Random musings from a libertarian, tech geek...
Back from a long blogging break. I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays -- I certainly did!
(via ParaPundit, via Instapundit) A *while* ago, Parapundit (aka Randall Parker) linked to an essay by Robert Nozick titled "Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?" Back in my college years, I used to be a somewhat faithful reader of Nozick and many of his writings are considered to be the backbone of Anarcho-Capitalism and Min-Anarchism (see Anarchy, State & Utopia. Nozick has since, formally renounced a few of the key concepts he pushed forward in ASU; so have I ;-).
While not all intellectuals oppose Capitalism overtly, there is a relatively clear apprehension towards it that even lay observors can broadly identify. Nozick argues that a particular, large, strain of "intellectualism" is responsible -- the "Wordsmiths".. These wordsmiths are distinguished from the Number-smiths and engineers, and to a lesser extent legal scholars. Think Literature, Poli Sci, Art History, Drama, etc. Nozick argues that the source of this antagonism is a sense of failed expectations from the scholastic process. The would-be intellectual is coddled all the way through elementary, high school, college, and grad school:
Nozick seems to be particularly revelling in the image of the wordsmith geek who gets beaten up in the playground. And, of course, yrs of grad school can only delay commencement day so much and our Intellectual finally enters the real world...
Like many things in life, it takes 2 to tango and I'm suprised that Nozick doesn't look into why capitalists often seek out the company of, and to a lesser extent the admiration of, these intellectuals. Think of charity auctions, art buyers, benefactors boards, etc. Whatever element of the human psyche breeds the anti-capitalist occasionally breeds within the full-capitalist as well. Still, while an unsuccessful businessman/worker does NOT typically have animus towards the capitalist system, Nozick's wordsmith intellectuals have this animus regardless of their own material success. A wealthy Arundhati Roy is far more likely to disparage capitalsm than a just-squeaking-by storeowner.
An interesting observation Nozick makes is that the wordsmiths are uniquely equipped for propagating this meme down to successive generations of new wordsmiths:
In a separate article, Glenn Reynolds argues a very similar point -- that there's something unique about the wordsmith lineage:
While I think Nozick makes some interesting arguments, I don't think he captures the majority reason for anti-capitalistic sentiment amongst intellectuals. An encompassing theory here needs to explain some significant points that are outside of Nozick's model.
First, an entire generation of economists and political thinkers were utterly swept up in anti-capitalist thought. This is a broader group than just the Wordsmiths. Think Marx, Lenin, and even many more-classically trained economists who seem more preoccupied with Market Failures than market successes. More than a few scientists and engineers also fell prey to this flirtation in the communist/socialist hey day in the '50s/'60s. Many Intellectuals who aren't in this camp today avoid it only grudgingly because actual experience in the real world has been sooo damning.
Second, as I mentioned earlier, we often see top tier capital holders allied in opposition to Capitalism. Brink Lindsey presents an excellent discussion of both of these types of individuals & their flirtation with technocratic faith in Against the Dead Hand.
Nozick lays out the source of the Intellectual's value system and why their world might reinforce that system. He doesn't fully explain WHY the intellectual value system is considered (by the intellectual) to be superior. It's not simply superior because it gets higher grades, there is a deeper thread that explains why Intellectual teachers are readily about to recognize Intellectual students and Intellectual achievements. It's something intrinsic about the word "Intellectual".
My personal theory is that MUCH of Intellectual philosophy towards capitalism is predicated on a conceit that the physical world is accidental rather than intrinsic to existence. -- the Mind / Body Dichotomy.
There's a perenniel, recurrent belief that philosophical purity seems to stem allow for greater DISENGAGMENT from the physical world. The physical world is what introduces rounding errors into the perfect schemes that intellectuals hold. I blogged about this at some length in response to an article from ESR on Male Physical Courage. To these intellectuals, I contend, capitalism is more about the grungy used car salesman and dirt-under-his-nails mechanic....