|Let's Talk About Inequality, Liberals||Break the Chains, says Joe|
by Christopher Chantrill
August 14, 2012 at 12:00 am
JUST BEFORE the selection of can-do politician Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to be Mitt Romneys 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 mornings 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 dads 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 Gelernters America-Lite, in which Gelernter attacks the post-religious globalist intellectuals who, by and large, cant run their own universities or scholarly fields, but are very sure they can run you. This kind of intellectual lèse-majesté doesnt 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. Wed 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 cant 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. Its 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 dont like the idea of liberals trying to replace the vibrant culture of competing religions with a single state orthodoxy called Political Correctness. We dont like all social services being reduced to comprehensive and mandatory bureaucratic systems run by liberals, and we dont 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 dont 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.
The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness...
But to make a man act [he must have]
the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove
or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action
But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie
that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison
At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing
[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm
Civil Societya complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churchesbuilds, 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
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
Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says we should....
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity
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
When we received Christ, Phil added, all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh
I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all.
In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism
There was nothing new about the Frankish drive to the east... [let] us recall that the continuance of their rule depended upon regular, successful, predatory warfare.
Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion
We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.
E. G. West, Education and the State