Why the Worst Get on Top

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A few short weeks ago, Adam Schiff, chairman of the oxymoronically entitled House Intelligence Committee, said that the statements of a White House “whistleblower” mandated and necessitated an impeachment investigation of the president. He trumpeted the idea that the WB would soon appear to testify before his committee. But when evidence emerged that the WB is likely a politically motivated CIA plant, and that Schiff had probably helped to work up his complaint, the honorable chairman declared the WB redundant to the investigation and said that he would not be asked to testify — unlike those strange government personnel who are welcome to spill their guts about whatever they think they learned by listening to the buzz from other people’s phone calls. Schiff went further. He denied Republicans the right to call the WB to testify and is now denying that he even knows the name of the WB, which everybody else in the country knows.

How could the little congressman with the starie eyes and the ability to lie without compunction to an audience that knows he’s lying have become the investigatory prong of one of America’s great political parties? And how could it be that so few congressmen, of either party, rise much beyond the intellectual level of this jurist of the Salem school?

A plausible answer can be found in a libertarian classic, Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom (1943). The most famous chapter of this edgy though somnolently written book, “Why the Worst Get on Top,” explains the prevalence of horrible people in the leadership of socialist parties. According to Hayek (highly paraphrased), socialists promise to do lots of great things, but the promises are hopelessly irrational or unrealistic. When it becomes obvious that they won’t be fulfilled, honest and intelligent people have the opportunity to decide whether to continue on the ideological train or hop off of it. They hop off. The people who are left to run the movement — or the country, if bemused voters have put the movement in power — are the dumb and dishonest.

How could it be that so few congressmen, of either party, rise much beyond the intellectual level of this jurist of the Salem school?

There’s a lot to be said for this theory. What did the modern liberals and progressives promise? What do they promise? They promise to create prosperity out of taxation and regulation. They promise to heal race relations with racial preferences. They promise to improve public education by making students more race-conscious, more sex-conscious, more credentialed, and more entitled. They promise to end international conflict, terrorism, and tyranny by injecting American force throughout the world.

These, and other promises, have never been fulfilled. Trillions of dollars have been spent on the War on Poverty, but poverty continues. Tens of thousands of people labor at the work of ethnic preferences in education and employment, yet ethnic relations fail to improve. Public education engrosses larger and larger proportions of government budgets, yet it becomes more ludicrous with each passing year — ludicrous especially in its harmfulness to the ethnic minorities it is especially designed to help. And where, in this world, is the US establishing peace? Where, in this world, do the CIA and FBI not try to intervene? Yet even American cities have no peace.

This is the point at which the wise and good hop off the train and the Adam Schiffs and Nancy Pelosis and Mitt Romneys eagerly lunge for their places, thrusting one another aside in the melee. Brennan, Comey, Clapper, Schiff, and company seem never to run out of state officials eager to join them in displaying duplicity, arrogance, and stupidity. The worst have indeed got on top.

There’s a corollary to Hayek’s notion that I don’t think Hayek suggests. It’s this: if you make absurd beliefs the touchstone of respectability — the belief, for instance, that the “intelligence community” should be the judge of its own rectitude, or that Ukraine deserves whatever aid we can give it, just because it’s an antagonist of Russia — then perhaps only unrespectable people (e.g., Donald Trump) will be left to disagree.

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