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Fred Reed on commentator's disease

January 10, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
Are the people who run things in Washington too smart?

This morning at The American Conservative, Rod Dreher linked to an column by Fred Reed that suggests just that.

Reed suggested that people in The Beltway suffer from "Commentator's Disease." Because people who work in various fields in the nation's capitol tend to be in the top 99 percent of intelligence and more affluent than the average person, they assume that everyone is as bright and capable as they are. This can lead to disastrous policy decisions, based on a lot of false assumptions.

Reed writes: "I often see victims of Commentator's Disease arguing against the minimum wage on abstract grounds of economic theory. It is what commentators do—bandy abstractions, railing for or against Keynes, assaulting their ideological opponents with pointed phrases. They have never had to do the arithmetic of forty times the minimum wage minus taxes minus bus fare minus rent and gotta pay the cable because it is the only thing they have after work. They have never had to choose between the electric bill and a new coat as winter comes on."

The increasing emphasis on a highly skilled workforce and the outsourcing of blue collar jobs to other countries has left a lot of people in trouble. The growing income gap between the very wealthy and the rest of the us is just one result. It is a problem when an economy does not work for people of varying ability levels. Not everyone in the country is capable of going to college or understanding how to start a business or invest in the market, yet they still have families to raise and bills to pay like everyone else.

Reed's whole column is well worth a read. It can be found at


Article Comments



Jan-11-13 12:51 PM

I could agree that those with this "commentator's disease" are somewhat insulated from a way of life that a majority of Americans are living.

I call that "drinking the DC water" which leads to arguing in abstracts about those issues that real Americans are facing every day. I'll be watching Sens. Hoeven & Heitkamp and Rep. Cramer to see if they develop "symptoms" of what some have called "Inside the Beltway thinking." It is a fascinating subject.

And as far as that "top 99 percent in intelligence" thing? Wouldn't the factoid make more sense if those commentators were referred to as being in the "top 1 percent in intelligence?" Just asking...


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