11 Dec 2010

The Crisis of the Intelligentsia

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Walter Russell Mead argues that the real weak point of American society is its intelligentsia, mired in self-interest and passionately committed to a 19th century world-view. The future is going to pass this clerisy by, but they are certainly putting up a determined fight on behalf of an already discredited ideology..

Since the late nineteenth century most intellectuals have identified progress with the advance of the bureaucratic, redistributionist and administrative state. The government, guided by credentialed intellectuals with scientific training and values, would lead society through the economic and political perils of the day. An ever more powerful state would play an ever larger role in achieving ever greater degrees of affluence and stability for the population at large, redistributing wealth to provide basic sustenance and justice to the poor. The social mission of intellectuals was to build political support for the development of the new order, to provide enlightened guidance based on rational and scientific thought to policymakers, to administer the state through a merit based civil service, and to train new generations of managers and administrators. The modern corporation was supposed to evolve in a similar way, with business becoming more stable, more predictable and more bureaucratic.

Most American intellectuals today are still shaped by this worldview and genuinely cannot imagine an alternative vision of progress. It is extremely difficult for such people to understand the economic forces that are making this model unsustainable and to see why so many Americans are in rebellion against this kind of state and society – but if our society is going to develop we have to move beyond the ideas and the institutions of twentieth century progressivism. The promises of the administrative state can no longer be kept and its premises no longer hold. The bureaucratic state is too inefficient to provide the needed services at a sustainable cost – and bureaucratic, administrative governments are by nature committed to maintain the status quo at a time when change is needed. For America to move forward, power is going to have to shift from bureaucrats to entrepreneurs, from the state to society and from qualified experts and licensed professionals to the population at large.

A must read.

Hat tip to the Barrister.

2 Feedbacks on "The Crisis of the Intelligentsia"


What is the point of being a superior intellectual if you’re going to allow people the freedom to reject your wisdom?


One way to circumvent the rejection of one’s enlightened wisdom, is to bypass the constitutional process entirely and rule by fiat, as in establishing huge bureaucracies with powers to impose rules and regulations.

It takes a conscious constitutionally subversive effort, to pass huge spending bills without allowing them to be read, while opining, “pass it and we’ll see” what’s in there.


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