We need an IQ test for politicians


While politicians talk about expanding background checks for gun owners, I’m starting to think that what we really need are IQ tests for political officeholders. The only problem is, that might leave us with a lot of vacancies in Congress and America’s statehouses.

The debacle over New York’s rushed-through gun bill is one example of what happens when enthusiasm meets stupid. But another is to be found in Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), who supports a ban on full-capacity magazines without understanding what a magazine actually is.  

Last week, DeGette justified her position this way: “I will tell you these are ammunition, they’re bullets, so the people who have those now they’re going to shoot them, so if you ban them in the future, the number of these high capacity magazines is going to decrease dramatically over time because the bullets will have been shot and there won’t be any more available.”

Um, ah . . . no. Completely wrong, in fact.

To make things simple enough that even a member of Congress can understand, it’s like this: Magazines aren’t “bullets.” They’re, basically, metal boxes with springs. You fill them up with bullets, and put them in a gun. When the gun fires the bullet on top, the spring pushes a new one up so that it can load into the chamber. When you fire all the bullets, you pop out the box-with-spring and replace it with another.

And, when you have a few minutes, you can put new bullets in the box and it’s ready to go again.

DeGette’s remark was akin to that staple of hippie parodies, the old fogey worried about people “shooting up marijuana” — an obvious mistake that made clear the fogeys didn’t have a clue about the realities of what they feared.

It’s an embarrassing admission of ignorance and incompetence.

But ignorance and incompetence are on regular display among our political class. Its members are good at what they do — but what they do, really, is raise money and win elections. There’s no particular correlation between those skills and any other kind of competence. In fact, given their record of passing increasingly dumb laws, if there’s any correlation at all, it’s a negative one.

Gun law isn’t the only example of regulation-by-dimness, but it’s certainly a prime arena. The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, for example, focused entirely on cosmetic characteristics. At an Association of American Law Schools meeting that year, I watched law professor Joseph Olson turn a plain-vanilla Ruger Mini 14 into a dreaded “Assault Weapon” by adding a pistol grip, folding stock, bayonet lug (“not much bayonet-lug crime,” he joked) and so on.

All the actual gun-parts were the same; the law in question focused instead on flashy accessories — like regulating cars based on mag wheels and spoilers, instead of the horsepower in the engine.

Do politicians really think that such transparently silly rules make us safer? It’s hard to say. The brighter ones no doubt realize that the whole thing is a sham, useful mostly for rallying the troops, garnering TV time and distracting voters from things like lingering unemployment and the ever-mounting debt.

On the other hand, how many of the “brighter ones” are there, really? The evidence doesn’t look good.

On the up side, voters may be catching on. The evidence for that is that, despite 24-7 media hype and nonstop political posturing, the public’s not showing much enthusiasm for flashy new gun-control efforts. (Even here in New York, Gov. Cuomo’s poll standing dropped sharply after his gun bill passed).

Politicians getting smarter on their own is probably too much to hope for. But maybe if voters wise up, a smarter crop of politicians will follow.

Glenn Harlan Reyolds is a law professor at the University of Tennessee.


7 thoughts on “We need an IQ test for politicians

  1. The smartest people in the room got us where we are today. Hint none of them elected .
    If it flys, f#@ks or votes rent it )

  2. We may need a firearms-competency test for commentators, too. For a glaring instance, the writer of this article opines that “Magazines aren’t ‘bullets.’ They’re, basically, metal boxes with springs. You fill them up with bullets, and put them in a gun. When the gun fires the bullet on top, the spring pushes a new one up so that it can load into the chamber. When you fire all the bullets, you pop out the box-with-spring and replace it with another.” This, of course, is woefully incorrect. Magazines are not filled with “bullets”, but with cartridges, each of which is composed of a case, a primer, powder, and a bullet. A magazine filled with bullets will not function; and a firearm into which such a magazine is inserted will not fire. Perhaps the New York Post needs a certified firearms instructor as an editor of articles such as this one.

  3. What we need is a psychopathy test for anyone running for public office or working in any sort of an authoritarian role such as police officer. They can be dumb as a stump and have common sense and a conscience; but a smart psychopath is the most dangerous mix. An intelligence test bar for politicians without a test for psychopathy just insures an even more evil legislature.

    1. Exactly what I was going to say, DS. At long last, we DO have an accurate test for psychopathy using brain scanning technology. Because they are incapable of true emotion, their brains process emotion-laden words differently than normals, and that difference can be detected in an MRI.

      While I would certainly begin with testing the political class first, eventually testing should be extended to anyone seeking employment in a position of authority over others, and finally the whole population. Psychopathy is a genetic emergency within humanity, and needs to be rooted out. Would anyone here want their daughter to marry one, no matter how much wealth or power they had? I didn’t think so.

      What we as individuals can do in the meantime is to make at least a brief study of the warning signs and characteristics of psychopathy and then steer clear of them — don’t work for them, do business with them, socialize with them, date or marry them, and certainly not vote for them.

  4. N0, no, no…..they may know very little about guns other than that they want to take them from us, but they’re NOT stupid. They’re evil.

    First of all, the NY Post is a sensationalist rag of a “newspaper,” but what they’re doing here is trying to explain away new gun laws as being the result of politicians’ ignorance rather than part of their sinister plans. This allows people to either ignore or mock their “stupidity”, and attribute their loss of freedom to ignorance rather than evil designs. It allows them to have their gun rights removed WITHOUT them getting angry about it.

    NO… they’re NOT stupid. They’re trying to enslave you while appearing to be serving you, and that requires a lot of deceit.

    1. “and that requires a lot of deceit”
      There’s the psychopathy thing again, JR. You are absolutely correct, there may be some ignorance among these people but the real drive for gun control is their evil intent to enslave us. The desire to control, manipulate, and exploit other humans are prominent features of the psychopathic personality. They learn to spot each other in a crowd even as children, and form alliances with each other to make their manipulation and control more effective. Basically, this is what government today is: an alliance of psychopaths over the rest of us.

  5. An IQ test won’t matter, since these people are bribed and bought out by lobbyists and the elite and since the voting is rigged, the IQ test will just be a side-show that can easily be brushed off and put aside or rigged in the long run. It’s useless and a waste of time. Get rid of the lobbyists and the elite. It’s the only way.

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