More on stupid people

In response to my last post, Aretae says:

Fundamentally, the Caplan claim is…as a rich person, what anyone else does to me is LARGELY within my control. Unless they’re some asshole government bureaucrat who relies on gun-wielding thugs to collect their salary in a rich part of town. Apart from those folks, your choices are your own.

There are lots of problems with this argument.

First “rich person” isn’t defined. It seems that no one who uses this term ever defines it. I’m partial to the claim that it’s basically a meaningless term in the US for all but a very few people (so few that they’re not really worth considering in situations like this one). Individuals’ incomes fluctuate during their lives and measurements of wealth are hard. As the WSJ notes today, we’re all a lot poorer now than we were 10 years ago if wealth is measured in gold. In general, I try to avoid using the term (though this could be a side effect of working in DC, were wealth is less valuable than power).

Second, I think the claim is wrong. By most people’s measures, my family is rich (our income is well over the President’s threshold of $250,000). If anyone is willing to spend their money to avoid stupid people, I am. So far I haven’t found any ways to get totally away from stupid people.

For example, I have to buy food. Going to the grocery store around my home is an adventure in stupidity. In general, I try to have as much of my food delivered as possible, but still, the delivery guy isn’t a rocket scientist and if too much stuff is left outside my house during the day, some dumbass will steal it.

Also for example, crime has negative externalities. Even if I can afford to protect my family (arguable), I can’t control it’s effect on my property values. The list goes on and actually impacts virtually every area of my life. No man is an island, so to speak.

Third, the argument consists of two sentences. The first tells me that I shouldn’t mind having my wealth effectively used up by the stupid people around me (implicitly, it suggests that the way I can cope with stupid people is by spending money to avoid them). The second tells me that I should mind having the government effectively use up my money. What’s the difference? In both cases, stupid people are making it so that I have less money. Why should I care if one set of the stupid people works for the government?

Finally, I can’t resist pointing out that the Caplan/Aretae claim is totally reasonable for someone living in Fairfax, VA or San Luis Obispo, CA (there, it’s true that you can generally avoid the one idiot in the village), but not for someone living in DC. Frankly, I find it pretty annoying that people who have moved as far away from stupid people as possible are tell others how easy it is to live around stupid people. It’s trivial to suggest that it’s easy to avoid stupid people when you don’t live near any.

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9 Responses to More on stupid people

  1. todd says:

    I lived in downtown Baltimore for 4 years. Commuted to Arlington, VA every day via public transit. Plenty of opportunities to encounter people of all stripes. If you contend that wealth has no meaning, then let me suggest that neither does intelligence, or at least, in the context of crowded, poorly designed systems, intelligence is a terrible predictor of “smart/civilized/polite” behavior.

  2. AC says:

    Libertarian: Let people do what they want.
    Conservatives: Social externalities matter.

  3. M.G. says:

    Did I just miss it, or has no one touched on government-funded dysgenic breeding schemes, such as Great Britain’s since the 1960s? Paying the least able to have kids, while taxing the most able to pay for them? Just wrote a post about this at the HBD Policy blog.

    Stupid people create a lot more externalities than just crime. As ‘Kylie’ over at Steve Sailer’s blog put it, “Less intelligent people concern themselves far less with delayed gratification, future time orientation and abstract notions such as duty, responsibility and integrity…

    “Contracts, in particular, seem to befuddle them. They don’t see why a landlord should insist on the rent when s/he knows they have sh!t going on their lives right now. If they have a checking account, that means the bank will give them money if they write a check–they overlook the necessity of their depositing money in that account. If they’re hired for a job, that means they have a job and should get a paycheck, whether or not they go to work or do the work assigned them. As for the social contract, forget about it. They are who they are, the government is what it is and should take care of them because it has more money than they do. The notion that their hardworking neighbors are paying the taxes that provide the government services to which they think they are entitled is literally one they can’t comprehend. The government has the money, the government should provide.”

    Too many low-intelligence people are a huge drain on society, as the study Dennis Mangan just linked to shows.

  4. [...] Aretae, Foseti, and AnomalyUK have had some fascinating debates on matters Formalist.  I hope someday to have [...]

  5. [...] – “What Have Dumb People Done to Me?“, “More on Stupid People“, “Left Libertarianism“, “What Have Stupid People Done [...]

  6. sconzey says:

    I’m not sure this is the correct way to object to this fallacy, because — whilst on a micro level it is false — on a macro level it is true. It is the greater wealth of the United States that enables it to fund the NGOs who meddle in public policy in LEDCs, to pay the taxes to fund the armies which invade arid countries.

    The correct objection is that this is a fact of life; to object to it would be as if to brand the force of universal gravitation as “unfair” and “massist”.

    Just like all religions have to deal with the problem of evil; all political philosophies have to deal with the problem of inequalities. As Vox Day chose Christianity because of how it handles evil; I choose Formalism because of how it handles inequality:

    It exists; now grow the fuck up and deal with it.

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