Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Intersectionality of the Smart but Poor

While the broke genius archetype may be a meme, the topic of the intelligent yet poor is especially relevant to how we view issues of wealth, privilege, status, and societal incentive structures. A stereotypical demographic profile of the smart but poor, might be of a starving artist or NEET, especially the terminally online underemployed intellectual type. While the technical definition of NEET is not in employment or education, in a more colloquial sense, NEET often describes middle class failures rather than the lumpen proletariat, as the NEET phenomenon is a product of downward mobility among the middle class. Though someone who is smart but poor could also be from a prole background. However, those from working class backgrounds often have contempt for NEETs from middle to upper middle class backgrounds, who they might view as having privilege and more opportunities, but are just lazy and entitled. In turn, high IQ NEETs resent being treated the same as the lumpen proletariat. Even if it can be a cope, it is totally rational for those from the downwardly mobile middle class to feel some sense of entitlement to the class that they were born into, or at the very least still identify with that class. A lot of middle class NEETs may decide to be NEETs, if the alternative is joining the working poor.

I would estimate that the smart but poor demographic is disproportionately White, though obviously not exclusively. This demographic probably includes a decent amount of Asians, though Asians generally have more economic niches and are under more cultural pressure to succeed academically and economically. As for BIPOCs, there are a lot of specialized programs geared towards empowering gifted BIPOC, the talented 10th, such as scholarships and jobs programs. Besides discrimination against White males in hiring, there are logistical issues, as Whites are still a majority, and it is harder to provide economic security for the sheer numbers of intelligent Whites. Whites are also much more geographically dispersed, with the vast majority of America’s untapped cognitive talent, subsisting in middle to lower-middle class Whites in flyover country.

There is speculation about whether historical figures, such as Hitler, Karl Marx, or Nietzsche, were NEETs, which has become a 4chan tier meme. Certainly Ted Kaczynski epitomized the archetype of the genius who becomes disgruntled and at odds against society. The root of Communist uprisings were often broke intellectuals who resented that they could not achieve economic success under a mercantile system. Many great philosophers and artists are often unhappy with life, and that dissatisfaction and resentment can be channeled into great things but also into chaos. The archetype of the broke intellectual, or of the failed, dejected genius, who lashes out against society, has existed throughout history, but elite overproduction has made this archetype much more common.


1 reply »

  1. Remember the movies with the smart and dumb looser bad guy duos? Being smart and poor is not some new thing! This article is great, but embedded in it was a presumption that high IQ is some kind of value trait. It may be, but may be only on the same level as strong, or tall, or handsome.

    As we all know from the same movies, its the guy with the whole package that becomes the hero!

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