Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Immigration, the bully and the nerd

I strongly suggest viewing this lecture from Bryan Caplan and I suggest, although it is a bit long, to view it in full.

After watching it I had the same reaction I had when I finished Caplan's book "The myth of the rational voter": excitement and sadness. Excitement that someone had finally written in a clear and brilliant way things I had thought and felt, sadness that the outcome will be absolutely useless. In a way it is the direction America is moving towards: we tend to gravitate towards people and publications (even areas, isn't there a neighborhood of Ron Paul supporters?) we have almost everything in common and we become mutually incomprehensible with the rest.

I found the lecture very witty and I enjoyed it enormously, but being an arrogant and condescending person myself, it took me a while to realize that the tone sometimes was a bit too much. We all (all of us?) agree that NY and North Dakota are not really on the same cultural plane, but is there a need to sneer saying this? I wished that the lecture had been given in a tone to convince the "others" not to rally people who more or less already share your views.

There is something more I got out of it and I will have a go at a bit of pop psychology. More than once Caplan attacks high school drop outs and more than once (or maybe just once) he mentions the high school bully. One cannot help thinking hearing this that the whole lecture, the whole being smart, Caplan's whole position in life is one big revenge against the high school bully. What I said about the arrogant/condescending bit I say it here as well, I fully understand and share. I used to love that scene in Broadcast News when during the flashback into William Hurt's character's past, he tells the school bully, I'll show you one day, of something along the lines. I understand, but are the people that need to be convinced of Caplan's ideas about immigration going to be so understanding? I doubt. Caplan says, jokingly, that his role is to stand outside society and judge, he might be right, he is not a politician after all, but it is sad that such great ideas cannot be put to more constructive use.