Washington became the greatest foundation of all

Wednesday, August 19th, 2020

Mencius Moldbug writes an open letter to Paul Graham In response to his recent essay on the four quadrants of conformism;

What was happening between 1920 and 1940? The universities were taking power. In 1900, the idea of a professor telling the government what to do was borderline absurd. By 1940, it was normal. By 1960, it was universal — all “public policy” in future would be determined by “science.”

And, because the Ring works like that, power was taking them — with its favorite toy, money. Federal funding of universities before WWII was negligible. In the prewar period, money came from the great foundations — Carnegie and Rockefeller, generally. Institutions and professors that the foundation managers liked prospered gloriously. Those they disliked vanished without a trace. As did their ideas. And after the war, Washington became the greatest foundation of all.

Most of this “science” was complete woo and balderdash — mainly selected for how much it provoked the townies. And it didn’t just provoke them. “Scientific” public policy turned the Bronx in 1960 into the Bronx in 1970. Strolled the Grand Concourse lately? Its name wasn’t always a sick joke. Nice work, Harvard.


  1. Harry Jones says:

    Mental conformism is a habit of those of middling intelligence. Those of low intelligence don’t know how to conform, and those of high intelligence are disinclined to conform. That leaves everyone in between.

    It’s easy for them because society evolves to be acceptable to the majority, and there’s a big bulge in the middle of the bell curve.

  2. david foster says:

    “Mental conformism is a habit of those of middling intelligence. Those of low intelligence don’t know how to conform, and those of high intelligence are disinclined to conform.” I don’t think that’s always true. People who are highly intelligent, but lacking in creativity, are often those who latch on to an intellectual system created by someone else, and hold on to it tightly.

  3. Harry Jones says:

    David: I’ve seen people of high intelligence mouth the shibboleths of a pre-packaged belief system, but that’s just words and signalling. When it comes to actual deeds, they’re as individualistic as can be.

  4. Kirk says:

    Much of the problem with all this is the unholy manner in which most of society has conflated what we might best term “tested intelligence” (via IQ testing) with another nebulous concept, that of “virtue”.

    Smart isn’t automatically “good”. Just like any other tool, it’s a neutral thing, and best judged not by its mere existence, but by the uses it’s put to, along with, most importantly, the actual effects it generates.

    You can be really, really smart and be a force for destruction and mayhem. Likewise, you can be really, really dumb, and be a force for good.

    What’s gone wrong is that we’ve somehow managed to ignore this fact in appraising the performances of our elites; you can get away with creating chaos and really shitty results for everyone, so long as you can keep the patter going and baffle everyone with your reasoned bullshit. Nobody is gonna call you on it, ‘cos you got that there smarty-pants set of test scores, along with all the fancy vellum graduation certificates up on your wall. You be the expert, since you got the paperwork…

    This is going to be what they put on our civilization’s tombstone, when the time comes. Drowned in a sea of highly-credentialed incompetence and bureaucratic malfeasance.

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