Jonah Goldberg

The chairman of a small college's English department thinks it's obvious intellectuals should take over health care, but he can't manage the class schedules of three professors or run a meeting without it coming to blows or tears. A pundit defends government intervention in almost every sphere of economic life, but he can't figure out how to manage the interns or his checking account.

The most famous story of an intellectual hypocrite getting his comeuppance is the tale of George McGovern and his inn. The senator, 1972 presidential nominee and college professor thought he could run a vast, technologically sophisticated nation with a diverse population and an entrepreneurial culture. Then, after leaving Washington, he bought an inn in Connecticut to while away his retirement years. For a guy as smart as him, running an inn should have been child's play. But it went belly-up before the end of the year, with a contritely befuddled McGovern marveling at how much harder running a business was than he thought.

Or consider Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), currently subject of a House ethics investigation. Rangel heads the Ways and Means Committee, which writes the tax code. He backs the imposition of an income tax surcharge on high earners to pay for health care, calling it "the moral thing to do." Yet he can't seem to figure out how to file his own taxes properly or, perhaps, legally.

Now, I also know lots of conservatives who are basket cases at everything other than reading and writing books and articles, giving speeches and thinking Big Thoughts (likewise, I know liberals who despise conservative moralizing about sex and religion who nonetheless live chaste, pious lives themselves). The point is that conservatives don't presume to be smart enough to run everything, because conservative dogma takes it as an article of faith that no one can be that smart.

Moral hypocrisy is still worth exposing, I guess. But we are living in a moment when revealing intellectual hypocrisy should take precedence. A J.P. Morgan chart reprinted on the "Enterprise Blog" shows that less than 10 percent of President Obama's Cabinet has private-sector experience, the least of any Cabinet in a century. From the stimulus to health care reform and cap-and-trade, Washington is now run by people who think they know how to run everything, when in reality they can barely run anything.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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