Created By: KeithTyler on February 8, 2012 Last Edited By: KeithTyler on May 15, 2016

Government Of Idiots

Our government is full of morons. Like these.

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The government, or a government, is fully run by stupid, ignorant, or crass invididuals. Often they are very good at giving long-winded speeches (sometimes logical, sometimes banal), but otherwise, don't know their ass from a teakettle.

If they are self-centered and can't ever agree on anything, the government may also be a Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering.

Does not have to be evil or malevolent or even deliberately negligent.

Sometimes it is because they are corrupt. Sometimes it is because The People Are Stupid, and can't elect smart people -- or because there aren't any to elect.

There may be one or two smart people in government. They may take advantage of the situation, they may even actually be Running The Show. Or, they may be sincere, but their efforts are constantly neutered by the idiocy of his superiors or colleagues. They may often Tell You So, but nobody seems to catch on.

Naturally, No Real Life Examples, Please!.

The list of works in which this trope appears is so infinitely numerous, I'm surprised I can't find any trope for it here.

  • Birth of a Nation - Skewers Reconstruction Era politicians, particularly carpetbaggers, and more particularly, black politicians.
  • Doctor Strangelove - Many issues, but especially the general's obsession on "gaps": Nuclear missile gap. Mine shaft gap. And the eponymous Doctor being deemed an expert advisor by them.
    President: You men can't fight in here, this is the War Room!
  • The Great Dictator - Skewers Nazi Germany in this way. Chaplin's pseudo-Hitler is obsessive and comedic.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Trope Namer, though a technically non-governmental version. But it's the namer because the term has become ubiquitous in critiques of government.
  • Mars Attacks!
    President: I'd like to remind the American people that they still have 2 of the 3 branches of government working for them -- and that ain't bad!
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Spin City - Particularly the mayor is a bumbling idiot, trying at worst to mildly abuse his position, and at best being way too naive about public opinion. If it weren't for his staff, he'd be helpless. As for them, his press secretary Paul is also fairly naive and dim to the point of childishness.
  • DC Follies - Politicians (and other celebrities) portrayed by muppets, and parodied. Nuff said.
  • Idiocracy, to a logical extreme. To be fair, pretty much everyone is dumb, and the government is simply dumbness elevated.
  • Blazing Saddles - Lamarr is pretty dumb, but La Petomaine is even dumber.
  • Spaceballs - Mel Brooks really has a dim view of government...
    Scroob:' 1-2-3-4-5? Remind me to change the combination on my luggage.
  • The video for Genesis' "Land of Confusion". Like D.C. Follies, the U.S. government leadership is portrayed by caricatured puppets, particularly Reagan, who bumbles and dodders and believes he is Superman. He nukes Russia by accident when he hits the wrong button to call for a hospice nurse.
    • Since the puppet design and work was done by UK parodist puppeteers Spitting Image, their own show would qualify as well.
  • Pretty much anything involving Ronald Reagan's presidency.
  • Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister
  • Endless bits from Monty Python, but most blatantly, the election results sketch. ("Silly Party", etc.)
    • Such as the Ministry of Silly Walks.
    • Also the People's Front of Judea et al, as well as Pontius Pilate, in Life of Brian.
    Pilate: Centuwion, Why do they... titter so?
    Centurion: ...Stupid Jewish joke, my lord.
  • Star Trek VI when the Federation President is being advised on options to rescue Kirk. Luckily, he's not as dumb as them.
  • Blackadder, especially II and III.
    • In II, Elizabeth I has the mental age of a five year old.
    • In III, George III is insane, and the Prince Regent is an out of touch noble and effete fop.
  • W. - Pretty much everyone in the government is a caricature of their real-life examples. Condi Rice is perhaps the worst, performed with an extra-annoying voice and persona. Colin Powell likewise is made to be wimpy. W for his part, is made to look completely moronic. Even his preacher appears to realize this after W has his epiphany. Karl Rove is downright Aspy, and Cheney, while not clearly stupid, is megalomanaical and catty.
  • That's My Bush - A farce imagining of George W. Bush as a sitcom character.
  • Any Saturday Night Live sketch involving government or politicians.
    George H. W. Bush: Let me sum up. On track, stay the course. Thousand points of light.
    Michael Dukakis: I can't believe I'm losing to this guy!
  • Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, when the boy's irreverent use of the PA system causes the entire Congress to break into adolescent laughter.
  • Hogan's Heroes - Nazis again. Klink is inept at his job, and even his sligthly less inept superiors, like the cocky Burkhalter, knows it. Schultz is a big dumb oaf who knowingly ignores the prisoners' plans in order to keep his job. A group of scrappy PO Ws basically run the entire camp, and routinely go off grounds, completely under the nose of the witless and neurotically self-obsessed camp administration.
  • "Springtime for Hitler", especially as performed, in The Producers. In the Play Within a Play, as ultimately performed, Hitler is blatantly camped up, implying that he's really a fun-loving evil goofball.
  • Heil Honey, I'm Home, somewhat; Hitler is portrayed as an embattled sitcom father.
Community Feedback Replies: 33
  • February 9, 2012
    See also the "President Buffoon" variety of Our Presidents Are Different. Can be related to Sleazy Politician.
  • February 10, 2012
    This trope seems to be about "chronically incompetent politicians" judging by the description, a bit like the Real Life stereotypes of politics. The title "Lunatics" looks much narrower than that.

    This should be No Real Life Examples Please, right?
  • February 10, 2012
    Not to be confused with Running The Asylum because of the title...
  • February 10, 2012
    Kind of odd to see Birth Of A Nation listed unironically, but besides that, the cast of Parks And Recreation are quirky, but not at all incompetent- more usually, it's the public they serve who are stupid. Yes Minister a ndYesPrimeMinister don't really show politicians as incompetent either- cynical yes, incompetent no, and part of the criticism is directed at various interest groups who make it that way. Spin City is like Parks And Recreation a workcom about likable characters who happen to work in a job related to politics- it's not satirizing the main cast.
  • February 10, 2012
  • February 10, 2012
    Brazil is up in the air. Are they stupid or is what they are doing entirely deliberate? We don't get to meet any really relevant public officials.

    Spin City's mayor character is undeniably moronic -- his idiocy causes most of the hilarity that ensues. Paul is not very bright either and yet he is responsible for the city's public relations.

    Why would Birth Of A Nation be listed ironically? While not the main point of the movie, it pulled no punches in its portrayal of Yankee and other Reconstruction government officials. It doesn't have to be accurate or morally right in order to execute a trope.

    I think ignorant or dumb is different though not exclusively from sleazy.

    Finally, yes, of course No Real Life Examples Please. :)
  • February 10, 2012
  • February 11, 2012
    Can No Real Life Examples Please be added to the description?

    Also, Needs A Better Name since many of the examples are about the incompetence rather than actual insanity.
  • February 11, 2012
    Regardless of whether this trope deals with insanity or stupidity, it needs to say No Real Life Examples Please in its description.
  • February 11, 2012
    • Atlas Shrugged: The government officials that aren't shown being malevolently evil are either portrayed as wimps, morons, or wide eyed idealists.

    As for alternate titles, how about Government of Idiots or All Politicians Are Morons?
  • February 12, 2012
  • February 15, 2012
    The nice thing about Lunatics In Charge is that it could adapt to other hierarchies e.g. companies or institions. Maybe that's too broad.

    I suppose another good name would be just Idiocracy. It could equally apply to governments or politicians. (Idiocrats?)
  • February 15, 2012
    see also Hanlons Razor,
  • February 15, 2012
    I think All Politicians Are Morons is not ideal because it can't apply to non-elective governments. For example, is a king a politician?
  • February 15, 2012
    • Mayor Adam West from Family Guy has wasted tons of money on investigating who was "stealing" the water. Also believed himself to be a tomatoe when his nose starts bleeding after being hit by a brick.
  • February 15, 2012
    Add Duck Soup.

    • (Keith Tyler adding detail): Groucho Marx becomes leader of a tiny republic. He knows nothing about governing, and doesn't care, preferring to joke his way through it, all while hitting on (and negging incessantly) the nation's aging widow benefactor. For his opponents' part, they send in two spies (Chico and Harpo) who fail to learn anything -- until Groucho flippantly makes one of them Minister of Defense. When he meets with his opponent planning to cause him to start a war, it is Groucho who ends up taking his own bait and starting a war instead.
  • February 16, 2012

  • February 16, 2012
    ^^^^^^ @Keith Tyler: Idiocracy is already the name of a movie.

    You could move the movie's page into the Film namespace, but it would still be confusing.
  • February 16, 2012
    • Futurama: President Nixon's first act was to stomp around in his giant robot body, terrorizing the populace, following which he declared some rather pointless wars. The seven star general in charge of the military is the entirely incompetent buffoon, Zap Brannigan. Mom, of the megaconglomerate Mom Corp, is competent, but hell-bent on world domination and profit. And zombies. The list goes on.
  • February 16, 2012
    Idiocracy is not a good name - "idio" is usually supposed to mean something else. Is the part about elective governments really necessary?

    All Politicians Are Morons and Government Of Idiots are closer on, confusion with non-elective goverments shouldn't be an issue.
  • February 16, 2012
    The traditional phrase is 'the lunatics are running the asylum' I believe.
  • February 17, 2012
    Government Of Idiots makes most sense IMO.
  • February 17, 2012
    Real Life: members of all the political parties you don't agree with.
  • February 17, 2012
    Well, more appropriately Real Life: anyone in a government of a system you are opposed to, e.g. Communism, to Westerners, and vice versa. Although the political party angle works if your opposing party is in power.

    Consider the film "W". It skewers the Bush II neoconservative government, generally leaving moderates (e.g. Colin Powell) and ideological opponents relatively unscathed.

    More often than not, though, I'd say uses of this trope in fiction are largely party neutral, or even suggesting there is no difference between parties (usually due to a fundamental flaw of the system of government, or even of government itself).

    The Phantom Menace: The Senate bicker back and forth, pettily and ineffectively, finally pushing Amidala to call for a no confidence vote.

  • February 17, 2012
    Parksand Recreation is not a great example. The only government official we really spend any time with is clearly working for the people.
  • February 17, 2012
    A lot of these examples are X Just X
  • February 19, 2012
    Noted. Added explanation to most of them.
  • March 19, 2012
    Blockhead Bureaucrat?
  • March 19, 2012
    The novel ''IQ 83" by Arthur Herzog, ended up like this, after the brain virus attacked everyone in the country and reduced them to that IQ level. Presumably, the cure found by the book's end resolved the problem, but we aren't told for sure.
  • March 20, 2012
    • In Mom And Dad Save The World, planet Spengo's "hat" is Too Dumb To Live.
      Emperor Spengo: Hey you. What do you think - mutton chops or goatee? Be honest.
      Mook #1: Mutton chops, my lord?
      Emperor Spengo: (considers for a moment) No. No, I like the goatee better. Shoot yourself in the head. (a beat) NOW!
      Mook #1: (complies with a blaster to his own head.)
      Emperor Spengo: Well? How about you?
      Mook #2: (a beat, then brightly) Mutton chops! (Spengo glares at him. Mook #2 sighs, then shoots himself.)
      Emperor Spengo: Planet of idiots. (continues to check himself in the mirror.) You know what? They got a point.
  • May 15, 2016
    There's a pretty big Zero Context Example problem at the moment. Those will need to be fixed first.
  • May 15, 2016
    Parks And Recreation is a Zero Context Example. Perhaps the following might help.
    • Parks And Recreation: The government of Pawnee, Indiana is full of self-centered idiots. Pretty much the only competent public officials are Leslie Knopes and Ron Swanson - and the latter, being a hard-core libertarian, would rather the government not work at all.
  • May 15, 2016
    Subtrope of The Government, as well as Acceptable Targets