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The death of George H.W. Bush has occasioned a fair amount of nostalgia for the old American establishment, of which Bush was undoubtedly a prominent member.For all its faults and it was often horribly bigoted, in some places segregationist, and almost always exclusionary at its best, the old WASP aristocracy did have a sense of modesty, humility and public-spiritedness that seems largely absent in today's elite.And here is the problem, it is likely that these virtues flowed from the nature of that old elite. The aristocracy was secure in its power and position, so it could afford to think about the country's fate in broad terms, looking out for the longer term, rising above self-interest because its own interest was assured. While of course first-class passengers had easier access to the boats, the point remains that some of the world's most powerful men followed an unwritten code of conduct, even though it meant certain death for them.Those who do well on tests get into good colleges, then good graduate schools, then get the best jobs and so on.
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