William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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TELL IT, TELL IT LOUD:  Glenn Reynolds, one of the founders of internet political reporting, has a theory on what has happened to the United States.  Our leaders, he says, have simply gone mad.  I'm inclined to agree.  Here it is, from the New York Post:   

“Suppose we got it all wrong and the real crazies are the TV people in nice suits and $300 haircuts?”

That’s an observation by Richard Fernandez on Twitter, and he has a good point.

There’s a lot of craziness in the air these days.

But for the most part it seems to be flowing from the top down, not bubbling up from the bottom.

It wasn’t farmers and factory workers who came up with the idiotic COVID responses — nor was it they who originated the more or less criminal idea of conducting “gain of function” research on making dangerous viruses more dangerous.

It wasn’t shopkeepers and bus drivers who thought the way to deal with burgeoning urban crime was to get rid of police and release criminals without bail.

It hasn’t been landscapers and auto mechanics championing the notion that a child in the single-digit age range can make a lifetime choice about his or her genitalia or maintaining that even criticizing that idea is itself a species of “violence.”

Ordinary Americans haven’t been claiming the way to promote free speech is to censor people or the way to end racism is to classify everyone by race and consequently treat them differently.

It’s not the working class that wants to “save the planet” by blocking traffic, starting forest fires or banning pickup trucks or gas stoves (though private jets remain surprisingly free from criticism).

All these crazy ideas and more are the product of our allegedly educated and intelligent overclass, the experts, policymakers and media types who in theory represent the thinking part, the brains, of our society.

But there’s something wrong with these people — the “brains” of our society are basically crazy. 

Crazy is when you believe and do things that obviously don’t make sense or fit with the facts.

It’s important to have an intellectual class.

Exactly how important is open to question — in his recent book “How Innovation Works,” Matt Ridley argues that most 19th- and 20th-century innovations actually came from tradespeople and industry, not academics doing abstract research — but important enough.

There are dangers to an intelligentsia, though.

Communism and Nazism started as intellectual movements; so did such fads as eugenics and lobotomies.

COMMENT:  Read the rest.  Very enjoyable and convincing stuff.  Many of the best academics and writers I've known over the years have had a decidedly mixed view of the intellectual world.  They've seen and heard too much absurdity from people with many diplomas on their walls.  They've been to faculty meetings where childish ideas are made into policy.

Remember that Lincoln had one year of formal schooling, but that the people who botched Vietnam were sometimes called "the best and the brightest."  Never judge the quality of an idea by the background of the chap who invents it.  William F. Buckley Jr. famously said that he'd rather be governed by the first 700 people in the Cambridge, Massachusetts, phone book than by the Harvard faculty.  He had a point.

July 24, 2023