Jacob Sullum’s post is a good reminder that the so-called reality-based community, which prides itself on its supposedly high collective IQ, is in fact very much against book-learnin’; at least when the book-learnin’ in question involves reading works by conservatives and libertarians who are part of serious intellectual conversations in any gathering where genuinely smart and thoughtful people get together to discuss the power of ideas. To write a column full of thinly-disguised snideness, deriding people from reading–gasp!–Bastiat and Hayek is one of the best ways imaginable to signal that one is not interested in engaging in serious thought about the issues of the day. (I am sure that an equally snide article scoffing at liberals for reading Keynes, or Paul Samuelson would be met with scorn and fury by the New York Times, but apparently, the paper cannot find it in itself to accord the same respect to Bastiat and Hayek that it would afford to Keynes and Samuelson–which means that at best, the New York Times is only selectively interested in the power of ideas.)
What this entire episode really shows, of course, is that the people most insistent on proving themselves to be smarter-than-thou are the very ones who show that they don’t have what it takes to successfully engage in a serious intellectual debate and competition. In addition to believing that it is more virtuous than its political foes, Team Reality regularly pats itself on its back for supposedly being smarter and more knowledgeable as well. But one cannot proclaim devotion to the life of the mind, while at the same time contemptuously and perfunctorily dismissing those who engage in brainwork merely because the brainwork in question involves the reading of perfectly mainstream, celebrated, classical political texts with which one disagrees. I would imagine that the would-be reality-based crowd would get really mad if I accused them of “epistemic closure,” and commented on how their mental unwillingness to grapple seriously with mainstream, classical ideas with which they disagree clearly shows their intellectual failings to the world. So I decided to do just that in the sentence before this one.