Well, we all know that stupid people exist. I guess what I really meant to ask is, how many stupid people are there? What percentage of the population? 5%? 10%? 50? 80? My own guess is that there aren't as many as most people think.
I came to this realization a few years ago when I was on the road, and it occurred to me that if a large number of people really were stupid, then there would be a lot more traffic accidents. On the whole, most people drive pretty well.
A lot of people we consider stupid are simply out of their element in the area that we're focused on. Or maybe they just had a bad day, or a bad hour. Who hasn't had that? The guy who holds up traffic while he thinks about which way to go, isn't necessarily a bad welder or a bad lawyer. He may have just had a lapse. Maybe we stumbled on him at the only time he did something dumb like that all year.
It's tempting to think people are stupid because they vote differently than we do. That's silly. Half the time they're just starting from a different premise, which is not so irrational, once you know what it is.
It's hard to judge people. The modern, urban, bureaucratic state is hardly what biology equips us for. A lot of people just aren't suited for this stuff. Their intellect and instincts are sound, but modern life punishes people who operate on instinct. You could go to jail for following instinct. An awful lot of what we're expected to do every day is counter-intuitive. Some people don't mind that. Others feel disoriented and out of sync, like there's no place for them, and in some cases they're right.
It's amazing how many people slip through the cracks. I think of a certain kind of teenager who's rebellious (I don't mean criminally rebellious) and not really ready to settle down to school work. Maybe he doesn't personally know any craftsmen who would teach him a trade. Jobs require skill, but you can't get the skill without a job. Where's he supposed to go? You can call people like that stupid when you see them unemployed and clowning around the mall, but are they?
Every era favors one kind of personality type and penalizes another. Sometimes half the population can be on the outs. It's scary!
I used to think a lot of old people were stupid. Well, actually I still do, but I feel guilty about it. Recently the elderly father of a friend told me how many different pills he takes every day: fourteen! Fourteen, and I'll bet every one of the bottles has a dizziness warning on it. The amount of medication the average old person takes is staggering, and who knows what effect all those pills have on each other? I wonder how alert some of those old people would be if they somehow could safely chuck the pills?
Teenagers also seem stupid to me sometimes, but they're druggies too. In their case it's hormones.
My own view of other people is somewhat benign...at least it is when things are going good, and nobody's cutting me off in traffic. I don't think most people are stupid. I rely on other people. I can't even understand most things without other people. When I choose between ideas, I choose between the common ideas that are in the air in my time. Everybody does. I feel guilty about that, and once in a while I take the time to really think things out, but even then I have to borrow ideas. It's frightening to think how much you rely on other people's ideas. Our brains don't seem to work right unless we connect to other brains. We need other people to function as information gatherers for us. Stay-at-homes aren't just socially impaired...they can't even think.