Intelligence doesn’t mean one jot

Comrade Mélenchon is a happy bunny

Neither does talent. Neither does courage. Neither does loyalty. Neither does self-sacrifice. Neither does any other fine quality.

All such ostensibly good things only mean something positive if they are applied to a good cause. If someone puts such qualities to an evil end, I’d much rather he were stupid, giftless, cowardly and disloyal.

This seems like an elementary thought, but it escapes many people. That’s why, for example, pundits whose IQ leaves the average level in the rear-view mirror often describe suicide bombers as ‘cowardly’.

Now, the English language boasts hundreds of thousands of adjectives, and hundreds of them can be appropriate to describe a suicide bomber. But if there’s one adjective that can under no circumstances be applied to such a fanatic, it’s ‘cowardly’.

A man who sacrifices his life for a cause he holds dear is certainly not a coward. By any sensible standards, he is a hero. But his heroism serves an evil cause, which makes him evil. Now that adjective fits him like a latex glove.

The core of a man’s personality is his character, which can be anything between noble and rotten. And when it’s manifestly rotten, the natural human tendency is to deny such a man any qualities that are good in the abstract.

Thus, I’ve heard it said, for example, that Stalin was stupid and ignorant. He was neither. He was a highly intelligent man and better-read than most people I’ve ever met. Yet, when assessing him, many commentators activate a simple yet erroneous syllogism: intelligence is good – Stalin was bad – therefore, Stalin was stupid.

Because you and I aren’t evil, we find it hard to comprehend the deeds committed by evil people. On our plane of reference, everything they do is irrational and hence dumb. We don’t realise that they exist on a different plane, where our standards are null and void, and where everything they do makes perfect sense.

A topical illustration hot off the press:

Yesterday it was announced that Jean-Luc Mélenchon, whose hard-Left coalition won the French elections, is planning to introduce a wealth tax of 90 per cent on all income above €400,000 a year. Thus a man earning €1.4 million annually will clear only about €300,000, if he’s lucky.

Commentators are up in arms, and not just dyed-in-the-wool conservatives and libertarians. This isn’t a tax, they shout, it’s confiscation. True. So?

So it doesn’t makes sense, they reply. Wealthy people, especially businessmen, aren’t going to grin and bear it. They’ll up their sticks and leave for sunnier economic climes, taking their businesses – along with the jobs and tax revenue they produce – with them. Again, true. But so what?

What do you mean so what? The net effect of that measure will be negative, that’s so what.

Irate commentators whip out their trusted calculators and do some serious number-crunching. I can follow neither their fingers nor their calculations, but I’m more than happy to accept their conclusion: introducing that tax will lose money for the public purse.

The only people to benefit will be tax lawyers and accountants. They’ll devote thousands of billable hours to finding more loopholes than one can see in the walls of all the medieval castles in France combined, and there are hundreds of them.

Couldn’t agree more. However, my recurrent question still stands. So what? All such arguments make perfect sense only on the plane where decent, rational people operate.

Such people may have never heard of the Laffer Curve, but they’ll find the logic behind it easy to grasp. There are two tax rates that will produce no tax revenue whatsoever: 0 per cent and 100 per cent. The former rate means not taxing the income people earn; the latter, people deciding not to earn any income if it’s going to be confiscated anyway.

There has to be an optimum tax rate that will give people an incentive to work hard and produce more income both for themselves and the public treasury. Most economists believe that figure to be somewhere between 15 and 20 per cent, but whatever it is, it’s nowhere near 90 per cent.

You understand it, I understand it, my neighbour’s spaniel understands it. Does this mean Mélenchon doesn’t? Is he dumber than that annoying dog who keeps barking at odd hours?

Not at all. He’s smarter than the spaniel and, for all I know, he may even be smarter than you and me. It’s just that he inhabits a plane so different from ours that anything he does seems senseless to us. Yet it all makes perfect sense from where he’s sitting.

Mélenchon is hard-Left. As such, he is driven by an all-consuming hatred of the rich, Jews, conservatives, Americans, even the soft-Left – all the traditional bogeymen of his ilk. He, or his fellow socialists like Starmer, will talk your ear off speaking about their affection for ‘working men’. But in fact, they don’t give two flying francs about working men, especially those who are successful at what they do.

If anything, socialists much prefer the unemployed, those who depend on the state’s largesse to survive. People who are good at their jobs run the risk of becoming wealthy and hence Mélenchon’s enemies.

He’ll suffocate them with taxes and possibly run them out of the country not because he thinks the state will be better off as a result. He knows as well as you and me that won’t be the case, but he doesn’t care one way or the other. His aim isn’t to extract more tax revenue for the state. It’s to punish those who are or may become independent of the state.

Evil men like him aren’t driven by the rational calculations of an accountant. They are driven by febrile hatred and insatiable thirst for power. These are their prime motives, and confiscatory tax rates serve both.

The tragic tendency one observes in today’s world is that evil, as personified by Mélenchon et al., is on the march. The masses have been sufficiently dumbed-down to shrug with indifference or even to go along with enthusiasm.

But the evil-doers themselves aren’t necessarily dumb. They are just evil, which makes all else irrelevant.

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