Atanu Dey On India's Development

Advantages of Being a Village Idiot

My favorite village idiot joke goes – please stop me if you have heard this one – this way. Once upon a time, in a particular village, when offered a choice between a dime and a nickel, the village idiot would invariably grin and pick up the nickel and everyone would have a hearty laugh at the stupidity of the village idiot.

One day, a kind-hearted guy says to the village idiot, “You know, although a nickel is larger than a dime, it is only worth half a dime. You should pick up the dime.” The idiot says, “I know that. But if I pick up the dime, people would stop offering me the choice between taking a nickel or a dime, wouldn’t they? Who would be that stupid?”

What brought this joke to mind, you may ask. Well, yesterday I carelessly picked up the Sunday Times (the Sunday edition of the Slimes Times of India) and read a column that made me wonder if some village is missing its idiot. Surely, I said to myself, there is no such job description as the “Resident Idiot Columnist” for newspapers, unlike the well-known traditional job of “Village Idiot.” All was not right with the world when some village is missing its required idiot on the one hand, and on the other hand, there is a regular idiot’s column in a newspaper. It is not natural, I mused as I sipped my morning cup of coffee.

Is there is a point to all this, you ask. Yes, I was coming to that. And the point isn’t that one should not read the Sunday Slimes Times, nor that newspapers should not have resident idiot columnists. The matter I wish to discuss is rather serious: what exactly are the advantages of being a village idiot? The advantage is simple: you get offered a choice and you make a nickel out of the deal. So there: if you are a village idiot, you make a nickel, and which avenue for earning is not available to a person with average intelligence. That is the advantage of being an idiot.

Ah, I see that you are not very persuaded about this devilishly clever scheme of making a living. So I guess you will not be too persuaded about the sneakily brilliant tactic of being dirt poor so that you can make dirt poor wages as a result of globalization, as our favorite columnist recommends in his brilliantly argued piece called “The Advantages of Poverty”.

It is tiresome to have to point out idiocy and I don’t want this blog to be “Responding to Idiotonomics All the Time.” The last time I pointed out at great length the idiocy of claiming that the demographic dividend justifies uncontrolled breeding (see Demographic Cognitive Dissonance). I thought it was a one-time deal and it was fun poking fun at the guy who wrote it. But I should not make it a habit of skewering the guy regularly on this blog – unless of course there are other reasons for demonstrating what exactly is wrong with his argument. Of course there has to be something wrong first.

That is the point. One can argue against a guy who is wrong. But what if the guy is not even wrong. At one end of the scale is “right” and at the other end is “wrong.” But what if the guy is so off the scale that he is not even wrong? Even getting him on to the scale is going to be an uphill task, leave along dragging him to the “right” end of the scale.

Sometimes one just has to give up and be content to let villages with missing idiots be.

  • Vivek S

    My comments written about this person in the comments section of “Demographic Cognitive dissonance” is proving to be true. He just wants to be in the limelight. See.. he has made you write two columns about him :-)

    Next time, I am sure he will write 2+2=5.

  • Navin

    Wow…”Advantages of Poverty”..

    Sounds fantastic, so we as a country seem to have a wonderful reason to be in wriggling in poverty. :-)

  • http://frenchbluefishtb.canalblog.com/ Frenchbluefish

    Nicely told little story :)

  • Sri

    *Sigh* I know this guy from his previous works.

    Did you have to give a higher PageRank to his pages? :)

  • Rishi

    Heh! :)

    You could use a link-condom(rel=”nofollow”), you know.

  • Jayant N

    Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar
    I have always wondered the 2nd “S” stands for…

  • Vijay SRD
  • http://positiveposition.com/blog Ike

    I love how the author focused only on the income range in Latin America as being the prevailing variable — completely ignoring the effects of socialist governments there.

    Most multinationals like to open divisions in places where they don’t have to worry about Shining Path.