4 of the Stupidest Ways World Leaders Made Decisions
Believe it or not, leading a country can be stressful. We have panic attacks just figuring out what to have for lunch sometimes, so we can’t imagine making policy decisions that may or may not cause millions of people to violently overthrow us. We would be tempted to simply write solutions on sticky notes and shoot spit wads at them until we hit something, but again, that’s why no one is letting us govern whole countries. Unfortunately, the people put in charge have occasionally completely offloaded that responsibility and turned the process over to fate and/or bullshit.
Roman Generals Consulted Sacred Chickens
As advanced as it was, life in Ancient Rome could be a bit backwards. Urine was soap, funerals were roasts and no military move could be made without first consulting the sacred chickens. In a practice known as augury, Roman generals in need of guidance instructed a “pullarius” (chicken priest) to offer their birds grains. If the chickens ate, it was believed the proposed action would be successful; if not, they should call it off. It bears mentioning that the chickens were semi-starved before the ritual, which explains why Rome was so war-happy.
Still, this business of prescient poultry was taken deadly seriously, sometimes literally. On one occasion, a commander was convicted of treason for murderously disregarding the sacred chickens. On another, a pullarius was believed to have lied to a general about his chickens’ appetite, mostly because he’d seemed so hyped up about the upcoming battle and the pullarius was kind of afraid to disappoint him. When his deception was uncovered, he was ordered to fight at the front lines himself and killed before the battle even began, though it ended up being successful, so absolutely nothing was proved.
President Erdoğan Tanked Turkey’s Economy With ‘Erdoğanomics’
Listen, we’ve all invented our own schools of economics, but once the gummies wore off, we weren’t allowed to foist it upon an unsuspecting populace. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seems to have given his a little more thought, but that just makes it even worse that it rivals our skateboard-based systems. It’s founded on his belief that interest rates are evil, which has some basis in some interpretations of Muslim teachings, but we have reason to believe it’s not all that religiously motivated. For one thing, he hasn’t, like, outlawed interest. He also legitimately believes that lower interest rates would keep inflation low and attract foreign investors. This is, according to traditional economists, the opposite of true.
And we have several years’ worth of evidence why, starting in 2018, when Turkey’s central bank tried to raise interest rates in response to rising inflation. You know, the normal course of events. Erdoğan responded by firing the bank’s governor and insisting instead on cutting, and cutting, and cutting, until interest rates were one-third of what they had been. As a result, inflation skyrocketed 40 percent, the value of the local currency plummeted and foreign investors vanished in a puff of smoke. In 2023, Erdoğan was finally forced to appoint an actual economist, presumably by a constituency living on credit cards, ironically not known for their favorable interest rates.
Putin’s Advisors Believe in All Kinds of Pseudoscience
There used to be a time when we feared Russia would surpass us in mastery of science, and we responded in the most American possible way: by declaring a race. There was the space race, the nuclear arms race and almost certainly a dance-off thrown in there somewhere. Well, the Russian government is still kind of bitter about all that, because they seem to have rejected science before science could reject them. Putin has appointed several advisors and officials who have completely bonkerballs scientific beliefs.
His chief of staff, Anton Vaino, is the inventor of and adherent to a device he calls a “nooscope” that he believes can predict the future by scanning “transactions between people, things and money.” Another official, Anna Kuznetsova, believes children inherit traits from every one of their mother’s sexual partners. Wanna guess her position? Ombudswoman for Children. Mikhail Kovalchuk, who it cannot be stressed enough is “one of Putin’s top science advisors,” told the senate that he thinks America is breeding a subspecies of humans “who eat little, think small and reproduce only on command.” Yeah. He thinks we’re doing an Us. This might be quaint from a more toothless government, but this administration is killing people, possibly on the advice of a science-fiction machine.
Reagan Was Super into Astrology
Before the hot people in the audience get all bent out of shape, no one’s here to take away your horoscopes. If the movements of the planets help you decide what outfit to wear or juice to drink or whatever hot people do, you’re not hurting anyone, but we sincerely hope that, should you find yourself in such a position, you do not use it to decide whether to go to war.
Certainly, Nancy Reagan (at minimum, a former hot person) had more reason than most to look to the stars for comfort. After the attempted assassination of her husband, she was willing to do just about anything to prevent another incident, so when the hot-person-adjacent Merv Griffin told her he knew an astrologer who had predicted the tragedy, she was all palms.
This became a media frenzy after a former White House chief of staff with a vendetta told all in a tell-all book published in 1988, forcing the Reagans to deny that the astrologer in question, Joan Quigley, had anything to do with any policy decisions, but according to Quigley, she advised Reagan on everything from his schedule to his stance toward Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. (Apparently, their planets really jibed.)
Wait, was this lady secretly just some stealth pro-Soviet activist? If not, can Netflix make that series anyway?