The Counter-revolution of Science: Studies on the Abuse of Reason by F.A. Hayek. He shows how some thinkers demonstrated perhaps the ultimate example of what Richard Feynman called fragile knowledge. In Intellectuals by Paul Johnson he makes the point:
By "intellectual", Johnson means scientists or artists who go well beyond their abilities and try to design new codes of behavior, new systems of government and new moral rules for the humankind. That is, people who, just because they are good at doing something, think they get the moral right (and duty) to tell the rest of the world how to conduct their affairs.In Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault Stephen Hicks traces these same ideas that having failed in the real world and have devolved into the philosophical deadend of Postmodernism. But they still won't die.
If this is not enough of a fisking of intellectuals, I came across a book titled Common Genius:
During the past half-century, the scholars and academics, descendants of those disparaged by Machiavelli, have failed abysmally to advance the lot of the poverty-stricken people of the Third World. They have relied mostly on handing out charity, much as they might give crumbs to beggars. And, being scholars, they have held conferences, written monographs, and given talks, none of which has helped one whit. One of the most damning records in intellectual history is this sixty-year failure to remedy the ongoing human misery in much of the world. So we must forget for a moment the abstract theories and ideologies that have failed, and seek the effectual truth. If economic history is to serve some practical purpose it must identify the fundamental lesson that has lain hidden beneath the jumble of history and academic jargon. Most of the academics who study and write about history have never been able to accept the truth, although it has always been there before their unbelieving eyes.No grand designs and radical remakes of society please. Incremental improvement will do.
A major theme of these pages is that all historical progress has bubbled up from the bottom—from the actions of common men and women. A secondary theme is that most of history's evils have flowed from the top—from the intelligentsia, organized groups, and soft-science experts who arise in mature societies and are the pied pipers of their decline. In the final chapters, we will examine how the decline of free societies has often resulted from the transfer of authority and leadership from those who built the society to a destructive intelligentsia who arrive after the heavy lifting is done. The arrival of the intellectuals also marks the time when knowledge and decision-making appears to enter a steep decline. The notion that intellectuals are wise and should be listened to is a persistent, recurring, and insidious error that has doomed most past civilizations.
I do not mean to demean all people of intellect—most of them are great assets to their communities. However, there is reason to beware those with little practical experience in any field, who parade their "expertise" before the public, and operate primarily as critics rather than participants.
Any history of mankind and its successes must begin at the beginning; and in the beginning, there were no intellectuals. However, there were people struggling to exist and improve their lot in life, and mankind made magnificent strides, advancing from harsh and primitive tribal and nomadic life to complex and prosperous civilizations. The growing influence of intellectuals in the relatively recent past has served only to confuse, divert, and subvert that progress.
Political and religious freedom and economic opportunity have been exceedingly rare during these millennia. Since the first stirrings of civilized society in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley and the days of King Solomon, freedom and opportunity were only a dream, out of reach of the common man. Instead, his lot was to labor under tyranny and oppression that were ever present and that in much of the world still linger malevolently. This dream of freedom, the dream that became reality in America and has endured to this day, is borne of the uniquely human characteristics of man—his ability to reason, his natural curiosity, his instinct to innovate, his independence of spirit. These qualities, sometimes summed up as "free will," distinguish man from the beasts, and they set his destiny. Only one thing has stood in his way: the lust of other men to rule and appropriate for themselves all the good things in life.
Throughout history, such leaders have made life as difficult as possible for the bulk of humanity. The expression of man's genius had to be fought for, and opportunities for its release have been restricted to a few brief moments and places in time. Such moments were the "accidents" of history, but there was nothing accidental about what subsequently happened. The achievements were never pre-ordained but arose from a long-term struggle by ordinary people to advance, one step at a time, over thousands of years. But wherever individual men and women got even a little such opportunity, freedom and prosperity followed. They built it piece by piece, not by trying to apply utopian theories, but by solving one problem at a time and moving ever forward.
Now, this is a revolutionary idea and perhaps in a perverse way, will delight most of the average Joes out there who are pestered by those "beautiful people" who want to tell them what to do and how to do it. I know this discovery has emboldened me to set forth this hypothesis; a hypothesis passed on to me by my wife's uncle, a simple Polish immigrant named Harry Radzewicz. I suspect many of the best and brightest will scoff at my message, saying that I simplify too much, that things are much more complex than I can comprehend. But that is okay with me, for as observed earlier, it is better to seek the "effectual truth" than to build vast conceptual edifices or perpetuate grandiose theories that don't work.
An advantage of the Radzewicz Formula is its ability to simplify a complex question so that it is easily understood. It was explained to me as follows: "History's progress," I was told, "can actually be reduced to a simple equation. It's easy, like simple algebra, or Polish notation." He put it on paper: CM + S - O = EF
"CM, the common man, with Security, minus Oppression, equals Economic Freedom, and that leads to Prosperity. It also subsequently leads to Political Freedom."
And there it was—neat and simple. A fundamental principle missed by all the intellectuals. Deliberately missed, perhaps, because there is no "I" in the formula—intellectuals have never had anything to do with progress.
Update: I think this boils it down rather nicely:
Indeed, one could, without too much effort, extend the Long War analogy back to the end of the 18th Century and argue that the real struggle is between various rational egalitarianisms growing out of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution vs. the faith-based republicanism of the Anglosphere.Update 2 [12/08/2007]: Fixed the link to "Common Genuis"