Why do we keep getting stuffed by terrible ideas?

My friend David Wood, a fellow lockdown sceptic, sends me a link to The Manufacturing of a Mass Psychosis – Can Sanity Return to an Insane World? Quite persuasive, but I’d take issue with a couple of things. Chiefly – the 20th century’s tyrannies were not established by the ruling elites, but by intellectuals. Bien-pensant gits who genuinely believed their ideas would be a boon to the benighted masses.

Never mind the headliners like Lenin and Mao – think of clever idiots like George Bernard Shaw who thought society could be perfected by the application of eugenics. Among his many writings on the matter; ” A part of eugenic politics would finally land us in an extensive use of the lethal chamber. A great many people would have to be put out of existence simply because it wastes other people’s time to look after them.” He was far from alone – until the 3rd Reich came along and gave eugenics a bit of a bad name, he kept company with other clever idiots like HG Wells and Bertrand Russell.

Thomas Sowell, in ‘Intellectuals and Society’ argues that one reason we keep getting stuffed by terrible ideas is that there is no effective system of moral hazard to punish intellectuals for their errors – at least not in time to prevent the new ruling elites created by those ideas from erecting systems for suppressing dissent. Nowadays we hear of eugenics, if at all, as a historical curiosity, but that’s arguably only true because the missing moral hazard was belatedly supplied by the Holocaust, and only after millions had died.

Ask yourself – what is the moral hazard to Neil Ferguson for his catastrophically inept modelling? Or to Kerry Chant for her absurdly misplaced confidence in the power of lockdown to arrest contagion? Turning to the pollies – at the moment, and perhaps, sadly, for ever, the hazard to them from defying the medico-fascists and opening up society far exceeds that of having the finger pointed at them in some dusty enquiry long in the future.

Tom Forrester-Paton

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