Thursday, January 16, 2014

Smart is Not Enough

I have been thinking about the limits of smartness:

1. Some people  are often successful at scheming, successful at gaming the system, and may be more concerned with winning than with being balanced. Being smart would seem to help them be successful. (Dumb people are much the same, just that smart people are more successful at doing this.) Would you buy a used car from a smart person? Or, a dumb person? What you want are people who have high integrity and reliability, and who are capable. What you want is perseverance and deep insight. What you want is commitment to the work and to others.

     In the law, often devices are developed to achieve a particular result, or a position is held that would seem to provide the outcomes the actor would wish. But if the devices or positions don't do what the advocate wants, they modify the devices to get the right outcome. 

Many social scientists value transactions and rules over substance, for often the social science focuses on mechanisms and rules than on specific outcomes.

1a. Historically, "smart" was contrasted with cultured or gentlemanly, so to speak.  Smart people were "Jews," while those with souls and depth were "Aryan."

2. Another issue: Why, given our standards and issues, are professors, who may publish and teach well, perhaps not so deep. One answer is that depth and the like are not what we value in the community of scholars who build on each others' work.  

3. Imagine designing a system of corporate governance and corporate/contract law that would encourage people to do the right thing. Make the banks safe for the world, so to speak.

4. Imagine designing a legal regime so that poverty, as we conceive of it, is much less likely. Imagine designing a legal regime where rent-seeking behavior were less likely and discouraged. Imagine designing a faculty evaluation system that rewarded depth.

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