• December 20, 2014

Why Intellectuals Are All Bad

Skewering Intellectuals 1

Geoffrey Moss for The Chronicle Review

Enlarge Image
close Skewering Intellectuals 1

Geoffrey Moss for The Chronicle Review

Is there anything new to say about intellectuals? Thomas Sowell, the conservative economist and writer who hangs his hat at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, gives it a shot. Sowell is a rare being, an intellectual who makes his life half in the university and half outside it. He has taught on several campuses, writes a syndicated column, and produces a book almost every year. As a black conservative, he occupies a visible perch, and has not been shy in advancing tough critiques of busing and affirmative action. Sowell gets noticed. With a nod to his provocative ideas, Bates College established an endowed chair in economics after him. Now Sowell turns to intellectuals.

He intimates in its preface that his new book, Intellectuals and Society (Basic Books), should be considered the third of a conservative trilogy that blasts intellectuals. Paul Johnson in Intellectuals (1988) cataloged the personal misconduct and dishonesty of the species. From Johnson we learned, for instance, that Ibsen sometimes got drunk and wrote suggestive letters to young women. Johnson concluded that a dozen people picked "at random" on the street should be preferred to immoral intellectuals, which may include himself, inasmuch as his long-term mistress later denounced in public the long-married author for hypocrisy. Richard Posner in Public Intellectuals (2003) snared the species in a scientific net to show that it behaved poorly outside its narrow terrain. For example, law professors who protested the Bush military tribunals were not specialists in criminal or international law and could not understand the pertinent issues. For Posner, intellectuals should stick to things they know, advice he flouted in his own book.

In Intellectuals and Society, Sowell cleans up what is left and—in his eyes—on the left, intellectuals who influence policy. They are not necessarily "public intellectuals," but "writers, academics, and the like" who have enormous impact on society. The question of who these intellectuals are does not much interest Sowell. He specifies that his targets are less engineers and financiers than sociologists and English professors. Their influence on millions of people, he writes, "can hardly be disputed." He mentions the impact of Lenin, Hitler, and Mao, but does not explain how English professors influenced those figures.

Sowell is more eager to skewer intellectuals than quibble over definitions. His position is straightforward. Intellectuals do not understand the genius of the market. They ignore empirical evidence. They are elitists. They operate with ideological blinders. Ultimately, they are "unaccountable to the external world." They judge ideas by how clever or complex they are, not whether they work. "But no one judged Vince Lombardi's ideas about how to play football" by their complexity or novelty, writes Sowell, but by "what happened when his ideas were put to the test on the football field." Mr. Sowell champions what might be called the Vince Lombardi Interpretation of Ideas, or VLII. Test ideas in the field.

VLII might be a tad simplistic. After all, Nazism "worked" and yielded a bustling economy, until it was militarily defeated. Would Sowell say all was well with Nazi ideas until 1945? The Soviet Union lasted many decades. Did Stalinism "work" until it did not?

Putting aside those bigger issues, Sowell slams Western intellectuals for their misconceptions about society. Activist judges, teenage pregnancy, gun control, city planning, the war in Vietnam, income distribution, and crime all get brief hearings. Everywhere intellectuals miss the boat. They do not understand the facts and their consequences. For instance, intellectuals agitate over the "widening income gap." While that gap exists—and has grown—intellectuals do not understand the difference between statistical categories and real people. Studies of income mobility show that individuals move between economic strata, Sowell claims.

Intellectuals and Society covers many topics but feels like an "oldies but goodies" compilation for conservative seniors at Leisure Lakes Golf. Everything here has been played countless times. Inasmuch as Sowell rarely identifies intellectuals he derides, except in discussions of the past, where he becomes fearless, the book lacks punch. He slams Bertrand Russell's pronouncements on peace and George Bernard Shaw's statements on the Soviet Union, but he pussyfoots about the present. For instance, he disdains city planners for the usual reasons. They are biased and insular. He gives "a typical example" where planners ask leading questions from the audience about their preferences. "Would you like to have more or less time commuting? Would you like to live in an ugly neighborhood or a pretty one?" Sowell judges those queries "tendentious" and dishonest to boot. They show no awareness of costs. But who are these planners? In fact, the "typical example" derives from a book published by the conservative Cato Institute, in which the author paraphrases the planners he wants to put out of business.

Like many conservatives, Sowell stands tall in the name of the people against the intellectual elite. He writes that his book is "about intellectuals," but not "for intellectuals," and he cannot be bothered if his victims find fault with him. But who besides intellectuals would be reading a book on intellectuals? He also writes in the name of the market, but sometimes his loyalties conflict. "Many intellectuals," he says, do not grasp executive compensation. "They do not understand how corporate executives can be worth such high salaries—as if there is any inherent reason why third parties should be expected to understand, or why their acquiescence should be necessary." Is it only "intellectuals" who have doubts about executive pay and bonuses? Where has Sowell been?

Intellectuals have seldom been so disparaged and elevated at the same time. Sowell gives us a chapter "Intellectuals and War" that largely focuses on the appeasement of the 1930s and its usual villains. He believes "the intellectuals" contrived appeasement, and the English and French governments followed in lock step. Never was a leader of a democratic nation more acclaimed than Neville Chamberlain, writes Sowell, when he returned from Munich with an agreement with Hitler. Why? Because of intellectuals and their "steady drumbeat of pacifist anti-national-defense efforts."

That is far from the truth. The 1930s appeasement had roots in a popular pacifism and war weariness as well as an anticommunism that saw Hitler as an ally, not an opponent. After all, Hitler expanded to the East and threatened the Soviet Union, not the West. Moreover, many intellectuals opposed appeasement, a fact about which Sowell seems to know nothing. He might add to his reading list books on the Spanish Civil War, even George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, in which he may discover that intellectuals fought with their lives against appeasement.

Sowell likes history, but he likes it on Post-it notes. He also prefers to revisit stale arguments rather than intervene in current controversies. In a book about intellectuals and society, he manages to ignore the health-care and financial crises. Instead, he argues that intellectuals have misunderstood Herbert Hoover. Wouldn't VLII help us with the current economic crisis, to find out which ideas "worked"?

In a rare foray into something immediate or contentious, Sowell ducks. He discusses the Iraq war in just a few pages. His focus? The 2007 increase in troops under George W. Bush known as "the surge." Guess what? The intellectuals opposed it. Sowell employs VLII. The surge succeeded. "There was fierce resistance among the intelligentsia to news that the surge was working."

What does this mean, the "surge" worked? That Iraq has become a peaceful country? Sowell does not say. Even if one accepts that the surge "worked," what about the larger Iraq war and the role of intellectuals? What about the reason and ideas for the war? The plan to bring democracy to the Middle East? Is the aggressive foreign policy Sowell cherishes "working" in Iraq after eight years? Moreover, many "intellectuals," armed with facts and verifiable theories, supported the war. How does the accountability he champions apply to those foreign-policy intellectuals? This would seem a perfect situation in which to employ VLII.

What does Sowell say about the Iraq war—its motivating ideas and the role of intellectuals in it? Nothing. Or only that he will put "aside" the "debatable issues about the wisdom of the invasion or the nature of its goals." Instead he segues into the nagging criticism of the "surge." He prefers to declaim for pages about the pacifists of the 1930s, rather than reflect on the current war. Has it occurred to him that the 10-cent critique of appeasement that he offers has helped lead us into this mess? In any event, little could illustrate more his spinelessness. As the house burns down, Sowell observes that the fire-resistant curtains seem to be holding up.

In the Conservative Series on American Politics, Sowell has given us the Idiot's Guide to Intellectuals, Big Print Edition. We should take him at his word. This is not a book for intellectuals. It is a gift item for conservatives who do not read. They can shelve it next to Paul Johnson's screed. If conservatives want something more, however, they should spring for Posner's Public Intellectuals. Posner may be wrong-headed, but he has bite and verve. Moreover, if they buy Posner in paperback instead of Sowell in hardback, they will save 10 bucks. In Sowell's universe, that clinches any argument.

Russell Jacoby is a professor in residence in the history department at the University of California at Los Angeles. A columnist for The Chronicle Review, he is author, most recently, of Picture Imperfect: Utopian Thought for an Anti-Utopian Age (Columbia University Press, 2005).

Comments

1. neoconned - February 15, 2010 at 09:25 am

nice review!

2. ralphnovy - February 15, 2010 at 11:31 am

"This is not a book for intellectuals. It is a gift item for conservatives who do not read."

Bingo.

Want to put odds on whether Sarah Palin received a complimentary copy?

3. tbdiscovery - February 15, 2010 at 01:00 pm

Most of the political articles/reviews on here need not even be read past the title, as we know what the author will say. And this one has a slant to the left. What a surprise.

4. mjg6601 - February 15, 2010 at 02:05 pm

Jacoby writes: "Sowell is more eager to skewer intellectuals than quibble over definitions. His position is straightforward. Intellectuals do not understand the genius of the market. They ignore empirical evidence. They are elitists. They operate with ideological blinders. Ultimately, they are 'unaccountable to the external world.' They judge ideas by how clever or complex they are, not whether they work."

Sowell did not deal with AWG in his book, but recent events regarding collusion among ngo's and scientists, and the subsequent lock-step in higher education regarding AWG, and the efforts of ngo's and academics to influcence corporations and governments to assent to cap and trade schemes, provide an example of what Sowell is writing about. Many intellectuals with no credentials in areas related to climiate studies pronounced that the science of a complex systems was settled. Now Phil Jones in a BBC interview of Feb. 13,

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8511670.st

says that there has been no significant global warming in the past 15 years, and that recent cycles of global warming do not differ significantly from four prior cycles since 1860. He also says, in effect, that he and other climate researchers used tree ring data where the data were helpful to the global warming theory and discarded them where they were not.

Maybe Jones committeed fraud. We don't know yet. But why were intellectuals so insistent on jumping onto a bandwagon? And why is there silence among intellectuals rather than campus symposia on the current state of research and the ethics of data-driven arguments? It's a teachable moment.

5. lexalexander - February 16, 2010 at 08:06 am

Anyone whose daily newspaper carries Sowell's column is familiar with the man's fact-averseness and illogic. Given the choice between giving $25 to an armed robber and buying Sowell's book, I'd pay the robber. At least he is honest and straightforward about his crime.

6. schulman - February 16, 2010 at 01:26 pm

For those who don't recall the mediocrity of Jacoby's book, which made his name, on "public intellectuals" - inventing a phrase so ugly and so unneccessary that it should be forever on his conscience - this sentence from his review will give a good example of his method of inquiry:
"VLII might be a tad simplistic. After all, Nazism "worked" and yielded a bustling economy, until it was militarily defeated. Would Sowell say all was well with Nazi ideas until 1945? The Soviet Union lasted many decades. Did Stalinism "work" until it did not?"
Sowell writes a lot, perhaps too much, but never has he said anything so lame and lazy, or deployed it with such a smirking air of triumph, as Jacoby does right before our eyes, in his only substantive argument with the book under review.

7. afprj - February 16, 2010 at 03:38 pm

"After all, Nazism "worked" and yielded a bustling economy"

Ummm...actually it didn't. If you study the history.

8. bibliophile - February 16, 2010 at 03:57 pm

Sarah Palin said recently to the Tea Party Convention:
"The nation needs a commander-in-chief, not a law professor."

What exactly is going on here? Why this anger toward and misunderstanding of intellectuals? When did it occur that a gun totin',"plain" talkin', wave-at-Russia-from-my-back-door, (big mistake) vp candidate is given such credence that she is actually cheered on for supposedly knowing more about running a government than someone who has studied law at a prestigious university? Indeed, it is most perplexing that the public is buying Palin's, and others' like her, "arguments" about intellectuals. (I, personally, would welcome someone smarter than I as commander-in-chief . . . go figure.)

I think we all need to review the purging of intellectuals throughout history. . . We are, as the Tea Party proposes, "ready for a new revolution," and one most of us won't support. Sowell only adds fuel to the fire of this unseemly promotion of the anti-intellects--those Thomas Jefferson called the "igorant masses"--over those who have devoted a lifetime to their studies and to their understanding of the world in which we live. Hang on, folks. We're in for a very rough ride.

9. hansgruber7 - February 16, 2010 at 05:59 pm

"VLII might be a tad simplistic. After all, Nazism "worked" and yielded a bustling economy, until it was militarily defeated. Would Sowell say all was well with Nazi ideas until 1945? The Soviet Union lasted many decades. Did Stalinism "work" until it did not?"

Apparently my comment on this passage didn't go through. Hopefully this will. I just need to express my frustration with the above passage. The reasoning there is weak and a distortion. The title of this review is also a blatant straw man.

My apologies is my previous comment somehow did go through.

10. authentic - February 16, 2010 at 08:40 pm

This is the type of inane reasoning one has come to expect from one of the clever sillies of the left.

11. parispundit - February 17, 2010 at 10:59 am

I shall be an immodest author. My just-published book on intellectuals is much better than Sowell's. I skewer us with infinitely more subtlety and flair! The title is Mind vs Money: The War Between Intellectuals and Capitalism. Published by Transaction.

12. ulysses - February 17, 2010 at 04:44 pm

The review itself should have one of those "Report Abuse" buttons next to this review of Thomas Sowell's book.I'd click it.
After reading the book and then this review, I can only say this review is such a great example of what Mr. Sowell deems wrong with intellectuals. It should be used as an example in his second edition. How many reviews have we read like this: if you're not left and anti-Iraq war you are stupid...talk about a tired old slogan. Maybe someone will actually review the book now?

13. keystonegal - February 17, 2010 at 09:23 pm

Well, this isn't a book I would have read anyway, and this review hasn't encouraged me to invest any time in it. However, there are several comments throughout this article that demonstrate biased thinking (and thus significant leaps of logic or misinformation).

I will only highlight one ... the Cato Institution is Libertarian not Conversative. Though these two political ideologies may share some overlapping similarities, they are not the same and would only be treated so by someone who is viewing all who are in the "outgroup" homogeneously.

And for compensation for executive, people might whine about what many leaders are getting paid (yes, I am from time to time among that group), but they would whine more if those businesses were not successful, and it take a rare combination of intellectual skill, social perception, and personality to result in an exceptional business leader. Fewer people complain about basketball salaries than CEO salaries ... as least with the latter comes countless jobs for others.

Look ... lots of people want to mischaracterize intellectuals ... but at least if we are going to defend ourselves, we should do it with logical, emperical support, and justification ... lest we look as ignorant as, well, Mr. Sowell.

14. cb_10 - February 18, 2010 at 09:33 am

I find Jacoby's "review" is nearly useless, since he seems much more interested in attacking what he regards as Sowell's faults, rather than addressing the book on its own terms. He leads, as is typical with those who prefer obfuscation to engagement, with ad hominem and Godwin's Law doesn't take long to appear (paging Jonah Goldberg). His screed of a review starts from the smug assumption that his position is unassailable, which seems to personally justify the insulting language and simplistic analysis (of what little there is).

His strongest critique comes regarding his field, addressing the references to intellectuals and appeasement of the Nazis, but even here is it difficult to know how specifically Sowell is refuted by the remarks regarding Spain. In addition, Jacoby misses the irony of his own remarks, in which he has offered Sowell a full-blooded hawkish rejoinder that many of his colleagues in the academy would be embarrassed to fully embrace. He also muddys the intellectual left's committment to socialism and how that led to a fair portion of the anti-Franco support (not to mention the complexities of the German-Soviet peace pact and how that may have influenced opinions on the intellectual left about the Nazis for the time being).

His remarks about Sowell's references to Iraq are obtuse. The surge "worked" because it dramatically changed the climate in Iraq from one where insurgent-driven chaos and sectarian strife was the status quo to an environment where Al-Queda was on the run and Sunnis were declaring their willingness to work with the government. The surge was certainly not the only factor in this, but as a tool of counterinsurgency, it clearly succeeded on its terms, something few have been stubborn enough to deny. Jacoby clearly is behind the curve here. As far as Sowell not mentioning Iraq otherwise, that is Jacoby's problem, since he only uses it as an excuse to make assertions. Is the Iraqi house really "burning down?" What does Jacoby mean by the phrase? His comments are clearly angry but unenlightening.

The review in general suffers from this fatal flaw.

15. marchman - February 18, 2010 at 10:56 am

That famous intellectual, Will Rogers, is noted for saying, "No one is quite as stupid as an educated person in the fields he is not educated in."

16. ulyssesmsu - February 18, 2010 at 02:56 pm

No, Nazism and Stalinism DIDN'T "work," except in the very narrow way Jacoby has defined it. This is what's called "begging the question"--assuming what one is obligated to prove. If "producing a bustling economy" is all that's required for an idea to work, then almost any idea can work, as long as one has the power to kill anyone who disagrees with you. This is an unworthy analogy, as professor Jacoby ought to know.

And why does it matter where Sowell gets his sources, or if he paraphrases? The issue is, Are the examples correct, and are the paraphrases legitimate renderings of the originals--issues that Jacoby, with typical intellectual dishonesty, and true to the pattern that Dr. Sowell discusses, ignores.

Jacoby also illustrates Sowell's condemnation of intellectuals' general ignorance of history with a historically-ignorant criticism of Sowell's assessment of Chamberlain and Munich in 1938.

All things considered, this review perfectly illustrates Sowell's disdain for "intellectuals"--like Jacoby.

17. 11319762 - February 18, 2010 at 03:36 pm

Professor Jacoby did more to prove Dr. Sowell's thesis than anything Sowell could have put in his book.

18. tom_stamper - February 19, 2010 at 03:12 am

I see this kind of review of Sowell's work too often and I would expect more engagement from a magazine that promotes intellectual discourse. Sowell's problem has never been with intellectual thought, but with the government's reliance on theories over experiences.

I would be interested in whether Jacoby trusts his retirement account to a members of the economics department or with someone who makes a living buying and trading stocks.

19. raghuvansh1 - February 19, 2010 at 10:07 am

Intellectual is vague term anyone can call himself intellectual.How can we define the word intellectual?My test is who show how to create a pure joy and self-satisfaction in life.Intellectual must makes you want to live.There is no greater gift an intellectual can give to people.

20. 12052592 - February 19, 2010 at 10:21 am

I don't get it. Isn't Sowell an intellectual? This is like writing an essay on why you shouldn't trust people who write essays.

21. cfar5587 - February 19, 2010 at 10:28 am

Jowell does a great job illustrating Sowell's point. Specious 'counter arguments' that belie his bias are indeed the hallmark of the group Sowell understands and explains.

22. drhypersonic - February 19, 2010 at 10:33 am

When leftist gas-bags like Russell Jacoby have to resort to trotting out the Spanish Civil War to attempt make a point, you know they're running on empty. Having said that, thanks to Russell Jacoby's (unintentially hilarious) review, I'll be sure to get Sowell's book and recommend it to all my friends here at the Shalimar Point Golf Club on Florida's beautiful Gulf Coast. (The same coast whose citizens cost Al Gore and John Kerry the White House in 2000 and 2004, I might remind). And as well, thanks for the reminder to also recommend Paul Johnson's and Richard Posner's wonderful little books on intellectuals. Keep up the great work, Russell! You're the best recruiter for the Tea Party movement we could possibly have...

23. 12052592 - February 19, 2010 at 10:49 am

Well, the Nazi's and the Soviets all had a "Vince Lombardi" plan to counter their intellectual critics. Short of enacting these types of plans, Sowell's crticism falls under his own definition of the writings of intellectuals: more useless commentary from an eletist intellectual.

So to get credibility outside of useless things like ideas written in books, Sowell better get busy killing or imprisoning all those eletist intellectuals. At the very least, the one's who don't agree with his intellect.

24. toddheap - February 19, 2010 at 01:27 pm

Did Jacoby seriously just write:

"Nazism "worked" and yielded a bustling economy, until it was militarily defeated. Would Sowell say all was well with Nazi ideas until 1945? The Soviet Union lasted many decades. Did Stalinism "work" until it did not?"

Note the complete lack of logic in the last pair of sentences in which "lasting" is equated with "working". That may be the largest bait and switch I've read on the internet.

As a factual matter, Nazism was a disaster for Germany from very early on, except for those connected to the Nazi party. The contrast to the failures of Weimar may have made the disaster seem less acute, but I can't imagine what in the world Jacoby was thinking to write such drivel. Soviet Russia was also an economic disaster right off the bat. Horrific regimes can sustain themselves for quite some time for the rather obvious reason that they do not hold elections. What a completely ridiculous paragraph in every sense.

25. jeffstewart - February 19, 2010 at 02:25 pm

I would like to know how many conservatives Russell Jacoby actually associates with. His ridiculous comment in the final paragraph that conservatives do not read would lead me to believe that he doesn't know any. I for one am exhausted by this nonsense that conservatives are stupid yahoos.
Guess what Russell? I AM A CONSERVATIVE, I JUST READ YOUR ARTICLE AND THEREFORE I READ, AND YOU ARE AN ERRANT MOTLEY-MINDED SCUT. YOU DO NOT HAVE A MONOPOLY ON INTELLIGENCE!!!!

26. garuda - February 19, 2010 at 04:24 pm

Hopefully, this is the last gasp of the anti-intellectualism started off by the "compassionate" (sic!) turd of a president you elected way back and who thought nothing of "christian grace" in pumping drugs to the 3rd world, drugs that he had FDA ban. The whole world knows that narrative which peaked with another extreme anti-intellectual ("W") aided by another intellectuals (Cheney), however devious.

But one quick question though: what does Sowell think HE is - not an intellectual?

27. garuda - February 19, 2010 at 04:31 pm

I shouldn't be wasting my breath over this guy but - if anyone read this book - what does he think of Becker and Friedman? Not intellectuals? As for the screaming Mr. Jeff Stewart, here's a link where you could vent a little more: http://www.intellectualconservative.com/
As for conservatives being stupid yahoos. How did that thought even occur to you, I wonder....

28. wrbilledwards - February 19, 2010 at 06:09 pm

Granting Jacoby's biases and errors, which previous commentators have pointed out, Sowell is a gross embarassment, to me as a pragmatic libertarian, and I hope to a few thoughtful conservatives. I have not read this book, but I regularly see his editorial columns, including one where he promotes the thesis of the book. The key is that his use of the term "intellectual" is completely arbitrary and self-serving - anyone with academic credentials whom Sowell does not like. For example the free market economics of Adam Smith and his modern libertarian and conservative followers is surely intellectual, that is, based on theoretical, abstract reasoning over immediate "practical" judgement. As far as I know, Smith never owned a business, met a payroll, or held political office; he challenged the businessmen and politicians of his day, who took trade barriers and a regulated economy as obvious, with abstract reasoning about production and trade. I doubt that Sowell (a free market economist) would attack Smith, von Mises, Hayeck, or (Milton) Friedman as intellectuals, but what else are they? And the point about Munich and appeasement is that, though certainly many left wing "intellectuals" in the '20s and 30's were pacifists, Chamberlin and the architects of appeasement were solid, conservative, practical politicians. I can't imagine how anyone could seriously argue that they were "intellectuals" and Churchill or Orwell, say, were not.

If someone's abstract theories, or empirical judgements, are unsound or irresponsible, show how and why. To create the term "intellectual" as an all-purpose smear is preposterous. Sowell and his fans seem eager to offer a sad display of the moral and intellectual degeneration of conservatism.

29. jsch0602 - February 19, 2010 at 06:52 pm

If anyone knows of a person who has studied law at a prestigious university and knows about running a government, perhaps they could convince this person to run for president in 2012.

30. 12047455 - February 19, 2010 at 07:32 pm

http://www.diesel.com/be-stupid/

31. rambo - February 19, 2010 at 08:54 pm

what exactly is research? How many members of women's studies, black's studies and gay studies have been promoted and got academic tenure based on research that are often not peer-reviewed or actually researched because challenges are seemed as racist, anti-women or anti-gay....

32. drlambo - February 20, 2010 at 01:49 am

..."Posner may be wrong-headed, but he has bite and verve." Huh? Makse no sense...not a good way to end a review. Its like playing the last note of a fine performance wrong..that is all we will remember

33. asciglitano - February 21, 2010 at 08:58 am

While the article is a helpful one, I do find the association of Paul Johnson with Sowell unhelpful. Johnson's book-true, a somewhat tawdry read--is not best represented by his discussion of Ibsen, one of the least "immoral" characters he discusses, but rather by Rousseau, who apparently took his liberative practices sufficiently far so as to liberate his children into an orphanage where they possibly met their demise. The use of Ibsen here is a rather cheap rhetorical trick. Johnson's point is that given these architects of modern intellectual and poltiical culture took great pains to tear down the immoral priests and leaders of the past, one would expect that they would do much better. They also exercised, to Johnson's point of view, inordinate power compared to intellectuals from the past who remained beholden to those who had to enact policies. He thinks it might be time to evaluate these modern intellectuals on the same bases that they enjoyed evaluating their forebears. While it is not a great book, the people he chooses are specific and certainly influential, to say the least. The book succeeds in its iconoclastic purpose.

34. tcli5026 - February 21, 2010 at 05:35 pm

Someone writes "That famous intellectual, Will Rogers, is noted for saying, "'No one is quite as stupid as an educated person in the fields he is not educated in.'"

What does this say about the non-educated person?

35. performance_expert - February 21, 2010 at 06:02 pm

The market? The market? Ha!

He must mean the Microsoft monopoly, the era of Halliburton and Blackwater. The market? Try buying a Peugot, Renault, or Citroen in the US! He must mean retail being boiled down to three corporations in each "market." Does he mean the central banks, CITI, Chase, and BankAmerica? Is this the "market" he refers to?

36. performance_expert - February 21, 2010 at 06:08 pm

In the USA, students are taught and hypnotized with this "market." In europe business schools, not only do they emphasize ethics but also teach that there is no free market. Like many relevant ideas, this perspective takes some getting used to but it provides the foundation for socialist support sector in healthcare and education to keep 1) society highly functional and 2) people from being exploited over non-market needs that are a part of modern civilization. Especially if one wishes to pontificate on fairness and opportunity.

So, is the Chronicle going to do a story on the "perfect stomr" that is coming re: lack of doctors and general practitioners in the USA? And what about that more than 50% of the citizens are now paying heavy corporate rent in the form of education loans?

37. performance_expert - February 21, 2010 at 07:23 pm

article: Wall Street's Bailout Hustle
Goldman Sachs and other big banks aren't just pocketing the trillions we gave them to rescue the economy - they're re-creating the conditions for another crash

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/32255149/wall_streets_bailout_hustle/print?

38. cdwickstrom - February 22, 2010 at 12:28 pm

As an aside, I would ask if Sowell's avoidance of any serious consideration of the "intellectual" underpinings of the Iraq War might just happen to spring from the proximity of his Hoover Institution office to that his colleague Condy Rice. HMMMMMM?

39. nelsonong - February 22, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Russell Jacoby's "review" -- or rather screed -- is an embarrassment to the Chronicle. Whatever Sowell's short-comings or errors may be, this ad hominem attack makes them pale in comparison and hardly serves as a defense of intellectuals or a constructive or informative critique.

Jacoby's "review" is excellent, however, if considered in another sense. It would be a great piece to use in a classroom setting to examine how one history professor employs faulty logic and rhetoric in a tendentious attack. Of course, Jacoby's review does also serve us well by disabusing us from the apparently incorrect notion that [some] intellectuals "operate with ideological blinders."

I would not argue that all history professors and intellectuals share the same ideological blinders Professor Jacoby wears. But, how dare Sowell suggest such a politically incorrect idea that some intellectuals may operate with such blinders!!

I doubt that politically aware readers are unaware of Sowell's apparent biases or that he writes provocative columns for the popular press as well as books. I see Sowell's writings as a contribution to intellectual diversity. Perhaps that is his real crime. One would hope that the critiques of his ideas would be just that -- reasoned critiques.

40. laughin_otter - February 22, 2010 at 07:22 pm

I guess if you're going to revisit the past, you might as well pillory intellectuals along with Jews, Catholics, African-American presidents, and anyone else who doesn't qualify as a landed yeoman of 200 years ago. I'm trying to remember . . . who was it that smashed eyeglasses so the "intellectuals" wouldn't consider themselves superior to the rest of us? Are we about to come full circle and fulfill Santyana's prophecy?

41. jebron - February 24, 2010 at 04:29 pm

The last time intellectuals, in the true sense of the term, were at the core of national policy was during the thirties when they helped to save capitalism from its self-destructive impulses and before the C-students found their voice. Today our instant media have made intellectuals the enemy of the so-called common man, ever-envious of superior intellects, and enshrined simple solutions to hopelessly complex economic and international problems. To Vince Lombardi working within a simple 100-yard grid, I answer that, in dealing with such problems, there's no substitute for brains and no cure for stupidity.

42. willpate - February 25, 2010 at 05:49 pm

Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. Richard Hofstadter.

43. s_kirk_regard - February 27, 2010 at 11:54 am

A worthless review. Sowell should include it in a column as evidence of his thesis. (The inability to engage an agrument intellectually is a good indication that the "ideological blinders" are firmly in place.)

Add Your Comment

Commenting is closed.

subscribe today

Get the insight you need for success in academe.