Had a long conversation with a friend today where we both came to the conclusion that the US is pretty much doomed, and it might be too late to change that. What is it that’s dooming us? Well… we’re stupid. As a nation, we’re loaded to the gills with fricken’ morons. Sure, we have a whole bunch of really smart people. Sure, the average American you’re likely to run into most places is perfectly sensible. But we, like every population ever, have a whole bunch of really stupid schmucks. Normally that’d be ok; but we as a society not only go out of our way to assure that people are insulated from the effects of their own stupid actions, we *subsidize* the stupid to make even more stupid people.
This is a relatively new event in human history. Hell, this is a new event in *American* history. The 1927 Buck vs. Bell Supreme Court upheld the right of the State to forcibly sterilize the mentally unfit. At the time, the United States had been busily sterilizing the crazy, the mentally retarded, and the just plain weird or unlucky, under the then-popular concept of eugenics. Of course, the Nazis came along and ruined the idea by going overboard with it. But consider: we live in a society where you need governmental permission and/or licenses for damn near everything. Want to buy a gun or a dog? Many places require a license. Want to build an addition onto your house? Better get permission. Want to grow your own food and sell it? Better get a bunch of licenses. But want to have a baby? Hell, you don’t even have to take a class.
As a libertarian, I’m not suggesting that we need to license baby-makin’. But at the same time, giving people money to have babies is *insane.* If you are doing so poorly that you need government assistance to care for your kid… you shouldn’t have *more.* As Oliver Wendell Holmes said in the Buck vs Bell decision:
We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. … Three generations of imbeciles are enough.
The idea of the government grabbing people that they don’t like and operating on them is offensive. That said… the idea of the government putting a condition of tube-tying onto long-term welfare seems to me to be entirely appropriate. But the problem is… there are far too many people who have been sucked into a life of dependency. More than half the adults in the US pay no federal income tax; IIRC more than 40% of the population gets money directly from the government in some form. And virtually all of them have the unimpeded right to vote.
While it’s certainly true that being intelligent is no sure way to financial success, it’s a safe bet that being stupid is a good way to wind up on the dole. For far more examples than you can stomach, turn on on reality TV. “Hardcore Pawn,” “Bait Car” and the like put on display the worst and *dumbest* elements of society. And with that level of dumb comes a massive sense of entitlement… a car left nearby becomes “my car,” a ten dollar video game console becomes something they think they should get $200 for for no better reason than that’s what they want. And when people don’t accommodate them, violence and threats of violence are pretty much the very next event.
The US has gotten to the point where it is very likely impossible to reverse the dumbing-down of our people. The government and its functionaries have grown fat and powerful on programs that have subsidized the expansion of poverty, and we have tens of millions of people who are convinced that they are *owed* a comfortable living from the government. Hell, the state of California simply hands out debit cards that people can use for virtually anything (and what they can’t get directly, there are con artists who can game the system for you). Anyone who suggests cutting just the rate of growth in welfare programs is immediately marginalized as “heartless,” “greedy” or “racist.”
So when we have a culture where a potential majority of voters feel entitled to goodies obtained through the government, and this majority is only going to grow under this system, and the system preferentially selects for the dumb gene… how the hell do we fix this? I’m not an optimist by nature, but here I just cannot dredge up *any* real hope. Eventually the system will have to change, one way or the other… and one of those ways may well be armed rebellion. A civil war with a mass of unskilled, uneducated , unethical and unstrategic morons on one side, and a smaller population of reasonably intelligent people on the other… I dunno. It might end up that the eugenics programs that ended with World War II will catch up with a vengeance. Or it might end up like Kornbluth’s “The Marching Morons,” where a tiny minority of the competent struggle to maintain order in a world filled with idiots that breed like bunnies. Or it might end up like “Idiocracy,” where the entire population has been reduced to moron status, with society being kept barely functional under the control of antiquated computerized systems built when there were still people capable of building such things.
In any event, I’m rapidly losing what little hope I had in the future. The final collapse may well not come until I’m old or dead, and in that time a great deal of good can be done. As in… getting human civilization offworld. Space will be a frontier again, something we’ve not had for a century. And frontiers are notoriously unkind to idiots.
The last million years have seen humanity become increasingly intelligent. This was due to the wonder of natural selection. But the last century, in particular the last nearly fifty years, have replaced natural selection with artificial selection, and the selection has not been directed towards the creation of a “better” human, just *more* humans. And sometimes “quantity” is not better than “quality.”
So if you have ideas, feel free to jump in. If you think I’m wrong, tell me why.