of George Mason. And honestly, I knew none of that when we married.

Bitsy said...

I thought the point was that it is the ethos of trust, honor, character, service, etc. that is absent (or at least in short supply) in our leadership. I certainly would not purport that these are solely the province of WASPs, but they are things I expect those in leadership positions to have.

Anonymous said...

Perfectly stated, Bitsy.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for the link to the full article, another great post. My father told me more or less the same thing as Wrysmile's "We gave birth to and raised the most self-centered and selfish generation of offspring to ever walk the Earth. We did not want our children to suffer as we had and entirely missed the point that the suffering was what had made us who we were. Unintended consequences.",
The UK is currently in the process of being utterly destroyed by those very same "unintended consequences". Oh, and btw after living in the same spot for nigh-on a thousand years; some Anglo Saxons might take issue with being called 'Europeans'.

Lancer RIUSA said...

@Blue Train, I think your family is a bit of an exception. In my graduating year from Penn (90), along with most other Ivys, the number of students who would serve in the military could be counted on two hands compared to 1940 when it was "most students"

I feel a greater kinship to the "Greatest Generation" who mixed public service with private success, sports, and family.

I know that Kennedy bashing a a bit of Wasp sport. However, consider their contributions: John the space program and avoiding nuclear war, Bobby civil rights and helping migrant workers, Joe being a war hero, and all three killed in the service of their county.

They certainly compare favorably with the younger Bush.

LPC said...

Anon: 11:07. I disagree. One can draw parallels, but they waver. I always wonder, why do the conservatives point to the Founders (who were all white, of course) while the liberals do not. In fact, like any exegesis of a complex text, the reader can extract multiple meanings from the documents of Colonial leadership.

In my opinion, the most valuable part of this thread separates the the group knowns as WASPs from the multiple and often erroneous ideas/characteristics attributed to them.

We can discuss WASPs. We can discuss ideas. But a consistent overlap between one set and the other has yet to be accurately defined.

Anonymous said...

When I was growing up (70's-90's), the youth then, and perhaps today, were discouraged from public service. If we wanted to turn that tide, encourage the old values of service, honor, courage, what could we do?

Anonymous said...

First, as a loyal Daily Prep reader, let me wish you a wonderful holiday season. Having said that, I feel compelled to comment that I believe that Mr. Epstein's editorial was a bit over the top and quite frankly, uncalled for.

David P said...

When the WASP leadership was coming of age, starting with the Founding Fathers through the mid-20th century, their numbers as a percent of the overall U.S. population, was much higher. Birth rates, especially among middle to upper class WASPs, have plummeted. This phenomenon is not exclusive to WASPs - it is common among most Americans of European descent. At the same time, immigration has increased dramatically and birth rates among non-Europeans have either remained steady or increased. I know many WASPs who are not married, or have no kids or only 1-2. Those same families 100 years ago would have had 4+ children. The point being is that there are simply less WASPs. This is not meant to argue against the valid points that priorities are misplaced, only to demonstrate that demographics are not on the WASPs side, and with fewer WASP children being born, the likelihood of great leaders emerging diminishes as well.

Anonymous said...

I thought Martin Luther King Jr. was a great leader. He helped to make this country better and inspired people all over the world.

Anonymous said...

@ LPC I wish I knew why liberals don't like the Founding Fathers but my guess is because our colleges are full of professors who teach Marx rather than Locke.

Anonymous said...

Liberals do like the founding fathers, and professors teach *both* Locke and Marx (and Adam Smith and Max Weber), as they should.

- a liberal

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12/24 @ 6:05 PM, Your MLK comment above is to what point exactly? Please elaborate. Of course there have been pre-meritocracy non-WASPs who were also influential leaders and good statesmen. For example, Bernard Brauch (1870-1965), who was Jewish, might arguably have been as "waspy" as any legit WASP. He was a successful financier, advisor to Wilson and FDR, engaged in Thoroughbred horse racing, a philanthropist, etc. As an aside, neither MLK nor Brauch attended Harvard, Yale or Princeton.

Epstein correctly points out that something like more than fifty percent (50%) of the nation's top leaders have attended just twelve (12) private prestigious universities; twenty (20%) percent are alumni of Harvard alone (B.A., LLB, or MBA). Not producing the most effective and altruistic statesmen and/or leaders might be a consequence of this current meritocracy in action. Are those prestigious bastions of higher learning still guiding young men and women to serve and sacrifice, or just granting them higher status through association after making the rigorous admissions cut?

Okay, now back to more dreadful holiday music, over eating and drinking…. Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:06, my comment was in response to what David P said about there being a smaller likelihood that great leaders will emerge because WASPS are having fewer children. There are so many exceptions to the rule that WASPS are necessary for great leaders to exist. One could compose a long list of exceptions, Dr. King was just the first one who sprang to mind. He was a truly extraordinary leader. This is all to say that there will surely continue to be great leaders, even if WASPS are no longer around.
Anon 6:05

p.s. I don't understand why people are disparaging elite schools. I assumed, perhaps wrongly, that a number of commenters and/ or their children attended elite schools. I understand many think they are not producing great leaders, but why blame it on the schools when there could be other more important factors.

Mona Vernon said...

Merry Christmas and thank you for regular and wonderful read. I moved to New England from Paris France 20 years ago. Your blog has helped me claim an identity that is now mine. Although not a WASP by blood, I married one and find the values you shared with us to resonate well with mine. I am now finding a comfortable sense of home as an expat in New England. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12/25 @ 3:06 PM, This is “Anon 1:06” again. I respectfully and utterly disagree with your statement above that, “there will surely continue to be great leaders, even if WASPS are no longer around.” That is your opinion which you are entitled to, but I don’t share it.

As far as elite schools, refer above to “WRJ’s" comment above. He consistently writes very astute comments. He wrote, “I found the article's most salient point to be its criticism of how we define merit. Today's definition largely centers on one's ability to afford standardized test tutoring and work punishingly hard towards no particular goal.” You grasp the problem yet?

I good book to get a sense of the difference between the Yale of yesterday and today is, “The Millionaire's Unit: The Aristocratic Flyboys who Fought the Great War and Invented American Airpower” by Marc Wortman. Great read too.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:06, thank you for the book recommendation, I read the digital version last night. It was very illuminating on the difference between elite schools then and now. It is clearer to me how today's top schools fail to encourage service and great leadership. I still don't see why great leaders have to be WASP, but I will continue to think about it.
Respectfully,
Anon 6:05

Southern Traditionalist said...

I do enjoy your blog; while not from a "prep school" background I am a dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist.

I must take exception with this article, though. Looking back through history will reveal examples of non-WASPs who led decisively-morally, militarily ,etc. Pres. Lincoln and Gen. Eisenhower are just two exemplars. Likewise, there are examples of WASPs who behaved shamefully, such as Pres. Kennedy committing acts of infidelity in the White House and Ted Kennedy driving off that dark bridge.

The point being: judging someone's character based solely on social group is just another form of bigotry. Nothing honorable or compassionate about that. That is what meritocracy is meant to counter.

Anonymous said...

Southern Traditionalist - I must take exception to your comment. First, WASP stands for White Anglo-Saxon PROTESTANT. As we all know, the Kennedys were Irish Catholics. So while I agree the behavior was shameful, it was not WASPs behaving badly. More broadly, the article makes two points. 1) The United States did better than other countries during a long reign of primarily WASP leadership, and 2) Today's "Meritocracy" may not truly be a meritocracy as it relies on successes in schools as the nearly sole criterion, and the United States has not done as well compared to other countries since the WASP leadership was evicted. Your comments addresses neither these points, and may even reinforce both.

RR said...

Southern Traditionalist (or M.D. Johns/New Communications) - I am genuinely curious what your thoughts were when you read this statement in the article: "The Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port—the sailing, the clothes, the touch football played on expansive green lawns—was pure WASP mimicry, all of it, except that true WASPs were too upstanding to go in for the unscrupulous business dealings of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. or the feckless philanderings of him and some of his sons."

Your statement "Likewise, there are examples of WASPs who behaved shamefully, such as Pres. Kennedy committing acts of infidelity in the White House and Ted Kennedy driving off that dark bridge" seems to make no sense, not just in a historical context as mentioned above but even in the confined context of the article you are criticizing. What am I missing?

Will said...

Not to pile on, Southern Traditionalist, but your statement "judging someone's character based solely on social group" may describe racism, but it does not describe what the author seemed to say, at least as I understood it. The article did not say, vote for WASPs today because they have moral character, rather it said, the WASPs that did rise in politics seemed to have a set of rules of behavior that is missed today. It is perfectly natural, given historic low opinions of government, to look at times when this was not so. The solution, as I mentioned before, is looking for those old memes, if not necessarily those old genes.

Anonymous said...

Q: Are WASP Preps and Irish Catholic Preps basically the same?

Answers:
WASP Preps: Absolutely not. Look at Kennedy.
Irish Catholic: Absolutely. Look at Kennedy.
Most Americans from away: Aren't they the same? Look at Kennedy.

Mike in CT said...

@Lancer RIUSA
I was at Penn a bit earlier than you. I didn't take Baltzell's course, but since I was a member at St. A's I saw him frequently - he would stop in for lunch or dinner and to visit with his son Frank.
I asked him once if the "W" couldn't safely be dropped from WASP, there being few Anglo-Saxons other than white. He said it was more or less true that the W was redundant, but he couldn't bear being called an ASP.
He was always charming and perfectly polite, but I got the impression that he was a bit disappointed that St. A's had (temporarily) become a sort of clubhouse for the rowing team rather than strictly Prep/Wasp.

Zach said...

I would like to clarify something for my fellow commenters:

The vast majority of WASPS of the mid-20th Century were liberal. Republicans, yes, but decidedly liberal nonetheless. They were known as "Rockefeller Republicans," as someone else pointed out. I wanted to reiterate it. People like William F. Buckley Jr. should never be conflated with the WASPs, as at least part of his philosophy was the result of the fact that he was deliberately snubbed by the WASPy Eastern Establishment. Nor should the Kennedy family, as they were most certainly outsiders looking in.

Also, it bears mentioning that Eisenhower converted to the Episcopal Church while at West Point in order to facilitate his climbing of the Army ladder. So to the person who said that non-WASPs have been leaders of this country, you're right, but even those that weren't born a WASP did all they could to become one.

-Zach

Anonymous said...

An interesting book on the subject at hand is The Chosen, by Jerome Karabel. (I am not the author or in any way related, just a bibliophile. )

Anonymous said...

Without wishing to stir up up a wasp's nest (pun intended), this article by Rupert Cornwell in the Independent makes an interesting counter argument.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/why-wasps-are-an-endangered-species-in-the-us-9028546.html?origin=internalSearch

A B Jones

LG said...

The comments following "Why WASPS are an endangered species..." are quite interesting and worth reading also.

Something I find interesting about all of this is the question of how many people these days can actually claim to be mostly WASP. This country really is a melting pot so while, for example, I can say "My family is Anglo Saxon and came to Virginia in the 17th century," that really only tells about a quarter of the story. One grandfather was Catholic and one was a mix of English and Scotch ancestry. But then his mother had some Pennsylvania Dutch in her background. And of course all Virginians are related to Pocahontas so throw Native American in there : ) And on and on and on- you see my point.

Maybe it is different in New England? I know a lot of you are passionate about genealogy and may be able to address this.

Anonymous said...

Another thoughtful perspective in Jewish Currents,

http://jewishcurrents.org/epsteins-meritocracy-23716





David P said...

I am admittedly biased since I am Catholic, but I don't see Buckley or the Kennedys as WASP wannabes. Are there quotes from them saying that they wished they were WASPs? Having said that, I am VERY sympathetic to the notion of a WASP identity. My general point in commenting on this post is to demonstrate that there are many socio-economic similarities between WASPs and like-minded Catholics. I attended prep school with Catholics and WASP alike and we intermingled without regard to our respective labels. We lived in the same neighborhoods, attended the same clubs and parties, dated and eventually married each other. I also would argue that there is a strong link between 'high church' Protestants and Catholics with a similar demographic profile. The church that Muffy has photographed in NYC (St. Timothy's) is classified as an Anglo-Catholic parish, meaning it incorporates many Catholic practices. Again, the point being that for the WASP and Catholic readers of this blog, the similarities are far greater than the differences. We retain our unique heritage, but hopefully approach life with the same worthy virtues of stewardship, graciousness and service.

Anonymous said...

The Midwestern and Catholic perspectives on the New England WASP culture are always interesting.

Max said...


Eleanor Roosevelt was/is the ideal embodiment of WASP leadership for me personally, and she is an inspiration to me for Leadership in general.

It is my hope that the American Power Establishment orientates itself back to its roots of (and the true essence of) Enlightenment and Freemasonry, as Greenfield correctly stated it earlier: ''The philosophical foundations of the United States actually owe far more to the Enlightenment, Deism, and Freemasonry than to the Episcopal church or the Ivies.''

I think however, that Religion and Enlightenment can and will co-exist peacefully in the future. I myself am not religious, but I respect and acknowledge the important and useful role religious organizations and religious values can play in a society, as long as there is a healthy separation of Church and State.

America and the Globe need spiritually strong political leadership. And I think and I believe that America can and must lead the Way in this.

It is my hope that Caroline Bouvier Kennedy will be the next President of the United States of America and that through her leadership, a new and more enlightened chapter in American and Global leadership can dawn again. Less based on greed, aggression, consumerism and corporatism, but more based upon understanding, service to others, love and care for Nature and enlightened and sustainable Capitalism.

Excerpt:

''The Christian sensibilities of the mature Eleanor Roosevelt are on prominent display in The Moral Basis of Democracy , a short book she published in 1940. The opening sentence explains the purpose of the book in the rather preachy style to which its author was sometimes prone: “At a time when the whole world is in a turmoil and thousands of people are homeless and hungry, it behooves all of us to reconsider our political and religious beliefs in an effort to clarify in our minds the standards by which we live.” The Tocquevillean premise of her book is that democracy depends on moral foundations and that religion is the main source of morality. “We do not begin to approach a solution of our problems,” she wrote, “until we acknowledge the fact that they are spiritual.”

Even more than other forms of government, she maintained, democracy requires “a spiritual, moral awakening.” She did not consider that such an awakening need “necessarily come through any one religious belief, or through people who regularly go to church,” but she did take for granted that the principal wellspring of morality in the United States was the Christian religion. “The citizens of a Democracy,” she wrote, “must model themselves on the best and most unselfish life we have known in history. They may not all believe in Christ’s divinity, though many will; but His life is important simply because it becomes a shining beacon of what success means.” “We may belong to any religion or to none,” she went on, “but we must acknowledge that the life of Christ was based on principles which are necessary to the development of a Democratic state.” ''

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2010/04/god-and-mrs-roosevelt

BlueTrain said...

That is all very interesting, Max, and I agree with some of it. However, I find nothing in the Bible that suggests a Democratic state. This is not to suggest that a stable and free society does not need a moral basis.

There is a problem, however, in that freedom and liberty do not spring from democracy or vice versa. All nations are democracies, in a sense; the only difference is in who gets to vote. Even kings were elected in a few places. When those high sounding words were published here in the late 18th century, some people took them seriously and it's been a problem ever since, especially of late.

Eleanor Roosevelt was certainly an idealist. And typically, idealism is something conservatives love to hate, apparently. It's almost the story of our country.

Max said...


Very interesting and true points you make Blue Train. Thank you very much for your feedback.

I guess when we look at it from the most fundamental level, the level of education and enlightenment, and therefore the lack of ignorance of a population, and the (ability of) involvement of the citizenry in the political discourse and process, determines the quality of government, which ever form it might take, these citizens will receive. Most advanced societies chose their form of government to be Democracy, because they trust their fellow citizens to act in the interest of the entire society, not just in their own self-interest.
I think Democracy really relies on participation and even more importantly on Trust, to work properly. If a big group of the population does not trust the rest of their fellow country men and women, then a society can easily collapse.

Together we stand, divided we fall.

This is why high quality public and free (or very affordable) education is the most essential building block for a thriving democracy in my opinion.

Since the United States has traditionally been a Democratic and Christian country, Mrs. Roosevelt probably chose the biblical narrative to explain her motivations and goals, because at that time most people could relate and easily follow this theme I imagine. Even today I think these words and concepts she used, resonate with a fairly large group of the American population. I guess one attempts to speak the language of their audience to achieve maximum impact.

I wholeheartedly agree with your last point on idealism. Idealism can be a great engine for positive change, as Elanor Roosevelt showed. Of course it has to be balanced with Realism, otherwise one gets disappointed frequently. In my experience having an optimistic and positive future outlook is always useful, while at the same time avoiding high unattainable expectations.

I think democracies can surely be manipulated and undermined, but
I think Winston Churchill probably put it best, when he said: "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."

Wishing you a wonderful week,

Max

Max said...


This is a highly interesting conversation with Sam Seder and Nomi Prins about her new book "All the Presidents' Bankers: The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Power".

It fits very well into this discussion and explains how the financial and power elites of the past used their power and influence not just to their personal benefit, but also to strengthen and stabilize the country.

Banker Winthrop W. Aldrich https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winthrop_W._Aldrich , was a perfect example of this ''Noblesse oblige'' attitude and behavior.

''Aldrich served as president and chairman of the board of Chase National Bank from 1930 to 1953. During and after World War II, he was a leader in the organization of relief efforts and financial assistance to Europe. In 1953, he became US Ambassador to the UK under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and he remained in London until 1957. He belonged to and served on the boards of many charitable organizations.''



Video Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ql0GMmuIg3Y

'' Published on May 22, 2014

Journalist and author of Presidents' Bankers: The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Power Nomi Prins, explains the roots of the deep connections between bankers and the White House, how Teddy Roosevelt's trust busting stopped when it came to the banks, the bankers and foreign and military power, how President's from Carter through Obama made the banks less accountable, FDR the Kennedys and the financial industry, bankers and World War II, why bankers supported Glass Steagall in the 1930s, how Washington became an insurance policy for the banks recklessness, Timothy Geithner and bank worship and President Obama's relationships with Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan.''

Max said...


After having researched more and studied the comments under this post and other posting on this topic online, I actually have come to the conclusion that the WASP Establishment is not dead as Joseph Epstein thinks and claims. It either intentionally retreated or unconsciously lost its course and true purpose, or a bit of both.

I am not a WASP myself, but I strongly believe that America and the World needs a WASP Leadership ''Renaissance''.

I found this very eloquent and inspiring website called ''The WASP Manifesto'' http://waspmanifesto.wordpress.com
, which I can only highly recommend.

I sincerely hope that more WASPs re-emerge from the shadows, and get involved in public life and capacities again. Be it as bloggers and quality and authenticity stewards and sanity advocates like Mrs. Aldrich, running for public office, serving in the military or the foreign service etc.

''What is critical are those values of literacy, fair play, sportsmanship, moderation, and civic-mindedness that have long shaped the ways of our people. They grow from a background of independent education and a certain amount of comfort, and they are critical to balancing the radical impulses of a society, radical impulses which have grown enormously in the last 50 years and which threaten to push the United States onto a dangerous, destructive course.

All of the values listed above, and their peers, are a critical tonic to the fanaticism and individual self-centeredness that have been creeping ever more strongly into American public life. A people who do not understand the basic self-sacrifice endemic to a successful democracy, who cannot appreciate why taxes are paid and why we must all give of ourselves for the greater good, such a people utterly misunderstand the nature of our form of government. In the first instance, before it is for the people, ours is a government OF the people. Our plenty – in peace, in wealth, and in liberty – is dependent upon those things that we give of ourselves.

At our people’s best, WASPs live these values. And while we have been guilty en masse of being spoiled and inward-looking, so also are we to be credited en masse for giving of ourselves and providing leadership for the good of our towns, cities, and for these United States. It is for the promotion of this latter purpose that the WASP Manifesto is written.'' - http://waspmanifesto.wordpress.com/about/

Katahdin said...

To best understand Mr. Epstein's point, read the speech delivered by the meritocrat nonpareil at West Point yesterday.

Max said...


Thank you for your feedback Katahdin.

Foreign policy, foreign affairs (e.g. CFR) and American-European/International relations (e.g. Atlantic Council) are the subjects I dedicate quite a bit of my time and free time to, and which are one of my personal passions. In my opinion President Obama's speech at West Point's graduation ceremony yesterday was one of the most sensible, balanced and sophisticated and at the same time most inspiring and patriotic speeches I have listened to from an American Commander in Chief in many years.
I actually watched it four times already on Youtube since yesterday, because it resonated so much with me, and I surely will watch it many more times in the future.
I usually have a rather short attention span and rarely watch films, documentaries, speeches etc. more than once, if I feel they are just rhetoric and no substance.
Yesterday's speech had a lot of substance in my opinion and was absolutely a move in the right direction for America to continue to be the one ''indispensable Nation'' and the one and only true global super power.

I know President Obama is not a WASP, but to me he is one of the few men in Washington D.C. at the moment, who comes closest to re-energizing and emulating authentic WASP leadership qualities, and who I personally trust and admire.

This from E. Digby Baltzell's wikipedia page, who was the person credited with popularizing the acronym WASP:
''Far more important to him than his personal preference for English clothes and for the ethos and manners of the gentleman was his conviction that aristocracy was necessary for the provision of leadership, both nationally and internationally. He felt that social stratification was inevitable, but that if the highest socio-economic levels were not accessible on the basis of merit (regardless of ethnic or racial background) society would degenerate into harmful caste-dictated divisions. His most productive years as an academic and social commentator corresponded to the actual relaxation of social barriers that took place in the late 1960s.'' - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._Digby_Baltzell

Katahdin said...

@Max

It always intrigues me how people can draw entirely different conclusions from the same material. For me, abdication, which is at the core of the West Point speech, is the antithesis leadership. One wearies of polls-driven policy making after six years.

Max said...


I am aware, that this a highly delicate and controversial topic and question I am going to ask of the TDP Community, nevertheless, it seems a most important one to discuss and to be aware of in my opinion:

''Is it healthy and wise, to have no Protestant Justice(s) on the Supreme Court of a majority Protestant Nation like the United States of America?''

Currently there are six Roman Catholic Justices, and three Jewish Justices on the United States Supreme Court.

Excerpt from a NPR article titled ''Supreme Court May Soon Lack Protestant Justices'', published April 07, 2010:

''Topic With A Hint Of Taboo

Let's face it: This is a radioactive subject. As Jeff Shesol, author of the critically acclaimed new book Supreme Power, puts it, "religion is the third rail of Supreme Court politics. It's not something that's talked about in polite company." And although Shesol notes that privately a lot of people remark about the surprising fact that there are so many Catholics on the Supreme Court, this is not a subject that people openly discuss.

In fact, six of the nine justices on the current court are Roman Catholic. That's half of the 12 Catholics who have ever served on the court. Only seven Jews have ever served, and two of them are there now. Depending on the Stevens replacement, there may be no Protestants left on the court at all in a majority Protestant nation where, for decades and generations, all of the justices were Protestant.

Religious Diversity And The Selection Process

But others, like Notre Dame history professor Mark Noll, disagree. "Is it a rebuke that there might be no Protestants on the Supreme Court?" he asks. "Indirectly, I suspect it would be."

It would be a rebuke, he says, in terms of what Protestant identity means, and why there wasn't a Protestant good enough to fill even a single Supreme Court seat.

Professor Mark Scarberry at Pepperdine law school, a self-described evangelical Protestant, says there should be no religious test for appointment.

"But I don't think that that means that a president shouldn't pay at least some attention to religious diversity on the court," he said. "It does seem to me that when you have such a large part of the country that has a particular sort of religious worldview, if there is no one on the court who is able to understand that worldview in a sympathetic way, then that creates difficulties."

And is this a subject that a nominee should or could be asked about? "I think that all hell would break loose," says Abraham, of the University of Virginia. "I cannot imagine that being brought up openly. Covertly, perhaps in some ways — but it's a highly delicate problem." '' - http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125641988

Anonymous said...

What percentage of the population is female?[51 percent] Three out of twelve justices are female. Hummmm.......

Michael Rowe said...

Only one group on the Supreme Court is voting their personal religious beliefs and morals, which should be a red flag for any democratic country with a separation of church and state, and with a specific proscription against elevating one religion over another.

Max said...


Thank you for your feedback Anonymous at 9:43 AM and Mr. Rowe.

I believe there are currently 9 Justices on the United States Supreme Court. Working with these numbers, at the moment 33% of the Court would be female. 3 out of 9 Justices.

I think, this female/male imbalance has been President Obama's main focus in regards to the Supreme Court, and that is reflected in his two appointments so far, as they both have been women.

Also Justice Sonia Sotomayor is the Court's first Hispanic Justice.

Another group to keep in mind is the group of non-religious, atheist, agnostic or religiously unaffiliated persons living in the United States, whose number is estimated at about 20% of the population, and who make up an even higher percentage in the New England States, but who are not represented on the Court at all.

I was baptized Protestant for example, but I do not consider myself to be a religious person, but spirituality is very important to me, and so I do not consider myself to be an atheist.
I think most of the Founding Fathers were Protestant, but since some of them were ''Children of the Enlightenment'', I think some of them considered themselves to be non-denominational theists or deists, so rather non-religious too, but highly spiritual, moral and humanistic.

In regards to the Jewish Justices, they can be, in my opinion, considered to be a religion and an ethnicity at the same time, so I don't see too much of a conflict of interest there, however they are currently only 2% of the US population, and are therefore probably over-represented on the Court.

I think the biggest imbalance is occurring with the 6 Roman Catholic Justices on the Court right now. Roman Catholics are approximately 25% of the US population, but they represent over 60% of the Court. They are all from one single denomination, which is highly organized, as opposed to former Protestant Supreme Court Justices, who were from all different kinds of Protestant denominations, even though Episcopalians were over-represented and dominant historically. The Vatican's world view in regards to women, homosexuals, contraception, etc. is problematic in my opinion and opposed to the American values of Equality and Enlightenment.

I guess a demographically fair and ideal Court would be comprised of about 6 White Justices, one Hispanic Justice, 1 African-American Justice, and 1 Asian-American Justice.
5 of them would be female, 4 of them would be male.
6 of them would be Christian, 2 of them would be Agnostic/Atheist/Unaffiliated, and 1 of them would be Jewish.
Of the 6 Christians, 4 should probably be Protestant and 2 of them Roman Catholic.

The other controversial politic about the Court, is that all of the Justices have come from only a hand full of Ivy League law schools. But this Ivy League affiliation is less controversial in my opinion than their religious affiliation is, as it can be argued that this choice is mostly based on merit and qualification, but of course there can be some class bias and social cognitive capture, when one has only frequented Elite and Upper-Class circles.

Since the Supreme Court wields so much power and influence to shape the American Culture and Way of Life, and has traditionally been a ''WASP Bastion'', but is not anymore, I think it is healthy and wise to occasionally bring up these topics.

I am probably somewhat biased myself, since I grew up in the Protestant culture (we only went to Church on Christmas Eve in my family though), but I think, that since the majority of the Founding Fathers were Protestants and still a majority of Americans consider themselves to be Protestants, the United States needs to conserve their Protestant heritage, as well as their Enlightenment tradition by properly representing it on the Supreme Court.

Michael Rowe said...

The term "Protestant" in this context is somewhat meaningless. In the context of the article, the "P" part of WASP is inseparable from the ethos it purports to represent.

The sort of "Protestants" who were designated as part of the acronym have as little in common with the other groups in America today using the term "Protestant" as a catch-all term that includes, say, Evangelical Christians and Baptists.

In fact, it would not be unreasonable to propose that Protestantism, as used here, represents an ethos more than it does a religious denomination.

For instance, the separation of Catholics and Jews from the Protestant group you are speaking of here only holds water when their judicial decisions derive from a personal—in some cases, fanatical—personal religious belief at the expense of an altruistic conviction of interpreting the law in a manner that advances the well-being of the American people.

Paradoxically, in this case, Justices Sontomayor and Ginsburg, neither of whom could be classified as "WASPs" are, with their forward-thinking progression, manifesting exactly the leadership bemoaned in this article as vanishing from the public scene, leaving the five men on the court to act like something rather less.

Max said...


Agreed, Mr. Rowe! It all goes/comes back to ethos(character), the most important aspect and value of authentic Prepdom. Everything else is distraction. Thank you very much for your eloquent and in-depth response :-)



Anonymous said...

Well said, Mr. Rowe.

Max said...


Since organized religion and women rights, etc. have been a topic in this comment section I would like to share the following article.

Good news from the Church of England:

''First women bishops in months after Synod vote - Overwhelming support in Church of England will speed the measure through Parliament'' - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10967508/First-women-bishops-in-months-after-Synod-vote.html

''The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, said: “I am very conscious of the responsibility that Synod has put on the House of Bishops to deliver what we’ve promised to deliver, in terms of the flourishing of the whole Church.

“But I am absolutely delighted that we have reached this stage and grateful to God and grateful for the answered prayers that have brought us here in a debate that was full of charity and grace and I think the presence of Jesus Christ was there throughout.”

While the decision is a blow to some traditionalists, the vote has averted the possibility of a constitutional crisis threatening the careful balance between Church and State.

MPs made clear in the wake of the defeat of the previous legislation in November 2012 that there was growing clamour for Parliament to step in with a Bill of its own simply imposing women bishops on the Church.

As well as infuriating those who opposed female bishops, such a move would have reopened calls for the wider link between the Church of England and the State to be re-examined.

Another likely avenue could have been for MPs to strip the Church of its exclusions from equality legislation which enabled it to maintain an all-male episcopate. That would have left the Church in the untenable position of breaching secular law if it refused female bishops, or ecclesiastical law if it did not.''

Anonymous said...

Very interesting Max.

Max said...


1991 C-SPAN2 conversation with Richard Brookhiser about his book ''Way of the Wasp: How It Made America, and How It Can Save It, So to Speak'':

''Social and Financial Power in America: White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (1991)''

Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3Zt6PSdpWg

''Published on Jun 25, 2014''

Max said...


After much research and study over the last several months, I found the two books ''The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order'':https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clash_of_Civilizations , and ''Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity'': https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Are_We%3F_The_Challenges_to_America%27s_National_Identity , by author and Harvard Professor Samuel P. Huntington to be the most important works on America's WASP heritage and the common Western culture both America and Europe share.

He suggests the following to renew the American Identity:
''After laying out the concerns for the weakening and subsequent dissolution of America, which could plausibly occur due to cultural bifurcation and/or a government formed of denationalized elites that increasingly ignore the will of the public, Huntington attempts to formulate a solution to these problems. He argues that adherence to the American Creed is by itself not enough to sustain an American identity. An example of a state that attempted to use ideology alone was the Soviet Union, which attempted to impose communism on different cultures and nationalities, and eventually collapsed. A similar fate could lie in store for the United States unless Americans “participate in American life, learn America’s language [English], history, and customs, absorb America’s Anglo-Protestant culture, and identify primarily with America rather than with their country of birth”.[18] In particular, Huntington suggests that Americans turn to Protestantism, and recognize that what distinguishes America from other countries is that it is an extremely religious Western country, founded on the principles of the Enlightenment and Protestant Reformation.''

Max said...


''Democrat heart with a Republican head''...

Very fitting short report from the PBS News Hour for this discussion:

''Looking back at the life and politics of Nelson Rockefeller''

Video Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhMUz87gc_8

'' Published on Nov 10, 2014

A politician who self-described as having a “Democrat heart with a Republican head,” Nelson Rockefeller would be something of a political anomaly today. Biographer Richard Norton Smith, author of “On His Own Terms,” joins Judy Woodruff to discuss what distinguished the four-time New York governor and former vice president.''