The stupidity epidemic

I know that people will insist that it’s always been this bad, but it hasn’t. Here are two examples from the left and two from the right.

1. The snowflakes, er, I mean the students in Amherst, Massachusetts are outraged that a local mayor had sex with some consenting adults who are college students. That’s it. That’s the “scandal“. Apparently ideological witch hunts are not enough; we will now experience a wave of sexual witch hunts conducted by fragile Massachusetts puritans who are horrified by “power imbalances”, i.e., by reality.

2. Tulane students got their university to ban a speaker promoting his highly acclaimed anti-racist book because they were confused by the title and thought it was a pro-racist book. And the university went along with the ban, even after the issue was explained. The left are devouring their own.

3. Here’s USA Today:

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Sunday defended President Donald Trump’s decision to use executive orders to provide relief to people impacted economically by the coronavirus pandemic, arguing his hand had been forced by congressional inaction. 

“The Lord and the Founding Fathers created executive orders because of partisan bickering and divided government. That’s what we have here,” Navarro said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

Jesus also wants Trump to issue an executive order stopping all those refugees and asylum seekers from coming into the country, as Jesus believed that charity begins at home. Didn’t he? 

4. Larry Kudlow was asked to explain the president’s recent executive order, and made one laughable mistake after another. Here is just a small portion of the interview:

“You keep saying $1,200 per person, are you talking about in addition to the unemployment that they’re already getting?” Ms Bash asked Mr Kudlow.

“No, that’s the payroll — no, I’m sorry, I beg your pardon, the $1,200 will come from the payroll tax deferral, on top of this — yeah, I’m sorry,” Mr Kudlow responded.

He then once again asserted that unemployment benefits would amount to “$800 bucks,” leaving the anchor appearing confused.

“$800 or $400?” she asked.

“No, it should be four — it should be $800,” Mr Kudlow said. “If the states step up, we’re prepared to match, that should come out $400 federal, $400 states.”

What difference does it make? Nothing the administration says has any correspondence with reality. You Americans should just wait patiently at home and be happy with whatever amount of money Trump sends you. Just sit tight. As Trump says, it is what it is.



30 Responses to “The stupidity epidemic”

  1. Gravatar of D.O. D.O.
    9. August 2020 at 20:38

    Re #2: They’ve got the book contents alright. They just think that no white person should be given speaking spots right now. As an additional twist, some complainants think that Ball is profiteering from having a KKK ancestor. This is not your garden variety of stupid.

  2. Gravatar of Left Outside Left Outside
    9. August 2020 at 22:30

    To me it seems deranged to put things some weird university students have down alongside things done by the literal executive branch of government. I guarantee you will never run out of weird things 20 year olds will do, but this sort of thing shouldnt come out of government.

  3. Gravatar of Cartesian Theatics Cartesian Theatics
    9. August 2020 at 23:10

    Left Outside,

    #4 is in the realm of comically stupid. #3 is specifically an example of stupidity that goes beyond the corruption–the language is comically “stupid”.

    I’m looking for a good book on the history of stupidity. Sounds like a fun read. Any recommendations?

  4. Gravatar of sty.silver sty.silver
    9. August 2020 at 23:18

    I’ve often said things like, “one of the worst things about Trump is that his presence decreases the quality of discourse, which is extremely hard to measure but indirectly influences everything else.” I can’t prove that stuff like this is because of Trump, but it seems plausible.

    The way Eliezer Yudkowsky once put it (10+ years ago), is, roughly, that there are people who really hate the blue team, and there are people who really hate the red team. Whenever the red team does something the blue team REALLY hates, the blue team can get away with doing more things its own people mildly dislike for a while.

    You could stretch this a bit to say that, the stupider the Trump administration becomes, the less incentive there is among woke people to make sense. It’s not like any of these students will go “oh, this is too crazy for me, I’ll look for more sanity on the other side.” It seems kinda plausible that things would be a little different if a smart, compassionate person was sitting in the White House.

  5. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    10. August 2020 at 01:45

    “Jimmy Lai, the outspoken publisher of Hong Kong’s widely read pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, was arrested Monday along with six others on suspicion of foreign collusion under a new national security law, expanding Beijing’s crackdown on the former British colony.”—WSJ.

    Photos show Lai being led away in handcuffs. They put his sons in jail too.

    The blackest day in Hong Kong yet.

    Let’s watch those NBA (No Balls Association)games! That guy can really dribble!

  6. Gravatar of Philo Philo
    10. August 2020 at 04:54

    Your examples suggest: (1) the left is stupid at the grass roots; (2) the Trump administration is stupid at the highest level.

  7. Gravatar of foosion foosion
    10. August 2020 at 06:14

    @Left Outside is right.

    Put another way, a bunch of students are not “the left”. Trump and senior administration officials are “the Trump administration”.

  8. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    10. August 2020 at 06:18

    Similar to #1, I heard from several different sources that at most US corporations, romances between colleagues are usually prohibited. Especially in the US, regulations like this seem to be common and nobody seems to care. This is quite outrageous.

    In Germany it is exactly the opposite: love is a private matter, an essential human right, and strict regulations against relationships are prohibited. Ethical rules may be established on how a couple should behave when they work closely together, so that there is no corruption. But that’s it. You cannot forbid love and you cannot forbid an affair. And losing your job over an affair is illegal.

    This is one of the areas where I really must say that the regulations in Germany are far better.

  9. Gravatar of Dale Doback Dale Doback
    10. August 2020 at 07:24

    And comparing officials in the highest levels of government with students at some liberal arts colleges is evidence that the libertarians have also lost their minds.

  10. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. August 2020 at 07:52

    Left Outside, I agree that they are not anywhere near equally important. But this post is not on importance, it’s on stupidity. And they are equally stupid.

    Cartesian, I own a copy of the book “The Story of Stupidity”, but I’ve never read it. I bought it because I liked the title.

    Philo, Yup.

    foosion, No, he’s wrong. Read my reply and stop reading into my posts things that are not there.

    Christian, Completely agree. America’s been a puritan nation for 300 years, and it’s one of our most embarrassing attributes. Both the left and the right are to blame.

    Dale, That’s a stupid comment, for reasons I explained above. Maybe I should add you to my next stupidity post.

  11. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. August 2020 at 07:56

    Everyone on the left, Want an example or extreme stupidity at the highest levels of the left? How about the recent proposal that the Fed be instructed to eliminate disparities in employment, wages and wealth?

    I would add that if the sexual witch hunt that we currently see in Amherst were to become widespread in America then it would be very, very important.

  12. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    10. August 2020 at 09:07


    Yes, and even though I’m on the left, and it doesn’t come from the leadership of the Democratic Party, the Green New Deal plan is monumentally stupid.

  13. Gravatar of anon anon
    10. August 2020 at 09:41

    Calling it Green New Deal “plan” is simply too much. It is a wish list. With nary a thought on actual “plan” to achieve said things?

  14. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    10. August 2020 at 10:19

    It is what it is. Trust the plan.

  15. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    10. August 2020 at 11:06

    You are correct about statements of Kudlow and Navarro. And Trump in fact may be a cat. And it may not have any correspondence with reality. And, as was predicted, once one guy got away with Executive Orders, then they are here to stay. That really is Banana Republic Government. So I don’t disagree. But the amount of short term harm done by whatever it was that Pelosi wanted and what “Felix the Cat” did is probably less. Should we thank Nancy for going further than was possible? Maybe.

    We like to call Trump a “Nationalist” which I assume is leaning toward Fascism in some way—-the actual facists taking action are in the streets. As far as I can tell, only Trump/GOP openly condemns them. Not saying Dems support them but they sure are silent. Also Lightfoot and Wheeler—who loudly condemn Trump for “threatening” to stop violence in their cities are gradually actually trying to stop it—-but it feels half assed—but better than nothing.

    I still prefer Felix.

  16. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    10. August 2020 at 11:21

    The right just tells you that sexual deviancy, as they define it, will send you to hell. The left, as they define it, wants you in jail, fired and shamed. Its not as bad as burning witches. And I am guessing it will go away soon (meaning less than double digit years). It feels like peak oil. In fact it all feels like peak oil. But maybe History really does have an arc. I don’t think so–too much mean reversion over time. But if it does have an arc, we will end up like Joan.

  17. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    10. August 2020 at 12:10

    Sex is taboo in the USA; McD’s is suing a former CEO over having consensual sex with three subordinate people (but not a threesome) albeit they have good grounds since it was against his severance contract and also he awarded the people big stock options ($100k+, it must have been mad sex).

    For some VERY un-PC comic videos, see the below Epic Rap Battles of History. Among other slights, it shows US pres TJ dissin’ Frederick Douglas by saying he smells, and it shows Gandhi going down on Martin Luther King (at the very end, note also the pun “Always stay away from the hoes (hose)” and “Dr. Birmingham Sandwich”, which also may refer to stories about Ghandi sleeping between two beautiful naked women to test his chastity). I’m actually surprised YouTube has not taken down these videos, though the excellent ERB team has not produced a video in a while (one of the last one is also excellent, their swan song: (Frederick Douglass vs Thomas Jefferson. Epic Rap Battles of History) (Gandhi vs Martin Luther King Jr. Epic Rap Battles of History)

  18. Gravatar of sean sean
    10. August 2020 at 12:43

    So whats the cause of the increased stupidity?

    Social Media? 10 years ago I would have thought that social media would have hurt stupidity as ideas being in public are easily criticized. Now it seems as though social media creates self-affirming herds.

    But I agree with you I see stupidity everywhere and denial of trying to actually think thru and figure out an issue.

  19. Gravatar of James James
    10. August 2020 at 13:54

    Stupid people don’t reshape the NYC skyline.
    Stupid was the same argument the left made about George Bush.
    It was the same argument they made about Ronald Reagan.
    It was the same argument they made about Gerald Ford.
    They tried to say the same about Nixon, but Nixon was a genius — and nobody could be quite convinced he wasn’t.
    The last conservative that wasn’t “stupid” was Eisenhower, and one must conclude that the left was simply scared to death of him – it also helped that FDR put such faith in him.

    The point here is that you continue to use ad hominem attacks, without discussing specific policy. Probably because you don’t have enough knowledge about said policy.

    Let’s go through the list:

    You are wrong on tech. Trump was right.
    You were wrong on China. Trump was right. (Jimmy Lai just arrested by the corrupt CCP and they are now doubling their military presence on Indian border as we speak. A Chinese woman was just apprehended carrying 38k in gold bars in Maine, apparently trying to get to CA to “visit her relative”, as if anyone would believes such a stupid story).
    You were wrong on trade. Trump was right.
    You work at a University, which you can feel proud of. But Trump reshaped the NYC skyline, and become a billionaire (twice). His NJ venture nearly bankrupted him personally, but he remerged a decade later once again at the top of the economic a ziggurat. So no comparison here. In terms of accomplishments, he destroys you in that regard.

    I suggest you discuss actual policy, and spend less time calling people idiots – simply because they disagree with you. You make fun of his interview, yet your interviews are just as awful – if not worse! Some people just don’t have the gift of speech. But that has no bearing on their intelligence. If it does, then you are near the bottom! That is for sure.

  20. Gravatar of xu xu
    10. August 2020 at 14:45

    Scott is not a libertarian. Libertarians believe in individualism and universizability. Utilitarian’s believe in treating others as a means to and end, which is precisely what his posts call for. He wants to somehow connect the two, but the two cannot be connected. Either you believe in univerizability, or you don’t.

    This is why he is always praising the Chinese govt. He won’t criticize the arbitrary detainment of Jimmy Lai, or the Orwellian state they’ve created, but he supports their technology companies having free reign in the United States. He supports Chinese companies (all owned by CCP party members) to buy up US companies, merge with US companies, and so forth.

    He won’t condemn Chinese militarism on the Indian and Philippine borders, but he will support Chinese graduate students obtaining a Masters and PhD at our best Universities – many of whom affiliate with the military. He won’t condemn the Harvard Professor arrested by the FBI for failing to disclose relationships with the Wuhan Laboratory, but he’ll advocate for Chinese grants that attempt to “buy our academics”.

    He won’t condemn drugs that cost millions of lives, and can bring nations to their needs, but he’ll advocate for those drugs to be bought and sold freely in drug dens and houses to our youth – destroying their future.

    His views are not consistent with libertarianism. Dershowitz is a libertarian. Not Sumner!

  21. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. August 2020 at 15:45

    James, Stupid is as stupid does.

    You said:

    “You were wrong on China. Trump was right.”

    Trump was right when he encouraged Xi Jinping to put Muslims in Xinjiang into concentration camps? Really? Then I guess you and I have different moral values.

    You said:

    “You were wrong on trade. Trump was right.”

    Trump made the trade deficit bigger. Is that what you mean by “right”?

    You said:

    “A Chinese woman was just apprehended carrying 38k in gold bars in Maine, apparently trying to get to CA to “visit her relative”,”

    That’s pretty scary, isn’t it?

    BTW, I liked Reagan, and didn’t consider him to be stupid.

    Most of all, you need to take a deep breath. I wrote a lame post attempting to be funny, which criticized liberals and conservatives equally, and you react with a ridiculous defense of Trump who was not even mentioned in the post. Even if my post is as unfunny as you suggest, why the outrage? Lighten up.

    And yes, I’m a poor public speaker, but what does that have to do with the post? If I answered a set of questions in the way Kudlow did I’d WANT people to make fun of me.

    Xu, You said:

    “He won’t condemn Chinese militarism on the Indian and Philippine borders”

    OK, I hereby condemn Chinese militarism in the Indian and Philippine borders. Happy now?

    Actually, I’ve condemned China more than any other foreign country in this blog, but readers are never satisfied.

  22. Gravatar of Matthias Görgens Matthias Görgens
    10. August 2020 at 19:45

    Scott, don’t let the trolls rile you up too much.

    Though there’s one thing I agree with them about: your posts about policy are better! That’s not because you are wrong about stupidity, but your comparative advantage is with insights into policy!

    If current events are too depressing, perhaps something about how the 1930s or how Australia escaped their housing ‘bubble’ bursting etc?

    However, it’s your blog, and when your rants are still entertaining.

  23. Gravatar of cBarwell cBarwell
    10. August 2020 at 20:43


    If you replaced “the mayor” phrase with “adjunct professor”, would you still call them snowflakes

  24. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. August 2020 at 21:42

    Matthias, Remember that this is my bad blog. I put my better posts over at Econlog—they focus on policy.

    cBarwell, Why would that make any difference? It’s ridiculous to feel threatened by the fact that some guy is dating college students. Who cares? Students need to mind their own business and keep their noses out the the private affairs of other consenting adults. That’s just common sense.

  25. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    11. August 2020 at 00:21

    ‘Trump made the trade deficit bigger. Is that what you mean by “right”?’

    “Do current account deficits matter?
    We continually read that nations with current account deficits (CAD) are living beyond their means and are being bailed out by foreign savings. This claim is particularly potent in the current US-China context.
    In MMT, this sort of claim would never make any sense. A CAD can only occur if the foreign sector desires to accumulate financial (or other) assets denominated in the currency of issue of the country with the CAD. This desire leads the foreign country (whichever it is) to deprive their own citizens of the use of their own resources (goods and services) and net ship them to the country that has the CAD, which, in turn, enjoys a net benefit (imports greater than exports). A CAD means that real benefits (imports) exceed real costs (exports) for the nation in question.”

  26. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    11. August 2020 at 05:06

    I’m so glad I don’t live in the US for points 1 and 2. I used to go there a few times a year, both for work and for recreation, and over the last five years or so I’ve become more and more disturbed by the viewpoints of American friends on the left. The idea that any sexual relationship between consenting adults wherein one has more power than the other is inherently manipulative and exploitative? What?? In what relationship is power ever exactly equal?

    And what if, God forbid, some people (with less power) enjoy that power discrepancy? Should society step in and tell the less-powerful that they are being exploited and should not enjoy their relations with the more powerful persons? A recent novel I read, written by a young woman, has a passage about how the main character, also a young woman, felt empowered sleeping with older, more powerful men. Should the book be banned for encouraging a manipulative and exploitative system?

    Many other reasons I don’t want to live in the US, but the puritanism really strikes one from this side of the Atlantic. Puritanism and frontierism; a constant fear of the immoral and the enemy.

    Regarding 3: ‘The Lord and the Founding Fathers created executive orders because of partisan bickering and divided government.’ Why am I surprised by a senior administrative official using God as a justification for ignoring the Constitution and the Founding Fathers, who, I believe, never said a word about Executive Orders?

    Oh, well, at least London has slightly returned to normal and we can expense 3 martini client lunches once again.

  27. Gravatar of foosion foosion
    11. August 2020 at 06:21


    There are examples of stupidity across the political spectrum. There are idiots, look around.

    The stupidity of some students does not necessarily mean anything for the broader left.

    The stupidity of Trump and his senior officials exactly means something about the stupidity of the Trump administration.

    There are a wide range of views on the left. There is no single person who speaks for the left.

    There do not appear to be that wide a range of views in the Trump administration. There is a single person who speaks for the Trump administration.

    Is the above inconsistent with anything you, Left Outside or I wrote? You may have been making a different point, ignoring importance, but that does not make our comments wrong. Some of us care about importance.

  28. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    11. August 2020 at 06:34

    @ Foosion:

    Prof. Sumner said nothing about stupidity in the Trump administration, he said something about stupidity on the left and the right, and he found examples on both sides. One may, of course, argue that his examples are not universally relevant, but it’s not like he purposefully is blaming the left over the right. He’s saying you’re all morons. Does that help explain your importance query?

  29. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    11. August 2020 at 13:31

    Tacticus, You said:

    “What?? In what relationship is power ever exactly equal?”

    Yes, that was my thought too. I guess they don’t think Donald Trump should have been allowed to date Melania.

    Of course sexual harassment can be a problem, but there was no claim of sexual harassment in the Amherst case, just vague “unease”.

    Foosion, Too many people see every comment in tribal terms. Sometimes I’m just having fun showing the idiocy all around us. If I only present one side I’m accused of bias. If I present both sides I’m accused of false moral equivalence. I can’t win.

    Everyone who reads this blog knows that I view Trump as a bigger problem than Tulane or Amherst college students. At the same time, the left is getting worse on the “busybody” front. In 5 years the left may be the bigger problem. No one knows.

  30. Gravatar of Big Al Big Al
    11. August 2020 at 14:33

    @Christian In my experience, romance in the workplace is often frowned upon (in America) but I’ve never heard of it being prohibited except in situations where one party reported up to the other. Is the latter considered acceptable in the workplace in Germany? Personally, though, I very much agree with “don’t s*** where you eat” as a general philosophy, even if it should not be a officially prohibited. I’m sure it works out great sometimes, but I’ve personally witnessed a couple of cases over the years that wrecked havoc, though fairly short term, on what were previously fairly harmonious teams.

    In the case of the mayor, unless he was picking up coeds he was actually teaching, I’m not sure what the problem was exactly …..

Leave a Reply