Or "Our civic debates are getting dumber because our Thought Leaders are greedy and superficial."
Niall Ferguson and the Rage Against the Thought-Leader Machine
The path to lucrative thought-leaderdom blazed over the past couple of decades was to establish yourself with dense, serious work (or a big, important job) and then move on to catch-phrase manufacturing (I spent a few weeks following Tom Friedman around in 2005, and learned that he had made this transition very deliberately). Nowadays ambitious young people looking to break into the circuit often just aim straight for the catch-phrases. Speakers bureaus need pithy sales pitches, not complex erudition — and while speaking fees might be spare change for Mitt Romney, for journalists and academics they often represent their only real shot at a top-tax-bracket income.The result is an intellectual environment that seems to increasingly reward the superficial, and keeps rewarding those who make it into the magic circle of top-flight speakers even if they don't have anything new or interesting to say.
I touched on this a while back in this post:
One of the laws is "everyone is conservative about what he knows best." As i noted then:
In a business context Conquest's Law suggests that those who promote the Next New Thing-- be they consultants, IT salesmen, journalists, or would-be gurus-- fall into one of two categories:1. Ignorant, naive amateurs whose knowledge of the subject is superficial but whose enthusiasm is genuine.2. Cynical hucksters who know better but hope their audience does not.As for the executives who fall prey to the charlatans and enthusiasts, this passage by Andre Maurois often fits:Like all intelligent men who are not in any way creative, Sir Robert Peel was dangerously sympathetic towards the creations of others. Incapable of formulating a system, he threw himself voraciously on those he came across, and applied them more vigorously than would their inventors.