< meta name="DC.Date.Valid.End" content="20050825"> Amendment Nine: The Ethos of Elitism - Political Animal

Friday, December 10, 2004

The Ethos of Elitism - Political Animal

Many people I know complain: "liberal politicos are all elitists." Most of these people are victims of brainwashing by conservative hypocrites like Rush Limbaugh, but they are also generally people who are younger (often my students say that), slightly less well-to-do than most, and generally working to get through whatever rung of the ladder they currently find themselves climbing. That is: this complaint, in my experience, comes from people trying to move-up and create their fortune, not from rich people trying to hang on to their fortunes.

I'm generally successful at persuading them this really isn't so, its just a myth sown by collecting random appearances and spinning a yarn that seems to describe them. Unfortunately though, far too many voices for liberalism really do fall for a subtle sort of elitism, its called the elitism of the intellect. I know this sounds strange coming from someone who makes their living at a university, but then again, where better to observe this than the ivory tower itself?

The elitism of the intellect says that there are smart people, and then everyone else. And everyone else should listen to the smart people because these annointed intellects have competed with one another to fashion important policies, important views, important thoughts.

I hate to say it, but a liberal whose writing I enjoy very much is a part of this. His name is Kevin Drum, aka Political Animal (an ironic pseudonym if ever there was one).

Here is Mr. Drum making a point about financial speculators. In response to a point made by Andrew Tobias, Kevin says:
This is something that too few smart people appreciate: in most things that matter, you're not competing with the whole world. You're competing with a tiny subset of the world that's probably at least as smart and knowledgable as you — and probably more so. Caveat emptor.
You can find the whole post (short and sweet as it is) here. Does everyone see the subtle elitism of the intellect here? Smart people, according to our dear Mr. Drum, are found "...[i]n most things that matter..." Indeed, these smart people are but "a tiny subset" of society at large.

Kevin, I say this as a friend and admirer, don't let the elitism of the intellect carry you away. It sneaks up on you when you least expect it, and makes for bad company in old age.