October 26, 2010

Smart slackers

BraintrustBryan Caplan speaks out Against High-IQ Misanthropy, the view that stupid people shouldn't have kids. He makes the point:

Bottom line: When stupid people have kids, high-IQ people should be happy for them. Being smart is better than being stupid, but being stupid and alive is far better than not existing at all.

This is a moral argument, but he also has economic arguments. In an earlier post he points out that increasing the supply or demand for brains is a better strategy for getting more brains than trying to get some group to have fewer children.

In another previous posts he gives a nice argument for what is wrong with some eugenic arguments. It is not an argument against eugenics per se, but against the view that letting in stupid people into a smart society is bad: on the contrary, due to the law of comparative advantage it makes everybody better off since now the Einsteins can focus on what they are good at rather than taking out the trash. Note that this is not based on assuming that the Einstens dislike doing menial jobs: they can do both brain work and janitorial work, it is just that they are better at brain work than less brilliant people. Hence productivity will grow if people switch jobs.

Many seem to assume that smart people dislike doing simple work, but I think this is wrong. I met my first philosophy Ph.D. happily working as a postman. Smart people simply have many more possible jobs to choose from, so if they dislike their current job they can switch to something else. In fact, this leads to an argument for why we should want to enhance intelligence or even do eugenics: it might be unfair to the stupid people that they have fewer possibilities for job satisfaction.

He also points out "In a market economy, being less productive than average doesn't make you a parasite. If you produce less, you earn less - simple as that." However, in non-market economies it seems to me that low-productive members may become seen as parasites - it is hence better to be a slacker who could work hard but don't want to in a capitalist system than (say) in a socialist system.

Posted by Anders3 at October 26, 2010 11:09 PM