In particular, when Russell writes about "the philosophical radicals ... who were just as sure of themselves as the Hitlerites are[, who] dominated politics and ... advanced [the world] rapidly both in intelligence and in material well-being," he is very likely writing about people who would definitely be a Hacker News they, given what I know about his politics and given statements like "if at any future time there should be danger of a Labour Government that meant business, [the British Fascists] would win the support of most of the governing classes."
So, if this essay leaves you with a warm and fuzzy feeling about your "wider and truer outlook" and the feeling that you are being oppressed because of your "skepticism and intellectual individualism", well, congratulations! You've discovered the power of emotional rhetoric.
It's why the Elon Musk's, Larry Page's and Bill Gates of the tech world retreat into their own private dreamlands as far away from the politics of the real world as possible, cause they know they don't stand a chance against the rhetorical snake charmers that are Bush, Obama, Clinton and now Trump.
I'll leave here, Matt Taibbi's more modern take on this that blames the media or what I like to call the rhetoric amplification industry.
The solutions are complex but eventually we'll have to start looking at China. Cause no one else seems to be working on alternatives to what the media has become today.
Elon Musk: capitalist. Larry Page: capitalist. Bill Gates: capitalist. Obama and Clinton: capitalists. Bush: capitalist with special emphasis on heavy resource-extraction industries. Trump: capitalist with special emphasis on finance and real-estate.
Honestly, what do the above list of men even disagree about? Gay marriage, and maybe one or two other minor cultural issues.
I mean, maybe Elon Musk could be seen as having a few leftist sympathies in naming his spaceships after Iain Banks characters, but I'm pretty sure he didn't actually mean to shout-out anarcho-communism.
Hate on western media if you like, but just remember the same industry that gave the world Fox News also gave it The Intercept and The Economist.
But still, if you want to look for an alternative to western media, you'll need to look elsewhere - China is turning more and more free, and is becoming increasingly like the rest of the West - good and bad, the whole package.
You say that like it's a bad thing.
Maybe the case for fast trains stacks up (in some places), but Nuclear power just doesn't. I know some people assume that because some of the safety problems are overstated it makes it a good option, but that chain of reasoning doesn't hold.
This book does a pretty decent and math-based argument that the chain of reasoning for nuclear energy holds up pretty well. Have there been some new developments that suddenly made it not so?
Heres a good article on the costs: http://theconversation.com/what-does-nuclear-power-cost-old-...
The democracy once did, and in fact, was probably more democratic when it chose to. Of course, now it chooses not to because the vast majority of the population are NIMBYs, while nuclear power and fast trains are actually supported only by a technically-educated elite (ie: us).
On the other hand, none of Bush, Obama, Clinton or Trump are stupid (although I have no evidence that Bush is especially sharp). And none of them are any more evil (or more good, for that matter) than any of your apparently favored three.
There is no solution to this; politics is how humans make large-scale and not-so-large-scale social decisions. Get used to it.
Personally, I think I'll pass on China as an example. I'm a bit too constitutionally unwilling to give up my crabby individuality.
Doubt is inherent in the process of intelligent reasoning. A highly intelligent person cannot come to correct conclusions about a topic without thoroughly examining it from as many sides as they can. They weigh up the pros and cons and then come to a conclusion. But even after all of that they will be aware of its flaws and downsides and thus doubt themself.
So why do I say aristocracy? Because the upper classes, the gentry and the wealthy were born into a position of power and confidence. Just because of who they were in society, they believed they were right. And as they were wealthy, they also made up the vast majority of scientists/philosophers/etc. The downfall of the aristocracy throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries led to the new thinkers no longer having that inbuilt "born-to-rule" mindset, that while arrogant, also lent an arrogant confidence to their position that a common intelligent man may not have.
In short, it's not confidence that led the thinkers of old to undoubting - it's arrogance. And maybe a little bit of that is always necessary to get things done...
I'm not sure who you think we is on HN, but if you consider HN to be mostly populated by people who prefer some kind of evidence-based reasoning then I'd think they would fit in very well.