Dave Winer asks a great question

stupi-intellignt axisby James Donnelly

To the people of Wisconsin’s 1st District…
[Via Scripting News]

As I read about Rep Paul Ryan’s proposal for a reformed budget, if you can call it that, and saw how the press and Democrats were responding, I felt that anyone could see through this, it’s so blatant. Why would anyone in their right mind suggest the US go down that path, considering the terrible mess we’re dealing with after the financial meltdown of 2008.

The reason the deficit is so high is that we’ve been trying to get the economy going again and because we had to write some large checks for wars and bailouts of various industries we couldn’t imagine living without. It’s not in any way a question of political philosophy. It has absolutely nothing to do with unions. The way to avoid more deficits is to make sure that bankers and defense industries can’t loot the economy. Yet of course that’s what you’re seeing, very clearly, in what Ryan is proposing and in the acquiescence of the press and Democrats. They all want this. Plainly.

The last resort now is to try to connect up with the only people Rep Ryan actually reports to, the people of the 1st Congressional District in Wisconsin. I don’t want any particular outcome, no recall or I don’t care how you vote next year but — I want to understand why you chose this man, with these ideas, to represent you? Are there any people over the age of 30 living in the 1st District? Anyone retired now? Planning on retiring in the next 20 years? Have a parent or grandparent who depends on health care to be alive?


I don’t expect he will get much of an answer.

People have been working against their own interests for a long time. As Carlo Cipolla wrote:

A person is stupid if they cause damage to another person or group of people without experiencing personal gain, or even worse causing damage to themselves in the process.

As he said, stupid (S) has nothing to do with intelligence. Nobel Prize winners have a certain fraction that are stupid. When the stupid are lead by bandits (B) – people who help themselves while hurting others – we have problems. The intelligent (I) – those that work to help others while they help themselves  – seem powerless. Cipolla  discussed what happens:

Whether one considers classical, or medieval, or modern, or contemporary times one is impressed by the fact that any country moving uphill has its unavoidable σ [the percentage of stupid people] fraction of stupid people. However, the country moving uphill also has an unusually high fraction of intelligent people who manage to keep the σ fraction at bay and at the same time produce enough gains for themselves and the other members of the community to make progress a certainty.

In a country which is moving downhill, the fraction of stupid people is still equal to σ; however, in the remaining population one notices among those in power an alarming proliferation of the bandits with overtones of stupidity and among those not in power an equally alarming growth in the number of helpless individuals. Such change in the composition of the non-stupid population inevitably strengthens the destructive power of the σ fraction and makes decline a certainty. And the country goes to Hell.

These seems as reasonable a model as any to explain our current times. Too many bandits are leading the stupid. We used to have more intelligent leaders, who overcame the stupid. Not so much anymore.

So I do not expect Dave to get a reasonable answer to his question. It is an intelligent one directed towards the wrong group of people.

6 thoughts on “Dave Winer asks a great question

  1. #1) This is the third time in two days that I have heard this “argument” advanced (at least once on Fox!)
    #2) Just as dumb for this outsider to interfere in Wisconsin’s affairs as it was for the unions to bus people in from out of state.
    #3) I resent being called stupid and the Tea Party being called “extremist”.
    #4) You people are the reason the “Great Experiment” is failing.

    1. 1) Neither Dave nor I ever mentioned the Tea Party at all. The word extremist is not there. In fact, the only political party mentioned is by Dave and it is the Democrats – and not in a positive light. There are stupid on both liberal and conservative sides. I’ve said so in the past. Why did you take it personally?
      2) All Dave did was pose a question in order to gain understanding. How is that interference? Paul Ryan is a national figure, one who has proposed a plan with lots of fanfare. Is it not a far question to ask the people who put this man on the national stage why they did, in order to understand the reasons? Where is the interference?
      3) How do you define “you people” and how does that differ from “my people?”

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