Knowing not that they know not.

Listen To You Tell Me Texas Friday 3/28/14


My great aunt was rather well known in Texas legal circles. She was the law librarian at SMU in Dallas from 1947 – when the law school established its own separate library – until the early 1970s after she completed the project that gave SMU its half-million plus volume Underwood Law Library.

She was one of the brightest people I have ever known. She held multiple degrees from some of the most prestigious institutions and she earned them during a time when there was more academic rigor and during a time when not so many women earned college degrees. She was literate in every good sense of that word.

But she spent her entire career in the cloistered world of academia. It was a running joke in a family that loved her dearly that outside those ivied walls, she didn’t know the first bloody thing about how anything worked.

Tell her that electricity comes from boiling huge quantities of water by burning coal and she’d be astounded. Explain to her that McDonald’s sells hamburgers more or less at cost in order to gain the chance to sell a Coke at 300 percent profit and she would marvel.

Her understanding of how business works, how fortunes are made and lost, how markets set prices, how capital is raised and from where – really anything not having to do with her narrow area of professional expertise – was next to zero.

But to my aunt’s credit, she knew that she didn’t know. The same cannot be said for the current set of faculty lounge expatriates now running the country.

From the president on down, next to nobody in the executive branch of government has any executive experience. They know not. Yet they know not that they know not.

None has ever signed the front of a business check. None has ever so much as been a department head in a for-profit business. Most have never worked for a for-profit business. None has ever risked their own capital in a business venture or sweated a payroll or signed a personal guarantee on a business loan.

This crop of academics doesn’t know anything about how anything works yet they believe that they are especially suited to manage every aspect of the largest, most intricate and most diverse economy on Earth.

But they can’t because no one can. The U.S. economy draws its strength not from the top down but the bottom up.

Obamacare alone has done more to discredit big, activist government run by a small corps of hyper-educated elites than a thousand of the best speeches that any conservative could ever give.

None of the lofty expectations of an Obama presidency has come to pass. Not one. Government is more divided and gridlocked than ever before. Racial animus is on the rise. The country’s financial condition has deteriorated alarmingly. Fewer people are working and the ones who are have less money in their pockets to show for it.

The world isn’t a faculty lounge. It’s a complicated, dynamic place that tends to smack down idealistic theory.

Men and women who have actually run things understand this. They tend to know that they don’t know and to be especially suspicious of the things they know for certain.

Such humility – born of experience – would have served this administration well.