Do the rich and powerful deserve the privileges they enjoy because they're better than the rest of us?

Columnist Marta H. Mossburg appears to agree with psychiatrist Charles Murray, author of a controversial 1994 study of race an intelligence, that if people don't "make it" in the United States it's because they are not good enough ("A failure of values, not economics," Feb. 15).

She embraces Mr. Murray's latest attempt to prove the superiority of whites, or at least some whites. Mr. Murray's "Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960 to 2010" argues that since the 1960s America's white population has divided into two groups, one fairly small, highly educated, wealthy, married and geographically isolated from the rest of the country, the other poor, single, with little education and encompassing the vast majority of citizens.

Who are these superior folks and why are they superior? The good guys adhere to the "founding virtues" of marriage, industriousness, honesty and religiosity, while the lower classes shun these virtues.

The wealthy high-achievers "have the genes, the means and the peer pressure to succeed," according to Ms. Mossburg. They don't want anything to do with the rest of us because, "people want to be around people who understand them and to whom they can talk."

Does Ms. Mossburg really believe that the wealthy ever interacted with the middle and working classes —particularly people of color — in this nation? When?

Does she believe that the wealthy are more honest than the rest of us? Has she never heard of Enron or the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s or scandals going all the way back to Teapot Dome?

Ms. Mossburg pays no attention to the subtitle of Ms. Murray's latest book: "The State of White America." She gives us a hint of her and Mr. Murray's subtext when she notes that wealthy kids have the genes to succeed.

Better genes? We are talking race now.

Rich Americans are not better than the rest of us. They are the beneficiaries of a system that favors those with power, and those with power create institutions that give them increasingly unearned advantages.

They also can choose the "virtues" that are supposed to justify their success and ignore their arrogance.

What has happened between 1960 and 2010 has been in many respects appalling. Our democracy is clearly eroding. An increasingly powerful elite has emerged. That is scary. So are the ideas of Marta Mossburg and Charles Murray, which are appallingly simplistic.

Stan Markowitz

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