Proof is in a new book: “What Washington Gets Wrong”. The elite are the highly educated wonks who brag-jog in college tees and prize their collection of NPR totes. In elementary school these little people were invisible. As adults they exist in a special little cloud world that’s floating above “the masses”. They hate “The Masses”.
In WWGW, authors Bachner and Ginsberg argue that the elite are too dismissive of “The Masses”, the people who actually pay them. “Further, we found a wide gulf between the life experiences of ordinary Americans and the denizens of official Washington.” Some elitism is inevitable, but this goes too far.
Half of the bureaucrats believe Americans are ignorant and think government should not take what the public says too seriously. Mostly, they believe officials (like them) should use their judgment instead of following public opinion.The majority of the bureaucrats had master’s degrees or Ph.D’s. It should be a comfort knowing that there exists a specialized class of people who have dedicated their lives to understanding the intricacies of, say, tax credits for the poor or the diplomatic intrigues of the Caucasus.
Bachner and Ginsberg don’t dispute voters are ignorant. In their view, however, D.C. insiders are needlessly disdainful of the regular Americans they are supposed to be helping.
Bachner and Ginsberg call this phenomenon the fallacy of “false uniqueness.” They interpret it as a sign that many public servants have internalized a sense of superiority. Perhaps, as they write, “officials and policy community members simply cannot imagine that average citizens would have the information or intellectual capacity needed to see the world as it is seen from the exalted heights of official Washington.”