Friday, July 16, 2010

Does the Stimulus Package Discriminate Against Aspergers?




In a recent article, David Brooks outlines two types of business people, princes and grinds.

Princes, who can be male or female, are senior executives at major corporations. They are almost always charming, smart and impressive. They've read interesting books. They've got well-rehearsed takes on the global situation. They can drop impressive names as they tell you about their visits to the White House, Moscow or Beijing. If you're having lunch or dinner with a prince, you're going to have a good time. Grinds, on the other hand, tend to have started their own company or their own hedge fund. They're often too awkward to work in a large organization and too intense to work for anybody but themselves. Over lunch, they can be socially inert. You try to draw them out by probing for one or two subjects of interest to them. But as often as not, you find yourself playing conversational ping-pong with a master of the monosyllabic response.
Every once in a while you'll run into one who can't help but let you know how much smarter he is than you or anybody else in the room. Sitting at this lunch is about as pleasant for him as watching a cockroach crawl up his arm. He'd much rather be back working in front of his computer screen.

 
Since the princes are nicer and more impressive, it is easy to be seduced into the belief that they also are more trustworthy. This is false. During the last few years, for example, the princes at Citigroup, Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers behaved with incredible stupidity while the hedge fund loners often behaved with impressive restraint.


Brooks goes on to note that, despite the failure of the "princes" in the recent economic downturn, it has been these same princes who have been the main beneficiaries of government largess in the various stimulus packages.

 
They [Grinds] need a wide-open economy with plenty of creative destruction. They need an atmosphere of general confidence, so bankers will feel secure enough to lend them money, so big companies will feel brave enough to acquire their start-ups, so they themselves will feel the time is ripe to take on their world and show their brilliance to all of humanity.

 
The princes can thrive while the government intervenes in the private sector. They've got the lobbyists and the connections. The grinds, needless to say, don't.

This is a basic principle well understood by libertarians that the very act of the government stepping in with rules and regulations benefits those who already are connected to the establishment and know how to work it at the expense of those who are not. As such the notion of the government doing anything to help the needy is a contradiction in terms. This is not to say that there should be no laws. I believe in government and that it should protect people from direct non-consensual physical harm caused by others. That being said, with any government aid program, the wrong thing you can be certain of is that, whatever else it does, it will not go to those who actually need the help.

This notion of princes and grinds also struck me as reflecting those on the spectrum and neurotypicals. Look again at the description of the princes and ask yourself how many of them are Aspergers? Now consider the grinds; these are people who do not do well in social situations, but carry a very narrowly focused intelligence. You can practically sign such people up on the spot. So who do you want to trust the economy to, neurotypical prince, whose talent is to game the system, or the Asperger grind, who may actually know something?



11 comments:

Clarissa said...

Brooks doesn't know what he's talking about (as usual). Senior executives at major corporations are the most boring, vapid people who know nothing and can discuss nothing other than their bottom line. They aren't autistic. They are just boring, vacuous people. They get government handouts not because they are charming (Blankfein charming? Come on) but because they are connected. The people giving handouts to Goldman all used to work for Goldman, so that's not hard to figure out.

Another thing I wanted to mention is that people with Asperger's are often extremely charming. It's a kind of a mask one uses to "pass" in social situations.

Vox Populi said...

>That being said, with any government aid program, the wrong thing you can be certain of is that, whatever else it does, it will not go to those who actually need the help.

Well, I think a lot of this just depends on who you define as needing help. Welfare definitely helps people who don't have the money to pay for necessities.

I'm sure you're right that government efforts to help are not perfect. There is welfare fraud, and oftentimes regulations just enforce the barriers to entry. On the other hand, if I help 900,000 people who need it, while 100,000 get a free ride - I'm okay with that.

Izgad said...

Vox

The first people that government welfare is going to help are the members of the bureaucracy, brought into being by existence of welfare. This bureaucracy extends from the government itself down through community activists. Now the actual recipients of welfare are going to benefit in direct proportion to their ability to play the system (even honestly) and their relationship to the welfare bureaucracy. Thus we can postulate an inverse relationship between those receiving it and those who might actually need it. This is before we even get to the people who are actually breaking the law.

This is not the case with private charity. People giving their own money away in charity carry an assumption of actually caring about helping those assumed to be in need and thus can be assumed to be using their full rational capabilities to help. Anyone not spending their own money carries no such benefit of the doubt and can be assumed to following his own rational but amoral self interests, money, power and influence. A philanthropist who builds a basketball court in an inner city neighborhood can be assumed to wish to give inner city youths an alternative to gangs and crime. A politician who builds the same basketball court can be assumed to simply be out to buy votes and get his name on something.

Vox Populi said...

>The first people that government welfare is going to help are the members of the bureaucracy, brought into being by existence of welfare...

Which is often a goal of welfare, too. It's its own stimulus package, creating jobs!

But the fact that people who are not poor indirectly benefit from welfare is not an argument against the beneficence of welfare; au contraire - the fact that it helps more people is even better!

While it's true that welfare recipients who know their way around the administrative process will get more out of welfare, and easier, than those who do not, I do not think that sets up an inverse relationship, rather an imperfect one. But no less imperfect that any free market or philanthropic solution. A poor regulation-geek is just as entitled to welfare, after all, as is one who is illiterate. (And, having done some work in the government benefits field, I can tell you, just from my own experience, that such poor regulation-geeks are few and far between.)

To me, I care less about having a perfect delivery system than having it actually feed people who need to be fed. Free riders happen all the time, but free riders shouldn't ruin it for everyone else.

>A philanthropist who builds a basketball court in an inner city neighborhood can be assumed to wish to give inner city youths an alternative to gangs and crime.

I think you give the philanthropist too much credit, and the politician too little. Philanthropists are often motivated by less altruistic desires, especially corporate philanthropies. Even for individual g'virim, there are a bevy of tax breaks that can make charity profitable - without even getting into money laundering scams.

Regarding politicians, the founding fathers understood very well that democracy marries together a politician's ambition with his desire to be thought well of. A politician clearly seeks to be seen as doing well, and the most fool-proof way of doing things is, in fact, doing well. Also, I think you are unfairly marginalizing the many politicians do desire to do good for its own sake. Not to mention that the staffers and officials who work in government that dream up and implement and perfect these plans are often very altruistic and passionate about their work. Lawyers who could be making in the high six figures out of school will instead settle in with the Department of Education for $50,000, or accept less to work in Legal Services for no other reason than they want to do good.

Izgad said...

Yes government stimulus programs are very good at creating bureaucratic jobs. The problem is that these are almost “negative” jobs. They do not produce any goods or services and can usually be counted to get in the way. This is a variation of the old concept that you can measure the health of a society based on the ratio between lawyers and engineers.
Looking at who benefits the most from welfare tells us who welfare is really for. Individual bureaucrats make more money from welfare than any individual recipient (assuming no fraud is involved) therefore we can assume that the real purpose of welfare is to give jobs to middle class bureaucrats. And yes I would apply the same logic to charitable foundations. I am very suspicious of anyone making a living through the charity business. I am also not much of a believer in handing out tax breaks for charity. At best I am willing to go along with not counting charity money as part of earned income.

Vox Populi said...

>I am also not much of a believer in handing out tax breaks for charity. At best I am willing to go along with not counting charity money as part of earned income.

Alright, so we're agreed that philanthropists are not necessarily more altruistic than governments.

>Looking at who benefits the most from welfare tells us who welfare is really for. Individual bureaucrats make more money from welfare than any individual recipient (assuming no fraud is involved) therefore we can assume that the real purpose of welfare is to give jobs to middle class bureaucrats.

I think you're looking at it wrong. Sure a clerk in the Social Security office takes home about 38,000 more per year than your average social security disability recipient, but I don't think the clerk can be said to gain more, except monetarily. If the clerk doesn't work for government, she can clerk for someone else. She probably won't starve, even if she won't get as as good a pension. If a person who has been medically deemed unable to participate in the national economy doesn't get his SSA benefits, he starves or lives outside or relies on other forms of government welfare, if he's lucky. And forget about his dependents. I think welfare recipients gain a lot more than those charged with administering their programs.

Also, just because, arguendo, something is created to benefit one class of persons doesn't mean it doesn't massively benefit others. Jeff Bezos certainly derives more value than any single Amazon patron from Amazon. After all, it exists to make Jeff Bezos rich. But we'd all be poorer without it.

I don't think this is the case with welfare programs, mind you, but even if you took a highly cynical "cuid bono" approach and say that Robert Byrd's (or whoever's) only goal in creating government welfare was to create the Robert Byrd Memorial Civil Service union of ready made constituents, that wouldn't detract from the larger benefits of welfare.

Which brings me to your first point: Welfare is not a negative job creator. A social safety net is of tremendous value to society, even from a Milton Freedman perspective. Didn't Hayek speak favorably about socialized medicine?

Izgad said...

Amazon exists to benefit Bezos and his investors. The fact that I also benefit from it is incidental. It would make me sick to hear Amazon described as anything else. Funny how you read my mind with the late Sen. Byrd.
A safety net for me benefits me and my dependents. For this reason we have insurance. How does a safety net benefit society? If starving people are likely to riot then giving them government welfare bread is simply giving in to blackmail. Government funded inoculations are not needed if those in need are not allowed into cities in which tax-payers live. I would recognize the need for government to sponsor the carting away the bodies of people starving to death, but since I believe in privatized cities even this would be put into the hands of private enterprise.

Izgad said...

Here is what Hayek had to say about Health Care:

There is little doubt that the growth of health insurance is a desirable development. And perhaps there is also a case for making it compulsory since many who could thus provide for themselves might otherwise become a public charge. But there are strong arguments against a single scheme of state insurance; and there seems to be an overwhelming case against a free health service for all. (The Constitution of Liberty pg. 298.)

So Hayek might have provisionally been willing to go along with the part of Obama care that demands that you buy health insurance, nothing else. This is like libertarian opposition to immigration. In theory labor should be free to cross borders and only submit to the free market. In countries which offer welfare programs (such as schools) it is not possible to allow free immigration as these immigrants would then be able to take advantage of services provided by other tax payers.

Vox Populi said...

>Amazon exists to benefit Bezos and his investors.

Agreed, but my point is that this doesn't make it any less valuable to society. You can say our benefit is incidental - but it's in fact huge. (Our combined benefit may very well outweigh his!) Also, in a free market society, the fact that a given service benefits consumers is not really incidental, I would say, it's kind of the point.

>Funny how you read my mind with the late Sen. Byrd.

That's like his whole thing. We should construct monuments to his vanity, if only he hadn't already done that for us.

>How does a safety net benefit society?

Consumers that have not died of starvation buy more than consumers that have. Etc.

>but since I believe in privatized cities even this would be put into the hands of private enterprise.

You'd rather have a privatized justice system too?

Izgad said...

Amazon makes no claim to being a humanitarian organization and it does not have the power to make me go along with their “socially beneficial” agenda. It cannot even say I hate children if I cut back my buying from them.

Consumers not dying and being alive to consume more does not directly affect my physical person so it is outside of government interest even if it is still in the realm of my personal interest.

I support government police and courts since they serve to protect my physical person.

Skyler said...

Communal circumstances and individual interactions are the main confront for the children with Aspergers but they will be capable to manage their regular activities. When it comes to adult Aspergers they only need encouragement and ethical support to uphold the sovereign life.