Nerd Alert: Who Was the Top Intellectual of 2008?

Yeah, People magazine has its list ranking the most beautiful people in the world, but have you seen the January 2009 issue of Prospect?

In the issue, the wonky magazine ranks the top intellectuals of 2008. No. 1 is U.S. General David Petraeus, with NYU’s Nouriel “Dr. Doom” Roubini placing second.

Personally, I would have put Barack Obama in the top spot. The guy is a former law professor and is arguably even more intellectual than former President Bill Clinton. In fact, Obama may be the most intellectual U.S. president in the history of our country, for what it’s worth.

The way I see it, I think it is a positive that our country has elected such a cerebral guy, especially after the Bush Administration seemed to have such a disdain for ideas. The U.S. has always had an anti-intellectual tradition, as noted by the great historian Richard Hofstadter.

Maybe we are seeing a counter-shift now towards a respect for ideas with the Obama Administration? I hope so. But I think it mostly depends on Obama’s performance. If Obama is a successful president, we will probably see more politicians of his stripe. If not, then we’re going back to politics as usual.

This is one big reason why I hope Obama succeeds. Because if he does, he could attract a whole new field of talented people to political life. Lord knows, we need it.

Here’s the rest of the list.

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