Those of us on the putative “Right” are often – and loudly – accused of “anti-intellectualism.” One of their favorite memes is this one:
This was most recently illustrated on CNN’s Tonight program when two of his guests, well, watch it yourself:
Now, I’m not going to say that there aren’t such people on the right side of the divide, but the Left paints us ALL with a brush that should be reserved for a tiny minority. The theme of “anti-intellectualism!!” is wound through their worldview, and I believe it is part and parcel of the Leftist belief that it is they who should be leading us all into a Utopia, if only we’d just stop RESISTING them, and the only reason we resist is because we’re too stupid to see that they’re right.
Robert Heinlein posited what has been called “The Expert Syndrome.” It goes like this:
Expertise in one area does not impart expertise in other areas, though experts often think so. The narrower their area of expertise, the more likely they are to think so.
I’m reminded of an old joke:
A shepherd was herding his flock in a remote pasture when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of a dust cloud towards him.
The driver, a young man in an Armani suit, Gucci shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses and YSL tie, leans out the window and asks the shepherd, “If I tell you exactly how many sheep you have in your flock, will you give me one?”
The shepherd looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing flock and calmly answers, “Sure. Why not?”
The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his cell phone, surfs to a NASA page on the internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite navigation system to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo. The young man then opens the digital photo in Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany. Within seconds, he receives an email that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses a MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with hundreds of complex formulas. He uploads all of this data and, after a few minutes, receives a answer.
Finally, he prints out a full-color, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturized portable printer and finally turns to the shepherd and says, “You have exactly 1,586 sheep.”
“That’s right. Well, I guess you can take one of my sheep.” says the shepherd. He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on amused as the young man stuffs it into the trunk of his car.
Then the shepherd says to the young man, “Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my sheep? “
The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, “Okay, why not?”
“You’re a consultant.” says the shepherd.
“Wow! That’s correct,” says the yuppie, “but how did you guess that?”
“No guessing required.” answered the shepherd. “You showed up here even though nobody called you, you want to get paid for an answer I already knew to a question I never asked, and you don’t know crap about my business…”
“…Now give me back my dog!”
Mike Rowe talks a lot about our severe and growing “skills gap,” described as a distinct lack of skilled labor, caused by decades of telling our children that their only path to a good career is a four-year college degree. The “intellectual” life. And in doing so, the plumbers, carpenters, electricians, A/C technicians, welder, machinists, pipe-fitters, and on and on get older and retire, and too few follow them into what are necessary and decent-paying careers.
Because we need to work smarter, not harder.
Mike illustrates the difference between office-bound “experts” and someone who actually does the job for a living in a twenty-minute presentation. Please indulge me and give it a watch:
The “experts” tell Mike the “proper” way to castrate a lamb. The guy who actually raises sheep shows him the better way to do it. It’s an epiphany for Mike. The people who are out there actually doing things understand the real world. They know how things work. The people in the high-rise office buildings, capitol buildings or university campus offices know how things OUGHT to work, and we should listen to THEM. They’re EXPERTS.
And if you don’t, you’re an “anti-intellectual.”
On top of that, the intellectuals haven’t exactly wrapped themselves in glory, but then they seldom (if ever) pay a price for being wrong. University professors don’t lose tenure, cabinet members keep their jobs, or end up as consultants making more money, etc. Those of us who follow their lead (willingly or not) are the ones who suffer the consequences when they err.
We would trust the intellectuals more if they had to live with those consequences along with the rest of us. Or if they acted like there was a crisis when they tell us there’s a crisis. Until that happens, I guess we’ll remain “anti-intellectuals.”
UPDATE 5/9: Rev. Donald Sensing points to this piece – The Fallen State of Experts:
If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, you’re not paying attention to the experts. Epidemiologists tell us that if we do not hide in our houses with the door securely locked, hundreds of thousands will surely perish. Economists tell us that if we do not return immediately to work, civilisation will collapse. Good luck figuring out which expert has the better advice. Is it any wonder a harried Michael Gove blurted out, “I think the people in this country have had enough of experts from organisations with acronyms saying they know what is best and getting it consistently wrong.”