Tax Bryan Caplan

Bryan Caplan argues that IQ research has strong policy implications.  His conclusion:

The more IQ matters, the more likely it becomes that existing government policies are a waste of money – and that you would get a bigger payoff by doing less – or maybe nothing at all.

Surely this deserves some discussion of the Flynn Effect, that near-universal albeit mysterious process whereby average IQs rise each generation.  Should we re-gear government policy to subsidize whatever factors deserve the credit for this phenomenon? 

But I have a simpler worry about Bryan’s libertarian conclusion.  When Bryan says "IQ matters a great deal" I hear "inelastic factors of production."  IQ won’t change much in the short run, and perhaps IQ — rather than effort or environment — accounts for more of good (and bad) outcomes than we used to think.  But we all know that inelastic factors of production can be taxed and subsidized without much deadweight loss.  More generally, the belief that value comes from inelastic factors will not favor markets or liberty.  The historical correlation between IQ research and anti-egalitarian social engineering is not a complete accident. 

Yes IQ matters for policy, but I see no particular reason why libertarians should welcome this conclusion.  Libertarian philosophy does better under the traditional story of the self-made man.  Thomas More, I believe, understood a similar point, albeit in the language of his time.

Addendum: Here is Jane Galt on same topic.


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