“I’m never going to pretend like I know more than the next person”

That’s Our Sarah.

I’d missed that gem when she said it to Chris Wallace (context after the jump), but Leon Wieseltier picked it up and ran with it in a glorious rant that deserves to be read in full (even by Louis Auchincloss fans, who will share my dismay at the anecdote Wieseltier recounts).

Here’s a sample:

The invocation of “the people” sounds inclusive, but it is a technique of exclusion. (This was also the case in the preamble to the Constitution.) It is based upon a particular definition of “the people.” How do Palin and the partiers know who the real Americans are? The mystical certainty of her divisive intuition reminds me of what intellectual historians used to call the “epistemological privilege” of Marx’s proletariat, his reprehensible old idea that access to truth is a feature of class position. Palin, too, is idealizing the proletariat for the uniqueness of its understanding, though her economics is starkly indifferent to its tribulations. And if you throw in Palin’s views on the “social issues,” on the questions by which we measure the decency of our society, then it is clear that this is an anti-elitism that is not an egalitarianism, a common touch without genuine commonality, which is quite an accomplishment.

Wieseltier makes a broader anti-populist point that had never occurred to me, and that would certainly jar any teabagger literate enough to understand the reference:

The mystical certainty of her divisive intuition reminds me of what intellectual historians used to call the “epistemological privilege” of Marx’s proletariat, his reprehensible old idea that access to truth is a feature of class position. Palin, too, is idealizing the proletariat for the uniqueness of its understanding, though her economics is starkly indifferent to its tribulations.

The populist intuition that public decision processes are frequently manipuated in hard-to-understand ways for the benefit of the privileged is largely correct. The problem is that understanding hard-to-understand things is the natural province of specialists: people who “know more than the next person” about some part of the universe. If all you want out of politics is a chance to express your resentments, a leader such as Palin will do you fine. If you actually want a better deal for the bottom 99% of the income distribution, then you’re going to need the help of experts, who by definition constitute an “elite.”

That’s Our Sarah.

And then I do want to be a voice for some common-sense solutions. I’m never going to pretend like I know more than the next person. I’m not going to pretend to be an elitist. In fact, I’m going to fight the elitist because for too often and for too long now, I think the elitists have tried to make people like me and people in the heartland of America, feel like we just don’t get it and big government is just going to have to take care of us.

I want to speak up for the American people and say, no, we really do have some good common-sense solutions. I can be a messenger for that.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

One thought on ““I’m never going to pretend like I know more than the next person””

  1. We're all waiting with bated breath for her "good common-sense solutions."

    The only notable policy solution I can remember from her was to raise the taxes on Alaskan oil operations so that she could increase the payouts (handouts?) to voters. Maybe that would be a "good common-sense solution" at the Federal level? Somehow I doubt we'll hear that suggestion from her 😉

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