Nothing is stranger in these tense days than the monotony of the inexact and non-descriptive mantra of “white privilege” and “white solidarity”—as if there is some monolithic white bloc, or as if class matters not at all.
In truth, the clingers, the deplorables, the irredeemables, and Joe Biden’s “dregs” have very little in common with those who so libel them, but superficially share supposedly omnipotent and similar skin color.
In the past, we saw such tensions among so-called whites in CNN’s reporting of the allegedly toothless rubes at Trump rallies, in the Strzok-Page text trove about Walmart’s smelly patrons, in the callous coastal disregard for the five-decade wasting away of the American industrial heartland, in the permissible elite collective disparagement of Christian evangelicals, and in the anthropological curiosity about and condescension toward such exotic, but presumably backward, Duck Dynasty and NASCAR peoples.
As a result, we have reached the surreal point at which the nation’s privileged whites on campuses such as Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, in the top echelon of politics, and the corporate and entertainment worlds, all deplore in the abstract something they call “white privilege” in others who have never really experienced it.
Of course, whatever such a thing is, they possess it in abundance but give no hint they have any intention of giving it up other than rhetorically or through the medieval concept of hair-shirt penance and Twitter confessionals. On the other hand, they are furious that middle-class whites do not join their theatrics of bending the knee and offering abject apologies for original sins.
Progressive, affluent whites run most of the blue states that oversee the big blue cities who hire the liberal police chiefs and their unionized officers. So how strange it is for liberal elite white people to damn supposed white privilege for the logical sins of their own ideology and governance.
Little in Common Culturally and Socially
Across the hollowed-out rust belt, in Appalachia, throughout California’s foothills and Central Valley, or in the rural South there are millions of white Americans who fail in terms of income, longevity, suicide rates, dependence on government assistance, and drug dependence statistically compared to nonwhite ethnic groups such as Punjabi immigrants, or Asian-Americans in general, and elite black and Latino minorities.
But more importantly, I can attest after living my entire life near the rural nexus of Fresno, Kings, and Tulare Counties, ground zero of the 1930s and 1940s Grapes of Wrath Oklahoma diaspora, that many whites by no stretch of the imagination could be defined as “privileged.” They are also not deplorable, irredeemable, or clingers to their guns and religion, much less dregs. Whatever they may be, they are not the beneficiaries at birth of any intrinsic advantage. They certainly did not enjoy the affirmative action of the white elite, defined by familial networks of like professionals, alumni influence, money, quid pro quo interning, incestuous leveraging, and good ol’ boy favoring.
So they have little culturally or socially in common with the elites of predominantly white coastal corridors from Boston to Washington and La Jolla to Seattle. The indifference of one to the other is mutual. There is no shared concept of “It’s a white thing, you wouldn’t understand.” Again, the white underprivileged feel about the white privileged about the same as the latter feel about them. In that sense, the generic “white” means very little.
Class matters, not superficial commonalities of race. Lower-middle-class or poor whites are more likely to live among poorer minorities than are elite, high-income whites whose experience of the Other is often confined either to career contacts with wealthy minority professionals of like tastes, education, backgrounds, and values—or their asymmetrical brief conversations with their own gardeners, housekeepers, and nannies.
The white underclass lives, schools, and works among the supposed Other; the overclass not so much. As a result, in our increasingly polarized racial society, the white overclasses have constructed a psychological edifice to contextualize the paradox of their own de facto racial apartheid and segregation.
In rural Fresno County, for example, most poorer whites—in terms of the local public schools, friendships, and social outing—have far more in common with Mexican-Americans and Hmong minorities and are of the same class, than they do with the wealthier and professional white classes in the Bay Area.
One reason that many African-Americans are often suspicious of white liberal elites is that they sense their apologetics serve as cheap penance for their apartheid lives of privilege. No one has much respect for a chronic dissimulator, appeaser, and apologist, even if superficially ideologically akin. A great unexplored topic is the African-American disdain for the white elites who so easily are superficially obsequious, not out of authentic desire to be equals but to preen among one another of their condescending paternalism. Only in the irrational venom toward black conservatives, who warn of the white progressive elite, do we see the extent of the white elite liberal’s superciliousness.
Racial Demagoguery vs. Class Appeals
One of the reasons that the Left and the Democratic Party feared and hated the Trump movement was its emphasis on class rather than race, a more fluid and potentially more dynamic appeal, and one with the potential to unite rather than divide those of different tribes.
Indeed, much of the left-wing focus on Trump’s supposed “racism” emerged in response to the fact that, unlike past Republican bogeymen such as Mitt Romney and despite his billions, Trump was not so easily caricatured as an elite grandee who felt uneasy among the nonwhite.
Whatever Trump was, he talked to blacks just as he talked to everyone else—same accent, same mannerism, same vocabulary. He was not going to feign a black patois and pander in the Joe Biden style of “Put y’all back in chains” or “You ain’t black,” or reinvent himself in Hillary Clinton fashion as a civil rights veteran possessed of a phony drawl, “I don’t feel no ways tired. I come too far . . . ” Think of the logic driving these white liberal elites: “Blacks cannot understand my good English, so I will descend into their poor grammar, diction, and syntax to feign ‘y’all’ and ‘ain’t’ and ‘no ways tired.’”
In the context of promoting real national healing or efforts to ensure a more equitable society, Americans need to understand something about many of the Antifa protestors in the streets; the professors at the barricades; the New York and Washington grandees; and the Pelosis, Schumers, and Bidens of the world. Their abstract lectures about “privilege,” public prostrations on their knees in the Capitol with Kente cloths, self-interested promises of additional billions of dollars for blue-city bureaucracies, and narcissistic virtue signaling with other superficial bumper stickers of the revolution condemning white anything or privilege something—all of it—amounts to nothing more than day jobs to be turned on at 9 a.m. and switched off at 5 p.m. The show means little to most of them except the otherwise necessary price for feeling good about doing even better in their own eyes.
After Mitt Romney’s recent walk in a Black Lives Matter protest, an interview on television ostensibly displayed his caring for the black underclass. Do we recall prior left-wing hit jobs on him as a racist during his 2012 presidential bid? There were so many, but two ads stand out.
One was that now-infamous secretly recorded tape in which, to a receptive audience, Romney expressed his credo “there are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president [Obama] no matter what” because they are “dependent upon government . . . believe that they are victims . . . believe the government has a responsibility to care for them . . . these are people who pay no income tax.”
Romney apparently no longer believes that or least would not again utter it even in the presence of a friendly audience. But at the time he seemed oblivious to the fact that some of those 150 million Americans did not make enough income to pay income tax, or were unemployed and wished to work, or were disabled or were sick or were on Social Security without any other private assistance.
And second, there was a vicious, but equally effective hit ad against him, a quite unfair one starring his empathetic black garbage man. He complained that Romney, supposedly unlike his other more humane customers, never greeted or talked with him. (“We’re kind of like the invisible people.”)
My point is not so much that the smear ads were unfair, only that such propaganda worked.
Why so? Not because Barack Obama, Romney’s opponent, was any more concerned with the underclass than was Romney. Indeed, the Obamas likely by now have a far greater income and perhaps even a greater net worth than Romney and may soon surpass his number of luxury homes. They probably live an even more segregated existence.
Rather, both ads suggested that the “caring” of the public Romney was demonstrative, while the private Romney, if the public could just get a glimpse of him, was not so interested in personal empathy or outreach. A cynic might add, in this age of loud virtue signaling, that had Romney just spoken to his garbage man, or told a private meeting of supporters that “the 47 percent” really could be reached and persuaded that new policies would help far better than fossilized programs, he might not have found himself in the position of much later needing to feel the need to march in front of a national audience in a fashion that will have little if any effect on anyone but Mitt Romney.
Separatism Won’t Heal the Racial Divide
If one is actually troubled—indeed, really concerned about the plight of the nonwhite underclass, about systematic violence in the inner city, about the abject failures of the public schools, about the insidious spread of microaggressive racism, about virtual immunity given rogue cops—then one should recognize that virtue signaling from the gated estate, public confessionals, and medieval penance to square the circle of private apartheid have done nothing and will do nothing to address these problems.
We need not hear any more sermonizing, even from the iconic Michelle Obama, who ventures out from her multimillion-dollar Martha’s Vineyard estate or Washington mansion to lecture black Americans—millions of whom are now locked in their inner-city homes, terrified by looting and arson, and not a policeman to be seen—that they cannot become “too angry,” all before venturing back inside her chateau rooms with a view.
Instead, why not commit to real change? Why do we not integrate Sidwell Friends with those schools of the inner-city and of lower classes? Why do not our actors, the Pelosi grandchildren, the scions of the Zuckerberg, Gates, and Bloomberg families, all vow to place their offspring into the public schools, to become personally engaged with the less fortunate, and to pledge that their own fates will hinge on those of others? One can write a check for millions to the anti-Semitic and racist Al Sharpton and his charity and thereby do far less than simply tutoring one inner-city teen or taking him on as a personal intern to advise him how one gets ahead in America.
Indeed, why not eschew the third home, the walled compound, the private-jet getaway, and instead have a second home in an inner-city or Latino suburb or among the rural hamlets of the Central Valley or Western Texas? People do not want tele-condescension but rather face-to-face dignity. And dignity comes from being treated as an equal and a partner, not as a cause.
Why not have over to dinner those who make $50,000 rather than $500,000? Why not eschew giving a check to Black Lives Matter and instead quietly and privately help mentor African-American youth in the arts of business, or medicine, or law, and invest personal time in genuine devotion to those who do not have the tools and support network to ensure upward mobility? Or why not weld alongside, or hammer with someone you romanticize in the abstract as much as you avoid in the concrete?
The racial divide will not be healed by black separatist tribalism. It will not be bridged by the white apartheid guilt of the well off. It certainly will not end by this absurd medievalism of affluent, sequestered, well-meaning, white progressives championing black causes in ways that are loud and public, but ultimately selfish.
The next time we hear a lecture about caring from a woke Yale professor, or a sermon on systematic racism from a CEO, or more Hollywood confessional video drivel, we should pause and politely ask, “But where do your children go to school? And why do you live where you live? And dine with whom you dine?” Then remember class, not race, is what divides America—the truth that the upscale white progressive dares not utter.
This article first appeared at American Greatness.
In April 2005, Charles Duelfer, the CIA’s top weapons inspector in Iraq, admitted in the CIA’s final report that after an extensive search, no weapons of mass destruction could be found.
“After more than 18 months, the WMD investigation and debriefing of the WMD-related detainees has been exhausted,” wrote Duelfer, the leader of the Iraq Survey Group. “As matters now stand, the WMD investigation has gone as far as feasible.”
Today it’s generally accepted that the presence of WMD was the primary basis for the Iraq War. Naturally, the absence of such weapons shook the world. The media blamed the politicians, the politicians blamed US intel, and the intelligence actors involved mostly defended their work.
The official word, chronicled in the Robb-Silberman report, concluded that “the Intelligence Community didn’t adequately explain just how little good intelligence it had—or how much its assessments were driven by assumptions and inferences rather than concrete evidence.”
The Iraq War WMD debacle is arguably the greatest expert “fail” in generations. The holy triumvirate—lawmakers, bureaucrats, and media—all failed to sniff out the truth. If any of them had, a war that cost trillions of dollars and claimed the lives of 100,000-200,000 people likely could have been avoided.
It would be difficult to surpass the Iraq blunder, but emerging evidence on COVID-19 suggests the experts—again: lawmakers, bureaucrats, and media—may have subjected us to a blunder of equally disastrous proportions.
A new NPR report suggests the global response to COVID-19 may have been reached on a flawed premise.
Mounting evidence suggests the coronavirus is more common and less deadly than it first appeared.
The evidence comes from tests that detect antibodies to the coronavirus in a person’s blood rather than the virus itself.
The tests are finding large numbers of people in the US who were infected but never became seriously ill. And when these mild infections are included in coronavirus statistics, the virus appears less dangerous.
“The current best estimates for the infection fatality risk are between 0.5% and 1%,” says Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
That’s in contrast with death rates of 5% or more based on calculations that included only people who got sick enough to be diagnosed with tests that detect the presence of virus in a person’s body.
Many people will recall the fatality risk debate that took place prior to and in the early stages of the lockdowns. There was much discussion over how deadly the virus was and what the collective response to the virus should be.
Some voices exercised caution.
“The public is behaving as if this epidemic is the next Spanish flu, which is frankly understandable given that initial reports have staked COVID-19 mortality at about 2–3 percent, quite similar to the 1918 pandemic that killed tens of millions of people,” Jeremy Samuel Faust an emergency medicine physician and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, wrote in Slate. “Allow me to be the bearer of good news. These frightening numbers are unlikely to hold.”
Similarly, on March 5 vaccine expert Paul A. Offit, who holds the Maurice R. Hilleman Chair of Vaccinology at the University of Pennsylvania, told Factcheck.org that he believed that the World Health Organization’s 3.4 percent fatality rate figure was too high, suggesting it was well below 1 percent.
“We’re more the victim of fear than the virus,” Offit said, adding that the world was witnessing a “wild overreaction” to the disease.
Voices like those of Faust and Offit were quickly drowned out, however. The 24-hour news cycle fanned collective fear and outrage that more was not being done. Runs on toilet paper and masks ensued. Neil Ferguson, professor of mathematical biology at Imperial College London, predicted millions would die in the “best-case scenario.”
Following the example of China, one of the most authoritarian regimes in the world, most of the developed world was placed in indefinite lockdown by their own governments.
The social and economic costs of the lockdowns soon became apparent. The US alone has seen 40 million jobs lost, many of which aren’t coming back. Recession looms. Hundreds of thousands of businesses have already been wiped away. The federal debt has surged to $26 trillion.
Unfortunately, the COVID disaster and the aforementioned Iraq War fit a familiar pattern. As the historian Paul Johnson has observed, most of the worst events of the 20th century were perpetrated by experts who used collective power to shape world events in a direction they believed was beneficial.
“One of the principal lessons of our tragic century, which has seen so many millions of innocent lives sacrificed in schemes to improve the lot of humanity, is—beware intellectuals,” Johnson wrote in The Intellectuals. “Not merely should they be kept away from the levers of power, they should also be objects of particular suspicion when they seek to offer collective advice.”
Nobody denies the immense cost of the lockdowns, but what was gained by them remains a subject of contention.
A May report from JP Morgan, as well as other evidence, suggests the lockdowns had little to no impact on the spread of COVID-19.
Marko Kolanovic, a physicist and strategist for JP Morgan, pointed out that a majority of nations saw declines in infection rates after the lockdowns were lifted.
“Unlike rigorous testing of new drugs, lockdowns were administered with little consideration that they might not only cause economic devastation but potentially more deaths than Covid-19 itself,” Kolanoviche said.
Jon Miltimore@miltimore79Most nations saw Covid infection rates go down after lockdowns were lifted, a recent @jpmorgan analysis found.
On the other hand, the Washington Post this week cited studies claiming the lockdown orders prevented hundreds of millions of COVID-19 infections and saved millions of lives.
These findings come with caveats, however. First, one of the studies was submitted on March 22—well before the vast majority of COVID cases had even occurred. The other study was conducted by researchers at the Imperial College of London, the same school from which Ferguson hailed. (He has since resigned after it was discovered that he broke the lockdown protocol he helped design by allowing his married lover to come to his home.)
“About 1.1 million deaths,” he responded.
As of June 10, Ferguson is off by about a factor of ten. Why we should continue to listen to schools that have already proven to be so disastrously wrong is anyone’s guess. The “chicken little” story comes to mind.
In 2003, state actors led the world into a bloody, years-long struggle in Iraq to protect the world from nuclear weapons that didn’t exist—only to eventually learn how little US intel experts actually knew about Iraq’s nuclear capabilities.
In 2020, central planners from around the world decided to shut down the global economy to protect people from an invisible, highly contagious virus that will result in no or mild symptoms for up to 90 percent of its carriers.
Some lessons, it seems, are hard to learn.
Can capitalism survive?
No, I do not think it can.
So wrote economist Joseph Schumpeter, in Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. His argument in support of this opinion is complex and multi-layered, and in this post we will concentrate on just one of its elements: capitalism’s self-destructive embrace of its intellectual enemies.
Capitalism Delivers All The Benefits Of Modern Civilization.
Schumpeter points out that all the features and achievements of modern civilization are, directly or indirectly, the products of the capitalist process. Capitalism is the rationalization of human behavior, producing the mental attitude of modern science (the kinds of questions we ask and how we go about answering them) and a suite of rewards to give the best brains the will to apply themselves towards success by following the scientific method of economics.
He explores a long list of applications of the scientific method, starting with airplanes, refrigerators, television “and that sort of thing”. But also hospitals (even if “not for profit”) and the medical profession, pursuing victories over disease.
There is also, says Schumpeter, capitalist art and the capitalist style of life. He talks about painting and about democracy and social legislation. Feminism, he also avers, is “an essentially capitalist phenomenon”. Pacifism and modern international morality are products of capitalism.
Capitalism educates its own anti-capitalist intellectuals.
Yet, says Schumpeter, capitalism, unlike any other type of society, creates, educates and subsidizes a vested interest in social unrest. This vested interest is The Intellectuals.
Intellectuals are people who wield the power of the spoken and written word, and they do so with an absence of direct responsibility for practical affairs, and of first-hand knowledge of them that only experience can give. Over history, societies have not been able to bring them to heel or to discipline them effectively or even significantly.
Capitalism produced institutions that are uncongenial to the required control. The intellectual group lives on criticism that stings, and, without constraint, where nothing is sacrosanct, will eventually issue criticisms of the very foundations of capitalism.
What forces produce these intellectuals? Higher education increases the supply of people who see themselves as intellectuals, and, since many of them are effectively unemployable, they become disgruntled about their place in society. When they do find employment, they may feel that the conditions are sub-standard, in terms of the wages and rewards they receive compared to the most successful entrepreneurs. The intellectuals acquire a discontented frame of mind, and become resentful. Resentment rationalizes itself into the social criticism of the economic spectator. This, in turn, creates a hostile atmosphere surrounding the engine of capitalism, even while that engine is raising the quality of life for everyone.
What makes the situation worse is that the intellectuals “staff political bureaus, write party pamphlets and speeches, act as secretaries and advisers, (and) make the individual politician’s ..reputation”. By so doing, they “impress their mentality on almost everything” in politics.
Moreover, “in times of rapid expansion of…public administration”, staffing comes directly from the intellectual group.
Capitalism Fails To Defend Itself.
Why does capitalism fail so badly in defending itself from these intellectual enemies, and in making the positive case for the system that has raised the levels of affluence worldwide so effectively – and in so unprecedented a manner – over the last 250 years?
It is the fault, says, Schumpeter, of the modern executive class. In the early days of capitalism, the leaders were true entrepreneurs: intense, energetic, committed, heroic. The Rockefellers and the Fords had no misgivings about capitalism. They brought the benefits of science, technology and engineering to the masses in the form of light and transportation, and delighted at the transformation of human opportunities. They did not second-guess themselves, or the capitalist system which made their innovations possible.
Now, says Schumpeter, the modern business person, whether entrepreneur or manager, is of the executive type. He or she has the logic of the salaried employee working in a bureaucratic organization. The will to succeed, to fight and to win “is not and cannot be what it was to the individual who knew ownership and its responsibilities in the full-blooded sense of those words”. The modern corporation “relentlessly narrows the scope of capitalist innovation” and will eventually kill it.
The manager also loses the capitalist ethic of working for the future, “whether or not one is going to harvest the crop for oneself”. Entrepreneurial capitalists like Rockefeller and Ford thought deeply about the long-run interests of society, and defended those interests. The managerial business person of today shrinks the time horizon to his or her life expectation.
Schumpeter talks about the anti-saving theories that are “indicative of a short-run philosophy”. He did not anticipate negative interest rates, but he was prescient about the hedonistic mindset that can conceive of them.
Capitalism Gives In To Its Enemies.
The most striking feature of the picture for Schumpeter is the extent to which the citizenry of capitalism, besides educating its own enemies, “allows itself in turn to be educated by them”. They absorb the slogans of radicalism, they seem willing to undergo a conversion to a creed hostile to their own existence. They concede the implications of the creed. They have insufficient faith in their own creed. “They snatch at compromise; they are ever ready to give in; they never put up a fight under the flag of their own ideals and interests.”
Schumpeter concludes: “there is inherent in the capitalist system a tendency towards self-destruction”. In the early stages, it may show itself as retardation of progress, but will end in the destruction of the capitalist and of capitalism.
On May 4, 2019, we published Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s pithy summary of the belief system that is pressed upon us. Today, he explains who does the pressing.
Who are we to thank for this nonsense, whom does it benefit, and how is it that we are fed daily with it by the official media?
Here I want to hint at the answer only very briefly. It has two parts. One has to do with the institution of a state, and especially of a democratic state, with its occupants and representatives. And the other has to do with the intellectuals.
The state is a monopoly of legislation and law enforcement. In all conflicts, including those which it or its representatives are involved in, the state or people appointed by the state decide who is right or wrong. The predictable result is: the state is always right, in everything that it does. Whether robbed, plundered, killed, lied to and threatened in the name of the state – or summarized in single sentence: when force is exerted on other people and violence is used against other persons – everything can and everything will be painted by it and its agents as just, and assigned with another, deceptive and attractive name. This makes the institution of the state naturally attractive for all people who would like to rob, plunder, kill, lie, and defraud other people, that is, use violence against others. Above all, it is these kinds of people who therefore try to infiltrate and take over the institution of the state. And if, as under democratic conditions, the entrance in and the occupation of the state stands free and open for everyone, that is, when it becomes a downright competition for votes between power thirsty crooks, then it is to be expected, that the persons who will get to the top of the state are those who possess the greatest talent of rhetorically covering up their own predatory, treacherous and murderous intentions and selling these as good deeds to the voting masses. In short: The best demagogues, the best pied pipers, and corrupters get to the top.
Though when one looks at these democratically elected politicians and members of parliament, who day by day impose their obvious megalomaniac will though law or decree on millions of people, one can only marvel. Because these people are as a rule not some kind of formidable, impressive alpha males or females, but an epitome of mediocracy or merely a collection of losers, idiots and failures, who have never in their entire life produced a product or rendered a service which someone would have voluntarily bought with his own money.
And faced with these tragic figures, who grandiosely claim to be “our” highest representatives, the question then arises, whether such light-calibrated people are even in the position of conceiving by themselves the entire nonsense which they tell us every day, and furthermore, whether they have what it takes to come up with the diverse justifications and rationalizations for this nonsense which they everywhere feed us.
There one surely has a considerable doubt! And that leads me directly to the second part of my answer to the question of the originators and beneficiaries of the above described “politically correct” view of the world and the nature of things: the intellectuals, or put more precisely, those intellectuals who occupy themselves with social, economic and philosophical questions and problems, and their connection to the state and its leaders.
As in the case of the politicians, so is there in the case of the intellectuals hardly a person who through her intellectual work, her writings and speeches – for these are what she produces – could secure a comfortable livelihood and income. The market demand for such products is low and is furthermore subject to large deviations. Only a small number of intellectuals would succeed in making a profession out of their writings and speeches. The vast majority of actual or alleged intellectuals would be advised to conduct their scientific interests as a mere inner vocation and to earn their livelihood elsewhere, by the practice of a normal civilian profession. But this naturally contradicts the feeling of self-esteem of an intellectual, and all those who view themselves as such. The intellectuals are convinced of the importance and value of their work like no other group and are accordingly resentful when the alleged appropriate high social recognition fails to materialize.
What is then left for them instead? They are usually not suitable for politics, for they are typically too honest and wonkish, too shy, awkward, introverted and particularly antisocial. And for this reason, they mostly lack the desire for power, which is precisely what makes a politician.
But the intellectuals are naturally smart enough to know that even if they are not made to be politicians, they nevertheless need the politicians to get the money required for a comfortable living. And they obviously also know what they must offer as a service in return so to get the biggest possible cut of their pillage: namely well-sounding justifications for continually expanding the powers of the state, and “bold” visions and programs with noble, well-intentioned goals, for example, that of “equality of all people” which cannot ever be achieved, no one can ever achieve, but precisely because of this one never has to give up on, but can repetitively revive and ceaselessly renew.
And so it comes to an unholy alliance: that of the early, monarchical times between church and crown, and that of today, in the American age, between democratic politicians and intellectuals. The result? Never before were there so many politicians and above all so many alleged intellectuals who live and indulge in luxuries at the expense of an ever-decreasing number of productive persons. And never before, in order to stay among the intellectuals, have the numerous and large universities, as the publicly funded and supported citadels of intellectual power and influence and the breeding ground of future politicians and intellectuals, produced so much horrific intellectual nonsense and contributed to the misleading of the public as in our times.
In light of this fact, what can one do? Not much, I am afraid – except to repetitively and openly call out the whole hoax. This means that for one thing, to recognize and describe the politicians for what they really are: a band of liars, crooks, robbers, murderers, and associates to murder; and treat them accordingly with contempt, scorn, and ridicule. But also their intellectual masterminds and assistants, without whom the politicians could never carry out their evil work, must be targeted, and as the first step toward a return to normalcy and sound human understanding, to common sense, it is imperative to push for the financial draining of the universities. Not only should all centers for Blacks, Latins, women, gender, and Queer-studies, and everything else that there is of this previously unheard of exotica, be closed, but also the social science departments altogether, starting with political science and history, through sociology and up to economics and social and economic statistics (whose statistics also serve the goals of uncovering ever new “inequalities” and to call for redistribution or reeducation!) And likewise should the profession of the academic literary studies and criticism and, as much as it hurt me to say, the profession of the academic philosophers as well be thinned out. And the people who believe, that they know how one controls the climate, one should issue them a certificate of illness and send them for treatment in a psychiatric clinic.
Freed from the intellectual pollution which is currently produced by the universities, there would appear once more the possibility of a rise of a class of new and better intellectuals, characterized by firm stance and authentic understanding of reality.
Hans-Hermann Hoppe via lewrockwell.com. Lightly edited for length and translation from German.
Intellectuals these days seem almost inherently opposed to capitalism. And while we may view this negative perception as a relatively new phenomenon, the intellectual revolt against the free market is really nothing new.
In 1998, the brilliant philosopher and author Robert Nozick wrote an essay entitled, Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism? In his essay, he attempts to explain why it is that intellectuals, even right-leaning intellectuals, tend to resent the free market system. And the answer might surprise many, as his argument rests heavily on our education system.
Before Nozick can dive in and properly explain why so many intellectuals stand in opposition to capitalism, he must first define what he means when he uses the term “intellectual.” Intellectuals and academics come in many different forms, but when Nozick speaks of them, he is referring to one particular group of people.
“By intellectuals, I do not mean all people of intelligence or of a certain level of education, but those who, in their vocation, deal with ideas as expressed in words, shaping the word flow others receive. These wordsmiths include poets, novelists, literary critics, newspaper and magazine journalists, and many professors.”
“The opposition of wordsmith intellectuals to capitalism is a fact of social significance. They shape our ideas and images of society; they state the policy alternatives bureaucracies consider. From treatises to slogans, they give us the sentences to express ourselves. Their opposition matters, especially in a society that depends increasingly upon the explicit formulation and dissemination of information.”
The wordsmiths, as Nozick calls them, are used to being held in high esteem in society. Since they hold the keys to communication and expression, they have been looked up to and revered by society and have become accustomed to recognizing and admiring their own importance. Of course, wordsmiths are not the only form of intellectual out there. They are, however, the group most commonly opposed to capitalism.
Nozick highlights how these intellectual “wordsmiths” are different than their “numbersmith” counterparts.
“Why do the numbersmiths not develop the same attitudes as these wordsmiths? I conjecture that these quantitatively bright children, although they get good grades on the relevant examinations, do not receive the same face-to-face attention and approval from the teachers as do the verbally bright children.”
When you are dealing with a field as black and white as math, you are either right or you are wrong. But when it comes to communication, the victor is not always the individual with the soundest logic. Instead, to he who can construct the most poetic sentences or appeal to the strongest emotions goes the spoils. And many wordsmiths are used to being praised for the construct of their words, rather than the content of their ideas.
Unfortunately, our education system has reinforced the belief that being a wordsmith guarantees your value in society. And unfortunately for the intellectuals, the market does operate in this manner. To succeed in the market you must create real value for people that goes beyond your intellect. And this is something that irks the academic class.
Nozick points out:
“Intellectuals now expect to be the most highly valued people in a society, those with the most prestige and power, those with the greatest rewards. Intellectuals feel entitled to this. But, by and large, a capitalist society does not honor its intellectuals.”
Schools, Intellectuals, and Central Planning
Many intellectuals foolishly believe that their intellect has bestowed upon them an inherent value and merit that all should recognize. And in a centrally planned society, this may be true. But in a capitalist system, this is not how we operate. As Nozick says, “The wider market society, however, taught a different lesson. There the greatest rewards did not go to the verbally brightest. There the intellectual skills were not most highly valued.”
“But a capitalist society does not satisfy the principle of distribution ‘to each according to his merit or value.’ Apart from the gifts, inheritances, and gambling winnings that occur in a free society, the market distributes to those who satisfy the perceived market-expressed demands of others, and how much it so distributes depends on how much is demanded and how great the alternative supply is.”
Meeting market demand has very little to do with intellect. You do not need a degree or years of schooling to be successful in the free market, and this on its own is enough to disenchant the wordsmiths. In the market, everyone has equal access to success so long as they are willing to work for it and have an idea or product that is wanted by others.
Unfortunately, our schooling system has not taught this principle well. In the classroom, the intellectual is praised and held up as a standard of excellence by the instructors. In this centrally planned environment, the intellectual thrives and builds on his or her feeling of intellectual superiority. But on the playground or in the halls, where, like the market, spontaneous order is everpresent, the wordsmith find himself out of place and unable to control their circumstances with their intellect.
As Nozick writes:
“For distribution in a centrally planned socialist society stands to distribution in a capitalist society as distribution by the teacher stands to distribution by the schoolyard and hallway.”
“It is not surprising that those successful by the norms of a school system should resent a society, adhering to different norms, which does not grant them the same success.”
The market doesn’t care how smart you are. It doesn’t care where you went to school or how often you were praised by your teachers and professors. Instead, the market rewards individuals based on their ability to serve consumers and meet demand.
“Despite the created expectation, a capitalist society rewards people only insofar as they serve the market-expressed desires of others; it rewards in accordance with economic contribution, not in accordance with personal value.”
He later continues:
“Capitalist societies reward individual accomplishment or announce they do, and so they leave the intellectual, who considers himself most accomplished, particularly bitter.”
In short, many intellectuals, both right and left, despise capitalism because it does not play by their arbitrary rules. An “A” on a test will get you praise from a teacher, but it will not put bread on your table or make you successful in the broader world. But since so many in the academic world have instilled in students this belief that they are superior to others, it is no surprise that many lose themselves in bitterness as they see those who are intellectually beneath them achieve higher levels of success.
Nozick hits the nail on the head when he writes:
“The intellectual wants the whole society to be a school writ large, to be like the environment where he did so well and was so well appreciated.”
There is a resurgence of the acceptability of socialism in American economic discourse. Where is this coming from? Surely the history of Socialism has demonstrated that it results in disastrous economic outcomes, and it has been associated with massive death and destruction.
One source of fashionable thinking is our elite universities and their cloud of intellectuals. F. A. Hayek described intellectuals as dealers in second hand ideas, and there is no idea more second hand than Marxist Socialism. Yet, in a recent edition of MIT Technology Review, there were three overt recommendations for a contemporary lurch back to this discredited nineteenth century theory.
How To Create A Kind Of Capitalism Marx Would Warm To.
The first was the most overt of the three, with the headline “A digital capitalism Marx might enjoy“. The theme, as is appropriate for a Marxist proposition, is the supposed conflict between capital and labor. The author betrays his prejudices by describing capital before the digital age as “looms and furnaces and other machines you could see and smell and fall into”. He also betrays antediluvian thinking by asserting that capitalists put “maximizing of these factories’ output above all else”. Deirdre McCloskey debunked the “Max U” error in The Bourgeois Virtues, where she sheds light on the role of the seven virtues (Hope, Faith, Love, Justice, Courage, Temperance and Prudence) in entrepreneurial economic behavior that underpins what she calls “the great betterment” – the 3000% improvement in living standards in the last 200 years.
Now, according to MIT’s Marxist writer, things are getting worse, not better. Labor is being weakened; technology squeezes workers’ bargaining powers because the “quasi-labor” of A.I. replaces true labor. There is more scope to alienate and outsource jobs. Is this fair? Of course not, states our Marxist. After all, A.I. “learns from” labor in order to replace it, but doesn’t compensate labor in return. The answer: pay individuals for the data they generate, even if they don’t work. Data generators of the world must unite and form a new union. Even better, take a collectivist approach. Make data a public resource. Any A.I. that uses the public data must pay the government for access to it, and the government can pay the labor that generated the data.
Heck, let’s go all the way. Let’s have the government own the means of production, as Marx would have wanted. The author suggests that the government take ownership of the companies that gather data and pay a dividend to the public as “just rewards for their contribution”. From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs! This is, as the author puts it, a form of capitalism that Marx could warm to.
If Government Can’t Own The Means Of Production, It Can Aggressively Regulate.
Later in the same edition of the magazine, a headline in stark black capital letters repeats 11 times (in case we didn’t get it the first time): REIN IN THE DATA BARONS. The theme is similar, although more oriented towards government regulation and control of free market exchanges than quite so overtly Marxist. The author asserts that Facebook, Amazon and Google have too much “control over what we see, read and buy”. Why are our MIT superiors so pessimistic about human reason, about our mental processing power, about choice, and self-editing and self-reliance? What about basic economic principles like consumer sovereignty. If we want to, we can consult with Bob Murphy the leading expert on consumer sovereignty. We can read about it on Wikipedia or at mises.org. But no, MIT has declared that Facebook, Amazon and Google – referred to as data barons to bring up the spooky specter of the old oil barons, another staple of the intellectuals’ monopolist fiction – have all the control, and the rest of us are simply deluded.
The anti-trust laws are too tolerant. This is a problem attributed to Chicago School economists and nothing to do with Massachusetts brainiacs, because the economists don’t understand network effects whereas MIT does. So there. The solution to the monopoly control problem is the 20th century one of breaking up the dominant companies. The article claims this idea to be radical. Wow! These radicals require some kind of a software update to catch up with the world. If we can’t break them up, then regulate them more, and emulate the EU with its draconian privacy laws. Block acquisitions! Act progressively! If any company has more than 10% share of data (share of what is undefined – all the data in the world?) they must share it freely with everyone else. It seems like, while the scientific part of the MIT brain has been inventing new ways to analyze data, its social and political part has reverted backwards to the French Revolution.
You Didn’t Build That.
The third article returns unabashedly to Marxism. Let’s Make Private Data Into A Public Good. This is simply government ownership of the means of production re-expressed for the digital age. The author’s argument is the Obama riff of ‘You didn’t build that.” Giant companies like Google and Amazon are making huge profits from technologies originally created with taxpayer money. They are taking advantage of the habits and private information of the taxpayers who funded the technologies in the first place. And then, the most tired cliche of the digital era: with Google, we are the product.
Like all Marxists, the writer has a markedly dystopian view of the human condition, revealed in the accusation that, under Google’s influence, we are “transforming our friendships into sellable propositions”. Really? Are people so shallow and trivial? In MIT’s eyes, yes they are.
There is one further leap of Marxist faith in this article: that platforms are not even real businesses, they are just a way for companies that operate them to avoid responsibility. The Uber platform exists so that the company can avoid responsibility for crass behavior on the part of its drivers. The AirBnB platform exists so that the company can avoid responsibility for its users defacing the property of its other users. MIT makes no concession to creativity, to liberating digital disruption or to consumer choice. These companies are just self-perpetuating monopolists. They must be heavily regulated. The public must be protected against their abuses.
Technology and data were created by all of us and therefore should belong to all of us. The underlying infrastructure was created collectively. Data should be owned in a public repository and sold to the tech companies. Platforms are collective creations and should be driven by public purpose. We must all submit our individual instincts to this public purpose. How Marxist can you get?
We Need Better Intellectuals.
What are we to make of all this? MIT Technology Review is just a magazine. It uses the MIT brand name and the school’s aura of credibility and authority. Are MIT’s professors teaching Marxism to our kids? It is reasonable to assume that they are. In The Intellectuals And Socialism, F.A. Hayek conceded that our society rests on the intellectuals’ services. They tend to prefer and promote socialism because they have no experience of the workings of the economic system, they have a set of general preconceptions into which they fit all ideas, and one of those preconceptions is material equality, which Hayek describes as an abstract concept of doubtful meaning and no practical application in particular instances.
He exhorts the rest of us to make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, and a deed of courage. Freedom and the free enterprise economy need to find their own intellectuals who can take the battlefield through more persuasive presentation of their stronger ideas.
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