It’s not about “Elites” or “Idiots”…

Over the past few years, there has been a constant drumbeat from “progressives” (and even some non-lefties) that conservative anti-elitism is effectively “anti-science”, “anti-education”, “pro-stupidity” etc…

This is partially in response to the fact that many conservatives use the terms “elitist” or “the elite” (in the political and social context, not in the context of achievement… though that distinction is lost on leftists) as a pejorative.

Their basic comment comes down to “Well, if you don’t want intelligent, well educated people running things who would you rather run them, idiots?”

Thus, completely missing the point.

Conservatives and libertarians aren’t against smart well educated people; in fact many of us ARE smart, well educated people.

…We’re against people who want to run things.

This idea is so utterly foreign to the leftist mind, that they literally cannot conceive it, or believe it.

You see, to a conservative or libertarian, it’s inherently obvious… axiomatic even:

The world runs better, when everyone runs their own lives, and their own business, with as little interference as possible; save that which is absolutely necessary for the common good, or to prevent harm to others.

No government official or lawmaker can know more about your life, or your business, than you do; therefore, they cannot run your life or you business as well as you can.

No matter how smart, or well educated they may be, and no matter how many of them there are; they will always be working with less information then you have. Their information will always be less current. They will always have less experience in dealing with the conditions unique to your life and your business.

Since no-one can run your life as well as you can; no-one should.

Note: Economists call the idea that if you’re just “smart enough” “well educated enough” etc… you can make everything run right, the “perfect information fallacy”. If you could have perfect information (that is all information about all conditions and factors that could possibly effect the outcome of a decision) and perfect reason (that is, the ability to analyze all factors correctly at all times), then you could make perfect decisions. However, it is impossible to have perfect information in a complex system (never mind perfect reason) thus all decisions will necessarily be imperfect. This is the primary reason why communism or socialism… or in fact any kind of “managed economy” could never possibly work on a large scale; even if every person participating in that economy were a perfect communist, acting only for the benefit of the collective.

To a leftist, that is simply ridiculous… Impossible even. Someone has to be running things. It simply cannot be any other way.

You have to understand, leftists fundamentally and fully believe, that nothing (or at least nothing good) can possibly happen, without “someone running things”. No matter how “free” or “unregulated” something may appear to be, in reality, there is always someone behind it, really in control, and making sure it goes the way they want it to; favoring some parties and punishing others; exploiting some for the benefit of others.

Note: Conversely, this also means that whenever anything happens, it’s because of the person in charge. Everything good that happens is to their credit, and everything bad that happpens is their fault.

It’s called the “daddy” philosophy of government.

As with all leftist ideas, the basic principle of the daddy government is based on what children learn during kindergarten. All money, power, control, and guidance comes from “the people in charge”, like your daddy, or your teachers.

Daddy has authority, and money. From that money, he gives you your food, housing, education, medical care etc… With that authority, he sets rules, rewards you with things when you do well at what he says you should do well at; and punishes you for doing badly, for doing things he doesn’t want you to do, or for not doing the things he thinks you should do.

When you need something, daddy makes sure you get it. When you want something, you ask daddy, and if he thinks you should have it, he gives it to you.

Daddy enforces “fairness”. Daddy makes sure you share, and play well with others. Daddy protects you from the bad people hurting you, or taking advantage of you. When things are bad, daddy will make them all better.

I should note, some people prefer to call this the “mommy” philosophy of government… which may be closer to appropriate, given most leftists have no idea what a father is , or what they are good for anyway.

When you’re five years old, daddy controls the entire world; and there’s nothing daddy can’t do.

Leftists have never really advanced in economic, social, or moral maturity beyond that point. They believe that the world continues to work that way as you grow up; only instead of daddy, the one in charge is “government”.

In fact, they not only believe it’s the way it should work, they believe it simply IS the way it works, and there can be no other possible way.

Since there is no other possible way, and someone has to be controlling things; it’s absolutely critical that we get the smartest, best educated, most “elite” people to be in charge. If you’re against that, it must be because you want someone in charge who is going to favor you.

Or rather, because they have such a low opinion of the “common man”, they believe that “the people” themselves are idiots, being deceived by the people who secretly want to control everything. The people who want to control everything have convinced the “common man” of the lie of the “free market”, and of “equal opportunity” and “the American dream”. They’re all just lies the secret controllers tell the “common man”, so that the controllers can rig things to favor themselves, and their cronies. Those people are anti-elitist, anti education, pro-stupidity, and want idiots to run things, because they can then secretly control the idiots for their own benefit.

Note the assumption there that anyone who is smart and well educated MUST know that the leftists are right; therefore anyone who disagrees with them is either stupid, or evil.

This isn’t some far out conspiracy theory by the way; this is exactly what leftists think was behind the Bush presidency. Not only do they freely and publicly admit it, they write books and make movies about it.

They completely miss the point.

They don’t understand that conservatives and libertarians have a completely different idea about what government is, and what it should do.

They don’t understand…

We don’t want idiots running things….

We don’t want ANYONE running things.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

  • tarran

    I think that you’ve nailed the approach of a significant number of people in the left, but are painting with too broad a brush.

    There are also a significant number of people who are looking at life like school. You do the right things, you are rewarded with money, just as in school you were rewarded with grades. A significant number of leftists I have interacted with are upset at people inheriting money or benefiting from some windfall because of envy.

    This is a slightly different phenomenon that is just as insidious.

  • Chris


    I don’t disagree with you on the “life is like the higher education system” thing; but I actually see that as simply an extension of the daddy thing.

  • l4k

    Exactly right. I don’t how many of lefty FB “friends” post snarky comments about conservatives wanting dumb people to get elected. Funny, these types of comments are usually clustered around the same time. I guess these smart lefties are so smart that they just naturally come up with the idea to post their snarky comments at the same time. It couldn’t be that they are getting their marching orders from some far left site. No, couldn’t be. They are too smart for that.

  • andrews

    I think you may be missing a bit of reality here.

    Conservatives regularly seek someone to run things. They expand government, and not merely spending, at a phenominal rate.

    It is, after all, the conservatives who want to tell us what drugs we should have, and when, and where. Sure, there is some stupidity there; it helps if you don’t remember that prohibition is generally doomed to failure.

    It is, after all, the conservatives who brought us Guantanamo, and infinite military detention, and the AEDPA to effectively if not in name eliminate habeas corpus.

    It is, after all, the conservatives who brought us the Trouser Search Agency (TSA). The TSA may not make us safer, but it sure makes us more docile and better habituated to following sensless orders from our betters.

    It is, after all, the conservatives who brought us the “Patriot” act, and myriad government bureaucrats snooping into your phone calls, and bank records, and anything else they can think of, without need to justify, explain, or even admit that they did it.

  • tarran

    Is that a tu quoque fallacy I see lurking in the mist?

    I think you may be missing a bit of reality here.

    Conservatives regularly seek someone to run things.

    Why, yes it is! ;)

    It’s also a false dichotomy to assume rightists are conservatives and leftists aren’t. For example, drug prohibition was a plank of the progressive movement’s political platform at the rise of the 20th century. In the right, the major supporters of drug prohibition came from the Rockefeller wing of the Republican party, a group of right-wing progressives.

  • Brad Warbiany


    In addition to what tarran has already said, I’d point out that there are multiple wings of the “Conservative” movement. One of those wings are the social conservatives. While I’d disagree that they want someone to “run things”, they definitely want a government big enough to ensure we don’t do the things they don’t like. I personally consider it a blind spot to think the government can’t be trusted to run the economy but can be trusted to run our personal lives, but that’s why I’m a libertarian and not a conservative.

    Generally that Conservative blind spot also applies to police/defense. They believe the government’s rightful place is in keeping the peace and national defense, but they also seem to ascribe supernatural power to the government to do it fairly, objectively, and without the need for civilian/public oversight.

  • Brad Warbiany


    I ran into this years ago, and posted at my own blog way back in 2005 about the stupid/evil dichotomy that the left seems to place conservatives/libertarians into. They assume we’re either being duped by our evil masters, or that we’re evil masters.

    At the time, the incident that instigated that post was highly offensive to me… Not that I was offended that the leftist in question broke libertarians into stupid vs. evil — but rather she assumed that I was in the “stupid” group… I can deal with being called evil, but stupid??? Them’s fightin’ words.

  • tarran

    Ludwig von Mises had a great take on all of this. I can’t find the exact quote, but he said something to the effect that the passionate advocates of various political systems are not evil; the non-Misesians are decent people laboring under miseducation or fallacious reasoning.

    I think he called everyone who wasn’t one of his acolytes an idiot or the student of idiots. :)

    Joking aside, I think it’s not helpfull to demonize or dehumanize one’s idealogical opponents. It’s fun, can God knows I do it a lot. But it doesn’t put one’s opponents in a receptive state of mind.

  • tkc

    Even with perfect information one runs into the problem of people making irrational decisions. For example, my favorite vice is single malt scotch. If I gave this up I’d probably be better off financially (the good stuff ain’t cheap) and be in better health.
    So maybe some authoritarian (right or left, it matters not) will look after me by banning single malt scotch. They would probably expect me to thank them for this but I wouldn’t. Sure, it is a vice, but one I like, so I would be angry with the notion of someone forcing me to stop. Even with perfect information they’d get the result wrong.

    I’ll also side with Andrews here. It is not a right versus left thing. It is better measured by authority versus liberty. There are plenty on the left and the right that are authoritarians, just in different ways.