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Let's Talk About Inequality, Liberals Break the Chains, says Joe

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Amerians are Anti-intellectual Because...

by Christopher Chantrill
August 14, 2012 at 12:00 am

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JUST BEFORE the selection of can-do politician Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to be Mitt Romney’s running mate I finally stumbled over the answer to a question that had been troubling me for years. A liberal friend had asked me, as her conservative go-to guy, why America is anti-intellectual. The answer, I finally realized, was obvious.

But nothing is obvious until you collide with the truth. For me, the collision occurred when I read Victor Davis Hanson on Gore Vidal. Hansen had met Vidal as a kid, because his dad had run a lecture series at Reedley Junior College in California in the Sixties. Reedley was out in the sticks, so the Hansons had the speakers stay over at their farm rather than put them up in a flea-bitten motel in town.

So it followed that, from about age 9 to 15 (e.g., 1962-1968), I listened to every word, at dinner and the next morning’s breakfast, from the likes of Ansel Adams... Pearl Buck... Louis Leakey... Bernard Lovell... Rod Serling... Mark Van Doren

and, of course, Gore Vidal in 1964. This lecture series was funded by the local landowners.

The Central Valley farming community was innately conservative. But nonetheless, in the classically liberal spirit of those pre-Vietnam times, the farmers on the board not only funded my dad’s proposed lecture series, but encouraged him to invite controversial, and often liberal, voices — over the objection of the careerist president of the college at that time.

With farmers like that, why do liberals insist that America is “anti-intellectual?” You can get an up to date flavor of liberal feeling on the matter in “Dreaming of a World Without Intellectuals” by history professor Russell Jacoby and subsequent comment in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The fuss is about David Gelernter’s America-Lite, in which Gelernter attacks the “post-religious globalist intellectuals who, by and large, ‘can‘t run their own universities or scholarly fields, but are very sure they can run you.’” This kind of intellectual lèse-majesté doesn’t sit too well with folks like Jacoby. Conservatives like Gelernter, he writes, “turn on intellectuals, professors, and presumably the specialized knowledge those experts trade in. Instead of resisting that tendency, conservative intellectuals such as Gelernter encourage it. In their flight from elitism, they end up in a populist swamp peopled by autodidacts and fundamentalists.”

Close, Professor Jacoby, but no cigar. Conservatives dream of a world without totalitarian intellectuals. We’d love intellectuals to death, like those California farmers back in the 1960s, if they could agree to limits on their power, and if they could resist the temptation of scarlet lettering conservatives as sexists, racists, and homophobes. We are all in favor of experts and specialized knowledge; we just can’t stomach it when specialized experts in politics, e.g., tell us how to organize health care.

Where did liberals go wrong? Walter Russell Mead explains it all in God and Gold. America is built on a balance between religion, reason, and tradition, he argues. It’s when the Puritans want a state church in New England, or tradition keeps slaves in the South, or liberals reduce everything to a rational bureaucratic system that America loses its way.

We autodidacts remember from when Mom and Dad took us to Shakespeare in the park and we saw Bottom the weaver wanting to play every part in the play-within-a-play. So we don’t like the idea of liberals trying to replace the vibrant culture of competing religions with a single state orthodoxy called Political Correctness. We don’t like all social services being reduced to comprehensive and mandatory bureaucratic systems run by liberals, and we don’t like the American Way of Life being demolished in favor of liberal-sponsored and liberal-mandated “lifestyles.”

The problem with intellectuals is that they have pushed the American system off balance, weakening tradition and religion in favor of dominating reason, and Americans don’t like it.

Back in 2008 the Democrats ran on a platform that was self-consciously intellectual, and they spent two years busily passing their intellectual solutions to national problems in massively intellectual 2,000 page bills. The undoubted scientific fact of global warming called for a program of targeted green energy research and subsidy. The documented fact of 30 or 40 million without health insurance called for an Affordable Care Act that would bend the cost curve down with administrative committees. The financial excesses of Wall Street buccaneers would be cured with a new layer of regulation in the Dodd-Frank Act.

But are the Democrats defending their intellectual achievements with intellectual arguments? Of course. They are defending their record with the intellectual argument that Romney is an uncaring beast and Ryan wants to tip grannie over a cliff. Vice-presidential pick Paul Ryan gives a speech on his Catholic conservatism at Georgetown University and was attacked by liberal profs at Georgetown before his speech.

It comes down to this: Americans are anti-intellectual because the intellectuals are anti-American.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Responsible Self

[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.


Taking Responsibility

[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050


Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust


What Liberals Think About Conservatives

[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. “Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists,” she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican


Liberal Coercion

[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State


Moral Imperatives of Modern Culture

These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self


US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


Society and State

For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008


Faith and Politics

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable... [1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006


Never Trust Experts

No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
Lord Salisbury, “Letter to Lord Lytton”


Conservatism's Holy Grail

What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph


Class War

In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, “The Scientist as Rebel”


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