Charting the Rise of Stupidity
The following is excerpted from the forthcoming book, The Rise of Stupidity – how dumb ideas are remaking America in their own image.
The joke goes, “If Rick Perry wants Texas to secede, let’s pay him to go. If he takes Florida too, I’d give him a bonus.” It’s a commentary on how it seems that the dumbest ideas always begin in one or the other of these two states. You’d be surprised how often that’s true. Still, it would be hard to argue that foolish ideas all come from Texas or Florida. Today’s broken government, for example, grew from seeds planted in Washington DC some 35 years ago – during the Reagan Administration.
It has taken that long for some utterly foolish ideas – supply side economics and “government is the problem” to name just two – to completely destroy America’s economy and largely decimate our world-leading position in invention, manufacturing, education and quality of life. In the better part of four decades, most of it under Republican presidents, we’ve also lost the cultural certainty that we can do big things and do them better than anyone else.
What’s left is a declining ability to compete in the world. Alone among our international competitors, ours is an economic system in which only those with no children or sick relatives (who need health insurance) can take entrepreneurial risks. Ours is the last first-tier economy to reward dirty energy and ignore its alternatives. Foreign students come here to get an education, but now they go home to use it. They used to want to stay.
To fill the gap, we have an entirely invented belief in something called “American Exceptionalism.” But that’s really just a flatulent way to try to keep our dignity. The evidence is overwhelming that we are becoming more and more ordinary with each passing year. Peel away the jingoistic hyperbole and one is left with the realization that Russia is now our ride to the Space Station.Continued on the next page