Politics, Science, Social Science
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Elite Opinion vs the Wisdom of Crowds: The Intelligentsia’s Tendency to Get Things Wrong

The intelligentsia have a reputation for being out of touch and it’s easy to see why, given their stereotypical tendency to live in sheltered, affluent neighbourhoods. Therefore it should be no surprise if we turn on the TV news and see prominent, well-paid economists displaying a more relaxed attitude to uncontrolled, mass migration than those of us who live in disadvantaged neighbourhoods where the most dysfunctional migrants usually end up being accommodated. Likewise, it is only natural to expect heavily-guarded high court judges to have a more lenient attitude towards criminals than those of us who live in rougher, less protected localities.

But the detachment of the urban elite is more than just a matter of living somewhere posh — it is also a matter of culture, as noted by George Orwell in 1941: ‘This is the really important fact about the English intelligentsia — their severance from the common culture of the country’.

The cultural detachment of the metropolitan elite from the people was recently highlighted in the run up to the Brexit referendum, as a panoply of “experts” queued up in TV and radio studios to pledge allegiance to the EU, make threatening pronouncements about the consequences of Brexit and condemn as bigots those of us who wished to regain control of our national destiny. Even the (usually) politically impartial governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, threw his weight behind “Project Fear”, warning on May 12th 2016 that a vote for Brexit could trigger a “technical recession”. The IMF also jumped on the bandwagon, with lurid warnings that Brexit would trigger a recession, house price crash and stock market collapse. European Council President Donald Tusk went still further, warning on 13th June 2016 that “As a historian I fear that Brexit could be the beginning of the destruction of not only the EU but also of western political civilisation in its entirety”. Despite the threats of the intelligentsia, on June 23rd 2016 the people of the UK voted by a majority of more than 1.2 million to leave the EU.

One interesting side effect of the Brexit vote has been to smoke out members of the intelligentsia whose attachment to democracy is fragile. This is interesting because, as a highly educated, supposedly liberal elite, the intelligentsia would be expected to support democracy. But in the aftermath of Brexit leading intellectuals such as A.C. Grayling wrote articles revealing that they are selectively democratic — loving democracy when the vote aligns with their views, but refusing to accept it when the vote goes against their opinion. Incidentally Grayling was at it again recently on his Twitter account when he argued that the Brexit vote should be overturned because “90% of informed opinion is for Remain”, which elicited some hilarious responses about how he calculated this 90% figure:

The notion of an elite trying to subvert democracy is not new: for example, Owen Jones’s 2013 book The Establishment takes aim at what he sees as a shadowy cabal of capitalists who try to manage democracy to further their financial interests. This idea has some merit in my view but leaves unanswered the question of why the liberal elite also feel the urge to “manage” democracy when there is no financial incentive for them to do so. This is where their cultural leanings come into the picture — the smug, superior “we know better than you” world view that was displayed so prominently in the UK media by the intelligentsia’s talking heads in the run up to the Brexit vote.

This holier-than-thou attitude is not confined to the UK, as evidenced by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to flout laws on border control, opening up Europe to uncontrolled mass migration from Africa and the Middle East — despite not having a democratic mandate to so. Likewise the desire of the European intelligentsia to appear politically correct has seen laws concerning the minimum age of marriage being ignored in the case of migrants from Africa and the Middle East. For example, in Denmark, instead of being convicted of sex offences, migrants with child brides are being reunited with their victims, some of whom, according to a BBC report on 30th September 2016, are as young as 14 years old.

***

The hostile reaction of the intelligentsia to the Brexit vote or laws on immigration control demonstrates their out of touch, anti-democratic world view on the big stage, but it is also evident in smaller scale contexts. This was brought home to me about nine months ago when the liberal elite had me in their sights. My crime was to write a book about how discoveries from personality research could be used to refine the welfare state so that it no longer erodes work motivation. I earn my living as a personality researcher, but before becoming established as a scientist I spent almost a decade working in a variety of low paid roles and, between jobs, I claimed unemployment benefits. It therefore seemed to me that I could help to improve the welfare state by combining my two areas of experience in a book, which I entitled ‘The Welfare Trait: how state benefits affect personality’ and was duly published by Palgrave Macmillan in November 2015.

This book is unremarkable scientifically because there are decades of studies linking personality and employability. It is also unremarkable in democratic terms because recent general elections have provided a mandate for welfare reform, as demonstrated by such phenomena as the benefit cap. But my book made the mistake of clashing with the PC narrative that unemployed people are the hapless victims of capitalism, in a predicament that is unconnected to their own personalities. This is of course true for some unemployed people, but not all — for example, data from a variety of countries show that antisocial personality characteristics measured in childhood predict employment difficulties in adulthood and that employment-resistant personality characteristics are approximately six times more common amongst the unemployed than in the population as a whole.

Regardless, despite its dry academic tone and empirical, peer-reviewed content the politically incorrect nature of my book made me a target of the intelligentsia on social media and in the national press. Some criticisms were reasonable — notably those of Professor Mike Brewer — but the outrage of the liberal elite strayed into farce when it transpired that some of the most shrill, sneering critics of my book such as Ben Goldacre and Jonathan Portes hadn’t even read it and that those that had, such as Kitty Stewart, delivered factually incorrect critiques, such as how The Welfare Trait is based on “no solid evidence” or that I advocate the existence of a “welfare-claimant gene”.

For the record, my book draws upon the results of approximately 100 empirical studies published in peer-reviewed academic journals to argue that welfare policies which increase the number of children born into disadvantaged households risk proliferating dysfunctional, employment-resistant personality characteristics, due to the damaging effect on personality development of exposure to childhood disadvantage. But perhaps the real reason I attracted the wrath of the intelligentsia was because in the final chapter of The Welfare Trait I conclude that one contributory factor to the creation of self-defeating welfare policies is the geographical and social detachment of the urban elite because it means they don’t witness the ill effects of the welfare policies that they advocate.

Whatever the reason, the liberal elite closed ranks against my book, as evidenced by the Times Higher Education’s one-sided write up of my recent LSE lecture. I spent almost an hour presenting the results of 23 studies yet my painstaking empirical analysis was airbrushed out of the description of the event in favour of Kitty Stewart’s factually flawed attack on my book.

The point is that hostility to discussion of personality and welfare seems to be a general phenomenon amongst the intelligentsia, not just a quirk of the Times Higher Education’s correspondent who attended my lecture. For example, in October 2015, before my book was published, I experienced a similar thing when I was a guest on BBC Radio Four’s flagship current affairs programme (The Today Programme). I was there to talk about research on fear and anxiety but after my broadcast finished I mentioned to the BBC staff who dealt with me that I had just written a book about problematic links between personality and the welfare state. I offered to return and talk about this issue once the book was published, since it seemed to me as a long standing fan of Radio Four’s Today Programme, that their listeners would regard it as important. I was given a brush off, with the excuse that my book was not topical and thus unlikely to be of interest to the general public. Yet just a few weeks later, my book was a subject of heated public debate on social media and in the broadsheet newspapers, suggesting once again the people have a better sense than the intelligentsia of what is important.

The anti-democratic attitude of the liberal elite is absurd from a theoretical viewpoint because a democratic judgment represents the will of the majority and so whatever the majority decide is the correct answer, no ifs, no buts. But even in the matter of cold, hard economic and social outcomes, it seems the intelligentsia have thus far got it wrong — following the Brexit vote we are not in recession, business is booming and the civilised world has not collapsed. Likewise, in the domain of welfare policy, it turns out that the electorate were correct to vote for tightened welfare conditions in recent years since there is now plenty of research showing that generous welfare regimes do indeed erode work-motivation. Similarly, the surge in sex crimes in Europe following uncontrolled mass migration from Africa and the Middle East suggests that the intelligentsia have got it wrong there too.

***

So why do the intelligentsia, for all their education and slick linguistic skills, keep getting it wrong and the targets of their sneering – the general public – keep getting it right? One explanation is a phenomenon known as the wisdom of the crowds. This was first demonstrated by Charles Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton, who was interested in testing the validity of democratic decisions — the “vox populi” as he called it.

grand-champion-bullGalton did this by analysing estimates of the weight of a bull that were made by 787 people who attended the West of England Fat Stock and Poultry Exhibition that was held in Plymouth in 1906. In his analysis Galton conceptualised the middlemost estimate as representing the democratic verdict of the people since every other estimate in comparison was judged too low or too high by the majority of voters.

Galton’s analysis found support for the validity of democratic decision-making because it turned out that vox populi was correct to within one percent of the real value: the middlemost estimate of the bull’s weight (1207lb) was just 9lbs from the correct weight (1198lb). Galton’s finding was published in Nature magazine and it has gone on to be recognised as a classic experiment. Subsequent research has confirmed that in matters of judgement where there can be a correct answer, the pooled verdict of a large population of non-experts is indeed usually superior to that of a small number of supposedly more intelligent and better informed intellectuals. Perhaps the most striking support for the wisdom of the crowds stems from Rudolph J. Rummel’s research which showed that while there were 371 wars between 1816 and 2005, none of them occurred between two democracies.

The wisdom of the crowds is usually viewed as occurring because in large and diverse groups, such as the electorate of the UK, statistical noise or error in individual judgments is cancelled out. Thus while a dictator may overlook the costs of causing a needless war, a national electorate, with its many different perspectives on an issue, will not. But the wisdom of the crowds is not universally applicable, as it will not work in situations that are just a matter of chance or when niche academic training is required to understand a problem (i.e., when deciding which numbers will win the national lottery next Saturday nor when working out a chemical equation). The coming decades will reveal more clearly if the vox populi vote for Brexit was the right decision for the UK but if I had to bet I would put my money on the wisdom of the crowds, not the opinion of the intelligentsia.

 

Adam Perkins is a Lecturer in the Neurobiology of Personality at Kings College London. His book The Welfare Trait: how state benefits affect personality. Follow him on Twitter @AdamPerkinsPhD

42 Comments

  1. jorgekafkazar says

    The “intelligentsia” judge themselves by their intentions, not their results.

  2. DiscoveredJoys says

    More than 40 years ago the ‘big thing’ in letting contracts (based on an assessment of various ‘rates’ for different volumes and type of *planned* work) in my large plc was to carry out a ‘post audit. Using the various bid rates from contractors and applying them to the actual work carried out revealed whether there were improvements to be made in the planning process or the bid comparison process.

    Imagine ‘post audit’ applied to laws (more than budgetary oversight). It would improve the construction of a law to include measures of expected outcome, and where the outcome was markedly different evidence for redrafting or revoking the law.

    Now you can argue that real life is messy and such ‘post audit’ would be difficult, but you could certainly use it to get a ‘proper’ insight into the actual effect of changing tax rates or changing the minimum wage – if the outcomes were well defined at the start.

  3. Adam,

    May I suggest that it is possible to bet on the wisdom of the crowds while not thinking that Brexit was the right decision 😉

    In his book Reinventing Organizations, Frédérick Lalloux makes the point that Teal Organizations, where people have the proper latitude to find (or even create) their place inside a company, allow for a new kind of personal development (while people stuck inside a hierarchy tend to adapt to the limited skills required by this position).

    In the same way, we can argue that the wisdom of crow (apart from very simple arithmetic issues like Galton’s experiment) can only come from a Teal crowd, where each individual as the freedom to “grow” (reach a new level of consciousness) from individuation and build a meshed society by establishing a “societal network”.

    To sum up, a genuine wisdom of crowd can hardly emerge in usual “pyramidal hierarchical” democracies… especially nowadays when complexity proves that “elites” have little hindsight and have them justify their existence by way of a kind of fear mongering that closes all debates in a very limited scope.

    • Tim Hammond says

      Your statement is actually just silly. In terms of an economic outcome, we cannot possibly know if Brexit was “right” for many years, and even then, given the chaotic, non-linear complexity of the world, it will be difficult to judge then even if the UK significantly out- or under-performs other EU countries.

      So what other perspectives are there? The majority wanted to leave, so we are “right” to leave, That’s broadly how it works. It is pointless to argue that wanting to control immigration or having full sovereignty for the UK is not “right” since it is neither a moral or economic choice that can be proven wrong.

      so how can you judge Brexit to be wrong?

  4. Good thing Galton’s crowd looked at actual bull not at one that tweeted and instagramed.

  5. Paul Scoles says

    What astonishing drivel.

    To get the right answer, you have to ask the right question. Galton’s “experiment” is a perfect example: the right question is not “who is correct more often, the experts or the vox populi?”, rather, the correct question is “Who is more likely to estimate the weight of a bull correctly, a city dweller, or someone who raises cattle?”

    I would argue that in fact the term “elite” is used as an epithet by those who are too lazy to learn statistics before condemning them, who mistake anecdote for evidence, who deny the validity of scholarship because they are too intellectually lazy to pursue it, and whose opinions can be bought by any demagogue who has enough money.

    • Tim Hammond says

      Right, your series of obviously biased assertions are correct, not the person trying to use science.

      Your claim that crowd that estimated the weight of a bull were all cattle breeders is simply false, as anybody who has actually read about the experiment knows, Moreover, you obviously don’t understand how the “correct” answer was arrived at by the crowd, so you look a bit stupid.

      And the idea that people who are “too lazy” to learn statistics should use “elite” as an insult is just a strange and weird claim – even for somebody as amazing and brilliant (in your own mind).

      Nobody denies scholarship (strawman alert) but the record of “experts” at predicting the future has been shown – by much scholarship – to be extremely poor and often worse than random chance.

      So the only person actually denying scholarship is you.

  6. Santoculto says

    Be sincere here, if Brexit had no win, conservative people would lamenting the democracy, the voice of the crowds. The victory of the Brexit was pretty tiny to be treated such a ”the ‘wisdom’ of the crowds”, well, half of this crowd voted against it.

  7. But wisdom of crowds work only if all “crowd” members are making theirs own decision base on theirs own thoughts. This means that any form of campaign for or against which doesn’t base only on facts will make crowd decisions flawed.
    In case of Brexit ad with false information about amounts send to EU and this that those may be spend on NHS flawed decision. It provided false information, and from this point any decision made base on this piece of information wasn’t supporting idea of “wisdom of crowds”. Similar was probably on Remain side too.
    James Surowiecki who wrote The Wisdom of Crowds was pointing this out in his book.
    I will even say that in environment where you have ads for and against something this scary Intelligentsia is making better choices because of this that they usually are using more critical thinking, and are more sceptical so behave more like members of wise crowd.

    • Tim Hammond says

      Yeah, yeah, all the Remain information was simply factual.

      And all Leavers made their choice based on the lies – not for example the idea that the UK should be sovereign.

      Let’s see. Osborne’s claim about GDP being the same as household income, which he said was a fact? And that somehow that forecast – that any forecast – could be a fact?

      Your argument is based on utter nonsense. Both sides made false claims, and we are not all little children who can’t make up our own minds and do research.

      Arrogant and biased – bit that’s too many Remainers.

      • “And all Leavers made their choice based on the lies – not for example the idea that the UK should be sovereign.”

        I think you’re making Przemysław’s point there about regarding false information influencing decisions, Tim. EU member states are all sovereign nations.

        • CBinTH says

          Well, “L Ron Sanders”; “EU member states are all sovereign nations” that’s not entirely an uncontested fact, is it? Even Remain advocates were arguing that there’s no such thing as absolute sovereignty, that it’s only a matter of degree.

          In that situation, you can’t really argue that Tim is categorically wrong to state that EU members are *not* all sovereign nations, and that his information is “false”.

  8. This isn’t just about causality and facts, which one may call “scientific paternalism”, but also about preferences (“value paternalism”).

    That aside, one should look at rational ignorance, and scale as well as complexity of the thing to be understood (by crowds). I guess that: the greater scale and complexity, the better crowds and heuristics. (Concerns of autonomy not dealt with.)

  9. Santoculto says

    Seems, crowds become perceptually precise where they are faced with obvious or salient threats BUT half of britons choice leave ”Europe”.

  10. There seems to be a bit of cherry picking going on. The author claims to be basing his views on the evidence, but ignores the preponderance of evidence showing immigration is a net benefit (see https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23030680-700-the-truth-about-migration-how-it-will-reshape-our-world/).
    Also, “no wars between democracies” is a myth, although its true they fight less wars (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_between_democracies). I don’t think the link provided supports the claim of a “surge in sex crimes in Europe” either.

  11. DiscoveredJoys says

    I can’t help feeling that all the arguments about lies and facts (on either side) miss the point of the Referendum. Each individual’s decision rests not only on matters of fact but also how valued that ‘fact’ might be. It is quite possible for one individual to value the fact that immigration is a net monetary benefit yet another individual might value that fact (if it is true) less than some other aspect such as local population growth or impact on wages. And the same for ‘sovereignty’ and so on.

    The Referendum then was not establishing the ‘truth of the crowd’ but the ‘values of the crowd’ concerning membership of the EU.

    • Santoculto says

      Older and white brits look to the ”very” long term threats while youngers, on avg, look to their own possible monetary advantages, in other words, in the selfish way.

  12. Joseph says

    Populist opinion often reflects the opinions of the elite to a greater degree than they differ. This shouldn’t be a surprise since the elite (those with money and those who have political power) have firm control over the media which influences a lot about what the crowd thinks. The biggest difference in opinion is found on a more individualistic level; the people who don’t agree with either the elite or the crowd. The people whose voice is heard on the internet and in obscure books but never given any mainstream credibility.

    With Brexit you could say the elite lost and that the crowd showed a different opinion and it appears you would be right. Are the elite losing their influence? Perhaps the internet is helping to push the crowd in a different direction? Or was the crowd led to think that the brexit vote was bigger than it actually was? When the UK leaves the EU will they really be a free nation or are the more essential strings people pulled from somewhere else?

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  14. The wisdom of the crowds is pop-science notion that is only true in certain circumstances. Galtons experiment was a naive beginning to what is now the mathematical field of consensual learning theory. Combining multiple decision makers is a problem that has been well studied, and it is not the case in general that people acting in a crowd increases it’s accuracy. There exists a provably optimal way of combining multiple people (or decision makers) advice, which involves weighting their advice by how often they were right in the past. Using that method, without knowing a priori who the best expert in the crowd is, one can get within log n + c of the best expert in the crowd (where n is the number of the people in the crowd). In general, more people will decrease the accuracy relative to the best possible decision. If those people have new information & knowledge, then the situation is reversed, or in cases where everyone has the same knowledge and a kind of averaging is taking place.

  15. stanmarion says

    While I don’t disagree with your general point that the intelligentsia is often disconnected from the plebe, I find your example of finding the weight of a bull quite disingenuous. The question “What’s the weight of a given bull?” is nowhere near as complex as “Should we brexit?”. It is in fact very different in all aspects and this looks like false equivalence to me. For instance, there is a clear right answer to the first question, whereas it is very likely that there isn’t a right answer to the second, or rather, the correctness of the answer will be highly dependent on many subjective factors, which brings us back to “who knows better”.
    Having 52% of people decide for the other 48% doesn’t make the 52% right and the other 48% wrong. It just makes democracy a very poor system, even though it still might be the best.

  16. Adam Perkins says

    Thanks for your interesting comment Stan, the point that most clever people seem to miss that the Brexit decision is not complicated: it boils down to whether the UK is capable of governing itself. And that is a simple decision that is suited for a large crowd to make, because the millions of different perspectives will mean that the bias in each person’s decision is cancelled out and we are left with the right answer: yes, the UK is capable of governing itself.

    That takes care of all the other questions about border control, trade etc. because those will be decided in the normal way, as all other laws have been decided for hundreds of years in the UK.

  17. To be clear – the notion that millions of people somehow “average out error” is provably *incorrect*. Whatever ones opinions on Brexit, Galton’s experiment, is NOT true in a general case. A million fools does not make an expert.

  18. Adam Perkins says

    Thanks for your interest in my article Finn, but I think you’re supporting my argument about the snooty, superior attitude of the intelligentsia by describing us, the general public, as “a million fools”. This is the kind of out of touch attitude that which leads the intelligentsia to make flawed, anti-democratic decisions, such as opening the door to uncontrolled mass migration into Europe from Africa and the Middle East.

    • I’m sorry if you misunderstood my point. I *am* the general public, and we are not fools. I don’t know much about policy, but i do know enough to know that Brexit has powerful elite supporters, just as much as Remain does. Which camp wins, is primarily about who owns the keys to communication. But that is my personal opinion and I tend to be somewhat cynical…More importantly, there is something I can speak on with more authority – the mathematics of combining information. Your example of the Galton experiment is factually incorrect in the general case. A practical, modern day example of this was Google’s attempt to predict the trends in flu cases by averaging the number of searches performed by the general public for words related to flu and sickness. The spectacular failure of this attempt was discussed in a paper by Lazer, Kennedy, King & Vespingani and published in SCIENCE VOL 343 14 MARCH 2014, under the title: “The parable of Google flu, traps in big data analysis.”

      • Adam Perkins says

        Thanks Finn, one point you seem to be missing is that the spread of a flu virus is not the same as a decision made by a crowd of voters on, for example, whether to remain in the EU. Moreover, as I mentioned to Stan, the Brexit decision is not complicated: it boils down to whether the UK is capable of governing itself. And that is a simple decision that is suited for a large crowd to make, because the millions of different perspectives will mean that the bias in each person’s decision is cancelled out and we are left with the right answer: yes, the UK is capable of governing itself.

        That takes care of all the other questions about border control, trade etc. because those will be decided in the normal way, as all other laws have been decided for hundreds of years in the UK.

  19. Michael says

    By the authors own logic it means we should disregard this article because the intelligentsia are “out of touch” and “don’t know what they’re talking about”, coming from someone with a Phd and is working within the ranks of the intelligentsia. It’s an absolute disgrace for an intellectual to spout anti-intellectual rantings and have the audacity to proclaim the crowds have “wisdom” and imply that intellectuals don’t by being “out of touch”.
    He should read up on political science and philosophy and actually know what dumbmocracy is really about. How can a bum on the street be equated with a mathematician and be considered “equal” in voting. It’s idiosyncratic and hypocritical.
    Has Adam caught the herd mentality disease, or is he on the payroll by the conservatives to serve the elite? Or has Adam simply projecting his discontent on his own position within the intelligentsia?

  20. Adam Perkins says

    Thanks for your comment Michael, democracy is a matter of one person one vote and for a good reason: since you say that some people are more equal than others when it comes to voting, you have a problem because you would need to invent a system to decide how much a person’s vote is worth. And then let’s say someone else cooks up a different system for deciding how much each person’s vote is worth and your vote is downgraded to, for example, 1/10th of theirs. etc etc. So you can see things get pretty tricky as soon as we deviate from one person one vote…

    • Michael says

      Adam,
      Democracy as it is now in Western Society, is nothing as to what it was in it’s original form as practiced in Ancient Greece (to be specific, in Athens, and even they had many flaws in their system of democracy). Nowadays, democracy and capitalism go together, if it hasn’t been evident enough, that whoever has the biggest funding, bankrolling elections, lobbying, media propaganda etc determines the outcome of elections. And even then, who holds the leverage of power in government? Do the people vote for those that actually represent them or is the choice already made for them (different candidate, but same interests unaligned with the people)?

      Rather than the elite subverting democracy as you suggested, ask the question of who actually benefits from democracy; the people or the elite?

      If you want to keep democracy, at least make it better quality; such as qualified voting, only those that are in the field, say economists or scientists, can vote for those policies affecting. In these instances, votes are not downgraded, but they are “uplifted” by the fact that those that are knowledgeable in those areas are allowed to vote, and whoever gets elected are accountable to their peers and the people within the State. Any major screw up (eg. 08 GFC), those elected would be immediately sacked without compensation and someone better and more qualified, voted in by their peers in the field will replace them.

      Ask people on the street, the average layperson in the affairs of economics for example and discover how many of them truly understand what happened during the 08 crash. Even after many astounding and brilliant made documentaries, the majority still don’t understand what happened and most will blame government for “creating” the crash when government, with taxpayers money, were the ones who bailed out Wall St.

      Democracy, in the spouted theory, is about people being rational units making rational decisions, hence given the voting power to make rational decisions on their own behalf. Unfortunately, the majority of people are IRRATIONAL (let alone having any expertise or knowledge in fields that they don’t understand). So how can democracy be a fair and just system in the first place when people are not by default rational units?

      As you said yourself, by your own logic, I think you’re out of touch with what really happens in the streets…

      • Adam Perkins says

        Thanks Michael, apart from the particular problems with your claim that the majority of people are irrational (e.g., how do you define irrational), as I mentioned to Stan above, the point that most clever people seem to miss that the Brexit decision is not complicated: it boils down to whether the UK is capable of governing itself. And that is a simple decision that is suited for a large crowd to make, because the millions of different perspectives will mean that the bias in each person’s decision is cancelled out and we are left with the right answer: yes, the UK is capable of governing itself.

        That takes care of all the other questions about border control, trade etc. because those will be decided in the normal way, as all other laws have been decided for hundreds of years in the UK.

        • Michael says

          Irrational: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/irrational

          This was in reference to refuting democracy had anything to do with rational human entities.

          So you’re saying the opinions of average Joe is capable of making the decision whether UK is capable of governing itself; that they know or are qualified in all the intricacies of economic, political, socio-cultural etc, that would affect generations and generations to come for the whole nation and potentially for the rest of the Western world?

          Oh Ho Ho…
          And where has “democracy” lead the UK for these hundreds of years? Into a 5th rate (dying) nation. Yes…democracy has done well hasn’t it?

  21. Yes Michael, I know the dictionary definition of irrational. What you haven’t made clear in your blue print for a new, non-democratic world is how you propose to sort the rational people from the irrational. As for the question of whether the UK is capable of governing itself, most of the major innovative breakthroughs provided to the world by the UK happened before the EU took over our governance ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_British_innovations_and_discoveries ). So it’s not difficult to see that the UK does indeed have a good track record of success as a self-governing nation.

  22. Michael says

    Adam,

    Here’s a blueprint for a non-democratic world (having said that, I did mention of a better version of democracy on the basis of quality):

    https://www.amazon.com/Case-Meritocracy-Political-Book-ebook/dp/B018W0ULVM

    I don’t know your definitions of what is rational or irrational (it’s pretty straight forward with their definitions), but hopefully that book will assist in sorting that out.

    Regarding whether the UK is capable of governing itself, it seems as though you’re solely blaming the EU for the poor governance and decline in the UK rather than acknowledging other variables and elements that have generated the decline. What about free-market capitalism and neoliberalism? They’re much more plausible than just “blaming the EU”. Moreover, what about the anti-intellectualism that has sneaked itself into the UK that has contributed to its decline? Do you think those innovative and technological breakthroughs happened without the intelligentsia in which you are derogating? Would the “wisdom of the crowd” be able to generate those technological innovations that once glorified the UK? (I think not!)

    I’m being very critical at you Adam because frankly, this article is poorly thought out. Using intellectual posturing to derogate the intelligentsia (of which you are part of) is hypocritical and your arguments exclude the variety of more prominent variables that are in play, revealing a narrow-mindedness that only conservatives display. (Which no doubt plays that bias and justification in the Brexit affair)

  23. Adam Perkins says

    I’m not sure that working as a scientist is enough to qualify me as a member of the intelligentsia – as Orwell explained, the intelligentsia are most clearly defined by their cultural separation from the people. This stereotypically tends to involve living in upper class neighborhoods (which I don’t) but more fundamentally relates to their belief that we the people cannot be trusted to decide our own fate by voting and instead need to be bossed around by members of the intelligentsia. If you can read an article in which I advocate democracy and in which I also criticize the anti-democratic attitude of the intelligentsia, and still come to the conclusion that I am a member of the intelligentsia then your understanding of words is different to mine.

  24. Michael says

    Adam,

    Just so I’m on the same page, you don’t consider scientists as part of the intelligentsia?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligentsia

    Don’t scientists write in academic journals and the such just like those in the fields of the intelligentsia? And Phd students get paid around $25,000 (in the US) which hardly qualifies them to be part of the middle-upper class bracket that the stereotypical usage of the word defines. In fact, I would even speculate that out of the all the subjects within the intelligentsia, scientists would be the ones that get paid the most compared to arts and philosophy, hence would be the best fit in this stereotype.

    The notions of the intelligentsia in this day and age is different to what it was before. Though I have my own doubts as to whether this stereotype was relevant or even fitted the description of the intelligentsia then. (Granted intellectuals such as Carl Jung was part of the “aristocracy” class, but what about the likes of Nietzsche, he was culturally separated but very much remained poor?)
    The so-called “intelligentsia” that most people think about are the conservative intellectuals, where they come from affluent families and suburbs (hence the upper-middle class stereotype), moreover, rich capitalists (and nowadays libertarians) have private think-tanks where they hire intellectuals (for a considerable fee) paid to churn out propaganda, hence adding to that stereotype and I would even say, subverting the whole definition of the “intelligentsia”.

    I’m aware of your situation that you’ve written in the article, and it is admirable indeed to get to where you are now. But when it comes to politics, this article is woefully out of sync in both theory and what happens in practice (as mentioned in my points already). There is a reason why genuine intellectuals/the intelligentsia criticize democracy is because it’s a flawed concept. If you have any philosophical literacy, you would know why, especially in the case in capitalist market democracies (which isn’t democracy at all in fact).

  25. Adam Perkins says

    If it suits you to believe that a pro-democratic wage slave living in a disadvantaged neighborhood (i.e., me) belongs in the same group as a bunch of aloof millionaires who think the people are too stupid to be allowed to decide their own fate at the ballot box, then that’s great. I’ll go with Orwell though.

  26. Uri Harris says

    Interesting article, Adam. I admire your taking a stance against the general sentiment in academia on these issues.

    When you look for reasons why the cultural and intellectual elite behave the way they do, I think you overlook the most obvious: morality. People in this group are on average more to the left than the general population, and so they tend to view it as their moral obligation to help poor immigrants, for example. Morality can be an extremely strong motivator.

  27. Adam Perkins says

    Thanks for you comment Uri, you make a fascinating point about the intelligentsia tending to be left wing and thus feeling a stronger moral obligation to help poor immigrants. If they actually did so that would be great, but with regard to the UK intelligentsia at least, they talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk. In other words we have plenty of millionaire champagne socialist-types in the UK who are using the migrant issue for virtue-signaling purposes: they wax lyrical about how keen they are for the UK to accommodate migrants, but their keenness only holds true as long as it’s someone else who does the accommodating. It’s a similar phony story in other areas of their lives: e.g., they are keen on wealth redistribution, as long as it’s someone else’s wealth that gets redistributed. And so on and so on…

  28. Uri Harris says

    You make some good points Adam, but I’m not sure I completely agree. I think the notion of these people not being willing to sacrifice themselves is a bit of a myth. I would liken it to the Hollywood caricature of the self-serving Christian priest telling other people they’re immoral while happily engaging in those same practices behind closed doors. I’m sure that did and does occur, but in most cases, I think they truly believe what they’re saying and act accordingly. Morality is a very powerful motivator.

    Now, I think it’s fair to say that they would be less likely to hold these moral beliefs if they lived in areas with lots of immigrants and poverty. The simplistic, Platonic view of the victimised immigrant or poor person is more difficult to hold when one is surrounded by immigrants and poor people and realise that the situation is more complicated.

    So my problem isn’t so much that they’re engaging in empty virtue-signalling, but that they’re trying to force their moral beliefs on others, and that those moral beliefs are ivory-tower constructs. I could be wrong though. I’m not sure whether this has actually been studied.

  29. Adam Perkins says

    Yes Uri, I think you’re making sense about the intelligentsia forcing their moral beliefs on others. For example, before Tony Blair’s government got elected in 1997 their manifesto made no mention of promoting uncontrolled mass migration but once they got elected that is what happened: https://www.migrationwatchuk.org/pressarticle/83

  30. Uri Harris says

    Interesting article. Glad to see it’s now become permissable to address the issue.

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