Thursday, July 06, 2006

Stupid People Should Run our Country

Or at least that is the idea I get from any one of many unbelievably idiotic statements made by (primarily) Republicans. These often come out in question form: "Can't you spend a dollar better than the government?" or "Can the government decide what is best for your kids better than you can?" (The answers are: no and yes.) The other, often times less overt, way that these statements come about is in relation to intellectual elites, and this is expressed when you see articles talking about how college professors are all liberals, or that liberals (or dems) are condescending when dealing with people who disagree with them, and think that opposed opinions are stupid or wrong.

Let's deal with the overt questions first: No, you can not spend a dollar better than the government can and taxes are a good thing. Don't believe me? Well your wrong, but I'll even tell you why: Military. Police. Food. Infrastructure. Social Security. Welfare (later post). Medicare. Education. Research... There is more, but this should give you a fair idea. All of these things are good. They require money, and you can NOT spend your dollar to get them better than the government. Yes, the government can decide what is best for your children better than you. I am not talking about specific congressmen and women, but the whole of government, relying on the advice of experts, which produces things like: education standards, movie/tv ratings, child safety warnings/standards for things like car seats and playground. Do I think they are entirely right? No, but I think that they do a fair lot better than an average citizen would. (Incedentally, I also think that choice is inviolable, and government needs, generally, to stay the hell out of the lives of most people, the question, however, was not "should" but "could.")

Generally speaking the government has better access (to professional opinions, specialists, international community, etc...) and is not in the business of profiting (no need for many expenses and cuts that drive corporate America) and is therefore much better able to deal with the needs of citizens than those citizens are individually. Even when corruption does invade, I don't think there will ever be the government equivalent of a $700 car with $2000 spinners driven by someone living on less than $17k/year who wears $80 jeans.

The latter sentiment is more troubling. If you were to ask groups of people at every level of education to answer a question, which group would you expect to, on average, answer the question correctly? Probably the most educated. If that is true for asking "a question" then it will also hold true for asking about politics.

I should say first that this is not about individual intellect or knowledge, as high school drop outs can count geniuses among their numbers and PhD's can be pretty stupid. It is about numbers and averages. Brighter people are more likely to pursue education further. That pursuit will often result in more formal education (more and higher degrees). That is to say that a PhD/MS/MD/JD/... does not make a person smarter, but smarter people will be more likely to earn those degrees. Even within higher degrees you will find general differences (e.g. MD's and JD's rely more heavily on memorization). In practice: brighter (more intelligent, whatever) individuals take more into consideration when making a decision, therefore that decision is more broadly applicable, and better informed; people with greater amounts of education are more likely to be brighter on average so the opinions and beliefs held by highly educated people are more likely to be well informed and, therefore, sounder.

Is that arrogant? Maybe. Is it true? Yes. Now, I don't think that government by intellectuals is a good thing, but to deride an opinion as being "intellectual" is one step away from saying "I am not capable of arguing because they are right, but I want you to dislike them and their opinion," and that is, hmm...well, stupid.


Michael L. Heien said...


I am not sure I agree with everything you said here...I am glad you said could, not should, but there is not much of a step there. I have a inherent mistrust of professionals, and I think the average person does also (not to say I am not average, I am a little below). Plus, the UN is trying to take my guns.

I think you are coming across as elitist. I mean I know you are better than everyone else, but does Joe six pack?

Jacob said...

Yea, Michael, but that's the problem. Why is elitist to entone that smarter people have better ideas? They do. This notion that bright people should not be given preference when decisions are made is silly at best and downright dangerous at worst. Yes, they can be wrong, and there may be ulterior motives, but by and large, on the average, they will be right.

Michael L. Heien said...


I believe you should study your history a little better. People *hate* being told what to do by other people (especially governments) even if it is better for them. I do believe the best person to make a decision for your life is yourself.
There are always well-meaning people that end up doing harm. Didn't you learn anything from what happened on Miranda? Our well-meaning alliance tried to weed out arrgession and created the reavers. No thank you - I will not let history repeat itself.