Stupidity manifests itself especially, to a painful, almost unbearable degree, in politics and anything closely tied to politics—which is to say, anything having to do with government as we now know it. Political discourse itself is enough to make even a person of moderate intelligence run away screaming. So much ignorance is on display, so much viciousness, so much ill-disguised envy and malevolence, such unscrupulous attempts to take what belongs to other people and redirect it to those who have no just right to it. The stupidity [of politics], therefore, is not only an inability to connect real causes and effects, but also moral stupidity, an inability to do what is obviously right and decent, as opposed to predatory and criminal, albeit legal.
Do these two worlds—politics and nonpolitics—attract different kinds of people? Or are people the same everywhere, but politics makes those who enter that world stupid and morally dense, whereas people engaged in science, technology, and the practical arts and crafts must demonstrate that they can get worthwhile results—and bullshit won’t bail them out if they fail, at least not for long?
Well, I’m an economist, so I understand that prevailing incentives and constraints structure people’s actions. If one enters a world in which violence, extortion, and fraud are the chief means of attaining one’s objectives, one learns how to sharpen those swords and use them to maximum effect. That’s the world of politics—dishonest at its very core, a blatant attempt to paint lipstick on the plundering pig, to declare indispensable an enormous mass of what could well be dispensed with because it amounts to nothing more than bullying one’s fellows....
If we must devote ourselves to politics, if doing so is unavoidable, then we have simply conceded that we live in a world of irremediable stupidity and brutality, a world in which scientists, technologists, and practical entrepreneurs, creators, and builders may be permitted to go about their work, but only in fetters and in the knowledge that whatever good thing they bring forth will be put, sooner or later, to an evil end as a result of politics.
On the eve of World War II, the poet W. H. Auden told us that we must love one another or die. We might also recognize—indeed, it is almost the same admonition—that we must find a way to escape from politics, from government as we now know it, or we will die. The systematic organization of hatreds—the very core of politics—cannot yield any other fruit (emphasis added).