Honestly, the smartest thing about this is N’gai’s hed from his EGO trip blog. Deborah Solomon’s “Think tanks are just welfare for intellectuals” is designed to provoke, sure, but only makes sense if you also agree that magazine writing gigs are just welfare for journalists—the think tank guys make a product, opinion, that at least some people think is worth paying for. And, you know Murray is just Murray (also, as a stylistic aside, what’s with this convention of calling interviewer and subject by their first names?): Here’s N’Gai:
Fear and Self-Loathing In Think Tanks
Deborah: I believe that given the opportunity, most people could do most anything.
Charles: You’re out of touch with reality in that regard. You have not hung around with kids who are well in the lower half of the ability distribution.
Deborah: Have you? For nearly two decades, you’ve been at the American Enterprise Institute, the conservative think tank in Washington. Why would a self-declared libertarian, the party that glorifies individualism, spend his career on the dole?
Charles: But I am not spending my career on the dole. People are voluntarily giving money to A.E.I.—there is no government money—because they think the work we do is valuable.
Deborah: Aren’t think tanks basically welfare for intellectuals?
Charles: Actually, the interesting thing there is the extent to which it’s the think tanks in the last 15 years that have been producing the stuff that has had the most effect on the debate, as opposed to colleges.
Deborah: What do you make of the fact that John McCain was ranked 894 in a class of 899 when he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy?
Charles: I like to think that the reason he ranked so low is that he was out drinking beer, as opposed to just unable to learn stuff.
Deborah: What do you think of Sarah Palin?
Charles: I’m in love. Truly and deeply in love.
Deborah: She attended five colleges in six years.
Charles: So what?
Deborah: Why is the McCain clan so eager to advertise its anti-intellectualism?
Charles: The last thing we need are more pointy-headed intellectuals running the government. Probably the smartest president we’ve had in terms of I.Q. in the last 50 years was Jimmy Carter, and I think he is the worst president of the last 50 years.