Stupidity as Public Policy

I knew the deficit debate was coming, but the sheer brutal stupidity of it is shocking. Still, if you do a search on “the deficit isn’t really a problem” you get thousands of hits on arguments that do make sense; here, here, and here . So there’s no shortage of people saying that the emperor has no clothes. What perpetuates stupidity? Or, rather, who has a vested interest in perpetuating stupidity?

One explanation is that the Republican Party, along with some very powerful and rich right-wing ideologues, are so well attuned to the media’s 24 hour hype-for-profit desperation that they can create a rhetorical mountain out of any molehill they might choose. The mainstream Democrats seem paralyzed by either political cowardice or a misguided pragmatism. Stupidity is the real third rail of U.S. politics.

Too much of it is too transparently intentional to be simple ignorance. Some people, apparently, really do believe that up is down, and that the moon is made of green cheese. At least part of the nonsense sector is simply cynical or cowardly, of course, but I think much of it is simple stupidity. This current wave of anti-intellectualism has lasted more than a generation. We’ve been dumbed down.

Stupidity reproduces itself wherever creationism is equated with evolutionary theory, or climate change reduced to an opinion, or Christians, contend that gay marriage will destroy marriage. We all make stupid decisions;the stupid sector, though, contends that knowledge and self-reflection, those processes that can counter stupidity, are either unnecessary or dangerous. Stupid is as stupid does.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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