Dr. Thomas Sowell: FDR, The New Deal & Obama
Posted by iusbvision on September 26, 2009
Dr. Sowell is perhaps the greatest living economist.
Often times when presidents surround themselves with highly intelligent people, they end up with brilliant rationalizations for failure. – Dr. Thomas Sowell
More on the lefts revisionist New deal history HERE. Non farm unemployment never dropped below 20% during the New deal.
Dr. Sowell has a new column on this very subject and Michael van der Galien has a nice commentary on it at PoliGazette:
Although that’s certainly true (and dangerous), Sowell explains that the real problem runs even deeper: “Such people have been told all their lives how brilliant they are, until finally they feel forced to admit it, with all due modesty. But they not only tend to over-estimate their own brilliance, more fundamentally they tend to over-estimate how important brilliance itself is when dealing with real world problems.”
You see, Sowell explains, not all things can be understood by ‘intelligence’ alone. Experience is just as and often even more important. As Sowell puts it: “Many crucial things in life are learned from experience, rather than from clever thoughts or clever words.”
The main weakness of those who consider themselves to be extremely intelligent if not brilliant is that they overrate intelligence and reason and undervalue traditions, culture and experience. For them only intelligence matters. There is no limit to what government can do as long as they are in charge of it.
History has taught us that there are limits and that brilliant men often end up destroying the good in a vain pursuit of the perfect.
It’s progressivism’s main weakness; it is inherently unrealistic – no matter how ‘brilliant’ its adherents may believe themselves to be.
Bravo Michael! Well said. Michael and I are of one mind on this issue and I feel that my experience with leftist academia allows me the opportunity to expand on this a little more.
The Virtue of the Collectivist vs. the Wisdom of the Individualist
The left believes that society needs to be liberated from the mysticism and ancient thinking of the past. They believe that their virtue and their normative values combined with their new thinking is what is needed to lead the rest of society to a utopia, or at least to something close to perfection. All society has to do in exchange is cooperate with their ideas.
For the traditionalist or individualist, they realize that man is flawed and cannot be perfected, so they look at the wisdom, philosophy and experiences of the past to see what worked. They seek to conserve such knowledge and good practices and implement the best of them, while accepting that it will not be perfect and “very good” is the best that can ever be hoped for.
To the leftist or collectivist the wisdom of the past IS the problem, especially the philosophy that is included with Western religion. They see it as nothing but backwards mysticism that is utterly useless. Any argument against the leftist point of view often generates a vitriolic reaction, as they see it as an attack on virtue itself. In such an argument from the traditionalist, the reality is that it is not an attack on virtue, but rather an attack on the leftist’s normative ideas. It is narcissism at its core (after all we all want equality of result, DON’T YOU? Aren’t you down with the struggle?).
Since the left sees arguments from traditionalists as an attack on virtue itself, they see traditionalists as evil and feel perfectly justified in attacking them, trying to silence them, and engage in double standards in dealing with them.
In more cases than one might suspect the leftist will engage in various forms and degrees of brutality which is totally justified in their minds as virtuous. One just needs to explore the case files of the Foundation for Individual rights in Education and the Alliance Defense Fund (2) to see countless examples where leftist academics and administrators brazenly violated the rights of traditionalist students and teachers.
Have you ever wondered why leftist academics so often gloss over or play apologetics for human catastrophes that have resulted from collectivist or centrally controlled regimes? Well now you know. To them, Castro and Hugo Chavez are just trying to live up to their virtue.
How Academia Went Wrong
With the academic left, it starts with a liberal arts education that is a pop culture based education that is very heavy on Marxist theory, rather than a classic liberal arts education that is based on Aristotle, Socrates, St. Thomas Aquinas, Cicero, Plato, Locke, Bacon, Scholasticism etc. For many, if not most American universities the premises of the far left are often presented as the academic truth.
These academics pat each other on the back and tell each other how brilliant they are….and after all it MUST be true because all of these PhD. types tell you so. Invariably this environment brings you to a point where you start to believe it. You internalize it and eventually you stop challenging your own assumptions. The end result is an atrophied thinking process.
I am a non-traditional student at a state university finishing my first degree. I have debated professors on topics within their own field of study and defeated them. This should not happen and the simple truth is that in most cases out thinking them was not difficult. It is not that I am so brilliant, rather it is that a classic liberal arts based general education teaches you how to think ethically, logically and with a sense of introspective. Without it even the most educated among us will use their education and intellect to satisfy positions that are often a result of emotional attachments. They simply are not trained thinkers and as a result they often do not apply their knowledge well.
The Hollywood screenwriter and author Andrew Klavan wrote two very entertaining short video’s explaining this very concept of leftist virtue and ‘moral authority’.
Why are Conservatives So Mean?
Night of the Living Government
The Brainy Bunch By Dr. Thomas Sowell
September 29, 2009
Many people, including some conservatives, have been very impressed with how brainy the president and his advisers are. But that is not quite as reassuring as it might seem.
It was, after all, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s brilliant “brains trust” advisers whose policies are now increasingly recognized as having prolonged the Great Depression of the 1930s, while claiming credit for ending it. The Great Depression ended only when the Second World War put an end to many New Deal policies.
FDR himself said that “Dr. New Deal” had been replaced by “Dr. Win-the-War.” But those today who are for big spending like to credit wartime big spending for bringing the Great Depression to an end. They never ask the question as to why previous depressions had always ended on their own, much faster than the one under FDR, and without government intervention or massive government spending.
Brainy folks were also present in Lyndon Johnson’s administration, especially in the Pentagon, where Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s brilliant “whiz kids” tried to micro-manage the Vietnam war, with disastrous results.
There is usually only a limited amount of damage that can be done by dull or stupid people. For creating a truly monumental disaster, you need people with high IQs.
Such people have been told all their lives how brilliant they are, until finally they feel forced to admit it, with all due modesty. But they not only tend to over-estimate their own brilliance, more fundamentally they tend to over-estimate how important brilliance itself is when dealing with real world problems.
Many crucial things in life are learned from experience, rather than from clever thoughts or clever words. Indeed, a gift for the clever phrasing so much admired by the media can be a fatal talent, especially for someone chosen to lead a government.
Make no mistake about it, Adolf Hitler was brilliant. His underlying beliefs may have been half-baked and his hatreds overwhelming, but he was a genius when it came to carrying out his plans politically, based on those beliefs and hatreds.
Starting from a position of Germany’s military weakness in the early 1930s, Hitler not only built up Germany’s war-making potential, he did so in ways that minimized the danger that his potential victims would match his military build-up with their own. He said whatever soothing words they wanted to hear that would spare them the cost of military deterrence and the pain of contemplating another war.
He played some of the most highly educated people of his time for fools– not only foreign political leaders but also members of the intelligentsia. The editor of the Times of London filtered out reports that his own foreign correspondents in Germany sent him about the evils and dangers of the Nazis. In the United States, W.E.B. Du Bois – with a Ph.D. from Harvard – said that dictatorship in Germany was “absolutely necessary to get the state in order.”
In an age when facts seem to carry less weight than the visions of brilliant and charismatic leaders, it is more important than ever to look at the actual track records of those brilliant and charismatic leaders. After all, Hitler led Germany into military catastrophe and left much of the country in ruins.
Even in a country which suffered none of the wartime destruction that others suffered in the 20th century, Argentina began that century as one of the 10 richest nations in the world – ahead of France and Germany – and ended it as such an economic disaster that no one would even compare it to France or Germany.
Politically brilliant and charismatic leaders, promoting reckless government spending – of whom Juan Peron was the most prominent, but by no means alone – managed to create an economic disaster in a country with an abundance of natural resources and a country that was spared the stresses that wars inflicted on other nations in the 20th century.
Someone recently pointed out how much Barack Obama’s style and strategies resemble those of Latin American charismatic despots– the takeover of industries by demagogues who never ran a business, the rousing rhetoric of resentment addressed to the masses and the personal cult of the leader promoted by the media. But do we want to become the world’s largest banana republic?