Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Intellectuals and social responsibility

Boyes writes about recent trends in higher education:

No wonder business people trained in business schools fail. We are going to spend time on "social responsibility"? What is social responsibility? Isn't it, as Milton Friedman said, to make a profit?

Friedman's The Social Responsibility of Business and the reaction of the intellegensia to a philosophy of liberty, choice and personal responsibility serves as an illustration and warning to those conscious of the fundamental value and importance of liberty.

Last month our book club spent time exploring Thomas Sowell's elaboration of Hayek's assertion that the views of intellectuals played the critical role in a movement toward the social welfare state and away from a free society.

Sowell does a nice job of defining intellectuals and their role in shaping the belief systems that are at the heart of the evolution of social institutions and why these intellectuals seem to be attracted to rationalism, planning and centralized direction. Last night, in another confirmation of the Sowell/Hayek insight, I was subjected to Sean Penn - still in Haiti, still advocating for state support in the cause of social justice.

I do not think supports of liberty should minimize the extent to which celebrities such as Sean Penn shape the public consciousness. Moreover, while Penn is an intellegensia, his constant drum beat in support of state action is based (either consciously or, more likely unconsciously) on the foundations of interventionist "thinkers".

Peter Klein writes:

a quote from Hayek — “Society’s course will be changed only by a change in ideas” — on the cover. It’s a nice line and certainly in the spirit of Hayek’s views on social change as expressed in The Road to Serfdom, “The Intellectuals and Socialism,” and other works, though the exact quotation does not seem to appear in Hayek’s writings. (The line is attributed to Hayek by John Blundell, recounting a conversation between Hayek and IEA founder Antony Fisher. In “The Rediscovery of Freedom,” written in 1983, Hayek puts it this way: “A young English pilot who had returned from the war and had made a great deal of money in a few years as an entrepreneur came to me [around 1947] and asked me what he could do to thwart the ominous growth of socialism. I had considerable trouble persuading him that mass propaganda was futile and that the task consisted rather of convincing intellectuals.”)

Today it is clear that Hayek was correct, the central role played by intellectuals and the intellegensia is manifest in our formal institutions.

Boyes points out how this evolution in thinking at higher education. Leaving aside the question of the efficacy of higher education and business training, the notion that a philosophy of social justice should inform and control thinking in any discipline reflects the current state of ideas and, more importantly, the degree to which ideas based upon interventionism and collectivism prevail.

This Q and A shows the belief system that confronts a supports of liberty.

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