This is the inaugural installment of a category we’ll call “Intellectuals in Action.” Keeping in mind that the book and this blog mean “intellectuals” in the Hayekian sense as traders in ideas — that is, people whose activities influence (whether deliberately or not) the way that other people view the world. To drill down, readers can go to Hayek’s 1949 essay, “The Intellectuals and Socialism,” and the introduction to his 1954 edited volume, Capitalism and the Historians.
The point of this series, or category, of posts, is to appreciate how broad and diverse are intellectuals in society. They’re not just think tanks and op-ed columnists.
For example, in this article, Reason writer Jesse Walker seeks to understand and portray survivalists, or “preppers” (people who prepare for the breakdown of normal society, in which survival will depend on self-sufficiency) beyond the stereotyping and outright dismissal that they have received from writers at other outlets. Walker interviews many preppers to the discovery that they’re not very different from non-preppers. He also points to a lot of routine and normal scenarios (like a storm, or a family’s loss of a primary breadwinner) where having prepped would have been a good idea.
And then he notches up the relevance factor:
OK, you say, so preppers aren’t all nuts. In the future, when I want to make fun of people holed up in a suburban fortress awaiting a zombie attack, I’ll use a more specific term. But so what? Does it really matter if some of the stories I’ve seen in the last few months have been too sweeping?
Yes, it does. It’s always worthwhile to push back when a subculture gets scapegoated, whether it’s Goths after Columbine or preppers today. It’s especially important when those attacks are embedded in our political debates, skewing the ways we see the world.
The way mass numbers of people perceive sub-cultures, including preppers, affects what mass numbers of people believe are the best way to arrange political and economic institutions. Walker talks about FEMA, gun control, and some other fairly obvious examples. But there are more. It’s an interesting read. And it’s a piece of intellectualism in action.