Monday, April 8, 2013

Not Straining Their Necks

Instapundit's column today in the April 7, 2013 New York Post argues that an IQ test for politicians might be a good idea -- although there are some risks:
While politicians talk about expanding background checks for gun owners, I’m starting to think that what we really need are IQ tests for political officeholders. The only problem is, that might leave us with a lot of vacancies in Congress and America’s statehouses.
He points to Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO) who is leading the Democrats' campaign for a ban on high capacity magazines.  She violates a famous aphorism attributed to nineteenth century journalist Artemus Ward: "It ain't so much the things we don't know that get us into trouble. It's the things we know that ain't so."  DeGette apparently thinks that high capacity magazines are one-time use devices; banning new production and sales will make them quickly disappear.

Instapundit also links to this column by Professor Michael S. Greve of George Mason University about "Not-So-Expert Government":
For starters, it’s obvious that the experts don’t have a clue. The Fed’s pronouncements anno 2007, to the effect that everything was firmly in hand, are the stuff of legend, and its models have proven lamentably inaccurate in predicting even short-term economic performance. As for the experts’ climate change models about the planet’s behavior a century hence, right.

Even so, expert government proceeds on an implied premise of omniscience. The intergovernmental committee that decides, under and pursuant to the Endangered Species Act, whether the One-Eyed Toad shall live or die is called, only semi-ironically, the “God Squad.” (That would have been a terrific title for IPAB, but it’s already taken.) The squad’s reasoned decision-making is one step up from shooting dice. We can live with that, even if the toad cannot. However, expert ignorance increases with the scale, scope, and complexity of the experts’ mandate; and when we’re taking about the U.S. economy or the planet, that’s biggish. Still, we’re supposed to believe that there’s nothing wrong with the attempt to predict and manage these systems—nothing, that is, that can’t be fixed by an econometrician in the Fed’s basement or perhaps the Mann Brothers’ Earth Band (Michael with the hockey stick and Manfred with the keyboards).
My favorite is Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA), worried that deploying too many sailors to Guam for a building project will cause the island to capsize:

The admiral having to put up with this shows enormous restraint in not yelling, "Congressman, you are too stupid to sit in Congress.  You are too stupid to sit on a city council.  You are perhaps smart enough to manage a McDonald's, but only until a person of normal intelligence applies for the job."

The fact is that most people like to look up to their elected officials, but not so much as to strain their necks. There are some pretty smart people who get elected, but they are definitely the exceptions.

UPDATE: The Wikipedia article on Hank Johnson indicates that he was having health problems caused by Hepatitis C:
In February 2010, Johnson successfully completed an experimental treatment for Hepatitis C, which resulted in restored mental acuity, weight gain and increased energy.
 That's the month before the remarks above about Guam capsizing.  I shudder to think what might have happened if these hearings had happened a few months earlier.


  1. I am pretty sure Hank Johnson and DeGette are too stupid to work at a McDonalds at all, much less as managers.

  2. Maybe as night managers. Keep the doors open, the lights on, the employees working, and the food from spoiling. Call 911 if you need to; be ready to hand the operation over to the real manager who pays the bills, does the hiring and firing, and food ordering.
    Yep, night manager should be within any politician's level of competence.

  3. I suspect Congresswoman Diana DeGette got confused thinking about magazines and magazine subscriptions. Why would you need to subscribe if magazines could be re-used.

    (Though I think a case could be made for limiting production of magazines like "Jihad", which was apparently a major reference for the Boston Bombers.)