Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ivory Tower View

Thank you George Will. He explains the contradiction I see between the Democrats’ confidence they remain on the right(eous) path, and Republican confidence our ruling class is too detached to continue in power:

[A]s the distilled essence of progressivism, [Obama] should feel ratified by Tuesday's repudiation. The point of progressivism is that the people must progress up from their backwardness. They cannot do so unless they are pulled toward the light by a government composed of the enlightened - experts coolly devoted to facts and science. The progressive agenda is actually legitimated by the incomprehension and anger it elicits: If the people do not resent and resist what is being done on their behalf, what is being done is not properly ambitious. If it is comprehensible to its intended beneficiaries, it is the work of insufficiently advanced thinkers.
Will sarcastically makes a serious point. He believes, along with George Mason University economist Don Boudreaux, that Obama has replaced interest-group liberalism (the politics of Democrats from Franklin Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson) with idea-driven liberalism (the politics of intellectuals like progressive Woodrow Wilson, Ph.D.).

Intellectuals, today’s liberal elite, believe they are right to act on our behalf because they know better. Yet ironically, making one’s ideas paramount narrows sharply the number of ideas in play from which the people can choose. As Boudreaux writes:
[Liberal elite] ideas are almost exclusively about how other people should live their lives. These are ideas about how one group of people (the politically successful) should engineer everyone else's contracts, social relations, diets, habits, and even moral sentiments. . . replacing an unimaginably large multitude of diverse and competing ideas. . . with a relatively paltry set of “Big Ideas” that are politically selected, centrally imposed, and enforced by government, not by the natural give, take and compromise of the everyday interactions of millions of people.
Under our current liberal elite, Will and Boudreaux believe, political power - government commands and controls – is superseding and suffocating the market society's spontaneous order.

This is ironic, since the academy supposedly encourages the free competition of ideas. Give intellectuals the political power, however, and authoritarianism will begin to supplant democracy. It’s Plato’s Republic.

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