Genetics and Egalitarianism


It seems to that deviation from a egalitarian outcome is the easiest to justify (on grounds of the societal good loosely speaking) the more that allowing greater reward for some provides incentive that induces productive activity.

If distribution of wealth is genetic this means one of two things:

1. High producers are that way by no choice they make, just genetics, and they can’t be anything other than highly productive.
2. Highe producers have great abilities, that they didn’t choose, but may or may not to use them. If use their gifts results in no private reward then such abilities may be less likely to be used and all will suffer some, from say great musical abilities not used.

Karl is I think maybe in the first school, but those on the right are in the second, and believe that great ability is in a few hands, and the cost and disincentive to the gifited to perform from high marginal tax rates is very high.

A few on my friends on the right have publically and many more privately, suggested that egalitarian efforts were foolish or unwarranted because income distribution is pretty much all genetic.

Poor parents have poor children because they pass on genes for irresponsibility, violence, promiscuity, impulsiveness, etc.

The empirical truth of this statement aside, it seems to me that this is overwhelmingly an argument for egalitarian measures.

No one asks to be born. And, certainly no one asks to be born with impulsive genes. To the extent those genes strongly predispose them to a life of misery this is something that was done to them without their consent.

I argue that miserable lives can be worse than no life at all. Some suggest that this is impossible since you can always kill yourself if things are that bad. Yet, as I’ve said before, ending your life is not free. At a minimum people who care about you will be sad, and to the extent you have any concern for what happens after you are gone there are costs to shuffling yourself off this mortal coil.

Still even if you are not willing to accept that some lives are worse than never having lived the belief in genetic poverty is a strong argument for egalitarian measures.

If we could we would like buy insurance against having been born with bad genes. However, bad genes are the ultimate pre-existing condition. By definition there was never a moment in your life were you didn’t have them and thus could have had the opportunity to buy fairly priced insurance against them.

So purely for the sake of economic efficiency it makes sense society at large to insure you against risks for which the free market cannot possibly create insurance.

Filed under: Economics, Society alt alt alt alt alt alt alt alt

Genetics and Egalitarianism
Karl Smith
Sun, 03 Apr 2011 00:29:47 GMT

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