By Arnold Kling
Ben Casnocha dug up a James Fallows piece from 1985 on entrepreneurialism vs. credentialism. Fallows writes,
Nowhere is the tension between the two cultures, the entrepreneurial and the professional, more evident at the moment than in American business. At just the time when American business is said to need the flexibility and the lack of hierarchy that an entrepreneurial climate can create, more and more businessmen seem to feel that their chances for personal success will be greatest if they become not entrepreneurs but professionals, with advanced educational degrees…
For the middling rank of dislocated merchants, craftsmen, and semi-professionals, the most promising route to security was to enhance the prestige of their occupations. Through the nineteenth century “anyone with a bag of pills and a bottle of syrup could pass for a doctor,” as Wiebe put it; many doctors were socially ill-regarded beings, with earnings that fluctuated wildly and were chronically below those of businessmen. Lawyers, teachers, and engineers had similar problems. But a more complicated society had more demand for technical skills, and in the decades after the civil War nearly every group now thought of as “professional,” from lawyers to librarians to accountants to mechanical engineers, organized itself in an attempt to raise its standards and its status.
On another topic, and in a much more recent article, Terry Michael writes,
Democrats need to free themselves from the AFL-CIO, K Street, DuPont Circle, share-the-wealth wing of the party and run to the center on money matters, while passionately playing to their base on social issues and vigorously pursuing a non-interventionist foreign policy.
That is precisely the opposite of what happened in the first year of the Obama administration.
Of course, Michael is a libertarian arguing that the Democratic Party needs to be more libertarian. I think that the anti-libertarian bias among Democrats runs much deeper than a few interest groups. I think that the intellectual core of the Democratic Party is the Progressive movement, with its belief in social science and expertise as tools for making public policy. How can you trust the market, when your economic science tells you that there are market failures everywhere, and technocratic expertise can fix them?