Serious wisdom

MaycoverlargeCheck out the May issue of Prospect magazine for my review of Charlie Leadbeater's We-Think, Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody and Lee Siegel's Rage Against the Machine. You'll have to pay the read it -- but this is a smart investment because reading Prospect will make you wiser about the world.

Speaking of serious wisdom, Prospect is once again running a readers' poll to discover the world's leading public intellectual. You can vote here from a long short list of 100. Last time around, in 2005, Noam Chomsky was elected, beating Umberto Eco into a distant second place. But things have changed in the public intellectual business over the last three years. We are now living in a Christopher Hitchens world -- as proven by Prospect's rather dodgy decision to put Alexander Linklater's portrait of Hitchens on the cover of its public intellectual issue. In 2005, Hitchens came in fifth, two places behind co-atheist Richard Dawkins. But that was before God is Great and the Hitchification of Anglo-American media.

Who would get my vote? Certainly not Chomsky, a crazy fossil of the archaic American left miraculously brought back to life by the idiocy of the Bush regime. Hitchens is unChomsky: a work-in-progress, omnivorous, always-on. He's my own personal role-model of a subverter of subversions -- although, like Dawkins, I think he's a bit too self-inflated with comfortable English common-sense to be the world's leading intellectual. Jurgen Habermas (#6 in 2005) is full of anything but common sense, but his problem is just the opposite -- too much academic theory and not enough clarity. If you want an American king, then how about New York Times columnist Paul Krugman (#7 in 2005) -- who wins my vote for the world's most public-spirited and coherent economist.

In 2005, a crowd of 20,000 people voted in the Prospect poll. The election of the crazy fossil Chomsky (who got 4,800 votes) doesn't speak highly of the wisdom of that crowd. Anyone-but-Chomsky is my candidate, with Hitchens as the odds-on favorite to be crowned as the next intellectual master of the universe.