"Life is tough; it's tougher if you're stupid." ~ John Wayne
This morning on the way to work, listening to the radio I heard the reason why so-called conservatives are so supportive of growing state control over the personal decisions of individuals. For many years, most conservatives seemed interested only in having the state control foreign bogeymen, not citizens at home. This has changed, as now conservatives are jumping on the State bandwagon like it was the last helicopter out of Baghdad. What are they so afraid of at home? It's the stupid people. War may be the health of the state, but stupidity is its life's blood.
The discussion I came upon was about a judge's decision to force a woman to have an IUD contraceptive device implanted "for her own good." The women in question was described by the host as having committed a number of stupid acts, including trying to support six children and a substance abuse problem at the same time. A caller chimed in to support the judge's decision with the dictate that "Stupid people need other people to make their decisions for them." The obvious implication was that representatives of the State (such as judges) have the power, expertise and moral clarity to accomplish this daunting task, including the ability to determine who is stupid. The chorus of conservatives on the show supporting this view was overwhelming.
Stupid has become the insult of choice among political pundits and armchair executives for a wide variety of situations, but what does stupid mean? The word is rarely defined in discourse, just used indiscriminately when in a pinch. Dictionary.com offers the following definition:
All of these definitions require a subjective value analysis concerning intellectual ability or skill, which is why it is such a useful word for people who disagree. Stupid is especially useful for people lacking the patience, skill or ability to offer reasoned responses to fundamental challenges. The word is traditionally intended as an insult providing clarification that the speaker believes he is simply correct and only someone with very low intelligence would not understand that obvious fact. That facts are verifiable becomes lost in the haze of self-righteousness. If one believes that one's statements are universal truths never to be questioned, it becomes tedious and laborious to continue formulating reasonable and logical arguments to questions challenging those statements. This is, of course, why all indoctrinating apparatus emphasize empirical data to be memorized in lieu of developing reasoning abilities and logic skills. Citizens must obey above all else, including thinking.
Surely there are stupid people, just as we all do stupid things on occasion. If someone can demonstrably continue to commit acts of stupidity, then reasonable people observing these repeated acts may agree that that person can indeed be termed stupid. It's just that I don't know of any reasonable people spending their precious time worried about such fruitless matters. This is where the state comes in. If the free-market won't regulate stupid people to a degree that guarantees no harm is ever done to themselves and others, then a State is needed "to do something."
Presuming that a State representative knows what is better for an individual than the individual is the essence of the State. The State apparatus is built on the premise that those individuals anointed with Statecraft are imminently wiser than those individuals who are not, all the way to the point where it is acceptable (i.e. legal) to use violence to enforce those decisions. Therefore, if you accept the arguments for having a State, then you must accept that the citizens of a State are stupid by definition, thus deserving bondage for their own protection. The large number of people who still go to the polls does seem to support this suggestion, but that is my subjective value judgment. After we accept that there are indeed stupid people, then the question becomes: How many people are stupid?
Not only do conservatives think that liberals are stupid (both live in binary worlds focused on political power where every individual must be in one camp or the other), but liberals are certain that conservatives are stupid. According to much recent blather by liberals, the GOP is really the stupid party based on polls revealing that the higher the IQ group, the higher the percentage of voters in that group voted for Kerry. I am skeptical of all polls, especially ones that claim to know the IQs of all the poll participants. Whether you scrutinize conclusions, of polls or premises, depends a lot on whether you agree with them.
The power of the complexity of illogical arguments based on fraudulent premises should not be underestimated. Many believe that the level of complexity of an argument is in itself an indication of the validity of both the premises and the logic used to arrive at a conclusion. That's how experts and think tanks get stupid people to give them so much money, but I digress. How many intelligent liberals stopped to think, did the poll participants know that they had an IQ of 120 or 89, or 150 or 96, based on what? An internet test? A guess? Did they lie and if so, why would someone lie and say they were retarded and loved Bush? The holier-than-thou callers on the radio show I heard certainly seemed to think that they were pretty smart, but I doubt that many knew what their IQs were. If the sample chosen was from a list of people who had been given IQ tests, then the sample is not random and cannot represent the general population. Whether a conclusion is based on verifiable facts and rigorous logic gleaned from debate is lost on an uneducated citizenry. It is too easy just to think that those who do not agree must be stupid.
The idea that we need government to protect stupid people from themselves and also to protect everyone from foreign evil-doers is wedded into the psyche of the Welfare-Warfare State culture. Instead of championing just the latter, it appears that conservatives have succumbed to supporting the former as well. The State Indoctrination Centers have been very successful in promoting the ideal that not only are there enough foreign threats to justify a massive Warfare State, but there are also enough stupid people to justify the existence of the Nanny State . The good, smart voters demand it. The State is championed as necessary to protect the smart/good people from the stupid/evil people and, finally, the stupid people from themselves. According to Statist arguments, everybody wins under this system. Those individuals anointed with the power of Statecraft and their sycophants certainly do, but the rest of us just lose a little more liberty.
Whether you fear evil or stupid people, realize that the State cannot protect you from either. In the end, the State institutionalizes evil and stupidity. Organizing society by institutionalizing a decision making process that determines what policies are required to manage stupid people is a self-defeating system. Making decisions based on emotional attachments to collectivist myths and complex, illogical positions abdicates reason for tyranny. Laws for stupid people always end up being laws for everyone. Therefore, whatever law or State policy you support for managing stupid people, you are supporting for managing yourself. Now you know what "Stupid is as stupid does" means.