You Can't Ban Stupidity, No Matter How Hard You Try

from the politicians-looking-in-mirrors dept

We’ve pointed out several times some of the problems with laws that ban talking on the phone while driving. The biggest issue is that they classify distractions into fairly arbitrary “safe” and “unsafe” distinctions, and do little to attack the root problem of bad or distracted driving. Now comes word that New Jersey lawmakers are looking to ban people from talking on their cell phones while riding a bicycle (via Textually). It’s hard to know where to start on this one, but perhaps the biggest point of this is its pointlessness. If somebody thinks it’s a good idea to talk on a phone while they ride a bike, particularly in traffic, you’ve got to imagine that the folly of such activity, or something similarly stupid, should become pretty apparent to them at some point. As we, and plenty of commenters on the site have said, you can’t legislate away stupidity, and to try is pretty stupid in itself. Again, the problem isn’t cell phone use, it’s stupid people who can’t figure out when is and when isn’t a good time to talk on the phone. Making the activity illegal won’t alleviate the problems their stupidity will cause; the only possible effect is that it prompts them to find another unsafe, yet perfectly legal, distraction to pursue while biking or driving.

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Comments on “You Can't Ban Stupidity, No Matter How Hard You Try”

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Sean says:

Re: Re:

Honestly, you know, the “Go Darwin!” or “Darwinism at work” stuff has gotten so damn old it has lost what little essences of humor it once held.

Look, we get it, you know Darwin. You get it. Survival of the fittest. We get it, you are ‘well educated’ and eclectic and all that great stuff and you can reference science. Grats.

Please, just stop with the Darwin jokes everyone on the internet, it has been old for a long time.

misanthropic humanist says:

Gets it.

Aha! (/sound of penny dropping)

I finally see where you’re getting with this argument.

When the discussion was cellphones in the car I sided strongly for the law, arguing that it’s bloody stupid. And much fun was had by all debating the against side.

Okay. Yes. These laws *are* inappropriate.

Otherwise there will, and must, be laws against having an electric fire in the bathtub, and laws against smoking in a dynamite factory.

We need to realise then that education was a catch-all attempt to outlaw stupidity. That means abandoning a social system that encourages appeal to authority, divine or human, and committing once again to the idea that people should “think”.

It’s costly. You need to invest in schools and teachers. You need to provide good diet so that brains might develop. You need books or internet access for everyone, including the poor. You also need to be aware that people may choose to use their education to develop dangerous ideas that challenge the status quo.

Hmmm. Maybe that’s why many see the elimination of congenital idiocy as a blacklisting problem rather than approaching it from the other side.

Find Problem Roots Connoisseur says:

Re: Gets it.

misanthropic humanist… It’s obvious, firstly, that you are a democrat (Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that, but the fact that I know this about you from a few simple statements you made should make you aware of how you fit into the stereotype so well… Do you dare wonder?). Anyway hippie…

You think we should dump more money into school systems and teaching people how to not be stupid… It’s quite obvious the school system didn’t do much for you. We are still considered the richest country today (correct me if I’m wrong), in terms of per person wealth. We have more opportunity, as an average citizen in America, than in any other country in the world.

You can’t make people un-stupid. I don’t want to go into conversation that requires empirical proof, so I’ll use something more powerful…

When I was in school, we had classes of about 30 kids. Of these 30 kids, only a couple ever truly wanted to learn. Most kids copy, cheat, short-cut, etc. their way through school. These kids have the option to grow in knowledge or at least grow in learning, and they CHOOSE not to. There is literally nothing a teacher can do to get through to a majority of the kids, as a majority of the kids, REFUSE to learn. Was it this way for you? The class clown interrupting all the time, the stupid sheeple majority laughing and condoning the behavior, etc. etc.

When I got into middle school, I literally had to SLOW DOWN my learning so that others could catch up. These others who mostly could care less about education (You don’t believe me? Why is it so cool to be stupid these days? Why does pop music talk about… “Getting retarded!” or trying to be “stupid, wicked, sick!” Does it seem backwards from how it should be?). I really had to relearn the math I already knew and the language skills I already possessed.

In closing, let me say this stereotypical hippie… What ever happens in our country is a direct result of the people in it… Think about that… Some people complain about certain TV shows, or products that shouldn’t be out there… Like Jerry Springer or other offensive shows. People like you hippie will say we need to ban Jerry Springer and then go about it the wrong way… “Crying and complaining” In the olden days when you didn’t like a business you boycotted the product, the business didn’t make money, and they shut down. With TV… If people don’t want Jerry Springer on the air, then the people shouldn’t watch it! It would go away if no one is interested in it. The point is that the things we know to be wrong exist purely because people want those things! The problem is not Jerry Springer! It’s the people supporting Jerry Springer! The problem with illegal drugs is not the illegal drugs! It’s the people who want illegal drugs! A bullet is not to blame for a murder! It’s the person who commits the crime (Except nowadays murder is excusable as responsibility is easily passed from the individual and placed on some disease, insanity, etc. which he “cannot be expected to control!”).

The problem with people’s stupidity is the fact that people WANT to be stupid! We’ve had public libraries with an extraordinary amount of knowledge for centuries! Now we have internet in the libraries! In Oregon within the next month or so (I think that time-frame is correct), ALL public libraries will be shut down! Why? People aren’t interested in libraries as much they are strip clubs, Jerry Springer, alcohol, etc. etc. etc.

It’s time for smart people to pass the responsibility of stupidity onto the stupid people! Why would you give a rock to someone who asks for bread? Why would you give an education to someone who WANTS stupidity, since stupidity in 99% of cases is purely choice. I believe that at least 1 in 100 people truly have the potential to work, learn, survive, etc. without any help. How many “special” kids did you have in your school? Hopefully not 1 in 5! Therefore 99% choose their stupidity. 99% of people choose the line of choices that lead them to where they are and there is no one to blame but the individual!


All hippies should try to listen instead of talk…

Rick says:

It’s not much different than the attempts to legislate morality. It does not make people more moral, it just makes them felons.

I guess this is the next step….

The War on Drugs – stupid and inneffective.
The War on Inmorality – divisive and alienates people.
The War on Terrorism – creates more fear.
The War on Stupidity – duh?!

Well, MAYBE it can eventually lead to aboloishing all the other stupid laws – someday.

Scott says:


A very strong syllogism could be made to argue that because ‘stupid is as stupid does’ (to use a movie phrase) then whole sections of criminal code should be thrown out because they are essentially there to try and stop stupid people from doing stupid things that harm others.

Drunk Driving… Isn’t it obvious that this is bad? If everyone had my 152 I.Q. and sense of civic responsibility would this even ever happen?

Gun Control… Common damn sense says that the only time you should ever point a gun at another person is if they are trying to kill you first. Again, the laws are there for the stupid people who tend toward criminal behaviour, not for people like me who own guns for hunting or just competition shooting.

I could go on, but i am sure the liberals reading this are at a froth that i extended logic to cover one of their main emotional kneejerk subjects.

Sean says:

Re: Hmmm...

This response is based on the assumption, thin as it is, that your statement is a fair approximation of your mind and not intended as jest. If I am in err please diregard.

I think you’ve overreached a bit in your diatribe. Your contention that laws are for “stupid people who tend toward criminal behavior” reminds me of a recent conversation with a grandmother.

Her grandson, aged 3, had recently been taken to the ER for the second time in three months for injuries sustained jumping off the arm of a couch. Since this was the second injury in such a short period of time, Child Protective Services were called in to investigate. She was indignant that they should think her family was capable of abusing a child. “They had no right” I recall her saying.

As I asked of her I will ask of you, “where is the list of law-abiding citizens kept?”

We submit to a government so that we all might be free and equal under the law. The government has an obligation to legislate those activities to which it is opposed so as not to be accused of implicitly endorsing behavior that might otherwise be obviated by common sense.

Before delighting in the contortions we liberals must be in due to the weight of your words, consider the strength of your argument, and judge it against basic common sense.

Old Guy says:

Re: Hmmm...

I agree with what you say (on the whole)
You have forgotten one very major point though..,
In a world where stupidity is regularly a cause for litigation (quite often successful litigation); Common sense is anything
but common!

BTW for those Darwin fans, unfortunately “survival of the fittest” doesn’t help at all; it refers to the success rate of reproduction over generations. Unfortunately all this means is that generations of stupid people just need to be able pee in the gene pool…

Canuck says:

Re. Hmmm and others

I have to say I agree with most of what was mentioned in #4.
I think we do need these laws, though. These laws are there for stupid people but their also designed to protect “the rest” from the stupid people.

There was a case down south quite a few years ago of a young man being shot for asking directions at a strangers door. Classic example – is it ok to shoot someone for knockin gon your door (…in case you’re uncertain the answer is no).
However so long as people are dumb enough to think it might just be ok we need laws to remind them from time to time.

As for the liberal comment – I do consider myself rather liberal (in some ways) and I love the *ideal* of having the freedom to own guns, but so long as I know there are people dumb enough to use a cell phone while biking I’ll feel a whole lot safer in a country (Canada) where most peopel aren’t packing heat (I know I’m stereotyping but I had too :-Þ ).

Josh says:

fail to see the point

You all fail to see the point, it’s not about regulating stupid people, it’s completly about the fact that it is illeagal to “die” in this country. It’s a simple concept… our economy works basically on a credit system that encourages people to build credit, use credit, and then pay INTEREST….now, if someone lives this “standard” credit life, by the time they are 35ish they have probably accumulated at least 20k of debt, if not more. Now, if they suddenly die prematurly due to cell phone in car/bike, no seatbelt, no motorcycle helmet, suicied, (all of these things are illeagal or will be soon) etc…etc.. then this person can’t repay the debt, and the economy system fails. So there you have it, plain and simple…IT”S ILLEAGAL TO DIE BECAUSE DEAD PEOPLE DON”T PAY DEBT AND TAXES!

li'l bit says:

What can you expect?

In this country, we elect to office people who have to pass laws so they know what is unethical – apparently, politicans don’t understand that they cannot accept large sums of cash/trips/gifts in exchange for legislative favor unless there is an actual law pointing it out.
Having elected these not very bright people, it should not surprise anyone if they use the power we give them to a) fight numerous “Wars” against us and b)attempt to favor their peers – other stupid people – with laws to protect them. It’s a vicious circle of stupidity the rest of us can only hope to avoid as much as possible.
(It always saddens me when commenters on web sites degrade into name calling. We’ve self-selected ourselves into the “smarter” crowd – ha! – and should recognize that and give each other, and ourselves, the respect due a diffeering opinion)

tobin says:

the fact of the matter is that there has been alot of laws made in this country to tell people what to do wheather those actions are seen as “stupid” actions is for yourself to decide but this country was founded by a group of so called terrorists and wannted men that fled other countries and they had a dream of a free country were the people chose what they did how they did it and where they did it they belived in the bill of rights and the constition and belived that it was better for the people to govern themselves and that the goverment was a means of protection from other countries the goverment was made as a tour guide they tell you the good atractions make basic laws such as stealing and killen and so on and so forth but its the fact that they belived that people had the right to do what they wannted wheather the goverment thought it stupid or not and the goverment makeing these laws goes against everything this country stands for

someone else says:

Is it really to protect the bike-riders?

We are a litigating society, and I would like to think that a law like this could help curtail stupid people who do stupid things from making money off of it. I can just imagine some oblivious, talkative bike rider weaving in and out of traffic, getting hit by some car, and suing the driver of the vehicle for hitting him/her.

I would hope no cop would just sit around, waiting for some guy on a phone to come riding by. I get that its a pretty stupid law, but sometimes we as a society dumb ourselves down just to even the playing field (when it comes to lawsuits in particular).

Geeb says:

Quite an assumption

“the only possible effect is that it prompts them to find another unsafe, yet perfectly legal, distraction to pursue while biking or driving.”

Yeah, because their motivation was that they were looking for an unsafe, yet perfectly legal, distraction and decided that using their phone would be the best one. It can’t have just been that they received a call while cycling. Hmmmm….

Enrico Suarve says:

Perhaps the law isn't for the individual?

Most of the posts etc seem to be against the law so I am duly prepared to be flamed – here goes…

Perhaps the law isn’t to protect the individual on the bike doing a stupid thing and injuring themselves – perhaps it was written to protect others from their stupidity?

I used to ride a bike to work a lot – riding one handed definitely makes you more unstable (yes I can ride no handed too but I wouldn’t want to be doing this through traffic)

Picture this – I am yakking one handed, something unexpected happens to my right, I instinctively pull to the left into traffic (too far as it turns out since my right hand isn’t there to oppose the action). The car overtaking me swerves to miss me but hits another car travelling in the opposite direction, a lorry travelling behind shunts this second car through a shop window etc etc etc….

OK maybe a little over the top but not completely unrealistic – the point being that maybe the legislation is for the good of the population as a whole? Stupid doesn’t always injure itself

Whilst I agree that you cannot legislate against every single possible act of stupidity you can at least try to legislate against the more likely ones. Just because a you can’t fix absolutely everything in one go doesn’t mean you should stop trying to fix some of it

rahrens (profile) says:


The Darwin comments are no joke.

We tend to make a joke of the Darwin Awards, but it is a sad truth that some people ARE stupid enough so as to remove themselves from the gene pool before contaminating it with their flawed genes. That web site is often joked about, and is looked at a somewhat humorous, but I submit that it is really a sad commentary on the sheer stupidity of some people. Some folks just don’t think before acting.

Sometimes they act on impulse, sometimes out of sheer habit.

Unfortunately, the idea of a law to stop them isn’t intended to protect the stupid. (There’s no point!) It is intended to protect the rest of us from the consequences of that stupid person’s unthinking actions, or at least to hold the guilty to account.

In the example above, the bike rider may skate out of that accident without a scratch, but the lorry driver may end up in jail or at least with a traffic citation, and somebody in that shop could die. (or perhaps someone on the sidewalk in front of it.) But chances are the bike rider just calmly continues on his/her way possibly without a clue as to the mayhem just caused due to his/her carelessness.

These laws are intended to hold them accountable, mainly. Stupidity being what it is, the laws often won’t actually STOP that illegal behavior, but at least we can hold the stupid accountable for their thoughtless actions.

Remember, ignorance can be fixed. Stupidity is forever!

Tin Ear says:

My two cents

As far as I’m concerned, I believe that the laws that are in place now are not for the protection of stupid people. Usually, the laws are specifically worded against a hazardous activity. The act of talking on a cell phone while driving isn’t in itself hazardous. It’s the dialing/texting (while not looking out the windshield watching traffic) that is hazardous. If actually talking while driving were hazardous, it would be a hazard to have another person in the car.

Ok, I don’t have a cell phone, but I can carry on a conversation (while smoking a cigarette) when I drive. My driving record speaks for itself, in that I haven’t gotten a moving violation in over 20 years.

If I did own a cell phone, while I was driving I would have it on a hands-free set and set to auto answer. Calling out would be a different matter. I would wait for a place to pull off the road if I had to dial a call. But that’s just me.

And people, before you try and post an intelligent sounding argument, SPELLCHECK!

PreserveStupity says:

It's Not Really Banning Stupity, More Like Preserv

If you all actually stop and think about this for a moment, they are actually out to “Preserve” stupidity. Natural Selection has a way of “Naturally” weeding out stupity, while the legislature attempts to preserve it by making this activity illegal.

If they make it “Illegal” then the offenders will be pulled over and ticketed, their lives will be spared so that they can go and commit some other stupid act that may actually harm another human being.

I say let them commit this act. If I hit a bicyclist using a cell phone while riding their bike, I damage my, take them out of the Gene Pool, and render the world a safer place!

What Say Ye?

Lewis Salem says:

Lawmakers in need of something to do.

I agree with Carlo. See, this is the problem with lawmakers. You get somebody in NJ that wants to “make his/her mark” by “helping” society. Here is how the process goes:

1. New law is proposed.

2. People make comments about how stupid people are by citing a few examples of some questionable behavior.

3. Newspaper articles encourage such legislature by shining light on law proposed and therefore the person who has proposed the law gets the wanted attention. (example: Should fat models be banned?)

4. Law passes for the betterment of “society.”

5. Return to step 1.

When does it end?

Adam says:

If only the stupid hurt themselves we would not need any laws, the problem will eventually take of itself. However, the stupid people more often than not hurt others in the process. That cyclist talking on the phone is likely to hit another cyclist or a pedestrian, if he/she only hit a garbage truck I’d be joyful. People, including myself, are just not able to talk on the phone while doing other demanding tasks. But I, at least, have some survival instincts left that won’t let me talk on the phone while driving or riding a bike. The problem is not just the epidemic of stupidity in the world, but accompanying lack of survival instincts, common sense and RESPECT. Everyone demands respect these days but respects no one else: yes, talking on the phone while driving is lack of respect for others, because you don’t care what’s going to happen to them if you hit them. So IMHO only harsh laws and penalties can prevent stupid people from hurting others: if the fear of penalty is stronger than their stupidity.


Deverill says:

Darwinism, stupidity, laws?

Ok, we talk about Darwin, survival of the fittest and removal from the gene pool but all of that is based on the presupposition that stupidity is hereditary. I have seen people with high IQ’s be stupid and I’ve seen kids of the most bass-ackwards stupid people be quite bright. It’s not genetic, it’s having a little sense and I submit that comes from being taught properly (mostly by parents).

If we all were to look at the laws in our respective areas we would find that it is already illegal to zip your bike into the other lane of traffic causing the hypothetical crash above – it’s called reckless driving and is illegal. Same thing with dialing a cell phone causing a hazard. Same with handing out happy meals and swerving while doing it.

You see, we try to get into the little details and specify every “cause-of-the-day” but it’s already covered. I think the bigger question is “What has happened to society to bring about people who don’t realize XYZ is a really stupid thing?” Bad parenting? Bad schools? Lack of public safety notices on the tele? Self-centered hedonistic society? What is the cause and what can we do to fix it?

bob dabolina says:

dolla dolla bills y'all

Laws against physically stupid acts are financially based. It costs money to patch people up after they ride their bike into a truck. If you are reckless enough to do something like that, you probably don’t have the insurance to cover it. The government (read WE) has to pay for it if “Joe talks on a bike” cannot so why not turn something that cost money into something that can earn money by handing out tickets for it. I came to this conclusion when I was trying to figure out seat belt laws. It can’t be because lawmakers care about me getting hurt they just know it cost less to fix someone who wears a seat belt than someone who doesn’t.

Anonymous Coward says:

Cycling Laws

A bit off topic but anyway.

When I was a teenager I used to cyle to school and the quickest route to was to go through a large park in London called Hampstead Heath. The path I cycled along was approximately 10 metres wide.

Every now and then I would be stopped, along with all the other cyclists, by a police check point. If we were lucky we were told to dismount, if not a £50.00 fine was issued and told to dismount.

Now fair enough, I wasn’t technically following the cycle route (which is a tiny little footpath used by pedestrians too about 2 metres wide) but the thing that got me was the fact that once I’d been chased down by the cops in their landrover. Over the years I’ve seen this several times, very funny when they nearly mowed down two Italian tourists cycling along at about 2 miles per hour.

I pointed out to them that driving down the same path I was cycling down was almost certainly more dangerous, I got the obvious response of don’t be cocky or we’ll arrest you.

They didn’t really mind the ice cream van, tractors, utility vehicles or industrial size lawn mower using the path either. But if you dare cyle, be ready for a fine……

shoblock says:

But it's already a law!

The NJ Driving Manual from DMV (or whatever they are now) has always stated that bicyclists must obey all the traffic regulations that motorists have. This includes (in fact, it’s on the very next page of the manual) not using cell phones while driving. So, it’s already stated that cyclists cannot use cell phones while riding their bikes. Why would we need another law? Let’s just enforce the ones we already have. Including the law that says that cyclists must travel on the same side of the road, in the same direction, as cars.

crazy Hick says:

i think yal should calm down and head on down south and linch some niggers because im tired of them damn monkeys blairin thier damn rap music and runin around like they own the world this is america not africa go take your aids some were els YEEHAW! WHITE POWER and another thing what is up with them sand niggers these pieces of shit think they can ruien our country we ota take some of them pipe bombs they been makein and shouve it up thier ass you can take your gas stations and set them on fire you dumb ass towle heads. we should take all the niggers, sand niggers, jews, fags , Gunks god i hate them koreans clercks, chinks, japs, and any other type of forien pieces of shits and put them on a island and nuke them mother fuckers and dont let me forget about george bush he can go to so i raise my confederate flag in pride because the south will rise again

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