The other day, Mahendra asked a simple but surprisingly tough question in response to one of my posts. After reading about the games the Texas State Board of Education has been playing with children’s science education in that state, he asked:
Why is it that the idiots seem to have so much power in making policy decisions, irrespective of country, type of government, language, culture, etc., etc.?
Of course, that’s not quite the same thing as asking why do people make idiotic mistakes. So far as I can figure out, every person on earth will make idiotic mistakes from time to time. Yet, there seems to be a remarkable difference between the occasional idiocy shown by most of us, and the sort of systematic idiocy shown by “village idiots” like Don McLeroy of the Texas State Board of Education.
I suspect one thing the internet has made clear to the many of us who read blogs from several lands is that no country or culture seems to be immune from the village idiot. Moreover, it is evident the village idiot is all too often in a position to make foolish policies — policies that are often very costly to the rest of us. But why is that found everywhere, irrespective of country, culture, system of government, type of economy, ideology, institutions, or social structure? Why are there so many village idiots in charge, no matter where you go?
I can understand several reasons why there are village idiots. And I can understand several reasons why village idiots sometimes come to power. But what I don’t understand is why there seems to be no system of government, culture, etc. that has significantly reduced the likelihood of a village idiot finding him or herself in a position of power. For if any society is much better than any other at keeping its village idiots out of power, I don’t know of it.
I’m probably overlooking some obvious explanation for the above, but at the moment at least, the question has me stumped.