Today I got a book with the title The Stupidity Paradox by two academics, Mats Alvesson and André Spicer which promises to be an unfortunately entertaining read. Glancing at the preface I read this: “By avoiding careful thinking, people are simply able to get on with their job. Asking too many questions is likely to upset others – and to distract yourself. Not thinking frees you up to fit in and get along. Sometimes it makes sense to be stupid. Perhaps we live in an age where a certain type of stupidity has triumphed.”
It’s a coincidence that this book should have arrived today, since Chris Grayling, our hapless Transport Minister was on the Today programme this morning, following a highly critical report from the Transport Select Committee about this year’s appalling chaos on the railways. It wasn’t shy of criticising the dunce who sits at the apex of responsibility. If I were offered a gift horse from Grayling I wouldn’t bother counting its teeth, I’d start with the legs. I imagine if any commuters listening to him this morning on their headphones heard his bumbling, insincere apologies they will have been tempted to pull the emergency cord – if their train was moving that is.
God knows how this man keeps his job. I can only surmise it is to help make the Prime Minister look good. But it is surely not just his own incompetence that has contributed to the mess. The huge cuts to the Transport Department’s day-to-day expenditure (in 2015 alone, Chancellor George Osborne announced cuts of 37%) must have taken a toll on its ability to function, even when – ironically – it was increasing capital expenditure (e.g. Crossrail, HS2). Whilst most discussion about austerity has reasonably focused on its damaging impact on the disadvantaged and public services, the impact of austerity on the ability of government to govern seems less appreciated.
No wonder Grayling is promoting driverless vehicles. His own department is driverless. For him, stupidity appears to make sense.