INTELLECTUALS ARE FREAKS

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Intellectuals — a category that includes academics, opinion journalists, and think tank experts — are freaks. I do not mean that in a disrespectful way. I myself have spent most of my life in one of the three roles mentioned above. I have even been accused of being a “public intellectual,” which sounds too much like “public nuisance” or even “public enemy” for my taste.

My point is that people who specialize in the life of ideas tend to be extremely atypical of their societies. They — we — are freaks in a statistical sense. For generations, populists of various kinds have argued that intellectuals are unworldly individuals out of touch with the experiences and values of most of  their fellow citizens. While anti-intellectual populists have often been wrong about the gold standard or the single tax or other issues, by and large they have been right about intellectuals.

The terms “intellectual” and “intelligentsia” arose around the same time in the 19th century. Before the industrial revolution, the few people in advanced civilizations paid to read, write, and debate were mostly either clerics like medieval Christian priests, monks, or secular scribes like Confucian mandarins who worked for kings or aristocrats, or, as in the city-states of ancient Greece, teachers whose students were mostly young men of the upper classes.

The replacement of agrarian civilization by industrial capitalism created two new homes for thinkers, both funded directly or indirectly by the newly enriched capitalist elite. One was the nonprofit sector — the university and the nonprofit think tank — founded chiefly by gifts from the tycoons who lent these institutions their names:  Stanford University, the Ford Foundation. Then there was bohemia, populated largely by the downwardly-mobile sons and daughters of the rich, spending down inherited bourgeois family fortunes while dabbling in the arts and philosophy and politics and denouncing the evils of the bourgeoisie.

Whether they are institutionalized professors and policy wonks or free-spirited bohemians, the intellectuals of the industrial era are as different from the mass of people in contemporary industrial societies as the clerics, scribes, mandarins, and itinerant philosophers of old were from the peasant or slave majorities in their societies.

To begin with, there is the matter of higher education. Only about 30 percent of American adults have a four-year undergraduate degree. The number of those with advanced graduate or professional degrees is around one in ten. As a BA is a minimal requirement for employment in most intellectual occupations, the pool from which scholars, writers, and policy experts is drawn is already a small one. It is even more exclusive in practice, because the children of the rich and affluent are over-represented among those who go to college.

Then there is location. There have only been a few world capitals of bohemia, generally in big, expensive cities that appeal to bohemian rich kids, like the Left Bank of the Seine and Greenwich Village and Haight-Ashbury. In the U.S., the geographic options for think tank scholars also tend to be limited to a few expensive cities, like Washington, D.C. and New York. Of the different breeds of the American intellectual, professors have the most diverse habitat, given the number and geographic distribution of universities across the American continent.

Whether they are professors, journalists, or technocratic experts, contemporary intellectuals are unlikely to live and work in the places where they are born.  In contrast, the average American lives about 18 miles from his or her mother. Like college education, geographic mobility in the service of personal career ambitions is common only within a highly atypical social and economic elite.

In their lifestyles, too, intellectuals tend to be unusually individualistic, by the standards of the larger society. I am aware of no studies of this sensitive topic, but to judge from my experience the number of single individuals and childless married couples among what might be called the American intelligentsia appears to be much higher than in the population at large. The postponement of marriage in order to accumulate credentials or job experience, the willingness to move to further career goals, and — in the case of bohemians — the willingness to accept incomes too low to support children in order to be an avant-garde writer or artist or revolutionary sets intellectuals and other elite professionals apart from the working-class majority whose education ends with high school and who rely on extended family networks for economic support and child care.

The fact that we members of the intellectual professions are quite atypical of the societies in which we live tends to distort our judgment, when we forget that we belong to a tiny and rather bizarre minority. This is not a problem with the hard sciences.  But in the social sciences, intellectuals — be they professors, pundits, or policy wonks — tend to be both biased and unaware of their own bias.

This can be seen in the cosmopolitanism of the average intellectual. I was the guest of honor at an Ivy League law school dinner some years ago, when, in response to my question, the academics present — U.S. citizens, except for one — unanimously said they did not consider themselves American patriots, but rather “citizens of the world.”  The only patriot present, apart from yours truly, was an Israeli visiting professor.

Paranoid populists no doubt would see this as confirmation of their fear intellectuals are part of a global conspiracy directed by the UN or the Bilderbergers.  I see it rather as a deformation professionelle.  Scholarship, by its nature, is borderless.  The mere phrases “Aryan science” and “Jewish science” or “socialist scholarship” and “bourgeois scholarship” should send chills down the spine. Furthermore,  many successful academics study, teach, and live in different countries in the course of their careers.

So it is natural for academics to view a borderless world as the moral and political ideal — natural, but still stupid and lazy. Make-believe cosmopolitanism is particularly stupid and lazy in the case of academics who fancy themselves progressives. In the absence of a global government that could raise taxes to fund a global welfare state, the free movement of people among countries would overburden and destroy existing national welfare states, or else empower right-wing populists to defend welfare states for natives against immigrants, as is happening both in the U.S. and Europe.

The views of intellectuals about social reform tend to be warped by professional and personal biases, as well. In the U.S. the default prescription for inequality and other social problems among professors, pundits, and policy wonks alike tends to be:  More education! Successful intellectuals get where they are by being good at taking tests and by going to good schools. It is only natural for them to generalize from their own highly atypical life experiences and propose that society would be better off if everyone went to college — natural, but still stupid and lazy. Most of the jobs in advanced economies — a majority of them in the service sector — do not require higher education beyond a little vocational training. Notwithstanding automation, for the foreseeable future janitors will vastly outnumber professors, and if the wages of janitors are too low then other methods — unionization, the restriction of low-wage immigration, a higher minimum wage — make much more sense than enabling janitors to acquire BAs, much less MAs and Ph.Ds.

The social isolation of intellectuals, I think, is worsened by their concentration in a few big metro areas close to individual and institutional donors like New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. (where I live) or in equally atypical college towns. It was never possible for Chinese mandarins or medieval Christian monks in Europe to imagine that their lifestyles could be adopted by the highly visible peasantry that surrounded them. But it is possible for people to go from upper middle class suburbs to selective schools to big-city bohemias or campuses with only the vaguest idea of how the 70 percent of their fellow citizens whose education ends with high school actually live.

Universal national service would be a bad idea; the working class majority is hard-pressed enough without being required to perform unpaid labor. But it might not hurt if every professor, opinion journalist, and foundation expert, as a condition of career advancement, had to spend a year or two working in a shopping mall, hotel, hospital, or warehouse. Our out-of-touch intelligentsia might learn some lessons that cannot be obtained from books and seminars alone

THE BILL OF RIGHTS

Madison on government

 

December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights was ratified by the newly formed representatives of the United States of America. Two of the original points never made it to the final version. The gifted mind of Gorge Mason was the inspiration for not only Jefferson’s opening paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence, but served as the basis for James Madison’s Bill of Rights. Mason was the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights which served as a blueprint for drafting the Bill of Rights at the Constitutional Convention.

Some at the convention believed that the Constitution would not properly protect the people and would only agree to the new Constitution is a Bill of Rights was added to guarantee basic rights to the American people.

Here is the original version followed by the ratified version:

Transcript

“Congress of the United States.

In the House of Representatives. Monday, August 24, 1789.

            Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses deeming it necessary, that the following articles be proposed to the several states, as amendments to the constitution of the United States; all, or any of which articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said legislatures, to be valid, to all intents and purposes, as part of the constitution.

Articles in addition to, and amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress and ratified by the legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the 5th article of the original constitution.

            Article I.   After the first enumeration required by the first article of the constitution, there shall be one representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred representatives, nor less than one representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of representatives shall amount to two hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred representative [sic] [the usual “nor less than one representative” is omitted either by mistake or for brevity’s sake] for every fifty thousand persons.

[First Amendment in the second draft: not ratified.]

            Art. 2.   No law varying the compensation to the members of Congress shall take effect, until an election of representatives shall have intervened.

[Second Amendment in the second draft: modified version ratified May 7, 1992 as the Twenty-Seventh Amendment.]

            Art. 3.   Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, nor shall the rights of conscience be infringed.

[Part of Third Amendment in the second draft: modified version ratified as part of the First Amendment]

            Art, 4.   The freedom of speech, and of the press, and the right of the people peaceably to assemble and consult for their common good, and to apply to the government for redress of grievances, shall not be infringed.

[Part of Third Amendment in the second draft: modified version ratified as part of the First Amendment]

Art. 5.   A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, but no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person.

[Modified version is Fourth Amendment in the second draft: modified version ratified as the Second Amendment]

Art. 6.   No soldier shall in time of peace be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner prescribed by law.

[Fifth Amendment in the second draft: modified version ratified as the Third Amendment]

            Art. 7.   The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no warrants shall issue, but [partly trimmed: upon probable cause supported by oath or affirmation, and par-ticularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

[Sixth Amendment in the second draft: modified version ratified as the Fourth Amendment]

Art. 8.   No person shall be subject, except in a case of impeachment, to more than one trial or one punishment for the same offence, nor shall be compelled in any criminal case, to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law, nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

[Part of Seventh Amendment in the second draft: modified version ratified as part of the Fifth Amendment]

Art. 9.   In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, to be confronted with the witnesses against him, to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favour, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence.

[Modified version is Eighth Amendment in the second draft: modified version ratified as part of the Sixth Amendment]

            Art. 10.   The trial of all crimes (except in cases of impeachment, and in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia when in actual service in time of war or public danger) shall be by an impartial jury of the vicinage, with the requisite of unanimity for conviction; the right of challenge and other accustomed requisites; and no person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment by a grand jury; but if a crime be committed in a place in the possession of an enemy, or in which an insurrection may prevail, the indictment and trial may by law be authorized in some other place within the same state.

[Modified version part of Seventh and Eighth Amendments in the second draft: modified version ratified as parts of the Fifth and Sixth Amendment]

            Art. 11.   No appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States shall be allowed, where the value in controversy shall not amount to one thousand dollars; nor shall any fact triable by a jury according to the course of common law, be otherwise re-examinable, than according to the rules of common law.

[Modified version is Ninth Amendment in the second draft; modified version ratified as part of the Seventh Amendment.]

Art. 12.   In suits at common law, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved.

[Modified version part of Ninth Amendment in the second draft; ratified as the Seventh Amendment]

            Art. 13.   Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

[Tenth Amendment in the second draft: ratified as the Eighth Amendment]

            Art. 14.   No state shall infringe the right of trial by jury in criminal cases, nor the rights of conscience, nor the freedom of speech, or of the press.

[Dropped in the second draft. Modified version passed by Congress on June 13, 1866; ratified July 9, 1868 as part of the fourteenth Amendment]

            Art. 15.   The enumeration in the constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

[Eleventh Amendment in the second draft: ratified as the Ninth Amendment]

            Art. 16.   The powers delegated by the constitution to the government of the United States, shall be exercised as therein appropriated, so that the legislative shall never exercise the powers vested in the executive or judicial; nor the executive the powers vested in the legislative or judicial; nor the judicial the powers vested in the legislative or executive.

[Dropped in the second draft.]

            Art. 17.   The powers not delegated by the constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively.

[Modified version is Twelfth Amendment in second draft: ratified as the Tenth Amendment]

            Ordered, that the Clerk of this house do carry to the senate a fair and engrossed copy of the said proposed articles of amendment, and desire their concurrence.

                                                                        Extract from the Journals,

                                                                               John Beckley, Clerk.”


 

THE BILL OF RIGHTS 

FULL REVISED TEXT

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.