One of the most useful things intellectuals can do is to invent a term or phrase that flood-lights a new social situation. Society is constantly throwing up problems that are too diffuse and too complex to grasp until someone comes up with a short, snappy way of describing what is going on—one that, as soon as it is heard, strikes one as exactly right. Marx’s term “reserve army of the unemployed” spoke volumes, even to those who had not read the books in which it was first used.
Michael Lind, a young ex-conservative, has introduced the term “overclass” into our political vocabulary. This word has quickly come into extensive use, and has been very helpful in defining the central problem that America now faces. Lind defines “the white overclass” as “a small group consisting of affluent white executives, professionals, and rentiers, most of them with advanced degrees, who with their dependents amount to no more than a fifth or so of the American population.” He describes this overclass as “the first truly national oligarchy in American history.” His description of that overclass, and of the inequities that enrich it, is brilliant political polemic....
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