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Samizdata quote of the day – America’s elites aren’t as smart as they imagine

Then there’s Trump. The New York State district attorney, Alvin Bragg, is a Democrat with powerful political motives to bring down the likely Republican nominee. That should be a scandal but, in the ethical muddle of our age, it seemingly isn’t. The actual charges concocted by Bragg against Trump I leave for the legal experts to parse. None of them rose to the level of Clinton’s server or Biden’s garage sale of secrets. But Trump is the monster that haunts the nightmares of the privileged class. He must be prosecuted in multiple times and places, convicted, fined hundreds of millions, imprisoned, annihilated, pulverised.

The whole process stinks of desperation.

Martin Gurri

14 comments to Samizdata quote of the day – America’s elites aren’t as smart as they imagine

  • John

    The comments on Unherd, by no means natural Trump territory, are illuminating in that many previously opposed to greater or lesser degrees are now firmly behind him.

    There may be other court appearances before November but each one is only likely to strengthen the resolve of his supporters* and test the patience of the all-important independents to breaking point.

    * polls showing that a significant proportion of Republicans are unwilling to support a “convicted felon” do not convince me in the least.

  • bobby b

    “polls showing that a significant proportion of Republicans are unwilling to support a “convicted felon” do not convince me in the least.”

    When the Sheriff of Nottingham declares Robin Hood to be a criminal, the New Dems chime in in agreement. Strange how that party morphed.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Dan Mitchell remarked that Robin Hood was not intent on taking from the rich to give to the poor, but rather on taking tax money to give it back to the taxpayers.
    That’s the sort of redistribution that we need!

  • Snorri Godhi

    WRT the “smartness” of American “”elites””:
    via Instapundit, i found this essay by Nathan Cofnas, which i have not yet finished reading.

    My objection to it is that Cofnas emphasizes IQ and neglects mental health.
    It seems to be an established fact that the mental health of American “progressives” is worse than the mental health of American “conservatives”.

    As you can guess, i blame that on tofu, pasta, and seed oils being more brain-damaging than meat, potatoes, and butter.
    (Although oily fish is also desirable.)

  • Fraser Orr

    FWIW, I hear a LOT of people saying “I wasn’t going to vote for Trump but now I’ll climb over glass to do it.” Including a LOT of moderate democrats. I don’t know if it is at all representative, but I hope the dems have sown the wind and reap the whirlwind. Not because I think electing Trump will make much difference. It won’t. But this outrage needs to be punished.

  • JohnK

    Trump was “convicted” of an offence which was a misdemenour, and time expired. It only became a “felony” because it was alleged it took place in aid of another felony. The only problem was that this other felony was not established at all in the trial. It may have been tax evasion (the IRS said it was not) or election interference (the FEC said not) or it may have been something else. So Trump was convicted of a crime which was only a crime if it supported an underlying crime, which may or may not have taken place.

    I think even a kangaroo would object to this travesty. It is no wonder Trump’s support is rising. I would not vote for a convicted felon, but this case is so bent it does not count, it only shows how morally bankrupt the Democrat party is.

  • Paul Marks

    Perhaps the left establishment (or some of them) want Donald John Trump to return to the Whitehouse.

    After all he will inherit a debt of over 35 Trillion (Trillion) Dollars, vast “Entitlement” obligations on top of that, and a demographic situation which means that America is tearing itself apart (becoming part of the Latin American Third World – as Mr Biden used to gloatingly point out, before his senility).

    It is hard to see what President Trump can do about all this – and the “international community” (those forces of fanatical evil) may want him to take the blame for the break down of the Untied States.

    Still President Trump, unlike me, is an optimist – he sees opportunities where other people see only difficulties, so he is certainly worth the roll of the dice. And many wise and good people are now (now – not so much in the past) in his camp.

    Perhaps they, and he, will find a way out of this mess.

  • JohnK


    All we can say about the federal debt is that it will not be repaid. What cannot happen, will not happen. Maybe people will continue to pretend that the fiat dollar is real money, and somehow keep the show on the road, because the alternative will be very horrible. But it will come anyway.

    The people who lend money to the US government still pretend to believe they will get it back, with interest. Of course, the only way the US government pays back its bonds is by borrowing more money. For the time being, this works, but eventually the interest which has to be paid will overwhelm the federal budget. It will happen, but not, I hope, during the term of the second Trump presidency.

  • Kirk

    The really amusing thing about reading Nathan Cofnas in that essay is that the man is basically as prejudiced as prejudiced can be, and is entirely unconscious of the fact that he is. He attributes great “intelligence” to the left, and extreme stupidity to the right, while ignoring a good deal of evidence that what he thinks of as “intelligent”… Ain’t.

    Results matter. Real-world effects matter. Exquisitely-reasoned idiocy that doesn’t work… Does not matter.

    Look at the world around us, wrought by these “genius” liberal types, the ones who’ve been running things since Wilson. Has life generally improved…? Sure, you’ve got your iPhones, but can you walk through a park late at night in a major Western city, and feel safe? Can you let your children roam free in the playgrounds that your tax dollars pay for, and not worry about them stepping on discarded needles from drug users, ones that are also subsidized by your tax dollars at the behest of all these “genius” types…?

    If you ask me, the old-school “anti-intellectuals” didn’t go far enough in their anti-ness. There are so many manifestly idiotic policies and procedures put in place by this group of collectively “highly intelligent” people that I’ve been seriously questioning the entire basis of their world-bestriding dominance of the culture. Anyone who can sit there and tell me that Roman Polanski is a great auteur, and should be allowed his little child-raping peccadilloes because of his “greatness”? I have questions. Ones I suspect ought to be asked in terms of final confession before hanging a lot of people after they’ve faced a jury of their peers.

    The “left” may be smarter, in terms of IQ scores, but I’ll be damned if that means a thing, looking at the results of all their brilliant ideas as they’ve worked out in real life. I think I’d rather have a random selection of shop foremen and small businessmen running things than the magnificent (they’ll tell you so!!) products of the Ivy League. The sad reality is, every single situation where we’ve turned over the running of things to the grande ecole mindset, disaster follows within generations. That’s where we’re at, in general social terms: The supply of common sense and pragmatism in our leadership class is at an all-time low.

    I do not think that the vaunted “intelligence” of these people is really all that great, when it comes to producing practical results and benefits to the whole. I honestly can’t think of very much that the “expert” class has contributed, aside from destroying the fabric of society and our general quality of life.

  • bobby b

    “The “left” may be smarter, in terms of IQ scores . . .”

    Not in my experience. But they own academia, and so they claim that means they’re smarter.

  • Kirk

    I’m riffing off my long-running contention that whatever the hell we’re measuring with the IQ test, it’s not actually a “functional intelligence”.

    Proof is in the results created when you select off those tests for everyone you put into positions of responsibility and power.

    I keep getting told by these people that they’re brilliant, the smartest ever, and… Yet. Somehow, they’ve got the reverse Midas Touch, the Merde Touch.

    If everything you do turns to excrement, then… Well, do the math: You’re not actually that damn smart, and the metric by which you came to make that ludicrous claim ought rightly be questioned by all and sundry.

    I honestly think we all got off on the wrong track back around Wilson’s time, and that they should have listened more carefully to Benet about the perils of using his tests for anything besides answering some academic questions. The whole endeavor has had what amounts to one of those “quantum effects” think-pieces so beloved of physicists, wherein your observation of something causes it to change…

  • bobby b

    “I’m riffing off my long-running contention that whatever the hell we’re measuring with the IQ test, it’s not actually a “functional intelligence”.”

    I’m agreeing with about 93% of what you’re saying, enthusiastically. My only difference is, while I agree that the IQ score isn’t the be-all and end-all of “functional intelligence”, whatever quality it is that we measure with “IQ” is one of the necessary components for that FI.

    IOW, the people you choose to do things – to run things – that need to be done smartly and competently should have a number of specific good characteristics about them, and a higher IQ is one of those. In the old Kelloggs commercials, it’s one part of a healthy breakfast.

    If you choose someone solely by IQ, things tend to go to hell because of the other characteristics they’re missing. But you don’t want to choose without considering their IQ either. What specifically it measures I couldn’t define, but they need IQ smarts.

  • Kirk

    bobby b said:

    My only difference is, while I agree that the IQ score isn’t the be-all and end-all of “functional intelligence”, whatever quality it is that we measure with “IQ” is one of the necessary components for that FI.

    My gut has told me for a very long time that quite a bit of that “ability to do well on formal IQ tests” is effectively meaningless, and that actual functional intelligence is on an entirely different axis. Doing well on IQ tests is nice, but it’s about like observing an individual like the one Dustin Hoffman played in “Rain Man”, and saying “That guy is smart, and anyone that can’t instantly count every dropped toothpick accurately is an idiot…”

    It’s a skill, no doubt, but… What’s the point of it, if the individual who has it lacks the wit and wisdom to navigate daily life and be able to tell you what the likely outcomes were of their actions? What if they cannot recognize reality, when it doesn’t conform with their internal image?

    The sort of thing I’m getting at with all of this is one of the bits of “anecdotal evidence” I have accumulated which create my doubt in the efficacy and accuracy of the IQ test. Long time ago, I used to work with a group of guys I got to know pretty well. Tony, Bob, and Aaron. Aaron was a bona-fide certified genius, on paper, and had all the markers associated with academic success, a very high-octane individual. On. Paper. The sort of crap he’d get up to with that brain of his was the bane of my existence, because he’d get himself into situations that the average troublemaking dolt could only dream of creating, simply through being so smart that he thought he could think his way through everything, and because he’d been conditioned to believe he was smarter than everyone else… Yeesh. Stories I could tell…

    In any event, Aaron was smart, meant well, but was a disaster in every way you could imagine. He was constantly getting taken advantage of by other people, who were more “street smart”, and he kept repeating the same mistakes in situation after situation. Massive headache to have as a subordinate.

    Now, Tony, on the other hand? Tony was not, on paper, the brightest light on the Christmas tree. He did not do well on the tests, and hadn’t gotten much of an education. Having him do anything remotely like office work was a nightmare; you couldn’t even have Tony serve as your scribe when you were doing something that required note-taking. I’m pretty sure he was at least moderately dyslexic. However… I started to question IQ testing as being a valid measure of real intelligence once I started to notice some things about Tony: Tony was one of those guys who never needed to consult a manual for anything. Ever. The LT who was our platoon leader bought one of those super-complicated uber-watches they had back in the day, and could not, for the life of him, get the damn thing to work or even set the time on it. Spent the morning after he bought it sitting there in the office with the little manual, trying to get it to work and do the initial setup. Could not get it to properly function, got increasingly agitated and pissed-off; after he left for lunch, I’d set Tony on phone watch in the office. While he was there, he saw the new watch sitting on the desk, and just started fiddling with it… The LT came back from lunch, with the manual he’d taken to try and wrap his head around, and Tony’s sitting there with the watch fully set up: “Hey, LT… Cool watch! I put the right time on it for you…”

    Turned out, the LT had been given the wrong manual for the watch, and Tony just figured it out from first principles. He was able to do that with damn near everything I ever handed him, without ever so much as glancing at a manual or reference. When we got in the super-complicated SINCGARS radios, the frequency-hopping encrypted bastards that everyone loathed due to their complexity, Tony sat through half the class on the damn things, got seriously bored, and started doing all the advanced functions on the things without so much as a minute of actual instruction. The civilian trainer we had running the course came over, saw what he was doing and just stood there with his jaw agape, watching him figure it all out on his own. Once he had the basic idea of something, whether it was a radio or a mechanism, Tony just figured it out.

    Bastard failed about every single written test we ever gave him. Hands-on? Doing things? Guy was a friggin’ genius. People used to hand him their video games when they got stuck on them, and he’d be knocking out levels within minutes of getting handed them for the first time. He wasn’t what I’d call “book smart”, but… Damn. The Lieutenant with that watch issue? West Point grad, all sorts of academic qualifications, working on his EIT and I know for a fact he ended up as a fairly high-level guy working for the Army Corps of Engineers. He was, without doubt, a very intelligent man. However, whatever Tony had, he lacked; I’m never going to forget watching him trying to get the new car stereo he’d had installed in his car doing what he wanted it to, throwing up his hands, and then going to get Tony to teach him how to make it work… If I remember it right, the damn thing had reset itself after the battery ran down while we were deployed, and he’d had to get his car jump-started. The internal memory-holding battery was dead on the radio, so all the stuff the shop had done to it was gone.

    The LT was, by the way, one of those guys who had trouble translating the written word into action; so long as things were abstract, he was fine. Tell him to take a platoon out and do the mission laid out in the manual…? He had issues we always had to walk him through the first couple of times.

    Several different sorts of intelligence on display, there.

    Now, the third guy, Bob? Bob was an operator; highly attuned to people and a very smart guy, on paper. If you threw him into a situation, he’d manage it to death. He and about fifteen of our junior enlisted guys got separated from the main body during a deployment exercise, once. Everyone was worried about what was going to happen to them, because they were left behind on the runway in Korea while the rest of the element got moved by the Air Force without them coordinating with anyone. We’d had no idea that they’d mucked around with the manifest; arrived back stateside, and it was like “Where the hell are those guys…?”

    We needn’t have worried. Bob looked around, saw that he was the senior guy, took charge, and then proceeded to absolutely and utterly manipulate the Air Force staff at that base into some truly unhinged stuff. Usually, Army personnel in his situation would have been living out of one of the waiting areas until aircraft were available for them… Which, due to a typhoon, was not happening that month.

    End of the day, what Bob did was get his entire package of junior enlisted guys off the airfield bit of the base, and into aircrew transient housing, whereupon he proceeded to organize things all on his own for about two weeks. We got a call (this was back when such things as cell phones and casual international calling didn’t happen…) through the military phone network wherein Bob just brightly tells the duty officer “Hey, we got left behind, but don’t worry, got it all under control… We’re here in transient quarters, the vehicles are in a yard, I’ve got the weapons and sensitive items under control… Everything’s fine…”

    We also got a call from the Air Force telling us what a wonderful job our young officer had done, so sorry about the diversion, but they’d needed their aircraft to run disaster relief missions to Guam, or something…

    Bob was not an officer. The Air Force was not disabused of this notion of theirs, and when Bob got back, they still thought he was an officer of some sort. I do not know how the hell he pulled that off, but as usual, Bob navigated the turmoil of life with consummate ease, completely unruffled by anything. He did eventually wind up with a commission himself, once he got out and did college.

    Bob’s IQ test scores would have been middle-of-the-road; not that bad, not that good. He was, however, situationally astute; he managed things that other, more highly-qualified men simply could not. I’m morally certain that if the guy who’d supposed to have been on that aircraft hadn’t been manifested improperly, then he’d have had all those guys living out of one of the waiting areas for two weeks, eating vending machine food on their own dime. Bob? When he was done, the Air Force gave him a vehicle to use, put him up with all his people in better housing than they had at home station, and proceeded to bend over backwards to take care of him and the people he’d taken responsibility for. In terms of an actual accomplishment…? That was ‘effing genius. I have no idea how the hell he managed it. But, he did…

    Several sorts of intelligence on display with those three guys. None of which were really assessed by the IQ test regime, and none of which could be predicted or judged other than by practical real-world observation. I don’t doubt that the IQ test tells us something, but that old joke about the guy who lost his keys looking for them under the street light where the lighting was good, rather than where he actually lost them…? That comes to mind. I do not think that much of what the IQ test tells us is of enough value to be using it the way we are; performance testing and real-world situational assessments are far more useful.

  • eb

    And people still believe that the 2020 election wasn’t stolen!

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