… is from page 18 of the 2011 revised and enlarged edition of Thomas Sowell’s 2009 book Intellectuals and Society:
Since intellectuals have every incentive to emphasize the importance of the special kind of knowledge that they have, relative to the mundane knowledge that others have, they are often advocates of courses of action which ignore the value, the cost, and the consequences of mundane knowledge.
Nothing is easier for an intellectual than to bang out on his or her keyboard proposals to rearrange pre-labelled categories of the economy in ways that suit that intellectual’s fancy. The intellectual proposes, for example, to increase “manufacturing employment” and to “strengthen our national defense” by limiting imports of manufactured goods and subsidizing “industries of strategic significance.” It’s oh-so-easy to type out! And the happy prospects of the policy’s successful implementation are so gratifying to ponder!
But the intellectual never stops to realize that his or her scheme will displace the use of on-the-spot detailed knowledge of millions of individuals. The intellectual is convinced that his or her ability to describe in words just how to rearrange pre-labelled categories of the economy is sufficient proof – especially when combined with the intellectual’s excellent intentions – that the intellectual’s scheme will work as the intellectual imagines it working.
The intellectual, in this, is a damn fool. And insofar as he or she is taken seriously by politicians, also a dangerous one.