It’s Not a Lack of Intelligence

A recent study showing that people are “too stupid” for democracy to flourish has been circulating:

The democratic process relies on the assumption that citizens (the majority of them, at least) can recognize the best political candidate, or best policy idea, when they see it. But a growing body of research has revealed an unfortunate aspect of the human psyche that would seem to disprove this notion, and imply instead that democratic elections produce mediocre leadership and policies.

The research, led by David Dunning, a psychologist at Cornell University, shows that incompetent people are inherently unable to judge the competence of other people, or the quality of those people’s ideas. For example, if people lack expertise on tax reform, it is very difficult for them to identify the candidates who are actual experts. They simply lack the mental tools needed to make meaningful judgments.

Where do I even begin to start with this? First let’s begin with the assumption that people are generally unable to recognize the “best political candidate” or “best policy idea.” This beginning premises is flawed because what constitutes the “best political candidate” or the “best policy idea” is entirely subjective to the individual making the decision. This is an idea collectivists have a very hard time understanding.

Case in point, some people believe that the best policy with regards to taxes is to entirely abolish taxation, which others believe we need to tax more. These two groups oppose one another because the former believes services currently provided by the government should be voluntarily provided by individuals while the second group believes it is just to forcefully take the produce of each person’s labor in order to distribute it for the “greater good” (can you guess which camp I’m in). Another example is that some people believe the best method of preventing violent crime is to make the tools used by violent criminals illegal while other people believe individuals should have access to those tools to counter the violent criminals. The former believes that criminals will actually obey prohibitions while the latter holds no such delusions.

Democracy fails not because people are too stupid but because people have different desires, beliefs, and goals. What is good for one person isn’t necessary good for another. I’ve gone into detail about why democracy isn’t legitimate, nor should it be seen as a desired societal goal. Individuals must be allowed to pursue their own goals and not be beholden to the whims and desires of others. If my goals align with the goals of another then we can certainly work together but nobody should force such cooperation. Democracy is an attempt to force cooperation but claiming a majority agreement justifies an action. Such a belief is a type of logical fallacy known as argumentum ad populum and its falsehood can be easily proven by the following fact: early in human history the common belief was that Earth was flat and through scientific research we learned that Earth is actually spherical. Even though the majority of people believed Earth was flat it wasn’t true.

When a group democratically agrees on something it means some majority agreed to that thing. That majority will almost always use the threat or application of force to make others comply with the demands of the majority. People are too stupid for democracy, democracy is incompatible with species composed of individual creatures capable of reasoning.

The primary failure of this study can be found in the statement that there are best politicians and policy ideas. Such a statement is a gross display of the self-centered nature of those conducting the study. They assume that they know what is best for everybody and based on that false assumption have arrived at an equally false conclusion. Their conclusion is based on other individuals failing to agree with the study conductor’s definition of what is best. It is the epitome of arrogance to believe that you know what is best for another person and any study based on such a premises is doomed to failure. A more accurate title for this story would have been Arrogant Scientists Demonstrate their Arrogance .