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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Drifting Elites

The intellectual elites have always lived in their own bubble of ideas, quite apart from the rest of us. That bubble has been drifting away quite rapidly and looks set to continue to do so.

The above graph, courtesy of Charles Murray, shows political attitudes from the General Social Survey of non-Latino whites ages 30–49 in the survey year. What it shows quite clearly is that while most of the country (at least the white part) is mildly trending towards being more conservative, the "intellectual uppers" are heading off the charts on the liberal end (for more details on the chart visit Murray's post).

This ties in well with a recent New York Times column by David Brooks where he whines that, "Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the past year." Perhaps that's because the "educated class" (or "intellectual uppers") have ideas that are so far removed from the reality that the rest of us experience that those ideas simply don't make any sense to us commoners anymore.


erp said...

I recently read (don't remember where) something seen on a t-shirt at the University of Chicago, "Sure it works in practice, but does it work in theory."

PS: Brooks is an idiot.

Susan's Husband said...

I was going to post on that myself. One thing Brooks misses (because he's in the bubble) is, as one would suspect from that chart, all of those idea are socialist ideas, not conservative ones. Every single one is from the left and that Brooks doesn't realize that shows how much reality dysfunction he is suffering.

I thought this post had an interesting take on the subject.


You see, it is not the general public that looks at the views of the "educated class" AKA "intellectuals" and turns away. In fact, it's quite the opposite.

That's because intellectuals gain notoriety either by saying something that no one else is saying and making a case for it or by making a particularly clever argument that disagrees with the generally held wisdom. An "intellectual" who agrees with common sense positions and traditional ways of doing things generally isn't considered an "intellectual" at all. Why is that? Well, how can you be smarter than everyone else if you have the same opinions held by the common man?


I find that quite plausible.

Harry Eagar said...

Where do I find the list of 'ideas'?

Bret said...

Follow the link to the David Brooks article.

Harry Eagar said...

Maybe I'm dense, but I don't see a list of policies there, only something about tea parties.

I have a hard time even knowing what a conservative idea is any more. Reading the Daily Duck group of blogs, you'd get the impression that racism is not a conservative idea. That's a change for me.

Amusingly, Roosevelt ran for president in '32 on a platform that sounded very tea partyish, though I doubt many of today's tea partiers would back a new Roosevelt.

Bret said...

From Brooks article:

"The educated class believes in global warming, so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise. The educated class supports abortion rights, so public opinion is shifting against them. The educated class supports gun control, so opposition to gun control is mounting.

"The story is the same in foreign affairs. The educated class is internationalist, so isolationist sentiment is now at an all-time high, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The educated class believes in multilateral action, so the number of Americans who believe we should “go our own way” has risen sharply. [...]"

erp said...

Harry, racism was never a conservative idea. What ever made you think it was?

Susan's Husband said...

Mr. Eagar;

Have you given up on tracking even your own comments?

"Where do I find the list of 'ideas'?"

followed by

"I don't see a list of policies there"

If you want conservative ideas, you might try reading the Brothers Judd Blog. He has regular posts on the subject.

Harry Eagar said...

Sorry, erp my John Bircher uncles would differ with you. I had met only a single declared conservative who wasn't a racist during the 20th c. They are more common now, I'm pleased to report.

Bret, that's a very small sample of left/right issues. 4 by my count, or 5 if you count objecting to taxes as a policy.

erp said...

Harry, we must travel in very different circles because I've never in 75 years met a John Bircher and if I did, I wouldn't consider him a conservative no matter what he considered himself.

I have met many people who are racists and/or anti-Semites -- they usually go together, but they were all Democrats.

Susan's Husband said...


You mean like Harry Reid?

erp said...

Why yes SH ... and don't forget the first black president who told Teddy Kennedy that not too long ago, Obama would be serving them drinks.

Harry Eagar said...

Well, erp, they were all Democrats back in the '50s and '60s, but they became Republicans when Nixon invited them in.

My father was an antifascist, antiracist but otherwise conservative; he supported Taft in '52. I never met a full-on liberal until I was 17 years old. And I never met an antiracist (other than my father; my mother was a non-racist but unlike dad, she didn't make an issue of it) until then, either.

Apparently you know of at least one Bircher: her

Harry Eagar said...

Well, something odd. Blogger won't accept href http, but will accept www. but the link is then busted.

Anyhow, it was to a picture of Wasilla Councilwoman S. Palin at her desk reading the John Birch Society magazine.

erp said...

Harry, yikes. This is pretty lame reply.

I've never met Palin, nor have I even seen her on television. I did buy her book, but only to donate to the library and to send her numbers up.

It's unlikely, I'd support her for president, but I can't rule it our entirely depending on developments.

BTW - I've read about every left wing publication out there, including the Daily Worker, but that doesn't mean I'm a member of the CPUSA or even a pinko or a commiesymp.

erp said...

Harry, I forgot. Nixon was a lefty as you no doubt know, so the fact that other lefties felt comfortable with him has nothing to do with us conservatives.

Obama reminds me very much of Nixon and if Nixon had the media hero worship Obama gets, would have tried to take over the country in exactly the same way.

Harry Eagar said...

Come on. David decides liberals are fascists based on what Pat Buchanan says, and you want to make Nixon a liberal, too?

Actually, if you look at the Palin photo (which I found at littlegreenfootballs), she isn't reading the Birch magazine but posing with it for a photograph.

It looks as if it's in a city council communications binder, suggesting not necessarily that she was a subscriber but that someone in Wasilla had sent it in for consideration of something or other. Which appears to demonstrate that there were Birchers in Wasilla.

No suprise there.

However, Palin has played footsie with the JBS in other forums.

erp said...


1. I didn't decide that Nixon was a socialist, he did.

2. I doubt David bases his politics on Buchanan, who in case you're wondering, is no conservative either.

3. I don't know or care if the photo of Palin looking at the Bircher magazine is real or photoshopped.

4. I also don't know or care whether it is in a Wasilla city council communications binder.

5. Palin wrote* a book about herself. You should read it to find out if she's a Bircher.

6. LGF has lost all credibility -- Charles gone full Andrew Sullivan, so I anything on his blog needs to be taken with a large dose of salt.

*with a collaborator

Susan's Husband said...

I think the lamest bit is that Mr. Eagar expects us to take his vies seriously based on his very personal experience prior to age 17. As far as I can tell that is his only stated basis for believing that racism is a conservative idea. That's parochialism bordering on solipsism.

Harry Eagar said...

I dunno why you think that my personal experience is the only evidence available on the subject.

Now that my personal acquaintance has expanded to include more than conservatives, I have met racists of all different political outlooks. However, the idea that almost all Southerners were conservative and also almost all Southerners were racists seems not to need a great deal of belaboring.

Does anybody think different? Except, erp, who is so busy reading rightwingers out of the conservative movement that the red states will be reduced to just New Hampshire and Utah before long.

erp said...

Harry, you still haven't refined right wingers.

Who are they?

Do you consider anybody not a member of the CPUSA, a right winger?

Where do you draw the line?

Do you still include Stalin and all the non-Soviet affiliated dictators around the world as right wingers?

Susan's Husband said...

"I dunno why you think that my personal experience is the only evidence available on the subject."

It might be becauseI don't think that. I read your comments to indicate that you believe that. I will re-iterate that you claimed racism as a conservative and provided only your personal history up to age 17 as evidence. But based on this, I must have misinterpreted you once again. Was the correct interpretation that you feel no need to provide any evidence at all for the claim, and the "never met a non-racist conservative" simply irrelevant fluff?

"the idea that almost all Southerners were conservative and also almost all Southerners were racists seems not to need a great deal of belaboring.

Does anybody think different?"

Yes. I think both claims are bogus assertions.

Bret said...

There're all sorts of conservatives, all sorts of liberals, all levels of racism, etc.

There's no reason why either conservative of liberal ideology would be inherently racist. If certain groups have happened to be both conservative (or liberal) and racist, it's more coincidence than anything else.

Harry Eagar said...

'There's no reason why either conservative of liberal ideology would be inherently racist.'

True, and I can think of some other societies that have been conservative and non-racist. The Roman Catholic church, for example, which had a non-racist ideology (at the top, anyway); and I don't think even erp will try to read the church of Pius IX as liberal.

But in America, and especially in the South, conservatism and racism were Siamese twins. Those IMPEACH EARL WARREN billboards were not the work of concerned constitutional scholars.

erp said...

Harry, weren't those Catholic priests with the revolutionaries in South America and didn't the current Pope speak out against capitalism just a few weeks ago?

erp said...

Harry, Is this papal initiative left wing enough for ya?

Harry Eagar said...

The church has evolved, erp.

In the time of Pius IX, its racial views were the most unconservative there were, but all its other views were ultraconservative. 'the most obscurantist regime in Europe,' A.J.P. Taylor called it.

The Catholic Church has never liked capitalism, although its reasons for disliking it have changed.

erp said...

Harry, I take it by unconservative racial views, you mean virulent anti-black and/or anti-Semitiism?

The Catholic Church has never liked capitalism, although its reasons for disliking it have changed.

Au contraire.

The Catholic Church was and is anti-capitalist for the same reason that any person or group who wishes complete control of others is anti-capitalist.

Independent, successful people are less likely to kowtow to those on high whether they be church leaders or government leaders.

Hey Skipper said...

Independent, successful people are less likely to kowtow to those on high whether they be church leaders or government leaders.

Or intellectuals.

Harry Eagar said...

erp, the Catholic Church was, at least in the views of its hierarchy, officially unconcerned with race. It's complicated, since the objections to the Jews were not based on their race as such (although see Henry Kamen, 'The Spanish Inquisition' for a nuanced view of how that worked in practice in favor of 'Old Christians'). Palestinian Christians, with exactly the same genetic heritage, were not discriminated against.

As for skin color, church doctrine was inclusive although church promotions were heavily Italian.

At the prole level, Catholics, if from northwestern Europe, were as racist as they come, as the riots in Southie in the '70s demonstrated.

Nevertheless, in the time of Pius IX, the church's racial views were anything but conservative as matched against the secular views of the society.

Hey Skipper said...


Thanks for "The Conflict of Visions" recommendation, which just happens to inform this thread.

His writing and erudition are amazing enough on their own.

But beyond that, if the reader knew nothing about Sowell, it would be nearly impossible to tell which side he favored. The book is a case study in objective reporting.

Bret said...

It is amazing how Sowell keeps his opinion to himself for that book. I did think I could tell that he was gritting his teeth when he wrote a couple of sections, but like you said, if I didn't know his background, I wouldn't've noticed.

I'm glad you enjoyed it. I certainly did. He has a new book out "Intellectuals and Society" which I haven't read yet. It apparently would've informed this post even more than "Conflict of Visions".