Monday, June 21, 2010


Recklessness was seen as a vice by the ancients and with good reason; It frequently got you killed. But it was also seen as a deficiency of judgment and discernment; a failure in the proper application of courage and a sign of mental weakness. No good having all the bravery in the world if it all it did was shorten you life or put the lives of your colleagues at risk.

If we asked your average Thomist the question, should we go walking through minefields to prove our courage? I imagine the answer he would give would be no. He would probably say that we have a duty of care to ourselves and that exposing ourselves to risk without a good reason would be rash. (Stupid in less polite company). On the other hand, if we asked him should walk through a minefield in order to reach a fortune or to save someone who had wandered into the minefield by accident, I suppose the answer would be, it depends. The calculation would be based on a the benefits of risk vs the probability of loss. If there is a good reason for doing something dangerous, he would certainly see grounds for the positive admiration of a man who undertook a risky endeavor. Rescuing people in need, courage in war and the advancement of science were all seen as noble endeavors where the benefits gained at great risk to the participant were praised. But to willingly exposing yourself to danger for the "thrill of it" or to prove to yourself that you can would have been seen as idiotic.

Now Abbey Sunderland's parents were like the parents who let their kid play in a minefield. When they asked the American Sailing Association if they would sponsor young Abbeys trip, the American Sailing association declined, as they said the trip was too dangerous. Jessicas parents (who have a duty of care to look after their daughter) willfully put her into harm's way. Now exposing your child to harm may not necessarily be a bad thing for a good reason, but the only reason here was self aggrandizement. The girl's parents let her risk her life for fame. It's the cult of celebrity gone mad.

Whilst stupidity is endemic to the human condition, what surprised me was the support she got from "conservative" commentators across the internet, people who should clearly know better. The same commentators who would without hesitation in a moment say "serves you right" to a provocatively dressed woman who placed herself in harm's way and who managed to get herself sexually assaulted were here heaping praise on girl displaying a greater idiocy.

Any person who supports the actions of this girl, fails the most basic precepts of conservative prudence and has displayed to the world self-evident proof of their utter stupidity. The fact that these conservative individuals have so thoroughly failed such an elementary test of good sense, raises the question of just how valid are their judgments on other matters? Is such a man capable of determining the complexities of a mortgage? Or what about the legitimacy of foreign wars? Or questions of economics? He that displays no sense in the little things is likely not to display any in the big ones.

It sad to say, but the liberals do not hold a monopoly on stupidity. The conservatives are doing their best to outdo them. If you ever wonder why the liberal project never gets turned back, perhaps it's because large numbers of Abbey Sunderland's supporters are in the conservative ranks.

Part of the problem with political theory is while great tomes have been written on human rights, separation of powers and the distribution of wealth, very little has been written on the role of stupidity in public life. Many commentators have worried about the quality of government when the the demos becomes demonic, but what happens when the demos becomes moronic?

As I become older, I have become more and more convinced that the right to vote should be limited to people who have practically demonstrated their ability to manage their affairs. People who cannot manage their own affairs have no right to a say in the management of mine. The test of citizenship should not be the presence of a pulse.

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