July 23, 2012

"What's happened to intellectual life on the right?"

"In their flight from elitism, [conservative intellectuals] end up in a populist swamp peopled by autodidacts and fundamentalists. They become cheerleaders for a world without intellectuals, hastening a future in which they themselves will be irrelevant."

223 comments:

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Anonymous said...
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Christopher in MA said...

I suspect the billionaire donors aren't donating out of the goodness of their hearts.

Everyone is a lobbyist. Everyone. Soros and Geffen, don't donate out of the goodness of their hearts, either.

What role does ALEC play? Why does ALC exist?

You might ask the same questions of SEIU. Or AARP. Or Emily's List.

Anonymous said...

Matthew,
If you are rich enough to morph from petitioner to owner you are the Master.

Peter said...

Russell Jacoby writes, "In brief, the former [right-wing intellectuals] are ideologues; the latter [Liberal intellectuals] serious writers and thinkers."

Methinks the professor doth protest too much. For what does this review actually say, other than "Russell Jacoby is so blinded by his own ideology that he cannot provide a reasoned review of David Gelenter's latest book? Unless you consider name-calling ("fundamentalist", "Scopes Trial" etc.) part of a reasoned review. Surely such a virulent review says far more about its author than about its subject?

BTW, I have read other works by David Gelernter, but not (yet) this book. My experience has been that just about everything written by David Gelernter is well worth reading.

Matthew Sablan said...

Solyndra tried; they failed. ALEC has very limited appeal (or desire to appeal). Unions have tried, but also failed. The simple fact is that politicians are, and always will be, the most powerful people in government. As you take more power away from people and put it to government, it gets more powerful. You can now be taxed to buy goods, if the government thinks it is wise that you buy that good.

It wasn't the insurance industry that did that. It was government. The insurance industry is simply on the winning side of the politicians pickings favorites. They offered something, but they were in no position to make it happen.

Jay said...

AllieOop said...

Why does ALEC exist?


Why don't you go to their Web site and find out?

yashu said...

The people who can direct the IRS to investigate your life, who can use Kelo to take your stuff for the public good, and can tax your business into oblivion are much more in control than anyone else.

Who can sic the law on you because of some obscure regulation re the wood in your guitars; who can use the NLRB to prevent you from opening a plant in another state; who can arbitrarily deploy EPA regulations to "crucify" your business pour encourager les autres; who can favor your competitors (e.g. with "investments," or waivers from a law or punitive tax) and thus drive you out of business… etc. etc.

Billionaires are buying -favors-. If you rule, you do not buy favors. If you need to petition someone, then you are in the subservient role.

Exactly. Matthew Sablan is on the mark here.

yashu said...

It's a protection racket.

On the one hand there's the mafia, or the government. On the other hand there are the businesses contributing money for "protection."

I.e., for protection from the mafia/ government itself.

That's a nice business you got there. It'd be shame if something were to happen to it.

Bruce Hayden said...

So many good points, I don't know if I can contribute anything. Nevertheless...

I see a lot of the intelligentsia's fondness for Marxism, post-Marxism, socialism, etc. to be a bid for power. One of the core tenets is that a rationally constructed and managed state is superior to that of nature, or, in our case, capitalism and democracy. And, to be rationally constructed and managed, it must be run by the best and the brightest. And, who are the best and brightest? Well, the very same intelligentsia who are espousing this belief, at least if you believe in their credentialing. They are saying to themselves, and somewhat to the rest of us, that if we just give them the power to construct and run the government, that the result will be superior to what we had in the past.

The "conservative" response to this is that every time that you try this, it fails miserably, and that what we did in the past worked better. The response of the intelligentsia/progressive left is that the reason that these previous attempts failed was that they had not been given enough power last time, that the people who tried were just not smart enough (and this new group is smarter), and their old solution was just not complex enough. It will work this time for sure.

Their next attempt will fail, maybe even more miserably, as evidenced by the reign of Obama II, and his obvious economic and national security failures. An extra 5% of GDP spent by the federal government, and the result is record unemployment.

It cannot work, because their theory presupposes that man is perfectable and that the best and brightest can out-plan and out-think the rest of us. But, they forget one important fact of life - that man is greedy, and their quest for power through their intellectualism, socialism, etc. is just more evidence of this fact. Moreover, greed guarantees that whatever they accomplish will be co-opted by the most cunning and ruthless members of society. (And, are inevitably surprised that one of the first things that communist dictators do, when obtaining power, is to shoot the intellectuals who helped them obtain it).

The other thing that they fail to recognize is that even if they were the best and brightest (they aren't), the "crowd" is much smarter in total. Which is why crowd/open sourced projects (esp. in software) are so much more effective than centrally planned ones, and why their ideas continue to be so easily riddled with bullet holes.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that another part of the reality here is that this claim of intellectual superiority (through faulty reasoning, no less) is a mark of desperation. The intellectuals are losing the debate. Their ideas demonstrably do not work, no matter how they try to obscure the fact through semantic obfuscation.

Maybe more importantly though, their ivory towers are under siege. The serfs in the fields have woken up to the fact that when their supposed masters leave the safety of the university, they get slaughtered in the fields of reality by the middle class bourgeois. And, so, the ivory towers are starting to be torn down.

The problem is that they have paid themselves too handsomely over the years. The reality is that the economic worth of a PhD in the humanities or many of the social sciences is worth less to society than a decent car mechanic. Yet, through their tenure protected guild system, some of them have managed to do well financially.

College costs have been rising far faster than inflation for decades, fueled by ever increasing levels of student loan debt - which is now undischargeable in bankruptcy, thanks to recent law school grads having discovered how onerous repayment was shortly after taking bankruptcy classes. No surprise these days that the left, led by Obama, want to give relief to these beleaguered debtors. But, since we are already spending 1/4 of GDP on the federal government, and the expected beneficiaries of any such relief would ultimately be the universities hiring these intellectuals, the Republicans, who control the House, are unlikely to bail them out.

Money though isn't the only reason that they are under attack these days. Education, whether K-12 or at the university, has not changed markedly since the Middle Ages. It is human and resource intensive. High paid profs teach increasingly smaller classes as the students advance. And, yet, expect to be paid $100k or more for the privilege of being listened to.

The problem for them is that education is entering the Internet era. The best teachers can teach much more effectively than the worst, and watching the best on-line is better than watching the mediocre in person in terms of results and costs. And, many profs are not even mediocre when it comes to teaching, since they are typically rewarded for their research more than their teaching ability.

No wonder they are increasingly desperate.

Joe Schmoe said...

Bruce, good point, and I'd add that another reason for the failure of central planning is that it is a complete failure at anticipating all of the inherent complexities and unintended outcomes. And even if it does anticipate them, which it never does, the resultant plan will be riddled with paradoxes that may help some while harming others.

It's why economics is such a feeble field. It may work as a forensic tool to describe how something transpired in the past, but it's useless for prognosticating future events. It's why you're better off throwing a dart to pick stocks rather than pay a broker to essentially do the same thing.

You touch on an important belief: the insistence that at some point, communism or socialism will be done perfectly. It's entirely irrational and belies any empirical evidence. It's the same type of religious indoctrination that they deride the right for.

Mitch H. said...

You keep using that word - "intellectual." I do not think it means what you think it means.

Apparently, credentialed. Since the article author's idea of "conservative intellectuals" are a clatch of obscure mid-century academics - one of which was a scholar with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars of all damnable things - one might have to wonder if his definition of "conservative intellectual" means "contagion safely contained within an airtight quarantine enclosure".

BTW - watch for the use of the term "autodidact" used as a pejorative. It's almost always a sign of a jealous credentialist anxious about the potential loss of his gatekeeper status.

The Right may someday regret treating Rush, Coulter, Hannity, Beck, etc. as their leading intellectual lights.

And you might someday regret doing so yourself, as no reasonable or respectable member of the Right would describe Beck and Coulter as intellectuals, and no member of the right would describe either Limbaugh or Hannity as such at all.

Beck likes to play history teacher, and my mother likes him, and Coulter writes books, but neither are intellectuals. They're pointers, publicists, and entertainers.

Come back when you can actually name an active, working conservative intellectual, Andy.

Sorry for the preaching, but I'm one of the few conservative atheists in the world. There can't be more than ten, or so.

If there aren't more than ten, then they're wildly over-represented in the blogsphere. Steven Den Beste, Rand Simberg, John Derbyshire (spit!) and Ace of "Ace of Spades" leap immediately to mind.

Russell Kirk.

I am ashamed to admit that I've never read Kirk, but he's dead, isn't he? And these days, Hayek's Austrian liberalism seems more influential than Kirk's traditionalist suspicion of democratic egalitarianism.

And no one, claiming to think, could back Romney with his weirdo "beliefs." But, instead of laughing him out of existence, they're lined up to hand him the keys to power.

Gads, Crack, is there any topic which you won't turn immediately to your seasonal obsession?

Robert Cook is a genius.

Of the Wile E. Coyote variety, apparently.

Sometimes I think of politicians as plot hunters - there's the class of lazy gentlemen hunters out there, who plant these fields of unattended field corn and the like out in the woods, and when hunting season comes around, they tromp out to the fancy blinds built next to the unharvested plots of corn, and sit and wait for the next big buck to lead his harem to the free food, and plug away.

Politicians are like that, except instead of planting field corn, they're writing statutes with no earthly use or purpose except to lure big, fat, juicy donors out into the open to shake down for campaign contributions. So tell me - is that magnificent-racked buck the ruling class of that particular forest?

Kelly said...

On the medved show yesterday, he had an interview with an Academic who wrote a book called American-lite. Basically about how the left has dragged down our universities and educational system following world war 2. The guy should know of what he speaks, he almost died at the hands of the Unabomber.

Q said...

You can now be taxed to buy goods, if the government thinks it is wise that you buy that good.


It wasn't the insurance industry that did that. It was government.



Two sides of the same coin.


The insurance industry is simply on the winning side of the politicians pickings favorites


It's really remarkable how often wealthy business interests are on the winning side of politicians pickings favorites. What could explain such an outcome? Businessmen and politicians being joined at the hip.

Q said...

What about when the politicians are unduly influenced by billionaire donors? I suspect the billionaire donors aren't donating out of the goodness of their hearts.

You start off with a good point ...


What role does ALEC play?


... and then make an ass of yourself. If you want to see billionaire donors and wealthy businessmen hijacking Washington DC, look to the Democratic party.

Todd said...

Kchiker said...

You can make fun of liberals all you want but there is a growing fringe on the right which refuses to acknowledge pretty simple facts and which believes that its anti-intellectuallism demonstrates its own elite status.

7/23/12 7:21 PM

I don't think the word "facts" means what you think it means...

Revenant said...

Politicians are not the ruling class; they are servants to the ruling class.

You mistake paranoia for insight. The average member of Congress controls more money and power than the richest billionaire in America.

Christopher in MA said...

Bruce, your comments are always worth reading.

wildswan said...

Here is a direct quote from the book involved in the Scopes trial, showing that the book taught the racist eugenics of CB Davenport. Darrow prevented that from being taught.

"
Parasitism and its Cost to Society. -- Hundreds of families such as those described above exist today, spreading disease, immorality, and crime to all parts of this country. The cost to society of such families is very severe. Just as certain animals or plants become parasitic on other plants or animals, these families have become parasitic on society. They not only do harm to others by corrupting, stealing, or spreading disease, but they are actually protected and cared for by the state out of public money. Largely for them the poorhouse and the asylum exist. They take from society, but they give nothing in return. They are true parasites.
The Remedy. -- If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race. Remedies of this sort have been tried successfully in Europe and are now meeting with some success in this country." from Hunter's Civic Biology, the book involved in the Scopes trial. The article being discussed cites opposition to this book as an example of anti-intellectualism. It is really an example of "populism" opposing eugenics.

Bruce Hayden said...

You can make fun of liberals all you want but there is a growing fringe on the right which refuses to acknowledge pretty simple facts and which believes that its anti-intellectuallism demonstrates its own elite status.

Such as, for example?

Eric said...

Politicians are not the ruling class; they are servants to the ruling class. You mistake the butlers for the masters of the house.

This is wrong. You're seeing all that money go to Washington and thinking it's bribery when what's actually going on is extortion.

Eric said...

You can make fun of liberals all you want but there is a growing fringe on the right which refuses to acknowledge pretty simple facts and which believes that its anti-intellectuallism demonstrates its own elite status.

You think that because publications like the NYT and The Atlantic are telling you it's true. But it's not. To the extent there are a handful of people who actually believe that, there are no more of them than there ever was.

I'm curious what "pretty simple facts" entails in this context.

SMSgt Mac said...

220+ comments into the thread and no one has mentioned Thomas Sowell and his writings on this topic, culminating with his book 'Intellectuals and Society'?
By Sowell's definition, we all engage in intellectual pursuits, but an 'Intellectual'is an "occupational category of which the end product is ideas and the only external mechanism for judging whether or not those ideas are good happens to be whether or not other intellectuals like those ideas. This is distinguishable from other occupations like engineers and scientists and doctors who may engage in intellectual pursuits but have actual, real-world, external mechanisms for judging whether or not they are good at their professions."
Therefore...YES, I seek the elimination of Intellectuals as 'authorities' on most things affecting my life. Don't tell us: We'll call you.

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