The wisdom of the American public?

Politicians are fond of saying that they place their trust in the “wisdom of the American people.” It reminds me of Garrison Keillor’s famous quote about Lake Wobegon, where “all the children are above average.”

Recently, however, I am more inclined to think about the quote that refers to the implications of IQ testing: “Half of all Americans have below average intelligence.”

I was especially reminded of this today after reading an article that cited a survey reporting that, despite even the clear assertions to the contrary by George Bush in the last weeks, 43% of Americans still believe that “former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”

On another subject dear to my heart, evolution, the Pew Forum reported that, according to a 2005 survey, 42% of Americans believe that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form only.” In other words, over two-fifths of the public believes that evolution is basically a scam that scientists have made up.

It’s findings like these that make me glad we live in a republic rather than an actual democracy. At least with a republic, there is a chance that the electorate will vote someone competent into office as their representative. If every law was decided by a popular vote of the entire nation, I shudder to think of the results.

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