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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Gruffalo Elite

Last week's Economist on the global elite is a must-read for anyone interested in studying (or becoming) part of the cognoscenti.  I thought the best part of the special report was the piece entitled "The rise and rise of the cognitive elite."  The authors argue that assortative mating is alive and kicking, and perpetuating inequality, as highly educated men and women pair off and start families in greater numbers than ever before.

Interestingly, a few pages later, the Bagehot column on Britain ("The Gruffalo years") focuses on the nations' senior politicians with young children.  Bagehot argues that having little ones in their Gruffalo years-- "an innocent interlude stretching from birth to a child's ninth birthday or so"-- produces better MPs as their families directly engage various social services and learn to balance work and home life.

Of course, as the columnist writes, it helps that some of the mums are "high-flying lawyers," who earn a lot of money.  These MP-kids seem destined to become part of the global elite with highly educated, powerful, successful, and rich parents.  In what ways are their childhoods preparing them to be responsible adult members of this new global elite?

Lately I've been thinking more generally about the children of politicians and how they help shape a politician's image both on the campaign trail and in office.  This Bagehot piece claims that top British politicians are "(mostly) shielding their children from press attention." Do you all think this is true?

If so, is there something different going on in the US? The Palin kids are certainly on display, Megan McCain has now made a career out of being the child of a politician, and some of the most iconic images from 2008 include Sasha and Malia Obama.  Would love to hear your thoughts.


  1. I have not spend much time in the UK, though I lived in France for 2 years. One thing that surprised me is that the French seems to detach the person from the idea in philosophical or political discussion whereas Americans do that less. For instance, it seems in presidential elections in the US, you often hear that people will or won't vote for someone because they don't like something about them personally, and I never heard that in France.

    I think this relates in that people in France (and maybe the UK) see the children of politicians as less relevant to the policies of the politician; however, in the US, since children may be considered a reflection of their parents, American feel like there is important information in some politician's children.

  2. Yes, certainly in the US children are seen as a reflection of their parents (in both good and bad ways). But I hadn't thought that this was unique here, which is very interesting. I wonder if this was always the case or that there was some historical shift where this came to be true in the US?