Scientists say America is too dumb for democracy to thrive
The United States may be a republic, but it’s democracy that Americans cherish. After all, that’s why we got into Iraq, right? To take out a dictator and spread democracy.
“Government of the people, by the people, for the people.” “One person, one vote.” We are an egalitarian society that treasures the mandate of its citizenry.
But more than a decade’s worth research suggests that the citizenry is too dumb to pick the best leaders.
Work by Cornell University psychologist David Dunning and then-colleague Justin Kruger found that “incompetent people are inherently unable to judge the competence of other people, or the quality of those people’s ideas,” according to a report by Life’s Little Mysteries on the blog LiveScience.
Very smart ideas are going to be hard for people to adopt, because most people don’t have the sophistication to recognize how good an idea is,” Dunning told Life’s Little Mysteries.
What’s worse is that with incompetence comes the illusion of superiority.
Let’s say a politician comes up with an ingenious plan that would ensure universal health care while decreasing health care costs.
According to Dunning-Kruger, no matter how much information is provided, the unsophisticated would 1) be incapable of recognizing the wisdom of such a plan; 2) assume they know better; and 3) have no idea of the extent of their inadequacy.
In other words, stupid people are too stupid to know how stupid they are.
If this seems elitist to you, you are probably not alone. Maybe we should only let Ph.D.’s, Mensa members and Jeopardy! champions vote? At least require a passing an IQ test before you get to cast a ballot?
The scientists do say that the incompetent can be trained to improve, but only if they acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, which would seem to be a catch-22 since they are too ignorant to do so on their own.
Life’s Little Mysteries said that Mato Nagel, a sociologist in Germany, ran a computer simulation of a democratic election based on Dunning and Kruger’s theories:
“In his mathematical model of the election, he assumed that voters’ own leadership skills were distributed on a bell curve — some were really good leaders, some, really bad, but most were mediocre — and that each voter was incapable of recognizing the leadership skills of a political candidate as being better than his or her own. When such an election was simulated, candidates whose leadership skills were only slightly better than average always won.”
It would appear then that democracy dooms us to mediocrity and misinformed choices. Not exactly encouraging news for the next round of California’s ballot initiatives.
~Steve~ H/T Joseph