Mises was probably unique in his insistence that “all reasonable men are called upon to familiarize themselves with the teachings of economics. This is, in our age, the primary civic duty. … Economics deals with society’s fundamental problems; it concerns everyone and belongs to all. It is the main and proper study of every citizen.” (HA, 879)
However, the striking fact is that apart from a few “professional pundits” (or bandits?) almost no regular person has an ideology. At best, a voter may vaguely support capitalism, say, but his views will be nowhere near the sort of coherent and comprehensive grasp of the social issues required for intelligent decision-making. The vast majority like their politics, if any at all, à la carte: they pick pleasant-sounding and usually wrong opinions from their environment at random.
An intellectual cannot be of any help to the masses. The “people” do not listen to philosophers.
There is, however, a small group of men in any society who can be called “natural elite” or natural aristocracy. They have the intelligence, interest, and leisure to learn how the world works and should. It is these people who will encounter, say, Rawls’ A Theory of Justice and maybe my critique of it, if reasonable, on this blog. They will seek to purify their views and make them hang together in some kind of a system.
The natural elite has to be distinguished from social justice warriors who are merely fanatics and the sort of people savaged by Eric Hoffer in The True Believer.
The particular subgroup within the natural aristocracy of most interest to us is the judges. Now it is my belief that the judicial branch constitutes a sort of ruling class, but one that must be entirely private: no judge shall officially work for or receive a salary from the state. Judges are thus part of the government but not part of the state. There are a number of benefits of such an arrangement, not the least of which is that no citizen could otherwise count on fair representation when he sues or is sued by the executive branch.
To help judges in their search for wisdom and to discover the natural law is the task of the intellectuals.
(Imagine for a second a world in which everyone knew economics, political philosophy, etc. perfectly. They could then create a nicely utilitarian legal system from the top down. There would be no need for natural law; all laws could well be positive, made by the legislature, with every law in the great system the lawgivers would see as a whole evaluated on its own merits as to how it affects the general happiness; and “mechanical” jurisprudence would be the order of the day. This is not happening any time soon.)
As for the masses, they need priests far more than they need intellectuals.