Sunday, October 23, 2005

intellectuals 2

Some time ago I wrote about intellectuals. Well, the Foreign Policy readers have spoken, or rather typed in their nominations. The top five public intellectuals are:
1. Noam Chomsky;
2. Umberto Eco;
3. Richard Dawkins;
4. Vaclav Havel; and,
5. Christopher Hitchens.

So Chomsky is number one, apparently winning by a huge margin. He is likened to ‘Emile Zola, Bertrand Russell, and Jean-Paul Sartre: major thinkers and writers who speak out on the great public issues of their time, opposing their government on questions of conscience rather than the fine print of policy.’ Obviously it doesn’t matter than Zola, Russell or Sartre had internally consistent arguments. Only thing consistent about Chomsky is his blind opposition to the US foreign policy. Hell, comparing Chomsky with Russell is like comparing Dan Brown with Eco.

Eco, described as a medievalist and a novelist, is a fine choice. I loved The name of the rose, and some day will finish reading Foucalt's Pendulum. The other three are good choices too. You’d recall that I nominated Dawkins. Apparently his new book is titled ‘The root of all evil’, about organized religion. Hitchens is also a vocal anti-theist. Of course he was wrong about Iraq, but so was everyone else. I confess to not knowing much about Havel, except that he led the Velvet Revolution (an irrelevant aside, Amar was recently in Prague, and I’m sure he’ll narrate his adventures some day).

Who else made the top 20? Well, Paul Wolfowitz made number 19, but none of my other three nominees (Jagdish Bhagwati, Larry Summers and Ayatollah Sistani) made the cut. I am glad that Jared Diamond made number 9. I’m not so glad to see a hack like Thomas Friedman make it. Paul Krugman was number 6, and the Pope 17. Desh is represented in the top 20 by Amartya Sen (8) and Salman Rushdie (10).

I am very happy to see Milton Friedman as being the top write in. The Foreign Policy folks may think that his ideas are passed their use by date, but obviously most people think otherwise. That is a positive sign. After all, examples of the unmitigated bad that large and incompetent governments do are all around us.