09 September 2011

It Will Take More than Willpower to Reverse a Rising Tide of Stupidity

Is the ancient virtue of willpower still relevant in the modern age?
We eat, drink, smoke and gamble too much, max out our credit cards, fall into dangerous liaisons and become addicted to heroin, cocaine and e-mail.

...In experiments beginning in the late 1960s, the psychologist Walter Mischel tormented preschoolers with the agonizing choice of one marshmallow now or two marshmallows 15 minutes from now. When he followed up decades later, he found that the 4-year-olds who waited for two marshmallows turned into adults who were better adjusted, were less likely to abuse drugs, had higher self-esteem, had better relationships, were better at handling stress, obtained higher degrees and earned more money. _NYT

A more scientific term for willpower is executive function (EF), coordinated in the prefrontal lobes of the brain. Together with intelligence (IQ), levels of EF powerfully determine life success over the years. EF can be improved by training in children, but such training should occur between the ages of 4 and 7 for maximum benefit.

The interaction of willpower and stupidity is more complex than most people understand. First, what do we mean by "stupidity?"
"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."

"Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation."

"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."

"Our daily life is mostly, made of cases in which we lose money and/or time and/or energy and/or appetite, cheerfulness and good health because of the improbable action of some preposterous creature who has nothing to gain and indeed gains nothing from causing us embarrassment, difficulties or harm. Nobody knows, understands or can possibly explain why that preposterous creature does what he does. In fact there is no explanation - or better there is only one explanation: the person in question is stupid." _Science20

Stupidity arises from multiple causes. Low intelligence, spite, ignorance, laziness (lack of willpower), miscalculation, and unavoidable constraint propagation (bad luck) are just a few of the many causes of stupidity and stupid people.

In the United States, stupidity has become concentrated near seats of power such as Washington DC, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc. Government is one obvious host and purveyor of mass stupidity, along with all other institutions which are closely involved with government -- such as labour unions, news media, education, financial and economic institutions, law enforcement, the courts etc. Even the military -- which believe it or not is the most competent branch of government -- has been infiltrated by politically correct stupidity via social promotion of PC-favoured officers and the enforcement of politically correct policies.

Labour unions have become the seat of stupidity in a particular way recently, thanks to the union-friendly Obama regime. A violent storming, vandalism, and assault of a port in Washington state goes unpunished by government officials. While warming up a crowd for President Obama, Jimmy Hoffa Jr. tells Obama to "take out the son of a bitches," referring to Tea Party members and Republicans, and neither Hoffa nor the Obama White House will apologise for this rather blatant lapse of civility in the midst of an official Obama event. AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka dictates to Obama what he needs to say in his jobs speech before a joint session of congress -- encouraging the president to "go to the mat" -- and is rewarded for his presumption by being seated next to Michelle Obama for the president's speech.

These are all examples of stupidity by labour union officials and thugs. But many more similar examples occur on a regular basis. If the general public were to become widely aware of this stupidity, the political fortunes of Mr. Obama and those close to him would deteriorate even more quickly than at present. But for now, the news media continues to overlook and cover up the mistakes of Obama and his friends.

Mr. Obama's stupidity is not only in his friends and hangers on, but is engrained in every policy that he has pursued since being inaugurated. His war against the private sector, his war against energy, his promotion of a bankrupting "green jobs agenda," his vilifying of national allies and his cozying up with national antagonists, his diverting of scarce national assets into the purses of political cronies, his irreversible expansion of government mandate and government debt, his unprecedentedly divisive effect on society -- all of these evidences of stupidity and more should be enough to portray Obama's administration as "the stupid regime."

It should be obvious that willpower is not a simple antidote to stupidity. In fact, stupid people often pursue their stupid agendas with the utmost will.

It is true that if the masses had exerted more willpower in their oversight of government and government officials, that this massive clusterfuck could have never grown so bad so quickly. But that was then, and this is now. What do we do now?

Can the example problem -- the rise of stupidity in US government and society -- be solved within the existing political and societal structure, or will entirely new structures and forms of organisation have to be constructed de novo?

This question will be explored in future articles.

Cross-posted to abu al-fin

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Blogger Ugh said...

Is stupidity as much self delusion with a sprinkle of dishonesty (or visa/versa) as it is pure stupidity? So many things things done by our local and national governments are stupid on the face of it the other two attributes have got to be involved.

Individual stupidity is something different, but self delusion has to play a role since the same people do the same stupid things time and again - we all know these people.

Monday, 12 September, 2011  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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