When I was a young man, I dated a girl who had a crazy uncle. He was a math whiz and he had worked at NASA on the Apollo missions. He was one of those wacky professor types, who enjoyed being eccentric more than he was good at it. In other words, his eccentric routine was a bit contrived. Even so, he was a character and I enjoyed spending time around him. We would play chess and talk about history. He was not very good at chess, but he knew a lot about history and he enjoyed debating it with anyone interested.
The thing that was puzzling about him was that he was a way out where the buses don’t run Progressive. He would rant about how private property was the ruin of humanity and the cause of all trouble. This was a very smart man with a firm grasp of advanced mathematics and a deep knowledge of history. Yet, when it came to politics, he was as nutty as a sociology professor at a state college. As soon as current politics came up in conversation, he went from normal to moonbat.
I was reminded of it reading this post by Steven Landsburg. His blog exists to promote his books, but he posts about other stuff too. A fun book to read is The Big Questions, which is overly ambitious and hilariously wrong at points, but still a fun read. From the blog post:
For your consideration:
I submit that Hillary Clinton lost because she did not make even a minimal effort to make herself palatable to people like me — people who care primarily about economic growth, fiscal responsibility, limited government, individual freedom and respect for voluntary arrangements.
Because I care about those things (and for a number of other good and sufficient reasons), there was never a chance I would vote for Donald Trump. I gave money to Jeb Bush. Then I gave money to Ted Cruz. Then I gave money to the “Never Trump” movement that was trying to foment a revolt at the convention. Then I gave money to pro-growth Senate candidates. For me, the only remaining choice was between voting for Clinton and not voting for Clinton. (I also considered sending her money.)
I knew that if I voted for her, I’d never feel good about it. That was too much to ask. But I’d still have voted for her, if only she hadn’t gone out of her way to make me feel awful about it. And that she just would not or could not stop doing.
Landsburg is a bright guy with a broad knowledge base. He has a PhD in mathematics.Yet, he is instinctively drawn to the Cult like a moth to a flame. That post reads like a personal struggle. He was drawn to one anti-Trump cause after another, not for logical reasons, but emotional ones. That was inevitably going to lead him to supporting Hillary Clinton, which would nullify all of his previous arguments about economics, politics and philosophy. But, Trump, the terrible Trump!
If you have read Landsburg, you know he is an open borders fanatic and a free trade zealot. The fact that neither of these positions makes any sense is not important to him. They offer an outlet for his missionary zeal and a way to get grace on the cheap. Salvation is a huge part of what drives the fanatic. Since modern fanatics no longer believe in God or the soul, they have fashioned economic theories and arguments to fill in these blanks. At the heart of their zeal lies the age old religious impulse to save the world.
Now, there’s another aspect to this. The most prominent libertarians live on the adult day care centers we call the college campus. Others live in the satellite version called the think tank. Most of their friends are in the Cult and often quite passionate about it. As a result, the most prominent libertarians spend their days trying to carve out an exception for themselves that does not vex their peers. Going in for the lunacy of NeverTrump was a cheap way to earn piety points with the nut jobs on campus.
Still, it is a good reminder that you can be highly intelligent and also have a head full of nonsense. J. B. S. Haldane was, by all accounts, a brilliant man. He was also a committed Marxist, even when it became clear that Marxism was a death cult. Lots of brilliant people were attracted to communism in the 20th century, despite the irrationality of it. Today, the blank slate beliefs of Progressives are catnip for intellectuals, even though a walk around any shopping mall offers ample evidence to contradict it. It just feels good to believe.