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« The Dangerous Sleaze Runneth Over | Main | Ruminations - 1may12 (updated++) »

29 April 2012


Russ Steele

I would like to remind your readers that you have posted ten Numeracy Nuggets at SESF if they would like to test their skills and learn something in the process.

Douglas Keachie

Technical comic shot of the day, in a press release announcing the USGS brand new world wide survey of oil and gas, a shot of icebergs off the coast of Greenland, and a subheading noting underseas resources there. That's all we need, iceberg into oil platform, boot to the head!

Russ Steele

Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?

By Robert Nozick at CATO Instutue in 1998.

It is surprising that intellectuals oppose capitalism so. Other groups of comparable socio-economic status do not show the same degree of opposition in the same proportions. Statistically, then, intellectuals are an anomaly.

Not all intellectuals are on the "left." Like other groups, their opinions are spread along a curve. But in their case, the curve is shifted and skewed to the political left.

By intellectuals, I do not mean all people of intelligence or of a certain level of education, but those who, in their vocation, deal with ideas as expressed in words, shaping the word flow others receive. These wordsmiths include poets, novelists, literary critics, newspaper and magazine journalists, and many professors. It does not include those who primarily produce and transmit quantitatively or mathematically formulated information (the numbersmiths) or those working in visual media, painters, sculptors, cameramen. Unlike the wordsmiths, people in these occupations do not disproportionately oppose capitalism. The wordsmiths are concentrated in certain occupational sites: academia, the media, government bureaucracy.

Wordsmith intellectuals fare well in capitalist society; there they have great freedom to formulate, encounter, and propagate new ideas, to read and discuss them. Their occupational skills are in demand, their income much above average. Why then do they disproportionately oppose capitalism? Indeed, some data suggest that the more prosperous and successful the intellectual, the more likely he is to oppose capitalism. This opposition to capitalism is mainly "from the left" but not solely so. Yeats, Eliot, and Pound opposed market society from the right.

The opposition of wordsmith intellectuals to capitalism is a fact of social significance. They shape our ideas and images of society; they state the policy alternatives bureaucracies consider. From treatises to slogans, they give us the sentences to express ourselves. Their opposition matters, especially in a society that depends increasingly upon the explicit formulation and dissemination of information.

We can distinguish two types of explanation for the relatively high proportion of intellectuals in opposition to capitalism. One type finds a factor unique to the anti-capitalist intellectuals. The second type of explanation identifies a factor applying to all intellectuals, a force propelling them toward anti-capitalist views. Whether it pushes any particular intellectual over into anti-capitalism will depend upon the other forces acting upon him. In the aggregate, though, since it makes anti-capitalism more likely for each intellectual, such a factor will produce a larger proportion of anti-capitalist intellectuals. Our explanation will be of this second type. We will identify a factor which tilts intellectuals toward anti-capitalist attitudes but does not guarantee it in any particular case.

You can read the rest of the article HERE.

The essay then goes on to make a plausible case for why this should lead to rejection of capitalism or the free market. As they get left behind by their more quantitatively oriented peers, who begin earning greater material and immaterial rewards, a feeling of injustice sets in among the newly un-advantaged, who cast about for remedies. A political ideology that apportions to the “deserving” what is their “rightful share” then becomes an attractive proposition as a way to right a perceived wrong.

Thanks to Dr Motl for this insight.

Douglas Keachie

Sounds like he is a pretty long winded wordsmith himself.

"We will identify a factor which tilts intellectuals toward anti-capitalist attitudes but does not guarantee it in any particular case."

So get on with it, already....

Ryan Mount

The Austrian vs. the Keynesian

Even Krugman, whether you believe him or not (I do), is pro-capitalist. He even says so, just not the the degree that some would prefer.

I find this exchange fascinating once you get past Mr. Krugman's smugness and Ron Paul's 2000 year fiscal history tour in 15 seconds.

My economic dove friends immediately dismissed this exchange witw snarky comments such as:

"''re living in the world as it was 150 years ago' --pretty good summary of Ron Paul's world view"


"I don't understand why it's always Krugman vs. half-wits instead of Krugman vs. credentialed economists who disagree with him."

Note the ad hominems in both instances from people I considered to be well educated. I did not attempt to engage them else they would turn their ire on me. (it's happened many times in the past)

What a fiscal hawk wants to know, is what what does a dove economy look like? What does a liquidity solution look like? And where does it end? And what does it mean if, let's say, the Dollar isn't the reserve currency anymore. Noble laureate Professor Krugman seemed very uncomfortable with this line of questioning.

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