La Trahison des Clercs by S. M. Hutchens

Mortal Remains

La Trahison des Clercs

Julien Benda deliberately made this title ambiguous, so I will translate it here "the malice of the experts." In an online New York Times article of February 5, 2020, titled "Draft Executive Order Would Give Trump a New Target: Modern Architectural Design," referring to a proposed executive order, "Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again," which "favors classical design for buildings in Washington" and has "drawn opposition from architects," the authors quote Roger K. Lewis, an architect and professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland: "At the most fundamental level it's a complete constraint on freedom of expression." Marion Smith, also an architect and chairman of the group promoting the proposed order, approves this constraint:

For too long architectural elites and bureaucrats have derided the idea of beauty, blatantly ignored public opinions on style, and have quietly spent taxpayer money constructing ugly, expensive, and inefficient buildings. . . . This executive order gives voice to the 99 percent—the ordinary American people who do not like what our government has been building.

I'm one of those. Do it with somebody else's money. Professor Lewis and his ilk speak with the expert's air of entitlement, as though such people had some kind of right to public monies to exercise their very expensive imaginations. If George Soros or Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos wants to build something expensive, ugly, and uncomfortable, nobody's stopping them. Let them buy a chunk of the Mojave and go at it.

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S. M. Hutchens is a Touchstone senior editor.

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