America’s Moron Problem

(adapted from Argon Desaki’s Report from Earth)

Some types of problem worth distinguishing include:

  1. Known problems we know how to solve.
  2. Known problems we don’t know how to solve.
  3. Known problems we know how to solve, except we don’t know how to get sufficient agreement by others to implement the solution (a tragic subset of Type 2).
  4. Unknown problems: Problems we fail to see coming, or fail to recognize as problems, or are entirely clueless about, like living in an area contaminated with a dangerous poison while blissfully unaware. Considering the difficulty of imagining how we could conceivably solve them, the unknown problems can be the scariest—unless we ignore them, a hazardous habit facilitated by our ignorance of them.
  5. Moron problems: In addition to the general problem of people becoming more moronic, in a democracy there is a grave danger that as the voters grow more moronic, idiots will take power to a greater extent than they already have, increasingly moronic voters electing increasingly moronic politicians.

How moronic are Americans? In the 2007 Miss Teen USA contest, the following question was posed to Miss South Carolina:

Recent polls have shown that a fifth of Americans can't locate the US on a world map. Why do you think this is?1

The premise was false; there was no such poll finding.2 The 2006 National Geographic—Roper Survey of Geographic Literacy found 6% of Americans 18 to 24 years old could not find the U.S. on a world map, bad enough but nowhere near 20%. On the other hand, the same survey found 21% of 18-24 year old Americans could not locate the Pacific Ocean on a world map.3

If the geographic ignorance of young Americans and the ignorance of whoever formulated the Miss Teen USA questions do not sufficiently demonstrate American idiocy, consider Miss South Carolina’s moronic response:

“I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because uh some people out there in our nation don't have maps and uh I believe that our ed- education like such as in South Africa and uh the Iraq everywhere like such as and I believe that they should uh our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S. or- or- should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future for our children.”4

How moronic are American politicians? In a 2011 Republican presidential primary debate, one of the leading contenders, Texas Governor Rick Perry, couldn’t recall which three federal agencies he wanted to eliminate.5 Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, discussing the economic thinking of 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, noted that Ryan “evidently gets his ideas largely from deeply unrealistic fantasy novels.6

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been considered a leading contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination; he and his team have apparently been thought to be among the best the Republicans have to offer. Yet to get revenge on the mayor of Fort Lee for refusing to endorse Christie in the last gubernatorial election, Christie’s team created severe traffic jams in Fort Lee by closing highway lanes. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” his deputy chief of staff emailed to Christie’s friend David Wildstein, director of interstate capital projects at the Port Authority, who ordered the lanes closed. The New York Times described the lane closings as not only an “egregious abuse of power” but also “stunningly stupid”.7

The 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, when asked what newspapers and magazines she read regularly, moronically answered “All of them.”8

In case talk of politicians and morons calls to mind the recent Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, it is important not to confuse similar words and concepts. Romney is a Mormon. Mormons and morons can and should be distinguished, for the concepts are different.

Mormons believe the following:

''The word of God was engraved on golden plates buried around 421 AD near Palmyra, New York, by an angel named Moroni. About 1400 years later, in the early 19th century, Moroni led Joseph Smith Jr., founder of the Mormon religion, to the plates, and directed him to translate them into English. Despite his ignorance of the language in which they were written, Smith was able to accomplish the translation with the help of God and a seer stone (a magical stone used by early Mormons to aid in locating lost items and precious metals, as well as in receiving messages from God). The golden plates were then returned to Moroni and disappeared.9

Morons, on the other hand, are foolish enough to believe all sorts of crazy stories.

Both these varieties of Earthling can be friendly and helpful, but there’s always a danger they’ll do something very wrong due to faulty intelligence.

Here’s an interesting perspective on Mormons from a Mr. Fitzgerald in Massachusetts:

''Their theology may be a bit fantastical, but not more so than that of other religions, including my own (Roman Catholicism). How or why such people are made the object of ridicule—and sadly, they are—is confounding.10

During the 2012 presidential contest, Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, commented as follows on Romney's failure to recognize that factors like Israel's blockade of the Palestinian territories, not just cultural differences, account for the slower economic progress of the Palestinians:

"Mitt Romney may become our next president. Will he continue to... fail to understand history and the modern world? If so, he will preside over a declining nation squandering its advantages of location and history."11

In his first Presidential Debate, while speaking of health insurance, Romney moronically claimed that “pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan,” when in fact his plan did not cover pre-existing conditions for those lacking a history of continuous coverage, and thus excluded all those who were currently unable to get insurance due to preexisting conditions.12 Are American voters moronic enough to fall for such obfuscation? If so, perhaps Romney is not so moronic, but is rather clever and dishonest. Either way, whether he is a fool or the voters are foolish enough to believe what he says, the fact that Romney could be a serious contender for the nation’s highest office suggests America is already ominously moronic.

1. Why Can’t Americans Find the US on a World Map?, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBwm-QPs-E8 (on 09/12/2014)
2. Where Did Miss Teen USA Come Up With That Geography Question?, at http://newsbusters.org/blogs/terry-trippany/2007/08/30/where-did-miss-teen-usa-come-geography-question (on 09/12/2014)
3. National Geographic-Roper Public Affairs 2006 Geographic Literacy Study, at http://www.nationalgeographic.com/roper2006/pdf/FINALReport2006GeogLitsurvey.pdf (on 09/12/2014)
4. Why Can't Americans Find the US on a World Map?, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBwm-QPs-E8 (on 09/12/2014)
5. For video of this failure, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUzkDFyq3dk (on 04/28/2012). To the credit of voters, this incident hurt him in the polls.
6. Paul Krugman, Galt, Gold and God, NYT, August 23, 2012, at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/24/opinion/krugman-galtgold-and-god.html (on 09/18/2012) (Krugman was alluding to novels by Ayn Rand.)
7. The Bully Was a Dupe, New York Times editorial, 01/09/2014, p. A20, at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/09/opinion/the-bullywas-a-dupe.html?_r=0 (on 01/09/2014
8. Sarah Palin Can’t Name a Newspaper She Reads, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRkWebP2Q0Y (on 7/13/2013).
9. See, for instance,
Origin of the Book of Mormon, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origin_of_the_Book_of_Mormon (on 05/09/2012), Book of Mormon, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Mormon (on 05/09/2012)
Seer stone (Latter Day Saints), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seer_stone_(Latter_Day_Saints) (on 10/06/2012)
Lost 116 pages, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_116_pages (on 10/06/2012)
10. Letter to the Editor by John D. Fitzpatrick, NYT, June 8, 2012, p. A22, How Americans Feel About Mormons, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/08/opinion/how-americans-feel-about-mormons.html (on 06/09/2012)
11. Jared Diamond, Romney Hasn’t Done His Homework, NYT, 8/2/2012, at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/02/opinion/mittromneys-search-for-simple-answers.html?_r=0 (on 5/25/2012)

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