The premise for Idiocracy is that smart, successful couples have a lot less kids than trailer trash. It starts with a story (video clip below) contrasting a nice, intelligent upper-middle class couple who keep putting off having kids until the time is right, only to eventually find out that they can’t conceive. In the meantime, a redneck couple in a trailer park has four kids, while the husband or baby daddy has another few with other women, including the next-door neighbor, eventually totaling over a dozen. The movie then fast-forwards 500 years, to a time in which the whole country is a trailer park and humanity doesn’t even know how plants work.
Lest you think this is just a contrived movie premise, News Channel 3 in Memphis, TN has a story about a 33-year old man from Knoxville who makes minimum wage and has 30 kids by 11 different women. The state takes half his paycheck for child support, which obviously is not that much: some of the moms get 1.49$/mo from him. There have been two separate years in which he’s had four kids and in the past three years, he’s had nine. Of course, there are cases of successful people having lots of children too: for example, Steven Spielberg has seven (two adopted). But on the whole, rich people have less kids than poor people.
The spectre of an idiotic future for humanity is nothing new: in 1895, H.G. Wells wrote The Time Machine, most of which takes place thousands of years into the future, where the Eloi are the childlike descendants of modern humans. To stop such scenarios from happening, eugenics became a popular movement in the beginning of the 20th century, but after Hitler also decided it was a good idea and went crazy with it, the movement fell out of favor. Nevertheless, it did have some lasting effects: Planned Parenthood arose from the eugenics movement in 1916, and immigration policy starting in the 1920s was also generally centered around eugenics.
After the evils of Nazi Germany, eugenics-based policies gradually ended and the blank slate theory took a firmer hold. Today, the thinking is that genetics don’t play that large a role in intelligence, and that we can avoid Idiocracy through education. As a result, education policy is always a hot issue and in the United States, the federal government provides states with much more education funding than they raise on their own, while at the same time giving out grants and cheap student loans for anyone to have access to tertiary education. But income inequality in America keeps rising, and getting disadvantaged children interested in education is still an unsolved problem — as is convincing people to not create 30 more.