Educated Fools

Glenn Reynolds links to this Reason Online discussion in which journalists and mainly-libertarian intellectual types discuss whom they’re voting for and why.

Some of these people, including Reynolds himself, seem mature and reasonable. But quite a few of the others come across as frivolous, apathetic, foolish or all of the above. Michael Shermer thinks it’s important that Kerry is a bicyclist. Richard Epstein doesn’t remember for whom he voted in 2000, thinks the major parties are essentially identical and won’t vote for either of them in 2004. And the guy from The Independent Institute doesn’t want to soil his hands by voting. (Somehow his attitude doesn’t surprise me — see here and here for some background on an exchange I had with another guy from The Independent Institute.)

So, with some notable exceptions, these extremely bright people, many of whom spend a lot of time giving the rest of us advice on how to make decisions about public affairs, are a bunch of idiots in their personal voting behavior. Yeah, I know: most individuals’ votes are not decisive, voters are rationally ignorant, the major parties are effectively a cartel, etc. These objections are narrowly true but miss the big picture. Voting should be treated as a civic sacrament, because on the margin our system can live or die depending on how carefully the voters vote, and they are more likely to take voting seriously if intellectuals don’t denigrate it as an activity. This is especially true now, when the main issue of the day is of overwhelming importance and the major-party candidates have profoundly different approaches to that issue.

One shouldn’t over-intellectualize this stuff, but I think it’s valuable to look at what people think is important enough to spend their own time on. If ordinary people in places like Afghanistan appreciate how important elections are, both symbolically and practically, even when none of the candidates is perfect, why do so many smart people here miss the point?

Maybe we should skip elections altogether, and appoint leaders randomly (with strictly limited terms, of course) from the telephone book. That might work better than decisionmaking by what Thomas Sowell called “articulated rationality” — the main decisionmaking method used by the people interviewed in the Reason forum. Certainly they sound impressive, but do they make better decisions than does the typical voter? Experience, and now disclosure, suggest not.

Something That I Learned From Reading Blogs

Not only are there many extremely intelligent ordinary people out there, but a lot of famous, mainstream journalists and commentators get by mainly on their rhetorical skill and lack both analytical ability and common sense.

UPDATE: Mitch raised the hair issue in the comments, and I realized that I didn’t mean to restrict what I wrote to mainstream-media people. Andrew Sullivan (not to pick on him but he’s an obvious example) fits the pattern, despite not being a MSM person and not having important hair. He writes beautifully but his analysis of matters economic (deficits bad!) and geopolitical (we’re losing!) is somewhat less acute than is his rhetoric. Some people simply write better than they think. We should always examine arguments carefully, no matter who made them or how satisfying they sound.

The Libertarian Gap

(crossposted on Flit(TM))

The Gap, or more formally the Non-Integrating Gap, is a concept at the core of Dr. Barnett’s The Pentagon’s New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century. But what is the Gap? This question comes to me every time I read a libertarian critic of the concept.

Gap countries are, by definition disconnected from the global rulesets that manage the Core, those states where a disturbingly large proportion of the world wants to get into. I say disturbingly because, all things being equal, there is really no reason for people socially acculturated and biologically specialized to warm climes to make their way in large numbers to nordic nations, but they do. Something pretty special must be attracting them while simultaneously repelling them from their ancient homelands. That something is clear after a bit of investigation, huge waves of horrifying violence interspersed with a daily brutality of individual denigration and lack of the normal rights to live out their lives in control of their own destiny.

Read more

Homeland Terror: What Are the Odds?

Beslan seems to have raised a lot of consciousness (as lefties might put it). Until a few weeks ago most of us didn’t seriously consider the possibility that such an attack could happen here. I think that a lot more people now realize that it could easily happen. Lex is right on all points.

What would happen if it happened? I thought we might not handle it well the first time, and I still think that’s likely to be the case. Matthew Heidt comes to a similar conclusion from a much-better-informed perspective. I agree with Lex and Dave Kopel about the value of armed teachers (and why not parents too), but the PC grip on our educational system is so strong that I suspect many deaths will occur before such common-sense protective measures become accepted. (Links via Instapundit and Hugh Hewitt.)

Read more