Saturday, January 02, 2016

Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?

Excerpt below from  Robert Nozick, considered by some to have been the foremost libertarian intellectual.  I have some coments at the foot of the excerpt

It is surprising that intellectuals oppose capitalism so. Other groups of comparable socio-economic status do not show the same degree of opposition in the same proportions. Statistically, then, intellectuals are an anomaly.

Not all intellectuals are on the “left.” Like other groups, their opinions are spread along a curve. But in their case, the curve is shifted and skewed to the political left.

By intellectuals, I do not mean all people of intelligence or of a certain level of education, but those who, in their vocation, deal with ideas as expressed in words, shaping the word flow others receive. These wordsmiths include poets, novelists, literary critics, newspaper and magazine journalists, and many professors.

Wordsmith intellectuals fare well in capitalist society; there they have great freedom to formulate, encounter, and propagate new ideas, to read and discuss them. Their occupational skills are in demand, their income much above average. Why then do they disproportionately oppose capitalism? Indeed, some data suggest that the more prosperous and successful the intellectual, the more likely he is to oppose capitalism. This opposition to capitalism is mainly “from the left” but not solely so. Yeats, Eliot, and Pound opposed market society from the right.

Intellectuals feel they are the most valuable people, the ones with the highest merit, and that society should reward people in accordance with their value and merit. But a capitalist society does not satisfy the principle of distribution “to each according to his merit or value.” Apart from the gifts, inheritances, and gambling winnings that occur in a free society, the market distributes to those who satisfy the perceived market-expressed demands of others, and how much it so distributes depends on how much is demanded and how great the alternative supply is. Unsuccessful businessmen and workers do not have the same animus against the capitalist system as do the wordsmith intellectuals. Only the sense of unrecognized superiority, of entitlement betrayed, produces that animus.

The Schooling of Intellectuals

What factor produced feelings of superior value on the part of intellectuals? I want to focus on one institution in particular: schools. As book knowledge became increasingly important, schooling—the education together in classes of young people in reading and book knowledge—spread. Schools became the major institution outside of the family to shape the attitudes of young people, and almost all those who later became intellectuals went through schools. There they were successful. They were judged against others and deemed superior. They were praised and rewarded, the teacher’s favorites. How could they fail to see themselves as superior? Daily, they experienced differences in facility with ideas, in quick-wittedness. The schools told them, and showed them, they were better.

The schools, too, exhibited and thereby taught the principle of reward in accordance with (intellectual) merit. To the intellectually meritorious went the praise, the teacher’s smiles, and the highest grades. In the currency the schools had to offer, the smartest constituted the upper class. Though not part of the official curricula, in the schools the intellectuals learned the lessons of their own greater value in comparison with the others, and of how this greater value entitled them to greater rewards.

The wider market society, however, taught a different lesson. There the greatest rewards did not go to the verbally brightest. There the intellectual skills were not most highly valued. Schooled in the lesson that they were most valuable, the most deserving of reward, the most entitled to reward, how could the intellectuals, by and large, fail to resent the capitalist society which deprived them of the just deserts to which their superiority “entitled” them? Is it surprising that what the schooled intellectuals felt for capitalist society was a deep and sullen animus that, although clothed with various publicly appropriate reasons, continued even when those particular reasons were shown to be inadequate?

In saying that intellectuals feel entitled to the highest rewards the general society can offer (wealth, status, etc.), I do not mean that intellectuals hold these rewards to be the highest goods. Perhaps they value more the intrinsic rewards of intellectual activity or the esteem of the ages. Nevertheless, they also feel entitled to the highest appreciation from the general society, to the most and best it has to offer, paltry though that may be. I don’t mean to emphasize especially the rewards that find their way into the intellectuals’ pockets or even reach them personally. Identifying themselves as intellectuals, they can resent the fact that intellectual activity is not most highly valued and rewarded.

The intellectual wants the whole society to be a school writ large, to be like the environment where he did so well and was so well appreciated. By incorporating standards of reward that are different from the wider society, the schools guarantee that some will experience downward mobility later. Those at the top of the school’s hierarchy will feel entitled to a top position, not only in that micro-society but in the wider one, a society whose system they will resent when it fails to treat them according to their self-prescribed wants and entitlements. The school system thereby produces anti-capitalist feeling among intellectuals. Rather, it produces anti-capitalist feeling among verbal intellectuals. Why do the numbersmiths not develop the same attitudes as these wordsmiths? I conjecture that these quantitatively bright children, although they get good grades on the relevant examinations, do not receive the same face-to-face attention and approval from the teachers as do the verbally bright children. It is the verbal skills that bring these personal rewards from the teacher, and apparently it is these rewards that especially shape the sense of entitlement.

Central Planning in the Classroom

There is a further point to be added. The (future) wordsmith intellectuals are successful within the formal, official social system of the schools, wherein the relevant rewards are distributed by the central authority of the teacher. The schools contain another informal social system within classrooms, hallways, and schoolyards, wherein rewards are distributed not by central direction but spontaneously at the pleasure and whim of schoolmates. Here the intellectuals do less well.

It is not surprising, therefore, that distribution of goods and rewards via a centrally organized distributional mechanism later strikes intellectuals as more appropriate than the “anarchy and chaos” of the marketplace. For distribution in a centrally planned socialist society stands to distribution in a capitalist society as distribution by the teacher stands to distribution by the schoolyard and hallway.

This unintended consequence of the school system, the anti-capitalist animus of intellectuals, is, of course, reinforced when pupils read or are taught by intellectuals who present those very anti-capitalist attitudes.

Stated as a general point, it is hardly contestable that the norms within schools will affect the normative beliefs of people after they leave the schools. The schools, after all, are the major non-familial society that children learn to operate in, and hence schooling constitutes their preparation for the larger non-familial society. It is not surprising that those successful by the norms of a school system should resent a society, adhering to different norms, which does not grant them the same success. Nor, when those are the very ones who go on to shape a society’s self-image, its evaluation of itself, is it surprising when the society’s verbally responsive portion turns against it. If you were designing a society, you would not seek to design it so that the wordsmiths, with all their influence, were schooled into animus against the norms of the society.


I have put up this essay from 1998 because I think Nozick is describing and explaining a problem that is still a big one for conservatives. If all the big talkers are against us, how do we get our points across? I have myself previously looked at the problem here and my conclusions are similar. It may help to neutralize Leftist intellectuals if we repeatedly accuse them of being mean souls motivated by jealousy

A small personal note:  I have exactly the background that should make me a Leftist intellectual -- doing well at school etc.  So how come I did not become one?  An important fact, I think, is that I am totally devoid of envy.  I am PLEASED to see other people doing well.  I don't get burnt up by it


Terrorism is the symptom, ideology the disease

By John Bolton, a former US ambassador to the United Nations

THE DEMOCRATIC and Republican presidential primary campaigns are now approaching the ultimate reality: voters actually voting. Given the priority of international terrorism in their minds, this is a critical opportunity to test whether the candidates truly understand the threat of radical Islam.

The central question for US policy makers is how the terrorists (and their state sponsors and other accomplices) see us, and how we should see them. Too often, especially among Democrats but also for some Republicans, there is serious confusion about radical Islam’s true ramifications, thereby blinding us to the magnitude of its danger. Even worse, our misperceptions tie our hands in developing ways to protect innocent civilians at home, and our interests and allies abroad.

Although communism and radical Islam differ in countless ways, they share one critical element: they are ideologies driven by an obsession to force the real world to match their preconceptions, whether of class conflict or superior religious belief. Terrorist attacks are simply manifestations of the ideology, the symptoms of the threat, not the threat itself. Accordingly, US policies that ignore the ideological driving force will fail, because they are not addressing the real menace.

In his classic work, “Russia and the West Under Lenin and Stalin,’’ George Kennan observed, “Many people in the Western governments came to hate the Soviet leaders for what they did. The Communists, on the other hand, hated the Western governments for what they were, regardless of what they did.” Even considering the profound differences between communism and Islamism, Kennan’s insight is a lodestar for would-be presidents.

In the West, there is nearly universal revulsion at the bestiality of Al Qaeda, ISIS, Hamas, and Hezbollah, and their mass murdering of innocent civilians, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. But their barbarism extends beyond slaughtering noncombatants. It also includes forced marriages, selling women and children into slavery, medieval punishments for alleged heresy and apostasy, and beguiling and then brainwashing the unwary. As heinous as these acts are, however, they are not isolated aberrations. They are symptoms of the underlying radical-Islam disease itself, and it is that disease which should be our principal target.

Similarly, terrorist propaganda against the West is filled with hatred for specific targets: Mohammed cartoons and videos, the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, women’s education, and more, all of which supposedly offend the radicals’ tender sensibilities. “Offensive” though these examples may be, they are merely pretexts. If they were eliminated, there would be others: the presence of US forces in Muslim lands (even when protecting Muslims from terror and oppression), for example.

Those who neither recognize nor understand the terrorist ideology react to the radical Islamists at the capillary level, and their perception of how the West should respond also reflects an instinct for the capillary. Like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, they believe that if we only stopped referring to “Islamic terrorism,” if we only closed Gitmo, or stopped making offensive cartoons and videos, the terrorist threat would recede.

This approach is pure fantasy. Our actions did not cause radical Islamists to hate us. Western efforts at appeasement will not induce more “moderate” policies from them.

We cannot remain crouched in the fetal position, hoping not to offend anyone, or respond to terrorism’s global reality only after we are attacked. We could make innumerable “reforms” to Western behavior that the radicals deem offensive, but it would not alter their ideology. If anything, it would only convince them that many in the West have lost faith in their basic values and philosophy of freedom. Our efforts at appeasement, in this uncomfortably accurate light, are simply evidence of the underlying decay of Western culture itself.

Similarly, ad hoc law-enforcement responses to individual terrorist acts are insufficient. There are simply too many aspiring San Bernardino shooters; too many Tsarnaev brothers; too many Major Nidal Hasans; too many Boko Harams; too many terrorists in Benghazi, the Islamic State, and Afghanistan. Even legitimate law-enforcement surveillance efforts, themselves under assault, will never suffice to protect the United States and our allies against an army of hostile, ideological terrorists.

Refusing to acknowledge that we face an ideologically motivated foe is not a grand strategy. It has already failed for almost 30 years, even as the radical ideology fueling terrorism has spread, gaining countless new adherents. In the war we are in, not of our choosing but because we are being attacked, the only long-term strategy is to destroy the enemy, not try to appease it. That is what the voter should be demanding to hear from the presidential candidates. For as Winston Churchill said, confronting the Nazi ideology, “without victory, there is no survival.”



Obama Announces Radical Executive Order on immigrants

The President has just announced a new executive order to rewrite immigration law and bring even more foreigners here to compete with Americans for jobs. Not only that, but it will save immigrants slated for deportation and give them work permits as well.

The new executive action is going to explode the number of work permits and green cards given to foreign aliens. It will allow hundreds of thousands of foreigners to come here with little-to-no questions asked!

Here is the regulation that was added to the Federal Register today. It is 181 pages long. It will open the floodgates and automatically grant work permits to foreign college graduates. Not only that, but it will spare immigrants already ordered to be deported.

It is hard enough for Americans to find jobs. Now, with the stroke of a pen, Obama is making American workers compete with hundreds of thousands of skilled foreigners.



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Anonymous said...

Robert Nozicks theory neglects to consider that perhaps it is only the appearance that intellectuals are predominately leftist.

Leftists are also predominately prideful and must "share their wisdom" to prove their intellect leading them to be more in the open and visible while Conservatives are typically more humble and will lead by doing yet drawing less attention to themselves.

The disparity seen can be explained simply by the relative "noise" each makes.

Anonymous said...

JR - "An important fact, I think, is that I am totally devoid of envy. I am PLEASED to see other people doing well."

Exactly. Jealousy/envy are evident in every lefty. I am fortunate to know many who are materially and financially poor, and poor in health and relationships too. But they tend to be contented with their lot, and where not, they are happy to see others doing well, even though others may be doing much better than themselves. They are certainly not bitter or blameful towards others. They are individually minded. And they are all conservatives. I am also fortunate to know many who are just as poor, and those who are well off and even wealthy too, and some of whom are jealous and envious, prone to thoughts and feelings of bitterness and resentment towards certain others, and they believe their resentful bitter outlook is a virtuous one, demonstrating that they are members of society's good people - and each and every one of these ones are lefties. Conservatives are comfortable with, even have heartfelt good wishes for other people's freewill, even though other's freewill may be doing better than their own, conservatives are happy for other's well doings and blessings.

Some say fear and love are great motivators, and they certainly are. And beliefs and values too are drivers of individuals and nations. But I do believe that jealousy is currently the most widespread and forceful motivator of the mass of human hearts on this planet. Jealousy/envy is the predominant attitude of the non-western world toward the west. And is the predominant base condition of leftists. And from jealousy comes a spectrum of hateful effort ranging from open hostility to treacherous false goodness. Even the wealthiest of leftists are still motivated by hatred towards those who have something in their hearts that leftists don't. Try speaking kindly around wealthy leftists of the existence of truth and the wonder of reality and how things are and how they work, even in human affairs, and of the wonder of human individual freewill and accountability and its potential to learn, grow and flourish, individually and collectively, and of genuine goodwill and of your heartfelt wish for growth towards all people, wealthy and poor, western and non-western, and for people of all religions including Christian, and watch those leftist eyes harden and pupils constrict and micro expressions of hate flash across those wealthy leftist faces straining to look pleasant. Leftists are jealous of and hate truth, hate other people having freewill, and hate those with genuine love/wellwishes towards freewilled others. Leftists hate genuine good heartedness, because they know they don't have it and won't ever have it, because they reject it and wont take it up, only its pseudo condition.