What is The Greater Fool and why is one so desperately needed now?
The term “The Greater Fool” has been going through my mind as of late. In fact, it’s been on my mind a lot with the presidential election rapidly approaching. No, the term does not refer to any of the political candidates. There is actually a theory behind this term. It is the belief that you can invest in something and be able to sell it later for a profit. This would apply mainly to the stock market, taking a gamble on stock in the belief that you will be able to sell it later at a higher price.
I don’t play the stock market and making a profit isn’t the reason I’ve been thinking about this. If you watched the season finale of HBO’s “The Newsroom”, you might have an inkling as to why. Toward the end of that episode, Olivia Munn’s character says “the greater fool is someone with the perfect blend of self-delusion and ego to think he can succeed where others have failed. This whole country was made by greater fools.”
That particular quote has nothing to do with the stock market or capitalism. It is taking the theory and applying it to one’s own aspirations. It also happens to be true.
There have been many greater fools throughout our history who have made this country what it is. Our founding fathers took a gamble. There was no guarantee what they were framing would work, as Europe had no government quite like it, or that it would still exist 236 years later. However, they believed it could. They invested in this idea of democracy, they worked for it, fought for it, shed blood for it and they succeeded when most of Europe thought them to be fools.
Many people, businessmen among them, thought Steve Jobs and Bill Gates to be fools, geeks who entertained this silly notion that the average person would be able to use a computer and would actually pay the price to have one in their home. Today, Apple and Microsoft are part of our everyday existence.
A greater fool believes in what they can achieve. They invest their time, their money and their hard work into it. Some may stumble. Some may fail. Some will succeed. Without greater fools, Albert Einstein, Madam Curie, Henry Ford, the Wright Brothers, Alexander Graham Bell and so many more, I cannot imagine what our country – our world – would be like today.
What this country needs now, more than ever, are more greater fools.
If you’ve watched “The Newsroom” then you know the philosophy of the fictional news show is to report the facts, to run stories relevant to people’s lives, to educate the public. As the executive producer on the show pointed out, the only way to have fair elections is to have an educated electorate. Therefore, they were only going to report on facts, not spin, and call those people out who would lie to the American people.
Wouldn’t that be great if it were a real-life news show? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to turn on the news and know that they’ve already fact-checked themselves, to know they are not feeding you any left or right leaning spin but giving you the truth? Let’s call it like it is, here. Conservatives flock to Fox News as the liberals flock to MSNBC because they know they will be told what they want to hear, regardless of whether or not it’s an absolute truth. CNN is the closest to being a bi-partisan network, though not always, but it lags behind Fox and MSNBC in ratings. Why is this?
It’s a known fact that politicians will stretch the truth, make promises they don’t know how they’ll keep or simply out-right lie. Why do we continue to accept this and shouldn’t it be the news media’s responsibility to call them out on these things? Why doesn’t Sean Hannity ask Michelle Bachman exactly how God told her to run for president? Or ask Mitt Romney why his campaign continues to lie about the Medicare cut or the Welfare Reform act? Or ask Mitch McConnell why the 112th Congress became the "do-nothing" Congress? Why doesn’t Rachel Maddow call out President Obama on using projected numbers instead of the current numbers? Or ask Harry Reid where his assertion that Mitt Romney used illegal practices during his tenure at Bain came from?
The truth is you won’t. Fox and MSNBC have CEOs and sponsors they need to answer to. It is the nature of the beast. Ratings drives profits. They have ratings they must pay attention to and if spinning the truth is the price to keep the ratings up, then so be it. If reporting on stories that are merely distractions, have no impact on our lives, but make for great entertainment, keeps the ratings up and profits rolling in, then so be it. Is the closest thing we have to a greater fool CNN’s Anderson Cooper? Possibly, but not really, since he also has CEOs and sponsors he needs to answer to.
Do we, the American people, even care about facts anymore? Is it that we only wants facts that fit into our own reality bubble and reject facts that are outside the bubble, hence, sending us to the news source that will make us feel better because they reject those facts, too, or simply don’t report them? Have we lost the ability to see that there are always two sides to any issue? Have we lost the ability to concede that maybe our ideas are not always the best ones? Have we become so divided that we cannot conceive of the idea of compromise with someone who does not share the same ideas we do?
Have we become so programmed that it’s become acceptable to shout profanities at political candidates, to call them names and erect items on lawns that border on terrorism because the news programs being watched have so demonized the other side?
What of the political candidates themselves? Have we become so de-sensitized that we take it for granted they will lie to us in every speech? Why do we accept this?
There wasn’t a fact-checker out there who did not denounce Paul Ryan’s RNC speech as mostly lies and falsehoods, yet he’s still out there on the campaign trail repeating many of them and no one seems to care, except those who actually want to hear facts and not lies. He’s playing to what his base wants to hear, regardless of whether or not what he’s saying is true.
Fact-checkers also called out several of President Obama’s comments during his DNC speech as stretches and he, also, is out there repeating them. In President Obama’s case, they aren’t out-right lies as much as they are stretching and spinning of statistics and using positive numbers that have yet to be confirmed. But the fact remains it is not giving the American people a completely accurate picture.
Mitt Romney has changed his position on the issues so often that he is unrecognizable as the man who ran for governor of Massachusetts. Mr. Romney is also credited with telling some pretty tall tales that fact-checkers have a field day with. I won’t even mention his Big Bird debacle. All one needs to do is put together a video montage of what he said while running for governor vs. what he said during the Republican primaries vs. what he says on the campaign trail vs. what he said during the first presidential debate. It’s enough to make your head spin.
And yet, we accept it. We accept the knowledge that we will be lied to, we accept the knowledge that Congressman can be bought, we accept the knowledge that our government is broken, that it is not what our founding fathers intended. We accept that House Republicans obstructed as many of President Obama’s plans as they possibly could without coming up with a solution of their own.
Who will stand up and say “ENOUGH!”?
Which Republican will stand up to the Tea Party and explain that the United States is not a Christian nation, that we have freedom of religion which includes ALL religions and that the Constitution of the United States is very clear on this issue? No, the Constitution does not contain the word “separate” but its wording is extremely clear that no law shall be created whose basis is in religion.
Which Democrat will stand up and explain to the unions that while their philosophy and general principles are well-founded and most definitely needed, some of them have gone to the extreme and need to be reeled in so that an American-made product can be bought at a lower price than one made in China?
Which Republican will tell the American people that President Obama is actually not a Muslim/Socialist/Fascist/Sharia-law-loving person?
Which Democrat will explain to the American people that not every Republican is a war-mongering, gun-toting, self-centered rich white man who only loves his money? Or a woman who wears a tin foil hat and apparently talks to God?
Which Congressman will break party lines, denounce lobbyists and work toward making this country great again, instead of only playing that role in stump speeches and interviews?
Who will stand up, regardless of party affiliation, and tell us the absolute truth about why our economy crashed, when it crashed, exactly who is helping to restore it, exactly why it is a slower process than originally anticipated and what we can do, as U.S. citizens, to help?
Who will actually take a look at the shrinking middle-class instead of only giving lip service to it? Who will identify real and constructive ways to help the middle class and then act upon them?
Who will explain that we will never decrease the deficit, balance the budget and thrive as a country again if we continually cut taxes? Everyone wants to keep the money they’ve earned, I understand that. However, freedom isn’t free and you cannot expect to thrive as country, to lower the deficit and cut taxes at the same time. It’s not possible. Who is willing to look the American people in the eye and explain that?
Who is willing to give us the facts, the straight-up truth, without any party spin and regardless of how many feathers are ruffled?
Where is our greater fool when we need one the most?