Soft equalitarianism

Fred Reed points out how flawed assumptions lead to bad policy:

The commentators don’t realize that not everybody is like them. Those with IQs of 140 and up (130 gets you into Mensa, I think) unconsciously believe that anything is possible. Denizens of this class know that if they decided to learn, say, classical Greek, they could. You get the book and go at it. It would take work, yes, and time, but the outcome would be certain.

They don’t understand that the waitress has an IQ of 85 and can’t learn much of anything.

Conservatives think in terms of merciless abstractions and liberals insist that everyone is equal. Not even close. Further, people with barely a high-school education and low-voltage minds regard any intellectual task with utter discouragement.

Some commentators urge letting people invest their Social Security taxes in the stock market. To them it is a question of abstract freedom and probably the Federalist papers. The commentators are smart enough to invest money. I’ll guess that at least half the population isn’t. Go into the tit bar (does it still exist) in Waldorf, Maryland, and ask the dump-truck drivers and nail-pounders what NASDAQ is.

Liberal commentators want everyone to go to college, when about a fifth of people have the brains. Conservatives think that people can rise by hard work and sacrifice as certainly many people have. Thing is, most people can’t.

This affects a lot of smart people. My father used to constantly get on my case because he felt my MPAI philosophy was too contemptuous. And yet, he constantly ran into problems because he overestimated the capability of the average individual. At one point, we had an argument about calculus. He felt that it was easy and that anyone could learn it, because it was easy for him. I pointed out that the opinion anyone who’d been finishing an engineering PhD at MIT when he was hired out of school by a tech giant was not relevant to the average human being.

That sort of soft equalitarianism is nothing more than false humility. There is nothing arrogant about the simple observation that X is smarter than Y, anymore than there is in the observation that X is taller than Y, or X is heavier than Y. We know these things before we quantify them, and to pretend otherwise is not sane.

It harms people to pretend they have capabilities they don’t have, because we set them up for failure. To help someone be all they can be, the focus has to be on the word “can”. Sometimes we can do more than we think we can, but more often, we can’t do as much as we fancifully imagine.