The central theme of Professor Sowell's book is the appalling record of intellectuals, especially those of the twentieth century. “Scarcely a mass-murdering dictator of the twentieth century was without his intellectual supporters, not simply in his own country, but also in foreign democracies where people were free to say 'whatever they wished.' Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Hitler all had their admirers and apologists among the intelligentsia in Western democratic nations, despite the fact that these dictators each ended up killing people of their own country on a scale unprecedented by despotic regimes that preceded them.”
However, he has helped me understand the source of the ideology that drives this Administration and its political allies in Congress. He has helped me understand how they could cling to an ideology that has endowed us with unprecedented debt and a web of stifling regulations that prevent us from producing enough wealth to hope that we could ever repay it. He has helped me understand how seemingly intelligent men and women – possibly the most intelligent among us – could ignore the damage they're doing and insist on doing even more.
It's a concept that I've touched on many times in my life and in this blog. Just last Sunday I wrote humorously comparing economists with weather girls. (See Opinion) The weather girls, obviously selected for assets well south of their brains, regularly outperform the economists. In the coming weeks, I will be blogging about my experiences in Vietnam and you'll learn that my closest encounter with real danger was inspired by the complete lack of common sense exhibited by a Harvard graduate. Therein lies the question that has nagged at me so many decades: Why do such intelligent people lack common sense?
In response to that question, Professor Sowell quotes George Orwell who said that “...some ideas are so foolish that only an intellectual could believe them, for no ordinary man could be such a fool.”
If you read Professor Sowell's book you will learn that the schools who are graduating these intellectuals have become like religious institutions wherein intelligentsia believe that their ideas are good and worthy simply because they all share them. They have dropped any requirement to prove the worth or validity of their ideas through empirical evidence. He cites numerous examples as proof of this thesis.
Once you understand this concept it is easy to see how these politicians can incite class warfare for the sake of some obscure concept of fairness. A former Marxist himself, Professor Sowell admits that he too fell victim to the fundamental misconception that “...'labor', the physical handling of the materials and instruments of production, is the real source of wealth.” He surrendered that belief because it is not empirically true.