“Amongst the novel objects that attracted my attention during my stay in the United States, nothing struck me more forcibly then the general equality of conditions.”
– Alexis de Tocqueville. Democracy in America.
Sometime during winter break, you’ll be at a party. You didn’t want to go to this, but after deep reflection you decided that you were somehow morally obligated to try and keep in touch with your friends. After one of the more awkward moments talking to a girl that you don’t remember so well, but you know that you detest her for one reason or another, you see two of your good friends who now study in New Haven and Cambridge.
After the standard routine of reintroductions, the Harvard boy babbles on and on about his government course with Harvey “C-minus” Manfield, which he got an A- in, but his girlfriend, who does a little modeling in New York on her free weekends, earned a solid A. Meanwhile, the peppy Yale girl, who just spilled her Amstel Light on your coat, discourses on the opinion journalism seminar that she just took with David Brooks. She plans on going to Iran this summer to brush up on her Farsi, start an NGO and foment revolution. The banter grows stale, as they talk faster and your eyes start to glaze over.
You learn two things from these holiday season ordeals. One, parties with your high school friends are terrible. Two, a lot of the kids with whom you once spent hours studying, and arguing with, now inhabit a world far removed from your own (and have become self-absorbed asses in the process).
In the history of the United States, never before has so much intellectual capital been concentrated into the