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As a Hereditarian, I Strongly Support Economic Redistribution

A recognition that genetic influences on social outcomes are important will potentially influence the kind of help that society offers poorer individuals. But it does not in any way compel an absence of help, or a casual indifference.

· 7 min read
As a Hereditarian, I Strongly Support Economic Redistribution
Gregory Clark

In the course of exploring an extended genealogy of English families extending over four hundred years between 1600 and 2022, I made what seemed an innocuous, but interesting, discovery. This was that over four hundred years, social outcomes for lineage members were closely tied to their genetic similarity, even down to the level of fourth cousins.

Remember, correlation isn't the same as causation. However, there were plenty of signs in the lineage that suggest a direct genetic influence on social status.

In a world where men mostly held power in education and institutions, mothers were just as determinative as fathers in predicting most social outcomes for their children (aside from wealth, being subject to the rules of male primogeniture). Even when fathers were absent from their son's lives, their social outcomes were closely linked—to the same extent as when fathers were present. Things like birth order or family size didn't have much impact on outcomes, except for wealth, thanks again to primogeniture.

But apart from inheritance rules, the lineage's evidence showed that genetic influence could not be easily changed by social interventions.

All of this appeared to be a clear and open use of intriguing new sources of historical data, which took a lot of time and effort to gather. And, indeed, an article with these conclusions recently appeared, without too much commotion, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

But a talk I was to give at the University of Glasgow in February 2021 presenting an earlier version of this work was “postponed” indefinitely because of a petition of over 100 faculty members denouncing the work as "promoting eugenics."  

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