You are referring to what I believe will forever be regarded as the Ultimate Classic Cartalk story. It began with a caller asking a question about electric brakes on a cattle trailer, reached its zenith weeks later with the legendary “Andy Letter”, and is commemorated occasionally with fleeting references on some subsequent shows. There is also another reference to this in “The Andy Scale”, a ranking system which arose as a comparison to Andy’s letter as the gold standard for listener letters.
The Andy Letter is available by download from itunes here:
I found this by just using the search field on the page for “As Read on Cartalk”. You can do the same for “cattle trailer” to hear the original call.
The same audio of the original reading of the Andy Letter is also included on a Cartalk CD which is available for purchase from NPR. That CD includes numerous other genuinely classic show segments as well.:
Here’s the story:
The original caller wanted advice on a problem with electric brakes on his cattle trailer, a technology which Click and Clack gleefully admitted they knew nothing about. Of course that did not stop them from giving authoritative advice! As I recall, as someone who knows nothing about electric brakes, trailers, or cattle, the advice C&C gave sounded, at least, plausible. But the possibility that their answer was bogus was definitely wafting through their explanation.
Inspired by this call, a listener named Andy wrote the legendary letter which you asked about. It was read on the air as a show opener sometime later. In it, Andy postulated that one person would extrapolate only slightly beyond what he knew for certain about a given topic. Andy then theorized that two people, collaborating on a explanation such as what Click and Clack had done over the subject of electric brakes on a cattle trailer, would go much farther beyond any limits of their actual knowledge, based entirely on the fact that the other contributor had already accepted the fabricated theory, in essence feeling validated and thus emboldened. In short, they’d go farther out on a limb than if they were alone. From that we have Andy’s visionary question of whether it was possible for two people to know less about a subject than one person. I’ve always thought that Andy’s letter was pretty good, but the real value of the legend is based on Tom and Ray’s hilarious discussion of it. It’s well worth downloading and listening again. Enjoy!