Archive for November 29, 2008

“Crimethought” – George Orwell and Thomas Sowell

Today I had planned to use a quote about ideological “Newspeak” from George Orwell’s 1984 book. In Orwell’s introduction to 1984 he explains that Thomas Jefferson’s words in the 1776 “Declaration of Independence” would have been simply labeled “crimethought” according to his Orwellian fiction.  Unfortunately, reality for millions of people who lived in the former Soviet Union actually meant going through this surreal kind of punishment. 


I will instead use part of an article from one of my favorite economists, Thomas Sowell.  He wrote a piece on November 11, 2008 titled “Intellectuals” and this relates to the issue I addressed in yesterday’s blog about Ukraine’s Holodomor (Terror Famine of 1932-33).

During the 1930s, some of the leading intellectuals in America condemned our economic system and pointed to the centrally planned Soviet economy as a model– all this at a time when literally millions of people were starving to death in the Soviet Union, from a famine in a country with some of the richest farmland in Europe and historically a large exporter of food.

New York Times Moscow correspondent Walter Duranty won a Pulitzer Prize for telling the intelligentsia what they wanted to hear– that claims of starvation in the Ukraine were false.

After British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge reported from the Ukraine on the massive deaths from starvation there, he was ostracized after returning to England and unable to find a job.

More than half a century later, when the archives of the Soviet Union were finally opened up under Mikhail Gorbachev, it turned out that about six million people had died in that famine– about the same number as the people killed in Hitler’s Holocaust.

In the 1930s, it was the intellectuals who pooh-poohed the dangers from the rise of Hitler and urged Western disarmament.

It would be no feat to fill a big book with all the things on which intellectuals were grossly mistaken, just in the 20th century– far more so than ordinary people.

History fully vindicates the late William F. Buckley’s view that he would rather be ruled by people represented by the first 100 names in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard.

How have intellectuals managed to be so wrong, so often? By thinking that because they are knowledgeable– or even expert– within some narrow band out of the vast spectrum of human concerns, that makes them wise guides to the masses and to the rulers of the nation.

But the ignorance of Ph.D.s is still ignorance and high-IQ groupthink is still groupthink, which is the antithesis of real thinking. By Thomas Sowell

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