Is Anti-Intellectualism a Problem?
James Broughel takes down Tyler Cowen
my worry about the trajectory of American politics is nearly the opposite of what Cowen seems concerned with. That is, I worry not about anti-elitism or anti-intellectualism on the American right, but rather about how many on both the left and the right put too much faith in the abilities of intellectuals to guide the evolution of human progress.
Pointer from Tyler.
Broughel also takes down Matt Yglesias, although not by name.
The instinct of the intellectuals is to solve problems. There is nothing wrong with this instinct, per se. However, “solving problems” often requires an all-powerful state to implement the “solutions,” and all-powerful states have a strange history of doing “evil and pernicious” things.
My own stance on these issues is that I am not anti-intellectual. I am against what in philosophy is called naive realists. A naive realist believes “I see the world clearly. What I perceive to be true, is true.” In politics, if you are a naive realist, then you think more highly of your opinions on public policy than you should.
Ordinary voters suffer from naive realism. But intellectuals can suffer even worse from naive realism.
I think that the best protection from naive realism is having ideas tested in the market rather than imposed by monopoly government. The market will expose and weed out misconceptions. Government will not.
[Note: a political scientist whose initials are JF has articulated the problem of naive realism, but he shuns publicity about it. I will give him credit anonymously.]
Anyone else notice that our political “elites” and to a lesser degree our intellectual “elites” aren’t that elite? This whole train of thought rests on the assumption that folks with power are not only altruistic in some way, but also very wise. I haven’t seen evidence of either.
Most policies seem to follow “something must be done. This is something. Therefore this must be done.” Start showing a deep understanding of issues and propose modest, well thought out policies- then maybe you earn the title of “elite”.
Tyler Cowen is a fool, as are most of the academics of today. That I didn't understand that 15 years ago makes me ashamed today. It took their response to the COVID idiocy to pound that into my head, but I can see it now.
The government's performance is always under market judgment, but the legal and illegal coercion at its hand means that its failures are cataclysmic in the end rather than the occasional screw-up at isolated areas in a vast ocean of activity. The failures are correlated across all its activities at once when coercion and unlimited funds stop working. The United States and its first world allies are at that stage where the failures are now just beginning to impact their ordinary citizens (our failures have been impacting the third world citizens for the last 50 years). We are getting the government we deserve good and hard.