The Meddling of Global ‘Thinkers’

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Now here’s something interesting. Every year, Foreign Policy magazine produces a list of the Top 100 Global Thinkers in the World. We picked up the list…looking for our own name.

But wait…

The key is that these are “global” thinkers. They’re not just thinkers, in other words, they are people who are thinking about how people on the other side of the planet should conduct their business.

We were suspicious even before we looked at the list. “Foreign Policy”? We’re against it. Why should we worry about things that don’t concern us?

“Well… You can’t put your head in the sand,” you might reply. “You have to be concerned, because things that happen overseas do affect you.”

Yes, that is true. They affect us. But so does the price of whiskey, the traffic on the Beltway, and the weather. None of them is worth thinking about. We can do nothing about them. And it would be indecent for us to try.

Imagine if we took an interest in the whiskey distiller’s business. What could we do? Try to force him to lower his prices? Try to show him how to operate more efficiently – as if we could know? Set up a buyers’ cartel to negotiate for lower prices? At best, we’d be wasting our time. At worse, we might succeed! Then, whiskey producers would be responding not to market forces…but to meddlers’ forces. What a mess that would be!

Meddling with things close at hand is bad enough. Meddling with things far away is worse. Remember our Daily Reckoning dictum: ignorance increases by the square of the distance. The farther you get away the harder it is to tell what is going on. The details disappear. All you can make out are the rough outlines. Shadows…reflections…silhouettes… In the darkness, you step on every rake and fall into every hole.

The next thing you know, you are calling for “reforms” in countries you’ve never even visited…setting the price of China’s money…and invading Iraq.

But let’s look at who Foreign Policy magazine thinks are the 100 Top Global Thinkers.

Uh oh. In the first and second place are Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Hmmm… They’re smart guys. But what makes them “thinkers”? What have they been thinking about? And what are their thoughts on the subject?

FP says they are there, not for their contributions to the wealth of mankind, but for their philanthropic activities. Wait a minute. What’s philanthropy got to do with thinking?

Okay… We’re stumped on that one… So, who’s the number 3 thinker? Barack Obama! Hold on… This is getting silly. Have you ever heard Barack Obama come up with an original thought? Or any kind of thought worthy of the word? No. That’s not his thing. He’s a politician. Politicians are not thinkers. They may be doers…but they’re not thinkers. Obama gives us plenty of empty expressions and hollow words – “change you can believe in”…“hope”… “winning the future” – but real thoughts? Original ideas? Nope.

Generally, politicians are not thinkers. Occasionally, you get a politician who pretends to be a thinker – such as Princeton University chief Woodrow Wilson. But he almost invariably turns out to be a jackass and a fool.

There must be exceptions – Marcus Aurelius and Thomas Jefferson come to mind. But they seem ill-suited to the political profession and probably should have eschewed public office in the first place.

So let’s keep moving. There must be someone on this list who is a real thinker.

Let’s look back at last year…let’s see…who was FP’s top thinker?

Ben Bernanke!

Well, that does it for us. What’s the matter with these people? Can’t they tell the different between tired hacks with worn-out, crackpot ideas…and real thinkers?

The Foreign Policy editors should do some real thinking of their own. Then, maybe they’d mind their own business.

Reprinted with permission from The Daily Reckoning.

Bill Bonner is the author, with Addison Wiggin, of Financial Reckoning Day: Surviving the Soft Depression of The 21st Century and The New Empire of Debt: The Rise Of An Epic Financial Crisis and the co-author with Lila Rajiva of Mobs, Messiahs and Markets (Wiley, 2007). Since 1999, Bill has been a daily contributor and the driving force behind The Daily Reckoning.

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