Victor Davis Hanson: The Passing of the Old Order

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, the editor of Makers of Ancient Strategy: From the Persian Wars to the Fall of Rome, and the author of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.]

American reality has been turned upside down in just 20 years.

Americans no longer count on their news to be filtered and shaped by the Associated Press or the New York Times. Nor do millions have it read to them in the evening by CBS, ABC, or NBC anchorpersons — not with the Internet, cable news, and talk radio. Matt Drudge’s website, The Drudge Report, reaches far more Americans than does CBS anchor Katie Couric.

The old notion that America’s most successful citizens are turned out by prestigious four-year universities — the more private and Ivy League, the better — overseen by disinterested professors is also nearing an end. Private for-profit trade schools and online colleges are certifying millions in particular skills.

Meanwhile, the high jobless rate among recent college graduates, who are burdened by thousands of dollars in student loans, is starting to resemble the Freddie Mac– and Fannie Mae–spawned financial bubble of 2008, in which millions of indebted and unemployed borrowers could not pay back exorbitant federally insured home loans. For parents to keep borrowing $200,000 to certify their children with high-prestige degrees that don’t necessarily lead to good jobs seems about as wise as buying a sprawling house that one can’t afford. James Cameron, Bill Gates, Sean Hannity, Tom Hanks, Steve Jobs, Rush Limbaugh, Tiger Woods, and Mark Zuckerberg have all made good livings without earning B.A.s....

In response to this topsy-turvy world, the traditional media, tenured professors, well-paid public employees, rigid ethnic and racial lobbies, unions, organized retirees, open-borders advocates, and entrenched politicians all are understandably claiming that we live in an uncivil age.

We well may, but we also are seeing the waning of an old established order. And the resulting furor suggests that the old beneficiaries are not going quietly into that good night.

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