Monday, September 14, 2020

Leadership By Elites

The trend of the conversation over at Chicago Boyz about IQ reminded me: despising the rulership of elites does not mean that the rulership of non-elites is all that good either. People who want to be in charge of you and tell you what to do should be regarded with suspicion.

It is a very natural error. We look at the collection of people who have been able to work themselves into positions of power and influence and notice that some off them are actually pretty clever, but many others of them know how to imitate cleverness and speak the language, propping up the former. Collectively, they have gotten a lot of stuff wrong, expensive and pernicious stuff.  We naturally contrast that with ourselves, people who don't want to interfere with everyone else's life, who have deep suspicions of grand plans, and who think we are decently smart, but not so smart that we can't learn a few things. We're pretty sure that with a little work, we could do a better job of governing than the current crop.

Likely, we could.

But we're not the one's running. The people running under the guise of being for the Common Man, raging against unaccountable elites, are largely people who also want to tell us what to do.  The history of American small-town or flyover politics includes hundreds and hundreds of dumbasses also.  Just because they are fools does not mean you are wise. 

I don't want to go in for blanket statements about any of it.  You don't get much more intellectually elite than Bibi Netanyahu or Boris Johnson or *Ted Cruz, and all have a fair bit of elitism even as they are going at other elites. I think those elites are good to have around.  More elites like that. There are people serving at the local levels on school boards or planning boards who are very decent folk, just trying to be a steady hand for their neighbors. We depend on their quiet service a great deal.  Most of them are above-average intelligence and above-average successful.  Good on them.

And then there are flocks of people who think they know better than the rest of us, and they come in many flavors.  There are special dangers in the different kinds.

*Ted may have 50 IQ points on Beto O'Rourke.  You  can not like him because of arrogance, or his policies, or whether you think he cares about you 'n me, or his facial expressions, or whatever.  Entirely separate debates.  But don't try to sell me the idea that you are the party of smart people when you are running Beto over Ted.  It's almost a category error.


Texan99 said...

Heinlein wrote a coming-of-age story--Space Cadets, I think--in which our hero is thinking of leaving officers candidate school and joining the ordinary space navy or something. His advisor tells him a leader should not have an IQ of more than 20 points above the group average.

Some extra horsepower doesn't hurt, but most super-brains probably do better as expert advisors. Someone with integrity and charisma needs to lead, with enough smarts and judgment to tell good advice from bad.

PenGun said...

Amazing. Bibi Netanyahu, Boris Johnson and Ted Cruz have never seemed smart, let alone intellectually elite.

Boris is getting his ass handed to him on Brexit. Its a deeply stupid move to break signed international agreements. Bibi has probably doomed Israel, but that's yet to be seen. Palling it up with the Sunnis is not going to do what he wants. Ted Cruz has always appeared somewhat idiotic to me, so you must see something else here. ;)

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Whether they agree with you politically is something else entirely, Pen Gun. Alan Dershowitz called Cruz the most intelligent student he had at Harvard Law, despite their political disagreement. Cruz has argued before the Supreme Court and won. Boris is enormously well-read and classically trained, and was noted at Oxford to be among the most brilliant since the day of his arrival. (BTW, That you don't like Brexit may have something to do with your mischaracterising it as "breaking" a signed international agreement rather than leaving an organisation.) Netanyahu has both his Bachelor's and Master's from MIT and was in a concurrent PhD program there when he left to return to Israel after the death of his brother.

It appears that something prevents you from seeing the what is not only obvious, but easily supported. I wonder what that could be.

PenGun said...

I dunno, I did score a 98.8 on my SAT tests and was invited to MIT. Now I gamed the test, so .....

Boris is in no way stupid, but I have been watching him for many years and he ain't that brilliant. You can find his appearances on 'Have I got News For You', if you look. But there are many others. Now he is out of his depth, and the sharks are circling.

Bibi is a power politician and good at that, but his choices have not been good for Israel in my opinion. I expect him to lose the Golan Heigts at some point, as Israel is not nearly as strong as many would like to think. Still as long as America is in his corner, he will prevail. Now Israel's intelligence operations are among the best there are, but that's not because of Bibi.

Cruz I really don't know enough about to comment usefully, but as I have said, the times I have watched him talk were not impressive.

Are you sure your political bias is not in play here. ;)

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Quote: "I dunno, I did score a 98.8 on my SAT tests and was invited to MIT..."

I'm going to just let that hang out there on its own.

As I intentionally chose conservatives who are intellectual elites, as an illustration for readers who might think no elites are any good, my personal biases are not in play here. I intentionally chose examples with credentials, with no comment what political rating I give them.

PenGun said...

I was a part of the elite infrastructure. They sent me off to private school when I was 8. the same one Prince Andrew went to, a few years after I left. I decided to go my own way to the great disappointment of some. Gaming the SAT was just extra, and made little difference to me in the Canadian school system. I was more interested in how easy it was to game. Any multiple choice setup has its weaknesses but the SAT in the early 60s was really bad.

If you want Boris, Bibi and Ted to be part of a special group, fine. I just don't think much of them.