Bryan Caplan  

Of Kids and Kardashians

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Check out Steve Sailer's appreciative review of Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids.  In many ways, we see eye to eye.  But passages like this show just how far apart we are.  Steve:
Let me say that Caplan has written a delightful book, breezy in prose style, but reasonably rigorous in its handling of the nature-nurture statistics. I hope people who like Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids do have more kids. And I hope people who put it down immediately to see what the Kardashians are up to on reality TV have fewer kids.
Of course, I'd like to be more popular than the Kardashians.  But I bear their fans - and the potential children of their fans - only good will.  I hope they multiply and find joy in their reality TV.  It's not my cup of tea, but so what?  Or as I explained in "Against High-IQ Misanthropy":
Morally, I just have to ask the high-IQ misanthrope, "What did stupid people ever do to you?"  Their complaints are pretty petty: The dumb kids asked annoying questions in class, made fun of your Star Trek costume, etc.  Are these injuries even remotely awful enough to outweigh the fact that a human being gets to exist and enjoy life?  In any case, once you reach adulthood, people of all IQs generally leave you alone if you leave them alone.  If you want to give your kids a better childhood than you had, use your brains to make some extra money and move to a nicer neighborhood.
When I was a bitter teen-ager, I spoke much as Steve does now.  But I was wrong.  I should have looked harder for the good in the people around me, tried harder to meet new friends, and redirected my criticism of others toward self-improvement.  Lighting a candle really is better than cursing the darkness.

P.S. If you don't what to get your favorite moms, grandmas, and potential moms for Mother's Day, I've got an idea - and it sounds like Steve will back me up. :-)


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COMMENTS (42 to date)
Jeremy H. writes:

I largely agree with you. But in light of your previous book, what about the political externalities from low-IQ individuals?

bdubbbs writes:

That's funny, because as a reader I get a general feeling of genial if occasionally exasperated goodwill from Sailer. Sailer would never say something like this, from "Against High IQ Misanthropy": "If you want to give your kids a better childhood than you had, use your brains to make some extra money and move to a nicer neighborhood." Put differently: hey, sucks to be you. Sailer wouldn't say that.

The Man Who Was . . . writes:

Oh Brian. You apparently haven't been around the left side of the bell curve a whole lot. Low IQ is associated with all sorts of anti-social tendencies. Low IQ people are pretty unpleasant to be around if you happen to have a job where you interact with them much.

The left hand of the bell curve also need to be financially supported by the people on the right hand and middle of the curve.

Finally, there is also the question of how many low IQ people our society can support before Western nations no longer stay at first world levels.

To use Steve's favourite Kingsley Amis quote, "There is no end to the way nice things are nicer than nasty ones."

Steve Sailer writes:

What Would Tyler Durden Do weighs in on the Caplan-Sailer debate here (see the last paragraph):

http://www.wwtdd.com/2011/04/lindsay-lohan-will-be-on-the-tonight-show-tonight/

Steve Sailer writes:

Well, since links aren't formed automatically, here it is again as a live link:

http://www.wwtdd.com/2011/04/lindsay-lohan-will-be-on-the-tonight-show-tonight/

Anon. writes:

"Morally, I just have to ask the high-IQ misanthrope, "What did stupid people ever do to you?" Their complaints are pretty petty: The dumb kids asked annoying questions in class, made fun of your Star Trek costume, etc. Are these injuries even remotely awful enough to outweigh the fact that a human being gets to exist and enjoy life? In any case, once you reach adulthood, people of all IQs generally leave you alone if you leave them alone. If you want to give your kids a better childhood than you had, use your brains to make some extra money and move to a nicer neighborhood."

Yes those petty concerns are silly, and yes it is economically beneficial to have more low-IQ people around. But you don't consider the political economy of high amounts of low-IQ people. It's pretty clear, I think, that low-IQ people tend to vote for things and people that are not only bad for you and me and the country as a whole, but for themselves as well! Perhaps the benefits ultimately outweigh the costs, but let's not pretend that there are no costs.

Sonic Charmer writes:

Stupid people vote for political leaders and support implementation of (or, as the case may be, implement) government policies that directly harm me and my family. They also engage in stupid behavior (crime is an example coming to mind, but there are more) that make many of those government policies seem necessary to many, and more difficult to argue against/dislodge.

As a (partial) mitigant, I'm including a lot of people who probably think of themselves as 'smart' and even have pieces of paper certifying them as such among the stupid people I speak of above.

Kevin writes:

@ Jeremy H.,

I think you would benefit from a closer reading of Caplan's previous book. The political externalities against which he rails are not a result of low IQ; they are a result of the rational irrationality people exhibit in their capacity as voters. There is nothing in that model which specifically exempts high IQ people.

Jason Brennan writes:

@Kevin:

Bryan has a paper showing that thinking like an economist is correlated with high IQ, while political bias is correlated with low IQ.

James writes:

"The dumb kids asked annoying questions in class, made fun of your Star Trek costume, etc. Are these injuries even remotely awful enough to outweigh the fact that a human being gets to exist and enjoy life?"

are those honestly the only examples you can come up with in terms of the negative things caused by low IQ individuals? Oh boy. Crime? Drug and alcohol abuse? Violence? Creationism? You also don't even consider the fact that overwhelmingly, people below a certain intelligence level lead terribly tragic lives.

Kevin writes:

@Jason

Touche. As I recall, his paper was about the connection between being highly educated most correlating with thinking like an economist. Not exactly the same, but I take your point.

However, I seem to be recalling things slightly differently. (If my memory is fuzzy, I beg your indulgence; I've only had one cup of coffee today.) In his book, he shows that a large part of the belief gap between the general public and economists would disappear if the general publics level of economic knowledge was raised to the level of an economics PhD. It seems there is a subtle but important difference between high IQ people generally, and people with PhD level knowledge in a specialized field of study.

But my key point (hence the italics) was how people act in their capacity as voters. The key of rational irrationality is the incentives voters face, rather than brute lack of knowledge. As I understood it, even highly educated people will be vulnerable to rational irrationality in the political system. But I may be misremembering, or overestimating the thrust of his argument.

Zippy writes:

Low IQ people create externalities. These include crime and disorder in neighborhoods where low IQ people cluster. They also create additional need for social and governmental services. Libertarianism, or even liberaltarianism works fine in a country with a small low IQ underclass. Big low IQ underclass, not so much.

Floccina writes:
But—outside of the rarefied world of Goldman Sachs—does all this high-end hoopla over college admissions really matter? This question hasn’t been well researched. Elite colleges are prospering under the current uncertainty, so why try to figure out the truth?

The above seems like a call for your next book. (I hope that you still plan to write a book about schooling and education.)

Kevin writes:

Zippy,

Even granting all the externalities, that still misses what Caplan is getting at. A little less Pigou, a little more Coase, if you will. The other side of the coin, so to speak, is that "a human being get to exist and enjoy life." How many of these human lives would you prevent for the sake of, say, a one percent reduction in crime? What's your exchange rate?

Luke Lea writes:

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Jason writes:

Kevin,

Those humans kill. Drunk driving, violent crime. And the non-violent crime, the theft, the destruction, the economic externalities that destroy value that took human time and effort to generate are yet another form of destruction of human life.

It's not life vs. crime. It's life vs. life.

Jeremy H. writes:

@Kevin
The point about education correlating with "thinking like an economist" is indeed in Caplan's book, p. 154.

True, as discussed above, education is not exactly the same thing as IQ. But if Nature is as important as Caplan suggests, there will be a high correlation between the two.

And thanks for rushing to my defense, Jason!

Zippy writes:

Kevin, I think I object to your use of the term "kill." As a male, I could theoretically produce several hundred children, simply by breeding as much as possible. Would you say my failure to do so makes me a serial killer?

An actual living, breathing human with an IQ of 84 has a human life and presumably gets some value and enjoyment out of it. I'm not in favor of killing everybody below a certain cutoff, "Marching Morons" style. But I really don't care about hypothetical low IQ people who might be born at some future time.

Fake Herzog writes:

Another good response from Foseti.

Everyone, from the lowest IQ to the highest, has intrinsic worth from God and their lives are to be valued infinitely. But that doesn't mean, as Zippy writes, that we don't want to cultivate a decent society of high-IQ individuals for the future.

Kevin writes:

@Jeremy,

Don't get me wrong, I agree that education correlates to thinking more like an economist. I never denied that. What I have been trying to say is that I don't see any reason that education breaks one out rational irrationality. Now that I'm home, I double checked the book. Caplan spends quite a lot of time noting that the belief gap between the average person and a Ph.D. economist is quite large. On p. 155, he notes that among the most educated (non-economists), the belief gap goes down by 19%, meaning 81% of a very large belief gap still remains. That hardly seems sufficient to cause a change in behavior (as voters, mind, since the original topic was political externalies) and overcome rational irrationality.

@Zippy

Um...I never used the word kill...

@Jason

I think your view "those humans" is unjustifiably dismal. Even among the very poor, and the low IQ, the vast majority are not violent criminals, killers, drunk drivers, arsonists, and what have you.

spandrell writes:

PC makes you stupid.

Hypocrisy takes you to hell.

Mick writes:

I agree with Bryan, but I would nuance one concept: High-IQ people are not necessarily highly intelligent people, but people who do well on IQ tests, that measure just one dimension of intelligence -a very multidimensional concept, very hard to measure-. High-IQ people can be stupid in many dimensions.

To the people who think that it is stupid people who vote for redistribution and socialism, think again. Many of the most intelligent people I know (particularly high-IQ people gifted for mathematics in scientific positions in University) are hard-left-wingers or extreme environmentalists. To paraphrase Frank Zappa:

Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love.

PrometheeFeu writes:

@Bryan you write: 'Morally, I just have to ask the high-IQ misanthrope, "What did stupid people ever do to you?"'

I am not the first to write it in the comments but still: They vote for stupid policies that then apply to me and in some cases cause great pain and suffering to many people including in some cases myself and my family.

For an explanation see: http://xkcd.com/154/

Josh W. writes:

@Mick

IQ tests measure intelligence and it's a crude but useful measurement. For a much longer discussion of IQ, see the Bell Curve.

Mr. Econotarian writes:

It seems to me that perhaps we should be aggressively investigating genetic engineering to achieve higher IQ, which would provide a multiplier effect for other "crash science programs" like alternative energy, curing cancer, etc.

Then we wouldn't have to worry about low-IQ people because (hopefully) most newborns would have higher IQ.

Steve Sailer writes:

Floccina writes:

"The above seems like a call for your next book. (I hope that you still plan to write a book about schooling and education.)"

Hear, hear.

It was a pleasure to review a book in which I didn't have to devote most of my review to pointing out errors in thinking and could instead outline areas of research that I'd enjoy reading about in the author's future books.

Kiwiguy writes:
In any case, once you reach adulthood, people of all IQs generally leave you alone if you leave them alone.

The problem really is if you have a welfare state and the dependent group or underclass grows to the extent it is unsustainable. I think Tino, at Super Economy blogspot has pointed out some of the problems Sweden might face as a result of this.

Alex Aleviev has written about this in the context of California and future economic losses expected from the large number of students who fail to complete high school.

In welfare states, I think that a reasonable step would be to make contraception a condition of receiving entitlements. You can get birth control shots that temporarily prevent the risk of pregnancy.

D writes:

@ Kevin: Bryan wrote a paper after his 1st book showing that IQ, not education (as his book originally proposed), was most strongly correlated w/ correct economic views.

I loved Bryan's recent book, but he's really not owning up to the reality of the costs of low IQ populations. Books like The Bell Curve didn't deal with "asking stupid questions in class" and the like. Obvious straw man. Bryan knows all of this, since he listed it as one of his favorite books. So it's sort of mind-boggling that he consistently discounts all of this when arguing about illegal immigration, who should be having more kids, or low IQ people generally.

And this is what I admire about Sailer. The guy appears to have zero concern w/ his status, so he not prone to PC thinking.

Having said that, Bryan is immensely courageous relative to his peers in his profession.

Randall Parker writes:

Bryan poses an important question:
"What did stupid people ever do to you?"
But then he proceeds to misrepresent what so-called high IQ misanthropes provide as answers. Realistic answers:

- They commit crime at higher rates.

- They cause more car accidents and other accidents.

- They vote for taxes to pay for their needs thru government-provided social services.

- They vote for politicians who aren't talented enough to run governments.

- Their kids disrupt the classes where smarter kids are trying to learn. Also, they slow down the rate at which teachers can teach.

- They get (depending on their race) privileges to get jobs at the expense of the more talented and also at the expense of employers and the users of services.

I could go on. Really, the problems with dumb people are not hard to find. You just have to be willing to see them.

James writes:

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Steve Sailer writes:

Bryan:

Perhaps your perspective suffers from restriction of range? Charles Murray recently gave a speech at the American Enterprise Institute. He reported that he had calculated the socioeconomic status for every zip code in the United States, and that Northern Virginia's zip codes, where the kind of people who attend AEI speeches typically live, are off the charts: all of them are at the national 95th percentile or higher. The unfashionable neighborhoods in Northern Virginia are at the 96th or 97th percentile, Murray reported.

Evan writes:

@Zippy

Low IQ people create externalities. These include crime and disorder in neighborhoods where low IQ people cluster. They also create additional need for social and governmental services. Libertarianism, or even liberaltarianism works fine in a country with a small low IQ underclass. Big low IQ underclass, not so much.

- They vote for taxes to pay for their needs thru government-provided social services.

That must be why the USA, which has a bigger low-IQ underclass than Europe, also has a bigger welfare state and bigger government! Oh wait, it's actually the opposite of that. If you're going to claim low-IQ people are harmful because they vote for big government, it might be a good idea to see if the size of a country's government and the size of a country's low-IQ population are actually correlated.

Also, will people stop saying "creating demand for social services" counts as an externality. That's like saying I'm a bad person if I drive across the country because I created demand for gas. You might argue that it's different because social services are provided by taxes, but there isn't really much correlation between how much demand there is for social services and how high taxes are. If there are more people demanding social services, that just means those services has less money per person, it doesn't raise your taxes automatically.

@The Man Who Was

Oh Brian. You apparently haven't been around the left side of the bell curve a whole lot. Low IQ is associated with all sorts of anti-social tendencies. Low IQ people are pretty unpleasant to be around if you happen to have a job where you interact with them much.

The left hand of the bell curve also need to be financially supported by the people on the right hand and middle of the curve.

I, as a matter of fact, have lived and worked with people on the left side of the bell curve. I did not find them "pretty unpleasant to be around." They were occasionally annoying, like when they asked me to buy them stuff at fast food restaurants, but that was nowhere near enough for me to wish they never existed, or for me to wish for them to die childless. I think you're just thin-skinned.

I also suspect that a large portion of the left hand of the bell curve pulls its own weight, and does not need to be supported by the other sections. That whole "they produce less than they consume" sounds rather like an excuse to bash people you dislike, rather than a genuine attempt to save the government money. I've discussed in the past why all arguments that go "Group X consumes more in services than it pays in taxes" are intrinsically invalid.

@Steve Sailer

Perhaps your perspective suffers from restriction of range?
I think maybe your perspective suffers from being a bit too easily annoyed and thin-skinned by low-IQ people's annoying habits. My experience with low-IQ people is that if you leave them alone, they'll usually leave you alone. Yeah, their homes can be a little unpleasant to look at, but I'm still glad they're alive and enjoying life.

I also wonder if you might be more easily frightened than Bryan and I, and hence give the idea that low-IQ people commit more crime undue weight. I've perused through your old movie reviews and noticed that you rarely review horror films, whereas Bryan has praised "Saw."

D writes:

As someone who's also lived in "urban settings", Evan seems quite, quite full of it.

Evan writes:

The essential problem with anecdotal evidence is that the sample size is never large enough. It's possible that I'm astoundingly lucky, and somehow managed to only encounter low-IQ people with high conscientiousness. Of course, it's also possible you had bad luck and encountered an unusual amount of unpleasant people. However, since the commenters kept asking Bryan is he'd ever experienced being around low-IQ people, I figured turnabout is fair play.

You might also want to read this essay by Orson Scott Card who spent two years as a missionary in Brazil, which gives him a better view of poor Latinos than most of the VDare types who comment here.

The point is, however, that most of the complaints against low-IQ people the commenters made are almost as petty as the ones Bryan listed in his original post, increased crime rates and accident rates are really the only serious ones. And even then low-IQ people tend to cluster together, so they only do those things to each other for the most part. They use social services? You would in their place. They vote for taxes? Tax rates have gone done for the most part. They vote for bad politicians? Everyone does that, and high-IQ people vote about half-again as much as low-IQ ones, its not like there's a major difference between the two parties. They create squalor? It's none of your business how they use their property. Their kids disrupt learning in class? Have you never heard of the signaling model of education?

The desire for low-IQ people to have no kids and stop existing is just an attempt by people to rationalize the "yuck" reaction they have to them. People with weak "yuck" reactions find them mildly annoying at the worst.

The Man Who Was . . . writes:

And even then low-IQ people tend to cluster together, so they only do those things to each other for the most part.

We have to hire police to keep them in their place. Police draw hard lines and woe be it if anyone who steps across those lines into better neighbourhoods. We build lots of prisons etc. too.

They use social services? You would in their place.

And who pays for those social services?

They vote for bad politicians? Everyone does that, and high-IQ people vote about half-again as much as low-IQ ones, its not like there's a major difference between the two parties.

Differences in degree matter.

They create squalor? It's none of your business how they use their property.

You are drawing too hard and fast a line between public and private. P.S. Aesthetics matter.

Their kids disrupt learning in class? Have you never heard of the signaling model of education?

The signalling model of education is a half-truth.

-------------------------------------------

I'm reluctant to give out too much personal information, but suffice it to say I and my family have experiences in medical, legal and educational settings where lots of services are provided to lower IQ individuals. This is some of what you encounter on a regular basis, just from my own experience over the last 8 months:

The fights, the beatings, the stealing from work, the stealing from each other, the casual vandalism and property destruction, the drunk driving, the rapes (yes, rapes), the teenage pregnancies, the physically abusive relationships, the restraining orders, the constant vicious backstabbing and shifting social alliances (and it is way worse than among middle class people). Large numbers of them are on anti-depressants. And large proportion of them are what I would call vicious users, of other people that is. But I guess it is just my primitive disgust reactions that make me think these are bad things.

More low-IQ people basically means more cops, more prisons, more social workers etc. because left alone they are a menace to other people. Basically Western countries now lock up a ton of low IQ people, especially but not not exclusively low IQ minorities, just to keep society livable. Even on libertarian grounds, I fail to see how locking up that many people, while necessary, can be somehow construed as some sort of victory for liberty.

That Card essay is basically a plea to you know disregard broader the social implications and treat everyone as a special snowflake. That's utopian.

Steve Sailer writes:

Now, let's look at the high end of the scale. From college tours, I've noticed a correlation between the amount of upcoming activities (e.g., fliers) on bulletin boards and average SAT score. A 2100/2400 school has a lot coming up. Students are doing stuff like crazy in a wide variety of fields. At a 1800/2400 school, not as much. At a 1500/2400 school, the posted doings are pretty thin.

Steve Sailer writes:

Evan writes:

"I also wonder if you might be more easily frightened than Bryan and I, and hence give the idea that low-IQ people commit more crime undue weight."

I lived in the city of Chicago at the height of the crime epidemic from 1982-2000. As an urban home buyer, I studied what people want in a neighborhood on a block by block basis across much of Chicago. I noticed how good things go together: that little specialty bookstore where I could always find the latest Tom Stoppard play in print? That was in a low crime, high IQ neighborhood. Funny how that works ...

The last dozen years in Chicago my family were gentrifiers of a sketchy neighborhood with great fundamentals in terms of lakefront setting, and fantastic transportation downtown. After a decade, we finally made a lot of money off our condo when the neighborhood became fashionable.

The relevant question in terms of home values is not what's frightening or attractive to a 6'4" guy like me, it's what's frightening or attractive to a woman pushing a baby carriage. That's the bottom line, literally.

Ben Bursae writes:

Mick had the right idea, and Evan just about nails it. They captured part of my initial reaction to a number of posts here that harp on the negative externalities of low-IQ people. So many of these misguided and rather pompous postings seem to presume that high-IQ people never make the same mistakes, commit the same atrocities, or have any of the negative externalities that are being ascribed to the low-IQ people. High-IQ people have shown they are just as susceptible to blindly following other highly-persuasive high-IQ people, and I would posit that a significant proportion of the most horrible ideas put forth and enacted came from high-IQ people.

Brett_McS writes:

Paraphrasing some of the comments: "Low IQ people vote for bad governments", which is true. However, I'd say the jury is still out on whether even governments elected by moderate-to-high IQ people are a viable, long term proposition. The problem may be more intrinsic to government/politics itself than with people's IQ.

On the other hand, market systems operating in areas of very low IQ (parts of Africa) have been shown to operate quite successfully (see Lord Peter Bauer).

Conclusion? Obvious!

The Man Who Was . . . writes:

So many of these misguided and rather pompous postings seem to presume that high-IQ people never make the same mistakes, commit the same atrocities, or have any of the negative externalities that are being ascribed to the low-IQ people.

Strawman. No one ever said high IQ people never make mistakes or do bad things, rather that they tend to make a lot fewer mistakes and do a lot fewer bad things etc.

Sonic Charmer writes:

It was sort of a dodge to shift things to IQ (which Sailer neither mentioned nor alluded to) in the first place. In particular, my comment was directed at stupid people of all IQs, diplomas, etc.

nazgulnarsil writes:

Evan:

I don't want low-IQ people to die childless, I just want their replacement rate at 1.9 or lower.

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