Jonah Goldberg Thinks Hard

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Syndicated columnist Jonah Goldberg gets off a good one in Thursday's Tribune. He says, "The left aims much of its moralizing at moralizing itself — 'thou shalt not judge.' Meanwhile, the right focuses on the oldies but goodies — adultery, drug use, etc. I think we're right to uphold a standard even if we sometimes fail to live up to it."

That's a nice enough point, even though it tap dances around the fact that the big problem the left has with those standards the right likes to uphold is when it likes to uphold them with the cops.

But Goldberg's subject is not moral hypocrisy. It's what he calls "intellectual hypocrisy," which, just as he was taught in school, he first defines — "if moral hypocrisy is saying what values people should live by while failing to follow them yourself, intellectual hypocrisy is believing you are smart enough to run other peoples' lives when you can barely run your own" — and then illustrates with examples.

One example shows best how well Goldberg has thought this through:

"The most famous story of an intellectual hypocrite getting his comeuppance is the tale of George McGovern and his inn. The senator, 1972 presidential nominee and college professor thought he could run a vast, technologically sophisticated nation with a diverse population and an entrepreneurial culture. Then, after leaving Washington, he bought an inn in Connecticut to while away his retirement years. For a guy as smart as him, running an inn should have been child's play. But it went belly up before the end of the year, with a contritely befuddled McGovern marveling at how much harder running a business was than he thought."

I hadn't heard this famous story, or maybe I've repressed it. At any rate, McGovern lost the election, and our vast, diverse, entrepreneurial nation remained in the hands of man who didn't know how to open a bottle of pills.

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