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Yet another weird SF fan
 

Monday, January 23, 2006

Two Problems with Eugenic Policies

Bryan Caplan described one problem:

Even if genetics explained ALL differences in success, many policies that raise average genetic quality would backfire. How? Let me begin with a thought experiment, then explain the general principle.

Suppose we have an isolated society in which everyone is a genius. Let's call them the Brains. Who takes out the garbage? A Brain, obviously. Who does the farming? Again, Brains.

Now what happens if the geniuses come into contact with a society where everyone is of average intelligence at best? Let's call them the Brawns. If the Brains allow the Brawns to join their society, the average genetic quality of the Brains' society plummets. But everyone is better off as a result! Now the Brains can specialize in jobs that require high intelligence, and the Brawns can take over the menial labor. Total production goes up.

There's a second problem. Policies that aim resources toward groups based on their supposed genetic value give researchers an incentive to fudge data in a way that makes their relatives look superior. (This is the same as other type of “picking winners.”) That might have caused Karl Pearson to fudge data. Genetic research might be relatively honest now but we can expect corruption to set in once it's used to create government policies.

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