pageok
pageok
pageok
Bryan Caplan's "Jock/Nerd" Libertarian Theory of Class Conflict:

Like me, GMU economist Bryan Caplan rejects the traditional libertarian taxeater/taxpayer theory of class conflict. However, Bryan has put forward his own clever and original libertarian class theory. It's the Jock/Nerd theory of history:

One of my pet ideas is the Jock/Nerd Theory of History. If you're reading this, you probably got a taste of it during your K-12 education, when your high grades and book smarts somehow failed to put you at the top of the social pyramid. Jocks ruled the school.....

According to the Jock/Nerd Theory of History, most historical human societies bore a striking resemblance to K-12 education. In primitive tribes, for instance, the best hunters are on top. If the the village brain knows what's good for him, he keeps his mouth shut if the best hunter says something stupid....

With the Jock/Nerd theory firmly in mind, this sentence takes on a deeper meaning:

We don't take steps to redress inequalities of looks, friends, or sex life.

Notice: For financial success, the main measure where nerds now excel, governments make quite an effort to equalize differences. But on other margins of social success, where many nerds still struggle, laissez-faire prevails....

Punchline: Through the lens of the Jock/Nerd Theory of History, the welfare state doesn't look like a serious effort to "equalize outcomes." It looks more like a serious effort to block the "revenge of the nerds" - to keep them from using their financial success to unseat the jocks on every dimension of social status.

I think that my collective action and cross-cutting cleavage objections to traditional libertarian class theory also apply to Bryan's jock/nerd theory. I'll leave the details as an exercise for VC readers.

In addition, I'm not sure that Bryan has the K-12 class structure down right. It is not the jocks who are the primary enemies of high school nerds; it is the "cool" and "popular" people. Some of the latter are jocks, but most are simply people with a combination of good looks, good clothes, and good social skills. In my experience, most jocks simply ignore nerds and vice versa. By contrast, the cool people compete with nerds for dates, social status, positions in student government, and so on; and at least in high school, the cool people usually win. In my days as a nerdy high school student, I never lost anything I really wanted to a jock; far from wanting to "take revenge" on them, I respected their athletic prowess (from a safe distance). The cool crowd was a very different story.

Does this distinction have any relevance to Bryan's broader theory? Possibly. While there are a few ex-jocks in the political class (e.g. - baseball Hall of Famer Senator Jim Bunning), there are a lot more former "cool" and "popular" kids. The latter are much more responsible for the growth of government than the former.

Of course, it's possible that Bryan's high school experience (nerds oppressed by jocks) is more common than mine (nerds subordinated, if not actually oppressed, by the popular crowd). Perhaps when we get done with our current coauthor collaboration, we can do a study of nerd social dynamics!

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Bryan Caplan's "Jock/Nerd" Libertarian Theory of Class Conflict:
  2. Problems with Libertarian Theories of Class Conflict:
Falconet (mail):
Spoken like a true nerd, nerd.

*puts your head in toilet and flushes*
7.17.2007 9:13pm
Hattio (mail):
You say that the only people you envied (and at least imply you might want revenge on) were the cool kids. Then you go on to say that some cool kids were jocks, but not all jocks. Isn't this another way of saying that the jocks were cool unless they had a total and complete absence of social skills? In my high school anyway, what was a major social faux pas for a nerd would just be a mild misstep for a jock.
7.17.2007 9:34pm
Former Law Review Editor:
NEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRDDDDDDDDDSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!
7.17.2007 9:36pm
John Armstrong (mail) (www):
Hattio's got a good point. This, though, comes from my history as a nerd.
7.17.2007 9:37pm
wooga:
Outside of movies like the Karate Kid, I never really noticed the nerd-jock animosity in a "social status" context, but solely as a "sex status" context.

It's all about scoring the chicks. Nerds resent jocks for scoring in high school, and jocks resent nerds for using wealth the score chicks later in life.

But we all agree on a life-long hatred for the kid with the acoustic guitar.
7.17.2007 9:38pm
Reg (mail):
That doesn't explain why so many nerds are liberal. (read slashdot for many examples). Maybe they are all poor nerds, and once nerds make lots of money they become libertarians and find better things to do than read internet forums.
7.17.2007 9:42pm
Ilya Somin:
You say that the only people you envied (and at least imply you might want revenge on) were the cool kids. Then you go on to say that some cool kids were jocks, but not all jocks. Isn't this another way of saying that the jocks were cool unless they had a total and complete absence of social skills?

No. Jocks were not cool unless they also had very good looks and social skills. Perhaps a few jocks were cool regardless of what they did or looked like, because they were locally famous athletes. But that was true of only a tiny handful of people at a time. It's all anecdotal data, but it's my anecdote.
7.17.2007 9:45pm
Hattio (mail):
Hmmm,
That definitely does not Jive with my experience Ilya. Can I ask how big of a school you went to? I think this may be the defining factor. Also, was there a lower standard for jocks?
7.17.2007 10:07pm
Oh My Word:
reg, you make an excellent point. The irony of the thing is that so many nerds are liberals. Most of us are so used to being the whipping boy that we just never break out of our victim mentality.

This phenomenon is doubled for the academic nerd who goes to grad school. This guy really blew it. Not only did he sacrifice to do well in school, he then throws it all away on a mega-nerd gambit that pays nothing and is predicated on this academicky idea that nerdy smartness is the path to excellence. No, my nerdy academic friend, the trick is to use your smarts to make some cash.
7.17.2007 10:20pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Jocks could actually do something.
Cool kids had what they had handed to them. They didn't practice, work out, compete with others to start, go to skills camps, and risk injury.
The difference between them and nerds was thinner than between jocks and nerds. There was always the possibility of falling out of the cool category. After all, you got there without ever doing anything, and you stayed there by momentum in the cool direction. You could fall off.
Then you'd be a nerd. Ooooh.
7.17.2007 10:22pm
byomtov (mail):
One problem with this theory is that the "cool" kids generally came from well-off families. How else to afford the clothes, car, etc.?

So while (some) nerds may have made a lot of money, those people who inherited the family business didn't do so badly either.It's possible to make money doing something that doesn't require huge intellect.
7.17.2007 10:30pm
ReaderY:
We not only have to put up with idiots who realize they can make a quick buck this quarter if they sell the seed corn decent people same for another day, we not only have to put up with such people calling themselves hard-working and smart for doing such things and the rest of us indolent and dumb for having the decency not to, we now have to put up with these idiots accusing us of oppressing them.

There is an enormous difference between cleverness and wisdom, just as there is a huge difference between physical brawn and wisdom.

Wise people who are fortunate realize that their good fortune is sometimes due to something other than their own cleverness, and need not last. "Nerds" who regard a request for a loaf of bread as oppression may be being clever, but they sure aren't being wise.
7.17.2007 11:21pm
TyWebb:
I think Caplan uses "jocks" as an easy and more humorous (jocular? hahaha!) term to describe the whole clique that Ilya details later. I probably would have termed the theory "in crowd/out crowd", but I got what Caplan was going for.

It's funny this should come up. I was talking today with a family member about how emotional adolescence has extended itself (the rise of the middle class, expansive postsecondary education, the shift to a service society, etc.) to include people in their mid 20s. We talked about how that's confusing a lot of young people and how they interact with the world, especially since high schools (ever concerned about cliques causing another Columbine) told kids that the cool kids/nerds distinction would go away as soon as they got out of HS, a promise that never materialized. People with intellectual prowess but without charisma or social skills, promised a seamless integration into a world where everyone was judged on merit (and handed an appealing mate on that basis) have become angry waiting for the cliques to break up.

Result: fear. Fear that, no matter how smart they are, they'll always be a bookworm, only a few steps away from bumping into the wrong person and getting a Hertz Donut. Fear accompanied by the stark realization that Paris Hilton is and always will be richer and more famous than them by multiple orders of magnitude.

Now, as many commenters have suggested, that fear compels "nerds" to head in both political directions, probably based on a number of factors. I imagine that those with deep-seated memories of trust fund kids picking up their beautiful dates in Dad's Mercedes are more likely to side with the burgeoning ranks of the thrift store elite, and scream about privilege and the good-ol boys. I also imagine that those who remember exactly how stupid Joe Quarterback was, and how it didn't stop him from getting every girl he wanted, become...well, something like Karl Rove is what I'd imagine.

What's the point of all this? I dunno. I think Caplan's on to something, and I think it's funny to think about, grown adults dealing with the chip on their shoulder from a wedgie or two by allowing it to color their political preferences.
7.17.2007 11:27pm
Apep (mail):
My high school had between 1600 and 1800 students in a major urban area. Our football team was pathetic, but our baseball and basketball teams were fairly competitive. Nonetheless, jocks were usually not cool unless they were already cool to begin with. The cool kids varied from year to year. For example, during my freshman year, an unusually large number of the coolest senior guys were in band. Similarly, an unusually large number of the prom/homecoming court (female) came from the band all four years I was in high school. Of course, even the cool/uncool dichotomy was very weak, weaker than when I was in junior high.

My first year of junior high cliques formed overnight. Every cool guy wore a standard issue uniform: Girbaud jeans, Cole Haan shoes, braided leather belt, brown suede jacket, and Tommy Hilfiger shirt. Being poor, I rebelled.

I grew my hair long, wore all black with only the odd heavy metal logo to brighten my clothing, filed my nails to points, and stopped tanning. And I embarrassed the cool kids in the classroom. I played the drums in metal/punk garage bands, roadied for friend's bands, played in the marching band, and did what I wished. I wasn't cool. I wasn't a nerd. But I was well-known. Oh, and all the formerly cliquish kids were too busy rocking the ganj in high school to care. That's why the cliques broke down.
7.17.2007 11:33pm
Stating the Obvious:
Ilya, summarizing Bryan:

We don't take steps to redress inequalities of looks, friends, or sex life.

Notice: For financial success, the main measure where nerds now excel, governments make quite an effort to equalize differences.
--
Perhaps, tactically, we'd be better off calling, in a log rolling sort of fashion, for both tax cuts and redressing inequalities in sex life...? Frankly, it's got my vote.
7.17.2007 11:35pm
Ilya Somin's anecdote is accurate (mail):
No. Jocks were not cool unless they also had very good looks and social skills. Perhaps a few jocks were cool regardless of what they did or looked like, because they were locally famous athletes. But that was true of only a tiny handful of people at a time. It's all anecdotal data, but it's my anecdote.

I agree with the above. Though my observation is not from the viewpoint of a former nerd. I had relatively costless transit from one social circle to another, whether nerdy or cool. Any study would need to take into account social butterflies who were neither nerds nor fixed in one particular cool circle but instead were popular. One would also need to determine whether politicians are former cool people (fixed in one particular circle) or former popular people (free transit between social circles).
7.17.2007 11:40pm
Ilya Somin's anecdote is accurate (mail):
Perhaps, tactically, we'd be better off calling, in a log rolling sort of fashion, for both tax cuts and redressing inequalities in sex life...? Frankly, it's got my vote.

Yes, this is a much better platform than most of the wedge-issue crap that afflicts most politics. Who doesn't want to get rich and get laid? It's called patriotism.
7.17.2007 11:42pm
Ilya Somin's anecdote is accurate (mail):
The first thing to do would be to repeal that evil IMBRA.
7.17.2007 11:45pm
Doug E Fresh:
Don't the cool kids have exactly the same social skills and talents that lead to success in adult life?

Plenty of the cool kids and jocks at my schools were also acedemically successful. Their upper-middle-class parents required it.

If there is a K-12 group that I have any bitterness toward that would make me more libertarian, that group is the anti-intellectuals. Being a Southerner, I'm mostly referring to rednecks. Things didn't turn out so well for them, and I can't say I have a lot of pity.
7.18.2007 12:15am
theobromophile (www):

Perhaps, tactically, we'd be better off calling, in a log rolling sort of fashion, for both tax cuts and redressing inequalities in sex life...? Frankly, it's got my vote.

What if you're too much of a nerd to want someone to help you equalise your sex life?

At my high school, some people who got really good grades were cool, but they were only cool because they either 1) showed a great amount of disdain for the entire process; or 2) cheated their way there, openly. You only got shunned for your nerdiness if you actually worked for your grades, acted honourably, and cared about the entire process.

Some of the nerds were also jocks - I do recall that the girls' varsity track team had an A- average. Nevertheless, being an athlete did nothing to diminish my nerdishness: in fact, everyone waited with baited breath for me to screw up, much like Roald Dahl's "Man from the South" waited to chop off fingers.

Now, the big question is: do those who self-identify as former high school nerds have strong libertarian instincts, and do those who self-identify as the popular kids have strong anti-meritocratic instincts? My guess is that the washouts would also have populist instincts - after all, it isn't fair that those kids who worked hard got all sorts of honours for it.

How does this relate to the fact that, among the professionals, lawyers are the most liberal? (Engineers, doctors, and, to a large extent, MBAs tend to be conservative or libertarian.) Is it the social skills thing?
7.18.2007 12:25am
Thales (mail) (www):
There are subtler distinctions in the K-12 hierarchy: There are the universally loved cool kids, who could be 1) as smart as the nerds and/or 2) have athletic prowess like the jocks and actually have friends among both other classes. There are the cool kids with no particular abilities, but who have looks and/or (at this point unearned) wealth. There are the kids who have status mainly through cruelty and excluding others. Also, some jocks and nerds are occasionally allowed to cross orbits with some cool kids. There are genres of nerds, including music nerds, science nerds, computer nerds, literature nerds, debate team nerds. The worst off are the sub-nerds, that is, those who aren't that smart, have no social skills at all, no looks, no wealth, in other words no entree into acceptance in the higher status classes or even acceptance among their own kind.
7.18.2007 12:30am
Thales (mail) (www):
Also, among lawyers, there's a class interest in being liberal or at least somewhat pro-regulation. We do deal with laws after all. Also, I tend to think, purely anecdotally of course, that lawyers tend to be slightly more friendly and outgoing than doctors--possibly MBAs, though here there is a class interest in being anti-regulation to some extent (although regulation also creates arbitrage opportunities, and there's of course omnipresent corporate welfare to consider).
7.18.2007 12:34am
Thales (mail) (www):
To complete thought: the friendly tend to be liberaler, at least socially, and possibly economically too. The mean tend to be conservative (as do the stupid). Of course this doesn't mean that conservatives are all mean or stupid, and I say all this as a sometime libertarian with liberal/moderate leanings, so I've met all kinds.
7.18.2007 12:37am
Ricardo (mail):
I'm not sure I buy this either. For one thing, as others have pointed out, people who were the cool kids in high school tend to have form extensive professional networks and be quite adept at schmoozing their way to the top. Bill Gates is an exception as a nerdy billionaire; I think if you look at some of the wealthiest people in business it is charisma, presentation and people skills and sheer force of personality rather than intelligence that took them to the top.

As an example, the highest paid people in finance are not the Ph.D. number crunchers but rather charismatic and aggressive sales people who probably got OK grades in college (and may very well have played a sport or been in a fraternity or sorority). I think this carries to a lot of other professions as well.

Bryan Caplan, being a tenured economics professor (which pays very well so I'm told) probably has a somewhat distorted view of the relative economic position of nerds. Most nerds tend to turn out middle class rather than wealthy.
7.18.2007 12:42am
Thales (mail) (www):
Right about nerds and middle class, for the most part. They're not self-confident enough to step on people to get to the very top.
7.18.2007 12:45am
Reg (mail):
Wow, all kinds of crackpot theories floating around here. This is my favorite so far:


the friendly tend to be liberaler, at least socially, and possibly economically too. The mean tend to be conservative (as do the stupid)
7.18.2007 12:52am
Thales (mail) (www):
"Wow, all kinds of crackpot theories floating around here."

I take it the tendency does not hold in your experience then? I really think Mill was right that the stupid are generally conservative (and yes, I mean it in the connotation of that word in Mill's time, which has important overlap in the relevant respects with today's conservatives, especially social conservatives). Note that I (and Mill) am not making the converse claim.
7.18.2007 1:05am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I find it interesting that everyone here is looking at the HS social scene from the male perspective. I delved into the opposite sex side of it recently with "Queen Bees and Wannabees", an excellent book for those of us who personally experienced the male side, but now have to deal with the female side of those years, and for those of the fairer sex who still have their unresolved issues from that time.

My HS had state championships in football my JR/Sr yr, basketball my sr year, and track that year. So, the jocks were gods. Since I am involved in this thread, I was one of the geeks or nerds: president of the Latin club, member of the chess club, and played French horn in band - one of the harder instruments to march with. I asked for a car my senior year, and my parents informed me that they were sending me to private college instead. So, senior year, I was still riding the bus.

College was different, because most of the kids there were nerds just like me, but often worse. Or at least I was considered cool enough to join a good fraternity (or one of my father's law partners asked the national president of the fraternity to write a recommendation for me). The difference is that all the nerds in college went on to graduate school and earned a good living afterwords, usually as lawyers, doctors, CPAs, stock brokers, etc. The jocks in HS mostly went nowhere. Indeed, I remember my 20th reunion, where I spent 20 minutes listening to the state hurdling champion my sr. year cry into his beer about how his life went downhill after that.

All the boys in my family were nerds at some level. Four of five excelled in math and science, and not a one of us lettered in HS (except for maybe band, and then two of us managed to do so in college in skiing). Of the four still alive, two of us are libertarian conservatives, one a libertarian liberal, and the one who didn't excel in math/science is a full blown liberal. Not a one followed our parents as country club Republicans.

Maybe the reason that at least some nerds end up libertarian is a deep distrust of those who manage to succeed in politics, at least to the extent of handling the levers of government. Yes, they may have the nerds doing the grunt work, but the reality is that most of those politicians were the popular kids who always had dates, etc. Indeed, how does one win elections? By being popular and well liked. Most nerds I know are still boring to the uninitiated, as I am sure many are here. Most often not the best conversationalists, insisting on talking about such exciting subjects as whether the 2nd Amdt. is an individual or community right, or why nerds often end up as libertarians.

So, part of it is knowing that the nerds will always be able to out think the popular kids who became the politicians - esp. if you have enough nerds working on a project, such as finding tax loopholes.

Thinking of the nerds I know who went liberal, I would suggest that maybe the difference between them and the nerds who became libertarians, it may be the level that they identify with the underdogs. And maybe how much they believe that with enough brains, central planning can be made to work. I don't, because I figure there will always be more brains working against the central planning, because that is where the money is. And maybe the difference is in the amount of personal guilt involved. I don't feel guilty, because I suffered in HS, worked decently hard, used whatever brains I had, and managed to do ok. Often, it seems like the ones who had it the easiest becoming successful are the ones whose guilt turns them into liberals (and, hence, the predominance of liberals in Hollywood).
7.18.2007 1:22am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I'm not sure I buy this either. For one thing, as others have pointed out, people who were the cool kids in high school tend to have form extensive professional networks and be quite adept at schmoozing their way to the top. Bill Gates is an exception as a nerdy billionaire; I think if you look at some of the wealthiest people in business it is charisma, presentation and people skills and sheer force of personality rather than intelligence that took them to the top.
I think that it is less and less true. The doctors I know making millions are some of the worst nerds. But I will admit that in law and accounting, it does seem like the popular ones tend to turn into the rain makers.

But I think that you have to look at the aggregates, and not the individuals making the most in a field. The most successful fields financially these days are primarily populated by nerds, whether they be law, medicine, computer science, engineering, etc. Yes, the popular people in those fields often end up making the most, but what is important is that the nerds are mostly outearning the jocks, and even a lot of the popular kids, who often end up using their charisma to sell used cars.
7.18.2007 1:28am
Reg (mail):
Here is my crackpot theory. I don't think there is any reason to distinguish nerds from jocks. There are many conservatives and liberal jocks, nerds, popular kids, and whatever.

I'd speculate that liberals generally come from well established families or are poor. Conservatives are more middle to upper middle class.

Those from well off families don't understand, at least as intimately, that a person's values, discipline and hard work are what leads to success, and they see equalizing the playing field as possible just by passing laws or sending a check.

Conservatives are upwardly mobile, as they see how a person's values, discipline, and hard work are the sources of success. Government can't affect these things very much, and regulation and welfare don't work. They underestimate how much luck can play a role in a person's success.

Those who remain poor do so because they share the liberal's misunderstanding as to how a person becomes successful, they don't care about success and just want a subsidy, or because they were unlucky. All will lead a person to be liberal.

Libertarians are just conservatives who aren't religious, and share the conservative's view that government can't really do a whole lot, or else they are just liberals who are looking to justify their greed. When pressed, "religious libertarians" are usually conservative federalists who would allow local community governments to reflect local morality and religion.

I think all this is at least as plausible as the nerd theory.
7.18.2007 1:31am
Reg (mail):
"played French horn in band - one of the harder instruments to march with"

I've never heard of such a thing. You should hav been given a mellophone.

I think I just gave away where I fell in the HS social scene.
7.18.2007 1:34am
Reg (mail):

I really think Mill was right that the stupid are generally conservative (and yes, I mean it in the connotation of that word in Mill's time, which has important overlap in the relevant respects with today's conservatives, especially social conservatives). Note that I (and Mill) am not making the converse claim.


I understand you to be saying that the stupid are usually socially conservative. I think Hollywood disproves your theory.
7.18.2007 1:47am
theobromophile (www):

I find it interesting that everyone here is looking at the HS social scene from the male perspective.

So what am I, chopped liver???
7.18.2007 2:29am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
I don't buy the "jocks/cool kids" have better social skills theory. Some did, but mostly it was a result of networking, often with groups their parents were affiliated with. Being a networked doofus doesn't equate to "social skills". A lot of this was chance too - the people that had lived their whole lives or for a longer period in the area knew more people than those that had moved their recently.

As far as nerds and libertarianism go, I think it takes a bit of intelligence to bother to learn about and understand libertarian principles, and that is likely the reason for a lot of the overlap. I think some of the smarter "cool kids" would come around to libertarianism if they decided to learn about it.
7.18.2007 2:58am
EIDE_Interface (mail):
This thread is hopelessly stupid/moronic. Not once ounce of useful insight. Not worthy of Volokh Conspiracy.
7.18.2007 3:11am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Okay, EIDE.
Here's some useful insight.
One presumption is that, a million years ago, the successful hunter--jock--was stupid.
Not so. Sticking a spear in something was the culmination of a process requiring several different mental capacities. The better the hunter was at this, the more successful he was.
Also, it appears humans and pre-humans hunted in bands, so the social ability to work with others became important.
The frightening speed with which a dozen guys thrown together--see Basic Training barracks--become a band has to be seen not to be believed. In those circumstances, he who does not cooperate becomes the nerd. Or was to begin with.
7.18.2007 7:34am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Richard Aubrey-

In those circumstances, he who does not cooperate becomes the nerd. Or was to begin with.

It's not as simple as that. There is all kind of backstabbing, backbiting, sabotage, etc. that goes on. Say an insecure group member is worried because another group member works well with the group and has leadership skills, so he starts spreading rumors, falsely blaming him for group problems, etc. There are all kinds of sloppy factors involved that have nothing to do with actual skills - jealousy, envy, greed, ambition, etc.

In fact, certain individuals and groups regularly practice tactics like this - advancement that has nothing to do with actual merit.
7.18.2007 9:09am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
In fact, certain individuals and groups regularly practice tactics like this - advancement that has nothing to do with actual merit.

Well, I guess if you think backbiting and cowardice has merit your opinion may differ.
7.18.2007 9:11am
Twill00 (mail):
I believe it breaks down on two dimensions athletic/nonathletic and smart/notsmart, so you have four groups - the brains, dumb jocks, burnouts and all americans (smart jocks). There may also be a money dimension and/or a drug dimension that complicate the picture.
7.18.2007 9:45am
Aultimer:
A very smart and rich guy says from my HS says nerds are nerds because they're occupied by nerdy things rather than social climbing.
7.18.2007 9:49am
A.C.:
Okay, back to nerd girls --

I'd say the common factor for nerd girls is an indifference to being sexy in the mainstream style. This doesn't mean they are all unattractive, but it does mean that they either don't follow fashion or follow fashion in idiosyncratic ways.

"Fashion" in this case extends beyond clothes and covers choice of activity and choice of men. Being passionate about a weird sport is enough to turn a girl into a jock and a nerd at the same time. (Several decades ago, being passionate about a sport at all -- as opposed to cheerleading -- would have done the job.) Dating a male nerd makes a woman nerdy even if she is otherwise cool (Cordelia on "Buffy" is an example), as does ignoring boys completely.

Whether a female nerd ends up successful or not depends on a lot of things, not the least of which are location and choice of fields. Some geographic areas place a high premium on female conformity in clothes, hairstyle, behavior, and so on. Others have looser rules. Professional fields vary the same way, as do subfields in the same discipline. In some areas of law, everybody wears the same suit. In others, you find one person in top designer outfits and another who only wears shoes when she's actually in court. A true nerd would find the latter more congenial on principle, even if her own tastes are fairly conventional, just because the female nerd mind doesn't like being boxed in by what everyone else thinks is "appropriate." (I hate that word. Bossy women use it a lot.)

Does anyone even need to ASK why female nerds might be drawn to libertarianism, as opposed to social conservatism or statist liberalism? I think the question answers itself.
7.18.2007 9:58am
Kenvee:
In my experience, not all jocks were cool, but virtually all of the cool people were jocks. It just depended on what sport you played. At my school (a fairly large suburban district in Texas), there was not a single popular guy I can think of offhand that was not on the football team. Of course, it was Texas. Good luck being popular in Texas without playing football. ;) The popular girls were primarily on our drill team. (Not cheerleaders.) Some girls could "cross over" into popularity by being good friends with drill team members or dating a football player, even if they weren't on the drill team themselves.

Other than the football/drill team "cool" crowd, the jocks were as much a clique as anyone else at school, and no more or less popular than anyone else. So there'd be the nerds, the band, the choir, the goths, the theater group, and then all the different sports -- the track crowd, the basketball players, etc.
7.18.2007 10:00am
Randy R. (mail):
The only way for the theory to be correct is to state that the jocks are now in charge of government, and they are the ones trying to equalize income, AND that the jocks are more the liberals than the conservatives.

I seriously find that hard to believe.
7.18.2007 10:35am
jallgor (mail):
"I don't buy the "jocks/cool kids" have better social skills theory. Some did, but mostly it was a result of networking"

Parental networking DOES NOT make a kid cool in HS. In fact it will likely do the opposite. What makes a kid cool is other kids wanting to hang out with them. if you are the type of person everyone wants to be around then you are cool. It's called charisma. Let's face it, almost everyone had a circle of friends. So what made one circle nerds and the other circle cool? I think it is because deep down the nerd circle wished they could be part of the cool circle while the reverse was never true. That's how nerd versus cool comes to be. Otherwise it would just be different groups of friends with no judgment attached.

As for the statement that nerds are more successful I disagree. Maybe it's because I am in house counsel at a financial services firm so I see lots of "jock versus nerd" salary disparity every day. In my opinion social skills and street smarts are still the best path to making a good living in our society. Doctors, lawyers, engineers simply don't make the money that salespeople make. A good pharmaceutical sales rep can make more than some of the doctors they cover and that position is pretty far down the sales ladder. My wife is a headhunter and she makes consdiderably more money than I do as a lawyer. Or compare the pay for sales positions on wall street and that of the most prestigious law firms or accounting firms. I often hear lawyers complaining about their "idiot" friend who makes millions trading some security or other. I often tell them that if they really thought it was a simple matter of intelligence thn they should go do it themselves and stop complaining. This usually shuts them up.
7.18.2007 10:42am
Spartacus (www):
Reg's got it right with his class-based theory, except that even some of the very poor lean conservative due to their desire to move up by their own efforts.

At my (small, private) HS almost all the jocks were cool. No nerds were. Sports were emphasized, so it was also hard to be cool if you weren't a jock.
7.18.2007 11:07am
A.C.:
Question for the male nerds out there -- did the science fiction and chess club people actually WANT to be on the football team? I don't know any nerd girls who wanted to be cheerleaders. We just didn't want to be looked down on and hassled by the cheerleaders merely because we had other interests.
7.18.2007 11:13am
Don Miller (mail) (www):
I have to agree that in my school the competition was more cool kid/nerd not jock/nerd.

Many of the jocks were also cool kids, but no nerds were cool kids.

I was most definately a nerd in High School, but I was also a jock. 4 year/3 sport letterman. Because of my jock credentials, I was a little higher on the social standing than most of the other nerds, but I was definately not in the cool kid group.

I have noticed at high school reunions that nerds and cool kids have done well after high school. Pure jocks not so much. The former cool kids don't seem to react well to successful nerds either.
7.18.2007 11:16am
Josh James (mail):
I don't buy the jock/nerd dichotomy. I played two sports in high school and still hold the record for the best ACT composite for my school. A closer examination of high school social structure does not reveal the neat and tidy cliques most folks, and the popular media, fixate on.

Class lines, even in high school, make all the difference. Think about all the "jocks" they played sports and had parents who spent money so they could play the sport, go to the camps when younger, grow their interest in the sport by watching professional events, etc. Money fueled their interest in sports and enabled them to succeed. There are of course exceptions: the superstar athlete with purely natural ability. Superstars could cross over into the moneyed jocks' world because they were so good the other jocks we awed by their ability.

The poor jocks though, they are largely left out by the moneyed jocks after the sporting events are done for the day because the moneyed jocks went out to nice places to eat, drove their cars somewhere off, or went to a moneyed friend's house. The poor jock was left to eat at Waffle House, to be picked up by a friend or Mom, or walked back to the wrong side of the tracks.

Money still talked even then. It created the superficial social divisions we all remember.
7.18.2007 11:18am
Randy R. (mail):
My high school was strange. All our athletics were so-so, and school support was also so-so. The annual musical, however, was produced for five performances to usually sell-out audiences. Our band was famous and very competitive to get into.

So the cool people were the drama nerds and the 'bandies,' not the jocks.

Myself, I was on the school publications -- newspaper and yearbook, which had a lot of drama nerds and bandies on it. So I was sorta in a clique, but not part of the real cliques.

Many of the drama nerds and bandies went on to successful careers in those disciplines, so I guess it worked out nicely.
7.18.2007 11:26am
Randy R. (mail):
One interesting thing, at least to me. There was a small clique of beautiful rich girls. Some were cheerleaders, but most did little except take care of their hair. They were of course quite stuck-up. One of these girls, and in my opinion the most beautiful, was Jill.

In our senior year, Jill decided to leave her clique of gorgeous women and hang out with us, the drama and band nerds. She was also in our AP English class, so were we the good grade nerds as well.

Turns out the girls she rejected wanted her back and couldn't understand why she left them, but she told us that she had so much more fun with us, and wouldn't think of going back.

Strange, the ways of high school....
7.18.2007 11:31am
Al (mail):
As someone who was captain of both the football team and the debate team (and on the quiz bowl team as well), I also disagree with the neat dichotomies that are presented in the article and many of the comments. My high school, at least, was not like a John Hughes movie.
7.18.2007 11:34am
Houston Lawyer:
I agree that it is possible to be both a jock and a nerd. Possibly the smartest and nerdiest guy in my class played full back. His politics were also the most liberal in the class, having moved from Berkeley to a small Texas town.

It was OK to be smart in High School, but it was not OK to be seen working hard. At my 10-year class reunion, I explained to an old classmate that I was now an attorney with a Houston firm. Her response, "well you were always smart and it is easy for you". Some people never leave the high school mentality behind.

I bore a grudge for years against the quarterback who beat me in the student council president's race. That was until I found out that he now does missionary work in Africa.
7.18.2007 11:47am
Hoosier:
I was a Slacker (Flannel shirt, long hair, no work ethic, living off my girlfriend.) Where does that leave me in the ideological taxonomy?

Randy--You mean to say YOU weren't in the musicals?!!! (I mean, hell--the thread's about sterotypes.)
7.18.2007 11:58am
BabetheBlueOx (mail):
In Philadelphia, the coolest of the cool were trust fund babies. They were good looking cause rich folks married lookers, they had cash (obviously) and couldn't give a rats @$$ about anyone. They are all dedicated liberals now. They also pay no taxes whatsoever, daddy or grandaddy hired good lawyers.

If we are going to change the tax code to promote fairness let's go after these folks. (Cough . . . Kennedy).

My school had four distinct groups: the jocks, the soshes, the burners and the brains. Each had there own set of cool kids. A few crossed over across two groups and a very few spanned three groups.
7.18.2007 12:02pm
A.C.:
Money is an interesting dimension here. I never had it and did fine, so I guess I never thought of how it influenced who was cool, or a jock, or anything else. But I suppose you're a lot more likely to be first chair in the band if you take private lessons.

Looking back, a lot of the nerd girls I knew were talented people from families without money. Competing on clothes wasn't an option, and we couldn't do anything that required extensive private coaching. This left natural talents, academic or otherwise, and stuff we could learn by reading or tinkering or drafting a nearby adult into mentoring us for free. I think this is how everyone used to learn things, but it doesn't seem to be how upper middle class kids learn things nowadays. And I'm pretty sure the richer kids weren't limited in this way at my school.
7.18.2007 12:04pm
crane (mail):

I'd say the common factor for nerd girls is an indifference to being sexy in the mainstream style.


This was only partially true at my high school. The most popular girls were the ones who wore makeup, and had great hair and clothes, but nerdy (at least, good-grade-nerdy) girls would often do so as well. A lot of the girls who might have otherwise been nerds played sports, too. There was definitely more of a jock/nerd division among boys than among girls.

Then I went to Stanford, which is famous for having unattractive women. Some guy even did a song about how Stanford women are "unpretty" and "dogs". Not that we were naturally uglier - the consensus among my friends was that we just didn't care enough to put any effort into looking sexy.
7.18.2007 12:43pm
EIDE_Interface (mail):
Well now, the thread has definitely improved after my earlier prodding. Good work EIDE.
7.18.2007 1:04pm
TruePath (mail) (www):
I'm willing to give more credit to the nerd-jock animosity than most of the commenters. The nerds wish they could join the cool kids but it's often the jocks who go out of their way to make the nerds miserable. Looking back there isn't anything that surprising about it. A fair number of the jocks probably felt insecure about their academic abilities and the nerds made them feel inferior so, like we all tend to do, the jocks struck out at the things that made them feel bad. At least in my HS the cool kids where also smart so this didn't really apply to them. Still by HS there wasn't much class conflict at all, that was mostly a middle school thing.

Also I agree that this class difference is partially of the nerds own making in the sense that if the nerds regarded themselves as cool and the popular kids as unappealing they would be significantly higher on the social ladder. However, that is clearly not all that is going on here. The popular kids, particularly the popular girls, are usually quite attractive and the nerds are not. Primarily this is just an issue of style, the popular kids have it the 'nerds' do not.

In other words, confidence and style are what the nerds lack in highschool. Of course it's kinda absurd to expect them to just magic some of that up after being socially outcast and looked down upon for such a long time.

---

Also this whole nerd/jock class conflict idea is just totally absurd. If you go talk to college professors they support income redistribution quite energetically yet they were almost invariably nerds. Besides, who do you think staffs senate offices and serves as political advisors? Bill Gates is unquestionably a nerd and he strongly supports income redistribution.

A better theory might be that nerds have experienced what it's like to be at the bottom of the ladder and hence tend to have more sympathy for programs aimed at helping the people on the bottom once they get to the top.
7.18.2007 1:08pm
TruePath (mail) (www):
BTW I'm not sure the original post was meant seriously or was a clever way to mock Marx.
7.18.2007 1:10pm
Sigivald (mail):
We don't take steps to redress inequalities of looks, friends, or sex life.

(Yes, Tyler Cowen's original quote interests me more than the Jock/Nerd thing.

Possibly because I changed from nerd to Geek weird-music-fan in high school, and the jocks were no trouble.)

Perhaps the core reason (given that society as a whole seems rather non-libertarian and is willing to redress inequalities) is that we can't redress those in any sensible way?

Looks, I grant, we could redress a bit, though rather expensively and invasively.

But friends? Impossible - no one can compel friendship, and redress of inequality at that level only arrives through compulsion (or at least bribery - and is someone paid to "be your friend" actually your friend? Not so much, eh?).

And sex life? Well, possible at the level of the raw sex act, if we were willing to go to that extreme (though of course, there's the problem of not creating a new class of oversexed sex workers who we'd need to equalise the sex lives of!) - but there is, for most people, more to a sex life than just the act of sex, and the emotional side is as hard to equalise from outside as the issue of friendship.

In other words, the equalizers focus on money because it's the thing they're best able to equalize (and, hell, I bet having more money gets people more sex, at least, if not more friends, ceteris paribus).
7.18.2007 1:40pm
Hattio (mail):
Somebody upthread stated;

A lot of this was chance too - the people that had lived their whole lives or for a longer period in the area knew more people than those that had moved their recently.


I have to disagree. Maybe it's because I lived in a place that had a VERY transient population, but if anything someone moving in had an advantage. Everybody in school didn't remember the time you crapped your pants in third grade.
7.18.2007 1:43pm
Hattio (mail):
A.C. asks;

Question for the male nerds out there -- did the science fiction and chess club people actually WANT to be on the football team?

I think that depends on the individual nerd. Our school didn't have a football team, but I was rode the pine on our basketball team. Didn't improve my social standing much if any. However, I think I can safely say that even if the nerds didn't wish they could play sports, they wished they could get the girls the jocks could.
7.18.2007 1:45pm
Hattio (mail):
Perhaps this nerd jock thing explains the (in my opinion) absurdly harsh penalties for rather minor assaults/barfights. If we posit that the nerds are mostly in charge, and that on the whole they either got beat up by the jocks, or at least felt threatened by them, that might explain why a mutually consensual bar fight can be turned into a felony.

Oh, and I will agree with all the commentaters who stated that the categories aren't neat and there is a lot of crossover. But that doesn't destroy the basic thesis. Every nerd doesn't have to resent jocks in order for this to have some effect, just a majority.
7.18.2007 1:54pm
bigchris1313 (mail):
I went to an all-male Jesuit high school in Southern California, so I feel like I had a warped perception of what was cool.

As you can imagine in the testosterone-laced environment, it was rule by the strong. The senior jocks did as they wished. And the football team was at the top of the hierarchy. Our football team regularly made the devision semi-finals. We won the division championship when I was a senior. We hadn't missed the playoffs If you were a senior football player, no matter how mediocre a player, everyone yielded to you. I know because I was one of them. But, we had a ton of hard working jocks, intelligent jocks, and downright nerdy jocks on our team. I was the one of the nerdy ones. And as a team, everyone went somewhere decent, and many went to great schools. We had a great mix. Several went to Ivy League schools. A few to Berkley. Some to Annapolis. Those who came out worse ended up at USC or LMU. And only a few still play football.

So I don't know how much I agree with the jock/nerd duality. Because we had a jock hierarchy, and I still played Dungeons and Dragons with one of my teammates.
7.18.2007 2:20pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Hattio: I think the disparities in criminal penalties you notice are a "blue collar" vs. "white collar" crime issue. "Blue collar" crimes are violent, or threaten individual liberty or property. "White collar" crimes sometimes threaten an individual's property (e.g., embezzlement) but often are more diffuse with respect to the victims (e.g., the government at large, from tax fraud, or many unnamed victims from corporate accounting fraud or insider trading).

My own experience didn't exactly replicate the "nerd" vs. "jock" distinction. Our high school had many small groups, and some people were members or fringe members of several groups. For example, one guy on the football team, also was on the tennis team and was one of the best English students at the school. He later went to the Naval Academy.
7.18.2007 2:22pm
Berliner:
If you have read the comments thus far and are in any doubt as to your owns status in the world, wonder no more: you are a nerd.
7.18.2007 2:26pm
theobromophile (www):
I don't know any nerd girls who wanted to be cheerleaders. We just didn't want to be looked down on and hassled by the cheerleaders merely because we had other interests.

Ditto that, A.C.

Hattio: I think the disparities in criminal penalties you notice are a "blue collar" vs. "white collar" crime issue.

Although, if I'm not mistaken, you'll notice a difference between the type of person who commits each crime....
7.18.2007 2:36pm
Suburban High School Survivor (mail):
Strongly agree with Josh James. I attended a large 'melting pot' high school (class-wise) in a generally middle to upper middle class suburb of a major eastern city. In my experience, parental wealth (and the ability and willingness to deploy it for the children) made enormous difference. From camps and coaches to tutors and other forms of enrichment, the "getting a leg up" process started early and didn't relent. A nominally talented athlete could be dramatically improved by a six week training camp; a plain-looking girl could be made to look much better through expensive clothes and good make-up; a mediocre student could improve his SAT by 200 points or more through a course. Money played a major role in this early shuffling process, and there's just no way around that.
7.18.2007 2:45pm
The Cabbage:
If you go talk to college professors they support income redistribution quite energetically yet they were almost invariably nerds.

Isn't that because nerds and liberals think they always know the answer? A libertarian answer is usually a free market approach. Someone who always has a solution (esp. nerdy engineers) is probably more inclined to support doing something, rather than just leaving things alone.
7.18.2007 3:07pm
jallgor (mail):
"A nominally talented athlete could be dramatically improved by a six week training camp; a plain-looking girl could be made to look much better through expensive clothes and good make-up; a mediocre student could improve his SAT by 200 points or more through a course."

But athletic, academic success or looks are not, by themselves, what make people popular. Some of the prettiest girls in my grade were not "in with the in crowd" ditto for some of the best athletes, etc. Popularity is about charisma and money usually cant buy that.
7.18.2007 3:13pm
wooga:
I don't buy the jock/nerd dichotomy. I played two sports in high school and still hold the record for the best ACT composite for my school.

I was triple varsity, but I was still a gigantic nerd. No social skills at all. My physical talents did not make me a jock - it simply saved me from swirlies. I think the nerd-jock dichotomy works just fine, assuming that you accept that the term "jock" also includes a high degree of self-confidence (even if only skin deep), and not just athletic ability.

(Fortunately, college cleared that right up for me)
7.18.2007 3:13pm
CatoRenasci (mail):
I went to a suburban high school in California a very long time ago - American Grafitti long ago. In those days, there was an in group of girls and boys - the girls were pretty and dominated the cheerleading/homecoming court sorts of things and were mostly (but not all, esp if very pretty) from at least upper-middle class backrgounds and the guys were almost all jocks, many the then typical 3-season men (football, basketball and baseball). Not all of the athletes were in the in crowd, but all but one or two of the in crowd boys played at least 2 sports.

There was a 'brains' clique consisting of the very brightest guys and girls, the ones obviously UC/Stanford/USC/back east bound.

There was also some overlap between the 'brains' and the 'in' groups (girls who were both very bright and very pretty moved in both groups, as did a few very bright jocks like the one who got a football scholarship to Stanford and was in the top 10 academically) and relations between the two groups were relatively cordial - no active snubbing or nastiness, just usually hanging out in different places or going to different parties and not much inter-group dating.

The wealthiest kids fell into one of those two groups, but there were NO really poor kids in the 'brains' group, a few in the 'in' group.
7.18.2007 3:17pm
Randy R. (mail):
Hoosier: I was mostly certainly in the school musicals. I played the viola in the pit orchestra for My Fair Lady, and I was the keyboardist for Pippin. For Godspell and Gypsy, in 9th and 10th grade I was in Stage Crew. I was pretty nerdy, but the coolest people I knew were definately the upper class folks in Stage Crew hands down. Not only where they older and more sophisticated, they didn't care that I was a nerd.

And best yet -- we had to wear all black, being backstage and all, and that made us way ahead of the fashion curve.
7.18.2007 3:41pm
markm (mail):
Were the politicians the cool kids, or the wannabe cool kids?
7.18.2007 3:53pm
markm (mail):
Were the politicians the cool kids, or the wannabe cool kids?
7.18.2007 3:53pm
Old Grouch (mail) (www):
Bruce Hayden: "played French horn in band - one of the harder instruments to march with"
Reg:
I've never heard of such a thing. You should have been given a mellophone.
(another french horn player chimes in) We didn't get mellophones until my junior year. Senior year I gave up the marching and joined the orchestra. (Me: "Hey, do you need another horn player?" Director: "WELL... come RIGHT in!!")
Oh, yeah, did stage crew, too.
7.18.2007 4:43pm
Sarge (mail):
Rather than "Jocks / Nerds / Cools," think of it this way:

Brawn / Brains / Glands

All becomes clearer. You are primarily that part which dominates your decision-making.
7.18.2007 4:44pm
Christina (mail):
At my high school, in Northern Virginia, the population was majority minority, with a huge proportion of immigrants. As a result the social cliques were all over the place. But one thing that seemed to hold true was the fact that the high achievers were multi-talented. So the most athletic kids also tended to have the best grades. Not always, but usually. The kids who wanted to go to UVA and W&M knew they had to have extra-curriculars as well as grades, so they played sports.

Of course for popularity, the participation in sports was optional, as those kids were always chosen for their looks and personality. My class had two girls who were Prom Queen and Homecoming Queen. One is the daughter of a former US Senator, current Cabinet Secretary. She is beautiful and sweet, mildly athletic, and not at all smart. The other is the daughter of Eritrean immigrants who lived on the "wrong side of the tracks." She is beautiful and sweet, not at all athletic, and mildly smart. The most popular guy, Prom King, was a military brat who moved to town August before our junior year and was on the Homecoming Court 4 months later. He is super friendly and very attractive, pretty athletic, and not very smart.

Interestingly enough, the nerdiest girls in my class are not doing well right now. It seems they worked so hard to get to the right school and be successful that they never figured out what they wanted out of life, and are just now trying to work that out. One girl is a massage therapist, the same occupation as one of the class's most truant bad girls, but not nearly as successful.
7.18.2007 5:25pm
Foobarista:
I went to a lower-middle class HS with extreme "diversity". About 40% of my HS was Asian, mostly newly-arrived Vietnamese (this was the early 1980s), and nearly all of them arrived in my sophomore year after Carter signed the Refugee Act in 1979. The arrival of the Vietnamese in large numbers changed fortunes for the nerds considerably, since Vietnamese girls were generally attracted to bookish types out of a combination of Confucian respect for smarts and general curiosity. Vietnamese guys tended to be nerdy - or at least "outsiders", which put them more in the nerd camp than any other - so we had a very large nerd cohort.

The jocks and "cool crowd" didn't know what to make of the Vietnamese and generally ignored them or picked on them.
7.18.2007 6:07pm
Berliner:
It seems that most people on this list have an unstated assumption that cliques are inherently bad. I disagree. There is nothing wrong with wanting to spend time with others that share your same tastes and passions -- be it football, chess, music or wild keggers. What I do find invidious is the "us vs. them" mentality that I saw in many of the high schools I attended, but that is in no way a universal attitude. In fact, it seemed that the more school officials tried to force student groups to intermingle, the more they resisted and became nasty to one another.
7.18.2007 6:35pm
abb3w:
I'll disagree with Reg and Spartacus to some extent in analysis and strongly in conclusion; yes, self-discipline, hard work, and values contribute to success. However, they are most decidely not enough. Bad luck can bring an otherwise successful middle-class family to the edge of bankruptcy. A young widow with children, whose husband died leaving extensive debts. A family struggling to afford a place to live, healthy food, and to still care for their children. One where a car accident with an uninsured driver leaves a child badly injured. Those who care for elderly parents, who were never rich to begin with. (Social security is better than working to death, but sometimes not a hell of a lot.)

Society need not make it easy to get rich... but it should make it possible for them to survive, and for their children to have a decent shot at prosperity. Failing to do so will lead to those children rejecting the at-large social rules and developing their own subsociety predatory on society-at-large. Can you say "street gang", Reg? They don't like the rules, so they're trying a different game and may end up more sucessful because of it — which is detrimental to the prospects of society-at-large.

Of course, the flip side of that coin is that easy hand-outs create an ecological nitche for freeloaders-- that is, a subsociety parasitic upon the larger society. Yes, people with a minimum wage job and a 52" Plasma TV are idiots, morons, etc. The trouble is finding an efficient sorting mechanism to cull the sheep from the goats; our government must play God to some extent (punish the wicked, reward the righteous, et cetera), and ergo do so imperfectly (since humanity lacks God's perfection).

I suspect, liberals are those more willing to tolerate a few freeloaders to see that no one suffers undeservedly, while conservatives are those who would rather see the sorting mechanism allow some be "left behind" so that that no-one benefit undeservedly.


I would also suggest that the jocks/nerds/cools structure has some relation to the upper/lower/middle class divisions. These seem to correspond to those who gain their daily bread by the sweat of their brow, the sweat of their brain, and the sweat of their bankroll. Not sure how that fits in the big picture, but it seemed interesting enough to throw out.

Related to that, I'd also suggest that there were two factions among the "cools" -- those who got popular by earning it by being friendly to everyone, and those who worked to "put down" anyone who WASN'T part of the popular crowd. Contrariwise, those who weren't in the "cools" reacted in different ways. Some put the "cools" down within their group, forming their own clique; some tried to kiss backside of the cools, to look good by association; some tried to directly "put down" the cools' own turf and compete directly; some "put down" other non-cools, in an effort to look relatively better; and some just went on their way, resigned to their position in the world. Division of those into various flavors of "liberal" and "conservative" may be left as an exercise...
7.18.2007 6:55pm
Phutatorius (www):
Oh, those football players who used to cut me in the lunch line . . . I may forgive, but I won't forget.

I don't think it was a coincidence that a former high school starting quarterback -- my year, too -- was anointed to take over for my Congressman after he went to prison. Anybody willing to put a "D" after his/her name would have won the vote to replace Traficant. Is it at all surprising that the QB got the girl ("girl" meaning indefinite term of service in Ohio' 17th district)?

What's interesting to me is that society just happened/was allowed to evolve in such a way that it became more efficient for the nerds to rule. 'Cuz I think we can all agree that the system will run better with nerds in power. Whether or not that's actually allowed is another question.

What also interests me is the fascination that people have with the "cool" phenomenon. They stay up there "above" everyone else because they're loved as much as they're hated — and by the same people. Marx never took account of this: we LOVE our talentless and dissolute twentysomething heiresses. We NEED to make the ballplaying rich kid's son President, whether or not he has half a brain. Because by loving them, we may get closer to BEING them . . .
7.18.2007 10:41pm
Eric H (mail) (www):
Um, except that "looks" and such (attractiveness) are correlated with intelligence. The attractive child gets the attention and encouragement, etc.

http://dienekes.50webs.com/blog/archives/000580.html
7.18.2007 11:29pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
So, Phu. Explain your thesis in the last 'graf in terms of Clinton. What did "we" want to be when "we" voted for him?

Um. Never mind.
7.18.2007 11:32pm
Jim Rockford (mail):
There don't seem to be any stats on if Conservatives or Liberals are "smarter" but it's known that Conservatives give far more to charity, on generally lesser incomes, than Liberals. So that at least is quantifiable. Oh, and America gives the most to Charity, with most of the donations being small.

As far as divisions between nerd/jocks/popular kids, it's interesting to look at who are Conservatives now, and who are Liberals now. Liberals generally tend to be upper-income professionals, like doctors, lawyers, etc. A quick check of the Trader Joe's parking lot and the bumper stickers on the Volvos will confirm that. Conservatives generally tend to be more working class, plumbers, carpenters, truck drivers etc. Just as the audience for NPR is mostly liberal and the audience for say, Rush Limbaugh is mostly conservative. Listen to both and you get the idea of who they appeal to.

If popular equates generally to wealth in HS (I think it does) then the cool kids generally grow up to be liberal. Family money can get them good careers, at least into Grad School. If Nerds and Jocks are randomly distributed around wealth/class then generally, working class people will be generally conservative (adhering to traditional values and upward mobility), and upper-class people will be generally liberal (noblesse oblige and social/moral superiority and status). And then we couldn't make any meaningful conclusions about Nerd/Jock divides because class beats HS cliques.

Pretty much most of HS social life revolves around attracting the attention of the opposite sex and competing with those of your own sex for that attention. Nerds IMHO generally opt out of a game they've concluded they can't win. Cool Kids are already winners, and Jocks may or may not be winners (physiques can trump social status for a while, a hot guy or girl is still hot). Probably female Jocks have the edge because status matters far more for men than for women. A beautiful girl, it really doesn't matter how rich she is. Who cares? A guy, his status will trump all but the best looks of another guy if he's got a lot of it.
7.19.2007 12:34am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The social structure of high school is of enduring interest.
That's interesting.
7.19.2007 12:48am
I hope it works this time:
Couldn't government enforcement of monogamous, heterosexual marriage be viewed as an attempt to even out the distribution of love, sex, and companionship?

This doesn't necessarily contradict your larger point: the men who can attract multiple wives tend to be rich, so if we assume that nerds tend to be richer, this is actually another subsidy to the jocks.
7.19.2007 2:26am
Vodka's great at 1:28 (mail):
From my experience, popular kids (the one's that strive to be) don't care much for politics (let alone political beliefs). With that said, I would argue that popular kids tend to choose the political ideology they think is more accepted. That is, they'll go with the political belief that is better painted by the media, etc. No one wants to be viewed as a money hungry, god-fearing, soul-less conservative/republican (I'm certain its conflated greatly among the popular kids). To quote many popular kids, "it's just uncool to be a conservative". It may not be cooler being a liberal, but since 'conservatives' get such a bad rap in the media, 'liberalism' is the 'in' belief by default. Besides, all the actors/actresses are doing it.

nevertheless, I think we're given popular kids (maybe nerds) too much credit. We're assuming that they actually care for politics to the point that they'll try to figure out what political belief they're for. I reckon that most popular kids probably have limited (if any) knowledge on what libertarianism is.
7.19.2007 2:31am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Hattio-

I have to disagree. Maybe it's because I lived in a place that had a VERY transient population, but if anything someone moving in had an advantage. Everybody in school didn't remember the time you crapped your pants in third grade.

I don't doubt that it can be a double-edged sword. But if you know more people from living in an area longer your chances do improve.

TruePath-

I'm willing to give more credit to the nerd-jock animosity than most of the commenters. The nerds wish they could join the cool kids but it's often the jocks who go out of their way to make the nerds miserable.

I wouldn't assume the nerds wanted to join the jocks. In some cases maybe, in others its just an annoyance with the arrogance and out of proportion, in some cases meritless status. (I'm not saying some athletes aren't talented, some clearly are.) I'm somewhat athletic, I could have made some team or other if I wanted to, I just didn't see the point of spending what - 4+ more hours after school every day - on something that I really wasn't fired up for. So I got a job and worked or hung out instead.
7.19.2007 5:33am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Do we have any stats to indicate that jocks are dumber than nerds?
If we think nerds are the unpopular kids who are smart, what are the unpopular kids who aren't smart? And what's the proportion?
Unpopular doesn't equate with smart, nor vice versa.
As long as we're doing anecdotes, here.... My son was three-sport all-conference his senior year in high school. Football, basketball, and tennis. Captain and MVP of the latter two. Also National Honor Roll. Popular, to an extent. He was part of small group who were helping teach at-risk peers. And part of the SADD effort. Active in church mission projects. So he could put off the folks who didn't like church-goers, goody-two-shoes, effort-expenders, those who hung with the at-tisk kids, some at-risk kids who resented his and his partners' success.
When at a Big Ten school, he was the only white kid playing basketball in the black intramural league.
Worked part time as a bouncer in a bar.
Married a tall, succesful female jock from a family of tall, succesful jocks, mostly female, who are all good-looking and smart, two of whom have recently delivered boys north of ten pounds. My granddaughter was only close to eight.
This is all very complicated.
He's a serious conservative.
He spent most Monday evenings of the last year doing three hours of driving and Bible study.
He's ahead of his entry class in a large firm, making good money.
From him, we learn...nothing because there's a lot less to this subject than meets the eye.
7.19.2007 9:34am
H Lime (mail) (www):
I don't know if Jim Rockford represents most Americans, but certainly my close friends and I (not gay) spent our (public) high school years studying and competing with each other academically, and not trying to compete for the attentions of girls. We spent our school days studying, and our leisure time with each other, talking about politics, movies, computer games, and whatever else pimply teenage boys discuss. I think I'd classify as a nerd, although one of my best friends insists I was a geek. I think that among other things, parenting/ubpringing, family structure, and personality/free will ultimately govern how adolescents interrelate. Too many factors to count.

I'm convinced the divide is biologically based and probably nears self-enforced eugenics. Per Mr. Aubrey's comment above, like in fact often does marry like--the "cool," "jock," or "nerd" types (corresponding to extroverted personality types, those who are physically superior, and those with high intelligence) inbreed and enforce the divides. Occasionally you have two "superior" traits in one individual--President Clinton, for example. But generally, I think there's a colorable argument at least to be made that the "governing class" is bred to govern.

And I agree, Mr. Aubrey, there's very little to learn from this one (akin to wasting too much time reading "The Bell Curve") that'll aid scientific understanding of human relations. Seven national honor society finalists in my HS class, 6 of them in the nerd class, and all 7 with the highest grades in the HS. Valedictorian? A jock, immense Pat Tillman physique. He's since graduated medical school and is a very successful practicing physician.

Lime
7.19.2007 12:47pm
Tennwriter (mail):
American P said to become a libertarian requires more intelligence. Let me clarify and correct: It requires a bit of intelligence, but not much because Tarianism is the simplest political philosophy running. Fifteen minutes is enough to explain it.

What it requires is a curiousity about politics, and some small degree of logical ability. Like all single-value ethical systems, Tarianism favors a modest amount of logic use as one builds up the intellectual structure. One advantage of such systems is that they can give you clear-cut answers without too much study. Other more complex systems with multiple values (liberalism, communism, conservatism, and so forth) frequently are more of a style and a pov than a system except for the advanced practitioner who requires serious study to attain this status.

My suspicion is that some nerds gravitate toward tarianism because they don't understand the world, and that is part of the reason they are nerds is this lack of understanding. Perhaps, I project the personal onto the general with this idea as I became a tarian at fifteen for that reason in part. And as my understanding ripened, and I became less nerd-like, I've moved on.
7.19.2007 12:48pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Lime. Read a comment some time back that some scientists expect the lower class in a hundred thousand years will be short, dumpy, ugly, and dumb.
Charles Murray says it's a matter of mobility. If you never got more than ten miles from home, your choices of a mate were limited.
Today at, say, a large state university, the choices are practically limitless. At smaller, top-tier colleges, the choices are also quite numerous because the more limited demographic which attends them has more intercommunication. As in "Hey. You ought to come to New Haven. There's this chick who is just like the one you were dreaming about last week."
Working in the white collar world of a big city...ditto.
Now like can find like.
Having trouble peddling a story about that. Too grim, I expect.
7.19.2007 1:26pm
Phutatorius (www):
Richard Aubrey: I had been going to write that Clinton was a "nerd," and it was only natural that America's tolerance for him would be short, and attempts to take him down would follow. Whereas frat-boy/ballplayer/dad-with-money types get to skate . . .

But I worried that would be imflammatory. But now that you asked . . .
7.19.2007 6:07pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Yeah, Phu, but you said we vote for people we want to be like or near.
What about Clinton did we want to be like, or near?
Amoral horndog?
Slick as hell?

My recollection is that both Clinton and Bush II had, or will have, two terms. I also recall the visceral hatred directed toward Bush during his first campaign.
Didn't see much skating.
As to skating, let's see which major journalist, having exhausted Bush's military records, has challenged Kerry to release his.
Or ask Juanita Broadderick (who?), about skating.
7.19.2007 11:49pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Richard Aubrey-

Good for you and your son.

I wouldn't assume that anyone that may dislike someone else does so because they are "jealous of their success". For example I know of a situation where some high school teachers followed a former student to graduate school ten years later and were trying to smear and sabotage him. You see these small-minded high school types couldn't let go and realize that a lot of high school - grades, athletics, social standing, etc. in the end don't mean a hell of a lot in the grand scheme of things and aren't really an accurate measure of anything. They couldn't handle this - that the high school crap was just high school crap - so they had to try to make the high school crap hold true in real life. (The slander and smear campaign is just the tip of the iceberg in that situation, I can't get into more specifics because it is going to be litigated/prosecuted.)

It's nice that your son is successful, but on the other hand he hasn't faced the level of adversity that others have.
7.20.2007 3:55am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Tennwriter-

What are you defining as "Tarianism"? A google search just turned up that string of letters as parts of other words.
7.20.2007 3:58am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
American Psi.
It's difficult to think of the level of adversity my son has faced. Whatever it is, he's overcome it without notably breaking a sweat. I guess that means he's had no tragedies. There are certain characteristics which forestall the ordinary type of adversity. For example, he's not likely to get mugged. His employer provides a car, so a dropped transmission isn't going to put a bite in his monthly cash flow. His brothers-in-law are also very large, competent men so if it happens his wife is with some other part of the family, certain things aren't going to happen to her or his daughter. This is not like being totally invulnerable, but some of what might trouble ordinary folks will just slide on by him.

I should say that his third-grade teacher called him "Mr B (for Business), and he has always been efficient in how he managed his life.
He worked out six days a week, by himself or in athletic practice from about the eighth grade.
He is something like his twin sister--differently succesful--in his motivation level.
One of the kids in his at-risk section trashed one of our cars. His view was they couldn't not brag and he would know about who did it "Monday by the end of first hour."
He did, and talked to the girl's mother who said her daughter resented how easy the Aubrey kids had it, getting all that success (Don't even get me started on my daughter) It was not easy, of course, but it must have looked so.
The lost point 'way back is that he is an exaggerated combination of all the characteristics we have discussed. Good student, did not go with the cool crowd (nerd). Jock, hung with (some) other jocks. (not nerd).
Gregarious (not nerd) Standards in friends and behavior. (nerd)
From wthich, as I said earlier, we draw no lessons on the jock/nerd theory.
7.20.2007 9:35am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Richard Aubrey-

It's difficult to think of the level of adversity my son has faced. Whatever it is, he's overcome it without notably breaking a sweat. I guess that means he's had no tragedies. There are certain characteristics which forestall the ordinary type of adversity. For example, he's not likely to get mugged.

Well like I said, good for him. Although in this day and age I wouldn't say physical size completely erases the chanced of being mugged.

His brothers-in-law are also very large, competent men so if it happens his wife is with some other part of the family, certain things aren't going to happen to her or his daughter. This is not like being totally invulnerable, but some of what might trouble ordinary folks will just slide on by him.

Possibly. Although if he had a falling out with the wife and she decided to make false claims about him and his brothers-in-law wanted to cause trouble, swindle money, couldn't control themselves emotionally, didn't bother to get the facts, etc. he could run into a lot of trouble. Especially if they had the means to engage in legal corruption and fraud.

The lost point 'way back is that he is an exaggerated combination of all the characteristics we have discussed. Good student, did not go with the cool crowd (nerd). Jock, hung with (some) other jocks. (not nerd).
Gregarious (not nerd) Standards in friends and behavior. (nerd) From wthich, as I said earlier, we draw no lessons on the jock/nerd theory.


I'll admit that the jock/nerd dichotomy isn't absolute, there are all kinds of variations and exceptions. In any case congratulations again on your kids' success.
7.21.2007 4:09am