Thomas Sowell on why it’s a good idea to keep intellectuals far away from the levers of power:
…One of the ideas that has proved to be almost impervious to evidence is the idea that wise and far-sighted people need to take control and plan economic and social policies so that there will be a rational and just order, rather than chaos resulting from things being allowed to take their own course. It sounds so logical and plausible that demanding hard evidence would seem almost like nit-picking.
In one form or another, this idea goes back at least as far as the French Revolution in the 18th century. As J.A. Schumpeter later wrote of that era, “general well-being ought to have been the consequence,” but “instead we find misery, shame and, at the end of it all, a stream of blood.”
The same could be said of the Bolshevik Revolution and other revolutions of the 20th century.
The idea that the wise and knowledgeable few need to take control of the less wise and less knowledgeable many has taken milder forms– and repeatedly with bad results as well.
One of the most easily documented examples has been economic central planning, which was tried in countries around the world at various times during the 20th century, among people of differing races and cultures, and under government ranging from democracies to dictatorships.
The people who ran central planning agencies usually had more advanced education than the population at large, and probably higher IQs as well.
The central planners also had far more statistics and other facts at their disposal than the average person had. Moreover, there were usually specialized experts such as economists and statisticians on the staffs of the central planners, and outside consultants were available when needed. Finally, the central planners had the power of government behind them, to enforce the plans they created.
It is hardly surprising that conservatives, such as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Britain and President Ronald Reagan in the United States, opposed this approach. What is remarkable is that, after a few decades of experience with central planning in some countries, or a few generations in others, even communists and socialists began to repudiate this approach.
As they replaced central planning with more reliance on markets, their countries’ economic growth rate almost invariably increased, often dramatically. In the largest and most recent examples– China and India– people by the millions have risen above these countries’ official poverty rates, after they freed their economies from many of their suffocating government controls.
China, where famines have repeatedly ravaged the country, now has a problem of obesity– not a good thing in itself, but a big improvement over famines.
This has implications far beyond economics. Think about it: How was it even possible that transferring decisions from elites with more education, intellect, data and power to ordinary people could lead consistently to demonstrably better results?
One implication is that no one is smart enough to carry out social engineering, whether in the economy or in other areas where the results may not always be so easily quantifiable. We learn, not from our initial brilliance, but from trial and error adjustments to events as they unfold…
And Victor Davis Hanson on the race racket:
…independent white voters, many of whom voted for Obama, sense that something like [former White House “czar”] Van Jones, or [Eric Holder’s nation of]“cowards,” [speech] or the Prof. Gates matter, or the recent Sherrod non-story, or “wise Latina” will turn up about every three weeks from now on out. They suspect that it will, not just because the staffers at Fox will find it or even hype it, but because there will always with this administration be something to find. Just as the left was always able to dig up some over-zealous Christian evangelical in the Bush administration (because there were apparently a lot of them), so too the right will find a lot of racial promoters because, quite simply, there are a lot of them in this administration.
Ms. Sherrod was done a disservice in having her comments edited in a fashion that did not represent what she was trying to say. Yes, but it is also not a wise thing to go before the NAACP to offer a confessional about how one has evolved from seeing oppression in terms of white culpability, to understanding it in terms of the culpability of those “who have.” In other words, the role of minor federal agricultural officials is not confessionals to lobbying organizations about the unfairness of present American culture. One is free to do it, but one is almost asking to be quoted out of context in doing so. (The antithesis would be something like a border-dwelling federal official, who had lost a relative to Mexican smugglers, speaking before a zealous close-the-borders, mostly white group about how he came to no longer see the problem in terms of brown people, but now largely in terms of poor people, white and brown alike. Now that would be an insane thing to do, and a Republican administration, battling selectively edited videos on the Daily Kos and Huffington Post, would have fired him)…