Mega Billions Doesn’t Equal Mega Smart

The Very Stable Genius at work.

Trump, it turns out, wasn’t playing multi-level chess.

Many times during Trump’s presidency, he would do something stupid. Okay, I think “many times” undersells it. The guy was likely the stupidest man to sit at the desk in the Oval Office. He made Ronald Reagan look like John F. Kennedy as far as brains.

When he would say or do something stupid, supporters would bellow “HAHA LIB GUESS WHAT? HE’S GETTIN’ ONE OVER ON YOU AND YOU’RE TOO STUPID TO SEE IT!!!” That is to be expected, after all, because they are Trump supporters and that’s their brand. However, way too many in the DC punditry would stroke their chin and ponder whether Trump was shrewdly playing everyone, including his supporters. I think this was in part because some people just could not wrap their heads around the idea that America would elect such a dipshit to the presidency. But some of it was simply because if he was that rich, he had to be smart, right?

There has been a lot of evidence appearing lately that really raises questions about this assumption. Some of the reason why people become wealthy is likely plain old privilege and luck.

People born into wealth, like Trump and Elon Musk, have natural advantages. This includes lots of capital, high-level contacts, and other resources that the average person does not have.

And luck does indeed play a role. A study by an Italian university that used a computer model to create a simulation of a society. The digital people in the simulated society with the most talent did not end up being the most successful. And often the most successful had some form of luck involved in their success.

Sometimes, these billionaires hit it big on one thing, and that makes them believe they are super geniuses that can be successful at anything. Other times, bullshit is a vital aspect of their success and sometimes that doesn’t hold up. Donald Trump built his gilded empire out of it, but he may be going to jail. Elizabeth Holmes bullshitted a lot of people into thinking she was the female Steve Jobs who invented a breakthrough blood testing method. She’s headed to the slammer. Soon-to-be jailbird Sam Bankman-Fried, who has seen all his crypto wealth get fried, snookered a lot of otherwise smart people into a scam called effective altruism. See?

They would not be able to be effective bullshitters if people didn’t assume they were smart based on money alone. Although in SBF’s case, points for doing the “he isn’t in a suit and dressed like a college student so he’s edgy and brilliant” thing that Silicon Valley types love to do.

Perhaps the best example of a bullshit artist who takes full advantage of rich = smart is Crazed Rich Guy Elon Musk. The guy has ghosted entire states and cities. He promised to build a sub to rescue a group of kids trapped in a cave, and slandered the guy who correctly called him out for doing a PR stunt as a “pedo guy.” He claimed he would land a ship on Mars in 2024. We are all still waiting for his ventilators he promised during the early days of COVID. Speaking of COVID, no one should ever take anything he says about infectious diseases seriously.

Sure, he has had some wins (although are we really thinking that Tesla is the gold standard for electric cars anymore?). But he also has enough of a track record of bullshit that one would hope the Very Serious and Reasoned Minds of the Discourse take everything he says with a grain of salt.

But they won’t. Lucy from Peanuts must have been a rich girl, because Charlie Brown sure fell for the football trick a lot.

The last word goes to Daryl Hall and John Oates.