free agent, loose cannon, pointy stick ... taking an imposing analytic toolkit out of the box, over the wall and into the street ... with callous disregard for accepted wisdom and standard English

reading tea leaves from original angles, we've led with uncannily prescient takes on the federal surplus, the dotcom crash, the "Energy Crisis", the Afghan campaign, the federal deficit.

More where those came from ... stay tuned.

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All "major" articles of older material have now been imported, some with updates worth perusing. We'll keep it all on the main page for a while, will add a few loose pieces of history, will trim the main page and index the archives for convenience later.


free agent, loose cannon, pointy stick ...
... gateway to the next Progressive Era?
Some say it's nothing but a train wreck ... roll in the big cranes, clear the track, see what the crew was smoking. If I thought so, I'd not be writing this ... and if they thought so, they'd not be drumming so hard.

Many thanks to Tony Adragna and Will Vehrs, still shouting 'cross the Potomac at QuasiPundit. Early Camp Enron material can be found in QP's Dispatches department.
Wednesday, April 03, 2002

--- Welles: Understanding Stupiddity Stupidity ---

One of CP's recurring themes is the examination of Groupthink in all its wondrous myriad forms. Today's topic: Stupidity ... specifically the James F. Welles theory of stupidity.

Welles identifies collective stupidity (and individual conformity) as an essential aspect of human nature ... part and parcel of our overarching need for group cohesion at the expense of informative feedback.

Stupidity is in evidence -- normally in retrospect or at a distance -- when a language/belief/behavior system (schema) is widely held, when the schema is maladaptive (or "premaladaptive", meaning it sets the home team on the road to a big loss), and when a plausible alternative is clearly indicated by available evidence. A few excerpts from Understanding Stupiddity:
One might reasonably expect ... competition and conflict would weed out stupidity ... it seems that competition merely replaces one stupid system with another.

The mind is really a socially conditioned filter which a given experience may or may not penetrate.

... schematic crumbling is simply too ambiguous in the early stages ... Only when the process nears completion, can it be labeled as clearly stupid.

...people function more in a particular way than toward a particular end.

The peculiar thing about human systems is not that they create so much of their own environment, but that they usually create one in which they cannot survive with their belief systems both honored and intact.

the mind is an instrument for belief ... it functions to maintain a schema, regardless of how debilitating that may be.

As knowledge accumulates, so do misconceptions, superstitions, and idiotic ideas and beliefs of all sorts.

Stupidity is not a restricted form of intelligence but a normal mental function in its own right

... language maximizes ... cooperation among members by inhibiting an appreciation of exactly what it is they are doing.

... a popular belief can become extemely popular even if popularity is not directly dependent upon accuracy or veracity.

... systematic distortion of information makes human societies characteristically self-deceptive, with people disposed to believe they are living up to thier ideals, particularly when they are not.

The stupidest thing of all would be to eliminate stupidity completely, as we would soon be at each others' throats in a rage of realism and rationality.
Welles goes on to elaborate the history of stupidity and its proponents, adversaries and victims from Plato to Serpico, in his Story of Stupidity : A History of Western Idiocy from the Days of Greece to the Present (chapter titles include "Medieval Stupidity", "Stupidity Reborn", "Stupidity Reformed", "Reasonable Stupidity", "Enlightened Stupidity" and so on).