Saturday, October 31, 2009

Intelligence and Ideology

As everybody knows, liberals are smarter than conservatives. Alas, this is not necessarily a point in favor of liberal politics, because libertarians are smarter than either. Back in the 1920s, the intellectual class was agog over Lenin. Many smart people are drawn to theoretically consistent philosophies that simplify the world, and many people who fancy themselves smart delight in thinking the opposite of what the foolish masses believe.
Bruce Charlton, a professor of theoretical medicine at the University of Buckingham, recently coined the term “clever sillies” to describe people who hold wacky political views seemingly because of—rather than despite—their high intelligence.
Intelligence and wisdom are far from being the same thing.


David said...

I wouldn't disagree with anything you or Richwine say. But it seems to me Richwine does miss the salient fact that, especially under Nixon's influence, the Republican Party made a conscious decision to become the anti-intellectual party, at least in the crucial area of electoral politics and displayed style. Conservatives may not be dumb, but the major conservative party has decided to adopt the guise of dumbness as one of its principal persuasive tools.

John said...

Yes, and anti-intellectualism has long been a tool of conservative political parties, at least since the British Tories of the 1820s.

I have some thoughts about intellectual fads that won't fit here, but it strikes me that sometimes an intellectual movement comes along that has impressive credentials but just doesn't seem right -- behavioral psychology, for example -- and maybe if you want to oppose the latest madness but can't really refute its arguments, the best approach is a sort of feigned stupidity. I suppose many conservatives think global warming is a fad like behavioral psychology, so that is why they take this approach. (The problem with doing nothing about greenhouse gases, though, is that if the alarmists are even 10% right, we could be doing something very, very bad.) So, anyway, I think it may be that a sort of bluff attitude toward the latest ideas may be a rather important part of even the most intelligent conservatism.