Bryan Caplan  

In a Just World...

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In a just world, no researcher would be fired for truthfully stating that some kinds of immigrants have low IQs.

In a just world, however, researchers would be fired for arguing that people with below-average IQs should be denied their basic human right to accept a job offer from any willing employer.

Despite their correlation, the two views are worlds apart.  And despite popular opinion, it is the second opinion, not the first, that civilized society should shun.



COMMENTS (45 to date)
Chad writes:

It is probably worth stating that no researcher was likely fired for commenting on IQ or human rights relating thereto...a researcher was fired (in all probability), because an organization in the midst of PR damage control needed cover.

I don't think that makes either of your above statements untrue, but I'd be interested in your take on whether or not PR-related firings would take place in a just or unjust world.

Once again immigration is painted as being all about 'job offers'. Truly bizarre.

Exactly what percentage of illegal-immigrants do you imagine to be coming here in response to a 'job offer' Prof. Caplan? Can you help enlighten me.

John V writes:

Crimson Reach,

I think Caplan is referring to illegal immigrants who are already here. After all, immigration reform swirling in DC is in no small part to deal with the millions of illegals currently living here.

Responding to what people mean is usually easier than not. ;-)

I do want to respond to what he means; it just didn't occur to me that's what he meant because that interpretation would make the IQ reference nonsensical. Possibly I may never know what he means when he makes these statements.

Mike writes:

The notion that the U.S. Government has an obligation to citizens of other countries is the problem with all that Prof. Caplan advocates. For the U.S. Government to prefer its citizens over people from other countries is not monstrous.

It's what they are, in fact, hired to do.

Crimson Reach is right, it is not about job offers.

It is about culture. There are people of certain cultures that we (U.S. citizens) don't want here. There is also the need/requirement/desire that we take care of our own poor people. Regardless of where our poor rank against the poor of the rest of the world.

One step we can take to care for our poor people is to not let in more poor unskilled workers.

Anthony writes:

It is my impression that the descriptive bits of the dissertation are not particularly controversial within the relevant academic fields - economics, organizational psych, etc. It's fairly widely accepted by people doing research in those fields and on these topics that there are average cognitive differences between racial/ethnic groups in the U.S., that cognitive ability is in some part environmental and in some part heritable, that it is causally related to various educational/job/life outcomes, that it is not changed much by attempted environmental fixes, and that it is measured fairly well by various tests. The outrage about group differences by non-researchers - for instance, the cries about how Harvard could have granted him a PhD - are based in part on not realizing how mainstream these findings are. Even the papers marshaled as evidence against these beliefs aren't - for instance, the Levitt/Fryer one, which argues that cognitive differences don't appear in infants, only exists because those differences do appear in older children and adults and they are meaningful.
Is my impression about the mainstream nature of these findings wrong? If not, why don't more economists (like Borjas) point that out?

Philo writes:

What is the IQ cut-off, below which it *is* proper not to attribute rights to a living being? Is it proper to draw the line so that all chimpanzees fall below it? (It would appear that intelligence is the factor that leads us to attribute rights to [most] human beings and not to [any] non-humans.)

John writes:

Mike:

The notion that the U.S. Government has an obligation to citizens of other countries is the problem with all that Prof. Caplan advocates. For the U.S. Government to prefer its citizens over people from other countries is not monstrous.

It's what they are, in fact, hired to do.

Yes, just as it wasn't monstrous for the social and political institutions at the height of British aristocracy to prefer members of that aristocracy over everyone else. Securing and maintaining the rights and privileges of aristocratic birth was, after all, what those institutions evolved to do.

James A. Donald writes:

Obviously we should exclude low IQ migrants.

National income is highly correlated with average IQ, individual income is weakly correlated with individual IQ, indicating that IQ has enormous externalities - that being smart is largely a benefit to those around you, and being stupid largely a cost to those around you.

And, if we exclude low IQ migrants, are we not forbidding them to accept a job offer from a willing employer?

The externality of intelligence takes effect partly through welfare and redistribution, but largely through bad governance. Countries where the population is stupid tend to be badly governed.

In general, one gets better results if one prevents externalities - if the cost of stupidity is largely suffered by stupid people, they will smarten up amazingly.

Policies of segregation, white rule, and apartheid, had the effect of controlling externalities.

High IQ countries with bad government, for example communist China back when it was actually communist, tend to have African incomes. Conversely, African countries that are largely governed by whites and a high IQ black aristocracy, tend to have incomes that substantially above African incomes. This is consistent with the major externality being that low IQ leads to bad governance.

Steve Sailer writes:

Dear Bryan:

Eventually, they'll come for you, too, for the crime of knowing about IQ, and your Open Borders rhetoric won't save you.

Steve Sailer writes:

"Is my impression about the mainstream nature of these findings wrong?"

Of course not.

PrometheeFeu writes:

It is a strange world indeed, where acknowledging empirically-verified facts is decried while coercing innocent people is celebrated.

Tom Vamvanij writes:

So in a just world, only people with approved opinions can be researchers? Got it.

We're almost there, by the way.

Harold Cockerill writes:

In a just world there would be no IQ differences. Higher productivity is associated with higher IQ. Unequal income is largely a result of unequal productivity. Those unequal rewards are a major feature of the capitalist system. In order to make the world more just IQ should be ignored and another method of assessment implemented. Rules should be instituted that guarantee a more equitable distribution of the worlds wealth.

I should get to make those rules.

Thomas May writes:

"In a just world, however, researchers would be fired for arguing that people with below-average IQs should be denied their basic human right to accept a job offer from any willing employer.

Despite their correlation, the two views are worlds apart."

Agreed. So why don't you explicitly argue only for unlimited guest worker status as opposed to unlimited citizenship?

One interesting thing you overlooked in your otherwise excellent analysis of Singaporean democracy is that 40% of the population of Singapore are not citizens. There is no guaranteed path to citizenship even for legal permanent residents and being born in Singapore does not grant citizenship. The criteria for obtaining citizenship basically exclude most of the people who would vote for a social democratic opposition party. In this way Singapore perpetuates the 'democratic' rule of the PAP despite free immigration.

So do you support this model for the US? If not, do you accept that admitting a lot of low IQ voters who will form a permanent citizen underclass that bloc-votes left is going to impose a significant externality via taxes and regulations on other people, which is unjust for the same reason as denying people the right to contract with an employer?

Himanshu Sanguri writes:

A just world is a myth. Perhaps, capitalist, socialist and communist economies is a reality. USA government can not behold the authority of the capitalists who think in the lines of profit and cost benefit analysis. American universities are embracing the students of above average IQ's from all over the world and US is giving them visa to work and earn. As far as illegal immigrants are concerned, post slavery abolished era, when US citizens have become more literate in terms of employee rights, minimum wages etc. illegal immigrants are the alternatives for the capitalist economy to drive the maximum output with easy and cheap labor. Moreover, the outsourcing of work to developing countries is never done on the basis of research done by and PR of the outsourced nation's IQ. This is a reality.

Don Boudreaux writes:

I have a question for Crimson Reach, who (if I interpret him or her correctly) is skeptical that most immigrants come to the U.S. seeking gainful employment: Why is so much effort, and why are so many resources, spent every day in the U.S. trying to prevent undocumented immigrants from working?

S writes:

Don

He never said anything about intentions of immigrants. He made a comment about a common rhetorical flourish of open borders advocates. I think you know this, but prefer to argue a different topic. I apologize if I have read you incorrectly.

[comment revised per later correction--Econlib Ed.]

Prof. Boudreaux,

"Seeking gainful employment" is a much different status than having a "job offer", as anyone with recent experience of both could attest. It's as S said, that is a misleading rhetorical flourish, and you evidently know this, because when Caplan said "job offer" and was challenged you retreat to "seeking".

For the record if I had my druthers I don't think I'd make it illegal to hire anyone. My point though is that such employment laws are separate issues from immigration laws themselves (who can enter, and stay) and should not be conflated with them, especially not for rhetorical flourish.

best

Wallace Forman writes:

This whole episode has certainly been a depressing farce, but I'm not sure I agree with Bryan's claim that in an ideal world people with bad political beliefs should get fired. That seems like a pretty harsh and intolerant world.

S writes:

"Apologize if I have read you incorrectly."

Sorry! Meant "I apologize if I have read you incorrectly"..

[I've now fixed this in your original comment. For the record, I think it was clear that you were apologizing--just probably mistyping "Apologies"--and not issuing a command. But your clarification is helpful lest there be any confusion.--Econlib Ed.]

fire them writes:

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Anthony writes:

Caplan isn't actively trying to get anyone fired, unlike a lot of other people during the last week. That he is willing to publicly agree with the empirical findings, unlike the actual dissertation committee members and even knowing that acceptance of them would make many people less willing to support his preferred policies, is a fairly big deal.

krob writes:

[Comment removed pending confirmation of email address and for crude language. Email the webmaster@econlib.org to request restoring your comment privileges. A valid email address is required to post comments on EconLog and EconTalk.--Econlib Ed.]

Mark V Anderson writes:

I do have one issue with the dissertation. In the linked article, it said that the lower IQs of immigrants are likely to persist over several generations. I was surprised to read that.

Maybe I've been biased by all the stories of immigrant kids being greatly successful, because of they retained the immigrant tenacity yet fit into American culture. Does anyone know the data on this? Was Richwine going beyond the data in this, or is this commonly accepted?

Answer writes:

Mark Anderson,

The data support Richwine, and he cited the data in his dissertation. The work of Telles and Ortiz (left-leaning researchers who blame it on discrimination/exclusion) found that while 2nd generation Mexican-Americans gain from growing up in the United States, later generations do not converge further in education, income, and so forth.

For comparison, European immigrants converged in the 2nd generation, and Asian (on average given the heterogeneity of that category in the US) and Jewish immigrants exceeded the natives.

And large meta-analyses of studies with huge sample size show IQ gaps for the Hispanic-American population despite the heavy presence of later generations (especially for studies of kids).

Ted Levy writes:

Mike I-Favor-A-Free-Society,-I-Just-Don't-Want-HIM-In-It says, "The notion that the U.S. Government has an obligation to citizens of other countries is the problem with all that Prof. Caplan advocates."

But that's clearly not true. Perhaps even Mike would raise concerns if the US government nuked Quebec and by way of explanation Press Secretary Jay Carney offered, "The notion that the U. S government has an obligation to citizens of other countries is, we have been assured by Mike, problematic."

"The problem with all that" Mike "advocates" is an inability or refusal to understand the difference between not offering benefits and refusing to allow others to offer mutually beneficial contracts.

Jeff writes:

If only there were someone here at Econlog who had done some scholarly research on the intersection of IQ and economics to provide a bit more nuanced commentary than the absolutism of Dr. Caplan.

Unfortunately, Garett Jones seems to have made himself scarce of late. Bring him out of retirement!

johnleemk writes:

I find the approach of The Crimson Reach and those who take a similar tack ("I don't oppose letting people take jobs if they have offers, but I do oppose letting them seek those offers out") bizarre.

It remains that we wouldn't ask someone migrating from Detroit to Phoenix or Venice to Milan to have a job offer in hand before they move (though we might strongly advise them to). What's so special about someone making the move from Ottawa or Addis Ababa to Phoenix or Milan then? Is it because foreigners are such incompetent people that they can't be expected to have forethought without the government forcing them to?

If the real concern is that these people are moving to abuse the social safety net or that their movement will be socially disruptive, then let's discuss that instead of discussing a blanket ban on movement without job offers in hand.

johnleemk -

Well of course I would just point out that you're now just committing a similar fallacy, equating (1) crossing the border with the intent of permanently immigrating with (2) 'seeking job offers out'. All I can do is keep pointing out that this sort of thing is a disingenuous conflation that does not add light to the immigration debate, until folks stop doing it.

We wouldn't ask someone moving internally to have job offers in hand because, being citizens and here legally, we don't restrict their movement. But that is obviously and by definition not the case for foreigners attempting to cross the border and so the matter is different. You can say 'why should that matter?' but only by papering completely over the actual issue at hand, i.e. borders and immigration, and pretending it is something that it is not (merely an employment matter). Let me know if/when you wish to stop doing that,

best

Mike M writes:

It was my impression that Bryan's reference about people with below-average IQs being denied their basic human right to accept a job offer from any willing employer is about minimum wage in general and touches on immigrants only with respect to those who are coincidentally denied the right to accept a wage lower than what the government deems to be "fair".

Steve Sailer writes:

"Maybe I've been biased by all the stories of immigrant kids being greatly successful, because of they retained the immigrant tenacity yet fit into American culture. Does anyone know the data on this?"

You've been lied to.

There are giant differences by race/ethnicity. Asian immigrants' kids are starting to leave white kids in the dust, whereas Hispanics continue, on average, to lag up through the fifth generation in America:

http://isteve.blogspot.com/2013/05/telles-ortiz-5th-generation-mexican.html

johnleemk writes:
Well of course I would just point out that you're now just committing a similar fallacy, equating (1) crossing the border with the intent of permanently immigrating with (2) 'seeking job offers out'.

Why not? Both are crossing an arbitrary line that doesn't exist outside the minds of human beings.

Immigration policy should be open to human movement as much as possible. Whether you have a job offer in hand or you are seeking work, as long as you don't pose a threat to public order, you should be allowed to move. Whether immigrants should get the vote, and under what conditions, is a separate discussion from movement.

We wouldn't ask someone moving internally to have job offers in hand because, being citizens and here legally, we don't restrict their movement. But that is obviously and by definition not the case for foreigners attempting to cross the border and so the matter is different.

So in other words, it's morally acceptable (if not a moral obligation) for governments to prevent foreigners seeking an honest wage or to live with their families from doing so. The question is, why?

The point is that immigrants are not, primarily, 'seeking work' (let alone, of course, people with 'job offers'). They are seeking to immigrate. Those are different things. Yes most immigrants will presumably want work (but not all!), but that doesn't mean that 'seeking work' is the only salient point about immigrants. That you cannot separate them indicates the materialistic/one-dimensional light in which you view these people. (They are all simply 'workers' or potential 'workers', I gather.)

It is 'morally acceptable' for governments to defend and enforce borders period, just as it is morally acceptable for you to prevent strangers from occupying your home. To say otherwise is to say nation-states shouldn't exist. If that's what you believe, fine, at least be open about it instead of cloaking the view in a faux free-association concern over whether people are being blocked from all these nonexistent employers who gave them 'job offers'.

*How best* to enforce borders is of course open to debate, and (except where obvious, I guess) I did not and do not claim the gov't has any 'obligation' to keep out any particular immigrant. It depends, and in fact I could easily be convinced of a relatively lax (but actually enforced) immigration policy, possibly close to your ideal policy. But this post/discussion is not about that, it is centered on a much weaker point: whether it is ok for governments to enforce borders *at all*, and I am simply here to advance, in contrast to Prof. Caplan, the (what should be considered relatively modest and indeed noncontroversial!) 'yes' position.

Does that help?

best,

rhhardin writes:

Vicki Hearne's take (in _Bandit_) was that IQ tests measure how quickly you can believe things.

A career in communications, for example, requires quick believingness, she said.

Rob writes:

@Mike:

The notion that the U.S. Government has an obligation to citizens of other countries is the problem with all that Prof. Caplan advocates. For the U.S. Government to prefer its citizens over people from other countries is not monstrous.

But the U.S. Government does have an obligation to protect its citizens' freedoms - and it prevents you from hiring whomever you want and renting apartments to whomever you want.

If you have built a firm, you should have the right to decide whom you hire or not hire, not the government.

James A. Donald writes:

So, Mestizos have a comparative advantage in mugging, living on welfare, and flooding emergency departments with short fat pregnant single women and their bastard spawn, while whites have a comparative advantage in being mugged, providing welfare, and providing emergency departments that are too busy to deal with real emergencies.

Thus, in the optimally efficient economy, mestizos should pursue their comparative advantage, and whites their comparative advantage.

And anyone who doubts that this is efficient should be fired.

Taeyoung writes:

But the U.S. Government does have an obligation to protect its citizens' freedoms - and it prevents you from hiring whomever you want and renting apartments to whomever you want.

Sure. Are we talking, then, about a programme whereby Americans can identify foreigners located abroad and sponsor those specific foreign individuals to come to the US as their employees or tenants? That seems like it offers the beginnings of a reasonable compromise position. If a foreigner is coming into the US specifically on invitation from a particular American citizen, that isn't nearly as offensive to me as illegal immigrants coming into the US uninvited in flagrant disregard of American law. Then the inviting citizen can assume responsibility for the immigrant, and after their relationship terminates, the foreigner can go back home again or look for a new sponsor.

James A. Donald writes:

Steve Sailer writes:

> Dear Bryan:
>
> Eventually, they'll come for you, too, for the crime of knowing about IQ, and your Open Borders rhetoric won't save you.

Also his bubble is steadily shrinking, so it will be a tossup whether the nonwhite underclass mugs him before the white overclass fires him.

My bubble is further from the problem than his bubble.

M Kaufman writes:
Whether you have a job offer in hand or you are seeking work, as long as you don't pose a threat to public order, you should be allowed to move.

This seems somewhat naive. As Steven Pinker points out in The Better Angels of Our Nature, moves towards a world government overlook that for governments to function it helps to have a population with relatively shared set of values. Also, it helps not to have rival groups that act out historic rivalries in the new country.

Just following the rise in anti-semitism in Europe over the last few years, you can see the downsides of assuming people can move with no adverse externalities.

Former Dutch EU commissioner says "recognizable" Jews are no longer safe in Netherlands due to Muslim anti-Semitism.
More Than One Quarter of Jews in France Want To Leave, Poll Finds ...Overall, 78 percent of French Jews blame radical Muslim youth in France for spreading anti-Semitism,
Bedarz Iliaci writes:

National income is highly correlated with average IQ,

False. Doesn't China has high IQ and low national income.

It seems that this false correlation between national income and IQ has been got by ignoring that one must weigh nations by population..
So you have China and Andorra given equal weights.

chipotle writes:

So, tell me, what happens in a just world to anarcho-capitalist professors who choose to work in government-operated universities while espousing deontological ethics?

Engineer-Poet writes:
Both are crossing an arbitrary line that doesn't exist outside the minds of human beings.
Like the lines which define the bounds of the lot your house sits on?
Immigration policy should be open to human movement as much as possible.
I look forward to the unhindered movement of many, many people onto what you might believe is "your" property inside those "imaginary" lines.  Let them be unwashed homeless, ghetto people with a number of violent felons, Arab jihadis or any combination.  I would love to see your position on this question after a year... or even a day.
John Cunningham writes:

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Chip Smith writes:

Bryan,

The views may be "worlds apart" based on your philosophical priors, which others may not share. Are you really comfortable drawing a line that enjoins censure for those who draw conclusions with which you disagree? I prefer my intellectual freedom crystal clear. Let the light in.

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