Useful idiots, in a broader sense, refers to Western journalists, travellers and intellectuals who gave their blessing – often with evangelistic fervour – to tyrannies and tyrants, thereby convincing politicians and public that utopias rather than Belsens thrived.Reason asks, “why are smart people so consistently fooled by evil regimes?” There's quite a simple answer:
Intellectuals see in the mirror the very image of a Philosopher King.
Their entire intellectual training has led them to believe that it is the Intellectual Class that is fit to rule, by virtue of their very Smart thinking. After all, did not Plato himself say that only the philosophers were virtuous, and therefore fit to rule? And have not our Intellectual Elite been told their entire school lives that they are the "Best And Brightest?"
And so all a tyrant needs to do is to flatter this sense of entitlement, and the Intellectual will convince himself that this is indeed the New Jerusalem. No brainwashing is required; a light rinse will do.
But at every stage, the tyrant must appeal to the Intellectual's sense of superiority. This is why rightist tyrants (say, Peronists) struggle with the Intellectual class. By allowing a more or less unfettered market to run as it will, he offends the vanity of the Intellectual. The Market is a very bad thing indeed, says the Intellectual, because it does not need
Of course, the tyrant has no intention of actually letting the intellectual control anything; that's why Lenin coined the term "useful idiots". So the answer to Reason's question is quite simple: it's a cheap appeal to vanity. The more interesting question is why do Intellectuals fall for this so often?
I think that it's because Intellectuals have been much more successful in the West, where they tend not to end up in Gulags, Re-education camps, or mass graves. In Europe in particular, and increasingly in the USA, they have captured the media and government, and actually have increasingly found themselves in the Control Room of society. It hasn't been working out so well:
Thomas Sowell in Intellectuals and Society, provides a well-fortified survey of these well connected, often behind-the-scenes lever pullers. According the Sowell, the thing that distinguishes ruling intellectuals from the subservient citizenry, is that intellectuals are not generally held accountable for being wrong. Think about that in the context of real tenure, and tenure that comes from being a "made" member of the group.Unfortunately, just because you wrote a very well received thesis on gender relationships in sub-atomic electron orbital mechanics, it doesn't mean that you are clearly qualified to define healthcare policy:
But even I was not skeptical enough to predict what actually happened in Massachusetts, which is that emergency room usage went up after they implemented health care reform.Huh. This redistribution thing is trickier than we thought ...
In retrospect, it's obvious. Massachusetts increased access to primary care physicians, but it didn't actually increase the number of primary care physicians. This led to wait times, which meant that some people who used to avoid the emergency room by going to see their primary care physician now ended up in the emergency room. Meanwhile, many of the people who were using the emergency room for primary care still are, because MassCare doesn't pay them for the hours they lost by taking off work.
Oh, honestly - it's entirely pointless to try to do this if you're going to cheat!
They sure act like a bunch of idiots, for really smart people. But apply Sowell's maxim - they are not held accountable for their failures - and you start to see the inevitability of the direction:
- Of course the Intellectual Elite hates the market - socialism offers the dream of power and control for them and the market doesn't, so it doesn't matter that socialism has in fact failed in every instance it's been tried.
- Of course the Academy tilts far to the left - tenure can be denied by a single blackball vote, and ideas from the right-of-center do not nearly flatter the Intellectual Elite's egos the way left-of-center ideas do. So long, right-of-center PhD students; hope you like living on a lecturer's salary. Meanwhile, academic fraud is explained away because the fraudster is fighting the good fight.
- Of course the media will suppress news damaging to the left-of-center agenda. After all, the right-of-center philosophies have less need for the Intellectual Elite - free markets are less convivial for the elite.
But undeniably, they hold the reins firmly in their grips for now. But as I may have mentioned, this ruling class is quite stupid, despite the broad areas that it controls. The seeds of its destruction -- the impending burning down of the royal house -- is inextricably contained within the stupidity of its policies. That, of course, is the fatal flaw for any intellectual. When they finally achieve absolute power and are forced to put their ideas into action. Without having had any experience contending with the unforgiving hand of reality before this point, the ruling class stands helpless before the cascading failures of its ill-founded ideas and prescriptions.You might call it a Bonfire of the Vanities.
All we have to do is to learn to take care of ourselves throughout what is going to happen next. The ruling class is going find the appeal of burning down the house themselves to be beyond their powers to resist. [my emphasis]
The stupidity of the Smart Crowd is really astonishing to behold, and in the age of the Internet, it's no longer possible to cover up. I've been saying for some time that as the left has seized control of the Intellectual institutions, all they've done is destroy the institutions. When you add the fact that the system of government by redistribution is running down, and there's a crisis. If the deal is that the People let the elite rule because they're smart (and presumed to be better to solve problems), then the People will expect the elite to solve the crisis.
The problem is that the elite is stupid - bovine*, really, out in leftie field chewing the cud of marxism-lite - and news of this reality is not longer able to be suppressed by a broken media. The Obama polls are no mystery: a bunch of people let themselves be convinced that he would be a Philosopher
My gentile disagreement with Al Fin is that, while the Elite might want to burn down the house, most probably won't dare, and most of the rest will be too stupid to know how. They're unhappy, and know that it's a Bad Moon rising, but don't know what to do.
The Dinosaurs sniff a change on the wind, and roar their defiance.
* Yes, cow-like. You want proof? Fish, barrel:
[The millions whom Stalin ordered] EXECUTED OR SENT to Siberia went wondering if Uncle Joe knew the horrors being committed in his name..."I feel really confused, I don't understand how something like this is possible. I can't imagine that at the top of the Obama administration that they realize that something like this is happening," Jamieson told CNN.
UPDATE 9 August 2010 13:39: Welcome visitors from American Digest! More on the thrashing of the Dinosaur Class here.