Trying Hard for Our (own) Children

Richard V. Reeves, in The Glass-Floor Problem – concludes with:

This is delicate territory. Nobody wants parents to stop trying hard for their children. But nor do we want a society in which the social market is rigged in favor of those born into affluence. If we want a competitive economy and an open society, we need the best and brightest to succeed. This means some of the children of the affluent must fail.

Well actually, I do want parents whose wealth and position gives their children an advantage over mine to “stop trying hard for their children”. Of course I do! And I want any person or child whose natural talent exceeds mine or my children’s to be hobbled by whatever encumbrances can ensure the eventual success of me and mine. But that doesn’t make it right.

So when Reeves earlier on bleats out that:

Even the most liberal parents are unlikely to be comfortable with the idea that their own children should fall down the scale in the name of making room for a smarter kid from a poorer home.They invest large amounts of economic, social and cultural capital to keep their own children high up the social scale. As they should: there is nothing wrong with parents doing the best by their children.

I have to reply “Oh yeah? Sez who?”   Of course I may do it myself (to the best of my own meagre ability), but that doesn’t make it admirable or even not wrong. Perhaps there is something wrong with valuing our own children more highly than others’. And perhaps the world would be better if we each sought out the most admirable of our peers and devoted our lives to increasing their fertility at the expense of our own.

But this is too complicated for me. So bring on Sam Harris’s “scientific” total well being accumulator to tell us what it is that we really ought to do.

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