a commonplace book
I did not mean to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid; I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative.
John Stuart Mill, quoted by Jonny Thakkar in “Why Conservatives Should Read Marx,” The Point
The remainder of the passage from Thakkar attempts to clarify Mill’s intent: “A neat insult for any Leftist to have up his sleeve, but it bears noting that Mill used “stupid” as something of a technical term. A good test for whether someone is stupid, he suggests, would be to see whether their thoughts on a given topic could be inferred from those of their social circle. How would today’s Leftists do by this standard?”
The idea is compelling, particularly once Mill’s notion of stupidity is understood. In that light, the statement “Stupid people are generally conservative” becomes one of mere fact. But the idea of “stupidity”–I daresay even in Mill’s linguistic moment–is enough to give one pause. No one wants to be stupid, though can we really be expected always to derive our thoughts on a given topic from other than our social circle? Perhaps not. Criticality and liberal education are the implied antidote, I think, to this kind of stupidity. And of course Mill would imply such a thing.