Elites vs. Common Folks – By George J. Marlin
The following appears in the March 23-29, 2012 issue of the Long Island Business News:
There has been much chatter among media talking heads about a study conducted by Cornell University psychologist David Dunning that concluded our democratic form of government is fatally flawed because voters are dumb.
According to Dunning, most people are not smart enough to pick the best candidates running for office or to make sound public-policy choices. Worse yet, the “Dunning Effect” alleges the dopey electorate suffers from “illusionary superiority” because they do not know they lack the mental capacity to make sound judgments. “To the extent you are incompetent; you are a worse judge of incompetence in other people. If you have gaps in your knowledge in a given area, then you’re not in a position to assess your own or the gaps of others,” Dunning has said.
Well, if the electorate is dumb, are the people they elect to federal, state and local offices dumb, too? They must be because they are not experts on every law they vote for or on every public policy they impose on the people they represent. For instance, during the ObamaCare debate, Speaker Nancy Pelosi admitted she had no idea what she was voting on. “We have to pass the bill so we can find out what’s in it,” she blurted in a news conference.
And what about judges? They certainly don’t have superior knowledge of every issue they rule on. Should the federal judge who complained in a ruling he made in January that the Medicare statute is an incompre-hensible “tortuous” text resign or be impeached?
If the voters and their elected representatives are not competent to govern, just who is? The answer for people like Dunning: managerial elites – that small, self-sufficient group who believe they have the training, special knowledge and expertise to rule.
Throughout the history of mankind, every society has had a subset of people who viewed themselves as superior to the rest of the population due to their self-perceived distinctive qualities: intelligence, breeding, class or wealth. These elites have generally held that because they are exceptional persons they are best-suited to conduct the affairs of state. The ideological formulas of these elites may vary but their ends have been the same – the domination of the common man. These self-proclaimed “managers of the collective life” expect the people to submit to their notions of the good society. For them, “government by the people” has been merely a slogan to humor the masses.
In the Age of Barack Obama, the economic crisis opened whole new vistas to these managerial types. The New York Times columnist David Brooks has claimed the new standards are being dictated by “Ward Three” bureaucrats. Ward Three is a neighborhood in northwest Washington, D.C., populated by regulators, staffers, lawyers and senior civil servants – the new managerial class.
The agenda of Obama’s professional governing class is not limited to economics. Obama czars and regulators are reaching into every home and church. Their significance in the world hinges on the transformation of America into a Ward Three nation. For them, liberty means obedience to the enlightened values of a managerial elite.
Frankly, I reject the Dunning Effect and subscribe to the view expressed in 1962 by the late William F. Buckley Jr., “I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.”
I celebrate the common people who had the good sense to elect Jackson, Lincoln, Cleveland, two Roosevelts, Truman, Eisenhower and Reagan. And I honor the “Greatest Generation,” common people who willingly took up arms to defeat the forces of tyranny.
I’ll bet every time on the common sense of the ordinary Janes and Joes to set and observe the standards and policies for their neighborhoods over tin-eared, condescending, detached, arrogant, remote elites who believe they have a providential role and know what is best for all Americans.