Monday, August 22, 2016

Human Worth, Economic Value, Poverty, and Education

I'm offering my opinion to David H. Freedman's The War on Stupid, where he makes the case that education and poverty are related and in his view, poverty seems to be winning. He finds what and who we should blame for this situation, and he suggests some solutions. I believe he has set up a straw man scenario that he says can only be solved with huge transfers of money. I'm in general disagreement with his socialist-leaning advocacy essay.

I want to clarify my point of view about human worth and personal value.

In our Western culture, we want to maintain that human life has worth equal to every other human life and every life is sacred.

We believe every human deserves to be treated as though he/she has equal worth.

Human worth applies to every human as an intrinsic characteristic, not as a value assigned by judgmental people.

Every human has an economic value as a producer and as a consumer.

Human economic value is set through interactions by the person (or his/her broker) and the marketplace.

Human economic value is necessarily a judgment made by people being judgmental.

Human worth and human economic value are completely unrelated concepts.

As a person who has been accused, tried, convicted, and sentenced for being the most judgmental man in the world, I'm particularly sensitive to writers who confuse human worth with economic value. So, The War on Stupid People struck me as being an essay confusing these two concepts. Mr. Freedman starts by borrowing phraseology lifted from concepts in The Myth of Neurosis by Garth Wood, 1986.

*  Those who consider themselves bright openly mock others for being less so.
*  ...we maintain open season on the nonsmart.
*  ...degrading others for being “stupid” has become nearly automatic in all forms of disagreement.
*  ...this gleeful derision seems especially cruel...(to)...the less intellectually gifted.
*  Rather than looking for ways to give the less intelligent a break, the successful and influential seem more determined than ever to freeze them out.

Mr. Freedman goes on to document reasons why human economic values matter in society and in the workplace, but his conclusion that an IQ gap diminishes a person's worth is illogical. He leaves no doubt that an IQ gap impacts a person's economic value, and I believe everyone would agree. After arguing correctly that low intelligence results in lower wage earning power for a majority of people, the author then tries to convince us that the strength of the link between poverty and struggling in school is as close to ironclad as social science gets. This is also correct for a large segment of the population. So what do we have? Education is less successful when students live in poverty. I agree this is often and needlessly true, but I contend that living in poverty and less successful educations are both effects of the same cause: individuals failing to take personal responsibility.

...our government and society are not seriously considering any initiatives capable of making a significant dent in the numbers or conditions of the poor. I agree, and that's why I'm interested in making a dent.

Mr. Freedman offers answers:
We must stop glorifying intelligence... This answer is illogical. I say we must continue to be ambassadors in pursuit of intelligence through superb education processes. We should strive for excellence, efficiency, and a spirit of continuous improvement in this pursuit.

...provide incentives to companies that resist automation, thereby preserving jobs for the less brainy. ...discourage hiring practices that arbitrarily and counterproductively weed out the less-well-IQ'ed. ...the less brainy are... more aware of their own biases, less anxiety-ridden, and less arrogant, and this is why the less-well-IQ'ed should be given special privileges in hiring).

Where would the incentive dollars come from? Obviously, from additional corporate and personal taxes. These answers are the ideologies of totalitarian control of an unfree population, where individual responsibility is usurped and suffocated by a Central Committee of the State. people should not be permitted to reshape society so as to instate giftedness as a universal yardstick of human worth. The author again confuses worth with economic value. I say the way free people should influence society is by being the best, most honest, smartest, and productive they can possibly be. The way to ensure freedom is for every individual to accept personal responsibility for improving and adapting their own lifestyles. Every adult should take personal responsibility for himself/herself, family, and for incapacitated citizens. Other people who can reasonably care for themselves are not your responsibility, and you skew the concepts of personal responsibility and economic value when you interfere in their reasonably capable lives.

There is a descriptive way to characterize Mr. Freedman's appeal to energize people whose feelings have been hurt, desperate to clutch for more esteem by opting for more free education money. He seems to advocate robbing the money from others who got theirs by following the rules of decency and fairness and who took personal responsibility to make the most of their educational opportunities despite their financial conditions.


Anonymouth said...

Still kinda judgmental

The other Freedman said...

I think Mr. Freedman wants to say inequality of wealth needs to be changed by redistribution.

Ari Stottle said...

This proves we're only as intelligent as the least intelligent. That's the way it's been in some demographics since Plato showed off his courageous contrary opinion. Fortunately, there's still courage.

Anonymouth said...

Get Jack Reacher

Kermit said...

I sent this article to Scarpacci because he wrote a booklet about The Root Cause of Poverty, irresponsibility. I don't have any quarrel with that.

There are other considerations, however. One is what to do about the people who are getting left by the wayside as we move to a technology and service based post-industrial economy, increasingly automated with robots and artificial intelligence. Nobody wants them to be "throw away" people but there is a high likelihood they will become poor and will create a self-perpetuating culture of poverty. This is a serious issue.

That's what this article was about (The title is unfortunate). To care about these people is to truly value them.

Take one item from the article, a provocative suggestion that employers be persuaded to keep employees rather than replace them with automation. No examples were given, so I was intrigued by how this might play out. Then one fell into my lap.

A few days ago I went with my wife to a local hospital for a routine screening procedure. Since my last visit the hospital had installed indoor pay stations for their parking garage. We paid there and upon exiting noticed there were no attendants at any of the three booths. In the past at least two have always been manned.

On the trip home we wondered what happened to those people. They weren't folks who looked as if they would thrive in our economy in a more demanding job.

Would keeping the toll collectors be the right thing to do? Even at additional expense to all the rest of us? If not, what else should be done?

Before you dismiss this as trivial, consider that it's a representative of a much larger problem: we have a lot of people who need simple jobs and are competing with robots, AI and foreign workers at cheaper rates.

That's why I sent Scarpacci the article, hoping to engage him in a creative discussion of these issues.

E. E. Slater said...

Who is responsible for what? Let's please work through this.

E. Slater said...

I have an update that I came across a couple of days ago. Sometime in the last 75 years our educators began teaching us how to learn, but not how to think. Our founders developed into men and women of wisdom by becoming problem solvers and thinkers. Parents and teachers taught youngsters how to develop their thinking processes. It seems educations based on "learn the facts I teach you" leaves the door open to advocacies and slanted opinions propagated into schools.