Do dumb people hold dumb ideas? I’d say not necessarily. There are a host of issues where my views are probably closer to the view of the typical dumb person than to the views of a sophisticated reader of the New Yorker magazine. And even where I disagree with the views of dumb people, it’s quite possible that they are correct and I am wrong.

So dumb ideas =/= the ideas held by dumb people.

Nonetheless, there is one area where I believe that dumb people do tend to hold dumb ideas. I believe that are too quick to equate bad things with things that should be banned, and good things with things that should be mandatory.

Obviously, there are lots of bad things that should be banned. Robbing a bank should be banned. My view as to the appropriate punishment of bank robbers is probably closer to that of the typical dumb person that to the view of the typical New Yorker reader. (At least five years in prison, not one year because criminals are “oppressed by society.”)

I can think of all sorts of things that are bad or at least seem bad to many people:

Flag burning. Pornography. Drugs. Prostitution. Really high interest rates on credit cards. Paying workers very low wages. Very high rents on low quality apartments. Imported goods that result in American workers losing their job. A $5 fee to use an ATM.

My hunch is that dumb people are more likely to support banning those things, because they seem bad. This is not because I think that dumb people are left wing or right wing; the “ban bad things” view is held by people on both sides of the political spectrum. So is making certain “good things” mandatory, whether it be the Pledge of Allegiance or school mask wearing.

Tyler Cowen linked to a recent article that made the following claim:

Meanwhile, people with high measured cognitive ability are also more likely to support economic conservatism (and cultural liberalism).

Note that that people with economically conservative and culturally liberal views would tend to oppose the bans discussed above. The same cannot be said about right wingers or left wingers.

I suspect that dumb people are too quick to favor banning things that are seen as bad. That is, they are less likely to understand that these are two very different questions:

1.  Is X a bad thing?

2.  Should X be allowed?

They are less likely to be aware of the unintended consequences of government bans and mandates. Those consequences don’t always make bans and mandates a bad idea, but if you tend to overlook those consequences when forming your views, then your political opinions will be biased in a very specific direction—too much statism.