Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Failure of America's Intellectual Elites

To stake their claim to authority America’s elites, especially the intellectual elites, have lately shown themselves to be irrational and emotionally unhinged. Having suffered too much therapy they want you to know that they have real feelings and that they are happy to share them with you. They learned from therapy to overcome their sense of shame, so they regale us with their emotions and do not know that they look like perfect fools.

Curiously, they believe that acting unhinged is a powerful argument against a president that they consider to be unhinged. Their protestations, their sound and fury, must ring hollow.

Never doubt that they love democracy. They love it so much that they refuse to accept the outcome of the recent presidential election. They are hard at work, as we speak, trying to delegitimize the Trump victory. If they could overturn the results they would. Instead they prefer resisting Trump, making it impossible for him to govern. They say they are defending democracy from perfidious Russians, but they are undermining democracy by their own refusal to accept the election results.

I add these points to those made by Victor Davis Hanson in his recent column about the failure of America’s elites.

Hanson explains that people who are supposedly the best and the brightest have been trafficking in patent absurdities and outright stupidities. The Times’s superannuated foreign affairs columnist, Tom Friedman recently suggested that Trump’s election should be counted among the great catastrophes in American history, like Pearl Harbor and 9/11. As I have occasionally mentioned, the only Friedman I now read is George.

Not to be outdone in the race to the intellectual bottom, the New Republic, which used to be a respected journal of liberal opinion, opined that Donald Trump must be suffering from neurosyphilis. Now, that explains why Hillary lost.

These intellectual elites seem to be hell bent on discrediting themselves, on showing us that they are neither the best nor the brightest. Hanson argues that no one should be surprised that the American people revolted against their guardians by electing Donald Trump.  The behavior of the elites explains why Trump won.

Hanson lists some of the greatest hits of our intellectual guardians and overlords. He begins with this:

In California, state planners and legislators focused on things such as outlawing plastic grocery bags while California’s roads and dams over three decades sank into decrepitude. The result is crumbling infrastructure that now threatens the very safety of the public. 

Beyond the fact that the elites assured us that Hillary Clinton was a lock for the presidency, they also presented us with this spectacle:

Rhodes Scholar and former U.N. ambassador Susan Rice lied repeatedly on national television about the Benghazi debacle.

Let us be clear, yet again. No one in the mainstream media cared that Rice had lied. No one asked who had put her up to it. Our self-appointed protectors in the press uttered not a peep about it. Now, of course, they are lecturing us about their love of facts. As I have often pointed out, they have no interest and have never had any interest in any facts beyond those that advance their narrative.

Hanson muses about that these members of the elite become elite because they possess the proper credentials. That would be, academic credentials. But, given the state of today’s American academy, they have not earned their status. They have had their status conferred by academic institutions that are, dare we mention, hotbeds of brainwashing and indoctrination. The name of Middlebury College comes to mind today, but another famed institution of lower learning will pop into the headlines tomorrow.

And, let’s not forget that these institutions are laboratories for diversity. How is that working out?

Hanson answers:

Elitism sometimes seems predicated on being branded with the proper degrees. But when universities embrace a therapeutic curriculum and politically correct indoctrination, how can a costly university degree guarantee knowledge or inductive thinking?

Is elitism defined by an array of brilliant and proven theories? 

Not really. University-sired identity politics has not led to racial and ethnic harmony. Is there free speech or diversity of thought on campuses? Did progressive government save the inner cities? 
All things considered, the people who graduate from these institutions with the most laurels and encomia have often not earned them. Unless they are studying STEM subjects they have been granted their degrees, not so much because of their achievement, but because of their mastery of the dogmas of political correctness.

American universities no longer reward merit. They do not believe in hard work. They believe that reality is what they say it is, and that they can change it by speaking differently.

The problem is that the American people, in their wisdom, are no longer willing to play along. Won’t get fooled again.

Hanson continues:

The public no longer believes that privilege and influence should be predicated on titles, brands, and buzz, rather than on demonstrable knowledge and proven character. The idea that brilliance can be manifested in trade skills or retail sales, or courage expressed by dealing with the hardship of factory work, or character found on an Indiana farm, is foreign to the Washington Beltway, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley.

Instead, 21st-century repute is accrued from the false gods of the right zip code, high income, proper social circles, and media exposure, rather than from a demonstrable record of moral or intellectual excellence.

Nothing is quite as painful as being exposed as an imposter. No one revels in being revealed to be a fraud. Those members of the intellectual elite who are unworthy of their academic credentials and who have accomplished little in their careers, are seriously unhappy about facing the fact that their titles and their glory were a fiction, were what the bard called “an insubstantial pageant” that was destined to fade away. Don't think that they will go down without a fight. Alas, they have finally found something worth fighting for.


Ares Olympus said...

Victor Davis Hanson: Sophisticated Washington, D.C., economists produced budgets for the last eight years that saw U.S. debt explode from $10 trillion to nearly $19 trillion, as economic growth sank to its lowest level since the Hoover administration.

Certainly our economic failures deserve condemnation, but are President Trump and the Republicans going to something do about it?

No. They're going to double-down on Reagan Voodoo Economics and cut taxes for all (Reagan started with 70% top marginal bracket, while Trump is starting with 39.6%), and increase the deficit, and we do know that cutting taxes are a good way to stimulate profits, and will encourage a new orgy of new public and private debt, that if everything was perfect would last another 6-8 years.

But things are not perfect, and we've now ending an year growth cycle created by an explosion of public and private debt. And all of this can only continue by having artificially low interest rates, and no were to go down when the next economic crisis hits.

I don't know what to think Of Martin Armstrong's theory of cyclic patterns, and his October 2015 crisis date came and went without apparent incident. But I admit his other argument is compelling - that war is always used by the "elites" to distract the population from the corruption and incompetence of their elite.

Trump's got some strange mixture of isolationism and war-mongering. He's never backed down on his claim that the U.S. should have paid for the Iraqi war by stealing their oil. And he just called for an extra $50 billion for the military. What is he preparing for?

It does seem like all we need is one minor terrorist attack on U.S. soil, one like an average day in Iraq over the last 15 years, and he can declare an all out war on Islam.

But the whole problem of war is to be able to identify a helpless scapegoat who you can try to attack and pretend you're strong and making a difference. I suppose Obama tried to do that with his drone warfare, but we know that's just not enough to satisfy our bloodlust. And it it isn't sufficient to keep us distracted from the kleptocracy that will keep the billionaire class happy.

Anyway, let's all blame the intellectuals, and say Trump is their fault, and see what happens.

Sam L. said...

Rant ON, rant ON, Ares.

trigger warning said...

The single best metaphor for credentialist expertise and intellectual power among the degreed elite is the scene from the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz, where the Wizard-cum-snake oil salesman awarded Scarecrow with a degree.

It's particularly resonant because Scarecrow recites the Pythagorean Theorem incorrectly.

Forgive me if I'm wrong... but wasn't Scarecrow's real name Jonathan Gruber, PhD?

Dennis said...


So I am not the only one who thinks "The Wizard of Oz" when I think of how the elites and wannabe elites talk, comment and plot. Yes you were right about the Scarecrow wanting a brain. Thanks for the laugh.

By the way the so called intellectuals are at fault for Trump. Who ensured that Trump won the republican primary? Who did everything possible to ensure Trump was the candidate? Who ensured that Hillary Clinton was the candidate for the democrats? If one really thinks about how much the elites/intellectuals pushed Trumps candidacy then it is very easy to note that they were responsible. Sadly, they thought the joke was on the republicans, but the joke came back to bite them in the "ass."
Never had much use for people who believe they are the elite/intellectuals. It is amazing how many times they get 'hoisted on their own petard." Funny that Ares. I am still laughing.

Ares Olympus said...

Dennis, clearly the republicans should have banned Trump from the party primaries, but the Republicans strangely are more democratic the Democrats.

I had at least one friend who attended the Minnesota Republican caucus vote for Trump, but even Minnesotans are not so stupid and Trump was at 3rd place.,_2016#Republican_caucuses

But unexpectedly the electorate of Minnesota was stupid, and despite a large fraction of Minnesota Republicans claiming they were going to vote third party, most clearly did not, and Clinton only won with 46.44%, below the national 48% for Clinton.

As best I can tell celebrity politics works like this "I saw Trump on TV and he's a billionaire. He must be smart." And no matter how many smart people said otherwise, the rural massesed didn't believe.

OTOH, I really can't guess if Sanders could have won, since this country is still afraid of the word Socialism. Sanders surely could have won a majority in Minnesota, but who knows if we wouldn't have another 1984, the when Mondale ran on a "I'm going to raise your taxes" platform and only won Minnesota.

Of course Reagan upon reelection raised taxes, just like Mondale suggested.

As always, if I'm out of harm's way, experiments in other people's foolishness is great, I don't mind having "told you so" rights, but really it is a poor pleasure. Life is always better for all when you have the prudence to avoid stupid mistakes.

If Trump can be a disaster without starting a trillion dollar war, that'll be something I suppose. I still can't guess on that war thing, but Trump's so good at the scapegoating thing, how will he resist?

Anonymous said...

Conservative Elites, of all people! - think POTUS controls, and can fix the economy.

Even FDR, for all his great initiatives (CCC, etc) didn't, and couldn't.

In 1940, US Army was smaller than Bulgaria's. Navy warships (except carriers & subs) were obsolescent.

Selective Service passed Congress by one (1) vote.

What do they think POTUS is - omnipotent? And why do they want him to be?

Voodoo politics & economics.

The world is due for a Crash. Kondrachieff Cycles and all that. Stalin killed him. -- Rich Lara

Ares Olympus said...

Rich Lara said... The world is due for a Crash. Kondrachieff Cycles and all that.

Agreed. I do think the ideas like the Kondrachieff wave are too simplicity, but qualitatively it makes me pay attention and reminds ne that successful actions can vary based on conditions, and there are clear long and short period waves that can be imagined.

So when you're playing musical chairs, overreaching can be deadly, and you need to make survival as your goal, and perhaps be willing to share if new rules can appear out of no where. While in comparison when civilization finds concentrated one-time energy sources like fossil fuels, its possible to raise all boats and most promises can be met and double populations for decades before the music stops and promises are reassessed.

Even a 60 year cycle is too short, and this time might even be a "single pulse" wave which history will never repeat, since after the next down-cycle the lowest hanging fruit will be taken, the fruit that enabled our rise in the first place.

Modern debt-based economics demands the future always be bigger than the past. That temporary "truth" has enabled us to keep the masses placated by promises of things like retirement. Surely the baby boomers will be the last generation that dreams of freedom in retirement.