The Vanity of the Leftists

One of the questions I have heard asked over and over is just why intellectuals tend to be so left-wing? (A similar question is: why do people with verbal skills tend to be left-wing?)

I find this question rather perplexing. Intellectuals are an utterly useless lot – as are people with merely verbal skills (usually honed by compulsive lying). Intellectuals are know-it-all bores who think the world owes them a living. They are vain, shallow and entitled. Why do they tend to be left-wing? Good Lord – for the same reason that a bad worker tends to favour unionization! If you are an unproductive leech stuffed with fantasies about your own wonderful self, are you really going to be in favour of the free market? Of course not! Deep down, everyone has an innate and honest sense of their own objective value – if they did not, then vanity would inflict no emotional penalties, and if you have ever known a really vain person, you would know the horrors they suffer.

Anyone who comes out swinging against the free market is driven to protect his own ‘value fantasy’. He thinks he’s great, but he doesn’t want to put it to the test. Most intellectuals, without the blood money provided by the State (for which they sell their souls!), would end up working as temps, or baristas, or ESL teachers in Bali. They would not end up with well-paid and socially-respectable positions like professor, reporter, or publisher – not because these positions would not exist, but because their own vanity would make them terrible at them. As I once wrote in a novel, vanity is the natural enemy of statistics. It is also the natural enemy of customer satisfaction – and so of the free market. If you’re touchy, and smug, and falsely superior, you can’t be empathetic. You can’t work for the pleasure of others, because your vanity will turn the act of selling into crushing humiliation. People should just know how wonderful you are. You shouldn’t have to prove it – how base!

It is the old aristocratic instinct – I am born into greatness, and should never have to negotiate, or prove my worth.

The simple fact is that being good at language is, in and of itself, just not that valuable. It’s not like being able to build a bridge, or set a broken bone. If you have other emotional skills such as empathy, you can use your language skills in advertising – if you are creative, you can write. If you are funny, you can be a comedian. But being just ‘verbally acute’? So what? It doesn’t add much value. You might think it does, but you have to mix it with something a lot more valuable in order to really make it shine. I work in IT, and I am a good writer and speaker. But you have to have something to write or speak about – in my case, software. It’s better to be a geek who can speak than just a geek – but the ‘geek’ part is far more important. (In fact, those with only verbal skills give software a bad name, since they get into sales without a clue about what they’re selling.)

In short, the answer to almost all questions about social motivation is: follow the money and/or the power. The answer to the question: why are intellectuals usually socialists is – because the State pays them a hell of a lot more than the free marlet would.

Stefan Molynuex, is the host of Freedomain Radio (, the most popular philosophy site on the Internet, and a "Top 10" Finalist in the 2007-2010 Podcast Awards.

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May 2024

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