ALS Topic 14 - Trump says Americans (and everyone else) are stupid. Is he right?

Focus questions for Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar, 4 August 2018 ( )

Note: The questions below are not supposed to suggest biased answers. You really can adopt any point of view your can suggest evidence for. Do be prepared for others suggesting counter-evidence! Note: clearly not all of these questions can be properly covered in a meetup, but they give us a conscious choice about what to talk about while making the background context clearer. It is up to the people who come on the day to choose what aspects they would like to deal with.

Focus Questions:


1. Well, are Americans stupid? Australians? All the rest ...?

2. Believe it or not, stupidity is interesting. It plays a huge part in human affairs, and has been researched (sometimes amusingly). I ran a meetup and wrote a paper about it in Brisbane ( - includes many links). So what can be done about it?

3. We've all done stupid things. What are some common 'systems failures' in life that get us to act stupidly?

4. Some people seem to be chronically stupid (at least in other people's view), regardless of education, formal intelligence etc. What is going on with characters like this.

5. At least in Anglo cultures, there's a common view among the general public that universities are holding pens for clever twits. Is this fair? Why would such a view come about, and what (if anything) can be done about it?

6. Our lives are now lived within layers of bureaucracy - not just governments, but corporations and the effects of impenetrable laws, online and offline. Since SNAFU ('situation normal, all fucked up' - from World War II) is the standard human condition, we are guaranteed to be tripped up at some level by stupid bureaucratic decisions. How can a society minimize and mitigate this kind of risk? How well is Australia managing this stuff?

7. Some stupid choices, decisions and behaviour are almost inevitable as teenagers grow into (sadder and wiser?) adults. What is the best way to nudge teenagers and young adults to learn creatively from stupid mistakes, as opposed to driving them further into a cycle of self-destruction?

8. All cultures have great strengths, which is why they persist. All cultures also have deep flaws which widen under strain, especially during rapid change (i.e. now!). It sometimes seems that allowing cultural flaws to persist is an act of mass stupidity. It can also seem that strong legal systems might actually preserve such civilizational flaws. Can you think of examples a) from America, and b) from Australia? What can be done about this dilemma?

9. Mistakes are not always from acts of stupidity, but often are. Where there is a blame culture, stupid mistakes typically snowball. In a no-blame culture, issues are sorted out at the simplest level and future errors avoided. Hospitals notoriously have blame cultures. Daily airport management (well, my experience of it as a despatch officer in 1972) was that a no-blame culture was critical to keeping planes in the air. This issue also seems to affect national cultures. From your life experience, can you offer examples?

10. Whole classes of people are often claimed to be stupid: racial groups, ethnic groups, the poor, the managerial class, capitalists, socialists, communists etc. How much truth is there in such stereotypes?

11. Is it a good life strategy to always avoid stupid people, or can they actually be used to advantage? (For example, how many businesses and politicians depend upon human stupidity?).


Extra Reading

"We are a deeply stupid country", Dana Milbank, Washington Post @ 

'Dark Money' on Goodreads @

"Trump is right about who’s to blame for bad relations with Russia" David Goldman @

"After Putin meeting, Trump voters mostly stand by their man". Matt Flegenheimer @

Thor's own websites:

1. articles at ;

2. legacy site: .


Trump says Americans (and everyone else) are stupid.  Is he right? (c) Thor May 2018 return to Ddiscussion