Brain Trust

Allow me to propose a smart idea for our future: the Stupid Committee.

In the middle decades of the 20th century, every community had a draft board, composed of local citizens whose responsibility was to interview young men and discern their fitness for military service. As you can imagine, it was not a wildly popular practice. And when young men stopped cooperating by shooting themselves in the foot, the practice ended.

Because so many governmental regulations are imposed upon us by people we don’t know living far away, I like the idea of home rule, of local folks serving on a board or committee to accomplish some noble end. Such a body would only be formed to respond to a national crisis, and would disband when the crisis had been resolved. We are, for a variety of reasons, facing just such a crisis now, which is why I’m suggesting a committee be formed in each locale to help us conquer what appears to be an epidemic of stupidity. We could call it the Stupid Committee.

The Stupid Committee would be composed of five wise citizens, persons known and respected for their intelligence and common sense. Those five would be vested with the authority to prohibit ignorance whenever they encountered it within their jurisdiction. There would be special Stupid Committees appointed to oversee the state and national legislatures, given the high rates of idiocy present in such places.

The Stupid Committees would also have full access to those places and events most likely to attract dumb people—tattoo parlors, wet T-shirt contests, demolition derbies, Rush Limbaugh speeches, and the Westboro Baptist Church.

Let’s consider a few scenarios to see how the Stupid Committee might function: A young woman, clearly inebriated, is present in a bar when a wet T-shirt contest begins. Her boyfriend, tattooed and bald, encourages her to join the contest, which she does. He pulls his iPhone from his pocket to record what he believes will be her proudest moment. Just as she ascends the stairs to the stage, a member of the Stupid Committee appears, ends the contest, and then urges every person present to seriously consider celibacy or sterilization.

A billionaire running for public office says to an audience of common folk, “I know what it’s like to worry about money. There were several years the missus and I weren’t sure we’d be able to send Missy to Choate.” A member of the Stupid Committee arrives on the scene and prohibits anyone from voting who believes giving the billionaire another tax cut will lower the deficit and create jobs.

A young lady, fresh from high school, enters a private college to major in English. A member of the Stupid Committee appears, points out the high number of English majors working at Walmart and McDonald’s, and then signs her up to major in healthcare, computers, or business administration. While the Stupid Committee member is at the college, he or she prohibits useless majors like Dutch Studies, Tuba, and Applied Sport Science. Let’s be honest: The Dutch haven’t done anything interesting since they founded Manhattan in 1614. Every tuba in the world could be flattened (we should be so lucky), and the music world wouldn’t miss a beat. As for Applied Sport Science, its acronym speaks for itself.

The Stupid Committee would ban any TV program having to do with police officers, forensic science, Justin Bieber, or Fox News.

I have a friend who has been married four times. He’s a great friend but a rotten husband. About every five years, he convinces a woman she is his one true love and asks her to marry him. The poor woman, knowing his troubled marital history, believes him anyway and agrees to marry him. A member of the Stupid Committee could intervene and set her straight. In fact, it would probably be a good idea to station a member of the Stupid Committee at every courthouse in the nation. When any couple showed up to get a marriage license, the Stupid Committee member could assess their marital fitness. The applicants could then be assigned to one of three categories: those not allowed to get married or reproduce, those permitted to marry but not allowed to have children, and those permitted to both marry and reproduce.

A Stupid Committee would also be based at every TV station, preventing stupid shows from ever seeing the light of day. The committee would ban any program having to do with police officers, forensic science, Justin Bieber, or Fox News. It would also ban all reality shows—except for Pawn Stars. I happen to like Chumlee. Since we don’t have cable, I have to watch the History channel program at my parents’ house, but my dad likes Chumlee too, so that’s not a problem.

I could have used a Stupid Committee five years ago when I bought a bicycle I didn’t need. I’m a sucker for gadgetry, and this particular bicycle shifted gears on its own. It cost almost $400, and I haven’t ridden it more than 30 miles. That’s $13.33 a mile, more expensive than flying first-class. Every spring when we clean our garage, my wife says, “Are you going to ride that bike this summer? If not, let’s give it to someone who will.”

“I’m going to ride it every morning for exercise,” I tell her.

Now the tires are dry-rotted and need replacing. I would like to be able to tell you that is the extent of my stupidity, but I have a weightlifting machine in the basement I spent $700 on and have only used once, a $200 tent I’ve never used, and a $120 pair of wool hiking pants I’ve not worn once and never will, unless I get the rickets, lose a lot of weight, and can fit into a 32-inch waist. Where was the Stupid Committee when I needed one?

Five years ago, I read a newspaper advertisement for a house paint guaranteed to last a lifetime. Like an idiot, I believed it, and I shelled out $5,000 to have my house painted. Now the paint has cracked, chipped, and faded, and the company that sold it has skipped town. Had the Stupid Committee been present, they would have reminded me that paint never lasts as long as the manufacturers claim.

As you can see from my recommendations, the Stupid Committee would be kept very busy. They wouldn’t mind, since telling people not to be stupid is fun. In fact, we wouldn’t even have to pay people to serve on the Stupid Committee. Their recompense would be the satisfaction one derives from pointing out the mistakes of others, something most folks find enjoyable and would happily do for free. I would serve on the Stupid Committee free of charge, were I called upon to hold that lofty position. Who better to serve on a Stupid Committee than someone who has done so many stupid things?

The U.S. government spends a lot of money each year paying people to come up with good ideas, but I feel so strongly about the Stupid Committee that I am willing to let the country use my idea for free. I don’t like braggarts, and I’m trying to be appropriately modest, but the Stupid Committee might be the best idea anyone has ever had. The fact that it would stop some people from marrying and having children would save us billions of dollars alone. If a grateful nation wanted to pay me 1 percent of the money a Stupid Com-mittee would save it, I would accept the payment just to be polite.


Photo by Tony Valainis

This article appeared in the January 2013 issue.