September 10, 2008

"Just How Stupid Are We?"

Senator Obama said:

“[Palin] was for [the Bridge to Nowhere] until everybody started raising a fuss about it and she started running for governor and then suddenly she was against it,” Mr. Obama said, speaking over an applauding crowd in Michigan. “I mean, you can’t just make stuff up. (Maybe, maybe not.] You can’t just recreate yourself [Yes, you can -- See Obama 2000 vs. Obama 2001]. You can’t just reinvent yourself [The gentleman doth protest too much]. The American people aren’t stupid. [Yes, we are.]

Speaking of how stupid we are, here's a summary of historian Rick Shenkman's book, Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth About the American Voter.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

35 comments:

dearieme said...

Even if they weren't stupid, what could they have done faced by the choice between the absurd W and the preposterous Kerry?

grizzlieantagonist said...

It's refreshing to see straight talk on a paleocon web page about just how stupid the average voter really is.

I quit reading the Rothbard Rockwell report in disgust back in the mid-1990's for a number of reasons, one of which was that I was tired of reading suggestions that Americans were suffused with some sort of peasant wisdom which provided them with a great deal more intelligence and integrity than -- the liberal and neocon politicians that they had elected.

And that given the opportunity, American voters would usher in the next George Washington and put an end to the "welfare warfare state".

Oh sure! The 20th century expansion of the electorate to include larger numbers of women (who tend to be more emotion-centered, less informed, and more solicitous of government largesse than men), minorities, and young people (who, of course, never make demands upon authority) was bound to create a paleocon Renaissance and a demand for post-Revolutionary War-like small government.

Alexander Hamilton had it right when he referred to the people as "that great beast".

Elzair said...

Steve, every time I see a post from someone decrying the stupidity of voters, it usually just means 'people are not agreeing with me even though I am so totally right.' I heard a lot of this shit after the 2004 election, and I heard a lot of this shit after the amnesty bill failed last year.

rast said...

5 Myths About Those Civic-Minded, Deeply Informed Voters

1. Our voters are pretty smart.


Smart? That's another word for "IQ" right? Uh-oh, this could get exciting.

...But by every measure social scientists have devised, voters are spectacularly uninformed.

Crisis averted! Turns out "smart" is just another word for "informed". Now can we talk about which voter demographics are better-informed than other demographics?

In the 1950s, only 10 percent of voters were incapable of citing any ways in which the two major parties differed... By the 1970s, that number had jumped to nearly 30 percent.

Occam suggests that maybe the two parties don't differ on as many issues as they used to.

Education levels are far higher today than they were half a century ago, when social scientists first began surveying voter knowledge about politics. (In 1940, six in ten Americans hadn't made it past the eighth grade.)

An 8th grade education in 1940 is the equivalent of at least a 12th grade education these days.

The moral of this story: Schooling alone doesn't translate into better educated voters.

Hell, schooling doesn't even translate into literacy, judging by the HS grads who read on a 3nd grade level.

Robert said...

"Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public"

H.L. Mencken

Anonymous said...

Yes, the American public is pretty dumb, that's something we all know.

Something we don't know and is well worth knowing, and rather relevant to the focus of this website, just how dumb is Sarah Palin?

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

3 things, it seems to me, have contributed to increasing voter stupidity:

1) The decline of stable families, and the resultant decline in school discipline.

2) Immigration by millions of dumb people.

3) The idiot box. Before TV, people used to sit out on their front porches and talk. Today, people don't even build porches anymore, let alone have conversations. (If I were on a city zoning council the one rule I'd try to enact is that at least every other new house has have a front porch).

Anonymous said...

Charles Murray in his latest book spends much time trying to convey the concrete implications of being average, average, above average, etc., in the scholastic setting. He understands that whiter people hold contradictory views on I.Q. and he forces them to think about what it actually means.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

Have to wonder how the stupid voters break out by race, immigration status and party affiliation. Pollsters nearly always get demographic data just to ensure they have a representative sample. Where's the data on that?

And I can believe that left-trending John Stewart viewers are about as well informed as Rush Limbuagh's listeners - except that Limbuagh has far more listeners than Stewart has viewers.

Richard h said...

Yes, the masses are stupid.

We knew that. That's always been the case.

Our problem is that while the masses may be stupid in a normal human way our elites are insane in a way that is unique in human history and is destroying us. Half Sigma had a post about the New York Times informing it's readership that men are stronger and run faster than women because of genetic reasons. Has anyone in the history of the world besides modern Western elites needed that to be told to them? Same with the race stuff.

People like us who believe in and care about IQ naturally gravitate towards some sort of elitism. However, until the elites become sane populism is our friend. If the high IQ people in our society got free reign, God help us. See the Stalinist atmosphere at our universities and journalists on MSNBC crying over Obama if you don't believe me.

jbday said...

Just like everyone believes that they are better than average driver, every voter believes that they are smarter than the majority of their fellow citizens.

testing99 said...

No, the "masses" are not stupid.

Rather, old, old patterns of political struggle constantly reassert themselves in American politics.

Westerners want cheap land and expensive labor. Easterners want expensive land and cheap labor. That's the 50,000 feet view.

But Westerners also want canals, railroads, and other transport links that allow them to get manufactured goods from the East cheaply, and sell their meat and produce and other resources at profits. Westerners WANT lots of Government spending, just on stuff THEY want. Not welfare for Eastern masses (bribes not to riot, patronage politics) or other things that don't benefit them.

GOP spending out of sight? Well of course, it's mostly (though not all) "Western" and that's been a feature since Andrew Jackson, and certainly Abe Lincoln.

Blode said...

Richard H pretty much hit the nail on the head. I hope the New York Times eventually adds an article presenting ground-breaking research that while males can't become pregnant by having sex, females can.

To Capt. Aubrey's list I'll add:

4) Social narcissism as described by Lasch. (This is to be distinguished from classic narcissism, i.e., the personality disorder.) Learning about the world around isn't interesting to the narcissists, and it isn't exactly physically pleasurable, so the me-education system has no use for it.

In the olden days, people were supposed to learn about their communities as a matter of duty, not based on its effect on their incomes or their dopamine levels. People still do learn about politics and governance, but usually in the context of "activism" (i.e., ways of making yourself popular with hip leftist types). People think globally and act locally because they simply can't think locally. It's too hard.

Why not find out who hired the contractors that screwed up the street in front of your house and are billing you to fix it? Too hard. Find out what rule it is that keeps the school from expelling the youthful cokehead who beat the hell out of your kid? Too hard.

It's much easier to focus on abortion, anthropogenic (lot of syllables!) global warming, the death penalty, and the other issues. (And that's as much a slam on the right as it is on the left.) People stake out more and more extreme positions on these issues in order to get more and more attention focused on themselves.

James said...

We may all be stupid individually but together we're smarter than you think. James Surowiecki knows what I'm talking about.

I wonder how this "people are stupid" theme jibes with the "Who? Whom?" one when it comes to voting. Are we people really voting against our interests en masse?

For the most part your "affordable family formation" riff seems to imply that most people know what they want. They only lack the politicians who will give it to them.

Anonymous said...

Richard H,
Those are extremely good points. I was disappointed to see that Steven Hsu set up the false dichotomy between Sarah Palin and a generic intelligent person. Worse, a vote for Palin meant we valued chauvinistic populism and didn't understand we shouldn't vote for people just like us. Ugh! That kind of populism was personified in the person of Mike Huckabee.

Anyways, here is some make-your-ears-bleed stupidity, the I am Sarah Palin video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7h-4eYveEVA

Shouting Thomas said...

Boys, you're committing the same error as Obama.

No, the American electorate is remarkably smart.

Quit patting yourselves on the back. If you keep this up, you'll break your arms.

This is meatheat stuff. Your over-arching pride in your IQs is idiocy.

I usually like this site. Right now, it is the high IQ crowd (you) acting like goddamn idiots.

Art Deco said...

The moderator, the author to whom he refers, and s number of you ought to reflect on the difference between ignorance (which can be quite rational as everyone's time is limited), a deficit of intelligence, and 'stupidity'. The last refers to acts of will and judgment and should be used sparingly (and more often in the course of self-examination).

Half Sigma said...

The average voter is very stupid.

And even scarier: HALF of the voters are stupider than the average voter.

People should be required to score above 1000 on the pre-1996 SAT in order to vote (I think that might exclude Sarah Palin from voting for herself).

Carolyn said...

People aren't stupid. They're just not going to waste their time on a meaningless election.

American politics is a rigged game by the New World Order/CFR/whoever. There will be no substantial difference between an Obama or McCain administration.

*Iraq/spreading "democracy" to the world - whatever the neocons want.

* Free trade / jobs being sent abroad /middle class being decimated / uncontrolled immigration - whatever corporate america wants.
* America slowly becoming a fascist state /actually following the Constitution - that ship has long sailed.
* the fed ruining our economy - no change there

The only political control people have is at the local and possibly state level if they are a squeaky enough wheel.

Anonymous said...

I would say that IQ is not destiny for a society - low IQ people can maintain good values if the elites lead them to the good values.

Let's compare Denmark to Sweden. racially, ethnically the people are identical. same IQ. Same everything. However the population of Sweden has decided to commit suicide by inviting in unlimited numbers of violent immigrants. Google "rape epidemic in Malmo" Even today it remains taboo at all levels of Swedish society to complain about the actions of immigrants

Denmark is another story. At all points of the political spectrum there is a move to keep out the most violent and anti social immigrants. Denmark has rounded the corner. Denmark will survive and Sweden will not.

The electorate of Sweden has made stupid choices. But they are not ill informed. They read papers. They are up on current events. They have high IQ's.


Let's compare California and Texas. Both have made some silly choices when it comes to immigration. Both states for all intents and purposes have welcomed an unlimited flood of illegals. I would bet that the average IQ of both states is around the same. However the electorate of California has decided to spend the state in to the toilet with very generous public spending. California is heading for the abyss with the highest taxes in the US. Texas - with the same ethnic mix, the same IQ level has taken the opposite tack - very low taxes. As a result businesses from around the world are moving to Texas. Texas is largely avoiding this current recession.
Texas is a success where California is a failure.

What is the difference? not IQ. not ethnicity. Denmark and Texas prove that IQ is not destiny. We have to win the battle to shape public opinion

Statsquatch said...

Well assuming a mean IQ of 99 and a standard deviation of 15 then ~9% of eligible voters in the US are functionally retarded (IQ <=79). There is your swing vote.

Not that I am aginst them voting.
Infact, maybe we should limit the franchise to the short bus people. This election might be even more entertaining, if that is possible.

Stopped Clock said...

This is the one that really gets me: Fifty percent of Americans believe Barack Obama will cut their taxes if elected. Me? I'm scared to death of Obama getting in office.

When Obama speaks of cutting taxes, he is not mentioning that he is also planning to first undo all the Bush tax cuts for all Americans from the poorest to the richest, which will cause the income tax bracket of the lowest class, namely poor people with full-time jobs, to rise by 50%. I'm willing to bet that ZERO percent of Americans would pay lower taxes under Obama than they did under McCain.

tommy said...

People should be required to score above 1000 on the pre-1996 SAT in order to vote (I think that might exclude Sarah Palin from voting for herself).

The upside is that the average American voter would be smarter (and wealthier) and might potentially choose politicians supporting wiser policies. The downside is that there is no guarantee that those smarter (and wealthier) voters would exercise prudent altruism toward the less intelligent (and less wealthy).

Then there are well-educated white liberals who turn all of the above on its head: intelligent, altruistic, stupid policies.

gcochran said...

"I'm willing to bet that ZERO percent of Americans would pay lower taxes under Obama than they did under McCain. "

I'm willing to bet $20,000 cash, that you're wrong. We'll need someone to hold the bets. I'd trust Steve for this, but you might be able to talk me into someone else.

But since I'm a nice guy, I 'll start out by giving you a last chance. You're wrong: under the proposed Democratic tax plan, taxes would be the same or less for the bottom 95% of incomes.

Martin said...

"Richard h said...

Our problem is that while the masses may be stupid in a normal human way our elites are insane in a way that is unique in human history and is destroying us......"

Well said. I don't believe that "
the masses" are necessarily stupid. Certainly a lot of them aren't too bright (and the Meth probably doesn't help them on that score, either). But it is the stupidity of supposedly smart people which is now our undoing.

Stopped Clock said...

Okay, I'll retract my bet, if only because I worded it poorly. No, it's not likely that literally absolutely everyone's taxes will increase, just because people's incomes change and there's realistic no way to get a true statistical zero for a variable like that. But the central idea I was expressing is this: when Obama talks about tax cuts, he is deliberately neglecting to mention that he also plans to let the Bush tax cuts expire, or perhaps even end them early ("if we're not in a recession", he says), and he himself openly admits this. So yes, Barack Obama is admitting that he wants to raise taxes on every income level, and for the poorest class this will be quite a large and unwelcome change. So, if you want me to make a weaker claim that I will stand up to, here it is: Barack Obama will raise taxes on the lower 95 percent of American taxpayers as well as the top 5. Now, there are still some potential complicating factors: what if there's a GOP-dominated congress that votes for more tax cuts? Or what if even a Democratic congress decides to do that, to show theyre turning over a new leaf? So no, sorry, Im not going to make a literal bet out of it, since there's a good chance I'd lose, even while being right about the central argument Im making.

Anonymous said...

"Quit patting yourselves on the back. If you keep this up, you'll break your arms.

This is meatheat stuff. Your over-arching pride in your IQs is idiocy."

So even a vague implication that this site's readers consider themselves above-average in IQ is enough to annoy you? Is anyone allowed to criticize anyone? You haven't really shown how the general public is smart or how this site's readers are wrong in feeling that they are smart. I'm just sensing a sort of cognitive egalitarianism, which I'm suprised is coming from someone who claims to like the site.

Is it okay when athlete recognize their own athletic ability? When dancers admit that they're graceful? Is intellectual ability the one thing people are required to deny?

Blode said...

Part of the problem in getting across objections to the notion that people are smart enough to choose a President is this: I object to people "voting their pocketbook" for a position with little economic influence. This is ALWAYS interpreted as my criticizing others for being self-interested.

I'm not. I have no problem with someone looking at for themselves when choosing a President, I just think they should notice that the President has diddly to do with their paycheck.

Vote for the President who will (or won't) get you into wars you (don't) want to get involved. Vote for the President who'll appoint the judges who share your views. Be self-interested, by all means! Just don't tell me "the President controls the economy and can stop recessions" until you explain how s/he could possibly do that. (I imagine the answer will be something like "the President's unilateral budgeting authority", which is of course an aborted figment of civics teacher's imagination.)

And the answer to dearieme's question is: vote Badnarik (no, I didn't, and yes, I was a fool).

gcochran said...

"So yes, Barack Obama is admitting that he wants to raise taxes on every income level"

Untrue: as I said, the Democrats' proposed tax plan only raises taxes on people with very high incomes. Look at the chart in this Wiki article:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obama_tax_plan#Taxation_and_budget_deficit

Do me a favor. Look things up before you shoot your mouth off.

Stopped Clock said...

I understand now what you're saying. I agree that it is possible to interpret Obama's words as meaning that he's only going to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. But until he says so specifically, I am still going to believe that he is referring to the entire bundle of tax cut legislation, and not just the bit for the wealthy few. It is very common for politicians to promise tax cuts or at least no tax increases, and then find a loophole which will allow them to effectively raise taxes without actually signing a bill that does so. In the case of Obama, it's very easy: all he has to do is wait two years and the tax cuts will expire automatically, creating one of the largest tax increases in thirty years with no actual legislation.

I'm sure that this issue will get clearer as time goes on.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

all he has to do is wait two years and the tax cuts will expire automatically, creating one of the largest tax increases in thirty years with no actual legislation.

Except that "increase" was not done on his watch. It came part and parcel with the tax cut bill passed before Obama was even in the Senate, let alone president.

Back in 1993 Bill Clinton cancelled a scheduled tax cut that had yet to go into effect. Because he was cancelling a scheduled cut, Republicans (Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, etc.) argued that it was in effect a tax increase. So since this tax increase is scheduled, allowing it to continue would not be an increase. The Bush cut was more like a "sale" on taxes - a temporary, not permanent, reduction.

So far as I'm concerned, the people on whom the tax "increase" would fall the hardest are the same people pushing for open borders - so it's just desserts.

They can have lower taxes, or they can have dirt cheap labor - but they can't have both.

Anonymous said...

If you want to think about the IQ levels of the commentariat; look at some comment threads on youtube. People who essentially agree with each about something end up in obscenity ridden flame wars with each other.

You dont need an IQ test to know that you are dealing with a whole different part of the bell curve at iSteve.

David said...

Capt. Jack Aubrey said:

"Before TV, people used to sit out on their front porches and talk. Today, people don't even build porches anymore, let alone have conversations. (If I were on a city zoning council the one rule I'd try to enact is that at least every other new house has have a front porch)."

Yes, that's the kind of folly boneheaded "city planners" of a particularly liberal bent were known for: the notion that porches cause conversations, porches cause intelligence. Not the other way around. Sure.

You can build a million porches in the projects. They will simply become "no-go" zones of drugs, violence, gang activity, tagging...

And the beat goes on. "Golly, I guess we need to try again. Spend another trillion. And another. And another. And another. This time maybe we could have gardens between each building, and Little Theatres, that the residents will care for."

A little factual looking into things will reveal that porches were invented in the days before air-conditioning; their purpose was to have a cool place at the house to go to that's out of the sun but not as dark and dank as the basement. And that Americans in those days happened to be whiter, so that - black or white - the folks who sat and talked on the porch did so in the context of a civic tradition and political structure created and dominated by whites.

Porches won't bring back America, Capt. Jack.

(I have observed many times that the cargo cult mentality is not exclusive to primitive tribes.)

Truth said...

"Is it okay when athlete recognize their own athletic ability? When dancers admit that they're graceful?..."

...When an accountant lauds his roguish charisma; oh wait...

"You dont need an IQ test to know that you are dealing with a whole different part of the bell curve at iSteve."

The middle?

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe that anyone believes that Obama will cut taxes, let alone cut taxes for 95% of Americans! Obama is as likely to cut taxes as McCain is to secure the border. Or as Obama is to secure the border for that matter.

Who cares what Obama's campaign promises say? What politician abides by their campaign promises? Bush promised to make this nation more humble in its international affairs!

You have to judge them by their general positions. Obama loves the Jena Six, he loves huge government programs like Service Nation, and he loves spending money on hopeless causes. There is no way taxes will go down if he becomes president. That's not just a $20k bet. You can put your lifetime savings on it. Obama isn't a Clinton-style Third way Democrat, he's a black racial activist and "progressive" with all that entails.