A One Minute Economics (And Other Topics) Lesson

From one of our favorite economists, Don Boudreaux, who is chairman of the Department of Economics at George Mason University, in one of his famous "One Minute Economic Lessons" — this time, to The Washington Times.

16 November 2008

Editor, The Washington Times

Dear Editor:

Challenging the myth that society would be improved if governed by "intellectuals," Thomas Sowell says that "It would be no feat to fill a big book with all the things on which intellectuals were grossly mistaken, just in the 20th century" ("'Intellectuals' are posers," November 16).

Such a book has already been filled. Paul Hollander's "Political Pilgrims" documents the gullibility, the boundless capacity for self-delusion, and the ecstatic fetish for Great Leaders displayed throughout the 20th century by large numbers of American and European intellectuals.* These Smart People cheered the Soviet Union, applauded Mao, drooled over Castro, celebrated the Sandinistas — all the while dismissing those persons suspicious of centralized power as "anti-intellectual."

Of course, consistently these "anti-intellectuals" were proven right as the heroes of the "intellectuals" were revealed to be blood-thirsty b@$^@%#$. Is there reason to suppose that the "intellectual's" still-intense libido for Great Leaders and Big Plans is today any more rational than it was during the tragic episodes documented by Hollander?

Sincerely, Donald J. Boudreaux Chairman, Department of Economics George Mason University Fairfax, VA

* Paul Hollander, Political Pilgrims: Western Intellectuals in Search of the Good Society, 3rd ed. (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1997).