Is the Intellectual Elite Out of Touch with Reality?

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It has been a central conceit of the progressive movement since the early 1900’s that simply getting enough smart people together will cure all our problems.

This is the approach of technocracy — rule by experts.  We tried it.  Wilson and his ilk “solved” the problem of world peace after WWI, Kennedy and his brain trust “solved” the Bay of Pigs crisis with Cuba, Reagan and his A-Team of savvy business people “broke down” the Soviet Union, George W. Bush and his close circle of neo-cons “prevailed” over evil in the Middle East.

All of them with their elite “Ivy leaguers” thought they were going to redraw the maps of the globe.  All what they did was create a bigger mess than ever in every single corner of the globe…. We’re still cleaning up the mess in the Middle East caused by acts of hubris and years of “rookie” foreign policy. We now have practically every country in the world on our back resenting our actions after having lost all trust in us to say  the least…. and this is just the beginning.

Other examples — ones that some would rather forgot — include the progressive eugenics movement, the attempt to purify the blood lines and improve the race via forced sterilization, birth control, etc….  Fortunately for us it never took off as much in the United States as it did in other countries.

It is high time to wake up and start realizing that very smart men, with PhD’s and holding distinguished chairs at elite universities does not mean that all intellectuals are wrong, but it does mean that mere academic pedigree is an insufficient credential for developing public policy.

The conservative position is that tradition embodies the collective intelligence — the best of what has been thought and done — over generations, and it deserves to be given its due weight, that human social systems are extremely complex and that unintended consequences often outweigh good intentions.   This does not mean that we never change, but it does imply that we imperfectly understand how society actually works and that human nature is not infinitely malleable.

Conservatives are not opposed to intelligence, but they lack the naiveté needed to trust that intelligence alone solves real-world social/political problems.  Ultimately we must relate to each others as persons, as real flesh and blood individuals, not as abstractions of the intellect.  Where society has lost touch with this it has caused the greatest misery.

As Thomas Sowell’s book, “Intellectuals and Society” states:.

“If you have an elite that thinks the voters are stupid, then the voters end up just being their political plaything. Notice as well that the political effort to hide details from voters influences how the policy is implemented, which is going to have both intended and long-term unintended consequences.  If voters try to make an intelligent argument, they are rebuffed and suppressed, because the elite think of themselves as the smartest people in the room, and they don’t want anyone contesting them”.

Precisely what’s happening today during the 2016 Presidential elections. Anyone outside the “elite Establishment” is a plain idiot who does not know what he/she is talking about. Anyone inside the “beltway” is someone we should closely listen to… How far from the truth.

Another issue I have with the intellectual elite is that they don’t engage in quality leadership.  They think that just saying what the research says is correct is sufficient for leadership and governance.  However, with a large diversity of population, you have to more directly engage in cultivating relationship and explaining policy.  You never liked it when you parents just dictated policy versus explaining it.  Voters are no different.

Leadership, particularly at large scales like government, isn’t about telling people what to do, it’s about bringing people with you.  If you aren’t bringing people with you, you functionally aren’t leading.

Communication is a key part of politics in our age.  And the relational and EQ piece of the overall leadership package is critical if you want to be a real representative of the people.

The intellectual elite are generally significantly smarter than average, but they also tend to (depending on how you look at it) either underestimate the difficulty of solving large complex problems, or overestimate their ability to reason through them.

Their egos write checks their intellects cannot cash.

My hope would be that political leaders one day develop the good judgement to know when to call on intellectual elites and when not to.

I would say we do want an intellectual elite contributing to society, but we would benefit a lot from more epistemological humility from many of them.

Share your thoughts….

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Why Financial Education?

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It is a sad fact today that most people starting with students are financially illiterate.

Here are some sobering facts:

  • The average score on a freshman “financial literacy exam” was 59%, according to the JumpStart Coalition.
  • The average student has roughly $23,000 in student loans, $4,000 in credit card debt and four credit cards.
  • An average of 7% percent of graduates default on their student loans within the first few years.

Here’s what students are begging to understand:

  • 84% say they need more education on financial management, according to Sallie Mae.
  • 62% say their knowledge of credit reports is either fair or poor, according to the Consumer Federation of America.
  • 60% have only a vague understanding of their debt, according to TheFreeLibrary.com.

So what can we – as parents, activists and educators do?

Start talking

Dedicate a portion of your time with your children and financially illiterate friends to money. Encourage them to share their struggles and successes. They like hearing from one another. They trust each other. Because people generally aren’t as comfortable talking about money as we are other topics, it’s important to foster these important discussions. Pushing people to get outside of their comfort zone will make the experience more memorable and more effective in their drive toward financial independence.

Bring problem-solving to the discussion

Feeding young and even older minds financial facts does little to increase financial intelligence. The trick is engagement. Researchers from the JumpStart Coalition found that financial literacy is really a measure of problem-solving ability rather than a mere awareness of financial facts.

Establish and nurture identity

It is a fact that when you lose your identity, you stall growth. You face closing doors. You lose freedom. The same is true for financial identity. Most people don’t know how to effectively budget, manage their debt loads, or save. If they’re lucky enough to find jobs, they face starting salaries that have remained stagnant for more than a decade. Yet, if they can learn the basics of money management and problem-solve their way out of sticky financial situations, to be their own financial advocates, and learn where to get help they’ll be more likely to find success.

Bottom Line:

Most of us are not doctors but know what to do to take care of our health. We get this knowledge from our parents, peers, our regular reading, TV etc…. We try as far as possible to follow the advice on balanced diet, Exercise, rest, and minimize/ eliminate bad habits like smoking and drinking. I would like to think of “financial education” in the same way. We all need money to ensure a good life and we need to take care of it. You don’t have to be a mathematics or financial genius to understand this. Here are my basics:

  1. Live within your means. Ensure you can pay for what you buy.
  2. If you borrow money ensure you can pay the EMI. Check to see if you can still pay for it if interest rates were to rise/ you were to lose your job.
  3. Protect what you have. Insure your life, Health and assets. You wouldn’t leave your house unprotected, don’t do it with your life or health.
  4. Plan your future expenses like child education, buying a home, Retirement etc….. See how much you need and save accordingly. There are plenty to tools that will give a good estimate of what you need.
  5. Inflation would eat into your savings, so invest in something that will give a long term return higher than inflation.
  6. Last but most important. Stay away from get rich quick schemes. Getting a good physique is a long term & constant effort, so is accumulating wealth. Get rich quick schemes are like steroids they will do more harm than good.

Most people can understand and follow these rules. Of course you may need advice from professionals from time to time, but subject the professional advice to test of reason ability. If the advice is too good to be true, it probably is.

Share your thoughts…

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Monetizing your Knowledge – Convert Knowledge into Money

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It is amazing the number of people  I meet on a daily basis who have all kinds of knowledge stored in their brains but still have not figured out yet how to convert all this knowledge into money.

Can this be achieved? … Well, here are my personal thoughts.

  1. Knowledge does not convert into money. Knowledge is the multiplier for work. Work converts into money. It is only challenging to say the least to convert knowledge into money if one is not willing to put any work to support their knowledge with. So for all the day dreamers out there, it all starts with “smart work”.
  2. Work is not translated into dollars until you find people willing to embrace your product or service. In other words, unless you have knowledge that others 1) need in its raw form, 2) cannot acquire on their own, and 3) are willing to pay for, then knowledge by itself is just potential. Like a car with no gas. Combine knowledge with the energy/effort needed to apply it to a purpose, you might get somewhere.
  3. Stop thinking and start doing. Most people would rather talk and not perform any actual work. They’re thinkers, not doers. Or, it could be that they are scared to fail, or find out that their knowledge isn’t all that unique or important.  Start executing and lose the fear.
  4. Be realistic. One cannot expect to make it rich by writing a book on the fact that the earth is egg-shaped, or photosynthesis. People know that already. So unless you write very well, or become a teacher, or something of the kind, you will not convert knowledge into money.
  5. Master networking. At the end of the day, unless you have an insane amount of practical knowledge, you’re going to be less successful than the people who are really good at networking. Big businesses these days are shifting towards looking for people who can network, rather than people with theoretical knowledge about their business, because they figure that when you’re doing a degree in higher education you don’t actually learn to work for someone, and you don’t necessarily learn the skills that you’ll need for the job they want you to do; so the idea is that they take someone who has a personality suited to generating contacts and networking between businesses (which is not something you can easily teach) and teach them the skills they’ll need to work the job (which is something that is easily taught).

Bottom Line: Knowledge is the application of intelligence.  There are some smart people who can rattle off facts and figures but can’t think their way out of a wet paper bag.  Most investors have the facts and figures of the stock market which are readily available but how do you put that together to formulate a winning strategy and do so more often than not?  That takes knowledge of the broader environment to understand how a product might be received in the general buying public and take off when the raw numbers might indicate just a so-so reaction.  That kind of knowledge comes with time and experience.  You need to learn from those that possess such knowledge and learn the skills yourself.

Every type of knowledge is not born equal. Their value fluctuate according to the times, and according to each situation. You may either flow towards areas of knowledge which are known to generate money or figure out a niche where your knowledge is considered to be of value to other people.

Money is only one of the values knowledge can be turned into, either directly or indirectly, through monetizable activities. Those activities which bring material wealth are mostly of concern to the poor or greedy, because they depend so much on it. Once our basic needs are taken care of, most of us will be on the lookout for those values which have little to do with money, but can sometimes be acquired in exchange of it. Since material wealth is a socially constructed phenomena, knowledge ought to be subjected to market trends, as a tool, a service or a product, in order to be transformed into numbers in a bank account. (Oddly so, money can be one of the less tangible and most fictional of values created by knowledge. Such monkeys we are…)

To sum it up, look around you. Ask yourself how you and your knowledge can be of service to others. Develop a business model around an area of activity which can sustain itself through the value it brings to others. Learn to enjoy knowledge for itself and never forget why people are willing to pay for it.

Share your thoughts…

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