The remainder of Suroweiki's book goes on to examine this hypothesis in greater detail. He includes other examples and scientific proofs that seem to convince us that it's true.
If we are smarter as a group than any individual, why isn't our country working? We're a democracy, aren't we? Well, no, actually, we aren't. We're a representative republic. We just happen to elect our representative's democratically, and we don't seem to be doing a very good job of it.
I better digress a moment. You may not agree with my assertions that the country isn't working and that we don't elect good representatives. Okay, let's examine that. We have accumulated debt well beyond our ability to repay. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office concurs. They postulate that the United States won't even have an economy within approximately twenty years and Congress has not even attempted to address this issue. They have failed in their most basic duty, to pass a budget, for the past several years.
Governmental units are filing bankruptcy. Stockton, California, a city of 300,000 is the most recent to fail. Other cities and states have obligations, especially pensions for public employees, that they have no discernible means of paying. The nation's most vibrant economy, the State of California, is a hopeless mess.
So, the people that you and I elected to represent us, have led us down this path. Furthermore, we reelect them almost without exception to lead us over the edge of fiscal disaster that they have brought us to. Why do we do that to ourselves?
Are term limits the answer? Seriously, I don't believe so. To me, term limits appear as a collective admission in which we throw up our hands and say, “We can't help ourselves. We just can't stop voting for the same cretins who have done this to us.” And, what if a good person gets into office? Term limits would force us to throw out the baby with the bathwater.
How about public financing campaigns? Sure. There's something else we can't afford. But, why not. After all, who can resist a glitzy ad? Who can resist the siren call of a celebrity campaigning for a candidate? Regardless of who finances the campaigns, who is going to protect us from our own inability to look past the appeal of the verbal virtuosos who run for office and the intellectuals who they call on for advice?
So, does all of this belie Suroweiki's hypothesis that there's wisdom in the crowd? I don't think so. Rather, it appears that we have been deluded by the seeming wisdom of intellectuals and surrendered our sovereignty to them.
If you look back at another book I recommended in an earlier posting in this blog, Intellectuals and Society by Thomas Sowell, you'll learn how this has happened. We were misled into believing that the intellectuals have more and better information on which to base their decisions. As Professor Sowell puts it: “...intellectuals are so preoccupied with the notion that their own special knowledge exceeds the average special knowledge of millions of other people that they overlook the often far more consequential fact that their mundane knowledge is not even one-tenth of the total mundane knowledge of those millions.”
Yes, intellectuals are uncommon “...that is, [they are] saying things that are different from what everyone else is saying.” However, as Sowell explains, “Beyond some point, being uncommon can mean indulging in pointless eccentricities or clever attempts to mock or shock. Politically, it can mean seeking dramatic ideological 'solutions' instead of prudent trade-offs.”
It's time to get over them. Intellectuals have given us the world's greatest failures: Nazism, Fascism, and Communism, all attempts to insure equality of outcome. Intellectuals in America and other Western nations were among Hitler's and Mussolini's greatest supporters. Stalin, Mao, and Castro, too. Interestingly, some of history's greatest murderers.
On the other hand, we have seen Americanism work. Liberty to rise or fall on our own merits has produced the wealthiest nation in history. Only under capitalism has a middle class come into existence and thrived. Well, at least it did until the intellectuals began "improving" it.
But what about poverty? No one has spoken more forcefully than the community of intellectuals against poverty. Sowell observes, “Yet virtually none of the intellectuals who have been preoccupied with poverty for years has shown any real interest in the actual reduction of poverty through market mechanisms in China, India, or anywhere else. It did not happen in either the way they predicted or the way they preferred – so it was disregarded, as if it had not happened at all.”
Sowell pounds on the message above all others. Intellectuals avoid facts that do not agree with or support their world view. Furthermore, intellectuals in the journalistic community hide these facts from the rest of us, helping to explain why we remain fascinated with intellectuals and the politicians who espouse their ideas.
We must have faith in ourselves and our collective wisdom to make our own decisions. Millions of free men and women making millions of decisions every moment, decisions based on their own self-interest will correct the economy. We need to choose representatives to all elective offices who will return that power to us. We are collectively smarter than any individual.