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Mental Deficiency, Ignorance, and Carelessness

On many issues, the gap between public perceptions and reality is very wide. The polling company Ipsos Mori found that Americans think 33% of the population are immigrants, for example, when the actual number is 14%. A 2013 poll found that Britons thought 24% of the population was Muslim—almost five times the correct figure of 5%. ...
Asked to name the top two or three areas of government spending, 26% of Britons cited foreign aid, more than picked pensions or education. In fact, aid spending is a small fraction of the other two and only 1% of the total. ...
Only a quarter of Britons could work out that the odds of throwing two consecutive heads in a coin toss was 25%. ...
One survey found that only half of Americans knew that mutual funds did not offer a guaranteed return. A lack of mathematical knowledge is a further difficulty. Another survey asked 50-somethings questions that related to financial literacy; asked to calculate how much each of five prize-winners would get from a lottery jackpot of $2m, only 56% of respondents could answer the question. More than two-fifths did not know the difference between simple and compound interest. ...
Around 77% of Americans are very or somewhat confident that they are well prepared for retirement but only 63% say they have saved any money towards it, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
- Economist, Ignorance isn’t bliss: Dealing with the problem of public misperceptions, May 28, 2016


...I was struck by several recent polls showing Mr. Trump favored over Hillary Clinton on the question of who can best manage the economy.
This is pretty remarkable given the incoherence and wild irresponsibility of Mr. Trump’s policy pronouncements. ...
The truth is that the idea that Donald Trump, of all people, knows how to run the U.S. economy is ludicrous. But will voters ever recognize that truth?
- Paul Krugman, Trump’s Delusions of Competence, NYT, May 27, 2016


Why doesn’t the government acknowledge that the bolívar is artificially overvalued and make the exchange rate closer to what it should be?

A devaluation would sharply increase prices at state-run stores that many poor Venezuelans rely on to survive, and would make debts denominated in bolívars far more expensive to repay.
- Rick Gladstone, How Venezuela Fell Into Crisis, and What Could Happen Next, NYT, May 27, 2016 (on 5/28/2016)


What I would argue is key to this situation — and, in particular, key to understanding how the conventional wisdom on Trump/McCain went so wrong — is the reality that a lot of people are, in effect, members of a delusional cult that is impervious to logic and evidence, and has lost touch with reality.
- Paul Krugman, The Donald and the Delusional, NYT, July 27, 2015


A Stanford Graduate School of Education study published in November found “a dismaying inability by students to reason about information they see on the internet. Students, for example, had a hard time distinguishing advertisements from news articles or identifying where information came from.”
- Thomas L. Friedman, Online and Scared, NYT, Jan. 11, 2017


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