The prevalence of a spirit of contention amongst a people is a certain sign of deadness with respect to the things of religion. When men's spirits are hot with contention, they are cold to religion. - Jonathan Edwards “The Book of Mormon does not supplant the Bible. It expands, extends, clarifies, and amplifies our knowledge of the Savior. Surely, this second witness should be cause for great rejoicing by all Christians.” - Joseph B. Wirthlin

Friday, February 23, 2024

Intellectuals for sale

Jeffrey Tucker wrote an insightful article about the economic pressures under which many intellectuals operate.

It's easy to apply these concepts to the context of Latter-day Saint studies.

Key excerpts:

... much of the professional intellectual class is currently dependent on some institution. It is not lost on anyone that the people today who are most likely to say what is true about our times — and there are some major and brave exceptions to this — are mostly retired professors and scientists who have less to lose by speaking truth to power.


The trouble really comes down to the market for intellectual services. It’s neither broad nor deep. This reality goes against all intuition. Looking from the outside in, one might suppose that a tenured professor at an Ivy League university or famous think tank would have all the prestige and security necessary to speak truth to power.

The opposite is the case.

Taking another job would at the very least require a geographic move, and this would come with a likely downgrade in status. In order to ascend up the ranks in intellectual pursuits, you must be wise and that means not bucking the prevailing ideological trends.

In addition, places where intellectuals live tend to be quite vicious and petty, and instill in intellectuals an eye toward adapting their writings and thoughts toward their professional well-being.

This is especially true in working for a think tank. The positions are highly coveted as universities without students. A job as a top scholar pays the bills. But it comes with strings attached. There is an implicit message in all these institutions these days that they speak with one voice, especially concerning the big issues of the day.

The people there have little choice but to go along. The option is to walk away and do what? The market is extremely limited. The next-best alternative is not always clear.


The people we pay to think, influence and guide the public mind — and possess the requisite intelligence and training to do so — also happen to be the least capable of doing so because their professional options are so limited. As a result, the term “independent intellectual” has become nearly an oxymoron.

If such a person exists, he is either very poor or otherwise living off family money, and not likely making much of his own.

These are the brutal facts of the case. If this shocks you, it certainly shocks absolutely no one employed in academic or think tank spaces. Here, everyone knows how the game is played. The successful ones play it very well. Those who supposedly fail at the game are the principled people, the very ones you want in these positions.

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