Friday, January 16, 2004

Dennis Miller is a Smart Guy

This NYT profile makes clear that Dennis Miller is far more intelligent than the average media personality, and I'm not just saying that because he appears to be a libertarian (not a conservative, as the NYT writer seems to think). Anybody who can make casual references to Pliny the Elder and Franz Kafka in the course of a single conversation, and even use the word "novella" without sounding pretentious, has a lot more going on upstairs than your run-of-the-mill celebrity.

I can't say it's all that surprising that the more reflective Hollywood personalities tend to tilt libertarian rather than right or left. I don't mean to imply that libertarianism is the only obvious choice for intelligent people - the existence of extremely smart liberals like Matthew Yglesias and Brad DeLong puts that notion to rest - but it seems to me that it takes more intellectual subtlety than a lot of people possess to realize that one can be for the toleration of a thing, whether it be free speech for neo-Nazis, the freedom to wear the hijab, gay marriage, marijuana usage or abortion, without necessarily endorsing it as a positive good. The conservative attitude towards things that run against the traditional grain is simply to seek to have them banned outright, "for the good of the ignorant masses", while the liberal attitude is to say "no, you're wrong, these are good things, and only your lack of enlightenment obscures recognition of this"; both stances are equally condescending in their own way, as they strive to impose one viewpoint on the rest of society.