Friday, 13 May 2022


Futility Closet relates an anecdote from the live of mathematician Kurt Gödel in residence at Princeton University Institute for Advanced Studies and his friendship with fellow resident scholars physicists Albert Einstein (previously) John von Neumann and economist Oskar Morgenstern, whom felt obliged to make sure their younger charge’s tendency for over-thinking remained an asset and not his undoing and monitored Gödel’s preparation for the US citizenship exam in 1947, Einstein himself naturalised seven years earlier. The prodigal and influential logistician widely settled the impossibility of formulating a self-consistent and complete set of rules governing all of mathematics at the tender age of twenty-five, Gödel assayed the project of his examination with signature tenacity and revealed to his wardens that in his research, he had uncovered a fatal-flaw in the American constitution that could led to dictatorship, the corruption and consequence of totalitarian democracy. Einstein and company implored him not to share this discovery and the test was actually a much simpler affair, though basic civics and recent history might have suggested otherwise. The proctor for the citizenship test inquired of Gödel his state of origin and its form of government—to which Gödel replied Austria and a republic, but owed that “the constitution was such that it soon become a dictatorship.” Despite the examiner’s insistence that the same could not happen in the USA and Gödel’s refutation with the offer of proof, the panel stuck to the business at hand and conducted the test. No mention was made in their collective memoirs what that finding might have been and we suppose won’t know it until it’s happened.