Are You Smart Enough to Live in a Free Society? [new The Good Life column]

The opening of my latest column at EveryJoe:

“Honestly now: Do you have what it takes? We all like to think we’re smarter than average, but the math is cruel. Half of us are below median intelligence, and some of us are considerably lower. So why should we think that freedom is a good policy for everyone?

“I believe freedom is the best policy, but sometimes that is a hard argument to make. A free society presupposes that people are capable of living self-responsibly. That in turn presupposes that they have enough intelligence to do so. And a free democracy presupposes that the majority will consistently make good political decisions. That also presupposes they have enough intelligence to do so.

“But a strong claim can be made that it’s naive to think that most people are smart enough. So let’s take up that hard challenge, since only by facing the best arguments on all sides can we be most certain of our own conclusions …” [Read more here.]


Last week’s column: How to Discriminate Properly.

2 thoughts on “Are You Smart Enough to Live in a Free Society? [new The Good Life column]

  • January 29, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    I’m not buying your concern with the presuppositions. For example, rats live in a fairly free society and one that has adapted extremely well to the modern, complex society that humans have imposed on the world. Crows and numerous other species as well. Therefore, we can presuppose that rats and friends, have adequate intelligence to live in a free society. Since humans are nearly universally more intelligent than rats, humans have adequate intelligence to live in a free society.

    As far as being intelligent enough to make good decision within a democratic framework, that’s easy as a long as something like a constitution limits the range of decisions that can be made.

    Regarding all of the bureaucracies? Those are just raw power grabs and have little to do with trying to overcome lack of intelligence.

    Apparently, you’re going to address these issues in your next column, but then what’s the point of this one?

  • January 30, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    Bret, I think the point of this column is to clearly delineate the issues before attempting to address them, including by naming the (often unstated) presuppositions behind the various positions. I look forward to where it leads.

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