We’ve long misconstrued who precisely can be part of the intellectual battle. Everyone without exception can qualify as an intellectual provided he or she is willing to take ideas seriously. Anyone and everyone is entitled to be part of it. Those who feel the burden and the passion of ideas more intensely, in Mises’s view, have a greater obligation to thrust themselves into the battle, even when doing so can bring disdain and isolation from one’s fellows – and doing so most certainly will (which is why so many people who should have known better have fallen silent).
The great turn from ancient political and economic structures into more modern ones was not only about property rights, commercial freedoms, and the participation of ever greater waves of people in public life. There was also an implicit epidemiological deal to which we agreed, what Sunetra Gupta describes as an endogenous social contract.