The Weak Galt Hypothesis

Nick Land provides a fresh angle of attack at the fertility question. In a world where economic might is the main arena of competition, do countries that “IQ shred” their population (via long schooling, valorization of work over home production, and GDP-boosting materialism) get inevitably outcompeted by those who don’t?

I won’t touch on the issue of determinants of fertility here, except to link to several able expositions on the problem by Sarah (required reading) and Hurlock. I’ll also note that this is an area where rigorous (ie scholarly and lightly quantitative) reactionary analysis could be not only novel and valuable but also, if framed appropriately, a venue to some mainstream influence in the small number of governments that have been grappling with this question.

I wanted to push back on the notion of female labor force participation being a strong determinant of long-term economic growth. Certainly in a scenario of short-term existential risk, such as a world war, it makes sense to conscript women as well as men into rote production roles. In the long run, though, the case is much less clear. A while back Scott wrote a good post on how the influx of women into the American workforce mysteriously did not double GDP over that time period. I’d commented with a couple other thoughts on the matter:

1. Japan and Germany have a much lower fraction of working women, but they have neither fallen further behind the US, *nor*, crucially, have they taken over the world. Naive economic theory would predict that they’d be further behind the US as the US adds more, equally talented people to its workforce. A strong hypothesis that adapting the workplace to women imposes big costs that eat up more than their productivity would predict that lean Japanese and German corporations would gobble up market share from creaky old American ones that have waste Friday afternoons on diversity seminars. Neither seems to be happening.

2. East Asia, by and large, has a productive class of poor people instead of a ghetto class. (This itself is a noteworthy fact that shatters certain assumptions about how inevitable the Western problems of poverty really are, but that’s a separate post.) But, this amazing advance in social technology doesn’t lead to taking over the world. Instead, what you get is lots of cheap restaurants and convenience stores manned with reliable, polite, inexpensive workers – the fulfillment of urban-boosters’ dream of affordable, walkable neighborhoods. This represents a pleasant quality of life increase, but it’s not really something that you can use to scale.

One hypothesis that falls out of these observations is that maybe only a relatively small fraction of people are causally responsible for economically growth/progress. This group doesn’t have to be Galt’s Gulch small – it could be perhaps a third of the population – the point is that at some margin adding additional functional workers doesn’t do anything for growth.

Patriarchy was already quite good at reaping the (relatively small) pool of female geniuses. We had female virtuoso mathematicians and Nobel-quality hard scientists at almost the same rates as we do today. The contributions of these women were valuable, but after you’ve already got the geniuses, adding average women does practically nothing (positive or negative). The most you can get from adding non-genius female labor is quality of life upgrades that don’t scale.

3. Another hypothesis of course is that women did help, but were exactly masked by The Great Stagnation, a decrease in social technology, or your favorite declinist hypothesis. We’re doing less with more – the very definition of losing technology. We really *would* be up to 50% poorer today if we hadn’t suddenly discovered that women could supply valuable labor to help keep the whole thing running.

Emphasis mine, as I’ve increasingly come to believe that the Weak Galt Hypothesis is consistent with observed facts, including the irrelevance of mass female labor force participation.

Michael Vassar, from a very different perspective, holds forth a similar (and much stronger) version of the hypothesis in this talk where he proposes that the current economy could be sustained on the backs of the top 1% alone.

This piece was reposted from our previous blog.