Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity, Applied to the Selection of Politicians


First, put on your tinfoil hats ...


I would like to draw your attention to this wonderful-for-an-election-season article by Mark Abrahams, pointed out on the website of the inimitable Miss Cellania: The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity Suggest a Better Way to Choose Politicians.

In an essay published in 1976 by Italian economist Carlo M. Cipolla titled "The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity," Mr Cipolla saw four essential laws (with my comments added):

1. Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation. I can't argue with that.

2. The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person. There are plenty of members of Congress who are personally likable, but professionally brain-dead.

3. A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses. This suggests to me the scorched-earth tactics of the most extreme hard-liners of the political right and left.

4. Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.  This may explain why Congress is so utterly useless nowadays ... because the partisans of both parties consider each other to be stupid, and thus don't want to deal with them. And they'd be right.

That sums things up pretty nicely, doesn't it?

The article by Mr Abrahams goes on to show how these laws have been applied by other scientists to the selection of politicians, suggesting - among other things - that when a certain number of politicians is  

"... selected at random—owing no allegiance to any party [emphasis is mine] — the legislature’s overall efficiency improves. That higher efficiency, the scientists explain, comes in 'both the number of laws passed and the average social welfare obtained' from those new laws."

I cannot add anything else of significance ... at least at 5AM, as I write this ... to the wonderful observations of Mr Cipolla and the other individuals cited in the longer article by Mr Abrahams. Read the original essay and the Abrahams article for a thought-provoking new take on our political mess.

And consider voting for someone at random. You could do worse ... and you more than likely will.


Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

8 comments:

allenwoodhaven said...

I've quoted it before and no doubt will again: "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits."

I don't know who said this, but clearly he wasn't stupid!

eViL pOp TaRt said...


"2. The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person." -- I infer from that you can't judge from appearance or eloquence. Stupid people don't have a stupid phenotype.

That makes selecting a husband, employee, or politician very hard.

On the other hand, maybe those are desirable traits for some. Wasn't there a song entitled "I like them big and stupid"?

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Amen to all of it...And the sad part is, they keep letting the stupid ones reproduce! Thus making more stupid ones!

The Bastard King of England said...

At least stupid people reproduce with other stupid people.

Big Sky Heidi said...

There are fewer jobs available for people who are stupid. Maybe we'll see a government program to increase the number of elective positions. Call it the Leave No Dumbass Behind Act.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

The most dangerous stupid people are those that are smart enough to pass for being smart.

Bilbo said...

Allen - that's true!

Angelique - sadly, this is true. It is why you must never engage in lust at first sight.

Andrea - sad, but true.

King - hence the genetic law of compound stupidity?

Heidi - send the idea to Mr Romney. He can use it if he wins.

Mike said...

I would consider voting for someone at random but I'm not sure where random is.