Dana Milbank writes today in pretend shock that some Tea Party leaders and candidates have Ivy League degrees, are million and even billionaires, and that lots of rank-and-file Tea Partiers just donated to the Chamber of Commerce, a group that’s membership includes many prominent companies. Similarly, Maureen Dowd suggests that the conservative movement rejects knowledge and education-is “Making Ignorance Chic”-because of comments candidates have made about being “just like you” and have dismissed the Ivy League.

This is a misunderstanding (likely intentional) of what the Tea Party movement, and the conservative movement more generally, is about. Conservatives don’t dislike smart people or people with Ivy League degrees (I certainly hope not, since I’ve been through Princeton and Harvard). They dislike when people presume they know better than everyone else. They don’t dislike the rich and successful.  Far from it. Most people I know are happy for people who reach the heights of business, recognizing that it takes sacrifice to build and sustain a business, and that, for the most part, the rest of us benefit when businesses thrive.

Businesses can’t tax us. Businesses can’t force their products or service upon us. They can’t tell us how to live our lives. It’s our government that does that. Government officials seem to think they know better than we do about what’s best for us and our families. People in Washington-and yes, many of them graduate from Ivy League schools-are increasingly creating rules and programs that presume citizens are children and need Big Daddy government to tell them what to do.

You see this most spectacularly in the new health care law. Right now, a small group of Washington bureaucrats is busy deciding what all Americans must have as a part of their health insurance. If the experience in Massachusetts is any guide, they are considering forcing us all to carry coverage for things like treatment for alcoholism and infertility. No matter that there are people out there who have never and will never drink alcohol, and women and men who have no desire to have kids. Washington elites know what’s best. They are going to force all of us to carry the coverage that they think is best, even if it makes absolutely no sense for our individual situation.

It’s this attitude – the superiority of those who think that they should make decisions about how 300 million diverse Americans should live – that people (particularly conservatives and those in the Tea Party) detest. We want limited government and our elected officials (regardless of where they went to college) to trust us to make decisions for ourselves and to treat us as equals and adults.

This attitude isn’t anti-rich or anti-intellectual. It’s anti-busy body. Anti-authoritarian. Leave people alone and they’ll applaud your accomplishments in business or academia.