Eugenics is nothing to be scared of

Clairwil has put up an interesting post about how education can alleviate the problems of the underclass. Most of it I more or less agree with, but I disagree with this:

Another thing we cannot choose is who gives birth. Much as it pains me, morons do have children. Unless we accept state control of our breeding which I sincerely hope will never happen, then that’s what we’re stuck with.

The problem is that stupid people who have children often have stupid children, because intelligence is largely inherited. Then these stupid children often end up being in the 20% of people at the bottom of society who are functionally illiterate. OK, many people who’re illiterate could be literate if the education system was better, but they’re still going to be a bit thick, and so they’re unlikely to be suitable to do work in the high technology sectors of industry that the Britidh economy is going to increasingly rely on.

So it seems to me that it could be very beneficial to society if the state did control, at least to some extent, human reproduction. (And in fact it does already, for example it says that people who are under 16 aren’t allowed to have sex, nor are people who are close kin allowed to marry each other. So if you’re in principle against laws that say who can reproduce and with whom, then to be consistent you would have to oppose all such laws.)

I’m talking about a very “light touch” form of state control here. I propose that the least intelligent 20% of the population be discouraged from breeding. I’m agnostic how we would define who falls in this category — maybe it could be an IQ test, or be determined by educational qualifications, or a simple test of basic literacy. Whatever scheme is used, one must bear in mind that people will try to game the system. (By the way, I’m not claiming that IQ tests are a particularly good way of measuring intelligence — I don’t think they are — but I do think they’d be good enough for our purpose.)

What sort of “discouragement” do I have in mind? For example, we could tell stupid women that getting pregnant will not get them a council house, nor would they get child benefit. Stronger discouragement, such as compulsory sterilisation, would be counter-productive since most people would find it morally repugnant.

As well as discouraging the least intelligent from breeding, the state could intervene at the top end too, by having a pool of sperm and egg donors, who would all be of high intelligence, in good mental and physical health, and not genetically prone to diseases. British people come in a wide variety of races, and we’d want our donors to reflect tihs diversity, so parents can have kids that look like they could be genetically theirs.

People who’re infertile would be able to make use of this pool, without cost, but so would the wider population too and it’s quite likely there would be significant take-up. After all, many parents have told me how clever their children are, but no-one has ever bragged to me about how stupid their kids are, so I conclude that many parents want to have clever kids. Come to think of it, no-one’s ever bragged to me about how ugly their kids are either, so we could put physical beauty on the list of desirable attributes for the sperm/egg donor scheme.

In fact, under this scheme, there’d be no reason to prevent/discourage the least intelligent 20% from having children — merely ones that carry their genes. And any two humans are 99.9% genetically identical anyway, so their children would carry 99.9% of their genes anyway.

Some might say this is an illiberal or right-wing policy. I disagree. Consider if someone is handicapped by being born into a poor family, so they don’t have a good chance in life; people on the political left would regard this as unfair and think that the state should remedy this by such measures as state-funded education, and in thre long term make sure every household has enough money to prevent social exclusion. Similarly, if someone is handicapped by being born with low intelligence, that person — through no fault of their own — will not have a good chance in life. To remedy this unfairness, doesn’t it make sense to make sure that as many as possible are born with a good intelligence?

As well as the fairness argument, there is also the efficiency one. Clever people are better for the economy. Were the steam turbine, the jet engine, the computer, or the world wide web invented by clever people or stupid people? Are Britain’s most productive workers characterised by cleverness or stupidity? These questions answer themselves. Most British people want Britain to be a successful and prosperous country (not least for reasons of self interest).

Oh and before anyone accuses me of being a fascist or a Nazi, neither Fascist Italy nor Nazi Germany had a program like I am describing, with these attributes:

1. non-coercive, i.e. no compulsory sterilisation

2. focussed on intelligence rather than on totemic attributes such as “looking Germanic” in the Nazi case

3. including a sperm/egg donation system open to the wider population so that all would-be parents could use it if they wished

UPDATE:

Unsurprisingly, there’s been some heated response to this article. Tim Worstall thinks my proposal is “absolutely foul“. Devil’s Kitchen, on the other hand, grudgingly takes my side:

However, repugnant though I find his ideas, Calabamat is actually more right than Timmy: whilst we all pay for the children born into this society, we have a stake in those children’s lives.

The Elusive Pimpernel, however, takes Tim’s side:

I agree completely with the anti-eugenics stance – it should not be for the state or any appointed body to determine who can and cannot have a child.

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8 Responses to Eugenics is nothing to be scared of

  1. MatGB says:

    You are working from the assumption that intelligence is entirely hereditary, this is to my knowledge completely unproven and there’s significant evidence that environment and upbringing count for a lot more, hence eugenics, despite its connotations, is problematic.

    aside: Hitler’s policies were also to deal with the ‘mentally subnormal’ as well as those of other races. But he got the idea from early Fabians such as George Bernard Shaw and the Webbs. So yes, left wing, but from the distinctly authoritarian tradition.

    And even the least capable can raise a smart child if they have the desire to do so, reading and assistance with basic skills early count for a lot more than most other factors.

  2. cabalamat says:

    You are working from the assumption that intelligence is entirely hereditary

    No I’m not. My assumption is that intelligence is largely hereditary. Clearly it isn’t entirely hereditary.

    there’s significant evidence that environment and upbringing count for a lot more

    Actually there’s evidence that upbringing counts for essentially bugger all (Judith Harris, The Nurture Assumption) and environment is less important than genes (Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate).

    I expect that in the future, when essentially every household has internet access, environment will count for even less, because every child with a modicom of intelligence and curiosity will be able to learn as much as they want about whatever interests them.

    And even the least capable can raise a smart child if they have the desire to do so, reading and assistance with basic skills early count for a lot more than most other factors.

    About 20% of British adults are functionally illiterate. I doubt if they would be able to assist with reading, although they would be able to look after its physical needs and give it an environment where it is loved.

  3. vision25 says:

    I have a better idea.

    Why not simply abolish the welfare state.

    Intelligent people will continue to make good decisions and breed succesfully as they now do.

    Morons will continue to make bad decisions, will end up having less resources and therefore breed less sucessfully.

    The intelligent don’t face theft of their assets to fund the morons, the morons are encouraged to act more sensibly by having some of their number die in the gutter.

    Everybody benefits.

  4. cabalamat says:

    Why not simply abolish the welfare state.

    Other people have made comments on similar lines. But there asre good and sensible reasons not to:

    If there was no child benefit, some children wouldn’t get enough to eat, or would live on the streets, which would reduce their intelligence and ability to become productive members of society.

    If there was no free health care, some children would get uncured illnesses, which would reduce their intelligence and ability to become productive members of society.

    If there was no free education… well you get the idea.

    But don’t just take my word for it, look at the evidence: there are 200 countries in the world. Is there even one of them that doesn’t have free health care and education ofr children that’s not a shithole but a nicer place to live than Britain? I suggest there is not. If you disagree with me, name the country you have in mind and go and live there. Because whne you actually chose to live in the sort of country where people “die in the gutter”, I’ll accpet you’re not just an idiot bullshitter.

  5. vision25 says:

    “”But don’t just take my word for it, look at the evidence: there are 200 countries in the world. Is there even one of them that doesn’t have free health care and education ofr children that’s not a shithole but a nicer place to live than Britain? I suggest there is not. If you disagree with me, name the country you have in mind and go and live there. Because whne you actually chose to live in the sort of country where people “die in the gutter”, I’ll accpet you’re not just an idiot bullshitter.””

    What happened before the NHS or state run schools in the UK?

    People voluntarily came together to provide these themselves and the provision was more efficent than when the state took over.

    Remove ‘state welfare’ and the same would happen again.

    Britain of a hundred years ago was a much better place, certainly a lot less authoritarian than it is now.

    (I’m sure you will be tempted to reply something about sending my kids up chimneys or down mines but thats just a cheap shot and you know it. Progress being down to technological advancement).

  6. cabalamat says:

    What happened before the NHS or state run schools in the UK? People voluntarily came together to provide these themselves and the provision was more efficent than when the state took over. Remove ’state welfare’ and the same would happen again.

    First you say that if there was no welfare state, then people would die in the gutter. Now you say that if there was no welfare state, people would voluntarily group together and do things better. I think you should get your story straight.

    You know why Britain has state run schools? Because before it did, lots of kids were uneducated or poorly educated. Then in 1870-1 Prussia won a war against France. Prussia did have compulsory state education and this was seen as a factor in their victory. So Britain decided it needed to copy Prussia, to keep up. Incidently the welfare state was invented by Bismarck.

    (Interestingly, a lot of the social and technical progress in Europe from 1500-1945 was driven by the needs of warfare. This is because over this time European states were either fighting wars, or recovering from the last war or preparing for the next one. And while powerful interest groups could often block reform, they couldn’t stop their country from breing overrun by foreigners, so rulers had to rule in ways that’re in concord with military efficiency, whixch means they all had to be economically efficient too. China over the same period was (most of the time) one big state, and couldn’t be conquered from without, so ruler’s didn’t have to care about economic efficiency, and China stagnated.)

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