Gallows poll

The problem, declares the Z Man, is that we’re just not hanging enough people:

There’s pretty good evidence to suggest the prolific use of capital punishment raised western intelligence and provided the spark for what we think of us as the birth of modernity. By reducing the population of stupid people, the smart fraction increased. This led to a larger smart leisure class, who could then work on technological advances to overcome scarcity and the problems of human organization. More smart people made it possible for more smart people, so a cascading effect gave us modernity.

We know we are getting dumber now, and that may be due to the elimination of capital punishment, or possibly the fact we have eliminated the lethal consequences of stupidity, so the stupid are proliferating. Just as social media makes it possible for the proliferation of grifters, it’s possible that the end of capital punishment has allowed for the proliferation of sociopaths. In another age, these people either would have been killed in their youth or killed soon after reaching adulthood. Their reproduction would have been limited.

In short, what we may be experiencing is the result of western society evolving down a cul-de-sac, like the Panda. The proliferation of smart people resulted in a new social morality that permitted the flowering of a class of sociopaths and also a growing stock of stupid people on whom they can feed. It’s as if the Enlightenment unleashed a pathogen that made the left-handed into status-seeking sociopaths and the right-handed into high-trust altruistic suckers. In time, the former has come to dominate the latter in the West.

I’m not sure we need a whole new cadre of fresh hangmen, but it seems likely that the reduced penalties for stupidity have allowed it to flourish. At the Dawn of Man, if you messed up, you almost certainly wound up dead. Nowadays, we have a plethora of fixers to rescue the foolish from their folly. Maybe if we just hanged them.


  1. McGehee »

    28 March 2019 · 3:16 pm

    Unsanitary phones might be enough to make the difference.

  2. John Salmon »

    28 March 2019 · 5:39 pm

    No doubt that smart people have created the sort of prosperous world that allows more dumb people to survive. By the same token many of the sociopaths the Z Man should be concerned about ARE smart people running governments and big corporations. Chesterton said, perhaps in jest, that it’s a shame more politicians aren’t hanged. In any case, dumb people are more likely to have bad habits like smoking and tend to die sooner anyway.

  3. McGehee »

    28 March 2019 · 6:08 pm

    I guess the question is, who votes for the sociopaths? It sure would be nice to think that having fewer idiots voting would cut into the over-representation of sociopaths in the halls of government.

    I wonder how we might find that out?   ;-)

  4. CGHill »

    28 March 2019 · 7:30 pm

    In this day and age, “having fewer idiots” = “voter suppression.”

  5. hollyh »

    29 March 2019 · 8:15 am

    “good evidence to suggest the prolific use of capital punishment raised western intelligence ….”

    As randomly-unfair and chaotic as institutionalized killing has been, I’m going to say there is NOT good evidence that it has improved anyone’s intelligence. The idea that it has surgically removed only the stupidest people from the population is wildly naive.

    However, there is a new demographic that may be worth examining. There’s a new book out called “Dying of Whiteness”, by Jonathan Metzl. It seems that the male-white working class demographic has suddenly experienced a huge drop in life expectancy, starting in 2015. Excerpt from his interview with Chris Hayes:
    “So, back in 2015, two Princeton professors, Anne Case and Angus Deaton, wrote a study of midlife mortality for white people, particularly white people without a college degree, and they found it was going way up. In fact, it had been better than African-Americans, and was now 30 percent worse in some cases. Again, what was driving this, what they call deaths of despair, alcohol-induced death, suicide, and particularly opioid overdoses. Something is happening in America, and particularly among white America, that is driving the effect we are seeing of lower life expectancy. And it is a genuine social mystery.”

  6. The Other McCain »

    29 March 2019 · 11:13 am

    In The Mailbox: 03.28.19

    […] Dustbury: Gallows Poll […]

  7. CGHill »

    29 March 2019 · 5:23 pm

    Perhaps survival instinct is being conflated with smartness,

    As one of those about-to-die white guys (albeit only half Anglo), I’m thinking that a substantial percentage of us are familiar with despair, which tends to impair one’s survival instinct.

  8. Joseph Hertzlinger »

    30 March 2019 · 10:07 pm

    About that Flynn effect…

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