October 11, 2018

THE ANGLOSPHERIC INSIGHT:

Paul Johnson on Why We Should "Beware Intellectuals": From his countless books documenting centuries of history to his masterful ability to challenge the pseudo-intellectual left, Paul Johnson is worthy of high praise and celebration. (Lawrence W. Reed  , 10/09/18, FEE)

Johnson's perspective is often described as "conservative," but I find his work simply good, factual reporting of history, unvarnished by ideology. He doesn't cherry-pick the evidence to support a preconception, let alone a misconception. Conventional wisdom (which is to say, "left-leaning") suggests you're "mainstream" and "objective" if you claim with the flimsiest of documentation that Franklin Roosevelt saved America from the Great Depression and that you're a "conservative ideologue" if you just report the facts. Johnson reports the facts, so he gets the label his "progressive" critics hope will deter readers rather than enlighten them.

In his early days, Johnson's political outlook was, by his own admission, leftist or "progressive." But this is a man who not only writes history, he learns from it. The more Johnson learned, the less credible the progressive perspective was. By the mid-1970s, he was a cogent critic of the Left and its union allies, who were bringing Britain to its knees. He later became a friend, advisor, and speechwriter to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

My favorite of the Johnson books I've read is unquestionably his 1989 classic, Intellectuals. It's an insightful examination of the personalities and behavior of more than a dozen left-leaning thinkers--the super-pontificating, state-worshiping types that are full of prescriptions for the rest of us. Among the better-known of them are Rousseau, Marx, and Sartre; the less well-known include Bertolt Brecht, Victor Gollancz, and Lillian Helman.

Johnson is himself a consummate intellectual, the honest and scholarly kind committed to truth for the sake of it--unlike the charlatans, hypocrites, and monsters he writes about. He proves that you can be an intellectual without falling hopelessly in love with yourself, tossing self-awareness to the wind, or fancying yourself God's gift to a stupid humanity in need of your wisdom. Of the more delusional ones, he offers a cogent insight:

What conclusions should be drawn? Readers will judge for themselves. But I think I detect today a certain public skepticism when intellectuals stand up to preach to us, a growing tendency among ordinary people to dispute the right of academics, writers and philosophers, eminent though they may be, to tell us how to behave and conduct our affairs. The belief seems to be spreading that intellectuals are no wiser as mentors, or worthier as exemplars, than the witch doctors or priests of old. I share that skepticism. A dozen people picked at random on the street are at least as likely to offer sensible views on moral and political matters as a cross-section of the intelligentsia. But I would go further. One of the principal lessons of our tragic century, which has seen so many millions of innocent lives sacrificed in schemes to improve the lot of humanity, is--beware intellectuals. Not merely should they be kept away from the levers of power, they should also be objects of particular suspicion when they seek to offer collective advice.


History is conservative.


Posted by at October 11, 2018 4:02 AM

  

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