Intellectual Affluence

Recently, George Leef of the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy published an essay entitled "Groupthink: Marching to a Single Drumbeat."

In it, he discusses a serious problem facing both parents and children in the United States and Europe: strong evidence that academia is characterized by very little diversity of thought regarding economic and political theory, but rather that there is almost universal "rejection of classical liberal ideas favoring highly limited government and reliance on voluntary socio-economic processes" among members of university faculty within the humanities and social sciences (including economics).

Dr. Leef cites a research article published earlier this year entitled "Groupthink in Academia: Majoritarian Departmental Politics and the Professional Pyramid," in which authors Daniel B. Klein and Charlotta Stern found a striking degree of "ideological conformity" not just within departments at a single university but across widely distant universities, and which explores the reasons why this situation has developed. They found specifically that professors in the humanities and social sciences largely "combine social-democratic leanings and support for (or acquiescence to) most domestic government interventions."

The same authors previously published a study in the Independent Review in which they found that an overwhelming percentage of professors they surveyed strongly supported concepts such as "redistribution," "tuning the economy by monetary policy," "tuning the economy by fiscal policy," and "minimum wage laws."

The rejection of the ideas of classical liberalism among educators has ramifications far beyond the universities themselves. For starters, the doctrines taught at universities tend to make their way into classrooms of children in high school, middle school, and elementary school and to color the teachings that children receive throughout their entire progression up the ranks.

More important, however, is the fact that future potential entrepreneurs and innovators are being exposed to economic ideas that emphasize the role of the government and diminish the role of the individual. This is a serious problem because -- contrary to what is apparently being taught in a majority of classrooms -- it is decidedly not the government that makes economic growth happen.

As we have explained many times before, economies grow through innovation -- and innovation is the product of individuals.

Innovation is in fact the polar opposite of "groupthink." Instead of "marching to a single drumbeat," in the words of Dr. Leef's article above describing academia, the innovators and entrepreneurs who actually propel the economy forward are those who are marching to the beat of their own drum!

This, by the way, is why no one has ever successfully written an algorithm or computer model that will tell you just which stocks to buy in order to "get rich in the stock market" (although many have tried, and many advertisements continue to claim that their product has done it). No one can ever write such an algorithm successfully, because no algorithm can tell you where the next unexpected innovation is about to burst forth.

In light of this fact, and the unpleasant truth that children's heads are generally (with some exceptions) being filled by educators who neither understand this truth nor subscribe to it, we coined the term "intellectual affluence." By it, we simply mean the lifelong benefits that come from a deep understanding of the power of the individual and the power of individual choice in the course of business enterprise and economic progress.

The idea that government is the best way to "tune the economy" or "stimulate growth" is a form of intellectual bankruptcy. Therefore, parents should impart to their children the mental riches of the importance of the individual and his or her freedom to innovate: the concept that the enterprising and innovative individual (as well as the enterprising and innovative businesses that were originally started by enterprising and innovative individuals) is the real engine that drives progress.

A good place to start might be with a free subscription to the Taylor Frigon Advisor! They can sign up to receive updates via email by using the link at the bottom of each post, or they can receive notification of new posts via Twitter by visiting @TaylorFrigon.

Another might be the excellent television series by Milton Friedman entitled Free to Choose, which aired on PBS in 1980 and was revised and re-broadcast in 1990. All ten episodes from the 1980 series and all five episodes from the 1990 series are available for viewing on the internet at Idea Channel TV.

As current California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says in his introduction to the 1990 series, the 1980 series changed his life, "and when you have such a powerful experience as that, I think you shouldn't keep it to yourself, so I wanted to share it with you." This is a perfect example of what we mean by "intellectual affluence," and the best part about this kind of wealth is that it does not cost much to get it, and sharing it with others does not diminish it in any way.

We would encourage you not to keep it to yourself either, and to share it with others as well!

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for later posts dealing with this same subject, see also:


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