Scott Adams once hypothesized that even if all of the smartest people in a country agreed on the best political candidate to be in power following an election, their views would be drowned out by all the people picking a candidate on the basis of who has the best hair, demonstrating a fundamental problem with democratic systems. Fortunately, that situation doesn’t occur, because all the smart people generally are as confused as the rest of us.
However, I read an article this morning headlined “Looked like he racked up the smart-guy vote”, pointing out that 76 American Nobel Laureates in Science have just endorsed Obama’s campaign to become predident of the USA. However, if you read the letter itself, they are clearly just voting in their own perceived self-interest:
we support the measures he plans to take – through new initiatives in education and training, expanded research funding, an unbiased process for obtaining scientific advice, and an appropriate balance of basic and applied research
In other words, we think he’ll give us more money and listen to our opinions more. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but they are expecting their views to be given more weight because they are Nobel prize winners and therefore smart cookies. Would we react the same way if 98 electricians had come out in favour of McCain because he has promised to force everyone to rewire their houses? (he hasn’t by the way, as far as I know!, it’s just an example).
Unfortunately, even if you could persuade them not to just act in their own self-interest, I don’t know what information they would use to make a rational decision anyway. From the media coverage I have seen of the US election, all I have learnt is that Barack Obama pals around with terrorists, John McCain hates planeteria, Sarah Palin doesn’t know much about anything, but is a hockey mom so that’s ok and Joe Biden likes guns. Oh, and there’s some guy called Joe who doesn’t have a plumbing licence.
If you can make a rational decision about who is going to be best to lead your country from that then you’re a better man than me. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) living in the UK I don’t have to.