Dumb Question: Is Harry Potter Really Less Important Than Global Warming? - Bloomberg: This week’s dumb question was put to J. Bradford DeLong, who is professor of economics at the University of California at Berkeley, a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, a blogger, and a former Clinton administration Treasury official.
The Grid: Can I ask you a dumb question? Last week you wrote a blog post that asks why people seem to care more about “imaginary friends” like Harry Potter than about real stories from the past or even projections of the future -- whether it holds global wealth or global warming. Do you mind explaining a bit more why imaginary friends like Harry Potter are less important than imaginary issues like global warming?
Brad DeLong: Hundreds of millions of people are greatly concerned with Harry Potter--he’s one of the most important things in life. What happens to him is what they most desperately want to know.
Why are they paying attention to the imaginary Harry Potter, instead of the man behind the curtain -- global warming? There are two billion peasants living in the great river valleys of Asia. Global warming either means more or less snow on the Tibetan plateau, which melts either faster or slower, which means either drought or flood or both. And none of these two billion people have enough resources to leave their land and move to the cities, because the land is what they’ve got.
Surely what happens to all two billion of them is a more important story than what happens to one single person, who doesn't even exist. Isn't it?
It’s not just the “eight million stories in the naked city.” It’s two billion. Why, if we can organize ourselves to have Harry Potter festivals, can’t we organize ourselves to deal with global warming?
The right answer is that we are jumped-up East African plains apes who have barely managed to evolve an inferior and inadequate kind of intelligence.
This is yet more evidence of how inferior and inadequate our intelligence is.