On Anti-Intellectualism…

Many conservatives, myself included, would probably be accused of anti-intellectualism because we, like William F. Buckley, “would rather be governed by the first 300 names in the Boston telephone book than by the faculty of Harvard University”.

However, I believe the term “anti-intellectualism” is a misnomer. Conservatives aren’t hostile to intellectuals per se, many of us simply don’t place them on a pedestal like many other people do. In other words, we’re of the belief that an Ivy League professor isn’t necessarily any more qualified than a garbage man or waitress to comment on issues that are outside of their area of expertise.

Now, why do I say that?

Because we live in an age of very specialized knowledge.

Take an über-genius who may be the world’s foremost expert on chemistry. That same person may very well be unable to fix his own car, answer basic questions about politics, or even program his own VCR.

Put another way, if you had to pick a manager for your Burger King Franchise that you just bought, who do you think would be the better choice: a Harvard business professor with a 180 IQ & 20 years of teaching experience or a guy who dropped out of high school in the 8th grade, but who also ran the most successful WalMart in his state for 3 years? See, I’d take the drop out in a heartbeat because he has proven himself in the real world, whereas the professor hasn’t.

You may think that’s an insult to college professors, but it’s not. It’s just an acknowledgement that teaching a bunch of 18 year old students and debating with other college professors isn’t the same thing as actually applying your knowledge in a real world situation, with employees, real customers, and money on the line every day. Some professors and/or intellectuals can make that transition from the world of theory and some can’t. That’s just how human beings are.

This is where the so-called “anti-intellectualism” comes in, not only in business, but in politics. Dropping a bunch of 25 cent words into every conversation, spending your afternoons reading Sartre, or having a couple of PhDs doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a great leader, worthy of someone’s vote, or even someone who’s necessarily worth paying much attention to on most matters.

Heck, being an “intellectual” can even be a big disadvantage if you start believing your own hype, hole up in an “ivy tower”, and think that because you know more than everyone else in your own specialized field, that you’re just as competent on every other subject. That sort of intellectual arrogance, which isn’t the least bit unusual by the way, can lead to people who are geniuses buying into ridiculous theories that any average person could figure out won’t work — like Communism for example =D.

So accuse conservatives of “anti-intellectualism” if you like, but I’d argue that if that word fits, it’s only because we’ve had an opportunity to weigh the merits of comments made by many “intellectuals” on a variety of issues and have found them to be wanting…

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