Leveraging Intellectuals to promote liberal values

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Philosophy

(This article was originally published in the Himalayan Times on the 4th August, 2018)

The constitution of Nepal in its preamble defines the country being committed to the socialism based on democratic norms. Socialism is the political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

Socialism has never been a movement of the working class, it has always been a cliché. For long time the tendencies of these abstract thought have been derived from certain drifts with which only the intellectuals are familiar. Socialist idea is the long effort of the intellectuals before the working classes could be persuaded to adopt it as their program. Intellectuals of todays and of the past have played a crucial role to fantasize the idea of socialism, though the idea doesn’t seem to have worked well in the globe.

To understand about the intellectuals, we must look into the essay ‘The intellectuals and socialism’ by Nobel prize winning economist F.A. Hayek who defines the term “intellectual” as “the secondhand idea dealers who do not at once convey the true picture of the large class to which we refer”. He further adds “A typical intellectual neither needs to possess special knowledge of anything in particular, nor he needs to be particularly intelligent to perform his roles as intermediary in spreading ideas. An intellectual’s qualification to his job is the wide range of subjects on which he can readily talk and write and hold a position or habits through which he becomes acquainted with new ideas sooner than those to whom headdresses.””. The intellectuals are the ones who decide what views and opinions are to reach to the general public, which facts are important enough to be  told to mass and in what form and from what angle they are to be presented.

Hayek says, the real scholars or experts and the practical men of affairs often feel contemptuous about the intellectuals and are disinclined to recognize their power and are resentful when they discover it.

The socialist intellectuals are mostly the people who understand nothing in particular especially when their judgement matters, they understand it only by themselves and show a little sign of wisdom.  They always put forward the utopian ideas rather than advocating the practical solutions like free trade, individualism which leads towards prosperity.

As Intellectuals are the organs modern society has developed for spreading knowledge and ideas, they have the responsibility of spreading ideas and messages in a way the mass can receive and implement it, for prosperity. The knowledge of the intellectual may often be superficial and their intelligence limited, this does not alter the fact that it is their judgement which mainly determines the view on which society will act in. Therefore, Intellectuals must be responsible for their public opinion.

But, in many of the fields of contemporary Nepalese society, intellectuals have been known to influence public opinion in the direction of socialism, because this might be the conviction of their personal interest and socio-political inclination. The inclination of the intellectuals towards the socialism is said to have stemmed neither from their self-interests nor from their evil intentions but mostly from their honest convictions and good intentions as they are able to make out a better case than the majority of their opponents within their class. Here an important question is raised, are the intellects critical enough to the idea and ideology they are supporting? What can be the solution to this?

Taking Hayek as a reference again, rather than deluding the mass with socialist utopia; which has been the source of strength of the socialists, why not the intellects explore the liberal way of thinking?

The liberal thinking must be able to offer the new liberal ideas which appeals to the imagination of building a free society with a liberal Utopia.

Are the liberal’s, right? This might be an argument to rethink but a true liberal can always learn from the success of the socialists, their courage to fake Utopian idea which gained them the support of the intellectuals and their ability to influence the public opinion.

Intellectuals should complement the public, politicians and the society, provided they function independently. Wisdom and knowledge do not need political or ideological accreditation. Nepal needs the dominance of intellectual volunteers and intellectual politicians. As FA Hayek says intellectuals must be willing to stick to principles and to fight for their full realization. The practical compromises must be left to the politicians. Free trade and freedom of opportunity are ideals which still may arouse the imaginations of large numbers, but a mere “reasonable freedom of trade” or a mere “relaxation of controls” is neither intellectually respectable nor likely to inspire any enthusiasm.

To flourish the idea of a liberal way of thinking there needs to be a philosophical foundation of free society. Why so? Because a free society leads to a prosperity. The intellectuals must be open to the power of ideas which is the mark of liberalism at its best.

Sujan Regmi

About Sujan Regmi

Sujan Regmi is a researcher at Samriddhi Foundation.

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