Lessons from Capitol Hill
The center is squeezed

Stupid is as stupid does

Capitol DunceIt's enough to make Forrest Gump blush. 

Everyone from the Senate chaplain to sitting federal judges, not to mention 89% of voters, is fed up with Congress.

Yet our elected representatives seem incapable of extricating themselves from the mess they've created. 

I only wish Carlo M. Cipolla, a professor of economics at Berkeley had lived to see it.

Cipolla is famous for developing the basic laws of human stupidity

In philosophical terms, Cipolla was a utilitarian. He analyzed human behavior in terms of gains and losses. He defined a stupid person as someone who "causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses."

It seems to me that Congress comes very close to proving Cipolla's theory.

Now, to be perfectly fair to Prof. Cipolla, although he thought the proportion of stupid people was far greater than widely believed, he did allow for at least three other possibilities. He said that people could also be:

  • Bandits, who cause losses to another to benefit themselves, 
  • Hapless souls, who cause losses to themselves as well as to others, or 
  • Intelligent people who create gains for both themselves and others.

All four cases are illustratred below.

The horizontal “X” axis measures the advantage gained from one’s actions. The vertical “Y” axis measures the advantage gained by others.

I leave it to you to decide whether our elected representatives deserve to be in one of those other categories. Bandit maybe? Hapless?

Of course, Cipolla also suggested that the most dangerous people of all are those who are so stupid they don't know they're stupid.  

That category looks most likely to me all the time.




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