Stupidity v Malice

Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity

Old quote, right? We’ve all heard it.

Gretchen Wilson of Fox News Fox and Friends was caught acting extremely dumb by Jon Stewart.
He googles her and finds out she is a class valedictorian, Stanford alum, classical violinist.
me: WTF!??!?!
This definitely calls for a re-evaluation of the probability of the statement above.
Think of it this way: Its very likely that those in power are at least one Standard Deviation above
the average thereby much smarter. So is it not more likely that their support
for policies that are bad for the common good are more likely due to malice
rather than stupidity? Of course ‘stupidity’ and ‘malice’ do not complete
the set of possibilities that answer for the above. ‘Ignorance’ can also be included.

To put it shortly: Does kim jong il know about the benefits of free markets?
Okay thats too easy, you won’t find many people who disagree with the
notion that Ol’ kim is EVIL, not (just?) stupid.

UPDATE: Video of Stewart and Gretchen HERE
Forward halfway.

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7 thoughts on “Stupidity v Malice

  1. Have you read Bruce Bueno de Mesquita?

    BBdM argues rather strongly that if North Korea’s government were to behave any differently, the Kims would lose power. They are effectively (game-theoretically) required to act as they do. And it’s awfully hard to push folks to act directly opposite their self-interest, even if it’s good for everyone else.

    1. I haven’t read him but I have listened to the two or three podcasts he did with Russ Roberts on EconTalk.
      Very impressive fellow. However, whenever I hear of predictive accuracy @ 90% my BS detector
      goes wild. I’m a big Taleb (ist? ian?) so I take model error seriously. Nonetheless BBdM seems to have
      impressive insights.

      Would he say that NKGs behavior is path-dependent?

      1. He actually says something stronger….For states with small groups of real power-players, there are exactly two paths.
        1) Loot the citizenry and divvy the proceeds.
        2) Lose power.
        Pick one.

  2. What makes you think that a class valedictorian can’t be dumb as a box of hammers? The argument that school enforces conformity on the way to credentialism suggests that intelligence is not the primary attribute being selected for.

    1. Because they usually have to pass standardized tests. Their scores do correlate with IQ and I’m not an IQ denier.
      Besides, just watch the video. Valedictorian is not all of it – there’s also Stanford and a violinist.

  3. Just because one is intelligent does not mean that their mind cannot be infected by incorrect ideology. In fact it may increase the chance.

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