People vary in intellectual ability. This is, or should be, common sense. (Some tend to acknowledge this with intellectual disability, but they are less comfortable acknowledging the existence of people on the other side of the normal distribution.) But this is an uncomfortable truth, mostly because people are rightly sensitive to the systematic mistreatment and devaluation of people with intellectual disabilities.

But this does a great disservice to people with ID. The entire human race is interdependent, and we need people who can figure out the theory of relativity, mop floors, care for the sick and elderly, write sonnets, and teach children how to read and write. People who think more slowly have an advantage in certain jobs, especially those that are more concrete, sequential, rote, and routine. Quicker-thinking people with more abstract thinking styles would probably flounder in such jobs, just as their slower or more concrete counterparts would be bewildered by work that involved a lot of conceptualisation or analysis. The only right thing to do is pay these people a living wage—they do work that so many others can’t. The more abstract and conceptual your thinking becomes, the more difficult concrete and routine work becomes. It is the opposite of the situation for more concrete, sequential thinkers.

For everyone who can discover the structure of DNA, there is someone who will make sure there’s food on the table by picking the crops. We can’t survive without one another. We may not learn equally fast, but our abilities are distributed equitably. And because of this, we should be paid equitably, too.