Intellectuals and Society
By Arnold Kling
It seems to be the theme du jour. The interview with Thomas Sowell continues. At one point, Sowell notes that we cannot blame Larry Summers for policies, because politicians are selecting the policies. I think that Bryan Caplan would say that you should not blame the politicians, either. Instead, it is the irrational voters who are selecting the politicians.
David Brooks writes that ordinary people are becoming alienated from intellectuals.
The educated class believes in global warming, so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise. The educated class supports abortion rights, so public opinion is shifting against them. The educated class supports gun control, so opposition to gun control is mounting.
Read his whole column.
In my view, the fundamental mistake that most educated people make is that they favor concentration of political power. Perhaps at one level this is rational–it is possible that the status of intellectuals is higher when political power is more concentrated. But I am more struck by the adverse consequences of concentrated political power and the potential benefits of alternatives. See, of course, Unchecked and Unbalanced.
Speaking of that book, I say that the financial crisis was both a market failure and a government failure. Some folks, such as Marla Singer, interpret recent revelations about Fannie and Freddie as tipping the scales in favor of government failure. Matt Taibbi pushes back a little, but not to defend Fannie and Freddie.
David Brooks writes as if the revolt against the educated class is sui generis. In fact, I think that people can legitimately complain that the educated class that dominated Wall Street and Washington first made the mortgage mess and then railroaded through a bailout in which a transfer of wealth from main street to Wall Street was marketed as a benefit to main street. The educated class is losing the respect of the rest of America for reasons that are well deserved.