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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Power to the people, oh no

Why should be people be allowed to vote? We think of it as a right, but I'm not so sure. Rights have related responsibilities, and presumably one of the most basic responsibilities associated with voting is a basic level of intelligence and a minor smattering of actual knowledge about the real world.

Almost one-third of Americans believe the ancient Mayan prediction of global calamity this December are “somewhat true,” according to a recent National Geographic poll.

[From America, the Beautiful (And Nutty): A Skeptic's Lament | Wired Science |]

Democracy has no future. The electorate have voted themselves into a cultural cul-de-sac from which there is no escape beyond destruction. The levels of ignorance are so great as to make public opinion meaningless on almost all topics.

Some 70% of Americans believe in some aspect of the paranormal — ESP, devils, ghosts, homeopathy, and spiritual healing. More than 25% believe there are humans who can “psychically” predict the future. About 20% believe it’s possible to talk to dead people (and that the dead talk back).

[From America, the Beautiful (And Nutty): A Skeptic's Lament | Wired Science |]

These happen to be the figures from America, but I'd be surprised if the UK was much less nutty. It's certainly as ignorant. And don't fool yourself that things are going to improve. A third of UK students don't know that milk comes from cows. (And as an aside, half of them couldn't name a single ingredient of bread and 42% didn't realise that social security payments come out of taxation, which explains a lot).

What I can't figure out is why it is that the race to the bottom is accelerating. I can see that post-war governments might at some level have concluded that an ignorant electorate might be easier to control and manipulate, but surely the malaise runs deeper. Perhaps, though, the answer lays in the rise of the stupid as well as their growth in the numbers.

It is not difficult to understand how social, political and institutional power enhances the damaging potential of a stupid person.

[From The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity]

What has changed in recent years is not that there are more stupid people (although I'm sure there are) but that stupid people have more and more power over us.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

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