One of my cousin’s favorite expressions when discussing stupidity is, “Let’s remember, by definition, half the world is of below average intelligence”. While it makes me laugh every time he says it, it actually isn’t true. Intelligence as a formalized measurement assumes that the vast majority of people are somewhere around the 100 mark, with rapid drop-offs on either side of the curve. Nevertheless, it’s a cute statement that from time to time appears quite believable, depending on how many stupid people you come into contact with.

When it comes to governments, however, one would like to assume that the individuals who guide our policies at the local, national, and world levels are at least of average intelligence and hopefully, well above average in most cases. In fact, when governments do things that appear counterintuitive or even downright insane, we may tend to think that “They must be privy to some fact that we are unaware of, perhaps for national security reasons”. This rationalization explains things like the tendency to forgive leaders for the grossest violations of truth, e.g. the invasion of Iraq on the basis of Weapons of Mass Destruction, the over-the-top airport security measures that have agents frisking two year-olds and their pacifiers, etc.

Then there are events like the Cypriot bailout condition that the government raid the savings accounts of all its citizens, prior to the disbursements of any rescue funds. Surely, in the annals of bureaucratic mismanagement and stupidity, this must set a new benchmark for failure of judgement and foresight. I live in Canada, the current poster child for excellence in banking systems…and it even gives ME pause to reflect on the long-term safety of my savings. ME!!!

The very broaching of such a possibility, the slightest hint that it is even in the faintest of unthinkable eventualities and under the most dire circumstances, is sufficient to shake the entire notion of banking to its very core. I would be very surprised if people around the globe aren’t today looking at banks with a slightly different eye. Will there be a run on banks in every country that is in financial trouble? Probably not. But I would predict that quietly, slowly, and methodically  people will begin shifting money into less exposed financial vehicles, especially in troubled economies, but even in more stable ones like Canada’s.

One is stressed to find adjectives that can qualify the stupidity in this case. Even words like “Monumental” and “Insane” fail to capture it. It sets a new low standard for decisions that fail to understand how people think about and react to threats.

I thought the George Carlin skit was appropriate to the conversation.