If we exclude the folks who bought Bitcoin in 2010 (calculator), I used to think that the smartest Americans were those who maximized leisure and social time without the tedium of work, e.g., by bubbling to the top of the waiting list for public housing in San Francisco, Manhattan, Cambridge/Boston. There are, of course, some crazy rich people who have even better material lifestyles than folks on welfare in these parts of the U.S., but they may have (a) inherited money from a parent, (b) worked like a slave, or (c) taken a lot of risk such that they might easily have ended up middle class and exiled to the suburbs. None of these actions are evidence of intelligence.
It’s Valentine’s week so maybe it is time to consider Valentine’s Day-related occupations. From “The Dark Origins Of Valentine’s Day” (NPR):
From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain.
The Roman romantics “were drunk. They were naked,” says Noel Lenski, a historian at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Young women would actually line up for the men to hit them, Lenski says. They believed this would make them fertile.
The brutal fete included a matchmaking lottery, in which young men drew the names of women from a jar. The couple would then be, um, coupled up for the duration of the festival — or longer, if the match was right.
“A Recovering Sex and Porn Addict Tells All” (nytimes) concerns a young American, Erica Garza, who might have fit in well with the old school Valentine’s Day. If her book is a big financial success should we declare her to be the smartest American?
Ordinarily, Roman-style Valentine’s celebrations with a bunch of non-famous people is not lucrative. Back around 1990, an MIT undergraduate told me about her freshman year roommate having sex with 25 different men. When I pointed out that MIT was in session for only 26 weeks per year, the girl responded that her roommate “had a cold one week.” There was no hint that these freshman year lifestyle choices had led to wealth. (This was before young people needed to be drunk before having sex, so there was also no post-sex litigation tail with each of the 25 guys. Maybe the upcoming 25th-year class reunion will be awkward?)
Getting close to a Hollywood star and then writing about it has been moderately lucrative at times. But writing about encounters with a series of nobodies was not lucrative. Roxanne Ritchie and Susan Gilbert wrote about “36 men they claimed to have slept with” (The Tech, July 26, 1977) and earned nothing other than “formal probation” (double-secret probation for the women? The male editor of the on-campus publication in which the article appeared was suspended).
Having sex with a high-income partner and then harvesting child support can be worth $millions in California, Massachusetts, New York, or Wisconsin, but one may need to take care of a child for at least a few hours per week. Earning more after tax than the median college graduate as a result of one night spent with a married dentist is evidence of being smarter than average, but perhaps not “the smartest”.
I haven’t read Erica Garza’s book, but if she did actually make money from watching porn, having sex with a lot of new friends, and then writing about it, does that give her a credible claim to be the smartest American alive?