Saturday, March 04, 2017

The ruling class

Conspiracy theorists would have us believe that we're ruled by a shadowy elite. This article by Andy Beckett suggests that actually that ruling elite isn't shadowy at all. An inordinate number of those who run the political establishment in the UK (whether politicians, economists, political journalists or media moghuls) have one thing in common: a degree in PPE (politics, philosophy and economics) from Oxford.

The degree was once seen as a break with tradition, and a means of ensuring those elected to take decisions on behalf of the nation were furnished with a well-rounded, liberal education and sufficient knowledge in more than one narrow sphere. Now, however, it's increasingly seen as an irrelevance, as having not moved with the times and contributing to a political class that is elite and out of touch with populist sentiment on both the right and the left of the spectrum.

On the one hand, it can't be healthy having one particular degree course at one particular institution that so profoundly shapes and determines the political and economic landscape. But on the other, it does make sense for aspiring politicians to have some form of vocational training and preparation and to cultivate a broader understanding of and interest in the world than a narrow politics degree might give.

PPE does need to evolve, though, and start looking more forward than back if it's not to become an irrelevance turning out anachronisms incapable of making sense of the new political and economic realities of the twenty-first century. The alternative - imbeciles who deal only in loud rhetoric and see only in black and white (hello Donald!) - is too grim to contemplate.

(Thanks to Adam for the link.)

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