Revenge of the Normies — time to take back control from the cognitive elite?

Revenge of the Normies — time to take back control from the cognitive elite? By Helen Dale.

David Goodhart in Head Hand Heart: The Struggle for Dignity and Status in the 21st Century … claims that much of the developed world requires a major change in the way we measure and reward social status. And part of the change involves stripping cognitive elites of both wealth and power.

“We have reached Peak Head,” Goodhart argues. “All too often, cognitive ability and meritocratic achievement is confused with moral worth”.

More than anything else, Head Hand Heart is a root-and-branch attack on meritocracy … He accepts that one doesn’t wish to be treated by a doctor who failed anatomy or advised by a lawyer who failed contract, but he thinks cognitive privilege needs to be limited in scope. …

Never one to make concessions to tender feelings, Goodhart’s campaign to confer increased pay, status and respect on trade skills (“hand”) and social care (“heart”) at the expense of the exam-passing classes (“head”) involves sticking his fingers into a large number of open wounds.

He has no time for pieties about destigmatising conditions like Asperger’s, for example. “We know,” he says bluntly, “that some people with very high cognitive functioning, and usually very high IQs, are ‘on the spectrum’ for autism and often lack social intelligence”. His carefully worked out policy proposals for depriving such types of access to the levers of power would defang Twitter and Google and shrink Facebook. …

The motherhood gap:

As if that isn’t enough, he draws on survey data from multiple jurisdictions showing that most women either wish to leave the labour-market entirely or only work limited hours before their children start school. His policy solution is simplicity itself: let women transfer some or all of their personal allowance to their husband or partner, or split the higher earner’s salary in two and tax both at the lower rate thereby produced. This not only buttresses family formation but means women with small children are effectively paid “Wages for Housework” as the 70s feminist slogan put it.

Goodhart is surely aware that, in 2021, the introduction of these policies would crater female labour-market participation and turn the existing wage gap between men and women from a crack into a chasm. He suggests it, however, because feminism has been captured by the 20% of women who have what are traditionally considered masculine, work-focussed outlooks. Relatedly, subsidised childcare requires huge wealth transfers from the childless and people in full-time employment to working mothers.

His argument, of course, depends on understanding that the male-female wage gap is not a function of sex, but motherhood. His solution is to support and reward what most women want to do, much of the time: mothering. …

“Meritocracy” has become distorted:

Say “meritocracy” to most people, for example, and those north of 45 will likely define it by reference to “the right person for the job”, and if that were all it was, meritocracy would be a genuine social good.

However, as Goodhart points out — in tandem with the expansion of higher education and almost certainly as a result of it — it has now become uncomfortably close to Michael Young’s dystopian vision. People under 35 are often open in their belief that it means some forms of work or certain occupations are intrinsically better than others. …

Historical precedents:

Historic meritocracies, when they lost their way, often did so because the definition of “merit” narrowed to such an extent over time that people who finished up “on top of the heap” were intellectually able but ethically deficient.

They lacked character — in the traditional sense of the term — and screwed the national pooch as a result. Goodhart is not alone in noting that overpraising and overpaying brains leads nowhere good. Medievalists and Sinologists have observed this pattern repeating down the centuries in Chinese history, for example. It was often why entire dynasties collapsed. …

Education does not make people intrinsically brighter, just more knowledgeable:

Goodhart makes a compelling case that increased university attendance and costs have not created a more skilled and productive workforce. Instead, the growth of higher education is about labour market regulation and signalling. …

Degrees are costly signals of mostly pre-existent qualities and attributes that make the holder a good employment bet: clever, conscientious, and conformist.

As average IQs drop throughout this century, finding enough bright people for certain critical jobs will become challenging. Already there seems to be more incompetence about.

On the other hand, the university system is pumping out ever greater numbers of midwits with pretensions and expectations of joining the elite. Here comes trouble — wokeness!