Jock/Nerd Theory and Income Redistribution

(Lightly edited for streamlining purposes; all emphasis mine)

According to the Jock/Nerd Theory of History, most historical human societies bore a striking resemblance to K-12 education. In primitive tribes, for instance, the best hunters are on top. If the village brain knows what’s good for him, he keeps his mouth shut if the best hunter says something stupid. The rise of civilization gave the nerds a better deal, but as long as almost everyone worked in agriculture, brawn continued to pay well.

But then something amazing happened: Nerds got enough breathing room to develop and implement amazing wealth-producing ideas. The process fed on itself, devaluing physical ability and elevating mental ability. Nerds built the modern world – and won handsome financial rewards in the process.

Notice: For financial success, the main measure where nerds now excel, governments make quite an effort to equalize differences. But on other margins of social success, where many nerds still struggle, laissez-faire prevails.

It’s suspicious – and if you combine the Jock/Nerd Theory with some evolutionary psych, it makes sense. When the best hunter in the tribe gets rich, his neighbors will probably ask nicely for a share, if they dare to ask at all. But if the biggest nerd in the tribe gets rich, how long will it take before the jocks show up and warn him that "You’d better share and share alike"?

Punchline: Through the lens of the Jock/Nerd Theory of History, the welfare state doesn’t look like a serious effort to "equalize outcomes." It looks more like a serious effort to block the "revenge of the nerds" – to keep them from using their financial success to unseat the jocks on every dimension of social status.

via Redistribution: Blocking the Revenge of the Nerds?, Bryan Caplan | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty.

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6 thoughts on “Jock/Nerd Theory and Income Redistribution”

  1. As a successful software developer with 2 degrees, a former successful athlete, and a (pretty) charismatic guy I don’t see the dichotomy you’re talking about.

    1. (/me nods)

      I thought it was an interesting thought exercise, and somewhat illuminating.

      Of curiosity (in the terms of the linked article) were you a jock first, or a nerd first? That is, did you come to software development mostly after your athletic career, or vice versa?

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