Noteworthy – November 2008
Hardly a day passes that I am not in a conversation with an economist or intellectual of some sort and discussing how to go about the task of figuring out what is reality and then describing – to a global audience – this reality. There is a good amount of envy and indeed jealousy oozing from these conversations, though I admit that most of the time they are friendly in nature and tone. There is no bitterness or animosity. But there is recognition that a problem does exist, and that this problem manifests itself in a most embarrassing way. The intellectual cannot do the job the proper way; or to put it more bluntly and openly, the intellectual fails to understand the problem, and also fails to predict future events. The intellectual is exposed as having a weak understanding of the matter at hand. The “expertise” of the intellectual is called into question. The intellectual looks like a fool or even charlatan.
I will confess that I was a teenager when I first realized that I would have to respect two basic rules if I was to be successful in the intellectual pursuit, any intellectual pursuit. I just did not believe anyone when they told me that they had expertise. This typically drew laughter from me. I recall laying out two very fundamental rules underpinning the intellectual pursuit, which I was to follow quite religiously all my life.
GET INTIMATELY ACQUAINTED WITH ALL DOCTRINE, THEORY, IDEOLOGY AND DOGMA, BUT REFUSE TO ALLOW THESE IDEAS TO GOVERN AND SHAPE YOUR THINKING.
GET INTIMATELY ACQUAINTED WITH ALL MATTERS OR PLACES WHICH COMMAND YOUR ATTENTION, BUT REFUSE TO COMMENT UNLESS YOU HAVE PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH THESE MATTERS OR PLACES.
It is amazing that these two rules are so ignored. I am not sure they are even recognized as such. There is this astonishing belief (or delusion) that we need only get a PhD, and after going about pursuing the standard professional path, we will possibly (or likely) achieve some modest successes. This is shockingly stupid. It is just wishful thinking. It is nonsense. Nothing guarantees success in the intellectual pursuits. The two rules I list above merely serve as a beginning, as a very flimsy foundation for a career in the intellectual pursuits. We want to change the world with our ideas? Well, we had better pledge a religious adherence to these two rules. Then we had best get to work, and follow our “instincts.” Failure should be expected. Success is a very rare event, very rare indeed.