There is a specific bad habit of thought that is partly to blame for things like Libertarianism and phys-splaining
. It is one with which I used to be intimately familiar, and which took a long time to break.
If I may start with an example, in high school physics (including A.P. physics), there was almost no material that a smart student needed to learn. I found early on that I could goof off during class, never read the textbook, and still ace every test. I didn't need to learn the formulas to solve the mechanical problems, because they could all be derived from conservation of energy, F=ma, and E=mv2
. Most of the electricity and magnetism unit involved learning jargon for concepts that were intuitive if you could construct metaphorical isomorphisms between things like voltage and water pressure.
A child or young adult who is very good at problem solving can get used to always being right, because the problems that they face do not require learning a wealth of background information. In their experience, someone who disagrees with them just hasn't figured it out yet.
Once this person starts dealing with real world problems, they run into disagreements with people who have far more experience in the subjects. Their old assumptions about their ability to discern truth become maladaptive. They don't realize that they're getting wrong answers by oversimplifying and failing to respect others' understanding. Sometimes, they read Atlas Shrugged
, then idolize the captains of industry, decry government regulation, and live in a fantasy world in which wealth and power are meritocratic. But they fail to pay attention to the real world, in which the captains of industry achieve their status through a combination of inherited weath, large scale theft and murder, and corrupt control over regulators. Privilege in general has a particular hold over these habitually smart but ignorant folks, because they find laughable the idea that the world is so very different from what they were brought up to believe.
Yes, I went through that phase. Luckily, I lacked the second ingredient that keeps smart kids in blissful ignorance: A fragile ego. Discovering that I had been wrong was embarrassing as hell, but the desire to be a better person meant that I had to change my mind. (Eventually, I was mortified that I had previously identified as a Libertarian.) Those with fragile egos will instead ease their embarrassment by finding any excuse, logical fallacy, or echo chamber to support their old beliefs.
In a big way, I envy millenials' having grown up with social media. Access to real information, bypassing the editors of newspapers and social studies textbooks, would have greatly facilitated my personal growth during my formative years. And sure, even in the information age, people can still choose their own echo chambers, but that is now voluntary. Nobody with an Internet connection (outside of China) has to keep their eyes closed if they don't want to. And I see, as a result, a generation that is hugely more interested and engaged in world affairs, in politics, in the environment, and in the pressing issues of populations other than their own, than my generation was at their age.
There is no longer any excuse for staying smart, ignorant, and complacent. No matter how easy your school work is, the tough problems are a mouse click away.