Too much education makes people economically dumb

I’m not boasting when I say that I move in very rarefied circles.  It’s a fact that became glaringly obvious to me today when I started reaching out to legal colleagues via LinkedIn.  I’m launching a new business enterprise, and those connections will be useful.

For those unfamiliar with it, LinkedIn is the professional equivalent of Facebook.  Rather than chit-chatting about children, sports, and the minutiae of their lives, people use LinkedIn to post their resumes, boast about their professional accomplishments, and network with other professionals to whom they can be useful or who can be useful to them.  So, as I said, I’m working on using LinkedIn to touch base with lawyers I’ve met over the years, whether high school classmates who went into law, law school classmates, professional colleagues, or people whom I’ve met through PTA and the neighborhood who also happen to be lawyers.

As with Facebook, LinkedIn examines your friends’ friends and, if two of them share a common friend, LinkedIn will suggest that person to you as a possible link in your own professional network.  This is where I get to the rarefied bit.  When I scroll through my LinkedIn contacts (who currently number less than 100, because I’ve never paid that much attention to cultivating these contacts), I get suggestions that run the gamut from high stratum A to rarefied stratum B:  ambassadors, corporate CEOs, senior counsel at major corporations, managing partners of huge law firms, etc.  In my circles, these titles are predominant amongst the various professional friendships LinkedIn identifies for me.  I

What interests me so much about these people is that I know for a fact as to most, and can reasonably guess as to the remainder, that they voted for Obama and, within their own states, counties, and cities, also voted for the most Democrat and Progressive (although not Green) candidates.  This milieu — rich in degrees, Ivy League diplomas, and money — is disproportionately Leftist in orientation.  If you ask them about their political beliefs, they will say that it’s because they’re smart and educated, implying that brilliant mines inevitably embrace Progressivism.

I see things differently, of course.  All of these people are products of America’s colleges, universities, and professional schools, not to mention fine high schools, both public and private, in nice neighborhoods and suburbs.  All of these schools lean Left or have simply stopped leaning and collapsed completely on the Leftist side of education.

So these smart people are right that there’s an inevitability here, but it’s not that the logical output of a brilliant mind is Leftism.  Education certainly matters, but not in the way they think.  The fact is that, if you’re academically smart, you’re more likely to graduate from high school, attend college, and even attend professional school.  In other words, the smarter you are, the longer your exposure to Leftist academic thought will be.  These high earning, upper echelon people didn’t embrace Leftism because their intellectual analysis inexorably led them to it.  Instead, they embraced Leftism because their smarts mean they’ve been steeped in the Leftist stew for infinitely longer than the average American who didn’t go on to a higher degree.

These same people also remind me that academic smarts do not correlate with real life intelligence.  I have no doubt that these people are good lawyers, doctors, CEOs, ambassadors, etc.  What they’re trained to do, they do well.  Outside of their sphere of expertise, however, they’re remarkably naive and intellectually incurious.

Here’s my example for today:  In the wake of the election, I’ve heard five Obama supporters — all of whom also voted for all the California Democrats and for all the California taxes — complain that their taxes are going up next year.  The cognitive dissonance is almost painful.  All of them consistently embrace big spending — and, therefore Obama and his fellow Democrats — because they’ve been trained to believe that the spending on welfare, entitlements, and “select” businesses is a “good thing.”  This is a knee jerk belief.  They will always vote for these “good things,” and for the candidate who promises them.  And they will ignore the rhetoric about higher taxes (Obama was not shy about targeting them as the next big source of funding), and they will ignore fiscal cliffs, and they will ignore plain old common sense that says that someone must pay the piper.

One of the things that made the rounds on my Facebook was a boastful poster saying that those states with the highest number of college-educated people all went for Obama.  The implication is that these smart Blue State people, unlike the ill-educated yahoos in Red States, are the ones who have the brains and ability to understand how Obamanomics will serve America.

What the genius who created this poster missed the fact that these smart Blue States are, not coincidentally, almost all broke.  Thus, of the list above, the following Blue States are amongst those states running the biggest budget shortfalls in America:  Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Minnesota.  In other words, 80% of the “best educated” states are in dire financial straights.  You’d think that, with all those smart people, they’d be rolling in the green stuff.

It turns out that one of the biggest indicators of Blue state-ness isn’t smarts — it’s brokes.  Here’s the list of the states Obama won, with the ones that have more than a 10% budget shortfall marked, appropriately enough, in red:*

New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
Rhode Island

It’s striking that, of the 26 states that gave their electoral votes to Obama, 84% are in debt.  (The perpetually broke District of Columbia also gave its vote to Obama, raising to 85% the number of broke jurisdictions that went true blue.) You’d think that, with all those smart people floating around, they’d manage their money better. In a way, you could say that the Blue States are actually Red States, given their financial hemorrhaging.

By the way, given that we’re still in a recession, it’s true that many Red States are also in debt.  Still, there’s no doubt that the Red States are managing their money better than the ones filled with all those educated Progressive geniuses:

North Carolina
North Dakota
South Carolina
South Dakota
West Virginia

As you can see, only 41% of the “dumb” Red States are seriously in the red.  They may not have the degrees, but they have sufficient smarts to control their budgets — which is the fundamental responsibility of all viable governments.

If the election is any indicator, it shows that our education system leaves people incapable of rational economic thought.  This is true even when these same educated people are the ones most hurt by their economic ignorance and Leftist credulity.


*I culled the state deficit information from here.

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  • Charles Martel

    Two things that have consistently struck me about the educated sorts that Book talks about here are their lack of curiosity and their lack of logic.
    By curiosity, I mean that few of them continue serious reading once they graduate from college. They might read fashionable PC crap that bobs up on the NY Times bestseller lists, but they have little stomach for books by people that might present difficult arguments that they simply aren’t equipped to understand or deal with. I once gave my endocrinologist a book by the late Jacques Barzun, “From dawn to Decadence,” a masterful survey of Western civilization from 1500 to the present day. Barzun made a great case for the slow, often deliberate, unraveling of the West into a timid, self-absorbed, hedonistic civilization that had lost its will, its swagger, its confidence, and its beliefs.
    When we discussed the book later, my doctor could only remark that Barzun was “conservative,” as though that description by itself served as a refutation of the things Barzun had said. I’ve run into this element of magical thinking time and again among the supposedly enlightened, the belief that just by summoning a leftist hex word, like “conservative,” an argument has been settled.
    As for the lack of logic, we’ve all discussed this here many times. Very, very few of the “progressives” I know have even a remote acquaintance with elementary logic. They cannot detect invalid premises or structural defects in arguments, either among the ones they are constantly bombarded with or the ones they so cleverly repeat themselves, believing that what they are saying actually makes sense or comes off as intelligent as they would have those around them believe.

  • JKB

    Your post with its anecdotes reveals something else.  Those with the most education seem the least able to apply critical thinking.   Hmmmm?

    Okay, correction they think being smug, condescending and  critical of others is critical thinking.  

    Which states more generally reflect this observation on how “adults” view children and their education.  Hinit, it isn’t a state that wants to control your big gulp.

    “Confidence in the general and growing good sense of children is a presupposition in the sensible parent and teacher.  Having such confidence, their mission is to let these young people alone much of the time; to direct, not to control the selections that they make, assuming the role of advisers and critics but not dictators.” 

  • Caped Crusader

    Slight modification. They were economically stupid to begin with, and their so called “education” did nothing to correct their ignorance.

  • MacG

    You mean to say that the one rich Dem that asked Obama to “Raise my taxes”  Wasn’t speaking for all rich Dems? 😉 
    Do you think that they are surprised that their taxes are going up?  If they are it certainly supports “first layer” (of the onion)  thinking. “We should increase social programs”  “What do you mean it raises my taxes?”  They can’t be that shallow.

  • Ymarsakar

    still waiting on something called elections and politics to fix problems. But before that, one might want to notice the problems with Democracy in the US first. 

  • Ymarsakar

    They are not the ones most hurt. In every state there are Democrat serfs and slaves. They’re the ones that get put to the cross when the rich white Dems need a human sacrifice. 

  • Mike Devx

    I think non-intellectuals are capable of keeping it simple.  They don’t spend a lot of time justifying what they believe.  It tends to go like this:

    Obama: To solve our problems, we’re just asking for the richest of the rich to give a little bit more.

    Non-intellectual: That’s funny like a hemorrhoid, ha ha.  We’re “asking” them, are we?  “Asking!” Whatever.  what he means is we’re going to make them pay for all the stuff we want.  And as long as someone else pays, I don’t give a shit.  Just gimme more of that free stuff.  I’m happy.

    Intellectual: It behooves one, in a modern society as complex and intricate as ours, to admit that yes, we are all asked to contribute our fair share towards the betterment of all.  Those of us who are more capable earn our just dividends; and we will always be more capable, and always earn those divedends.  Contrasting that with the less fortunate, we find that they will always be disposed to a struggle of employing their means to match their needs.  Therefore it only makes sense that those constantly having more than is required should pay more for those constantly in struggle.  Our society must care for the less fortunate.”

    Elaborate theoretical constructions will always contain more holes.

    I think the real problem with intellectuals is that they are far more capable of “rationalizations” than the rest of the people.  (By rationalization, I mean, the blaming of a problem on something that *is not* the real cause of the problem, because identifying and blaming the real problem would cause them too much pain.  We all would have to abandon something deeply cherished, and no one wants to do that – so an intellectual rationalizes the problem into something else, avoiding the pain.

    This will happen with Obama economics.  It will happen with the causes of a bad, miserable marriage.  It will happen with just about anything and everything.


  • JKB

    This Forbes article has been making the links.  What Explains The Partisan Divide Between Urban And Non-Urban Areas – Forbes 

    Seems the fine urbanistas, and by inference those well-credentialed denizens as well, cannot fathom a world of struggle.  They wish and it appears as if by magic.  They have no experience with those themes that used to be taught in literature, i.e., man against nature, where nature naturally has the upperhand.  I suppose they do subscribe to the man against man theme as it plays so well with their class warfare.  But given the common theme of the urban neurotic, it does seem they deplore the man against himself theme.  I suppose that comes with to much personal responsibility? 

    You know, now that I think about it, much of this “urban delusion” is revealed in this NYT article on the class divide between the victims of Sandy and their Upper Manhattan “volunteers”  After Hurricane Sandy, Helping Hands Also Expose a New York Divide – 

    I find it incredulous that two “classes” of people could be so ignorant of the realities of the other but then, that ignorance just elected Barack Obama for a second term.

  • jhstuart

    If the election is any indicator, it shows that our education system leaves people incapable of rational economic thought. Omit ‘enonomic’ and you have described the pathology of liberalism.  

  • David Foster

    I don’t think it’s just about economics. People with too much of the wrong sort of education also tend to develop attitudes of entitlement and superiority, cheap cynicism, an inability to empathize with people outside their own circle, and an emotional disconnection from the concept of “America.”

    In C S Lewis’s novel That Hideous Strength, the principal character is captured by a sinister cabal. He is put through a process of training which is aimed at killing “all specifically human reactions” in a person.
    To kill the “specifically human reactions” in a person and substitute something else…is that the effect of higher education–especially graduate education–as often carried out today?

    See my post An incident at the movies and the resulting discussion thread. 

  • roylofquist

    Education is knowing stuff. Wisdom is knowing what is real and what is not.

    The kingdoms of ExperienceIn the precious wind they rotWhile paupers change possessionsEach one wishing for what the other has gotAnd the princess and the princeDiscuss what’s real and what is notIt doesn’t matter inside the Gates of Eden.

    Bob Dylan, Gates of Eden


  • roylofquist

    Education is knowing stuff. Wisdom is knowing what is real and what is not. — 
    The kingdoms of Experience In the precious wind they rot While paupers change possessions Each one wishing for what the other has got And the princess and the prince Discuss what’s real and what is not It doesn’t matter inside the Gates of Eden.    
    Bob Dylan, Gates of Eden Sorry Folks, copy and paste does weird things at times. Shoulda previewed.  

  • David Foster

    One more thing….I’ve also had some depressing LinkedIn experiences lately; they don’t all involve people with “elite” college degrees. For example, I know one guy who started a significant new venture within a large company, then went on to start several companies of his own…pretty successful companies, though not at the Apple or Facebook level. He has a degree and an MBA, but not from any particularly top-brand institutions. He’s a strong Obama supporter and organizer; I expect he’s contributed significant money as well.

    Also, I know people IRL who are not over/mis-educated, not snobs of the intellectual or any other variety, and who have characteristics that one would think would predispose them to Republican candidates…such indicators as business career, Catholic, woman married to a professional military man, etc etc….yet who lean to the Democrats. 

  • JohnC

    This all reminds me of a moment from an episode of Penn and Teller’s “Bullsh*t.”
    This particular show was about PeTA. A college professor who is an animal rights activist make the claim that there is no difference whatsoever between the life of a human child and a baby animal. They both are equally in every sense and human children should not be considered any more valuable than any other lifeform.
    A rebuttal is offered by Dennis Prager which I have never forgotten: “The foolishness of that statement I can only attribute to higher education. You have to have gone to college to say something that stupid.”

  • JKB

    I forgot to include this passage from the NY Times article I linked to above.  It is on point:

    As several young men from a Manhattan consulting firm, one wearing a Princeton sweatshirt, tore up destroyed flooring in a house on Beach 129th Street in Belle Harbor, any tension seemed to have been dumped with the first wheelbarrow of drywall. The owner of the house said that the men’s boss told him “he wanted them to see hardship, to get out and work with their hands, because they mostly went to Ivy League schools.”   

    And this quote is from an old book advocating for manual arts training in schools.  MIT was formed of this movement but I fear even they have lost the hands on aspect

    It is possible for the mind to indulge in false logic, to make the worse appear the better reason, without instant exposure. But for the hand to work falsely is to produce a misshapen thing—tool or machine —which in its construction gives the lie to its maker. Thus the hand that is false to truth, in the very act publishes the verdict of its own guilt, exposes itself to contempt and derision, convicts itself of unskilfulness or of dishonesty.  

  • heather

    Some thoughts that I’ve had for a few years:

    These liberal, highly educated types who claim to be all about helping the oppressed and underprivileged have often never spent any significant  time with those groups.  I believe that it part of the reason that they espouse liberal policies – they are ignorant of the other side.

    I’m from rural VA – 50 percent white and 50 percent black (I’m white).
    Since it was rural, our school was small.  Everyone was forced to interact and mingle, rich and poor, included.  There was no moving to a better neighborhood to get into a “better” school, since there was only one primary, middle, and high school in the county.  The community was rather well-integrated, unlike what the media would have you believe.

    There wasn’t much in the way of resume building jobs in such a rural area, so I had to work for a few summers at McDonald’s. Boy, was that an education!  I learned a lot from both the customers and my co-workers – many of them were single black mothers.  I can’t summarize here all that I observed – if it were that easy, then there wouldn’t be so many uninformed liberals out there!  There is no substitute for spending a lot of time with people.  I’m determined that my own children will also have a similar summer job when they are teens.

  • Ron19

    JKB 15:

    But for the hand to work falsely is to produce a misshapen thing—tool or machine —which in its construction gives the lie to its maker. Thus the hand that is false to truth, in the very act publishes the verdict of its own guilt, exposes itself to contempt and derision, convicts itself of unskilfulness or of dishonesty.    

    You’ve never seen a prestidigitator in action?  Even knowing that he’s false, a good one gets applause.   

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  • JKB

    Maggie’s Farm linked to this a few weeks ago.  Just a little cartoon but you can see those with and over-abundance of “education” are very quick to drink their Ism juice. 

    Speaking of which, can someone explain to me this eternal devotion to their alma mater that so many develop.  Sure college is intense, fun and you meet a lot of people.  Maybe they were stupid kids who found themselves in those storied halls but, come on, the fervor is puzzling.  Instead of lamenting the Left take over of the university and how the right can get their token seats, the effort should be toward usurping the university.  We have the technology.  Why not use it to educate in a new paradigm.  Make an automobile rather than simply a horse-less carriage.    

  • Mike Devx

    So the Northeast is “Best Educated” and I guess this means they are better than all the rest of us.

    I would like to note that it has been three weeks since Hurricane Sandy hit New York and New Jersey.  Three weeks… and still no power, no heat, no electricity for many suffering people.

    Looks like all those “Big Brains” up there can’t seem to figure out the littlest things.

    Three weeks!  And still, no electricity.  One of the basic responsibilities of government is to provide infrastructure.  People pay taxes for a reason, and infrastructure is a big one.  Electricity, sewage, waste are the most basic, core responsibilities.  If you can’t provide those, you are a FAILED State.

    New York and New Jersey are among the most highly taxed of States.  One wonders, where does ALL that tax money go?  It clearly doesn’t go toward basic core responsibilities such as infrastructure.

    What are these “Big Brains” doing with the people’s money?

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  • JKB

    Actually, it is not the responsibility of government to provide electricity or its infrastructure.  They are involved since the provision creates a monopoly.  That said, we should note that Long Island Power is a government entity with a government board and it is failing because of government incompetence.  Well, that and the big brain assaults demanding nature not be disturbed anytime they try to trim a tree limb overhanging the power lines.

  • Jose

    Well, they would have succeeded in getting the NY marathon running, if all the proles hadn’t raised such a ruckus.  Even Rudolf Giuliani supported it.  What better use of tax dollars?

  • Ymarsakar

    They put it in a big war chest to use it in elections like the last one. Stereotypically, the organization most getting in the way of reconstruction are unions. There is also a nest of vipers when it comes to graft, bribery, and corruption that tends to get distorted and confused when disaster hits. It takes awhile to recover that network, because that network was often why anything got done in the first place. ANd people contemptuously said the US Army should have rebuilt Iraq in a day. Americans might want to look outside in their cities before thinking they know what’s going on halfway across the globe.

     The South was like this as well since until the last 30 years, most people were only allowed to vote for a certain party.

    When the South cast off the shackles of political oppression, many things changed for the better. But the Left is right in one thing, the people of the South never changed. Just our overlords. 

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  • debiesam

    In the 1980s I was friends with a brilliant, conservative woman who landed a job teaching at Yale in the economics department. As she fashioned her curriculum, she included several books that could be considered either libertarian or conservative in nature — books like Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom.” She wanted to expose kids to a variety of economic and political thought — diversity! She was treated like a pariah by her peers in the economics department, bullied and intimidated and pressures. The department was full of liberals, socialists and closet Marxists. She was the oddball. When she denied tenure, she left for greener pastures. Wish we knew a way to take back the economics and political science departments at these universities.    

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