The Smart People Crowd
December 19, 2009, 4:27 pm
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An aspect of our political landscape that goes underreported is the role and influence of the faction I have taken to calling ‘Smart People’.

Even if you don’t know what I mean by that, you probably already instinctively know who I’m talking about. Smart People are the people for whom the most important thing of all is that politicians, leaders, bureaucrats, celebrities, etc. – basically anyone given a prominent public role in society – all be Smart. In addition, Smart People think that all those Smart People must be listened to and obeyed on every aspect of life, big and small, without constraint; in particular, listened to/obeyed by anyone who is not Smart. The driving motive behind how Smart People think and vote is to make sure that Smart People are in power, are respected, are given prominent and honorable roles in society, and have no constraints or limits on putting their Smart ideas into practice.

If Smart were a race, of course, then the ‘Smart People’ faction would just be another run of the mill nationalist-supremacist party. But Smart is not a race, it’s a…well what is it?

The odd thing about Smart People is that they all seem to know who they are. They recognize each other, instinctively. Actually, usually even non-Smart People (like me) can recognize them. The odder thing about the Smart People faction is that objectively they’re not always all that smart (although certainly some of them are), and there are some very smart people who don’t belong to it.

Barack Obama, for example, has obviously been crowned a Smart Person virtually from the moment he entered the national scene. Now, there is zero (0) evidence i can see that Barack Obama is all that smart, at least not any more so than tens of millions of other folks. But he is definitely a Smart Person. Even I can see that. Just look at how he…um…talks in soft tones while wearing a suit, raising his eyebrows in concerned ways, and being skinny (?). Well okay, it’s not clear how or why I or anyone else knows or thinks that he’s Smart, what is clear is that we just do.

Another example came in the 2004 Bush v. Kerry campaign. Everyone, including Kerry, knows that Kerry was the Smart Person candidate and that Bush was a Dummy. So dumb! Not like Kerry. Lanky, graying, concerned-eyebrow, pronouncing-Genghis-like-“Jenjis” John Kerry. So Smart! Obviously, the Smart People all wanted Kerry to win on account of how Smart Kerry was. But again, objectively, there is zero evidence that John Kerry is one whit smarter than George W. Bush. None. In fact if anything there may be evidence to the contrary. But again, it’s clear that Kerry is ‘Smarter’ than Bush, even today, and again, even I can see that.

This leads naturally to discussion of another Smart People obsession, which is that they can’t stand Dumb People. Nothing offends a Smart Person more than a Dumb Person being in any sort of position of power, prominence, happiness, comfort, or respect. The Smart Person nation went on an eight-year hissy fit about how Dumb George W. Bush was. Books were written about it, plays were performed about it, double albums were released about it, benefit concerts were given about it, people launched into deep depressions about it. There are probably at least some Smart People who expended 90% of their waking moments from 2000-08 having little more than variations and permutations of the single thought ‘George W. Bush is Dumb’ in their head. (And isn’t that oh so Smart to be fixated on that single idea for eight years? Sure seems Smart to me.)

And of course, this Dumbness obsession has recently been fully transferred to Sarah Palin. Indeed an accurate test for whether you’re in the presence of a Smart Person is to say the word “Palin”, step back, and see what happens. If that person says something normal like “Huh?”, “You mean Sarah Palin?”, or “What about her?”, that person may be normal or even Dumb. But if the person throws a hissy fit and starts talking about how Dumb Sarah Palin is, you know then and there that you’re talking to a Very Smart Person.

Once again, there is a strange disconnect because actual, genuine smartness and this Smartness thing we now have. Which is not to say they are opposites or even contradictory. Some Smart People are indeed genuinely smart people. There’s no doubt that Paul Krugman is smart, for example. There is overlap between smartness and Smartness, to be sure. But they are not the same.

Actually, a large contingent of Smart People consists of the very dumb people who merely want to latch onto Smart People so that they, too, can be considered Smart. Consider the Dixie Chicks sounding off about Iraq, or Sean Penn writing travelogue pieces from this or that third-world dictatorship. These are not smart people. But they have clearly figured out that by echoing the opinions of Smart People, they too can easily join their ranks – get articles about how ‘politically active’ and ‘outspoken’ they are. Articles that are not written about Dumb People.

This ease with which someone, however dumb, can sign up for being Smart and advertising their Smartness to others may also explain the sort of issue that Smart People are attracted to. Smart People are attracted to Smart issues like Global Warming/Climate Change. It’s very very Smart (even if it’s not that smart) to be concerned to an almost hysterical degree about the prospect of runaway Global Warming and oceans rising by twenty feet. Yes, that is so Smart. This issue has it all: by deciding to believe in it, without even looking at the evidence or reading anything yourself thus with very little in the way of upfront costs/investment, you instantly get to be on the side of Scientists (who are Smart), and Al Gore (who is Smart), and you get to make fun of Dumb people who are Anti-Science. And again, making fun of Dumb people is one of Smart Peoples’ favorite activities. It is extremely Smart.

Climate Change also illustrates the Smart Peoples’ fondness for arguing in favor of the autocratic, near-dictatorial control over everyone elses’ lives (of Smart People). To a Smart Person, the concept that there can or should be limits on the sorts of things that Smart People in power should be able to do, regulate, decide, and dictate, would make no sense. Smart People are annoyed by the Constitution, for example (if they even think about it at all). Mention the Constitution to a Smart Person, suggest that it restricts government power to do this or that, and you’ll get blank stares (if they don’t just start talking about how Dumb you are for saying it). Sure, they’ll agree that the Constitution restricts the power of Dumb people in government, like George W. Bush, but we’ve got a Smart government now – so what’s the Constitution got to do with anything? They’ve got Smart stuff to do, like nationalize health care, bypass Congress to sign climate treaties, and set up international taxation so Americans’ money can be taken from them and sent overseas. All of that is very Smart stuff to do. What’s the Constitution got to do with any of it?

I have only scratched the surface here because I must admit: I don’t really feel like I have a handle on the whole Smart People phenomenon myself. I don’t understand where it came from, I don’t understand why it persists, and I can’t even really define it. The Smart People faction has an ineffable, liquid quality about it; every time I think I begin to understand it, it slips through my fingers. Clearly it shares some of the properties of a high school clique – a continuation of “the In Crowd”. It’s true that sometimes those who are in the In Crowd are there because they are genuinely better-looking and richer and more charismatic; but sometimes, as with Smart People, to a large extent the only thing that objectively separates the In Crowd from those who are ‘uncool’ is that: the In Crowd can recognize each other and knows who they are and knows that they are cool – and they know that the ‘uncool’ aren’t them.

And the one thing that Smart People know for sure is that anyone who doesn’t agree with them is Dumb. In the final analysis this, above all else, may be the defining property of being Smart.

53 Comments so far
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Great read, thanks!

Comment by anoukange

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This is something that has deeply troubled me for quite some time now: the idea that if you are on the left, you are Smart but if you are conservative, you are Dumb.

I marvel at how I can have four degrees but because I did not attend one of the top 30 schools in the nation AND did not obtain a J.D. or MBA or, most of all, because I’m a conservative, I am still Dumb. Friends and acquaintances of mine who are on the left and attended the “right” schools and achieved the “correct” degrees act as if they have some special insight in all things worthy of discussion. It does NOT matter whether or not they have professional experience in a particular area: they are SMART and have the requisite credentials.

I recently told a friend of mine who voted for Obama how disgusted I was that Obama was automatically deemed “Smart” while Bush, who also attended the proper school and got the correct degree but because he was not a leftist, was deemed to be “Dumb”. No response. I then told her that I could spend the rest of my life completing degree after degree but in the eyes of the “Smart” (read “Leftist”) people, my education would NEVER equate with just one degree a leftist achieves at the proper schools. Did she deny it? No. She just gave me a sympathetic look. She knows I’m right.

These people KNOW that they are elitists and are interested in limiting power to their own. And that’s fine – that is the way of politics. But I will never believe that they “truly care” about the little person ever again. They don’t. They view the rest of us as pawns, as play things upon whom their ideas are to be tried. We are just supposed to be good, quiet little subjects and believe that they have our best interests in mind. And really, who are we to question them? They are the Smart ones, right?

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Boy, I wish I’d encountered this post when you wrote it. This has long been a pet topic of mine — the left’s fixation on intellect.

The dynamic is pretty easy to figure out: It’s a product of the basic leftist worldview that sees society as something to be managed. In practice, it goes back to the progressive movement a century ago, with its emphasis on social engineering and top-down governance, which sought to apply the managerial system of industry to government. When those are your inclinations, then yeah — you naturally will come to prioritize brains above all else. After all, if something needs to be “run,” then it needs smart people up there doing it.

It’s the antithesis of a worldview that upholds individualism and liberty above all else. And it’s the reason that leftists get so caught up in all the smart/dumb stuff. To them, it’s important that a president be especially smart, because he’s getting elected to “run the country.” Where they get tripped up with conservatives and libertarians is that we are not seeking the same result. We decline to put any big emphasis on brains NOT because we’re stupid, but because our goals don’t involve brainy stuff. We’re not picking someone to run our lives, to engineer society, etc. If our president happens to be a genius, cool. But it’s not some prerequisite.

Comment by D. Rew

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I linked to it here – GREAT post.

Comment by Linda F

Thanks Linda!

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the responses this post has recieved, in part because I’m not sure I fully expressed all the ideas very well. But this just challenges me to try to express it more successfully in the future.

Thanks again,

Comment by Sonic Charmer

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The hell of it is that we really shouldn’t elect persons of genuinely high intelligence to office. We’re far too likely to think that the rules that apply to others don’t apply to us. Failing that, we’ll try to finesse our way around them…and succeed far too often.

Far better to elect persons of sound character who can be trusted to understand the limits on their ex officio authority and to remain within it. The alternative is the sort of politics and governance we suffer today.

Comment by Francis W. Porretto


I do share your suspicion of high intelligence in high office. Or at least, I seem to discount it as a qualification far more than does the average person. But as you point out, this disdain for the elevation of ‘intelligence’ follows from (and, perhaps, only from) a desire for governance that respects social-compact limits and has a healthy view of its own (lack of) omniscience and omnipotence. Not everyone shares that desire.

Indeed, if instead one’s guiding desire is simply for a leadership and governance that unfailingly exemplifies and solidifies an intelligence-based status game, then it makes perfect sense to always cheer for the Smart and despise the Dumb.

Comment by Sonic Charmer

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When I was on a medical malpractice court case jury a social science professor on our jury said,
” This witnes must be telling the truth. He has had two hundred peer reviewed papers published.”
I bet him that I could refute this so called casual link between education/IQ and right behaivour with two words. He laughed. I said, “Nazi Doctors.”
The cream of Euoropean ‘civilization’ who listened to Wagner while they did their work in The Concentration Camps.

There is NO evidence that smart and moral are related.
If fact most of the horrors of the last century were initiated, planned, and executed by the ‘smart’.

Comment by David A. Fauman

Very fun. The lefties have pushed a variation on this meme since the start. All that mythologizing about how intellectual and smart Marxism was and such… and that if you would just sign on the dotted line to become one and join the click, you too would be a smart intellectual… presto.

Comment by Thomass

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You have hit on one of my favorite topics. I call them the Arts & Humanities Tribe – emphasis on tribe because of the primitive, exclusionary aspect you point out. I have a couple of dozen posts under “Cultural Tribes” on my sidebar.

I grew up among those mokes, and was one for far too long. They have trust cues and sign/countersigns as much as any race or ethnic group, and their social enforcement of group norms can be brutal.

Comment by Assistant Village Idiot's wife

Hmm. My wife had signed in while I wasn’t looking…

Comment by Assistant Village Idiot's

Hmm, what else do you suppose she is she up to when you aren’t looking? Keep looking!

Comment by Dan D

My favorite example of this idiocy is quite old: back in 1952, Adlai Stevenson was the “smart” candidate running against “dumb” Dwight Eisenhower. That’s right, the mastermind of the Normandy Invasion was supposedly less intelligent than a one-term governor of Illinois.

Comment by Trimegistus

Smart = glib? These were mostly people who aced the old SAT analogy questions, but couldn’t get through Calculus 2.

Comment by Mitch

Anybody else notice that those “Smart” people studied subjects where opinions rather than facts prevail? Law is, after all, nothing but the study of opinions handed down by judges. Poli Sci, Economics, Lit – all opinions. The primary difficulty as I see it is that there are no wrong answers in any of these fields, and so no responsibility.

Comment by JC

Guess all that math I took getting my Economics degrees were just opinions of quantitative methods, eh JC?

BTW, I’m a conservative.

Comment by Master Ash

I’d call them the “Smug” or “Snob” people, not the “Smart” people. Far better correlation to the Progressive politics. And, regrettably showing that the impulse to aristocratic pretensions has managed to build up within the generations since 1776.

Comment by Dee G

I am an engineer. My wife is an engineer. To our (my wife’s) liberal friends we might as well be back wood and out house using hicks when it comes to serious issues. The best dinner conversation we had was about “Why should we allow the constitution stop us from doing good things?”. I answered with “If not the constitution then how do you propose to keep the government in check?”. The consensus answer was “As long as the democrats are in charge you don’t need any checks because they are ‘smart’ people that care!!!!”.
We are doomed.

Comment by Dana

You’ve put your finger on a good point here. Let me suggest the following substitution: for ‘Smart People’ use ‘Wonks.’ Then you lose the confusion caused by the phrase ‘dumb Smart People’. A dumb wonk is a concept with less cognitive dissonance, I think.

What’s a wonk? S/he’s a person who solves problems with policies rather than with principles: the top-down command approach as opposed to the bottom-up market/culture-based approach. Bill Clinton, for example, was a self-admitted policy wonk.

Wonks think (a) that any problem can be fixed by Yet Another Government Policy and (b) that we’ll leave the unintended consequences of those policies to the next generation of wonks.

Naturally, wonks prefer to work at the Federal level rather than at the state level. If you’ve got a Great Idea, why limit its application?

We lose some battles with wonks when we get into arguments about policy details because at that point we’ve ceded the main ground: i.e., that a policy *should* be the solution. If you think a policy violates the Constitution, you need to back up right then and point it out. The details of an unconstitutional program aren’t important; what’s important is whether the program fits the social compact (the Constitution).

As an example, we can’t legislate Medicare/Medicaid in the 1960s and passively live with it for a few decades and then, 40 years later, argue that Universal Health care is beyond the scope of the Constitution. Universal Health care is just the application of Medicare to everyone. That’s obviously not a consistent argument – and that’s a point some leftish wonks have been making lately.

The consistent position would be to argue for the repeal of all Federal medical benefits programs.

And now that I’ll be accused of causing the untimely deaths of millions, let me point out that the people of are free to enact whatever medical benefits program they chose to. That’s the whole idea of federalism and limited Constitutional government.

Comment by jhc


Although I agree with a lot of what you say about Wonks and their effect on limited government, I don’t think ‘wonks’ captures the group I was trying to identify. I do agree that a lot of, probably most, ‘wonks’ are Smart People. (But not all are; most of the writers of, say, National Review probably qualify as ‘wonks’.)

But far from all Smart People are wonks. Wonks, at least, connotes the seeking out and ongoing maintenance of some minimal amount of knowledge of arcane details of politics and policies. For Wonks, politics is their hobby. They like reading boring politics magazines, and so on. This is at odds with the relative ease with which anyone, of any stripe, from any walk of life can practically-instantaneously self-identify as a Smart Person, just by echoing the Correct opinions and being shrill/intolerant about it.

I have trouble seeing The Dixie Chicks or Rosie O’Donnell as wonks.

What I’m trying to capture with ‘Smart People’ is something more like a clique than a hobby-group with strange obsessive shared interests (which is what ‘Wonks’ connotes for me). To phrase it in high-school metaphors, it has more in common with the high-school ‘In Crowd’ who all sit at the Cool Lunch Tables and laugh at the Uncool, than it does with, say, the dorks in the corner whose lives mostly revolve around playing/studying D&D.

I do think it’s true that Smart People undermine limited government via basically the mechanism you describe. But this is not because they are all ‘Wonks’ focused on policies, but because they are all ‘Smart People’ thus focused on other Smart People. In other words your average Smart Person, in my view, actually cares less about the actual what (i.e. policies) than the who (i.e. who wins, and who is elevated to high positions). Politics just happens to be the most prominent arena they can find in which to engage in status-competitions. Smart People want other Smart People to always win (because that means they win). I see wonkish/interventionist/busybody policies as a side effect of this, not the main goal….


Comment by Sonic Charmer

Thanks for the clarification, SC. You’re right (of course) that hangers-on aren’t wonks. I think I was focusing on the other Smart People you mentioned who definitely are/were we-know-what’s-best-and-have-a-policy-for-it types.

Your expansion on the clique idea adds a lot to your original, IMO. You’re touching on the motivation for these folks. But I’m still thinking about the final paragraph of your reply and wondering how these folks manage to do all the things they do (independent of what motivates them). What makes this clique so powerful that we need to be concerned about it?

In any event, good post.

Cheers –

Comment by jhc

Oops. The comment code changed my submission. This:

And now that I’ll be accused of causing the untimely deaths of millions, let me point out that the people of are free to enact whatever medical benefits program they chose to.

should read:

And now that I’ll be accused of causing the untimely deaths of millions, let me point out that the people of “Insert Your State Here” are free to enact whatever medical benefits program they chose to.

Comment by jhc

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Here via Borepatch. Great post, truly, but I think it needs an update — can you really write this and NOT mention David Brooks and the perfectly creased pant leg?

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So first I feel its important to out myself as one of your demon spawn, evil, hostile, unjust, and horrible people you would consider a SMART PERSON(SP) who is apparently obsessed with the actions of dumb people – After all, I must be obsessed, otherwise why would I be in a PhD program hoping to teach literature one day if I wasn’t obsessed with dumb people? Or at least with altering their dumb status.

Now, my sarcastic joking aside, I find the anti-aware, anti-informed state of mind that you’re arguing for to be profoundly disturbing, and totally against the desires (if you want to go to origins) of the country’s founders who were super-fans of being very, very informed!!! How else do you account for The Federalist Papers where they verbally battled in brilliant printed pamphlets about the country’s future! Beautiful stuff to read! Or, how do you account for all of their inventing: Benjamin Franklin’s bifocal glasses, Jefferson’s disk cipher, Washington’s threshing barn!! These were brilliant and informed people! Otherwise they would not have developed a document we can still manipulate and use today!

What you call “Smart People” here is really just code for false/stereotypical “Liberal” or “democratic” behaviors and celebrity ignorant behavior. But the crime here is that you lump them all together as negative with a truly necessary and fundamental fact: people running the country SHOULD be smarter than the average person! I don’t think its at all crazy to want the person talking to other nations and claiming its on my behalf are as brilliant and well read as the founding fathers were when they did things like settle wars, establish borders, buy territory, and defend our interests when the country was in its infancy. To want aw-shucks leaders who are ill informed is to want us to fail! I won’t pretend there was a magical heyday of everyone being brilliant and education being celebrated, BUT there was a time when everyone read because there was nothing else to do. People knew what was going on both here and away because they had to know what to do to keep the country going strong! Why would anyone not want brilliant people in charge who can figure out the nuance of a particular situation and all the things that might result from their decisions, especially when the world is such a crazy dangerous place??

Now, if anyone is still reading, I hope its those are who believe any democrat or liberal to be the devil, because nothing is ever this clear cut, everything is complicated and needs proper information, and why I believe this should clear things up and good!

I am the mixed/Black daughter of a retired Marine Corp. Sergeant. My father was not drafted – after three of his friends came home from Viet Nam in body bags, he still went and signed up when he came of age, and served his country. We are a family of registered democrats who believe that God created the heavens and the earth and has given us his word to guide us through life. My liberal parents who have worked so very hard and so very long for so little still insisted on our studying hard in school – knowing it can be a viable path to success in America AND also knowing that, because our history makes for unfair benefits going to some due to the genetic accident of lighter skin color, you always want to know as much as possible to stay ahead. My liberal, democratic father fights equally as hard for universal health care as he does for the right to own the arms he was trained to use and acquired in his military service. My parents believe in God and a progressive environmental policy that encompasses proven scientific facts like: we as creatures on this planet can have an impact on its future. And we are a family that believes in academic excellence joined with a desire to learn for learning sake because we are descended from people who were kept in slavery in part by a denial of access to education.

No great advancement has ever been made by encouraging people to look on being Smart as a bad thing.
And no country ever did well that encouraged anti-intellectualism cloaked in patriotism.

-To say from the “Right” that Obama has done nothing to prove he is smart is as profoundly foolish as those who say God does not exist from the “Left.”
-To declare from the “Right” that intelligence is a threat to democracy by calling smart people “nationalist supremacists,” is as fundamentally stupid as some from the “Left” believing that making guns hard to get for the decent people willing to spend the time and effort to submit fingerprints and DNA is going to keep streets safer when criminals don’t follow the rules.
-Finally, to dismiss from the “Right” a politician and leader like Obama who works so hard with such a brilliant grasp of all the many complex angles of ‘what’s going on’ to keep us afloat and moving forward is as silly as those from the “Left” failing to understand that Bush’s dissimulation and brilliant ‘hee-haw’ playing around covered someone diabolically able to bend the rules, government, and country to his will, even if it was not at all in our own best interests.

Comment by Kai


Surely it was clear from my post that I’m setting up a difference between being smart and being ‘Smart’. So, if you’re as smart as you think you are, you know full well that all these accusations of know-nothingism, being ‘anti-informed’, etc are misplaced if not out of line. Regarding nationalist-supremacists, that was an analogy. As for code words, all I can say is that you are the one making the connection to Democrats and liberals. I used neither word in my post. Although if the shoe fits they should wear it I suppose.

I agree that all else equal, it is preferred that leaders be smart not dumb, informed not ignorant. That said, I clearly do not share your fantasy of ‘brilliant people in charge who can figure out the nuance of a particular situation and all the things that might result from their decisions’. I don’t think it is humanly possible to ‘figure out…all the things that might result from [one’s] decisions’, and I prefer leaders who realize that to those who don’t. Wisdom beats ‘Smart’ in my view.

On Obama, if you think there is solid reason to believe he is somehow extremely smart rather than average to above-average, feel free to point it out. Calling me foolish for thinking otherwise does not constitute a rational argument for the proposition. I suppose I’m supposed to be blown away by the sheer force of your apparent belief that he ‘works so hard’ and has ‘such a brilliant grasp’ of all the ‘many complex angles’ to ‘keep us afloat’ and ‘moving forward’ and so on (did I cover all your empty phrases? I had a hard enough just reading this vacuous, poofy fluff), but somehow no. Sorry no.

As for Palin, part of being smart (as opposed to Smart) is recognizing that there’s a difference between being smart and being ‘educated’, between how prestigious a school you went to vs how wisely you spend your life. Which ‘simple information’ exactly do you reckon Sarah Palin doesn’t know that she needs to know, and how did you form that view?

In particular I puzzle at your apparent view that Sarah Palin is ‘doing nothing with’ her education whereas, by implication, getting a Master’s degree would have been ‘doing something’. Sarah Palin, unlike yourself and myself, was a state governor and is now a nationally-known figure. Meanwhile to be frank, getting a Master’s degree and ‘doing nothing’ are close relatives in my book (and I say this as someone who went to grad school & has a PhD). Similarly, I disagree (and I think the Founders would have too) that to ‘run the country’ ‘requires more than a B.A. degree’. The Founders believed in citizen government not a mandarinate of credentialed overseers; they looked to the example of people like Cincinnatus. (Hey, where exactly did George Washington do his political science Master’s degree, I wonder?)

But of course I disagree with the notion that a U.S. President ‘runs the country’ in the first place; like many of your other expressed views here, that may be a Smart thing to think, but I don’t consider it very smart.

Comment by Sonic Charmer

OH, and PS on Palin:

I don’t get enraged when people say Palin’s name, but I do get depressed. In this country we are taught from birth that you should strive to do well in school and be the best so you can be like the founders, like Rockefeller and Carnegie, Ford and Madame CJ Walker, WEB DuBois and Einstein – people who rose through brilliance and smarts to be titans in their fields and then were called upon to advise others because of this. If you don’t want to do what these folks did, fine, you don’t have to. You can work a regular job and live your life without working super hard forever to be a ‘superstar’.

I get depressed over Palin because here is a woman who had all the possible education available to her and she did nothing with it. Not even so much as a masters degree in political science or history to flesh out what she doesn’t know. But she still wants to reap the rewards by running the country! When did we stop valuing hard work?!?

Heck, I’m no Bush fan, but at least he had 6years as governor AND the example/guiding hand (for better or worse) of his father who had been president going into the White House! Add to that the fact that Bush is part of the Educated Elite for having attended Phillips Andover (a snooty new england boarding school), Yale, and then Harvard business school, and you have someone who at least understands that to run the country requires a bit more than a B.A. degree cobbled together from a half dozen or more colleges all over the place, while only aspiring to be a sportscaster! Palin’s desire to be president or vice president while not knowing even simple information isn’t upsetting because oh, smart people hate dumb people. I believe in America’s allowing you to be uninformed and silly if you want to be. Palin is upsetting because she wants to run the country and barely is able to understand simple information she should know, like the Bush doctrine!

And bailing on her job as Governor looks very bad – is she gonna take off the last year of being VP or Prez because she’ll be a “lame duck” prez and why not just take off from work early?!? She should have stayed, proven her ability to lead and bounced back from some of the criticism by fighting for reelection – it would have at least proven that she doesn’t bail on people who depend on her just because things don’t seem to be going her way. To give up being governor in order to talk nonsense that will live in youtube infamy on a 24hr news channel isn’t doing her any favors! If a democratic candidate did that, I would think he/she was just as loony and dangerous!

Comment by Kai

Oh, Kai, you provide us with so much material . . .

First: I do hope that if you truly are pursuing a Ph.D. in literature that you eventually learn that the contraction for “it is” is spelled “it’s.” That’s going to be important for someone who might be teaching students at some point in the future.

Second: No one, I repeat, NO ONE here is advocating stupidity or being ill-informed. Rather, we are sick to death of the incessant insistence from those on the left that THEY are smarter than everyone else, that THEY are the ONLY ones who read great books. The Democrats and leftists do NOT hold the monopoly on intelligence or education in this country.

Third: It is WAY beyond time that people realize that intelligence AND education come in many different forms. Kai, I can tell from what you write that you are VERY impressed with your own level of education. Do you think you are something special? Do you think that you are smarter than the guy next door? Look. I have completed four degrees. Yes, sweetheart, four. Years ago when I lived in D.C., DAYS WOULD GO BY and I was NEVER in contact with anyone who didn’t have at least a Master’s degree. Where my co-workers happier than folks who had just “cobbled together” a bachelor’s degree? Where they more successful? Were they smarter? No. No. No and NO!!! Just because I have a master’s degree does NOT make me any more intelligent than someone who dropped out of college and does a great deal of reading.

My point is that I don’t run around feeling convinced that I’m smarter than the guy or girl next door – I take people as they come, observe them, see how they behave and work, and THEN make my decision. Obama’s (and anyone else’s, for that matter) completion of degrees mean nothing, Kai. Absolutely nothing. Things become significant and meaningful when the rubber hits the road and we get to observe what gets ACCOMPLISHED. What has Obama accomplished? Seriously, Kai, what? I’m not asking what his job titles were because I don’t care. I want to know, when he was a community organizer, what got DONE? What “thing” was improved upon?

More importantly, since Obama became president, what has improved around the country?


Seriously. Anything???????

Finally – you people on the left are such hypocrites when it comes to Palin. You swear up and down that you are for people getting an education. You insist that you are for people who work hard and achieve on their own, no matter what their background. You say you support people going after whatever it is they want to do. So along comes Palin who, unlike H. Clinton, N. Pelosi, and a host of other leftist women who became powerful only because their fathers or husbands were bigwigs, worked hard, made sure she finished school, and followed her professional dreams (all while getting married and having kids) and you can’t help yourself! Everything she has achieved, she has done on her own – she didn’t have a famous father or a rich husband. She did it herself.

Palin ought to be a great model for feminists but she isn’t. Why? Because so many feminists are two-faced bitter women who are really just advocating a liberal agenda, not true support for women.

Kai – you and people like you belittle and mock Palin at every turn. You say you support women doing what they want to do but every chance you get, you tear her and her family down. I don’t always agree with Palin’s ideas but I’ve had it up to here with the constant mocking of her. I just always consider the source – there is no greater enemy of a woman than . . . another woman. Especially a woman who feels threatened.


P.S. – I couldn’t help but snort when I read your statement that the founding fathers worked to create a document that we can “manipulate” today. Indeed. That is half the problem. Too many people (like Obama) think that the Constitution is something that can be manipulated to fit whatever we think is right today. Kai, that was NEVER the intention of the founding fathers. Their original intentions were clear. We know what they intended BECAUSE OF their writings. This is something that the left obscures at all costs.

Comment by Deana

[…] like to think that I got this ball rolling way back when I first started writing about Smart People. I’d like to, but of course that’s not really true because these ideas are really […]

Pingback by Democracy Failure « Rhymes With Cars & Girls

BRUCE CHARLTON Professor of Theoretical Medicine, University of Buckingham
Editor-in-Chief, Medical Hypotheses

An increasing relative level of IQ brings with it a tendency to over-use general intelligence in problem-solving, and to over-ride those instinctive and spontaneous forms of evolved behaviour which could be termed common sense. Since evolved common sense usually produces the right answers in the social domain, this implies that, when it comes to solving social problems, the most intelligent people are more likely than those of average intelligence to have novel but silly ideas, and therefore to believe and behave maladaptively. This random silliness of the most intelligent people may be amplified to generate systematic wrongness when intellectuals are also advertising their own high intelligence in the context of a modern IQ meritocracy. The stratified context of communicating almost exclusively with others of similar intelligence generates opinions and behaviours among the highest IQ people which are not just lacking in common sense but also perverse.

Comment by james wilson

I also arrived here via borepatch – what a great read!!! And a breath of fresh air!

Comment by AussieAlaskan

[…] wealth, comfort, privilege, and social status of a credentialed, technocratic elite – the Smart People. This is scientism and/or rent-seeking; it is not science and in some cases may even be […]

Pingback by RWCG: The Crib’s Notes Version « Rhymes With Cars & Girls

[…] Borepatch, I found Sonic Charmer’s very informative post, The Smart People Crowd.  SC explains the difference between smart people (inventors, scientists, engineers, […]

Pingback by Now I understand SMART people « Mycroft HOLMES 4

[…] But more importantly, isn’t Murray’s notion of ‘culturally isolated’ a bit…muddled? Let’s face it. We all know what we’re really talking about here. We’re talking about Smart People. […]

Pingback by The Smart People Test « Rhymes With Cars & Girls

I think the point here is that there is a fundamental difference between being dumb and being wrong.

Comment by Ben Bowman

[…] Or, as I put it in my groundbreaking, award-winning^H^H^H^H^H^H^H -eligible, seminal post on Smart People, […]

Pingback by Smart Person humbly suggests using higher math to secretly weigh Smart Peoples’ votes more | RWCG

I just stumbled upon this and think it’s great. I had some thoughts about how to more articulately define being Smart, as opposed to being smart. Maybe this is ground you’ve since covered, but I thought I’d share.

You were in the ballpark of a more solid definition in your penultimate paragraph, when you talk about how being Smart is like being Cool, in that it is something other people recognize. The important thing about being Smart, as opposed to being smart, is that it must be recognized. Being Smart is less about actual capacity for learning, imagination, perception, or insight and more about signaling. It is less about possessing actual intelligence and more about doing what Smart people do. Being smart is something you are, like being blonde or dyslexic or ambidextrous. Being Smart is something you do, like being a Lutheran, or a Republican, or a Trekkie. Being smart is internal; being Smart is external. Becoming smart if you are not already is difficult to do if not impossible, but becoming Smart is just a matter of developing the right set of behaviors and mores, like reading the New Yorker, listening to NPR, going to South by Southwest, and voting for progressives.

The reason that being Smart is connected to being smart is that it seeks to mimic the behaviors and mores of certain actually smart people that one admires. Which smart people are typically admired is probably a function of an intellectually uniform university system, coupled with the sort of “high” pop culture that enshrines the likes of Aaron Sorkin and Death Cab for Cutie. The point is that Smartness is like a sort of totemistic cult, where imitating the behaviors and mores of certain favored smart people will allow one to acquire their qualities, or at least a facsimile of those qualities. That facsimile is what you call being Smart.

The problem is when the signs become more important than the actual qualities they are meant to suggest, when being Smart is more important than being smart. A systems engineer working in Lubbock TX is most likely smarter than a barista in Brooklyn, but he is probably not as Smart. We start listening more to those who are Smart, and discounting the expertise of people who are not Smart, even if the latter actually has more valuable knowledge to share. We are at a point where if you don’t emit the proper signs, you will not be considered Smart enough to listen to.

Comment by bl2r

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