‘People Are Stupid’, And What Follows From That

From The Men Who Would Be King

For all his persuasiveness, incompetence is Satan’s principle problem. The devil always sets out to construct heaven and winds up with hell because he uses the wrong principles. ~Richard Fernandez

I’m reminded by that statement of something a former Soviet general wrote after the fall of the USSR, that the difference in societies produced by the Bolshevik Revolution and the American Revolution came down to founders and their guiding principles, You had Madison and Jefferson and The Enlightenment, we had Lenin who led us into communism.

I remember a conversation I had with two young leftists where I work. One, a young girl with a physics degree, the other a young man with a BSEE. They were Obama supporters and Progressives. I tried to engage them in the idea of First Principles, in the cause and effect and unintended consequences of political and economic policies and approaches. Neither knew what I was talking about. They were simply convinced that a smart guy needed to be in power to do whatever needed to be done. ‘People are stupid! They need to be told what to do.’ I think they would have been committed Bolsheviks in another place and time. In reality, both were the idiots they were sneering at, they just didn’t realize it. Possibly they were projecting their own lack of understanding of the world onto everyone. They had no understanding of the disastrous effects Progressive policies have had on the black population, on race relations, on the economy, on their own lives and opportunities and job prospects. They just wanted someone ‘smart’ in charge to fix it. They set out to build heaven and will be forever confused by the hell that results.

Ben Rhodes and Jonathan Gruber both lied to sell Progressive policies that could not be sold on their merits. That’s why they lied. But like the young Progressives above, both believe people are stupid and need to be told what to do by someone a lot smarter, like them. The lying is incidental. It’s ego confirmation to them that the peasants are so dim they actually believed them. No wonder Obama spends his whole life with a smirk on his face.

7 thoughts on “‘People Are Stupid’, And What Follows From That”

  1. Among most engineers, the narrowness of engineers’ understanding of the world is legendary.

    I had an amusing conversation with a woman engineer who was joining the Army a few weeks ago. We both laughed at engineer stories we had both heard.

    Sadly, the present day has given us a regiment of humorless scolds who think they are smarter than everyone else.

    Common sense was often the weakness of engineers and scientists. That’s why Feynman was so rare.

  2. ‘People are stupid! They need to be told what to do.’

    I’ve run into people like this. My tactic in conversation is to act on the belief that they are stupid and come up with mock orders for them to follow. The tactic is so obvious that they object to the outlandish order. I tell them that they’re stupid, that I’m smart, and by the dictates they subscribe to they must follow my orders. Then I point out that surely they don’t believe that they’re going to come out on top in a political revolution. It’s very likely that some stupid (in comparison to their otherworldly smarts), but ruthless, politicians are going to take power and impose their will on their subjects. This doesn’t really convince them of the error of their ways, for they are the world’s smartest people (in their own minds) but it does shut them up because they can’t find a way out of the trap and so I never hear them making that argument around me again.

    Ben Rhodes isn’t that smart. Smart people can control their egos and not show off to the press.

  3. My husband, a good engineer, often expressed a frustration with legal and political systems. He believes that if they were structured with sensible rules, all outcomes would be reasonable and predictable. He’s frustrated whenever he learns that a legal or political principle runs afoul of human behavior. He also tends to assume that anything illegal simply won’t happen, so he’s gobsmacked whenever someone in power gets away with flouting the rules, as if rules were self-enforcing the same way physical laws are.

  4. Maybe it’s possible to explain things to them in terms of mental bandwidth and locality of processing. As a Russian peasant leader explained to Rose Wilder Lane, when she was still defending Communism:

    “It is too big – he said – too big. At the top, it is too small. It will not work. In Moscow there are only men, and man is not God. A man has only a man’s head, and one hundred heads together do not make one great big head.”

    …which prefigures Hayek’s writing about the role of knowledge in social organization.


    Are either of these two people you mention in a management position? It will be interesting, if they ever reach a level where they have to manage people who have skill sets which they are lacking, to see if their ideas on centralization & smartness change any.

  5. >>…which prefigures Hayek’s writing about the role of knowledge in social organization.

    Odd that you bring that up. First, I think that’s one of Hayek’s key insights. Second, I brought that up myself in a discussion with a former office mate of mine. Once he got Hayek’s idea about the information problem he immediately likened it to a system oscillating out of control. We can’t help understanding things in terms of things we’re familiar with.

  6. And what does Hayek imply? A minimum amount of rules to allow for adjustment to local conditions.

    If we are to have a minimum wage – the States should set it individually. Much better than a National minimum wage.

    What else. A tolerance for “imperfection”. Utopia is hell.

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