Wise words from Tucker Carlson

I don’t know much about Tucker Carlson except that he is suddenly a hot cable news interviewer, a line of work that doesn’t interest me at all. So I was pleasantly surprised that in this short interview he said three (!) wise things.

One:

The SAT 50 years ago pulled a lot of smart people out of every little town in America and funneled them into a small number of elite institutions, where they married each other, had kids, and moved to an even smaller number of elite neighborhoods. We created the most effective meritocracy ever.

But the problem with the meritocracy is that it leeches all the empathy out of your society … The second you think that all your good fortune is a product of your virtue, you become highly judgmental, lacking empathy, totally without self-awareness, arrogant, stupid—I mean all the stuff that our ruling class is.

Two:

Intelligence is not a moral category. That’s what I find a lot of people in my life assume. It’s not. God doesn’t care how smart you are, actually.

Three:

Putting smart people in charge of things is fine, but what you really want is wise people.

It’s strange to me that someone who believes those things could achieve fame as a cable host, but they are clear and direct statements that I wholeheartedly agree with.

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6 thoughts on “Wise words from Tucker Carlson

  1. well, I agree with the last two. However, believing that your good fortune is a result of your virtue is not a quality limited to U.S. “ruling classes” (whatever he meant by that).

  2. Servetus,

    Yes, I’d be happy to drop the snide aside about the ruling class. What I liked about the quote is (1) the observation that meritocracy has tended to suck the countryside dry of excellent people and consolidate them in urban bubbles, and (2) treating intelligence as the ultimate good destroys empathy for those outside the bubble.

    Not that elites of every sort aren’t deficient in empathy. But I think it surprises the classless-society types who promote meritocracy, which was put forward as the democratic alternative to aristocracy.

  3. Hmm, I don’t typically associate ideas about meritocracy with Marxists, but we may know different ones. To me the meritocracy is a very conservatively-coded idea. Not a bad one, but not one most of my leftist friends share without ambivalence.

    re: what takes excellent people out of rural areas — I think in any migration there’s pull (Carlson’s example may relate to that) and there’s push. I grew up in a rural area, left it for 30 years, and now I’m back. It’s slightly less rural now, although my extended family is just as rural as it always was. I’m more comfortable here now that I’ve seen much more of the world and feel like I chose this place for right now, anyway, but all the same things that made me want to leave here when I was 18 are all still around, the chief ones being the ingrown belief that things that haven’t happened here aren’t happening anywhere and that the way people live here is the way all people should live. I heard John Cougar Mellencamp singing yesterday about small towns (must be a song from the 80s) and how they let him “be just who I want to be” and I burst out laughing. I’ve never experienced the small town as a libertarian place or a “free to be you and me” kind of place and that has not changed in the least. It’s why, for example, gay kids leave small towns and I don’t get the feeling that small towns regret that at all (or they would raise their children differently).

  4. Servetus,

    I’m more comfortable here now that I’ve seen much more of the world and feel like I chose this place for right now, anyway, but all the same things that made me want to leave here when I was 18 are all still around …

    I was just thinking yesterday of the well-known Eliot quote from Little Gidding: “We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.” Sounds like you know your home now—not necessarily seeing it as better or worse, just in much greater depth.

    I heard John Cougar Mellencamp singing yesterday about small towns (must be a song from the 80s) and how they let him “be just who I want to be” and I burst out laughing. I’ve never experienced the small town as a libertarian place or a “free to be you and me” kind of place and that has not changed in the least.

    I’m laughing along with you, and can’t find a generous interpretation for what he said—it’s just wrong. But I think we’ve gradually forgotten the possibility of a sort of inner freedom that can allow us to exist in an outwardly rigid place. My family on my dad’s side lives in a very rural community, a town of 500 in far southern New Mexico, is as tight-knit and judgmental a community as you could imagine—and yet there are some who live outside the norm, with various amounts of openness. I won’t argue that it’s not a burden to live a closeted life, but I’ve often lived that sort of life (not sexually, but politically) and a large part of getting along has been in just not talking about those things you differ on.

    Note that I’m not saying how much anyone should put up with, only pointing out that it’s an option which society currently insists we take off the table—it’s no longer acceptable to have differences but keep them to oneself.

    It’s why, for example, gay kids leave small towns and I don’t get the feeling that small towns regret that at all (or they would raise their children differently).

    Can’t argue with either part of this, except that I think we’re overall the worse for it (collectively, not individually). The tight-knit community I mentioned has become more flexible and accepting over the years exactly because the square pegs stuck it out and the rest felt obliged as family to accommodate them.

  5. Thanks, Mandy. At about the same time I decided to resume writing here, life intervened in a major way. But once some issues are resolved, I still intend to write more.

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