08 December 2010

The wisdom of crowds

has spoken! More money for foreign aid it is!

Apparently we're supposed to be spending ~10% of the budget on foreign aid! Heavens be praised! Billions of dollars in new foreign aid contracts to be signed!

I suppose one way to look at this would be that large portions of current federal outlays are considered illegitimate, but that would imply that entitlements and defense spending, among other uses, are unpopular. When they are clearly very popular. So we're left with the uncomfortable knowledge that the public desires more money to be spent on foreign aid than we are currently spending, roughly 15-20 times more, but thinks that we're spending at least twice as much as they desire we spend. In other words, we're left with the public thinking nonsense and getting away with it.

I suppose it might be instructive to ask these questions again after telling people the actual amount of federal outlays that went to foreign aid in the past year. Would they still think 10% is appropriate? Or, perhaps more frightening, would they still think we spend a quarter of the budget on it?

I am beginning to think that our public is not merely rationally ignorant of politics but is in fact deliberately and painfully stupid to the point of not being able to properly assess our political decisions. In other words, I think even if you told people explicitly the amounts we spend through the federal budget both in percentages and actual dollar amounts, they would persist in believing that we spend more than that. That they would reject an actual tangible fact in favor of a comfortable belief instead.
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