Matt McCaffrey over at MisesEconomicBlog makes note of a common trait among our intellectuals:
…“For [a revolutionary] atmosphere to develop it is necessary that there be groups to whose interest it is to work up and organize resentment, to nurse it, to voice it and to lead it.” Enter the intellectuals.
The intellectuals are a paradoxical product of the market economy, because “unlike any other type of society, capitalism inevitably and by virtue of the very logic of its civilization creates, educates and subsidizes a vested interest in social unrest.” Like Hayek, Schumpeter described intellectuals broadly as “people who wield the power of the spoken and the written word.” More narrowly, “one of the touches that distinguish them from other people who do the same is the absence of direct responsibility for practical affairs.” That is, intellectuals do not participate in the market (at least not in the areas they write about), and do not generally rely on satisfying consumers to earn a living. Add to this their naturally critical attitude—which Schumpeter argues is the product of the essential rationality of the market economy—and it is easy to see why intellectuals would be hostile to the market.
In other words, intellectuals are often out of place in entrepreneurial societies. The growth of the intellectual class is not a response to consumer demand, but to the expansion of higher education. Passing through the higher education system does not necessarily confer valuable skills, but it often does convince graduates that work in the market is beneath them…
That is all very true, but I’d add something else to it: our intellectuals are, for the very largest part, amazingly un-intellectual. For people who pride themselves on an alleged ability to think, they don’t think about much – and this is mostly because they don’t know very much. Marx wrote a book about what the laboring class wants when he had never done a lick of laboring work in his life. Lenin wrote a book about the development of capitalism in Russia when he had never entered the marketplace, at all. What on earth could such men think they were writing about? It’d be like me trying to write an in depth, philosophical work about surgery. I might have some interesting comments to make on the subject, but to take me for an expert in it, no matter how much I claim to have thought about it, would be absurd. Unless you get out there and see how its done, you’ll never really know.
But that doesn’t stop our intellectuals. It never has. Do keep in mind that “intellectual” and “scientist” are not one in the same thing – though intellectuals like to use the prestige of science to buttress their own position (as they both come out of universities, it is easy to blur the line between someone who actually knows nuclear physics and someone who pretends to know the finer points of gender and class in early 20th century New York City). But scientists and intellectuals are two different species – scientists know things, work hard and tend to have useful things to provide society. Intellectuals know nothing, don’t work and have nothing useful to provide anyone. Way back in the 18th century when the modern intellectual was born – think Voltaire, Rousseau and the other leaders of the amazingly mis-named “Enlightenment” – the truth was told about them. The Enlightenment philosophers wrote a great deal on the ideal society and the right sort of government, but it took a level-headed, non-intellectual with practical experience to put them in their place: Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa observed, “They condemn the past for its ignorance and prejudice, while knowing nothing at all about the past and not much more about the present”. She made the comment after having ruled with some success for 30 years – dealing all the time with the chicanery of other Powers, the corruptions of her own government, the failures of her own officers, ministers and people; and, of course, her own failures. She knew whereof she spoke. But would an Enlightenment philosopher who never held responsibility for anything ask her views on the subject? Of course not; when they did notice her, they scorned and ridiculed her; they, the intellectuals, knew better.
And so it is with our intellectuals of today. They don’t know, themselves, what has happened, what is happening and what is likely to happen. They’ve got their theories built inside intellectual vacuums which take no consideration of basic facts and demand that their theories be implemented, immediately. They also get very mad at and drip with contempt against any non-intellectual who points out any flaws in the intellectual theory – and its even worse when a non-intellectual points out that the intellectual’s theory has been tried before and failed miserably (to an intellectual, whatever he’s thought up is brand new and the latest thing – it could not have been tried before because if it had, then it would have worked; that the intellectuals of 2014 are, save in the subject of same-sex marriage, merely regurgitating 19th century ideas is completely lost on them…they simply don’t know history…to them, the 19th century was robber barons, slavery, killing Native Americans and Seneca Falls; and that is doubly funny because when Seneca Falls happened, it was the least interesting event in a very interesting year).
Our President is, of course, an intellectual in good standing – and stands as a model of the type. He knows nothing, is quite convinced he knows everything, and is filled with anger and contempt for anyone who dares question him. We see in his unconstitutional power grabs a species of Caesarism – he doesn’t. He probably doesn’t know much more about Caesar than the bare fact of Caesar’s existence. Obama may well view his illegal power grabs as a new and innovative way of governing a nation. It could be that he sees it as a way of breaking a log-jam and getting things done. Governments have to govern, right? That such actions in the past have often led to dictatorship and/or civil war doesn’t enter into his head – because he doesn’t know about such actions in the past. And our intellectual class mostly applauds the President for the power grabs – I’m not just talking about the partisan hacks who will agree to any action as long as it is done by a Democrat, I’m talking about people who supposedly are of great education: they are applauding this and it is because they are just as ignorant as Obama.
Ok, so what do we do about this? Given that our intellectuals are ignorant but in power and thus destroying everything how do we fix it? First and foremost – stop giving them money. Stop all direct taxpayer subsidies (things like grants from government for useless studies to be done; ok to pay a guy to figure out how to build a fusion reactor, worthless to pay a guy to find out how people feel about pop culture nonsense – as an aside, the guy working on the fusion reactor is NOT an intellectual as far as intellectuals are concerned, unless he blathers himself up with mental goop in support of intellectual positions on social and economic matters) but also stop all indirect taxpayer subsidies (you know, where Big Corporation bosses buy themselves a good reputation amongst intellectuals who otherwise would hold them in contempt by giving vast, tax-deductible sums to foundations which are citadels of intellectual power). Intellectuals, by nature, do not produce wealth – to have a large class of intellectuals you have to support them. Stop supporting them and you’ll stop having them – at least, having them in large enough numbers to cause a problem.
And we do have to do this. Having intellectuals in large numbers is always a problem. It caused the Russian Revolution (one jokester website put out a fake news article from 1917 announcing that “pretentious, goateed, coffee-house types seize power in Russia” – that pretty much nailed it; but it wasn’t all just harmless fun…those are the precise types of people who build a GULAG), it ended the British Empire (how so? Well, the Brits built schools but the schools did not educate the Natives into being the doctors and engineers that the Natives actually needed – the schools educated the Natives into being teachers and lawyers…who were useless to the Native peoples but very effective at convincing their fellow intellectuals in Britain that all power in the Native lands should be transferred to the Native intellectuals); everywhere that intellectuals reached a critical mass you then have a body of people who produced nothing but were dissatisfied with everything and given that they knew nothing of history, they were all too willing to try social experiments upon the common people. In case you’re wondering why our economy is regulated to death while the schools don’t work and out-of-wedlock birth skyrockets and welfare dependency grows while people are less and less capable of reading a simple sentence it is because intellectuals got themselves some clever ideas and immediately imposed them on society. I absolutely assure you that no one with a practical turn of mind who did something useful to make his daily bread came up with, say, the idea that the best solution to poverty is to make people dependent upon government. It takes an intellectual to think up something like that. And unless we can curb these people they will just keep on coming up with stupid, destructive ideas until this nation is finished.