A long time ago an acquaintance mentioned that it’s a really bad idea to assume evil intentions or conspiracies when you can explain the same circumstances by stupidity. It’s something I’ve kept in mind ever since because I am prone to jumping to conspiracy/evil as an explanation for the assorted disasters that politicians and bureaucrats (especially bureaucrats?) inevitably create.
It doesn’t help that what’s obvious to me is very much not obvious to others. I’ve learned the hard, painful way that I think at strange, often forbidden angles to normality, and that I have a tendency to see patterns in disparate events that most people wouldn’t think are related. It may come from being a puzzle nut: even though I don’t dare break out the mega-jigsaws because I’ll have furry “help” if I do, I play virtual jigsaws regularly.
So, whenever I’m faced with evidence of idiocy, I remind myself that it’s far more likely the culprits are stupid, not evil. Even, or perhaps especially, if they are nominally intelligent – as in have a college degree and probably decent grades. There’s a very special type of stupidity that comes with a certain level of education: it involves the hubris of thinking that because one has a certain amount of expertise in one’s chosen field, one is automatically an expert in any other field one cares to mention.
This kind of thinking (or lack thereof) is how we get abominations like the DMCA, the Patriot Act (both versions), the monster bailouts, and the list goes on (and is not limited to any particular political flavor). Honestly, the average dumber-than-rocks fantasy evil villain is usually smarter than this, because said villain at least takes into account the fact that people are going to respond in ways that preserve their lives and livelihoods. I’ve yet to see a bureaucrat or politician manage that.
Increase taxes on something? Of course people will buy less of it. If it’s essential, they’ll buy less of something else. Increase business taxes? Businesses won’t hire as many people because payroll is the biggest cost most businesses have. Increase regulations? Businesses won’t hire as many people because it costs more to comply.
And of course, the piece of idiocy that inspired this rant (and the reason I really need to kill my quora account), a question from an alleged employer wanting to know if it was legal to dock an employee’s pay for calling in sick then working from home… What a way to inspire morale. I was so tempted to respond with a rant on the topic of gastro-intestinal illness and why it’s possible to work when you have one, but not necessarily work in the office. I’ll spare you all that delight, because really, it’s entirely too colorful and blasts past almost all of my “civilized people” filters.
It’s a good thing fiction usually doesn’t display this kind of stupid. Because fiction – at least the fiction I read and don’t defenestrate with prejudice – needs to make some sort of sense or people won’t bother to read it. If I wanted to read about meaningless stupid shit happening to people I don’t care about, I’d read the news.