Theodore Dalrymple is not sure that snobbery is actually a vice. "Everyone needs someone to look down on, and the psychological need is the more urgent the more meritocratic a society becomes," he writes. "This is because, in a meritocracy, a person’s failure is his own, whether of ability, character or effort. In a society in which roles are ascribed at birth and are more or less unchangeable, failure to rise by one’s own achievement is nothing to be ashamed of."