2013 December 24 Tuesday
Obama Against Inequality, For Policies That Raise Inequality

Why did billionaires help fund Barack Obama's election and reelection? He favors policies that will make them richer. Mickey Kaus dissects arguments that Obama and others on the Left make about growing inequality.

The argument is that as inequality grows it becomes harder to climb the ladder because the rungs are further apart. The problem, for this argument, is that declining mobility is also what you would expect if the meritocracy were working perfectly, without race or class prejudice (and inequality were stable or even shrinking). In a meritocracy, after all, the best rise to the top, the least talented and industrious wind up at the bottom. At some point, after a number of decades, maybe most of the talented will be at the top and the untalented at the bottom! Or at least, once the meritocratic centrifuge has sorted everyone out, there won’t be that many talented people at the bottom to rise in heartening success stories (and those stories that do turn up will mainly involve immigrants).

Meanwhile, Greg Cochran and Henry Harpending have a draft of a paper about assortative mating and creation of genetic castes and how fast it can happen. How much of the rising inequality is due to assortative mating versus the rise in the value of brains versus a trend toward winner-take-all in economic competitions?

My advice: do not wait to find out the answer. Find ways to get yourself some economic mobility in an upward direction. You especially need to do that if the lower classes in your area are dangerous.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2013 December 24 12:45 PM 

Wollf-Dog said at December 24, 2013 10:35 PM:

I am reading that draft paper, and although it is clear that assortative mating, if systematically enforced, would gradually remove the high and low IQ genes from the lower and upper classes respectively, I don't fully understand in how many generations this will deplete the genes of the lower class. Maybe many more generations will be needed. After all, the lower IQ kids who were born in the upper class, if transferred to the lower class, would still carry some temporarily suppressed high IQ genes in latent form, and if mated with the right lower class person, their offspring would still have higher IQ scores in some cases, although this will be more rare than in average, of course. Similarly, the lucky high IQ kids born in the lower class, when transferred to the upper class, would also carry some low IQ genes, contaminating the upper class a little bit. So it might take a little more than 4 generations for this genetic centrifuge system to concentrate the genes, but there is no question that this process will work in the long run. The American university system is becoming very effective in enforcing such a system. Top 20 universities have so much money that they have more than enough scholarships to enroll brilliant but impoverished kids. And most such kids would marry higher IQ kids, even if they are from the lower IQ families. This kind of mobility was more rare a century ago in the US. On the other hand, despite the influx of less educated immigrants in the US, what is perhaps not noticed is the fact that there is also an influx of high IQ immigrants that are flooding both the undergraduate and graduate schools in the US. Many of the high IQ visitors do end up staying in the US precisely because the salaries of high IQ people are higher in the US despite the new opportunities in other contries.

Anonymous said at December 26, 2013 3:50 AM:

The draft paper seems scary at first, but then again: high iq women have careers today, so they will not reproduce at the same rate as low iq women - the integral of the high iq bell curve gets smaller for each generation, whereas the low iq bell curve becomes larger. this trend seems to be running for atleast 100 years, feminism just accelerated it.


bbartlog said at December 26, 2013 4:36 PM:

There is another issue with the analysis in the paper, which is that it assumes that we are dealing with some relatively finite set of affects-only-IQ genetic variants. The reality is more complicated; most of the variation in IQ appears to come from damage, i.e. rare variants that have a small negative effect. Or in the case of high IQ people, the relative absence of these variants. Among other things this means that you can't wipe out regression to the mean nearly as easily as this paper implies.

Daniel said at December 27, 2013 4:28 AM:

50 Is the New 65: Older Americans Are Getting Booted from Their Jobs -- and Denied New Opportunities
Age discrimination could be headed for you, sooner than you think.


James Bowery said at December 27, 2013 11:08 AM:

50 Is the New 65: A lot of this is disillusioned women who were being used as office ornaments during their fertile years, and then treated to the corporate version of "An Unmarried Woman" when they hit menopause. However, there is a new intensity at work resulting from the very demographic vacuum caused by converting fertile years into commercial status -- a demographic vacuum that is being filled by the younger, high fertility-rate, demography of immigrant nations. And this is only the beginning of what is in store for the Boomers as they are increasingly seen as a fiscal liability by the government.

Gavin said at December 27, 2013 4:31 PM:

In a capitalist economic meritocracy those most able to make money will indeed rise to the top, but often at the expense of other kinds of merit. In a warrior society that is meritocratic the best fighters will rise to the top, and a society that values intellect the smartest people will rise to the top, and so on.

The troubling aspect of our society is that it rewards those best able to make money under capitalism, and perhaps the defining feature of such people is an intense interest in making money, which is a psychological feature that many people feel is much less admirable than other more traditional forms of merit. A moderately above average intelligence coupled with a strong motivation to make money and a willingness to undergo great privation and stress in the pursuit of money is all you need, and most of our wealthy are probably like that. But to my mind, the scientist or writer uninterested in money is more full of 'merit'.

What I am trying to say is that under capitalism it isn't true that the most talented or best at many kinds of merit will rise to the top since the what the system rewards most is an intense desire to get rich coupled with a level of talent that can be far less than stellar.

There is no such thing as a 'meritocracy' in a general sense. Every meritocratic society merely rewards one special kind of merit. An aristocratic society is also meritocratic in that it rewards one special kind of 'merit' - birth, pedigree. Many people have believed that pedigree is indeed a kind of merit and the difference between those who admire birth and those who advocate for talent is not different in kind between those who admire an ability to make money and those who admire disinterested scholarly pursuits. What I am trying to say is that the familiar attempt to oppose 'meritocratic' and 'non-meritocratic', with all the virtuous on the side of the meritocratic, has no basis in fact. All societies without exception are in their own way meritocratic.

An intellectual or warrior society - the opposite of ours - would not reward money-making ability. One might say that in a society where those best able to do the job get the jobs they are best able to do is indeed meritocratic (the best warriors are warriors the best writers are writers), but only in the particular sense, not in the general sense since each society gives the most money, prestige, and power to one particular talent or kind of merit at the expense of others.

The fourth doorman of the apocalypse said at December 27, 2013 7:52 PM:

50 Is the New 65

Holy shit, Batman, you mean that I am 8 years past my use-by date?

Why is it that recruiters keep contacting me then?

James Bowery said at December 27, 2013 10:58 PM:

Its because you're just such an exceptional human being, obviously!

The fourth doorman of the apocalypse said at December 28, 2013 9:30 AM:

Its because you're just such an exceptional human being, obviously!

The question was rhetorical ...

However, it's more likely that they like the remuneration they get for filling slots and any warm body looks good to them.

James Bowery said at December 28, 2013 11:43 AM:

Its true that any warm body can put a resume out there and get scads of "recruiters" to keep contacting them.

That's the job of a "recruiter". It costs them close to zero to contact a warm body so the odds of filling a job slot with that contact can be close to zero and still make it worth their while to so-"recruit".

Daniel said at December 28, 2013 1:14 PM:

I was a recruiter in the IT world for over 15 years. My clients were Wall street banks and such. From my experience, it doesn't matter how good you are, they just don't want "old" people around. And old is over 40 years of age. You're on your own out there.

Ross N. said at December 28, 2013 2:07 PM:

Rents are those costs above the true cost of production. In a non money economy, lets say it is an island, my tough brothers take the best fishing area and defend it. From then on, I trade my fish at a high cost relative to the services of others. Maybe I trade a few of my fish for your daughter, because you are starving. The fish were easy to get for me, but you have traded a lot in return... this is classic rents.

In the old days of England they called it rent -racking, where the poor were charged a lot to rent - in order to live near the factory.

Today, rents come in may forms, usually hidden and beyond the ken of intellectuals not versed in economic theory. Therefore, many of the correlations of intelligence to income fall flat because the analysis is lacking in rigor or understanding all of the dynamics at play. In a money economy, rents are hidden and obscured because money itself is just a number; it doesn't carry enough information about its trajectory - it is not a true accounting identity.

It is a fact that most of the international corporations today are linked together through boards, and all of them are tied to banks in some way. Large corporations are made up of the body parts of small corporations. This is done through the normal pumping and dumping of an economy, which in turn is a function of our credit money system with usury. During the down phase of a recession, those in debt are harvested for their assets on the cheap.

So, it has nothing to do with intelligence, it has to do with being in a rentier position. Often these positions are hereditary and the methods employed are kept secret. Or at a minimum the methods are obscured, especially with propaganda through the press, funded by the 5 to 7 trillion in usury take worldwide every year. Almost all economic chairs are funded by these usury flows via banking, and in addition our government is usurped via bribe money (so politicians can afford campaigns). These flows then change the laws to allow special rentier positions, where the take is well above what it should be in normal competition. In the united states, pharmaceuticals are a good example of rents; and the latest attempt at medical reform will codify high rents toward certain players.

So, in may cases, the rich are simply parasites who have gained rentier positions, and it has nothing to do with productivity. The top 1% have taken all of the economic overhead in the last 15 years or so, while the remaining part of society has stood still or fallen behind. This can only happen with a rigged or tilted system, and it is the money system itself which is the culprit.

Wolf-Dog said at December 28, 2013 3:18 PM:

Ross N,
But how exactly do the powerful rentiers prevent technological innovation? For instance, fracking, as toxic as it might be, ended up reducing the price of energy, making life more affordable even for the masses. It may be argued that fracking is going to sabotage research and development in electric car batteries, but in the long run the latter research cannot be stopped at universities and rival wealthy technology companies in Silicon Valley. Similarly, if totally safe thorium reactors or fusion reactors are developed in a fed decades, this will reduce the rents in many contexts, as it will become possible to colonize deserts, the oceans, Antarctica, Moon, etc.

James Bowery said at December 28, 2013 6:52 PM:

The rentiers don't actively prevent technological innovation. They suck capital into "rental properties" which is to say, invest in the equivalent of low risk annuities. The managers of these investments have lots of opportunities to collect economic rent without taking substantial risks.

All you have to do to make technological innovation explode is replace taxes on economic activity with taxes on the liquidation value of assets.

Public revenue will then consist solely of the economic rents that, as of now, subsidize capital -- and dramatically reduce taxes on high risk high return investments.

If a tax system like that were in place guys like Mark Zuckerberg would no longer have the resources to destroy the US with immigration.

The fourth doorman of the apocalypse said at December 28, 2013 7:52 PM:

Its true that any warm body can put a resume out there and get scads of "recruiters" to keep contacting them.

I don't put my resume out there, unless you consider my contributions to several open source software packages my resume.

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