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Brooks on Conservative Anti-Intellectualism:

David Brooks' column today is a must read, particularly for us right-wing, would-be-intellectual types. A few excerpts:

Modern conservatism began as a movement of dissident intellectuals. . . . William F. Buckley famously said he'd rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard. But he didn't believe those were the only two options. His entire life was a celebration of urbane values, sophistication and the rigorous and constant application of intellect.

Driven by a need to engage elite opinion, conservatives tried to build an intellectual counterestablishment with think tanks and magazines. They disdained the ideas of the liberal professoriate, but they did not disdain the idea of a cultivated mind. . . .

But over the past few decades, the Republican Party has driven away people who live in cities, in highly educated regions and on the coasts. This expulsion has had many causes. But the big one is this: Republican political tacticians decided to mobilize their coalition with a form of social class warfare. . . .

What had been a disdain for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain for the educated class as a whole. The liberals had coastal condescension, so the conservatives developed their own anti-elitism, with mirror-image categories and mirror-image resentments, but with the same corrosive effect. . . .

The political effects of this trend have been obvious. Republicans have alienated the highly educated regions — Silicon Valley, northern Virginia, the suburbs outside of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Raleigh-Durham. The West Coast and the Northeast are mostly gone.

The Republicans have alienated whole professions. Lawyers now donate to the Democratic Party over the Republican Party at 4-to-1 rates. With doctors, it's 2-to-1. With tech executives, it's 5-to-1. With investment bankers, it's 2-to-1. It took talent for Republicans to lose the banking community. . . .

And so, politically, the G.O.P. is squeezed at both ends. The party is losing the working class by sins of omission — because it has not developed policies to address economic anxiety. It has lost the educated class by sins of commission — by telling members of that class to go away.

I think Brooks makes several important and valid points about conservative anti-intellectualism. Just think about how otherwise intelligent conservatives embrace unscientific critiques of evolutionary theory and celebrate (instead of simply excuse) Gov. Palin's lack of academic credentials. It may well be the case that the smartest and most educated political candidates may not make the best political leaders, but this hardly makes the lack of formal education or intellectual curiosity a qualification in itself.

I also think Brooks overlooks something quite important. Some of the central ideas in modern conservatism — such as the impossibility of central economic planning, the nature of spontaneous order, and the idea that longstanding social traditions embody vast stores of social learning — are inherently hostile to certain intellectual conceits, particularly the idea that if only the right people were in charge (the intellectuals themselves) most social problems could be solved. Further, most modern conservatives embrace an economic system — free-market capitalism — that does not reward intellectual achievement at the level many intellectuals would prefer. Thus, while conservatism does not need to be (and should not be) anti-intellectual, there may be a limit to the extent to which intellectuals, as a class, will embrace modern conservative ideas.

Obvious (mail):
Can 1 in 100 conservative voters explain the concepts of an invisible hand, spontaneous order, or the failings of central economic planning (without reference to communism)? Doubtful. Today's conservative voters likely think the invisible hand refers to the hand of God, and a spontaneous order is whatever emanates from the mouth of the Commander in Chief...
10.10.2008 2:55pm
Steve:
Doctors donate to the Democratic Party by a 2-1 margin? Really?
10.10.2008 2:57pm
smitty1e:
@Obvious:

whatever emanates from the mouth of the Commander in Chief...

And what says the senior plutocrat now?
10.10.2008 3:01pm
Phelps (mail) (www):
I don't think its fair to expect anyone to detail the failings of central economic planning with reference to communism. That's like expecting someone to explain why people have trouble with computers without reference to Windows.
10.10.2008 3:01pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I also think Brooks overlooks something quite important. Some of the central ideas in modern conservatism -- such as the impossibility of central economic planning, the nature of spontaneous order, and the idea that longstanding social traditions embody vast stores of social learning -- are inherently hostile to certain intellectual conceits, particularly the idea that if only the right people were in charge (the intellectuals themselves) most social problems could be solved. Further, most modern conservatives embrace an economic system -- free-market capitalism -- that does not reward intellectual achievement at the level many intellectuals would prefer. Thus, while conservatism does not need to be (and should not be) anti-intellectual, there may be a limit to the extent to which intellectuals, as a class, will embrace modern conservative ideas.

The distinction is between skepticism of expertise, which is healthy, and dismissal of expertise, which is disasterous.

There's nothing wrong with saying that just because an idea has an intellectual pedigree doesn't mean we shouldn't test it and be cautious about it and verify it and question it. That's consistent with the conservative principle that one should always proceed cautiously before upending the status quo.

But expertise is still valuable, and credentials mean something, and intellectual curiosity is important. And the problem Brooks points to is the dismissal of expertise, as if it doesn't mean anything and Joe Sixpack can do a better job. No, he can't.
10.10.2008 3:01pm
Hoosier:
celebrate (instead of simply excuse) Gov. Palin's the (sic)lack of academic credentials.

She has a degree.

But I suppose you mean it isn't from a good enough university. Is that what you mean?

I think that JA's comment here reflects the reason so many of us conservatives don't care for academia all that much. Even--especially?--those of us who work in the midst of it. You are making presumptions that reveal your biases, professor. And those biases are not something to be proud of.

(And I just ended a sentence with a preposition! HA! You can't stop me!)
10.10.2008 3:01pm
Michael F. Martin (mail) (www):
I believe your diagnosis is correct, but I would simplify it even further. Many liberal intellectuals believe that the smartest individuals are best qualified to govern. Many conservative intellectuals believe that a team of mediocre talent can outperform the best individuals. See Jonathon Haidt on this observation about conservative ideology. And recall that before Adam Smith we had Mandeville's Fable of the Bees.
10.10.2008 3:03pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
By the way, I should add that while Brooks is right that Bill Buckley really did care about ideas, conservatives shouldn't celebrate that quote about the telephone directory. That wasn't one of Buckley's more profound statements. The truth is, you may want the common sense and judgment of those people out of the phone book, but you also want the knowledge and careful study and critical thinking of those Harvard professors. Good leadership is a combination of good judgment and good intellect.
10.10.2008 3:04pm
Hoosier:
One more point: I would not trust my faculty colleagues to govern Gurnee for a wet weekend.

That doesn't make me anti-intellectual. It makes me aware. And wise. I read their books. I go to their talks. But I will not agree to be governed by them. "Academic credentials" be damned.
10.10.2008 3:04pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
With lawyers, is it class warfare, class warfare defensiveness, or concerns about tort law?

Doctors who vote dem are fools, at least wrt their own self-interest.

Having no pretensions to intellectualism, but having to hang around them from time to time, I would say that one of their most endearing characteristics is their obvious--emphasize obvious--conceit that they are better than the rest of us. Not only in their field of interest, but in all ways.

Problem is, of course, that they aren't.

Nevetheless, they think we need to be guided by them. Since we don't want to be guided by them, they seem to think the power of the state is the tool by which they will do the right thing by us, whether we want it or not.

Last year, at a wedding reception, I asked a professor of geography I'd just met about a particular field and individual I'd read about in a sci-fi novel. Didn't tell him where I'd heard about it because I had found the field and the individual actually existed. He said that anybody in his field ought to be familiar with Walter Christaller. I said Christaller missed one factor, and explained it--is a location defensible--and he agreed.
Then he asked me if I was a professor "around here". Sometimes God is too good to me.
I told him I did my post-grad work at Ft. Benning.
He recovered nicely, I'll give him that.
But it sure is easy to fool these guys without even trying. Which is why I respect them so much....
10.10.2008 3:05pm
Hoosier:
Dilan Esper--Keep in mind he made that comment after the Harvard Alumni Association had gotten the US into the Vietnam War.

Remind me why I want the Harvard faculty governing me?
10.10.2008 3:06pm
Anonperson (mail):

...the impossibility of central economic planning, the nature of spontaneous order... -- are inherently hostile to certain intellectual conceits, particularly the idea that if only the right people were in charge (the intellectuals themselves) most social problems could be solved. ... Thus, while conservatism does not need to be (and should not be) anti-intellectual, there may be a limit to the extent to which intellectuals, as a class, will embrace modern conservative ideas.


I think this depends somewhat on how you define intellectual. I have a hard time considering these ideas as somehow inherently anti-intellectual. In fact, there is an emerging field known as complex systems that is very much interested in these kinds of ideas. Perhaps by intellectual here you are referring to a particular kind of person in the humanities that I am not that familiar with.

Certainly in computer science, we have long recognized that centralized systems are inherently not scalable beyond certain limits. Autonomic computing, self-organizing systems, lack of global knowledge, etc., are all well-recognized ideas in CS. Don't use global variables is one of the first rules of thumb taught to beginning programmers.
10.10.2008 3:06pm
$900,000,0000 Write Down (mail) (www):
the post-beating navel gazing has already begun?

How about: between 2000 and 2006 the GOP proved to another generation beyond any reasonable doubt that it can't govern. Crony capitalism, naked selling of earmarks, ridiculous expansion of entitlements, idealistic foreign excursions? I'd trust a college freshman with a budget before I'd hand one over to the GOP.

The GOP had its chance and botched it beyond anyone's imagination. Our reward is Pelosi-Reid-Obama radically transforming the economy. Thanks GOP. XOXOXO.
10.10.2008 3:08pm
Pender:

Some of the central ideas in modern conservatism ... are inherently hostile to certain intellectual conceits, particularly the idea that if only the right people were in charge (the intellectuals themselves) most social problems could be solved.

I think, after writing a sentence like this, one should immediately step back and ask whether an idea to which intellectual people are intrinsically and universally allergic could possibly be a good idea.

I actually disagree that the stated conservative idea is why conservatives have lost the intellectual vote, but if it were, I'd say it'd be a pretty damning indictment of the idea on its merits.
10.10.2008 3:12pm
Vermando (mail) (www):
Hats off for the good post, and great points at the end.

I agree with your central critique at the end, but it's also good to stress the extent to which those ideas were the insights of very intelligent and qualified people. Growing up, like many people, I thought that the guys at the University of Chicago were right - not just on economics, but on their insistence of intellectual tradition and rigor in general. Now, it is difficult to imagine a book like the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy finding much resonance amongst conservative elites.

I would not underestimate in this the extent to which adjustments by left intellectuals have played a role in this development. They are far more institutionally tolerant than at one time, and many have recognized the triumph of certain ideas of the Right and incorporated them into their own thinking.
10.10.2008 3:15pm
A Law Dawg:
I actually disagree that the stated conservative idea is why conservatives have lost the intellectual vote, but if it were, I'd say it'd be a pretty damning indictment of the idea on its merits.


Have you ever met a humanities professor?
10.10.2008 3:15pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Keep in mind he made that comment after the Harvard Alumni Association had gotten the US into the Vietnam War. Remind me why I want the Harvard faculty governing me?

They definitely deserve some criticism for that, though bear in mind the Vietnam War was also deeply popular with conservatives (including the more anti-intellectual parts of the conservative movement), so I don't think the Vietnam War occurred BECAUSE the Kennedy Administration was full of academic intellectuals.
10.10.2008 3:16pm
derek:
This line of thought admittedly sounds like the making of a shift in the party system

Academics who profess to be "conservative" or even "libertarian" nonetheless, when push comes to shove, prefer the left-leaning candidate because he has academic credentials. Likewise, they denigrate the most conservative/libertarian leaning candidate simply because she doesn't have the kind of academic credentials they'd like to see, and which credentials they don't respect.

True colors are coming out. The academics and intelligentsia will shift even more Democratic, even if their professed philosophy is diametrically opposed. This is because of the tendency, shown in Prof. Adler's post, to honestly believe the the most intelligent person should be "in charge", regardless of personal philosophy, track record, or effectiveness.

But as that shift occurs, remember: there are numerically more "non-academically qualified" individuals who vote.
10.10.2008 3:17pm
Anonperson (mail):
I think we should also avoid equating academia with being an intellectual. It's perfectly fine to say that academia is full of it. However, the anti-intellectualism among Republicans today is much more than that. It's the belief that one does not need knowledge to govern. It's the belief that nuance is useless.
10.10.2008 3:18pm
Pender:

Have you ever met a humanities professor?
I'm pretty sure the list of intellectuals who have turned against the Republican Party consists not only of humanities professors, but absolutely every field and profession that requires an unusually healthy intellect. Humanities professors are admittedly infuriating, but they also comprise much less than 1% of all intellectuals.
10.10.2008 3:18pm
Angus:
Interesting that this column has gotten a generally fair reception here at VC. However, on the big conservative sites he's being mocked as a pointy-headed egg-head who has nothing useful to say. He's too educated and elitist. Here's a sampling of comments from Hotair.com:
"The founders envisaged citizen-politicians, you numbnut. We had a genius before, his name was Jimmy Carter."
"I'm a dumm-dill der retard. Halp us Davud Broks - We r stuck hear n Irak."
"This elitist snob is no conservative and is just pusshing to be accepted by the cocktail party crowd."
"She's in their minds, eating their mooseburgers."
"I'm taking the day after the election off, so I can sit, drink beer (a six-pack or better), eat popcorn and watch these dumb-asses cry in their lattes."
"There you go, we are all born with common sense, it takes the proper education to get above it."
"David Broobs is made of AIDS and FAIL"
All of which just proved Brooks's point.
10.10.2008 3:20pm
the chocolate whizbang (mail):
Brooks isn't talking about intellectuals. He's talking about (reasonably) educated people. That's what he says, so other than a desire to construct a straw man, I'm not sure what the source of the confusion would be.

McCain isn't going to lose Virginia because of the vast hordes of "intellectuals" in outer suburbs like Fairfax and Loudon.

The tribalism and identity politics the modern GOP has traded on for decades works great, so long as the identity being exalting is that of the majority. Rising education levels, the continuing economic decline of the "heartland" and — yes, nativists — immigration have changed the equation.
10.10.2008 3:22pm
Steve:
It's amazing for me to contrast the high-level conservative thought I remember from my college experience in the 80s with the anti-intellectual conservative movement of today. It really hasn't been that long.

I think with political success comes a certain laziness about defending one's ideas and keeping them sharp. Back in the day, supply-side theorists demonstrated that you could cut taxes and get back a reasonable amount of the lost revenue through economic growth, and that was a breakthrough. Nowadays it's de rigeur for conservatives to mutilate that theory into the absurd claim that all tax cuts raise revenue. They mumble about the Laffer Curve but it's clearly all just a slogan to them.
10.10.2008 3:22pm
pluribus:
This is a very valid point, and one (among others) that has driven me away from the Republicans. Spurning science because it does not confirm religious dogma (e.g., evolution, homosexuality) or anti-governmental ideology (e.g., global warming) or other religious notions (abortion is murder, stem cell research aids and abets murder, Terry Schiavo had no right to die) is alarming. Reminds me of the days when Galileo was made to recant his belief that the earth revolves around the sun, instead of the other way around. Poor Galileo recanted to save his life, yet he still couldn't avoid saying "but I still believe the earth reolves around the sun."

I think you are wrong about Brooks missing the critique of the academic elite. I think he realizes that any elite that believes it has a special hold on the truth, and denigrates all who disagree, is wrong. It is one thing to deplore the close-minded left wingers--and there are plenty--another to celebrate and embrace close-minded right-wingers.

It is OK if you don't read newspapers or magazines, I guess, but if you don't, you probably don't have the intellectual curisoity to understand the complexities of the nation and the world, and to aspire to be vice-president or president. Ideally, one who aspires to such a lofty position should not only read newspapers and magazines, but books, as well. And maybe even understand them. It is one thing to be ignorant--quite another to be proud of the fact.
10.10.2008 3:23pm
Anonperson (mail):

Likewise, they denigrate the most conservative/libertarian leaning candidate simply because she doesn't have the kind of academic credentials they'd like to see.

How about denigrating her because she is clueless? I don't care whether or not she has a degree.

It's not that I particularly like or dislike Palin. It's that she is the vice-presidential candidate. Is she really the best the Republicans have to offer?

There are certainly numerous highly intelligent, intellectual Republicans. But they never seem to be nominated. It's almost like the Republicans are afraid of nominating anyone that actually seems competent, capable, smart, and intellectual.
10.10.2008 3:24pm
derek:
Plato predicted this column.
10.10.2008 3:25pm
teqjack (mail):
I think a "maybe" is my response to the idea of EITHER party driving out intellectuals. Ever heard the terms "geek" and "nerd" in school? If so, was it automatic to think "not of the Republican party" when you did? Of which, the user of the term or the object?

But I object to a couple of the "examples" given. Unless NH+Maine are the whole of the Northeast, when was that area last predominately Republican? I would guess sometime between WWI and WWII, if not a bit earlier, having spent over 60 of my 63 years here. Albeit I'll admit the two States with which I am best acquainted have a [sometimes] habit of electing Democrat legislatures but Republican Governors.
10.10.2008 3:26pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Anon.
To bring your question to current events:
Biden has knowledge. He's also stupid and a liar.
Obama has knowledge, we think, but of what? What does he know that will make him a good president? Keep in mind that that does not include the minutia of the morning briefings. Anybody, we hope, can pick up on that. Nor does it include the minutia of field of The Elect, like lawyers.
Palin...? What does she not know that Obama does that will be important as VP or P?
McCain has been around for a long time.

In fact, one of the reasons knowledge is not considered the primary reason for being in an elected position is that what is known about is handled by subordinates. The new and unknown are handled by the boss. So nobody knows what the boss needs to know. Not the boss. Not his subordinates (CIA,ex.). Nobody. So we need character and wisdom, not a list of books read. A person may have both, but if he or she has one, the list of books read can be dispensed with.

Problem is, the debate is being framed by people whose vanity is in the lists of books read.
10.10.2008 3:29pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Buckley was an intellectual in exactly the same way as Ruhollah Khomeini was.

Sheesh.

He also was just about the worst newspaper stylist in the history of American journalism.
10.10.2008 3:30pm
A.S.:
But I suppose you mean it isn't from a good enough university. Is that what you mean?

Yes, that's exactly what Jonathan Adler means.

Let's face it, people like Brooks are embarrassed to be associated with a party that nominates someone who graduated from - yuck - University of Idaho. More Yale, more Harvard (and nobody who got into Harvard because of family connections), more U of Chicago, please!

To Brooks, the great unwashed - people from Idaho or Alaska or wherever - shouldn't expect to be governed by someone like them. Instead, they should have to vote for their superiors. People who went to Yale and Harvard or Chicago. Who converse with you about Reinhold Neibuhr.

Let's remember that Brooks loves Obama because Obama had a conversation with him about Reinhold Niebuhr. Brooks wants conservatism to be about Reinhold Neibuhr, not snowmobile racing.
10.10.2008 3:30pm
LN (mail):
When I think about conservatives stereotyping blue-state and red-state voters, one name leaps immediately to mind:

David Brooks.

I mean, anyone read this parody from four years ago?


In today's breakfast-cereal age, there are two types of people in the world, those who like to look into their bowl at a sea of desiccated marshmallows, and those who prefer an unsweetened alternative made from whole-grain oats. I call them the Lucky Charmers and the Cheerioians.

Lucky Charmers hold their spoons overhand-style and make slurping noises as they eat. Sometimes, they even try to pluck the marshmallows out with their fingers, because the marshmallows bob up and down in the milk, which makes it very hard to get them out with just a spoon. Sometimes, they don't even pour the cereal into a bowl and eat right out of the box.

Cheerioians, on the other hand, often eat their cereal entirely unadorned, even with sliced banana or strawberries. They use bowls from Pottery Barn, hold their spoons correctly, and read a major metropolitan newspaper or watch cable news while eating their breakfast cereal. They are lured by the boxes that promise lower cholesterol or healthier colons. They often drink orange juice from a glass, or coffee out of a mug.
10.10.2008 3:33pm
Sarcastro (www):
um, didn't Brooks get the memo? It's "elites" now, not intellectuals.

Boy those elites make me so mad!
10.10.2008 3:33pm
derek:
Anonperson:


There are certainly numerous highly intelligent, intellectual Republicans. But they never seem to be nominated. It's almost like the Republicans are afraid of nominating anyone that actually seems competent, capable, smart, and intellectual.



You're making my point. You evidently sincerely believe that only the smartest candidate should run, much less be elected. Sarah Palin is objectively accomplished and well-liked in her home state. Yet you don't mention that: all that matters to you is "is she intelligent in the way I expect"? Indeed, it's fairly easy to dispute that she is "clueless" or dumb: she's manifestly of at least average intelligence. But I suppose average intelligence isn't good enough?

I imagine Ken Jennings would be the perfect candidate by this line of reasoning.
10.10.2008 3:34pm
Jimmy W (www):
Hey, I resent that Brookian characterization! Eating cheerios out of the box is so much faster!!
10.10.2008 3:35pm
FantasiaWHT:

I'd trust a college freshman with a budget before I'd hand one over to the GOP.


You mean the college freshmen who sign up for credit cards to get a free slice of pizza? Or a t-shirt with a credit card's logo on it?

To an extant, I agree with you about the GOP, but I think the Democrats are just as feckless. It's a problem with politicians being inept at this, not specific partisans.
10.10.2008 3:36pm
Mike Keenan:
As an over-educated "conservative" with a PhD from a top university, I have to agree with most of this column. I was appalled at the choice of Sarah Palin. Here we beat on the other side for nominating someone "unqualified" and then do it ourselves.

Where does a pro-choice, irreligious, leave-us-alone hawkish elitist fit in? At what point do you become just a partisan hack or the end result of a bad habit?
10.10.2008 3:36pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Buckley was an intellectual in exactly the same way as Ruhollah Khomeini was. Sheesh. He also was just about the worst newspaper stylist in the history of American journalism.

I don't agree with much of anything Buckley stood for, but I think this statement is dead wrong. Buckley could sometimes be too verbose for his own good, but he was also brilliant, funny, quick-witted, and (believe it or not) fair to the other side. (In fact, "Firing Line" is one of the only television programs in history that would give someone like a Noam Chomsky a platform to really explore his views in depth.)

I enjoyed listening to and reading WFB, even though I was often banging my head against the wall as to why he could believe such wrong ideas.
10.10.2008 3:41pm
buford puser (mail):

But I suppose average intelligence isn't good enough?

Game, set, match.
Brooks' point seems beyond argument: the commenters here seem to think intelligence is overrated & the dumbing-down of conservatism is a good thing.
10.10.2008 3:41pm
commontheme (mail):
The unwashed are useful idiots who can be prodded into pulling the right lever in the voting booth. The problem is that that have taken over the republican party.

It's like the guy who spend 20 years in the military and then get a job with a military contractor to continue sucking off the government teat who blather on about the evils of "big government."

Hopefully once McCain goes down in flames the adults can take back conservatism.
10.10.2008 3:42pm
xx:
"Doctors donate to the Democratic Party by a 2-1 margin? Really?"

Would not shock me. I've heard a dozen doctors and scientists who struck me as likely conservatives say things like "I just can't stomach voting for someone who doesn't believe in evolution," or "who will nominate fake scientists to high positions," etc. I think the recent administration alienated some otherwise safe votes.
10.10.2008 3:43pm
Oren:

Unless NH+Maine are the whole of the Northeast, when was that area last predominately Republican?

Moderate republicans used to have a lot of traction at the local and state levels well after they lost the federal politics (imo, due to GOP sops to the deep South). Mitt Romney was among the most popular governors MA ever had.

The NE was never predominantly Rep., but it's turning from purple to solid blue. Sununu, Chafee and Snowe and Collins are the last guard of the GOP. Chafee is gone, Sununu is not in a happy position and so all of NE minus ME becomes fully Dem.
10.10.2008 3:43pm
derek:
buford puser:

I take it you disagree with the concept of democracy, then? You believe that average people should vote for their intellectual betters, not for their own policy preferences?

This was evident in Christopher Buckley's article: he's voting for Obama because he believes Obama will act against Obama's own stated positions simply because he is "intelligent".
10.10.2008 3:51pm
Hoosier:
Ideally, one who aspires to such a lofty position should not only read newspapers and magazines, but books, as well. And maybe even understand them. It is one thing to be ignorant--quite another to be proud of the fact.

You raise a good point, but I don't think it really is a matter of left-right ideology. Obama doesn't read books. I guarantee it. He doesn't have time. I'm reading through the Federalist these day, and the extend to which the Founders predicated our republican system upon the idea of a reflective political leadership is striking me hard. No time for reflection these days.
10.10.2008 3:51pm
Federal Dog:
"What had been a disdain for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain for the educated class as a whole."


Conservatives have nothing against education. There is, however, a huge difference between being educated, having spent many years in classrooms, and completing tuition-diploma transactions. Conservatives tend, rather, to distrust many academics for readily identifiable reasons.

It is completely proper to be wary of mere credentialism, intellectual inbreeding, intolerance of dissent, groupthink, and recognizable corruption that infects academics every bit as much as it infects other lines of work. None of that has anything to do with education per se.

Go to the MLA, e.g., and it will take mere minutes to understand conservative skepticism of many academics.
10.10.2008 3:51pm
Sam Draper (mail):
Is the University of Idaho really worse than the University of Missouri or Eureka College?

GHWB: Yale
WJC: Georgetown, Oxford, Yale
GWB: Yale, Harvard

Those turned out well.
10.10.2008 3:52pm
buford puser (mail):

I take it you disagree with the concept of democracy, then? You believe that average people should vote for their intellectual betters, not for their own policy preferences?

derek is evidently unable to imagine that intelligent people might share his policy preferences; who am I to argue?
10.10.2008 3:54pm
Pender:
@derek:

Indeed, it's fairly easy to dispute that she is "clueless" or dumb: she's manifestly of at least average intelligence. But I suppose average intelligence isn't good enough?

One of the most stunning indictments of your movement is that, when hiring a heart surgeon or lawyer, you look for the Harvard credentials and trappings of elitism, but when choosing the leader of the free world, you think average intelligence should be good enough and in fact become mildly offended when anyone suggests that, when choosing a single person from a nation of 300 million, we could probably find someone above average.
10.10.2008 3:54pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
Separately, Brooks called Palin "fatal cancer to the Republican party".

It is true that Obama-Biden are popular among intellectual elites, but that is not the base of their support. Most of their support comes from people with less education than typical Republicans. Obama and Biden have law degrees, but they sure don't have much to show for it. When have you ever heard them say anything intelligent about the law?
10.10.2008 3:54pm
A.S.:
I'm curious where we get the idea that intelligence is the most important thing in electing a President. Should we restrict Presidential nominees to MENSA members? Is Stephen Hawking your choice for the best possible President (I know, he's British).

Pender, above, writes: "when hiring a heart surgeon or lawyer, you look for the Harvard credentials and trappings of elitism". Really? In fact, when hiring a lawyer, I look for someone who is a really good lawyer, regardless of where they went to law school. Not someone merely because they went to Harvard.

The fallacy I see is the unquestioned assumption, among members of the left and the bien-pensant right, that going to Harvard (Yale, Chicago, whatever) makes you the best at everything.
10.10.2008 4:00pm
Anonperson (mail):
Hm...of course you don't elect on knowledge alone. No one, including Brooks or Adler, is claiming that. Rather, the claim is that Republicans are actively against knowledge, or at least completely disdainful of it.

Of course the vice president doesn't need to know everything, because she will have advisers. But one has to be able to understand what one's advisers are saying. One has to know the right questions to ask. For example, I am not an economist, and don't know that much about it. But I appreciate them, and have an active interest in it. I don't revel in my ignorance of economics.

Let's turn the question around. Let's suppose there was a president who was disdainful of the military, totally ignorant of the military, and proud of his ignorance. Do you think such a president could work well with his military advisers, and do a good job as commander-in-chief? Of course not.

Knowledge, competence, excellence are not mutually exclusive to conservative values and judgement. Why does the current Republican party seem to believe this?
10.10.2008 4:01pm
derek:
derek is evidently unable to imagine that intelligent people might share his policy preferences; who am I to argue?

Buford, I was civil with you. Let's try to keep it that way.

My question, stated another way: do you agree with Plato's theory that democracy (rule by the crowds) will naturally be replaced by noocracy (rule by the wise)?
10.10.2008 4:01pm
Hoosier:
He [WFB]also was just about the worst newspaper stylist in the history of American journalism

No. That's Hitchens.

Until very late in Buckley's career, I always knew what he was saying in each and every column, even if Orwell could have said it using 30% fewer words. But there's a real irony in Hitchen's great admiration for Orwell. There are times when I finish reading a column of his and ask myself "What the hell was that about?"

Back on topic:

A.S.: Well, you and I agree on what Adler meant. Now I'd like to offer him the chance to explain why we are wrong. What did you mean, professor, when you said that Palin lacks academic credentials?

If that is what you meant, Professor Adler, then I wonder where you draw the line. Is U of Illinois a worthy alma mater? Oregon? How about Kansas? K-State is out, right? And Youngstown State--Don't make me laugh! Right?
10.10.2008 4:01pm
Railroad Gin:
I don't understand the characterization of Palin as anti-intellectual. Sure she's not an intellectual, but where is her bigotry towards intellectuals? The only thing I can find remotely supporting this is her skeptism over accepting neo-Darwinism, hook, line and sinker. Its not really clear what she thinks. If she acutally thinks the Earth is only 6000 years old, then that's anti-intellecutal. But if she thinks there might be something to some of the critques of neo-Darwinism, then its not.

Look at some of the examples given by Pluribus: homosexuality, global warming, abortion is murder, stem cell research, Terry Schiavo. Only global warming can be called a science question (and here the weight of science may well be on the side of conservatives). The rest are ethical questions not scientific ones. If, a priori, you define opposition to liberal postions on these matters as anti-intellectual, then its circular to argue that conservatives are anti-intellectal becasue of their positions.

I also think there's a double standard here. 1 in a 100 Democrats wouldn't able to explain the labor theory of value or know how Frantz Fanon is. Where the handwringing over anti-intellectualism amongst liberals?

I'm not sure how an investment banker on Wall Street or your average doctor and lawyer would necessarily be considered an "intellectual" in the real sense. Yes, they're more educated, but how many of them are seriosuly well read outside their areas of expertise? The typical computer programmer in Silicon Valley is no more likely to have read Plato or The Federalist Papers than the typical plumber.

It should be pretty obvious why lawyers donate more heavily to Democrats. Wall Street types actually favor Democrats because they create entry barriers to competition. Silcon Valley types are generally liberal on social issues and for whatver reason, the electronics industry is one that liberal don't go after like the oil industry. These stereotypes about how all wealthy people are Republicans have been debunked so many times, I don't even know why I'm bothering to write this.

And if you want a group of people who are decidedly not intellectual, how about the blatherings of Hollywood celebrities? Again where is the handwringing over the Democrats' anti-intellectualism.

Also, look at the bilge that comes out Women's Studies Departments, Deconstructionism, Critical Studies, etc. Given a lot of what passes for intellectualism today, whatever anti-intellectualism is out there may well be justified.

There is some truth to the idea that Republicans are going to be a little more suspicious than Democrats of "pointy headed intellectuals." That can sometimes be taken too far, but it can also be healthy.
10.10.2008 4:02pm
Federal Dog:
"Let's suppose there was a president who was disdainful of the military, totally ignorant of the military, and proud of his ignorance. Do you think such a president could work well with his military advisers, and do a good job as commander-in-chief?"


The answer will be forthcoming in January.
10.10.2008 4:04pm
A.S.:
BTW, I am curious why people who value these credentials so much are voting for Joe Biden. Who went to University of Delaware and Syracuse Law School.
10.10.2008 4:04pm
derek:
@Pender:

Pray, what "movement" do I belong to? I don't believe you and I have met and discussed our political philosophies. Let me help: I am not registered with any political party and donate to no candidates.
10.10.2008 4:08pm
Arkady:

Plato predicted this column.


So did Nietzsche, with a vengeance.
10.10.2008 4:08pm
Hoosier:
One of the most stunning indictments of your movement is that, when hiring a heart surgeon or lawyer, you look for the Harvard credentials and trappings of elitism

And you are just going to ask us to take your word for this?

I don't actually know where my back surgeon went to college. Or med school.

And if I were on trial for my freedom in Chicago, I would--other things equal--want someone with a JD from DePaul or Loyola, as opposed to Northwestern. An NU lawyer can hide my savings. But a DePaul grad can save my hide.

Sorry. But I think you have asserted a fact that is not a fact.

By the way, does anyone remember the former history professor who led the GOP in the House of Reps back in the 1990s? How'd that go?

Gingrich is smart. One of the smartest guys to hold elective office in my memory. And he shouldn't have been Speaker. Mitch McConnell? Now there's a guy who knows how to lead legislators. But he went to UK, if I remember correctly. So he probably 'lacks academic credentials.'
10.10.2008 4:09pm
Perseus (mail):
Shorter Brooks: Republicans need to have more Bobos like me in their focus groups.

I wonder how significant supposed anti-intellectualism really is in explaining why many professionals seem to prefer the Democratic party.

Remind me why I want the Harvard faculty governing me?

Because Harvard has such high standards of academic integrity and freedom? Maybe not.
10.10.2008 4:09pm
buford puser (mail):

derek is evidently unable to imagine that intelligent people might share his policy preferences; who am I to argue?

Buford, I was civil with you. Let's try to keep it that way.


What is uncivil about pointing out that you posit that persons of average intelligence face a choice between voting for smart people, or, on the other, hand, voting for their policy preferences?

I take it you disagree with the concept of democracy, then? You believe that average people should vote for their intellectual betters, not for their own policy preferences?


Your question implicitly assumes that no persons of above-average intelligence share the policy preferences of voters of average intelligence
(I feel like I'm back teaching LSAT prep classes.)
10.10.2008 4:11pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
A.S.
You're curious. I have the answer. Because it works for them. Except, as with Biden, when it doesn't.
10.10.2008 4:12pm
Anonperson (mail):
A.S., I don't think anyone here is claiming that intelligence is the most important thing in electing a president. In fact, I'd most definitely say that it is not. Rather, one's fitness depends on many factors and it's not possible to put one above all else.

Also, note that I have no problem with Reagan in this regard. I may have other problems with him, but he was in a completely different category than Palin. Bush is interesting, in that I think he is actually rather intelligent and competent. But he seems to maintain an air of anti-intellectualism, wearing it sometimes almost like a badge of honor.
10.10.2008 4:14pm
Jay Myers:

Gov. Palin's the lack of academic credentials.

She's got a lot better academic credentials than Harry Truman and LBJ. Damn those anti-intellectuals FDR and JFK! They should have put the country first and picked some Ivy League egghead like Woodrow "He kept us out of war" Wilson.

Seriously, Palin has a record so we don't need to resort to a proxy to judge her competence. And, frankly, a lot of people who excelled at garnering academic credentials are utterly incompetent at practical matters. As one example, Dubya graduated from Yale and got a MBA from Harvard.

If you want to know why Republicans might exhibit disdain for elite institutions then perhaps you should cast your mind back to the "long march through the institutions". Liberals have captured most of academia and as a result it has been the case for decades that people with post-graduate degrees (the 'intellectuals' that you speak of) have been disproportionately liberal by an overwhelming margin.

Perhaps conservatives should have launched an effort to retake those institutions but surely it is understandable that they would seek to marginalize the products of a system designed to be inimicible to them. If the system that produces intellectuals has been jiggered to make those intellectuals wrong-headed liberals then Republicans would have to be fools to embrace that system and those intellectuals.
10.10.2008 4:14pm
Hoosier:
buford puser teaches LSAT prep classes?

And he wants us to vote for lawyers?!!

To all my fellow conservatives: This post gives us added impetus to go home and read Oakeshott over the weekend. And to tell our wives this is what we must do as patriotic Americans when they ask us to mow the lawn and paint the garage.
10.10.2008 4:17pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
'where is her bigotry towards intellectuals?'

She's Assembly of God (though she started hiding that when she ran for office). AoG is bookish, in a sense, but it is entirely antiintellectual.

That was also the point of my post about Buckley's intellectualism. He was a Roman (as contrasted with an American) Catholic.

You can be an intellectual if you belong to an authoritarian religion, but you cannot be a free intellectual.

Recall that the man who said 'Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely' and who was regarded as the most knowledgable man of his age was silenced by the pope.

Like Palin, I went to cow college, but redneck that I am, I still prefer them free-range interlecuawls.
10.10.2008 4:19pm
Hoosier:
Perhaps conservatives should have launched an effort to retake those institutions but surely it is understandable that they would seek to marginalize the products of a system designed to be inimicible to them. If the system that produces intellectuals has been jiggered to make those intellectuals wrong-headed liberals then Republicans would have to be fools to embrace that system and those intellectuals.

BINGO!
10.10.2008 4:19pm
Hoosier:
You can be an intellectual if you belong to an authoritarian religion, but you cannot be a free intellectual.

I am.
10.10.2008 4:21pm
derek:
Buford:


(I feel like I'm back teaching LSAT prep classes.)



What does that have to do with me? I'm not a lawyer. More than that, I went to three state universities and one community college before getting my bachelor's degree.

I don't agree with your claim of what I am implicitly assuming here. At this point in the electoral process, we don't have the luxury of countless combinations of policy preferences and academic credentials among our candidates. At this time, we have: an academically highly qualified candidate (and a not-so-qualified vice-candidate) espousing left-of-center values. And we have an academically less-qualified candidate and vice-candidate espousing right-of-center values.

If my preference is right-of-center, it would be foolish for me to vote for the left-of-center candidate just because of his academic credentials. That is, if I really believe in my policy preferences.
10.10.2008 4:22pm
Hoosier:
BTW: 'Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely'

Which pope was it who silenced Acton? And how'd he manage that trick?
10.10.2008 4:23pm
Jay Myers:
Anonperson:

Let's turn the question around. Let's suppose there was a president who was disdainful of the military, totally ignorant of the military, and proud of his ignorance. Do you think such a president could work well with his military advisers, and do a good job as commander-in-chief? Of course not.

So you don't think Bill Clinton did a good job as commander-in-chief?
10.10.2008 4:23pm
Federal Dog:
"So you don't think Bill Clinton did a good job as commander-in-chief?"

Sudanese aspirin manufacturers were unimpressed.
10.10.2008 4:29pm
Saladman (mail):

I have no grievance against intellectuals. All that I know about them is what I read in history books and what I've observed in our time. I'm convinced that the intellectuals as a type, as a group, are more corrupted by power than any other human type. It's disconcerting to realize that businessmen, generals, soldiers, men of action are less corrupted by power than intellectuals.

In my new book I elaborate on this and I offer an explanation why. You take a conventional man of action, and he's satisfied if you obey, eh? But not the intellectual. He doesn't want you just to obey. He wants you to get down on your knees and praise the one who makes you love what you hate and hate what you love. In other words, whenever the intellectuals are in power, there's soul-raping going on.

-Eric Hoffer

We're up against a limitation of the English language, because "anti-intellectual" could be taken to mean either opposed to reason and thinking, or opposed to intellectuals as a class of people. I'm all for reason, but in the latter sense I'm proud to be an anti-intellectual. That doesn't make me a know-nothing, though.

Adler's last paragraph here on central ideas of modern conservatism, especially spontaneous order, being hostile to the conceits of intellectuals, makes a brilliant and critical point. Europe (and our own blue-state seaboards) has its intellectuals, who may be individually more admirable than America's entrepeneurs, but what have they wrought? And conversely, whatever vices you impute to America's great unwashed masses, what have they wrought in spite of their flaws? Why then should we be impressed by the virtues of self-proclaimed intellectuals?
10.10.2008 4:32pm
Reality Czech (mail):
You evidently sincerely believe that only the smartest candidate should run, much less be elected. Sarah Palin is objectively accomplished and well-liked in her home state.
Do not forget embroiled in several scandals regarding malfeasance in office, and obviously out of her depth regarding many critical national issues.
But I suppose average intelligence isn't good enough?
No, it isn't. There are too many "solutions" out there which are simple, attractive and dangerously wrong (e.g. $700 billion bailouts). It takes more than average intelligence to sort them out. Of course, intelligence by itself is not sufficient.
10.10.2008 4:34pm
Franklin Drackman:
I learned more in 4 weeks of Navy Flight Training than 4 years of College(OK it was a Southern Jerk Water College,, but same principal, and good Football Team). Obama talks good, but I want to see him get out of an upside down Helicopter. Underwater. Blindfolded. With mean guys yelling at you.
10.10.2008 4:37pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

I would say that one of their most endearing characteristics is their obvious--emphasize obvious--conceit that they are better than the rest of us.


Is it always resentment of your betters with you people? I think someone who is determined to prove that academics aren't actually smarter than "regular" people is insecure about their own intellectual standing.
10.10.2008 4:38pm
David Warner:
Prof. Adler,

Excellent post. This topic needs engaging.

"Just think about how otherwise intelligent conservatives embrace unscientific critiques of evolutionary theory and celebrate (instead of simply excuse) Gov. Palin's the lack of academic credentials."

The irony here, of course, being that the conservative idols Brooks refers us to, Lincoln and Churchill, sport academic credentials more sparse than Palin's. In Churchill's case, at least, this wasn't for lack of opportunity.

Schools are by nature reactionary institutions. The truly innovative will always be impatient with such settings. Ask Bill Gates.

As for the conservative critique of intellectualism, I think the core is a healthy skepticism of empty credentials and stuffed resumes. The anti-intellectuals, who we always have with us, across the political spectrum, pile on as they will, but Palin speaks to something real.

The Palins are the hometowners who stayed behind and made quite a life for themselves while the putative best and brightest were brain-drained off to the Big U. Many have found there a smaller life than their ancestors would have building their own communities back home. In that smallness, they're loath to reflect on the extent to which the tortoises from the "slower" high school track may have passed them by.

Them? Who am I kidding? Us.
10.10.2008 4:39pm
derek:

There are too many "solutions" out there which are simple, attractive and dangerously wrong (e.g. $700 billion bailouts). It takes more than average intelligence to sort them out.



A telling comment on our current Congress.
10.10.2008 4:40pm
ichthyophagous (mail):
Due to circumstances, Clinton was never required to do any sort of job as Comm-in-Chief, except to get the military to accept open homosexuals. Not a success.
10.10.2008 4:42pm
derek:
@xanthippas:


Is it always resentment of your betters with you people?



"your betters"?

"you people"?

I'll let those phrases speak for themselves without further comment other than, I hope you're trolling.
10.10.2008 4:44pm
buford puser (mail):
derek:
My point about my passing reference to the LSAT was this: this is a law blog, read by many lawyers, all of whom have taken (& done well on) the LSAT. The section I was referring to tests logical reasoning ability. Questions in this section often take the form of giving two statements and asking what they assume. Your two statements could easily appear on the exam, with the assumption i pointed out as the answer. I was just referring to an experience common to all lawyer readers of this blog; sorry if it struck non-lawyers as elitist.
Back to substance: That you think I'm "claiming" that your argument assumes what it does is amusing.
It would be nice if you apologized for calling me anti-democracy, rather than changing the subject from abstract political theory to this election. Of course you should vote your policy preferences; sadly, you will then have to face the fact that they are not widely shared by your fellow-citizens.
10.10.2008 4:46pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

Perhaps conservatives should have launched an effort to retake those institutions but surely it is understandable that they would seek to marginalize the products of a system designed to be inimicible to them. If the system that produces intellectuals has been jiggered to make those intellectuals wrong-headed liberals then Republicans would have to be fools to embrace that system and those intellectuals.


They tried. They failed. If anything, conservatives are not cut out for academia (and academics are not cut out to be conservatives) and several comments in this thread demonstrate why. No takeover of academia could be staged by people who disparage intellectualism and the validity of scientific research.
10.10.2008 4:50pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

I'll let those phrases speak for themselves without further comment other than, I hope you're trolling.


That was deliberately inflammatory. But I think the question is valid; what's the deal with the resentment of academics? If in fact academics are not smarter than "regular" people, why is necessary to repeatedly point this out?
10.10.2008 4:53pm
David Warner:
As for Brooks, he's just singing for his supper. In the New Obama Order, I doubt the Grey Lady will perceive there to be much of a market for what he's been selling, so he's kowtowing like there's no tomorrow. He, for one, welcomes his new Triumphant Left overlords. He'd better.

As for his argument, anyone impressed that someone who has spent 7 years in Ivyland and 20 years in a Black Liberationist church knows who Reinhold Niebuhr is has no business questioning anyone else's intellectual credentials.

Palin is just following Ross Douthat's advice and going for the Sam's Club Republicans. As David Post could tell you, they're not anti-intellectual, they're non-intellectual. ;-)
10.10.2008 4:53pm
Pender:
@derek

Pray, what "movement" do I belong to? I don't believe you and I have met and discussed our political philosophies. Let me help: I am not registered with any political party and donate to no candidates.

The Republican movement, obviously. When was the last time you voted for a Democratic President? The fact that you haven't registered or donated just means that you're a relatively unengaged Republican.
10.10.2008 4:54pm
David Warner:
Paul Johnson called. He says that, as usual, Brooks is 20 years behind the curve.
10.10.2008 4:57pm
derek:
@buford

I didn't change the subject. I asked you specifically about an abstract political theory: whether democracy is naturally supplanted by noocracy (or perhaps a timocracy-of-the-smart).

And: "this is a law blog". Do you really think that obvious fact needed explaining? You must indeed have a low opinion of non-lawyers or of me, then. Believe it or not, I've heard of the LSAT and even know what it stands for!

You also continue to miscomprehended my intent. I didn't call you anti-democracy. I asked if you were.

To put it another way: I understand perfectly well everything that you're posting. I just disagree with it.
10.10.2008 4:58pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

As for the conservative critique of intellectualism, I think the core is a healthy skepticism of empty credentials and stuffed resumes. The anti-intellectuals, who we always have with us, across the political spectrum, pile on as they will, but Palin speaks to something real.


And the appropriate response is to extol stuffed shirts and empty heads?

What people such as myself never quite understand is how someone like Palin seems "real" to the anti-intellectuals. Just because she comes from the same background and shares some of the same beliefs, doesn't mean she's anything like "Joe Sixpack" who will never scheme, lie, cheat and steal to get elected to higher office. How is equating her to the regular American based simply on similarity of background and a shared resentment of urban elites not some version of class warfare?
10.10.2008 4:59pm
derek:
@Pender:


The fact that you haven't registered or donated just means that you're a relatively unengaged Republican.


Wow.

Why bother voting, folks: Pender can simply read our minds to discover our political affiliations.
10.10.2008 5:03pm
MarkField (mail):

I'm reading through the Federalist these day, and the extend to which the Founders predicated our republican system upon the idea of a reflective political leadership is striking me hard. No time for reflection these days.


GMTA. I was just thinking the other day that we blog posters frequently know the answers to questions which the candidates can't answer. That's because we spend our time reading and they spend their time hopping from one event to another with no time for actually thinking, much less reading.

I agree with you on both counts.
10.10.2008 5:13pm
David Warner:
Xant,

"'Joe Sixpack' who will never scheme, lie, cheat and steal to get elected to higher office."

Never is a long time. If this were true, Michael Dukakis would still be President.


Mark Field,

"I was just thinking the other day that we blog posters frequently know the answers to questions which the candidates can't answer. That's because we spend our time reading and they spend their time hopping from one event to another with no time for actually thinking, much less reading."

There's that, and there's also the fact that they lose votes every time they do answer such questions straight. Which is not to say that they shouldn't do so, just that not so doing is insufficient evidence that they're incapable.
10.10.2008 5:34pm
Oren:

How is equating her to the regular American based simply on similarity of background and a shared resentment of urban elites not some version of class warfare?

As an urban elite, I can say without reservation that we have it coming. That said, I'm still voting for the guy that taught constitutional law . . .
10.10.2008 6:09pm
Bad English:
"As an urban elite,"


Oh, my. It must be a great psychological comfort to declare oneself "elite."
10.10.2008 6:54pm
Pender:

Why bother voting, folks: Pender can simply read our minds to discover our political affiliations.

Hey, if I'm wrong, feel free to correct me by naming the last Democratic president you voted for.
10.10.2008 7:40pm
Jim Miller (mail) (www):
Three facts which may add to the debate: First, in 2004, the brain surgeons, specifically, the American Neurological Surgery Political Action Committee, endorsed Bush. It was the first time they had endorsed a political candidate. Brain surgeons are reputed to be fairly smart.

Second. President Bush is something of a
bookworm. And is so knowledgeable about history that he sometimes recommends books to John Lewis Gaddis.

Third, Bush's actions often show the working of a sharp MBA, one able to evaluate difficult problems. For instance, the way he chose to tackle the problem of chronic homelessness. (It's been reduced by, as I recall, 30 percent, in just a few years.)


And one tentative conclusion: As far as I can tell -- and I concede that much about Obama is still a mystery -- he is not much of a reader, not nearly as much as John McCain, much less George W. Bush. (I'm still working on this problem, but hope to have a longer post out on it soon.)
10.10.2008 8:22pm
Jim Miller (mail) (www):
Oh, and one more fact: According to the AAAS, federal funding for research and development stagnated under President Clinton, falling slightly in real terms in his first term, and rising slightly in his second. In contrast, federal funding for research and development rose 40 percent under President Bush, almost all of the increase coming in his first term.

(My apologies, if any of these facts are inconvenient.)
10.10.2008 8:31pm
cold warrior:
Much of this discussion is far too focused on this year, or at least this decade, and the current partisan campaigns. Step back and consider that much of America's "intellectual" class was, for many years, so socialist that it apologized for Stalin and other tyrants. What was it about academic/intellectual culture that led so many to be blindingly wrong, and to be outright stupid in commonsense judgment? I am no apologist for anti-intelligence or for the "common man's" superiority, but I am curious about how gosh-awful our "intellectual" class is, and has been for a long time. I'd like to have an academic elite that I could respect, but we don't have one. There may be fine individuals here and there, but overall, academia is rotten to the core.
10.10.2008 11:29pm
J Richardson:
If the Raleigh-Durham (and Chapel Hill) area has more than 20% native North Carolinians left in it, I'd be shocked. The only people in that area that the Republicans are alienating are transplanted exiles from the Northeast. Or as we in North Carolina call them - Yankees.
10.11.2008 12:01am
Randy R. (mail):
AS: "Let's face it, people like Brooks are embarrassed to be associated with a party that nominates someone who graduated from - yuck - University of Idaho. More Yale, more Harvard (and nobody who got into Harvard because of family connections), more U of Chicago, please!"

Oh please. Condi Rice was considered for VP but she nixed because of rumors of her being a lesbian. Now, no one except perhaps Condi actually knows if she is a lesbian, but the point is that just the possibility of her being a lesbian killed her chances.

This is just stupid. What has a person's sexual orientation have to do with whether she will make a good VP?

Oh that's right -- it would offend those stupid religious wingnuts. A public lesbian who does good! what calamities might fall!
10.11.2008 12:01am
TCO:
I fucking love Palin. And I am just as smart as you f****** lawyer, coastal ***** types. Napalm your babies. Damn preppies.

[Post edited]
10.11.2008 12:06am
TCO:
Palin is actually not anti-intellectual. Watch the Alaska debate she had, where she mentioned being impressed with the intellect of one of her opponents (not the old hack ex gov, but a yhoung turk with all kinds of facts at his command).

Palin is genuine. Better than you lot.
10.11.2008 12:13am
Xanthippas (mail) (www):
Jim,

Bush may be a book worm and make snap decisions, but that doesn't mean he's an intellectual, let alone the kind of person who makes considered, reasoned judgments that us (supposedly) the hallmark of an intellectual. For what it's worth I've never thought of Bush as stupid, just incurious and prone to make decisions on instinct and without full consideration of the facts (which has has as much admitted.)


I am no apologist for anti-intelligence or for the "common man's" superiority, but I am curious about how gosh-awful our "intellectual" class is, and has been for a long time. I'd like to have an academic elite that I could respect, but we don't have one. There may be fine individuals here and there, but overall, academia is rotten to the core.


Cold warrior, your pseudonym gives you away; you are indeed fighting an old conflict. There were quite a few academics back in the 30's and up to the maybe the 60's who clung to communist or socialist ideology (and yes, were apologists for Stalin) but those days are long gone. For one, some of them converted (they're the predecessors to the neocons) and for two, many academics were most assuredly NOT communists or socialists. You're painting with a pretty broad brush there.
10.11.2008 12:15am
justanotherguy (mail):
After reading or listening to the absolutely embarrassing transcript of Gibson and Obama, where 'The One' showed that he had no understanding of classical economics- how could anyone even suggest it is the conservatives that have left the intellectual reservation. Until the left wing party at least catches up with the economics that were known to any reasonably educated gentleman in the mid-19th century instead of the blind faith in fairness and class warfare- the left can't bring any intellectual credibility to the table. 40 years ago it was credible to hold that socialism worked- now it is the height of anti-intellectualism.
10.11.2008 12:56am
Perseus (mail):
Plato predicted this column.

Plato is part of the hegemonic discourse of dead white European males that oppresses and marginalizes people of color, womyn, gays, and the poor. At least that's what those of us conservatives who defend the Great Books approach to university education are routinely accused of. So, are we a bunch of elitists or anti-intellectuals? Or are we somehow both simultaneously?
10.11.2008 12:59am
Randy R. (mail):
"Plato is part of the hegemonic discourse of dead white European males that oppresses and marginalizes people of color, womyn, gays, and the poor.'

Well, um, not the gays. Plato himself played around with his students. If anything, he was all in favor!
10.11.2008 2:26am
Hoosier:
"A public lesbian who does good! "

"Public lesbian"?
10.11.2008 2:43am
Perseus (mail):
If anything, [Plato] was all in favor!

See Plato's Laws, 636c-d ("para physin").
10.11.2008 6:35am
Ryan Waxx (mail):
We're up against a limitation of the English language, because "anti-intellectual" could be taken to mean either opposed to reason and thinking, or opposed to intellectuals as a class of people.


We're also up against a set of people who think it's perfectly good logic to claim the former, and as evidence they cite the latter.
10.11.2008 12:12pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
In other circumstances, part of this argument could be called "willy-waving". Here, the definition of willy is accumulated classroom seat time. My list of books read is longer than yours. But mine is deeper.
Until you do something with the willy, it hardly matters. What have the well...read, I guess I should say, done with their...CV, I guess I should say?
10.11.2008 1:05pm
Careless:

No takeover of academia could be staged by people who disparage intellectualism and the validity of scientific research.

I hope Larry Summers doesn't read this.
10.11.2008 1:08pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Hoosier, I recall many of your posts and was impressed by your knowledge of Catholic opinion, doctrine and theology, so I am surprised you don't know about rhe conflict between Acton-Dahlberg and the now-Blessed Pius IX.

Acton maintained that there was no warrant in Catholic tradition -- or anywhere else -- for the doctrine of papal infallibility. He started a magazine to agitate his position, but Pius won that debate by ordering him to stop publication.

Acton complied.

If in a similar situation you would not have complied, then you could be a free intellectual and an American Catholic, but you might have a hard time passing as a Roman Catholic in Rome.

There is, believe it or not, a Catholic Acton Institute for the study of religion and liberty whose mission "is to promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles."
10.11.2008 2:41pm
David Warner:
Harry Eagar,

"If in a similar situation you would not have complied, then you could be a free intellectual and an American Catholic, but you might have a hard time passing as a Roman Catholic in Rome."

Great. Donatism regained.

So is McCain not a true American since he complied with his NVA captors?

Your snark regarding the Acton Institute says far more about the chains on your own mind than Acton's.
10.11.2008 3:24pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
You win the weekly Moral Equivalence Prize.

Also, the Sadly Confused Prize, since Acton by complying ratified his stance as a good Roman Catholic. Nobody is suggesting Acton betrayed any wider constituency than his own conscience. (Nor do I consider McCain betrayed anybody, but since you dragged him in, I guess I should make it explicit: I do not consider that McCain went over to the North Vietnamese. Sheesh.)

Acton had to give up any claims to intellectual integrity to do it, but it was a small sacrifice by that time, considering his lectures on the CSA constitution.

If you want snark, I've got more. I got my copies of Acton's proslavery diatribes in an edition heavily subsidized by the Liberty Fund Inc.'s Library of Liberty.

It seems you can't tell the players without a scorecard.
10.11.2008 7:05pm
Kirk:

Michael,
Many conservative intellectuals believe that a team of mediocre talent can outperform the best individuals.
I think it goes deeper than that. Quite a few of us believe even if arguendo the experts can do a better job of governing, that doesn't imply that we should concentrate authority in their hands anyway.

Hoosier,
Gingrich is smart. One of the smartest guys to hold elective office in my memory.
No he's not. There's no question that Newt is interested in ideas, I'll grant you that. But just like a guy can be interested, nay even obsessed, with football, and yet still not have the slightest talent at actually playing the game, he was in way over his head when he actually tried to compete. Consider, for just one thing, his long-term fascination with the Tofflers...

Jay,
So you don't think Bill Clinton did a good job as commander-in-chief?
Nope. Especially not in retrospect--and isn't that the new standard these days?
10.11.2008 9:31pm
therut (mail):
Teddy Kennedy the "Lion" of the liberal movement in the Senate is such an intellectual????? Maxine Waters? I can name many more very intellectual and thoughtful liberals. The Conservatives as usual are all idiots and liberals all the smartest people in the world. Brooks the "Consevative" of the NYT's is one to judge all of us(rolls eyes). People wonder why conservatives have a disdain for the east coast. He and those like him are the reason.
10.11.2008 9:49pm
David Warner:
Harry Eagar,

"Nobody is suggesting Acton betrayed any wider constituency than his own conscience."

And my point was that your standard for the latter is both impractical and unjust. Hence Donatism.

"Acton had to give up any claims to intellectual integrity to do it."

Any? So did his mind thereupon completely disintegrate?

You said he was not a free intellectual. As if his union card had been revoked or something. You are free with the logic, I'll grant you that.
10.12.2008 1:28am
TokyoTom (mail):
Jon, what you're whistling past is that the class warface/anti-intellectualism of the Republican party has been utterly cynical and designed to capture rents from government for the benefit of elites within the Republican party. Surely conservative intellectuals ought to be able to recognize this and condemn it.

Tom
10.12.2008 5:49am
blackrockmarauder (mail):
I'm a very young guy and consider myself to be part of the intellectual class (and, despite my political leanings I think that they consider me to be one of their own), but I think that I have a lot of wisdom too.

There is a problem with not being intellectually curious, but shouldn't skepticism accompany curiosity after discovery?

Is it anti-intellectual (hostile to all ideas) to think that there may be something wrong with, say, human cloning? There are no doubt many benefits, but what are the costs?

Is there a problem in seeing new things through the lens of past experience or in thinking that sometimes "science" is based on very bad assumptions?

Is "common sense" so bad?
10.12.2008 11:55am
blackrockmarauder (mail):
I could see how what I previously posted may seem scattershot, but I think that these questions lead me to the same conclusion: it is very important to carefully define "intellect".
10.12.2008 12:02pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
'So did his mind thereupon completely disintegrate?'

Pretty much.
10.12.2008 9:01pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Has anybody established whether the individuals likely to be called "intellectual" are, 1, much brighter than average, 2, know much about anything outside their own field, 3, have the sense God gave a goose?

A plumber would be an intellectual because he knows so much about his field. Except that the gatekeepers of the intellectual label have excluded that field from consideration. IMO, sometime about the era of the rise of the robber barons, the educated classes saw their social cachet disappearing. So they defined "elite" and "intellectual" as combining extensive formal education, no hands-on-the-real-world work, and the approval of each other.

Whether they actually have a clue about anything important is beside the point, at best, and possibly disqualifying. Except that they decide what's important. Which is...themselves.

P.J. O'Rourke wondered which group has done more damage to the US, Ivy grads or community college grads. It would have to be Ivy grads.
10.12.2008 10:45pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Jefferson was an intellectual, as was Wilson. Harding, F. Roosevelt and Reagan were not.

Hard to detect a trend in there.
10.13.2008 3:24am
blackrockmarauder (mail):
"Jon, what you're whistling past is that the class warface/anti-intellectualism of the Republican party has been utterly cynical and designed to capture rents from government for the benefit of elites within the Republican party. Surely conservative intellectuals ought to be able to recognize this and condemn it."

Tom
10.12.2008 4:49am

I recognize that it is possible that some people don't fully understand the agendas of those that represent them in government but this troubles me less as a "conservative" because I believe that people should make their own judgement. What really troubles me is when somebody who doesn't hold that same belief takes on the "intellectual" mantle for the same ends. It is hard to articulate why. Call it a "gut" feeling.

Teddy Roosevelt was, I believe, both "intellectual" and "anti-intellectual". Anybody else think that's possible?
10.13.2008 7:41am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Is TR's "man in the arena" essay anti-intellectual?
10.13.2008 5:42pm