Posted by Ginny on August 30th, 2005 (All posts by Ginny)
Instapundit notes a Brussels’ Journal article on Vaclav Klaus. who it contends made “‘[t]he most impressive speech during the recent Regional Meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society. He begins “View from a Post-Communist Country in a Predominantly Post-Democratic Europe” with Hayek’s description of the intellectuals’ role in shaping society.
They, therefore, look for ideas with specific characteristics. They look for ideas, which enhance the role of the state because the state is usually their main employer, sponsor or donator. That is not all. According to Hayek “the power of ideas grows in proportion to their generality, abstractness, and even vagueness”. Hence it is not surprising that the intellectuals are mostly interested in abstract, not directly implementable ideas. This is also the way of thinking, in which they have comparative advantage. They are not good at details. They do not have ambitions to solve a problem. They are not interested in dealing with the everyday’s affairs of common citizens. Hayek put it clearly: “the intellectual, by his whole disposition, is uninterested in technical details or practical difficulties.” He is interested in visions and utopias and because “socialist thought owes its appeal largely to its visionary character” (and I would add lack of realism and utopian nature), the intellectual tends to become a socialist.
Czech intellectualism is often countered by Czech pragmatism. And here is Klaus’s optimistic belief that the EU setback may be a chance to to “open the door” to reflections on “what makes our society free, democratic and prosperous.” He concludes with succinct descriptions of political, economic and social systems that are indeed free. These values should also govern relations with other countries. And, underlying all should be “a system of ideas, which will be based on freedom, personal responsibility, individualism, natural caring for others and genuine moral conduct of life.”
Illiberal ideas are becoming to be formulated, spread and preached under the name of ideologies or “isms”, which have – at least formally and nominally – nothing in common with the old-styled, explicit socialism. These ideas are, however, in many respects similar to it. There is always a limiting (or constraining) of human freedom, there is always ambitious social engineering, there is always an immodest “enforcement of a good” by those who are anointed (T. Sowell) on others against their will, there is always the crowding out of standard democratic methods by alternative political procedures, and there is always the feeling of superiority of intellectuals and of their ambitions.