The Illusion of Intelligence

The last post closed with a discussion of the obsession of the left, as represented by the Democrat Party, with intelligence. The Cliff Notes will suffice to summarize their position: Republicans are stupid while Democrats just may be too smart to relate to American voters. We must assume that the Democrats believe in the proposition that an “intellectual elite” (i.e. themselves) is best qualified to make all decisions for America and individual Americans. In order to understand this self-delusion we must understand what is meant by an intellectual elite.  The term intellectual refers to someone who is reflective, contemplative or reasoning.  So Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, puzzling over what she, after the actual data are presented, meant by her latest economic pronouncement, would be, in the broadest sense, engaged in an intellectual endeavor.  However based on her performance to date such an intellectual endeavor is clearly unrelated to “intelligence”. So we may assume for purposes of what follows that engaging in intellectual activity and being intelligent are not one and the same.  In fact history suggests that there is little or no direct correlation between intellectual activity and intelligence. The Renaissance and the Reformation were supported by intellectual activity that blossomed following the Dark and Middle Ages.  Prior to the 15th Century intellectual pursuits were basically confined to the Catholic Church and educational institutions.  The royal families relied on the general proposition that they held power because of the “divine right of kings”.  An ignorant, uneducated populace was given no basis for challenging that proposition.  The political structure was ultimately weakened, for good or ill, by the awakening of the intellectual class. The Renaissance was marked by a dramatic evolution of science and philosophy and a growing reliance by those who governed on the intellectuals who could provide a rationale for the actions of those in power.   It also generated a curiosity in the governed about their potential role in the entire process.  However, the intellectuals were rarely engaged in the practical applications of their philosophical endeavors. These positions came into conflict late in the 18th Century.  The French Revolution was a tragedy but there was an intellectual foundation for the calamitous events that followed the storming of the Bastille.  Rousseau, Diderot, Voltaire and Montesquieu provided a social and political basis for a challenge to the French establishment and the Capet dynasty.  There was no shortage of social and political discontent waiting for the proper catalyst.   The revolutionary leaders had little trouble generating mob violence and the destruction of the political order.  But it should be noted that the intellectuals were not direct participants in the chaos leaving it to the likes of Robespierre, Marat and Danton to gather up customers for Madame la Guillotine.  Ultimately it culminated in the despotic rule of Napoleon, a result not predicted by the spectator intellectuals. In the late 19th Century things began to change in the United States and the “intellectuals” became active participants.  It was at this point that the dialogue moved from mere intellectual endeavor to intelligence.  This led inexorably to the identification of an elite intelligentsia and the firm belief that this elite group should be running the show.  It became the divine right of the intelligent and what made it interesting is that the “intelligent” were self-identified and self-appointed.  They fear democracy because they had no confidence that the unwashed masses would vote correctly. The first order of business was to create a political term that would appeal to the electorate.  HL Mencken identified their problem with his aphorism: “You will never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American voter”.   The sleight of hand that the politicians employed was to describe this cadre of elites as “progressives” thereby creating the illusion of forward movement. Theodore Roosevelt was the first progressive President and he had the tools required, a Harvard degree and a perception of high intelligence.  He firmly believed in the transfer of political power from the states to the national government.  Roosevelt the First just knew that he was the best person to exercise the power of an active, aggressive chief executive.  He was disappointed when his successor, William Howard Taft, did not manifest the same thirst for personal power so he ran a third party campaign in 1912 thereby guarantying the election of a like minded progressive, Woodrow Wilson. Despite the creation of the Federal Reserve system and the passage of the 16th Amendment allowing personal income taxes Wilson actually undermined the concentration of power at the Federal level because he was a weak leader.  It was not until 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression that the progressives were able to regain power and take permanent steps to consolidate power in Washington.  An example of their obsession with intelligent leadership was the identification of Roosevelt the Second’s team of advisors as his “Brain Trust”.   The policies that the administration implemented do not demonstrate that this so-called Brain Trust was based on intelligence.  The damage they did was, sadly, permanent and had little or no positive impact on the economy.  FDR fancied himself to be the American version of Benito Mussolini and neither he nor the Italian leader ever manifested a high intelligence.  Despite the total absence of empirical data to support the argument that the New Deal was a success, the philosophy behind it continues to this day among the political elite.  But alas no one will ever confuse Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer or Mazie Hirono with genius.  This requires continual attacks on Republicans as being stupid while wondering aloud whether Al Gore just might be too smart to be President.  Gore did prove that the American voters are not as dumb as Mencken believed by defeating him in 2000. And how does this perceived intelligence manifest itself?  If you disagree with them you are “a basket of deplorables”.  They are simply incapable of processing any information that does not support their religious beliefs such as global climate issues.  They cannot do simple math either with regard to balancing a budget or explaining how they will pay for their massive vote buying schemes.  The term intelligent Democrat is an oxymoron. The European Union and the United Nations are modern examples of the elitist argument that we are all better off if we are ruled by a self-identified intelligentsia. They are, in reality, wonderful examples of incompetence and mediocrity.  William Buckley once opined that we would be better off if we were governed by the first 100 people listed in the Boston phone book rather than the faculty of Harvard.  That is still true today! The word brilliant should never be applied to the unelected bureaucrats in the EU, the UN or to Elizabeth Warren.

(3) Comments

  1. “The biggest argument against democracy is a five minute discussion with the average voter.” –Winston Churchill. I believe your point is that Churchill’s observation is being exploited by one party in particular (?)

    The dominant promoters of the (false) correlation between intelligentsia and liberalism are the higher education institutions. Please comment on how that came to be. It is an interesting phenomena.

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  2. I discovered your blog site on google and check a few of your early posts. Continue to keep up the very good operate. I just additional up your RSS feed to my MSN News Reader. Seeking forward to reading more from you later on!…

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