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Do They Really Know? — The Wisdom of the Crowd

Intro

Bon retour mon ami (French). I hope you’ve been awesome. This time we’ll be talking about ‘the wisdom of the crowd’. This piece will share ideas on whether crowd knowledge and opinions are ever wrong. It will take us slightly into country economics and leadership. This article is greatly influenced by a conversation with some cool friends of mine; Aminu, Muddy and Nabil.

The Build-up

It was about 9:00 pm on December 8, 2021. We sat at Muddy’s parlour, the central meeting point of folks on the block. There was a Champions League football match between Barcelona and Bayern Munich clubs with Bayern taking revenge for Robert Lewandowski’s miss-out on the Balon D’Or award to Lionel Messi. Thomas Muller of Bayern had a week earlier issued a sinister note to Barca which Bayern nicely executed with a 3:0 scoreline.

We got talking. From football to companies, then countries, individuals, economies, and economics. Many basic thoughts were shared that night and I learned a lot.

Can you Think in Nigeria?

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I asked, “is it even possible for the average Nigerian to think in this our environment?”. Muddy said, “I doubt”. Before this time, we had all agreed that a basic ingredient for societal growth is sound thought by a critical mass of the people. Aminu thinks the few Nigerians who may be thinking get frustrated when the crowd thinks differently, sometimes sub-optimally. Again, I asked, “How about leaders who are well-read and knowledgeable on global best practices?”. The guys asked in response, “do they really know?” That someone is schooled does not mean they know. Even if they knew, does the Country Mandate allow for the implementation of sound plans and strategies? Let’s be more specific in the next paragraph.

The Issue with Wealth Re-distribution

Photo credit: Matt Kenyon

Aminu shared a story to analyze how a schooled crowd may think they know.

Professor: Is Communism a good system of government?

Students: Yes, everyone lives a decent quality of life.

Professor: Okay, let’s practicalize it in the coming weeks. I’ll give tests and record the class’s average score for each student.

Students: Alright cool. The class bottom and mid scorers were particularly happy. Which is the case with the poor and the middle class in a communist society.

Test 1: Average score of 60. The top guys pulled the weight. The lower folks were glad. The mid-graders were content.

Test 2: Average score of 30. The top guys were furious, they didn’t even pull the weight that much again since they felt the scheme won’t benefit them that much. The middle folks went agog, “Ahn! I used to net 50, I prefer my effort to this. The low graders who could do 40 were also displeased.

Students: No no no, Prof, we need our old system back.

Professor: You no longer want the communist system again?

The Issues

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This is what happens in communist systems over time. When you think of it, this is also what happens in a society where the nation’s economic strategy is mainly to redistribute national wealth to the poorest citizens. Whatever means used: increased taxes on businesses, subsidies on select commodities, social intervention funds, money sharing schemes, etc., the result is still the same. You can employ the services of the World Bank President to do this, but if wealth redistribution is the government’s direction, the economy will eventually collapse.

Drawing the Curtains

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Wealth creation through the provision of an enabling environment for people to create value for themselves should be the focus of leadership. People create wealth for themselves. The crowd can be wrong, for a very long time at that. Nothing tangible is ever invented through crowd agreement. Nabil made a few comments but he was more into a Fifa video game.

Au revoir mon ami.

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