Eisenhower's Farewell Address: a Warning About the Technological Elite

Interesting take on Eisenhower's farewell address at The American Conservative.


Eisenhower’s Farewell Address At 60

Absent institutional reform, Eisenhower’s appeal to supervise the scientific-technological elite has largely proven ineffective.

JANUARY 16, 2021


... Eisenhower noted the newfound importance, formality, complexity, and costliness of scientific-technological research, all of which encourage the federal government’s interest in and influence over the economy and academy.

... Americans today might add that the rising influence of the scientific-technological elite during the last sixty years is bad because the experts aren’t very good at their professed expertise—at conducting wars on foreign enemies, wars on poverty, wars on drugs, wars on “invisible enemies.” Doubtless we will soon see how adept our experts are at securing victory in the war on systemic racism, structural inequality, and domestic terrorism.

... Eisenhower’s appeal to “statesmanship” to supervise the scientific-technological elite is a bit like trusting the wolves to guard the sheep. Where will these statesmen come from, if not from the best universities and the parts of society under their sway? The success of the Sixties’s “best and brightest” in the conduct of the Vietnam War and the creation of the Great Society speaks for itself.

... And so long as our politicians are elected, having the right person in office at the right time depends on the “alert and knowledgeable citizenry” invoked by Eisenhower. Such a citizenry is less and less in evidence...

In the past year, we have seen that the influence of the scientific-technological elite and their successors is stronger than ever: acutely, such as the big tech platforms’s actions against a sitting president and other wrongthinkers; chronically, such as their celebrity status in debates about foreign policy, national security, and coronavirus policymaking; and culturally, in memes and mantras such as “trust the experts” and “believe the science.” This, despite their repeated and widespread failures as experts; 2020 was the year that experts “failed upwards.”...

Pavlos Papadopoulos is Assistant Professor of Humanities at Wyoming Catholic College.

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Final words of President Eisenhower's farewell address:

January 17, 1961:

"... To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America's prayerful and continuing inspiration:

We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love."

Transcription courtesy of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library

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of having dropped the ball on this part:

that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities

Not that everyone is shirking them or giving up.

"We enjoy freedom and the rule of law on which it depends, not because we deserve it, but because others before us put their lives on the line to defend it."

~ Thomas Sowell

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@Blue Republic

I posted this article because it focused on a part of Ike's speech in which he warned that the power over education and research, if controlled by the military industrial complex, could drift toward totalitarianism. And I think that's clearly what we're seeing.

If the MIC controls our government, it also controls federal research grants. If research leads to technological innovation, then it's no surprise that mega-national tech firms act in the interest of the MIC. Thus we have communication start-ups becomming worldwide utilities that prohibit free speech if it questions the MIC.

And it's the insidiousness of this drift, the incremental movement away from a focus on free speech to acceptance of our arming Nazis in Ukraine, that shows how far we've drifted.

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