Would You Rather Be Funnier or Smarter?

Slate's weekly political roundtable.
Dec. 27 2013 2:26 PM

The 2013 Conundrums Gabfest

Listen to Slate's special year-end show about life's most confounding questions, as submitted by listeners.

Slate Political Gabfest, recorded live at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco, with David Plotz, Emily Bazelon and John Dickerson.
Slate Political Gabfest, recorded live at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco, with David Plotz, Emily Bazelon, and John Dickerson.

Photo by Andy Bowers

Become a fan of the Political Gabfest on Facebook. We post to the Facebook page throughout the week, so keep the conversation going by joining us there. Or follow us @SlateGabfest!

To listen to the discussion, use the player below:


On this week’s Slate Political Gabfest, recorded live at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco, Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz wrap up 2013 by wrestling with questions of politics, philosophy, ethics, taste, and parenting practices.

Here's a list of the conundrums discussed, along with the names of the people who posed them (where available):

 Would you rather be funnier or smarter than you are?

  • You have a wonderful child. You discover when the child is 1 year old that because of a mix-up at the hospital, the child is not actually yours. Do you try to return it to its biological parents? –Jody Avirgan of Ask Roulette
  • You are now president of your alma mater. Because of budgetary concerns, you have to cut a department. Which one do you cut? –Matt Cook
  • Who would you travel back in time to kill? It can't be Hitler, Mao, or Stalin. –Phil Goldstein
  • Since an individual vote never makes a difference, why should you bother to vote? –Julius Schorzman
  • If you were president, would you rather be remembered for having really great domestic policy and really lousy foreign policy, or the reverse? –Alex
  • Which fictional character would you want to be (for a relatively short period)? –Phil Goldstein
  • Part I: You are standing next to a train switch. A train is barreling down the track. If it continues on its current path, it will run over five people who are tied to the tracks. If you flip the switch, the train will change tracks and run over one person. Do you flip the switch? Part II: You're standing on a bridge over the track. A train is coming, and there are five people tied to the track. However, you happen to be standing next to a fat person, and if you throw him/her off the bridge, the person's body will stop the train. Do you do it?
  • If you were running for Congress, would you rather it come out that you're gay or that you're an atheist?
  • What do we do when we can't find a conclusive answer, legally or morally, in rape accusation cases like the one involving Jameis Winston?
  • Should you have kids before you're 25 or after you're 35? –Sidney Innerebner
  • Would you rather have a great job and live in a not-so-great city, or a mediocre job in an awesome city? –Glenn Shepard
  • Would you rather be very ignorant and very happy, or very intelligent and very unhappy?
  • You're going to eat pie. You can only be guaranteed excellence in either the crust or the filling. Which would you pick? –Clara Jeffrey

John, Emily, David, and special guest Clara Jeffrey of Mother Jones chattered about their favorite moments in 2013.

David's favorite moment was riding dune buggies with his family at the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area.

John's favorite moment was the arrival of Pope Francis.

Clara's favorite moment was when Batkid saved San Francisco.

Emily's favorite moment was the Supreme Court's gay marriage decisions.

Topic ideas for next week? You can tweet suggestions, links, and questions to @SlateGabfest. The email address for the Political Gabfest is gabfest@slate.com. (Email may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Podcast production by Andy Bowers and Mike Vuolo. Links compiled by Rebecca Cohen.

Emily Bazelon is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine and the author of Sticks and Stones

John Dickerson is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of On Her Trail. Read his series on the presidency and on risk.

David Plotz is Slate's editor at large. He's the author of The Genius Factory and Good Book.


The Slatest

Ben Bradlee Dead at 93

The legendary Washington Post editor presided over the paper’s Watergate coverage.

This Scene From All The President’s Men Captures Ben Bradlee’s Genius

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again

The XX Factor

I’m 25. I Have $250.03.

My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I’m 25. I Have $250.03. My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Free Speech

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 3:13 PM Why Countries Make Human Rights Pledges They Have No Intention of Honoring
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
Oct. 21 2014 11:44 PM Driving in Circles The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.