5 Unbelievably Stupid Ideas Governments Actually Tried

11/20/201730 Comments

Ask anyone who’s ever worked in the public sector: With a never-ending stream of taxpayer money and no competition in sight, governments are a breeding ground for stupid ideas.

In fact, coming up with a list of all the idiocy that governments have inflicted on the world would be an impossible task, so let’s just narrow it down to five really stupid government ideas.

#5 – Voluntary taxation

We all know that taxation is theft, and that’s why governments invest so much time, effort and taxpayer money researching the best way to get people to actually file their theft every year. (SPOILER: The answer is “peer pressure.”)

But in 2011, a group of Congress critters tried a very different approach: The Reduce America’s Debt Now Act of 2011 would allow employees to ask their employer to deduct a portion of their salary each month to help pay down the national debt. Of course, this would all be carefully presided over by the Treasury, which would be obligated under 31 USC § 3113 to put the money toward paying down the government debt…because the government can clearly be trusted to uphold the letter of the law.

People voluntarily paying more taxes because the government tells them it’ll help pay down the national debt? That’s stupid enough. But here’s the kicker: these voluntary donations to the government trough wouldn’t even be tax deductible. Those poor souls who fell for the scam would in fact be paying taxes on their gift to the Government Sachs workers over at the Treasury.

The best thing that can be said about this remarkably stupid idea is that it hasn’t been implemented…yet. The bill was shunted off into committee where it was never heard from again.

But they actually did try voluntary taxes in Norway this year. In June, the government bought its own propaganda and started allowing all those citizens who just love paying their theft the chance to pay even more!

“The tax scheme was set up to allow those who want to pay more taxes to do so in a simple and straightforward way,” Finance Minister Siv Jensen said at the time. “If anyone thinks the tax level is too low, they now have the chance to pay more.”

The result? The country of 5.3 million people raised a whopping…$1,325.

#4 – Studying the Mating Habits of Japanese Quail on Cocaine

We’ve all heard about wasteful government spending projects, but some of the pork, abuse and sheer stupidity that gets slipped into funding bills and research grants is beyond comprehension.

Since 2010, the National Institutes of Health has been providing an average of $175,000 a year to a researcher at the University of Kentucky to research the mating habits of Japanese quail…while high on cocaine. Thankfully we are assured that this very serious research is all vitally important for understanding risky sexual behavior in general.

How about the $331,000 National Science Foundation grant to study how likely “hangry” spouses were to stab a voodoo doll of their partner with pins? (Money quote from rival researchers: “it might be a big leap to interpret the results with voodoo dolls as indicating risk for actual physical aggression against a spouse.”) But don’t worry, the money went to a good place: a previous Ig Nobel Prize recipient.

Or there’s always the $169,423 that the NIH provided a Virginia Commonwealth University researcher to study “Water pipe tobacco smoking among university students in Jordan.”

After all, where would the world be without government-funded studies of water pipe tobacco smoking among university students?

#3 – Nuking the Moon

No, that isn’t a clever metaphor or witty bit of word play. In 1958 the US Air Force approached researchers at the Armour Research Foundation to look into the feasibility of literally nuking the moon.

The idea, according to the head of the once-top-secret but now-declassified project (“A Study of Lunar Research Flights“), was essentially to say nah-nah-nah-boo-boo to the Sputnik-launching Soviet Union. “It was clear the main aim of the proposed detonation was a PR exercise and a show of one-upmanship. The Air Force wanted a mushroom cloud so large it would be visible on earth.”

Among the people consulted on the project: Carl Sagan. In fact, the entire plan was only brought to light in 1999 when Sagan’s biographers discovered he had (illegally) leaked details of the then-classified program on his application for a prestigious Berkeley graduate fellowship.

Thankfully, the idea was shelved and the Dr. Strangeloves in the Air Force gave up on their dream of seeing a nuclear meteor shower. At least the Soviets weren’t stupid enough to come up with such a crazy idea, am I right?

Oh, wait, they did. Their project was called E-4 and went along the lines of: “How can we prove we went to the moon? I know! Let’s nuke it!” Luckily their plan, too, was shelved, when it was determined that in order for the world’s observatories to witness the explosion they’d have to be informed of it in advance, and no one could figure out how best to do that.

#2 – The Tsar Tank

Ever heard of the Tsar Tank? No? Well, there’s a good reason for that. Although the name “Tsar Tank” (and even it’s nickname “The Bat”) brings to mind a ferocious, armor-plated, nuclear equipped fighting vehicle ready to inflict a world of hurt on all would-be opponents, the actual tank in question was just about the least intimidating thing ever to roll out on a battlefield. Built in WWI and described as a “monstrous backwards-facing tricycle,” this ‘tank’ was essentially a gun carriage on wheels.

Two ridiculously large front wheels create the backwards tricycle effect, and it carried a crew of ten soldiers who operated two gun turrets and some machine gun pods. The Bat was a rather bloated beast: designed to be 40 tons and with a top speed of 17km/h, it actually weighed in at 60 tons and could barely reach 8 km/h. As its name would suggest, the behemoth’s development was personally funded by Tsar Nicholas II who was duly impressed by an early prototype, but it failed to live up to expectations; the first battle-ready tank got permanently stuck as soon as its tiny rear wheel hit broken ground and the whole project was abandoned.

But that was WWI. Of course there must have been wacky, useless, poorly-designed ideas that were being thrown around left and right. That kind of stuff doesn’t happen in modern militaries, does it? Oh boy, does it!

Take the Littoral combat ship, aka the “Warship of the Future.” It was envisioned as an all-in-one naval vehicle that would use interchangeable modules, helicopters, sea drones and missiles to complete missions ranging from ocean surface combat to anti-mine and anti-submarine operations. Five years and $37 billion later, the Navy got…a dud. The modules don’t work, it can’t take so much as a single hit without sinking, and each floating duck clocks in at a striking $440 million.

Still, the Littoral is not even the priciest dud in the annals of US military history. The winner of that prize goes to the Air Force’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The F-35 debacle is so legendary it will be taught as the prime example of military stupidity for generations to come. The program was approved in 2007 and already by 2010 things were going very, very wrong. The project was already two and a half years behind schedule at that point and the price per jet had ballooned 50 percent, smashing through a key containment threshold and forcing a thorough overview of the program. In a classic example of the sunken cost fallacy, the DOD doubled down on their insanity and decided the program was now “too big to kill.” $1.5 trillion and multiple, system-critical failures later, the Air Force is pretending not to regret that decision.

#1 – Animals as Weapons

Maybe you heard the story a few years ago about the military attack dolphins. You know, the elite squadron of dolphin assassins that apparently swam away from their Ukrainian military handlers during training exercises (“to mate with wild dolphins” a former Soviet naval officer speculated to RIA Novosti). You might have also heard those denials from the Ukrainian military that came out later and had your mind put at ease in the knowledge that there were no armed and dangerous cetaceans on their way to a beach near you. But still…

The Soviets actually did train dolphins for military purposes, including naval rescues or underwater mine detection. Apparently, in 2000 a squadron of specially trained killer attack dolphins were sold to Iran. (No word yet on when the US media is going to start hyping the newest existential threat of jihadi dolphins.) Not to be outdone, the US has its own military dolphin program which it runs under its Marine Mammal Program in San Diego. In 2003 it was admitted that the dolphins had been deployed in Iraq and in 2007 it was revealed that the dolphins had been “trained to alert human handlers to potential terrorists.”

But for those who fear that the military couldn’t think up anything more insane than attack dolphins, never fear: the government never met an animal it didn’t think could be weaponized!

Bat bombs? Yup. Back in WWII the American military thought it would be a good idea to drop bats with time-delay bombs strapped to them on Japanese cities. Up to 1000 bats could be dropped in specially made carriers that would descend softly to the earth with parachutes. The bats would escape and roost in Japanese buildings before blowing up, setting the Japanese wood-constructed cities on fire. In the end the Air Force realized it was much easier to just firebomb the cities directly, leading to one of the worst war crimes in human history including the infamous firebombing of Tokyo that killed nearly 100,000 people in one night.

Cat guided missiles? You better believe it. You can’t argue with the project designer’s logic, though. Cats don’t like water, thus they would attempt to guide the missile toward any ships in the area. What could go wrong? Cat lovers shouldn’t worry, though; B.F. Skinner had a much better idea: pigeon guided missiles!

So next time you are tempted to think of the government as a fearsome, all-powerful, all-knowing, coolly-calculating controller of world events, just remember: it’s mostly populated by ridiculous, incompetent, half-sane, bumbling morons. This may not be good news, but it’s at least somewhat more heartening than the idea that they are all evil geniuses. And hey, if we can’t laugh at them what can we do?

This piece first appeared in The Corbett Report Subscriber newsletter in 2015. To keep up to date with the newsletter, and to support The Corbett Report, please subscribe today.

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  1. I criticized one of the last humour shorts so it’s only fair that I praise this one because this is a FUNTASTIC EPISODE! More! MOAR!!!

    I am willing to study quails high on cocaine. Send donations now. The quails will remain safe and sober.

    We know how ridiculous the military spending budgets are, but what is the real value? I’ll sell you a hammer for a million bucks with a contract to only buy my nails. Capitalism is sooo efficient.

    I am willing to study dolphins high on LSD and ketamine. Send donations now. The dolphins will remain safe and sober.

    My quails and dolphins cry “MOAR!”

  2. HomeRemedySupply says:

    Brilliant! I was laughing and grinning up and down, sideways and all about.

    Dang! This ole Corbett guy is FAST on the draw. I swear he moves like a rocket with creativity.

    I want more of this type of series.

  3. manbearpig says:

    That was dynamite! Like IgNobel! hardiharharharharhaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

  4. HomeRemedySupply says:

    James Corbett has a “CROWD SOURCE” thread for members who have ideas about this type of video Truth Bomb marketing.
    https://www.corbettreport.com/when-robots-rule-the-markets/#comment-45584

  5. Colin Brace says:

    Sure, these are all stupid ideas. Could we now have a post on the five stupidest ideas corporations have tried? Just for balance. Thanks

    • mkey says:

      The two are so tightly wound together that I don’t see the reason to draw the distinction.

    • HomeRemedySupply says:

      Colin, Good Idea. Put your idea in the CROWD SOURCE link.

    • herrqlys says:

      What an eery coincidence that you mention corporate stupidity when today I came across something I should have heard about long before this.

      It seems I must live under a rock from time to time, and only learn of some ideas (factual ones, as well as those from innuendo, or patently false) waaaay later.

      The subject in question concerns a synthetic bacterium, named Cynthia or Synthia, that was rapidly pushed into production (i.e. no rigorous testing) to contain the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill by having the capability to break down – eat – oil.

      “Cynthia is the brainchild of the J. Craig Venter Institute — which was engaged in genetic engineering experiments since the beginning of the 21st century — and Synthetic Genomics Inc…created and funded directly by BP. It was believed that Cynthia feeds on oil, but it turns out now that it is equally willing to consume all forms of organic life as well…

      “In 2011, Cynthia was unleashed in the Gulf of Mexico and in its initial stages of life it was absorbing oil slicks at breathtaking speed. In January, 2011 the Register reported that scientists were particularly impressed by the speed with which the bacteria was eating up its ‘meal’.”
      https://inpursuitofhappiness.wordpress.com/2016/09/15/cynthia-flesh-eating-synthetic-bacteria-that-has-gone-wild/

      The link to that Register report is now broken: “Sorry, this page doesn’t exist!.”

      Search results for Cynthia/Synthia are very meagre. It’s been suggested that there’s massive suppression of this subject. Real? Hoax? Has anyone got more information?

  6. joseph says:

    OMG. There are tears in my eyes from the dolphin jihadist picture. Please tell me you did that picture. It was so bad it was PERFECT…!!!

    Seriously. This made me slap my knee more than once.

    What about the 2.3T “undocumented adjustments”? You are right James. You could make hours of these videos…

    Joey

    • calibrator says:

      The audio side of it was perfect, too! Da-da-daaa!
      😉

      • Corbett says:

        I wrote and researched the script but all the glory for the hilarious visuals and music goes to Broc West. He really knocked this one out of the park.

        • calibrator says:

          Doesn’t he always!

          I think practically all people in your forums by now know who is doing the audio-visual magic for your research presentations.

          As a late praise to “WHY…”: All the heavy stuff going on – for nearly two hours also – was made bearable by Mr. West. I watched it in chapters, though, because it was too much to take in at once.

          This video here on the other hand has a perfect “snack size”! 😉

  7. scpat says:

    It is not PEOPLE in government that are bumbling idiots, as you say. It is the SYSTEM of government that breeds waste, fraud, and abuse because of how it is set up, how it is funded, and how it operates. People simply take adavtange of working in the system because it’s there.

  8. mkey says:

    I really like how this video reflects the mind numbing “x most” videos trash TV and trash youtube channels alike are overflown with. The caveat is that those trashy graphics were so trashy that they were actually excellent. Ed Wood would have been proud.

    To be honest, though, I don’t think those big military failures are actual failures. Were they successful and efficient, that would be deemed as a failure by the people who laugh all the way to the bank every time the government refinances their insanity.

  9. herrqlys says:

    As I’ve mentioned before, we always need a bit of levity in dealing with the realities.

    This was refreshing.

    #5 – Voluntary taxation:
    I vote for the clip that features Killary’s laugh.
    She has a great future in comedy.

    • calibrator says:

      With that “smile” she could be in the sequel of “IT”: “ITs Mother”

      But her laugh? Nope – not even usable for the laugh track in sitcoms because you can clearly identify her.

  10. cooleymd3 says:

    Re: #5 Voluntary Taxation: Ontario is doing this…
    Search for: ‘Ontario opportunities fund’

  11. Octium says:

    How about Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways?

    Although strictly speaking, not a fully a government idea as it was both funded by private crowd sourced stupid as well as government stupid.

    The spiel…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlTA3rnpgzU

    The reality…

    Worlds first ‘Solar Roadway’ CATCHES FIRE!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P90Y71ThfQs

  12. VoiceOfArabi says:

    Transcript from Blackadder – Bells

    WiseWoman: Three cunning plans to cure thy ailment.
    Blackadder: – Oh good.
    WiseWoman: – The first is simple. – Kill Bob!
    Blackadder: – Never.
    WiseWoman: Then try the second…. Kill yourself!
    Blackadder: And the third?
    WiseWoman: The third is to ensure that no one else ever knows.
    Blackadder: That sounds more like it… How?
    WiseWoman: Kill everybody in the whole world. (LAUGHS DEMONICALLY)

    Above transcript from my favorite comedy TV ever highlights the problem here…

    In my opinion, Governments are not stupid… They are corrupt. All governments in the whole world are corrupt. It is in the design so to speak.. “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”

    So, the main problem is Government want you to “Do as they Say and Not As they Do”, which can only last so much before people say enough is enough.

    The reasons Homo sapiens dominated this planet is their team work effort. They are a social animal, work in teams, and tend to cooperate with one another. This cooperation stops in the event of corruption, as you can’t have the whole world corrupt (the essence of corruption is… I take what is not rightly mine, i.e. yours)

    So, this takes me back to the transcript. Government have a choice… Either stop corruption (impossible), or stop being a government (again, impossible – no one wants to give up power for no reason) or the third choice of making sure no one else in the world finds out about their corruption… i.e. Kill everyone in the world (LAUGHS DEMONICALLY)

  13. calibrator says:

    Fresh in today:

    Congress created an “Office Of Compliance” to deal with the sexual harassment complaints brought against congress men etc. because, you, know “high powered assets” need to work as best as they can!!1

    There they created a lengthy process to discourage the victims – and if they do actually reach a monetary agreement (to not have to go public in a trial and become victimized a third time) they get paid out with TAXPAYER money!

    Isn’t that great? For the rapists it certainly is!

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-11-21/powerful-democratic-congressman-john-conyers-sexually-harassed-staffers

    More than $17 million in 264 cases in the last 20 years:

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-11-20/now-sexual-harassment-noose-falls-upon-rep-john-conyers

    (Sorry for linking to the racist forum that is Zero Hedge but these were the best reports I could find)

    And of course this was well known in Washington and only now sees the light that the great “swamp draining” is in process – which incidentally mostly only happens to lower level democrats and their donors. Go figure!

    And Twitter is implementing their “free speech only for friends of the system program”, again…

  14. herrqlys says:

    The link in #5 to The Reduce America’s Debt Now Act of 2011 is broken.

    Perhaps someone in government saw your video and, after the face-flush sensations subsided, instructed that garden shears be broken out of the closet.

  15. herrqlys says:

    I read the fine print, above:
    This piece first appeared in The Corbett Report Subscriber newsletter in 2015.

    As that 2015 piece was posted before I came to this site and became a subscriber, I dutifully went and read both the piece and its comments. Some of those comments were very, very good.

  16. HomeRemedySupply says:

    Off-Topic

    DOWSING
    On Corbett’s Twitter, there was a recent post about “British water utilities admit they use divining rods to find leaks”
    “There’s no scientific evidence that the technique works better than chance.”

    Over the years, I have tested dowsing with approximately 100 random people. Only two people failed to be able to affect the dowsing rods, both of which had compromised skin on their hands. One guy had some kind of chemically burned hands which were cracker dry, and the other had extremely withered-skin dry hands.
    Ha! One time I even grabbed about 10 young elementary students, blindfolded them, and had then walk forward towards a bucket of water. When they approached the bucket, the dowsing rods went into action.

    Here is a short video (under 6 minutes) from 10 years ago. The last guy is one of my grandsons. The Texas A&M Commerce Campus is about 2,000 acres with a huge network of underground piping. Many buildings have been also been heated with a water system.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EAtuDyUwik

  17. Mielia says:

    At voluntarily paid taxes I immediately thought of the british royals, which do exactly that. Pay their taxes voluntarily. Apart from the millions of pounds with which every year royal estate is payed for.
    And now Prince Harry spoke at the opening of the Obama Foundation about philanthropy and his approach to it. (I gave myself some of his live first minutes, out of a mish-mash of amusement and masochistic self-torture.)

    Military dolphin research actually had a minor unknown positive side-effect. Discovered we can hear, or maybe better articulated, process audio material via skin/bones and then the ear canal. A real petty kosys still is only available in German as a website. If you can understand German, you might check them out. Fascinating stuff.

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