Budgeting for Stupidity

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As it is quite obvious to the intelligent observer that our ruling elites are busily engaged in wrecking the country, the theories about why this is the case break into two schools of thought. The first is that the bad guys are evil geniuses, and that they are doing all of this on purpose out of malice, envy, and guile, like so many Bond villains. The second is that they are stupid, and they really believe their own platitudes. They think they are helping sweetness and light along when they are, in fact, not helping. They are ushering in a glorious new commie world, like Venezuela or a seedier part of downtown Detroit.

Before getting on to today’s discussion of these matters, I would like to propose a third option. This is a big country, and we can see that an awful lot of people are engaged in wrecking it, and so why not both? Why can’t we have evil geniuses and stupid people both?

Today, however, we are going to focus on the problems caused by stupidity. But I have included this qualification up front in order to acknowledge to you, the reading public, that there is some intelligent malevolence involved in all of this, and I will even grant that some of these bad guys are Jews. This last item is included simply in order to keep the volume of my correspondence at manageable levels.

With all of this said, we really need to start budgeting for stupidity.

Sages Over the Ages

I draw your attention to the Twain meme, which states the thing nicely. Then there is the definition of idiot offered to us by Ambrose Bierce.

“Idiot, n. A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling. The Idiot’s activity is not confined to any special field of thought or action, but ‘pervades and regulates the whole.’ He has the last word in everything; his decision is unappealable. He sets the fashions and opinion of taste, dictates the limitations of speech and circumscribes conduct with a dead-line.”

Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Many years ago I read a book by William Simon, who had been Reagan’s Secretary of the Treasury. The book was called something like A Time for Truth, which it apparently wasn’t, but in that book Simon speculated on why conspiracy thinking was so prevalent on the Right. He concluded that it was because conservatives had a tendency to attribute intelligence to their adversaries, and because it was obvious how destructive all their ideas were, the motive force consequently had to be malice.

But Simon wanted us to know that he had been involved in discussion and debate at the highest echelons of our government, and that he was prepared to testify that if some of these johnnies at the top had brains made out of gunpowder, they still wouldn’t be able to blow off their hat. Not that he put it that way of course.

And of course there is Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

This Is Sober Anthropology, Not Name-Calling

Now of course budgeting for stupidity does not mean reducing all doctrinal disagreements or policy differences to the level of third graders hurling taunts at each other, saying, “No, you’re the stupid.” To behave that way is not budgeting for stupidity, but rather exhibiting the kind of stupidity that must be budgeted for by someone else.

We also need to avoid the insider-knowledge conceit that is eager to talk about all the stupid people “out there,” thereby automatically exempting oneself from that category. That kind of conceit is, well, stupid, and others will have to budget for that as well.

All this is to say that the recognition of pervasive stupidity in the world contains a real insight, and of course stupid people will abuse it, just like they do everything else. Not only will they abuse it, the will do so by pretending to understand it. But the fact that they will do this does not invalidate the reality. Why should stupid people understand pervasive stupidity when they don’t understand everything else?

Time for a Book Plug

So this brings us to a crucial book recommendation. I refer you to an insightful little book by Carlo Cipolla that you will initially be tempted to write off as just a satire, as Nicolas Taleb notes in the foreword. But as you make your way through this slim volume, you will realize that it contains a great deal of sober analysis. It just might actually might help you as you try to navigate your way through the minefields of prevailing imbecility at that Dilbert office of yours. And incidentally, the fact that Scott Adams’ humor works is a testament to the validity of Cipolla’s thesis.

Cipolla’s book, The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity, outlines the basic challenge we must learn all to confront. This is a book that deserves to take its place alongside other great tongue-in-cheek works of astounding insight, by which I mean books like Parkinson’s Law or The Peter Principle.

For example, his first law states that there are always more stupid people involved than you might expect. Words to live by, right there. It is an encouragement to caution.

But the two things I found most helpful were his second law, and also his definition of stupidity, which happens to constitute his third law.

The second law was that the ratio of stupid people in any cohort is unrelated any other characteristics of that cohort. In other words, you are going to find roughly the same percentage of stupid people (which will be a larger number than you expected, see the first law) among Nobel laureates as you would among ditch diggers. Tall, short, black, white, male, female, the percentage of stupid people in any given cohort will be roughly the same, and will be be surprisingly high. Since this law applies to Mensa chapters or members of Phi Beta Kappa as well as to the local Rotary, it should become clear that we are talking about something that IQ tests don’t catch, and that graduation requirements don’t screen out. We are talking about something a bit closer to the biblical concept of folly, which is a moral condition.

So what is this stupidity? It is to act in a harmful way, and in such a way as that the person acting is not benefited by the action himself, and is possibly even harmed himself. Here is how Cipolla put it in his third law:

“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.”

Carlo Cipolla, The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity

Is There No Defense Against This?

Well, sure, there is a defense, but it is not a utopian defense. In other words, the goal should not be the eradication of stupidity, which is not possible, but rather the shrewd (and courageous) containment of it.

In his analysis of the human condition, Cipolla breaks us down into four categories. There are the stupid people, causing harm without rhyme or reason. You cannot anticipate and guard against their plan because there is no plan. Then there are the malevolent people, who do damage, but who benefit themselves by doing it. Cipolla calls them bandits. We don’t appreciate them, but at least we understand them. He stole your wallet because there was something of value for him in it. Then there are, obviously, the intelligent people. They are the ones who benefit themselves through benefiting others.

The fourth category is made up of helpless people. These are the people who get consistently ripped off by the bandits, and who are regularly beset by the stupid people.

When a society is on a destructive downward path, it is because they are governed by some kind of informal coalition of the bandits, the stupid, and the helpless (as enablers). When this scenario is in motion, the intelligent see what is going on, but the only recourse they have is that of taking measures to protect themselves, and to provide for their own. They of course are not allowed anywhere near the societal helm.

When a society is blessed, it is not because the stupid have been exiled, but rather because they have been cordoned off. They have been outmaneuvered. They are not in a position to make authoritative decisions. Stupid health officials would not be allowed, for one example, to wreck the nation’s economy by telling the whole country to stay inside for a year in order to avoid an illness with a 99% survival rate, and that is if you catch it. To repurpose an illustration from the great Puritan John Flavel, that is like sinking the ship to save it from pirates—pirates who are in a different ocean.

Stupid classroom teachers would not be allowed to prohibit white children from raising their hands in class, as a means of fixing some of the damage done by slavery two centuries ago. Stupid surgeons would not be allowed to turn a man into a eunuch and call the results a woman. Stupid advocates for the disabled would not have been allowed to move our word options from blind to disabled, and from disabled to differently abled. And so it is that we have now gotten to the absurd (and very stupid) point where blindness is being treated as a social construct. I could go on. In fact, I could go on for quite some time. You know its true.

Now I Know That I Rubbed Some Fur the Wrong Way

And yet, I know that using this word stupid has not gone down well with some of you. Cipolla’s thesis is that we are always going to get a certain number of stupid people (a number larger than expected) in the same way we get a certain number of redheads. It is going to happen, in other words. Nothing whatever can be done about the mere fact of it.

What can be done is our preparedness for it, and our willingness to confront it. What can be done is to have healthy institutions that have firewalls that will protect us from the inevitable onslaught of stupid. We can’t outlaw fires, but we can outlaw the stupid practice of outlawing firewalls. Cipolla was Italian, and so it is high time for some pseudo-Italian American slang. So I ask you. Capisce?

What can happen is that intelligent people can prevent the helpless people from allowing their sentimentalism to become our central governing principle. And the doctrine underlying that sentimentalism of the helpless is egalitarianism. Cipolla’s thesis is that all men are not equal. Some are stupid. This offends our baseline egalitarianism, which wants to say that any child can become anything he wants to be, just so long as he “digs down deep.” You want to be president? Done. You want to turn into a girl? Done. You want to be a great poet, a rival to Milton and Dante? Done.

In a non-egalitarian era, certain people would be given a shovel, and taught how to clean out the stable. In our era, we still have the same kind of people, doing the same kind of thing, like sweeping out a warehouse, but at the same time we have also filled their heads with vain dreams of someday writing screenplays for blockbuster movies. They still occupy the lowest rungs in our society, but in a feeble attempt at compensation, we have slathered them with lies.

“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”

Romans 12:3 (KJV)

In our diseased era, we have flipped this. We want every man to think of himself more highly than he ought to think. And this demented compromise includes the church. The heresy of egalitarianism has made deep inroads into the church, which is why we are struggling with all the things we are struggling with now. Having granted the major and minor premises, we don’t know what to do with the valid demands that actually do follow, and which are standing on our front porch banging on our front door—women preaching, homos teaching, and random others over-reaching.

I hasten to add—because some people are stupid—that Cipolla’s denial that all men are equal is not saying that they are not to be treated with equity before the law, or that all of them are to be allowed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In terms of their rights, all men are created equal. All men have the right to keep and bear arms, for example, but this does not mean that no man is a better shot than the others.

Egalitarianism (and the crackling envy driving it) is a flattering and impotent savior. It whispers lies to you. It always says something like, “You deserve far better,” when, if the truth were told, all of us deserve a whole lot worse than what we are getting. We love to whine about how something in life is “not fair,” but if life were fair, we’d all be in Hell.

Just Gospel, No Varnish

In order to get the gospel straight, we have to understand the law. The good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ is the jubilant message of our release from the condemnation of the law. But the law I am referring to is the law that was inscribed on the stone tablets by the Spirit of God (Matt. 12:28), by the finger of God (Ex. 31:18; Luke 14:20 ). I am referring to the law that actually condemns us as sinners before a holy law. I am talking about the law that reflects the character, nature, and attributes of our thrice-holy God.

I am not referring to the ramshackle jitney laws that demented people with a lust for power have cooked up. As Roger Scruton observed, our intellectuals were not attracted to Marxism because of the compelling truth that it outlined, but rather our intellectuals were attracted to Marxism because of the power that intellectuals like themselves would have under such a system. What we are dealing with is a raw and swollen case of libido dominandi, a lust for power. The licenses they grant and the laws they decree are simply the bit and bridle that they want you to put on, and they are standing off to the side, booted, spurred, and ready to ride.

But Jesus did not die to free you from your sins against the intersectional matrix. He did not die so that you could confess the vestiges of white supremacy that are lurking in your teenager’s algebra text. He did not die so that you could become the kind of husband that becomes your wife’s very best girl friend lover, and all without technically turning her into a lesbian.

Sin is not sin against the dictates of secular man. Sin is against God. He, and only He, can define sin. Fornication. Adultery. Illicit remarriage. Abortion. Sodomy. Cross-dressing. Murder. Theft. Envy. Malice. Boasting. Disobedience to parents. Disobedience to husbands. Idolatry. Greed. Lying. Covetousness. Sabbath-breaking. Bearing God’s name in vain.

Christ died on the cross, was buried, and rose again. He ascended to the right hand of the Father, and this gospel message was not so that we might bring this message to those who have sinned against the tenets of secularism. If you apply this glorious message to the guilt that someone feels for their white privilege, for example, what you get is some kind of doctrinal monstrosity—which is exactly what we have gotten.

Envy identifies the grace and kindness of God to certain individuals (privilege!) as a problem that must be fixed, and when evangelical preachers take up their complaint and try to apply to gospel to this imaginary problem, they are trying to fix the grace of God with the grace of God, and it is no wonder everybody is so confused.

Christ died to save from our sin, as defined in the Bible, and not from our ideas of what sins might be. The sins that are identified as sins by the authority of man are sins that are excoriated from our humanistic version of a Disneyland Mt. Sinai, made entirely out of Styrofoam.

And all these made-up sins are the chains they have forged for your enslavement. So the only way you will be able to avoid what is coming—which looks to be really pretty ugly—is to flee to Christ for refuge now. Receive His forgiveness for real sin now.

“Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

2 Corinthians 3:17 (KJV)