That brings us back to the IQ test. At what point would you say Biden’s actual discernment, the kind of thing you would attribute to intelligence, is bad? Again, none of this is to say Biden is necessarily dumb. As Biden is fond of reminding people, he went to law school on an academic scholarship, and plenty of demonstrably smart people, especially those inhabiting D.C., can be and are often very wrong about political judgments.
But we should also ask ourselves what it means to be “smart” in a political context. A couple of months ago, I was at a party where Pascal Emmanuel Gobry started discoursing, as French intellectuals are wont to do, about how D.C. was essentially held hostage by a cartel of 140 IQs who run This Town.
Now, these people are pretty smart, and many people would say that’s the problem. When you have that kind of intelligence and you’re close to power you’re frankly dangerous, absent some kind of worldview that discourages the worst technocratic utopian impulses and constantly reminds you of how selfish and flawed human nature is. You’re smart enough to dream up and implement a lot of answers to big problems but not smart enough to come up with many actual solutions to what are at root very complicated problems requiring a lot of collective sacrifices to fix. Or, worse, you fail to recognize that some basic problems of governance are tied to the problems of human nature—and you can’t fix that.