Opinion

Who will form an Anti-Stupidity Party to save us from ourselves? 

If there's one thing humans excel at, it's stupidity – especially the ones in high office

Blair and Bush at a 25 May 2006 White House press conference in which Bush acknowledged “setbacks and mistakes” in their decision to invade Iraq. Image: UPI Photo/Kevin Dietsch/Alamy

Stupidity might one day be seen, if it is not already, as the biggest guiding force in human history. Studied, adopted, clearly thought-out inanity, not a kind of off-the-cuff thoughtlessness. The invasion of Iraq, brokered and orchestrated by George W Bush and willingly, slavishly augmented by Tony Blair, might be seen as one of the biggest game changers in modern geopolitical history.  I remember the times, the vast marches, but soon the drums were rolling. I even contributed to the naivety by believing that getting rid of Saddam Hussein would free the Iraqi people from their murderer. Little did we know that destruction and defeat would produce even more murderous times.  

We often drink in the short-sightedness unintentionally. We can be misled into a future hell. Disorder can be the result of acquiescence on the part of the public; but as the vast anti-Iraqi invasion advanced, millions came out to protest, to warn, to suggest caution around the issue of weapons of mass destruction. Admittedly Hussein’s side boasting about their weaponry failed to clarify things, but the adventure was based on some deeply well-organised clumsiness.  

Stupidity allows the law of unintended consequences to rule OK. So if you took a look at the panorama of today’s problems you would see, sewn into them, what had initially appeared as a good thing being in fact a bad thing.  

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Cameron’s support of the Arab Spring might be seen as another application of determined wrongheadedness. With the laws of unintended consequences cutting through the Arab world, toppling and murdering and destroying, the so-called Spring washed away the fabric of oppressive regimes and replaced it with a disorderly chaos and millions of refugees in its wake. A kind of oppressive order replaced by horrific and murderous disorder.  

Even down to simple things, like holding down interest rates at a time when house prices were booming, and tempting people into undertaking an expensive move which was exposed to higher interest rates. Creating a hot market that could fold has put many more people into peril.  

Where, you might ask, is the Anti-Stupidity Party? Why are we governed by people who practise, at best, a less dim-witted form of governance? There is no way the government or the opposition will be able to deliver stability based on many of their strategic policies. The overheated property and rental markets, which undermine stability, need serious addressing big time.  

Rents that rise beyond the grasp of the tenant and interest rates beyond the pocket of the owner-occupier are doing untold damage. But the buffeting created by inflation and interest rate rises are not addressed by government intervention.  

How the response to the economic crisis of 2008 seems to have been the generator of many of our current worries shows how deep this lunacy can go. Keeping the banks alive by public donation, by giving welfare to the wealthy, so to speak, seemed at the time the wise thing to do. But banks are obviously shameless because they forgot soon enough how much they were reliant on the public purse.  Was it not foolish to give all that money to shore up the banks and not make them more public-friendly? Reconstitute them so they had a chunk of public ownership, so that the public good could be considered in matters of finance?  

Perhaps all I am doing is advocating a new form of folly. All I know is that stupidity, and the unfortunate results of former unwise decisions, cannot be left to their own devices. We need an Anti-Stupidity Party. Real soon. There needs to be some very serious work looking into the entrails to gauge how we got into a situation that undermines stability in the world.  

Even the political forces that caused the war in Ukraine owe much to how western governments responded to the collapse of the Soviet Union. A country like post-Soviet Russia, that could not pay its pensioners, created a Putin with the instability that flowed from it. How paranoid that regime became because it had lost its place in the world eventually affects us all; as is witnessed by the spike in inflation, partly caused by the Ukraine war.  

Ninety percent of all the fossil fuels the world has ever burnt were burnt in the last 70 years. We are reaping the havoc of this, which might be seen as the biggest bit of self-harming imbecility mankind has ever visited upon itself. Yes, there is an even greater need for an Anti-Stupidity Party in our absurd times. 

John Bird is the founder and editor in chief of The Big Issue. Read more of his words here 

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