Reply To: "Progressivism" and Intellectuals


As osgood mentioned, Thomas Sowell has a number of good books on the subject.

Murray Rothbard also had a theory, which has been taken up by Hans Hoppe (and probably some others) that the academic intellectual establishment represents a restoration of the “Throne and Altar” – progressives subsidized certain intellectuals, which then propagated (through their students & others influenced by them) various opinion-creating institutions (not limited to universities and schools, but also including what are now known as the “mainline” protestant denominations), whose purpose were to generate rationales for an expansion of government.

Since all (literally, all) of the first PhDs in America got them in German universities during the Bismarck era, such apologias came naturally to them.

Of course, if you ask the average Progressive academic, they are *highly* critical of government policies. Which is true, because they criticize them for not living up to the sacrelized version of government, they criticize it for not doing more, for not having more power, money, and control over people’s lives. They criticize politicians in the same way an Established Throne-and-Altar Church might criticize political leaders in that era: for sinning against their duties.

Part of Rothbard and especially Hoppe’s analysis is that intellectuals intuitively realize that on the free market there would be less demand for the services of intellectuals and many of them would have to take up another trade,* but Progressive government has a near endless demand for creative apologias, and so subsidizes more of them than anyone would otherwise.

However, as far as I know neither Rothbard nor Hoppe wrote a specific book on this; rather it is described in their works on other subjects pertaining to the growth of government.

Also, Robert Nozick, who I know gets a hard time from Misesians/Rothbardians (and I don’t disagree with the reasons they give him a hard time) wrote a incisive, scathing article on why intellectuals reject capitalism (titled “Why do Intellectuals Oppose Captalism?”) which, along with his article “Who Would Choose Socialism?” is included in his book “Socratic Puzzles” (Nozick is a very clever and even humorous writer, rare for a philosopher, and I really do recommend this book, regardless of the problems with his version of minarchy).

Of course, the intellectuals you speak of have also written voluminously about why they support Progressivism (because it’s good and true, a holy thing, and only stupid, ignorant, or selfish people reject it, which is why so many people in “higher learning” are Progressives and so few are non-Progressives). I could direct you to some of those books, too, if you’re short on kindling or are an intellectual masochist or simply have a perverse interest in modern sophism and plenty of time on your hands.

*Hoppe is very old-school and paleo, and seems to long for the days of the full-service gas station; therefore his favored suggestion of what trade ex-intellectuals could take up on the free market is “the mechanics of gas-pump operation.” Manual labor is an honorable trade. Certainly more morally worthy than being an apologist for the modern state.