The article I referenced a couple weeks ago about the trends in conservative think tanks and philanthropy noted that the first phase was ushered in by F. A. Hayek. In some ways, the arc that Piereson sketches follows a change in the relationship that Hayek observed between what he termed “academics” and “intellectuals.”
The term intellectuals, however, does not at once convey a true picture of the large class to which we refer and the fact that we have no better name by which to describe what we have called the secondhand dealers in ideas is not the least of reasons why their power is not better understood. Even persons who use the word “intellectual” mainly as a term of abuse are still inclined to withhold it from many who undoubtedly perform that characteristic function. This is neither that of the original thinker nor that of the scholar or expert in a particular field of thought. The typical intellectual need be neither: he need not possess special knowledge of anything in particular, nor need he even be particularly intelligent, to perform his role as intermediary in the spreading of ideas. What qualifies him for his job is the wide range of subjects on which he can readily talk and write, and a position or habits through which he becomes acquainted with new ideas sooner than those whom he addresses himself.
As you can see, Hayek does not mean the term to be especially praiseworthy. He rather views the intellectual as a sort of gatekeeper (in his words an “intermediary”) between those who have expert knowledge (academics/scholars) and the public. This particular article by Hayek argues that the role and importance of intellectuals in the formation of public opinion is generally overlooked, and that their function needs to be better understood in order to better disseminate conservative ideas.
None of this, however, takes away from the importance of having and producing the ideas to disseminate in the first place. Piereson’s piece paints a picture of conservative philanthropy having gradually moved away from an emphasis primarily on ideas and secondarily on method of dissemination (enter the intellecual). The reverse has rather become true: the talking heads and intelligentsia have become the primary focal point.