Biology and Human Capital

I don’t pretend to be an economist.  If I had been, I’m sure that I too would have been unable to see the big real-estate bubble back in 2008, even though crazed Californians  were flipping houses all around my neighborhood.

Nevertheless, I am trying to think useful thoughts about the biological aspects of human capital. Wiki says that human capital is ” the stock of competencies, knowledge, habits, social and personality attributes, including creativity, cognitive abilities, embodied in the ability to perform labor so as to produce economic value. ” I’m down with that, although I’d choose to to take a separate look at creativity.

That stuff is all learned – babies don’t know much – but people vary in how easily they learn things. There are also cognitive ceilings,  such that you can’t really understand a subject beyond a certain complexity.  This can bite pretty hard when you run into it, as Luis Alvarez once said: ” The world of mathematics and theoretical physics is hierarchical. That was my first exposure to it. There’s a limit beyond which one cannot progress. The differences between the limiting abilities of those on successively higher steps of the pyramid are enormous. I have not seen described anywhere the shock a talented man experiences when he finds, late in his academic life, that there are others enormously more talented than he. I have personally seen more tears shed by grown men and women over this discovery than I would have believed possible. Most of those men and women shift to fields where they can compete on more equal terms. ”

Or perhaps you could understand those things, but it would take more time than you have (say longer than a human lifetime) or more energy and dedication than you have.  I would guess that there is also a practical limit on how many things you can know  – because of time, if nothing else. That too must vary between individuals. John von Neumann absorbed info pretty easily – a professor of Byzantine history, at one of his Princeton parties, was dismayed to find that  John knew more about the subject than he did.

You might compare the human capital situation to soil fertility.  Some people are cheaper to educate than others (Ramanujan!), and the practical limit of education is not the same for everyone. An observational fact, not something that absolutely had to be the case, is that the payoff for educational investment plateaus:  we have a lot more ways of spending on education than we did in 1940, but the grandkids of people who took the Iowa Basic Tests in 1940 score about the same as the oldsters did.  Spending on education is like pushing a rope: past a fairly low point, nobody knows how to further improve things by spending more money. Although, to be fair,  the universe of proposed improvement methods is a narrow one.  I’ve never even heard an educationist suggest caffeinating the hell out of students – certainly worth trying.

At the upper end of the IQ distribution, people can learn things rapidly. High-school freshmen in in the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY), who had tested in the top one-hundredth of one percent, managed to get a median score of 727 out of 800 on an AP Biology exam (95th  percentile) after an intensive three-week course.  Of course, to be fair, they averaged 52nd percentile before they even took it, even though they had not previously studied biology.

That’s an extreme example, of course, but it shows how far up is in this business.

On the other end of the spectrum, there seem to be plenty of kids who just don’t get algebra II.   By which I mean that they can’t get algebra II:   many suggest getting rid of the NEA, or supplying them with sufficiently magical teachers, or some other currently fashionable education nostrum,  just has to work.

It doesn’t have to work.

Even if you came up with a scheme that worked – which nobody has – it would have to be practical, affordable, and nontoxic, which rules out many possibilities.

Moreover, the fraction of kids that don’t get algebra II varies a lot between populations.  Generally, such racial /ethnic ‘gaps’ seem to bother people a lot more than randomly-distributed incompetence, of which we also have plenty.  Note: that SMPY sample was about half Ashkenazi Jewish, although for some reason they never seem to have published anything about that.

If economists absorbed the results of psychometrics and genetics,  they would have a reasonable start on the biological influences on human capital.  I say this realizing that other personality factors matter, not just intelligence – but A. we don’t have good measures and B. intelligence is genuinely important.  If Brad Delong did this, he would not find low per-capita GDP in Kenya such a mystery, or economic success in South Korea.  But he won’t, of course. There are more important things than figuring stuff out.

If economists took those results into account, they’d be mighty skeptical of the current enthusiasm for Pre-K.

In thinking of the long-run, they’d have to think about heritability and natural selection, which they sure don’t now. Considering those issues, it’s pretty obvious that what we now consider an efficient way of running an economy has disastrous long-term consequences for human capital formation.










This entry was posted in Economics, Education. Bookmark the permalink.

194 Responses to Biology and Human Capital

  1. It was indeed painful to go to a summer advanced studies program at St Paul’s and encounter some smarter people. One of them much, much smarter, actually (He went the MIT PhD route in low-temp ceramics. Or something.) Better at 16 than at 36, methinks.

    This is a nice summary of the ceiling problem, and how it relates to education. The short-term practical benefit for HBD understanding is not eugenics (as is usually accused, with Godwin just offstage awaiting his cue), but preventing governments from spending lots of education, criminal justice, job training, and social improvement money on things that are guaranteed not to work. We continue to look for our keys where the light is better, not where we dropped them.

    Max Planck “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

    • dearieme says:

      Planck’s statement was investigated by a psychologist decades ago, who established that it was false, in the sense that elderly physicists had accepted the new physics at much the same speed as the younger men. Science beats assertions. Again.

    • Patrick L. Boyle says:

      Good luck at “preventing governments from spending lots of education, criminal justice, job training, and social improvement money on things that are guaranteed not to work.”

      At one time I was employed as a job training expert. Like several of my various fields of expertise – there is very little substance to it. It’s not hard to understand why job programs don’t work.

      You start with unemployed people. That is, people who generally didn’t do well in regular public school. Then you help them by sending them to a job program – another school. Big surprise, it doesn’t work. White males who go through a government job program are unemployed longer and earn less than those who don’t. The only population segment that benefits when measured longitudinally are black females to are trained to be typists. But that job category is declining. You don’t see typing pools anymore in American businesses. I used to always have one or more secretaries when I first went to work – but not toward the end of my career.

      But it doesn’t really matter – the job of government is to govern not to provide services. That’s why you never hear any politician run on a platform of abolishing Head Start. So even when the nation is $17 trillion dollars in debt you will not hear a Republican candidate saying – “We tried it, it didn’t work, so we’re giving up on early childhood education for black people. We might as well just stop throwing tax payer money away. Experience shows that we cannot close the white-black education and poverty gap”.

    • Erik Sieven says:

      tell a believer that his sacrifices won’t lead to any outcomes – he will not stop

    • X says:

      I like they way in that article they state that 43 Nobel prizes were won because of American-Israeli interactive science funding as if some research funding is all that it’s going to take to create 43 Nobel prize winning African scientists.

  2. Pingback: Biology and Human Capital | Brain Tricks: Belie...

  3. j3morecharacters says:

    You described the situation very delicately but your conclusion – that economists dont think in the future – is not the point. Even Singapur, that has a capable and can-do leadership well aware of the biological unsustainability of their current economic system, is impotent to change the trend. Somebody observed that the point is not to describe reality but to change it.

    • reiner Tor says:

      Somebody observed that the point is not to describe reality but to change it.

      Karl Marx.

    • Zerg says:

      The point is to serenely observe reality, as well as the imaginary things that fill the gaps.

    • whatever says:

      No one can change the reality without knowing it first. Marx included.

      • whatever says:

        the first of many who tried to edit a page without reading it first. all failed and will fail.

      • j3morecharacters says:

        You must a philosopher. Yet everybody, all the time, are changing reality. Even the unthinking Ebola virus is changing reality.

    • whatever says:

      Marx original statement was that the biggest mistake of all scientists (except him) was that they all try to explain the world, instead trying to change it. Whoever tried his way, failed. Several scientific disciplines lost their scientific status and became fairy tales when they shifted to Marx’s way of doing science. Sociology and Anthropology included. This is why we now know less about how human societies work than we know about phenomena that are 13 billion light years away from us. One can not change the world without explaining it first. Ebola virus aside.

      • j3morecharacters says:

        If we wait till we know everything about human societies to do something about the rapid loss of human capital, we risk reaching a point when the whole issue will become irrelevant. Or whatever.

      • Ilya says:

        @j3morecharacters: agreed. If society waits for another several generations to “understand” (but we understand *enough* already, don’t we? after all, people have studied and practiced such issues since the birth of agriculture!), we risk our descendants, those that are still human that is, not forgiving us. Not forgiving us for our crime, yes, the crime of lack of action — just like the European Jews who survived Holocaust have trouble forgiving the Germans, despite realizing, of course, that most Germans were just simple, hard-working people who mostly preferred beer to massacre.

        The descendants *may* also have trouble with identity/cohesion: that is, keeping one — just like the Soviet Jews have trouble with theirs, after multiple decades of forced assimilation by the czars and, then, after a brief respite during the Revolution, the Soviet government at large. The phenotype of future elites does not seem to be destined to remain steady, due to artificial injection of lower-IQ, high-variance phenotypes. This is already happening by way of affirmative action employment and matriculation practices, as well as inculcation of similarly minded ideology that affects marriage and procreation — hence making every smart fellow have a lot of relatives and friends in the not-so-smart category. This will only prolong the dilemmas for any implementation of a strong policy that affects procreation.

        As to Karl Marx — some of his ideas could be accommodated in a utopian society, but not in the actual society of the future. Schumpeter was certainly more on the point in his nuanced “Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy” — because of today’s developments in automation, economies of scale/firm consolidation, and global outsourcing, the employment structure of society is undergoing rapid and severe changes. Developed countries are no longer supply side focused, but in fact — are demand side. This had not been the case until fairly recently — at most a generation or two, but New Keynesian stance, like Krugman’s, on many non-human capital related issues is correct. But it is the *actual* long-running fiscal policy and its programs — i.e. long-term policy and spending issues (*who* and *what* gets money) that they don’t have an appetite (nor, apparently, the aptitude) to discuss. And when they do, they often sound as if they live on a different planet.

        For instance, I once was a participant in a road trip with a few of Ivy League Ph.D. candidate acquaintances, in which some of us happened to discuss matters of spending and social order. Turns out (to oversimplify), their vision is, essentially, a society in which everyone helps everyone else. To paraphrase in my lingo — a society of cripples and imbeciles of various shades and kinds whose prime objective is to enforce harmony and kindness to its members. The fact that this, in fact, leads to a static and utterly non-progressive (if one is to think of it in biological, non-equalist human-capital terms) society did not seem to bother them at all! Obviously, I vehemently disagreed, but was glad to have found some support in one of them, who turned out to be from China… ironically.

        Again, no truly enlightened economist ought to negate the need for ever-lasting human capital improvement. In fact, human capital improvement ought to become a long-running national project, orders of magnitude more important than putting man on Moon (the latter, of course, was a result of human capital improvement, among other things!)

        Either way, the choices that secular societies must make in order to survive will lead them towards more totalitarian setups. However, not all totalitarian societies are created equal — because neither all elites are created equal nor all policing/enforcement strategies & techs are equal. Also, incentives and religion still matter, and will only matter more in the future, especially in less totalitarian societies.

      • j3morecharacters says:

        Human capital improvement ought to become a long-running national project and IT IS. In fact, most national budgets in almost every country are spent on public health, medical research, TS screening, education, vocational training, sports and so, all focused on the improvement of human capital. No one is in disagreement with you, Ilya. Regarding eugenic breeding, there is no acceptable framework for it. It goes against our evolutionary nature, as we are all competing with all.

      • setstamov says:

        *there is no acceptable framework for it. It goes against our evolutionary nature, as we are all competing with all* – true. At the same time, the lesser genetic differences, the lesser the competition within the group. And vice versa. Ants are haploids, which kills the competition within the kin. Century ago Herbert Spenser called the biological kinship super organic state.He also thought that the human nations are the prototypes of future super-organism, that will fight for ownership of the world. It was his belief that whoever nation enters the super organic & haploid state first, will have such a big advantage against the rest of the nations, that would dominate them all easily and will immediately stop the super organic evolution in the rest – say, by poisoning them with immigration, in order to prevent future competition. Two world wars followed shortly after, where nations fought as if they were prototypic Spenserian super-organisms, whit a magnitude of individual casualties never seen before in the history of mankind. But in a way they all lost and something seems to have changed since back then. Not sure what. Still, here and there, there are artefacts from the pre-world war super organic trend – national human capital improvement programs and other long-running national projects. Eugenics breeding? I will not be surprised. Does not Chinese government run a program for identifying the biological base of human intelligence? Chinese government is Marxist – they do not plan to study the world – it would not fit Marxist paradigm, they want to change it. Of course, H. Spenser is obscure dead end and almost certainly was wrong – there is no kinship competition. But then, what are the national programs for human capital development doing there?

      • Ilya says:

        @setstamov and @j3morecharacters: my argument is that a state sanctioned and controlled eugenic breeding program is the only way secular societies can survive without turning into 3rd world holes (e.g. Portugal is well on its way there, just visit Lisbon to see that).

        And yes, I understand that most people in the West, where they live lives dedicated to their own selves, aren’t truly interested in creating more people smarter than themselves, hence I was making the argument that one (but who?) needs to elevate such concerns into a canonical, religious status within either most of the population or, realistically, within the ruling elite (which then would need to implement it via totalitarian means). I will re-post a link to John Hawk’s musing on that theme:

        Yes, it’s about group survival on a journey to space, but it is applicable to post-industrial societies of the West, as well.

        To oversimplify current matters without loss of generality, modern Western economies are capable of outproducing the immediate needs and wants of the host populations. Herein lies the focus of the, currently mainstream, New Keynesians on stimulating demand. You will no longer be able to say to people with the same ease as before: “go get a job.” In other words, this is the emergence of the modern welfare state as the *status quo*. And, yes, it’s mostly a good thing. The question is: do you give people & their progeny food, cloth, shelter, and (even) healthcare unconditionally, or do you *also* start issuing (expensive) procreation licenses for which (or most of which) they actually have to pay? I’d say that the latter strategy is much more wise.

        Licensing procreation will enable more successful people who want to have their own children to do so via either self-financing (for those earning enough and/or with good credit rating) or via sponsorship, mostly by enabling corporations to invest in such perks as child licenses for their talented employees as part of their employment package. It will also allow foundations to sponsor the right (on average) people to get their licenses. In fact, licensing can also be supported by an open-market model, wherein betting on people with credentials to procreate will give the betting party a (short-able, under certain conditions!) option call on a portion of their taxed earning (i.e. the government will give back a portion of its tax revenue!).

        Of course, where there are carrots, there must be sticks, too. Unauthorized/unlicensed birth-giving should be elevated to the level of crime.

        The government’s job: in addition to enforcing the above programs it will also have to create new jobs for the newly created smart people. These jobs will be in math and science, of course, and there will be a whole lot more research programs sponsored. Obviously, these programs tend to be capital intensive, so there will probably be more math than science. But these are just details.

        There is probably enough potential stuff in what I’ve written here for a serious economics and public policy research / Ph.D. dissertation, or several. I wonder if any university would be brave enough to allow a student to successfully pursue & defend such a dissertation…

        • j3morecharacters says:

          To Ilya, The idea of licencing the right to have children and making the licence very expensive, has been implemented already and failed. When I was working in China fifteen years ago, everybody (except those with physical or political defects) to have one baby. Free. It was forbidden to have a second one. Spending time near Beijing Silk Market (near the American Embassy) I met girls wishing to practice their English and thus I learned that some had siblings. Thus I learned that the system in fact one could have another child and pay the fine, which was about 2000 yuan (200 dollars). The one-child policy was enforced by Party officers, and “some of them” (I cant say all of them) accepted presents. For some reason, Beijing people was not interested. Today, the one-child policy has been forgotten yet Beijing natality is barely over 1.0. Conclusion: Your system will not work.

      • Ilya says:

        In short, in the above comment I gave a blueprint of how one can go about preserving and expanding the human capital in a multicultural society with a cohesive elite. (The cohesiveness of said elite is what I am doubting.)

        And yes, setsamov is right: in a very related and *outbred* society (e.g. Sweden, Norway) people are more strongly compelled towards non-competition and mutual help. China has bred civilization for millennia now, so their elite tends to be saner (maybe they’ll eventually scare the US into action?). Everyone-competing-with-everyone is more prevalent in strongly multicultural US. Either way, a pro-eugenic economic and policy framework is necessary.

      • Ilya says:

        @j3morecharacters: you may or may not be right. But I am *not* proposing a blanket limitation of 1 license and 1 license only. What I am proposing is that, by default, one would be given a license for 1 child. Thereafter, one (and it doesn’t have to be just the parent!) can *buy* a license to have a child. Moreover, by buying a license, one also buys (as part of said license) an option call on the future tax earnings of the licensed progeny. In effect, the more successful the baby will be, the more the parent/buyer will earn, which could be a good strategy for parental retirement or general investment. The government will be creating the *certain* types of jobs that pay decent money (like, for example, scientific research and interesting engineering/mega projects) that would be able to employ said progeny. It’s an extremely long-term, IQ-boosting targeted policy. Hence, the need to move away from the old democracy.

        I also gave an economic argument for why the above is viable economically — or, at least, *will* be viable within the next several decades, given the conditions I’ve stated (mainly, staying demand constrained)). China was, and *still* is a different situation. But… give them another 50-100 years, assuming current tendencies towards urbanization and industrialization, and my approach will work for them, too. But they may not need it, because the government is much more powerful there and the populations are more obeying.

        Back to the US, again: the economy is becoming different, I am not the only one saying this. As per Krugman/Larry Summers:

        (Except that he doesn’t give all the reasons for the changes. But they are, again: automation, consolidation, and outsourcing).

        Creating bubbles just to keep employment up means that the US is in the inflection point on the path towards becoming a welfare state as the new normal. Hence, the old, agrarian-rooted selection towards increasing IQ can no longer be sustained without direct government involvement.

  4. Sir, an excellent essay. It suggests a simple heuristic for career management: go up the hierarchy of difficulty as far as you can until you cannot master the equivalent of Algebra II, and then decide whether to move sideways (accept being a smaller fish in prestigious pond) or go down a step (be a bigger fish in less prestigious pond). If you look up Lubinski’s figures on the careers of the SMPY sample, then those who find most things difficult end up in education. As to the economic cost/benefits of education, I remember reading (but have forgotten where) that primary and secondary educational effects plateau at about $5000.

  5. dearieme says:

    “High-school freshmen in in the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY), who had tested in the top one-hundredth of one percent, managed to get a median score of 727 out of 800 on an AP Biology exam (95th percentile) after an intensive three-week course. ”

    In my school year we had three pupils (all male) who were very good at Maths, Physics, Latin and so on. We (I was one) took a fancy to learning some biology and were put into the class that fitted our timetables – our new classmates were almost all girls, and a year younger. After a couple of weeks we were thrown out. We persuaded ourselves that it was because our sexual magnetism was disrupting proceedings. Not at all; the Principal called us in to explain – the speed with which we mastered everything was making the girls despondent, and so we had to be expelled to protect them.

    Mind you, it’s one thing to be ace at the sort of maths that physicists and engineers like; pure maths is a different world. Einstein wasn’t indulging in false modesty when he said he was no mathematician.

    • Jim says:

      Einstein’s work on Brownian motiuon was an importatnt contribution to the mathematics of stochastic processes. It was his most important contribution to mathematics as such as opposed to physics. It’s true he wuoldn’t be particularly high on a list of the most important mathematicians of the twentieth century.

    • Jim says:

      Certainly the theory of stochastic processes has many applications but it is certainly a part of pure mathematics in the sense that it can be pursued purely mathematically without any empirical input. Consider classical celestial mechanics. Obviously the study of this subject was inspired by physical motivations. But given a set of point particles moving according to a certain differential equation the study of celestial mechanics proceeds purely mathematically. Of course it’s only a model of the real physical situation which involves in addition to the differential equation of gravity such things as tidal friction, the deviation of the shape of the planets from perfect balls, etc.

      Brownian motion can be defined purely mathematically as a certain kind of stochastic process and it’s study can be pursued as a branch of pure mathematics. Obviously Einstein’s motivation in studying it was a physical one but he still made important contributions to the pure mathematics of stochastic processes.

      Admittedly the distinction between mathematics and mathematical physics can sometimes be pretty arbitrary.

  6. Charlie says:

    In the long run biological capital, if there is such a term, seems to be most of the battle when it comes to national economic and technical success. If the economic system in recent centuries is leading to negative consequences for the human capital stock then an important reason is not the system directly but its release of the existing human potential to produce economic and technical success.

    Reversing the economic and technical success might solve the problem. The means and ends are getting a little mixed up, or circular, or something though.

    Luckily we seem to have a sufficient stock of human capital to get the trick of directly controlling our biological characteristics. I won’t bother to pretend I know the exact changes that would lead to, but it must surely change a lot, probably including your “burning seed corn” worries.

  7. Jim says:

    Ideology seems capable of preventing people from seeing the obvious. Or perhaps it may be that individually people know a lot more than they let on about the reality of differences between human populations relevant to economic development and social well-being. But intellectual taboos prevent this knowledge from being used.

  8. Cplusk says:

    That’s why i would advise every country to be nice to China.

  9. Jim says:

    Regarding Luis Alvarez remark – I’ve heard that Norbert Wiener at one point in his life became rather depressed when he compared himself to some of the other top mathematicians in the world. When I was a graduate student long ago I remember a professor there referring to Carl Siegel as if he were a god. He said something like – “Siegel can do anything”.

  10. Jim says:

    But even at the top things do not necessarily come easy. Andrew Wiles described how for 7-8 years he was constantly thinking about how to prove the Modularity Conjecture. He said he went to sleep thinking about and started thinking about it again right after he woke up. He probably dreamed about it. As for Ramanujan, maybe it was easy for him. He said that some Hindu goddess (I’ve forgotten her name) came to him in his dreams and told him the truth.

    I heard a story once about Ramanujan. He was in his kitchen cooking some Indian food. Another Indian mathematician was sitting in the living room and mentioned a problem he had read about recently. After about a second Ramanujan rattled off some complicated infinite continued fraction as the answer to the problem. Astonished the other guy asked how he could figure that out so quickly. Ramanujan replied something like – “It occurred to me that the answer to such a question would be some sort of infinite continued fraction so I simply asked myself what continued fraction could it possibly be and the answer instantly occurred to me”.

    • EoT says:

      Ramanujan was a Tamil Brahmin. It’s amazing how much Tamil Brahmins stand out as a high-achieving subgroup. I wonder if there has ever been research on average IQ.

  11. b. says:

    Do you know any promissing new(or old) drugs that could enhance math skills?When I was in school there was a craze wave of mentats of all sorts. The people who took them didn’t appear to be more sharp, quiet the contrary.Even though it’s considered ‘unethical today’, it’s far more viable when compered to eugenics.
    Also, have you considered different teaching methods in maths for different populations? I don’t know much about this subject but during my eduction I was faced with at least three different methods. I’m from a former soviet block country so what they taught us was the soviet method. For high school I attended a french lycee and we had this french teacher with her extensive analytical approach which I found very strange. In college then, beside the usual we had a teacher who explained math in a historical perspective which was very enlightening. A friend of mine who studied mathematics in Prague and was at best avarage, went for a year to Amsterdam where he aced the class no problem. All of a sudden he was a star student. He was very amused by this. This is a recurring pattern I observed with our math or physics students going west. Maybe all this is just anecdotal evidence and doesn’t mean anything but I was just curious about the importance of the method of learning.

  12. sfer says:

    I just read this book:

    It has nothing on these issues of course. But it does have a lot about other issues involved with growth and it is easy to read. In the book, human capital is analogized to physical capital, it basically improvements of the worker stock through education. Beyond that are measures of efficiency. How well does a country use all of its human and physical capital.

    I imagine you could use a measure of genetic capital as well but this would have certain non-intuitive consequences. Basically, countries with a lot of genetic capital, say China and Japan, would actually be less efficient than they seem now. If you were a smart Chinese person where would you be most productive? in China or in the US? Easily the US. Think about all of those Chinese babies adopted into the US. They are much much more productive in the US than they would be in China.

    I was surprised that the US’s position is still really good. Productivity per capita is the key measure and it is hard to beat the US. People got worried about how Japan was more productive than the US but that was only limited to manufacturing, Retail and agricultural sectors had horrible productivity compared to the US. The growth at the frontier of productivity per capita is crucial. Catch up growth is doable but pulling ahead is hard.

  13. 420blazeitfgt says:

    Can you go a little into the connection between IQ and income?

  14. Patrick L. Boyle says:

    First of all some subjects are much easier than others, for example Byzantine History. I try to read three or four books on economics every year. This last year however I think I read about ten. But I often try to read economics books and fail. Last year I failed to get through Stockman’s book.

    As it happens I did read one book last year on Byzantine history. It was simple and easy. There’s not much to it. Stockman’s book on recent economics is much tougher because there is so much more that you need to know to understand the points he is trying to make. There simply isn’t much Byzantine history or I should say there aren’t that many surviving manuscripts.

    I have read almost all the ancient historians of Rome. That sounds impressive but there are fewer than dozen important authors. Most people don’t realize how small the canon is. So I’m not really surprised that Von Neumann knew more than some professor that he met at a cocktail party.

    On the other hand you may be over estimating the public when you say they peak out below Algebra II. In my experience most of the educated public tops out at long division. A surprisingly large proportion of professionals are stumped by percentages. I first taught math (calculus and matrix algebra) as a TA in grad school to MBA students. I don’t remember a single really gifted student – all plodders. I’m not really very good at math but it’s a field in which you can be better than almost all your competitors without much effort.

    My question about intelligence is why when cable news reports on the trouble in Gaza they never mention IQ. It seems to me that the world should try to preserve the precious resource of Ashkenazi brains. I don’t follow the politics of the region all that closely but Arabs, Palestinians and the like are plentiful and not very talented. Jews however are rare and valuable. These basic facts to me argue for siding with Israel.

    • Gordo says:

      Not a homogenous population.

    • ho says:

      “I don’t follow the politics of the region all that closely but Arabs, Palestinians and the like are plentiful and not very talented. Jews however are rare and valuable. These basic facts to me argue for siding with Israel.”

      Now I see what Pleasureman meant when he talked about the autists among the HBD crowd.

      1. Israel has an average IQ of less than 100.
      2. Siding with Palestine isn’t equivalent to exterminating Ashkenazi Jews.
      3. Israel is obviously in the wrong here so their “intelligence” doesn’t matter.
      4. There are many, many, many, many more intelligent gentiles and especially Chinese than there are intelligent Jews.

      • Toddy Cat says:

        Israel does lots of things wrong, but every country has a right to self-defense, no matter how smart they are or are not.

      • Patrick L. Boyle says:

        You think I’m autistic? How droll.

        My point isn’t all that difficult to grasp. Yes there are plenty of very smart Chinese but we as a species are in no danger of running out of Chinese. But everyone is always trying to exterminate the Jews. It’s an ‘endangered species’ argument.

        Our hosts Cochran and Harpending have published a very plausible explanation in evolutionary terms as to how the Jewish brain got the way it is. But there is much yet to learn on a physiological level. We should be careful to preserve a plentiful supply of Jews until we understand their neurology. Maybe we could get the IQ boost without suffering the Sphingolipid diseases.

        Here in California we are intensifying our drought to preserve the Delta Smelt – a worthless species of bait fish that we couldn’t exterminate if we tried. Surely preserving some Jews makes more sense than that.

        At around seven billion people the earth may very well be over populated right now. We might find ourselves in a situation where we will be thinning the herd by a billion or more people by war or plague or whatever. It wouldn’t matter much if they were all Muslims – we have plenty of those – but we should be careful to preserve the Jews – at least until we learn how to engineer Ashkenazi level brains for all.

        We can lose all the Andaman negritos or the Khoisan and it would be no worse than when we lost the Tasmanians. The minor tropical races are probably all doomed anyway. They have nothing to teach us.


      • Ryan says:

        Jews are a multi-territorial nation, hence they border lots of different nations, and nations have border conflicts. It’s not a matter of people wanting to exterminate Jews.

        Jews tend to oppose eugenics within other nations and peoples, which isn’t that surprising if they’re dependent on intellectual niches within other nations as a multi-territorial nation. Eugenics would result in more competition for those and other niches. So I’m not sure about your plan to keep Jews around for the purposes of eugenics.

      • 1. Sephardic and Oriental. Yeah. You dodged the Askenaz issue nicely.
        2. Not equivalent, but not unrelated.
        3. When people use “obvious” in such contexts, I find that they mean “I can’t prove it, but my friends all agree.” I’m keeping yours as a particularly good example to use in other contexts.
        4. You left out two “many’s”. Also: In genetics, percentages matter.

      • Matt says:

        That’s tenable, but perhaps a better way to preserve it, and at less cost of life and political risk, would be to dissolve the whole project and to encourage the Ashkenazi Jews to get out of the violent Middle Eastern ethnic nationalism game (where their talents are not particularly well spent).

        Until such time as we have a better substitute. And then they can get back into cosplaying the era of Judges and Kings with modern tech (ideally against an opposition it would go as well against as the Winter War) so long as it doesn’t bother anyone else.

      • melendwyr says:

        If we want to conserve the numbers of smart Jews, we’d do better to safeguard New York City than the entire state of Israel.

      • Kate says:

        There’s a humanitarian appeal on UK TV at the moment.

        Some people are wondering if it might have been better to fill the ends of the tunnels with cement rather than bombing the unknown whereabouts of the entrances.

        But considering the role of Britain in the Middle-East, it seems hypocritical of Brits to try and take the moral high-ground now.

  15. FredR says:

    The population cycle drives human history?

  16. spandrell says:

    I call that IQ shredders;

    our best run economies are basically based in getting smart men and women in their prime, making them do unsexy things in the most unsexy environment imaginable until they’re 35, and then complain that 50% of women with graduate degrees die childless.

  17. This is all true. What I find frustrating is that since we refuse to accept this, we not only waste enormous amounts of money and import cheap labor thus ensuring that the bottom half of the bell curve can’t get jobs or make a decent living, but we also don’t bother investigating methods of teaching motivated populations with low IQs.

    Can we teach algebra to motivated people with IQs of 90-95? We haven’t tried. By that I mean, we haven’t identified students by IQ, found kids who genuinely had strong motivation, and tried all sorts of different techniques to see which ones worked. Or, perhaps, integrated the needed math knowledge into a skills training course—geometry and basic algebra into carpentry, for example. At our school, we have a phenomenal math program that integrates engineering and carpentry–the kids are building a house. But there’s this almost funny disconnect between the administrators, who want to put lower motivation, lower ability kids into the class, and the teachers, who insist that the kids have to be *better* than average. The teachers won. And that’s probably correct, because the math teachers weren’t interested in figuring out methods of teaching low ability kids, they wanted to teach difficult applied geometry.

    We also haven’t identified a meaningful, interesting curriculum for kids who will never advance beyond 8th grade in reading and math ability. Instead, when faced with the reality that many kids won’t be able to advance, people give up (see Mike Petrilli for one of the more legitimate efforts to take this question on–his answer is well, beef up middle school so we have fewer of them.

    I write about this a lot, here’s one piece:

    If all this isn’t bad enough, we are determinedly destroying college as a means of higher education by sending everyone through, and eliminating remedial education because hey, lots of college degrees don’t really need algebra. Well, if the degree doesn’t need algebra, then why the hell does the job need college? Answer: it signals slightly more ability than high school. I am getting extremely worried at the destruction of genuine academic challenges for any tier of intellect in this country–hell, in the world. The Chinese and Koreans are terrible educators, and western Europe is in the same denial we are.

    • Der Alte says:

      “Can we teach algebra to motivated people with IQs of 90-95?”

      If we could, would there be any point to it? How many of those people would get jobs where they can use algebra? I don’t think it’s just lack of algebra skills which are preventing people like that from getting jobs where they might need algebra.

  18. harpend says:

    As Greg says, we focus on IQ both because it is important for success in industrial economies and because we know how to measure it. Everyone agrees that there are other important characteristics but we can’t measure them easily and it is not clear that they contribute much to the economy. Charisma, for example, plausibly leads to success in sales and marketing but do sales and marketing really contribute to an economy?

    There are other plausible models out there beside Silicon Valley and Wall Street. My own candidate is the Amish. I don’t know much about other Anabaptist groups but they may be similar. The Amish are prosperous with families that work and persist and will little social disruption. They also don’t beat up our roads and bridges and they don’t use a lot of hydrocarbons. As land becomes expensive they easily move into local light industry where they do just as well. They reproduce rapidly, doubling their population in a quarter century.

    People apparently like being Amish. There are several years of freedom in adolescence, before baptism, where individuals decide whether to remain in the group
    or leave. Leaving rates were on the order of 15% early in the twentieth century and
    have apparently declined to 5% to 10% today.

    So here is a group and their economy that doesn’t beat up the environment, doesn’t trouble their neighbors, and provides communal support to members with difficulty. They even manage their own health insurance system and retirement support.

    Finally, the reason for my fascination is that there is no indication that they have
    much in the way of IQ. The evidence is ethnographic as well as some evidence from tests. There is no glorification of scholarship nor even of curiosity. This group is one model that most of us would call successful that has no IQ advantage and that apparently has little or no use for IQ. There is a way and I think it deserves more attention from folks like us and from journalists and politicians.

    • Jim says:

      I remember once when I lived in Delaware driving around a bend in the road in nearby Pennsylvania and seeing a man walking behind a plow with mule in front. I thought I must have gone through some warp in space-time and ended up in the 19th century. All the farms looked like some idyllic picture. Nothing unsightly or out-of-place.

      But the Amish are not very friendly to outsiders. At a nearby town an Amish man walked past me dressed in somber black. He give no hint of even being aware I existed. I felt totally invisible. He paid no more attention to me than to a blade of grass.

      The Mennonites are so different with their colourful clothes. They were always in the company of other Mennonites but they talked, smiled and even laughed. I’m not sure that the Amish are even capable of smiling. But perhaps among themselves they relax their somber visage and even laugh..

      • Toad says:

        “But the Amish are not very friendly to outsiders.”

        You say that like its a bad thing.

      • harpend says:

        Inclusive and exclusive are two sides of the same coin. Mike Weight says that for the Amish there is an eleventh commandment: keep to yourselves.

      • Jim says:

        I have nothing against the Amish. It was just a little eerie to be walking right past one. I gave a little glance in his direction but his eyes stared rigidly straight ahead. He gave not the slightest indication in his facial expression or anything else that he had any awareness at all of my presence. Of course that’s all within his constitutional rights but it was just a little eerie. An impression heightened by his very odd totally black clothing.

        I never saw Mennonites with anybody else other than other Mennonites. But they do talk, smile and laugh among themselves. One could imagine saying hello to a Mennonite. The Amish may well behave very differently among themselves.

      • Toad says:

        If there were all-Amish subway cars in New-York, would you ride in them?

      • Jim says:

        Oh I would feel much safer in a subway full of Amish than in almost any other demographic. And having lived in Manhattan at one time I would say that a subway is not much of a place in any case for idle chit-chat.

      • Jim says:

        As I understand the Amish they wouldn’t ride on subways any more than they drive cars. I’ve come across their buggies driving on Pennsylvania highways. Certainly an odd sight. The Mennonites however do drive cars and otherwise take advantage of modern conveniences.

      • Jim says:

        Idle chit-chat in a Manhattan subway usually consists of somebody asking you for money.

      • JayMan says:


        “Idle chit-chat in a Manhattan subway usually consists of somebody asking you for money.”

        Pretty much. Unless you know the person.

        New York City pretty much on the far end of Robert Putnam’s spectrum…

    • Jim says:

      Of course I’m sure that the behavioral dispositions of the Amish are vastly different from those of inner-city blacks. But yes their success seems to have little to do with high IQ.

    • Jim says:

      I wonder how Al Gore’s energy consumption compares to that of a typical Amish individual.

    • Toad says:

      “This group is one model that most of us would call successful that has no IQ advantage and that apparently has little or no use for IQ. There is a way and I think it deserves more attention from folks like us and from journalists and politicians.”

      Germanic ethnics from Switzerland. What more do you want?

      Do you also think the nerds at the SCA blacksmithing swords are a little thick?

      • Toddy Cat says:

        Some things about the Amish may be attractive, but I doubt that it would scale well.

      • harpend says:

        I would not wager that being Germanic ethnic has anything to do with it. Parsi are a parallel and they ain’t very Germanic.

        A common denominator seems to be religion. I view religion as fabricated proxy kinship but wish that I had a deeper knowledge. I also wish that I knew about the sociology of the US Black population but I have never been around US Black people and am profoundly ignorant. Like most rural communities in the New York/Pennsylvania/Maryland belt, my home had a few black families left from underground railway days. Pillars of the community and it was a real community.

        But from data the sociology of much of the US Black population is in most ways undesirable. But is there not a segment of that population, perhaps associated strongly with churches, that maintains strong durable families, participates in a lively community life, and works to support pair bonds? What we get from the press is unending tales of Detroit and violence and I don’t trust them to reflect global reality. Is there some nucleus in the US Black population of an Amish like adaptation? Can politicians foster it?

        Where is JayMan when we need him?

      • Jim says:

        Oh I’m sure that in places like Detroit out-migration of the more able blacks has left behind a highly dysfunctional population. I recall reading some years ago of an IQ study of inner city blacks in Baltimore which found an IQ of 75.

      • Toad says:

        “group … one … would call successful that has no IQ advantage”

        Being German-Swiss derived, I would argue they do have one. And while they don’t have college-level skills, farming and woodworking and metalworking crafts they engage in would require above-average abilities.

      • Cplusk says:

        Do we know what the average Parsi iq is? Is it as high as Ashkenazi?

      • Jim says:

        The Amish are probably intelligent in a practical sense otherwise they wouldn’t be so prosperous. But they don’t seem to have much in the way of purely intellectual interests. For example I doubt they give a fig about the Higgs boson.

      • Jim says:

        Idle chit-chat in a Manhattan subway usually consists of somebody asking you for money.

      • JayMan says:

        @Henry Harpending:

        “Where is JayMan when we need him?”

        Busy with his young son. 😉

        “But from data the sociology of much of the US Black population is in most ways undesirable. But is there not a segment of that population, perhaps associated strongly with churches, that maintains strong durable families, participates in a lively community life, and works to support pair bonds? What we get from the press is unending tales of Detroit and violence and I don’t trust them to reflect global reality. Is there some nucleus in the US Black population of an Amish like adaptation?”

        None like the Amish, but then there are few people anywhere that are like the Amish, it seems. Caribbean and African immigrant Blacks tend to do well – or at least much better than U.S. Blacks, but of course that’s due to elite migration. My own family is an example of a somewhat elite set of (mostly Black, but many White and East Asian mixes thrown in) Jamaican immigrants. Many of the immigrant Black communities across New York City and the ‘burbs do fairly well.

      • JayMan says:

        @Henry Harpending:

        “Where is JayMan when we need him?”

        Wait, so I am the Larry Wilmore of the HBD world?

    • R. says:

      So here is a group and their economy that doesn’t beat up the environment, doesn’t trouble their neighbors, and provides communal support to members with difficulty. They even manage their own health insurance system and retirement support.

      Could it be that Amish are more pro-social because of their degree of genetic relatedness? Apparently almost all of the ~300,000 of them are descended from some 300 immigrants …

      • gcochran9 says:

        Why, you think they can sense genetic relatedness and have an innate propensity to cooperate more with closer relatives?

        It’s unlikely.

      • DK says:

        Why, you think they can sense genetic relatedness and have an innate propensity to cooperate more with closer relatives? It’s unlikely.

        Why not? People like others who are alike. Surely significant parts of culture are driven by genes. Amish may not know much about genetic relatedness but that does not prevent them (or Finns, or French Canadians) to sense it through same-mindedness.

      • little spoon says:

        “Why, you think they can sense genetic relatedness and have an innate propensity to cooperate more with closer relatives?

        It’s unlikely.”

        I agree. I doubt relatedness is that valuable. Maybe marginally valuable, but it seems like the worth of genetic closeness is quite exaggerated in the HBDsphere. Who is going to be the more pro social community? A group of closely related Bantus? Or a group of high IQ Asians and gentile whites and Jews in northern California?

      • Toad says:

        “Why, you think they can sense genetic relatedness and have an innate propensity to cooperate more with closer relatives?”

        I’d bet that Synapsids also did so.

      • harpend says:

        Interesting idea but I don’t think you can make it work. A “small” founding population would be 30, 300 doesn’t do much for you. And their neighbors for much of their history were also rural Germans.

      • JayMan says:

        I’d imagine that relatedness probably helps in the sense that any selection for in-group trust and favoritism may become more effective because the group members – undergoing the same selection – will capitulate. Reciprocal altruism (even an “in group” version) doesn’t work if no one reciprocates.

        That’s my guess, anyway.

        • gcochran9 says:

          Selection for Hamiltonian altruism beyond immediate family exists, or any rate can exist, but it’s weak. Look at the relatedness coefficients. And because it’s weak, it is also slow. Do I think that there is some innate relatedness detector, developed over a very long time (because slow) that triggers appropriate levels of altruistic behavior for different degrees of moderate relatedness? Nope.

    • j3morecharacters says:

      Harpend likes Anabaptists (most of us do) but misses their point: The Bible is their sole rule of faith and practice. Harpend could convert and become a missionary..

  19. Pincher Martin says:

    I can give no higher recommendation than Pseudoerasmus if you want to read a bright economist with an appreciation for the importance of biology to economic and social issues. (He’s also a talented polyglot who’s very good on linguistic matters.)

    Read, for example, his Economic Growth and Human Biodiversity. He does an excellent job of explaining why a few disparate economic facts – such as many African countries’ current high growth rates – do not invalidate the assumption of biological differences.

    • sfer says:

      per capita growth that is not at the edge of world productivity (catch up growth) is a lot easier than growth that is at the edge of world productivity. This is true for africa but is also true for china.

      The smart fraction theory isn’t bad for the US. It means we can worry less about immigration and our education system. We still have the best system of elite colleges in the world and maybe that is what matters for the smart fraction.

      • Pincher Martin says:

        The smart fraction is absolutely essential for technological improvements and scientific advance. But I would not dismiss the potential importance to a country or society’s quality of life by having a population and work force with a higher average IQ. I would also not dismiss other non-IQ factors, such as social trust and population homogeneity, in affecting economic potential at the margins once IQ has been accounted for.

      • dearieme says:

        “We still have the best system of elite colleges in the world…” At the level of the best research schools that’s true. But many smart people (I guess) don’t go to research schools, and your undergraduate education doesn’t look too hot. On the other hand, it didn’t look too hot in your years of maximum prosperity, so perhaps it doesn’t really matter.

      • mapman says:

        Smart fraction in India is pretty smart. It’s the fact that the rest of the country is so not smart that makes India such an economic and social basket case (OK, OK, high diversity does not help too.)

  20. Xanadan says:

    I find this subject difficult because this blog is mainly an echo chamber with everyone of like mind.

    I don’t understand why it is assumed that HBD account for the differences we see between countries.

    For instance:

    South Korea is doing well because of a favourable genetic disposition for high IQ, well OK, it is doing well now but it wasn’t doing so well 100 years ago.

    India is relatively poor, but it once had GDP per capita to match the most productive states in the world – did they get stupid? Or is there a deeper explanation than pure HBD.

    China has been the most populous and a relatively advanced country for millennia, so given its HBD advantage why did it fall behind?

    At times countries in Africa had significant GDP per capita compared to other countries – say Tunisia before the Romans (but the same applies to some kingdoms further south too) – given their lower HBD determined IQ, why were they successful.

    I am not saying that HBD cannot be a piece of the puzzle to explain world history, but I would say it has a far smaller role to play than the deterministic effect some on this thread seem to believe.

    PS. I know some will ask me to quote sources, but I am pretty sure you should be able to find the evidence pretty easily if you look and I am busy.

    • Jacob says:

      This depends on how we define “doing well”. Industrialized countries today, including South Korea, are doing well in terms of GDP per capita relative to 100 years ago. On the other hand, they’re also cannibalizing and consuming up their human capital stock, and their futures as ongoing concerns appears murky. From that perspective it’s not clear they’re “doing well”. 100 years ago, South Korea was a poor agricultural economy and GDP per capita was lower. On the other hand, visitors to places like South Korea 100 years ago noted that they were quite socially and environmentally sustainable:–Introduction.htm

    • ursiform says:

      Occupation, government, culture, and religion can all hold back a society and its people from achieving what they are capable of.

    • Jacob says:

      The Amish example described by harpend above would be good here since they’re more similar to lifestyles 100 years ago than most people today. They have lower income and consumption levels since they farm and don’t consume electricity and other industrialized products. On the other hand, they have much lower costs on their environment and on their human capital stock. In fact, their human capital stock is increasing.

      • Jim says:

        “They have lower income” – Supposedly they are quite prosperous. Their farms certainly don’t look poor.

    • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

      PS. I know some will ask me to quote sources, but I am pretty sure you should be able to find the evidence pretty easily if you look and I am busy.

      Whoa. What a novel way to say: I am gonna talk shit and not respond to your questions.

      It is amusing that a lot of what this blog is about is population replacement, which relates to some of your claims.

      • Xanadan says:

        So which example do you disagree with?

        Yes lots of this blog is about population replacement, please don’t think I haven’t read the entire blog and just not commented until now – which example do you think is due to a displaced population?

    • dearieme says:

      “China has been … a relatively advanced country for millennia, so given its HBD advantage why did it fall behind?” Not really; less than two millennia if I am to believe Ian Morris in his book Why The West Rules For Now. (His answer to your question, by the way, is to do with its geography compared to that of its competitors in The West.)

    • B&B says:

      Chinese did not fail to innovate, rather they failed to connect the innovators together into an innovative culture of science. Thus the HBD ‘fact’ that Chinese cannot innovate is incorrect but genetic differences still might yet explain the gap between China and the latecomer Europe. Remember though that the Japanese even before Japan was ‘opened’ already had a culture of science ie. rangaku scholars. If East Asians aren’t as predisposed they are at least as capable.

      The HBD attitude to China shows some of the criticisms against HBD are actually fair. Charles Murray is routinely cited as a source for comparing cultural achievements, yet he was forced to discount Needham’s multi-volume encyclopaedia on Chinese science because it didn’t gel with his desired interpretation. This is quite crass handwavium, and it doesn’t wash with many people who know China.

      ‘Unmaking the West: “What-if?” Scenarios That Rewrite World History’ looks at why Europe ‘won’ and not China as well as refuting Murray on China (whilst still citing Murray as a respectable source on Europe, the book is not some anti-HBD screed.)

    • JayMan says:


      Here you go:

      “Racial Reality” Provides My 150th Post | JayMan’s Blog


      Stop Saying North and South Koreans Are Necessarily Completely Identical Populations | JayMan’s Blog

      It’s worth noting that average IQ (and other traits) can and have changed over the timespan of many centuries. Smart today doesn’t necessarily mean smart yesterday (that is, say 1,000 years ago) and vice versa.

  21. dearieme says:

    I’m sorry to say that I’m always suspicious when someone makes a statement about Africa and it turns out that he means North Africa. But putting that small point aside, I have some sympathy with what you say. Much chat about these issues seems to be based on snapshots of narrow periods of time, made by people with little historical knowledge. On the other hand, would you object to an argument along the lines of IQ setting an upper bound on what a country’s population might achieve, but all sorts of social, religious, and governmental actions being capable of restricting how close they can get to that limit?

  22. Nick Rowe says:

    There’s a problem with testing this theory. It’s the same problem with testing other theories of what determines a country’s long run level (or growth rate) of GDP per capita. There aren’t enough countries. If we add all the possible things that might have some effect on GDP into the regression, we have more explanatory variables than our sample size of countries, and have run out of degrees of freedom. We can only estimate the effect of X1 by deliberately ignoring the possible effects of lots of other X’s.

    All we have are a few natural experiments/event studies. Like North and South Korea. One went communist and the other went capitalist. We assume (we hope) that everything else was the same, and that the choice of which one went communist and which one went capitalist was independent of anything else that might also have affected their subsequent economic performance. It was like rolling a die. If our assumption is correct, then the evidence shows that capitalism beats communism. But maybe our assumption is not correct.

    It’s much easier in micro, because the sample size can be as big as you want. And you can always go out and get a new, different, sample. An individual’s income and education are positively correlated. Is that because education creates human capital? Or is education totally useless, except as a way to signal your ability? Economists don’t assume everyone has the same ability, or the same ability to benefit from education. That is probably the main reason why different people invest different amounts in education. It’s a lot more profitable an investment for some people than for others.

    • Nick Rowe says:

      Put it this way: Suppose there were some natural experiment, similar to the North/South Korea one, only this time with IQ. Suppose a country got split in two, and all the smart people got sent to the South, and all the dull people got sent to the North. And you figured there were no other important differences between the North and the South of the country. If 50 years later the South was rich and the North was starving (and if something similar happened in a couple of other places, like East and West Germany, and the two Chinas) then we would be as confident that IQ matters as much as capitalism/communism.

      • Whyvert says:

        This kind of natural experiment is found in eg SE Asian countries: they got split into two (in a way ) with the Immigrant Chinese as the bright South and the natives as the dull North. Both live under the same national institutions, but one wealthier than the other.

    • Were North and South Korea the same before the split? I had thought that the North was more industrial, the south more agricultural. That might have been only for a short period prior, however.

    • gcochran9 says:

      So we can figure this out, after building and fully settling the Ringworld. Right.

      Maybe that was Paul Samuelson’s problem, back in 1989, when he said that “the Soviet economy is proof that, contrary to what many skeptics had earlier believed, a socialist command economy can function and even thrive.” – we just didn’t have enough Soviet Unions.

      • ursiform says:

        Well, Greg, it wasn’t only the fellow travelers who bought into Soviet wealth. Even the CIA was saying they were really rich, because we needed a rich enemy to justify some of the programs we were pursuing. In retrospect, we should have taken seriously that people had to line up to buy basic goods, and were waiting years to get a refrigerator or car, rather than just believing that the SU was just about to pass us in wealth.

        • gcochran9 says:

          The CIA analysts just repeated what they’d learned in school – I don’t think that it was agenda-driven, unless being a moron is itself an agenda.

          I remember the case of a friend whose daughter was in Army Intelligence and was sent to some university for a year to learn about East Bloc economies. She came back convinced that East Germany had a higher per-capita GDP than West Germany (also the official CIA estimate at the time).

      • dave chamberlin says:

        I don’t believe that the CIA bought into that the Soviet Union was really rich. What they did buy into was if you scared the crap out of the public and politicians that the Soviet Union was very dangerous that they would be rewarded with billions more in funding. Scare the public, reap the rewards, some Pentagon tricks never need change because they just keep working. When they lost the Russian bear boogeyman there was a few year period when the military establishment was a bit lost without any bad guys to shake the money tree but then 9/11 came along and it was just like old times. The press is a wonderful cooperative agent for the military establishment because nothing sells like sex and fear, not even drugs, not even beer. So the news biz will always follow along with Pentagon fear tactics for no other reason than it increases ratings to do so.

        • gcochran9 says:

          You’re mistaken. The CIA was wrong about the Soviet economy in exactly the same way as the general economics profession, because they hired graduates from those programs. At the time I followed this rather closely. And, while we’re at it, by 1987 I was beginning to think that they were shaky, and by 1990 I was boring all my friends talking about the imminent fall of the Soviet Union.

          It was vastly easier to sell the idea that ragheads were an existential threat, because after 9-11 people were scared, including the media. In fact, as far as I can tell, most of the people in government pushing that nonsense believed it themselves.

      • ursiform says:

        I agree the CIA really believed in Soviet wealth. But it was easy for them to believe an answer that satisfied their needs. No reason to look at the contradicting facts when you have an answer you are happy with!

      • Toad says:

        Maybe GDP estimations were legit.
        What is GDP? What is paper money? If the state prints a million paper roubles and pays an employee with it, isn’t it technically true the GDP is increased a million. The tangible inconvenience of spending an hour in line to buy toilet paper doesn’t make the GDP statistic less true. If he pays someone r500 to wait in line for him, GDP increases by 500.

      • Bruce says:

        “ragheads?” Didn’t they have sensitivity training at Hughes?

  23. Glengarry says:

    “I’ve never even heard an educationist suggest caffeinating the hell out of students – certainly worth trying.”

    We’re well along with Ritalin, Adderall, Modafinil and whatnot among students as well as scientists.

  24. Xanadan says:

    I read a lot of blogs on HBD/IQ and I have a quick question for those more knowledgeable in respect of genetics (I should have looked up the answer by now but again I’m busy and lazy).

    Lets assume that IQ is 75% genetic and 25% environmental (although from my understanding we cannot really pin down what the environmental component is). Does this mean that 25% of the variation from the mean is environmental or that 25% or does it relate to the total IQ?

    Eg. If someone has an IQ of 120, in the first instance the impact of the environment has been relatively small – 5 points. In the second the impact of the environment has been on average huge 30 points or 2 sd and it would seem to me that there is all to play for in terms of anything that can effect that value?

    I would be grateful if someone enlightened me.

    • Whyvert says:

      Heritability is a statistic about a population, not about an individual. “75% genetic” means 3/4 of the variance in a population is inherited. No meaning to say 75% of my IQ was inherited and the rest nurtured.

    • Kate says:

      I read this once but I’ve not seen an HBD critique of it:

      “The closer IQ is to 100 % heritability the better because whatever is heritable can be influenced at least in theory and whatever is non-heritable is random and cannot be influenced!”
      From Jaakko Raipala – full comment including pink flamingos at

      • JayMan says:


        Well, he’s not even wrong. He is correct in that, for human traits, what is leftover when (generally the lower bound of) heritability is accounted for can’t, as yet, be ascribed to any factor with certainty. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all completely random. Though it could be. The only thing we do know is that we don’t know what it is. It’s quite possible there are several non-random factors involved, along with several random ones.

  25. Simon in London says:

    >>India is relatively poor, but it once had GDP per capita to match the most productive states in the world – did they get stupid? Or is there a deeper explanation than pure HBD.

    China has been the most populous and a relatively advanced country for millennia, so given its HBD advantage why did it fall behind?<<

    Both China and India traditionally had VERY LOW income per capita – lower than in sub-Saharan Africa. What they had was enormously high population density. They had sophisticated civilisations, but the average inhabitant was much poorer than the average African farmer.

    We know that high IQ societies can adopt disastrous governmental systems. High IQ only makes a society rich if the system is good – not Communism, for instance. And this ONLY happens after the industrial revolution. Before the IR, every society was in the Malthusian Trap – the smarter and harder the Chinese worked, the more Chinese there were, but everyone stayed poor. Probably poorer than if they'd just stayed on a beach and ate clams.

  26. Nick says:

    So have you considered just trying to emigrate?

  27. Jake says:

    At the middle school to high school level we’re only 5 to 10 years out from teachers effectively being able to be replaced with artificial intelligence or robots. Human adults will probably stay around and be employed basically for oversight and as security guards to make sure that children don’t get into conflict, fights, sexual harassment and so on.

  28. Patrick L. Boyle says:

    Greg is a little optimistic about Algebra II. Algebra I is beyond most.

    I taught undergraduate Data Communications for several years. Long enough that I developed my own anecdotes and examples. One story I told was ‘Smurf Algebra’.

    The Saturday morning cartoon show the Smurfs has a episode designed to flatter Muslims. They had a Middle Eastern Smurf solve some problem using Algebra. That was a kiddie show so the algebra was pretty simple. For several years I presented the Smurf Algebra problem to my college students. No one ever could solve it.

    Most wanted to be praised because they could recognize that it was in fact algebra.

  29. Wrecked 'Em says:

    I suppose that this means importing legions of low-IQ fruit pickers is no way to improve a country?

    Funny, that seems to be exactly what are betters are proposing. Sigh.

  30. Portlander says:

    Our govt today, both the political class ostensibly setting policy and the rank and file bureaucracy carrying it out, are a useful example of Upton Sinclair’s “it is impossible to get a man to understand something when his paycheck depends on his not understanding it.” In that regard, HBD-aligned policies are anathema to their very existence.

    I’m convinced they see more underclass as more clients and thus more justification for their work and existence. I believe the rank and file are not capable of thinking of what could be if the nation did not have the underclass like boat anchor hung around our necks. I believe the politicians understand their power and usefulness would be greatly diminished if the vast majority of the population were able to get along quite well without their do-gooding intrusions.

    Alas, I’m no longer hopeful. The recession in 08-09 was as close to a crucible to alter the national direction as we’re likely to get short of riots and all it did was delay the latino demographic tidal wave some few years. Wall Street still runs Washington, the middle class is still being squeezed between stagnate wages and inflation in all the necessities: housing, education, food, and energy, the healthcare, military, and government complexes are as big a share of GDP and as secure in their entitlement to it as ever. I can’t name a single thing we’re doing differently now than we would have been doing were it still circa 2007.

    Until this summer of love from south of the Rio Grande, I thought, “well, at least we don’t have 20 million unskilled illegals to contend with.” Apparently I was wrong about that, which then leaves what is different from 2007? Nothing I can name.

  31. little spoon says:

    Personal question- I want to have kids. I have not chosen a father for said children. Should I try and produce particularly bright or innovative kids? Or is that not a sensible aim?

    • dave chamberlin says:

      If you go the route of a sperm donor you have the option of paying for the storage of frozen sperm from the father of the first child so that when you are ready for a second child they are true siblings. If I was a women past age thirty who wanted to have kids and wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about ever finding Mr Right I would select a sperm donor who was a college student at a fairly elite college. They are going to be smart and being young they haven’t yet built up mutational load.

      • little spoon says:

        I can get a guy from an elite college to marry me. Then I’ll also benefit from his income. Would you recommend a gentile or a jew? A more quantitative or qualitative mind? A more focused or more creative mind?

      • dave chamberlin says:

        Geez, what ever happened to just falling in love first. A strange but true story, unrelated to you little spoon, but all about sexual calculation. My son was talking to his fellow high school seniors about what they were going to do next in life. Most were headed off to college, a few to the military, ect ect. The hottest girl announced she was going to California and suck her way to the top. They voted her most likely to succeed.

      • Zerg says:

        Marry someone whose favorite Lord of the Rings character is Tom Bombadil or Treebeard.

      • Gordo says:

        Just ask the guy to commit, most guys need to be put on the spot. Sperm donors are sociopaths who don’t give a shit about their own children, the higher IQ equivalent of Rastus from the ghetto, they should be forcibly sterilised.

      • little spoon says:

        “Marry someone whose favorite Lord of the Rings character is Tom Bombadil or Treebeard.”

        This is what I get for asking strangers a really important personal question.

    • DB says:

      Do you think you’d enjoy interacting with “particularly bright or innovative kids”, at least after they’re grown up? If yes, then it’s a sensible aim. Otherwise, you shouldn’t feel obligated, since there are enough others who are willing to play the role.

      • little spoon says:

        I don’t know. I tend to like people who are either high IQ or creative or particularly perceptive. I for sure don’t like most people, which is a concern with the wanting kids. What if they turn out to be tools? Would that suck?

    • Patrick L. Boyle says:

      Fortunately for you I am something of an expert – perhaps a failed expert. I spent two years developing a match/dating website. I wrote a lot of software. I lost my funding and went bust, as many do, but I did learn a few things.

      First of all realize that it’s easy to screen for IQ but there are no creative or innovative tests worth a tinker’s dam. People write about creativity all the time, but is there really any such thing?

      You can use any number of main stream matching sites to screen for brains. When I signed up for, I only dated women who were 5’9″ or over and had a PhD. I found a nice woman who taught at Stanford. Don’t bother with being too specific. Independent probabilities multiply. Once you factor in music, age and food preferences you won’t get enough hits if you only will accept a Yale graduate. After screening for income, age and schooling you should just look at their picture or video. You probably shouldn’t specify anything else.

      Remember everybody lies on the Web. Add five years to his advertised age. And his photo will be older too. Mr. Right wants to have kids – kids with you – but don’t mention children in an ad. Say you want to have fun, walk on the beach, and stuff like that.

      If this advice proves helpful you can name your first born after me.

  32. j3morecharacters says:

    Personal answer- Ask your papa to get you an astrologically compatible Iyer with a good profession.

  33. santoculto says:

    Human populations are highly adapted to their environments ancestors, just as the species of birds in the Galapagos Archipelago have adapted over time, that is to say, through natural selection, by the way, very specialized way.

    So it makes sense that people have different ways of learning around the world. Remember the words of a girl with Williams syndrome when asked how his mind worked. He said, my mind is musical, I think musically.

    At the most, the first step to begin to seek restructuring of society to the objective meritocracy and not just the partial type of merit system that currently experienced, is by modifying the current school system, which

    … function separate from the higher education system, when in fact, there should be a kind of ecological corridor between them, so that all those of different, could spend the turbulence of adolescence and seek to find their jobs in the most efficient and peaceful manner,

    …function as a filter, where expreme the diversity of cognitive styles in favor of more adapted to long-term careers and based on the characteristics of sequential brain types, basically the” types” termites. We know that school is fidagal enemy of creativity, where teachers not only do not value the creative talent, as you know does not also recognize innovative students,

    …end with the dogma of equality and prioritize the dogma of the diversity of cognitive styles, where each subgroup will have their targets to be met, as well as have a change in the curriculum for these subgroups, seeking ways to suit their respective ways of learning ,

    …build technical schools for people of lower-middle to low intelligence, separating them from the gifted students as well as normal students, not segregation, is specialized functions,

    …Take remedial measures to reduce the levels of poverty of the lower classes, by means of population control, but for the well-being. Some measures of manipulation of reality could be taken, I thought in Scandinavian prisons, endowed with extreme comfort for the prison population. Think of building homes of equal quality to the lower classes, but reducing their fertility rates to acceptable level. You take the sweet child and gives a lollipop. Not notice what is happening. It is proven, having fewer children reduces poverty,

    …To train specialists who can identify potential geniuses, such as those looking for runway models, scouts,

    ..Encourage both fecundity maintainers high functioning, ie termites, as well as families where creativity is genetically present, but also mental disorders, this time fecundity of these families is very low. …..

  34. “I have not seen described anywhere the shock a talented man experiences when he finds, late in his academic life, that there are others enormously more talented than he.”

    That’s what happened to Paul Samuelson at U. of Chicago. In response he switched to economics where he could overawe his less numerate colleagues with his brilliance. An intellectual disaster for the discipline with terrible consequences for society.

  35. whatever says:
    “How similar are friends? On average, Fowler and Christakis find, friends are as “related” as fourth cousins or people who share great-great-great grandparents. That translates to about 1 percent of our genes. “One percent may not sound like much to the layperson,” Christakis said, “but to geneticists it is a significant number. And how remarkable: Most people don’t even know who their fourth cousins are! Yet we are somehow, among a myriad of possibilities, managing to select as friends the people who resemble our kin.” “Perhaps the most intriguing result in the study is that genes that were more similar between friends seem to be evolving faster than other genes. Fowler and Christakis say this may help to explain why human evolution appears to have speeded up over the last 30,000 years, and they suggest that the social environment itself is an evolutionary force.”The paper also lends support to the view of human beings as ‘metagenomic,'” Christakis said, “not only with respect to the microbes within us but also to the people who surround us. It seems that our fitness depends not only on our own genetic constitutions, but also on the genetic constitutions of our friends.”
    Our ability to discriminate on the basis of genome -wide similarity has been remarkably fine-tuned the the evolution.

  36. baloocartoons says:

    Sobering, convincing and totally taboo. I’ve reprinted it with comments and quibcagged it here:

  37. The differences between the limiting abilities of those on successively higher steps of the pyramid are enormous. I have not seen described anywhere the shock a talented man experiences when he finds, late in his academic life, that there are others enormously more talented than he…At the upper end of the IQ distribution, people can learn things rapidly. High-school freshmen in in the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY), who had tested in the top one-hundredth of one percent, managed to get a median score of 727 out of 800 on an AP Biology exam (95th percentile) after an intensive three-week course.

    Excellent post!

    You’re one of the few people who understands this and it’s perhaps even more extreme than even you imply. A member of Prometheus society claimed that because the human mind operates in parallel, problem solving speed doubles every 5 IQ points. I even proposed a new scale for measuring intelligence based on this fact, though most people are convinced that intelligence differences are small so they thought my scale was nonsense:

  38. The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    To what extent was one of your earlier posts about whether or not new pathogens might show more virulence in different populations, perhaps depending on how long they had been adapting to higher population densities?

  39. Another great post, indeed. As Greg and Henry (and many readers) already know, conscientiousness matters, but its measurements are quite deficient, both at individual and group levels. Some neuroscientists seriously question the Big Five as a ‘real’ phenomenon, but some psychologists or interdisciplinary researchers, on the other hand, seem to link it to findings from research within neuroscience:

    Ps. I used to have a friend, who is an economist, and he now dislikes me since I taught him about the average IQ among American blacks and that sort of things.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Question: what he did know before, what does he believe now? And if he believes what you said, why is he angry at you? Does he think you made the world this way? And, while we’re at it, did you make the world this way?

      • We have not discussed the details but I think that he dislikes my whole focus and attitude – writing and discussing group differences in IQ, multiculturalism, Swedish immigration policies (I prefer the kind which you find in for examaple Austria, Iceland, Finland etc rather than ‘our’ version so there are no extreme views involved as far as my own suggestions go), genetic differences, pros and cons with hybridization etc. It’s just offensive to him.

        Of course, all of your questions shed light on the ignorance and superstitions among many ‘scientists’, whether in the social sciences or not. It is probably about association in conjunction with cognitive dissonance: the fact that mankind is not intrinsically egalitarian in every respect makes people feel bad and then they link that feeling to those who enlightened them about it. In fact, it is perhaps also partly about personality traits. Those who claim to be openminded and ‘tolerant’ may be quite low on the openness dimension in certain regards.

      • dave chamberlin says:

        I’ve noticed a shift in angry idealists whom have their world view of human equality threatened by HBDers. It wasn’t long ago we were racists, now we are framed as just arrogant. The whole subject of IQ variation is somehow taboo, what folks whom find this subject interesting are really promoting is the superiority of a few over the many. I don’t know how fast attitudes are changing in acceptance of the stone cold facts that we are not born equal in that most important human advantages, intelligence, I can’t see the forest through the trees. I find it interesting that IQ is measured in the strange way that it is, variability from the average. My extra tall sons aren’t measured in this oddball way. They don’t have their height listed as 130, or two standard deviations above the average. We would think it stupid if we measured anything but intelligence using standard deviation from the average as the primary metric. I live in a nice house, it’s worth is 125 because only 2 percent of Americans live in a house worth more. See what I mean, it is almost completely useless information. Now if Cochran wants to really hammer down the belief walls protecting actual variability in human intelligence he needs to promote an IQ test that actually measures it. Most folks can’t add a handful of single digits in their head, but some physicists (arrogant bastards that they are) can blink off a page of calculations in theirs. I don’t know how feasible it is to measure IQ accurately using actual metrics, that is a complicated question I can’t answer, I only know it would truly piss people off.

      • Erik Sieven says:

        @ dave chamberlain:
        do you really think that variability from medium is a bad measure? actually I calculate most measurements I hear all day long exactly to this measure, because it is the most intuitive for me. When I hear about the height of someone, or the income I directly calculate it to percentiles.

      • dave chamberlin says:

        Variability from the medium isn’t a good or a bad means of measurement, but it is the only one that we have to measure intelligence. It tells us a great deal about how individuals vary from the average but that is it. My point isn’t that it is a faulty measurement tool but by being the only one we have to look upon the variability of human intelligence we remain blissfully ignorant of just how much smarter the very bright are from the average. Take an individual with an IQ of 100 and measure the complexity he can mentally visualize give that a numerical rating and then compare to an individual whom has an IQ of 150 and then give that a higher number. The result would be a radically different perspective of variability in human intelligence because the genius would have a number many multiples higher than the average person. That is all I’m saying. I should add that it would be highly controversial because we live in a society where there is constant pressure to enforce wishful thinking that we are all created equal. If such a test could exist and be accurate is a question I am avoiding because I don’t know, all I am certain of is a whole lot of emotional people whom have no idea of what they are talking about would rant against it, unless of course the test showed geniuses to be barely more intelligent that dummies.

      • Jim says:

        Those who believe in the equality of human cognitive abilities between all racial/ethnic groups often talk about how complex the structure of human intelligence is and therefore how crude it must be to measure it by a single number. But they don’t seem to be able to see the very obvious point that the more complex the structure of human intelligence is the less likely it becomes that all groups are equal.

  40. santoculto says:

    Despise a good part of the text, centering on the theory of this guy on Ashkenazi intelligence. Very interesting.

    The part about the sub-Saharan intelligence is only a moment of tearful liberal slyly trying to prove what is already proven, in your neighborhood.

  41. Erik Sieven says:

    Most issues of human biological diversity / thinking about race can be characterized by three questions: which are the biological facts one is talking about, which are the outcomes in the social world, and which groups does one talk about. A lot of hbd thinking is about the brain, the outcomes of interest are academic success and the group of interest are subsaharan Africans. In the last two years I have had more and more the feeling that the really important questions are rather those who relate to bone density / skeletal anatomy / neoteny / gracilation and hormones concerning the biological basis, success at the partner market, fertility and success in physical conflict concerning the outcomes in the social world and last but not least concerning the group of interest I have the feeling that it is not about Subshara Africans or Europeans, but East Asians are the outliers.
    Of course this is not really something new, a lot of other people who think about hbd have also thought about those things, see for example the quite holistic approach of Rushton. Or this great blog, isteve, which often covers those questions, too.
    An example of this thinking might be this study

  42. Kate says:

    “I have had more and more the feeling that the really important questions are rather those who relate to bone density / skeletal anatomy / neoteny / gracilation and hormones concerning the biological basis”

    The associated endocrinology and embryonic development of IQ could be interesting.

  43. brendan says:

    Gary Becker on Human Capital:

    Summarized: People invest in learning when the perceived benefits in form of wage premium exceed the perceived costs in terms of tuition and lost wages. Changes in net benefits influence learning investment decisions. Education is good. That’s about it.

    And Becker is the supposed vanguard of human capital theory.

    Imagine an Ag scientists version of this: Farmer’s till, water, fertilize and seed a field when those costs are less than the expected crop value. Tilling, watering and fertilizing are good for plant growth. Changes in respective prices influence farmer decisions. Boom, done, Nobel please.

  44. Patrick L. Boyle says:

    What Greg is really writing about here is the question – Is IQ only an Ordinal Scale or is it an Interval scale. You can look this up in Wikipedia and find the answer. Or I should say answers.

    Of the first four authorities listed in Wikipedia two say ordinal and two say interval. It’s a draw! Everyone wins!

    What this means is that if you have an IQ of 130 – about Obama’s IQ – and someone else has an IQ of about 145 – about that of the average Nobel Prize winner -, is that the same difference as the distance to Greg’s IQ which is probably about 160. Obviously there is some disagreement here.

    I say Greg’s IQ is about 160 because IQs top out at about 160. Figures higher than that are not meaningful – at least with normal test like the WAIS or Stanford-Binet. Some of the special Quad 9 tests may go higher but who knows? There is no body of research on any of those tests.

    One forty five may seem a bit low for Nobel Laureates – half a dozen regular commenters on this blog probably have IQs that high. But there is more to getting a Nobel than just shear brains. Svante Pääbo will probably earn a Nobel. After reading his book I’m not convinced he’s a genius but he is very clean – which in his line of country is also very important. If that had been my lab they would have probably wasted years sequencing my dandruff.

    What it really means to have an ordinal scale or interval scale is it means you don’t know much. Greg thinks the ten IQ points at the top of the scale are bigger than any of the other ten points lower down. He could be right and if I didn’t think he was right most of the time, I wouldn’t bother reading this blog.

    But someday soon we will have a better scale, a ratio scale based on a better understanding of the underlying processes. There are already hints as to what matters at a physiological level in intelligence. Jensen gave us reaction times and we have seen the greater branching in the Ashkenazi’s dendritic trees. Someone will figure out a way to measure conduction speed along those branches (or something like that) and we will then have unambiguous physical measurements. If Lewontin is still alive then I’m sure he still won’t accept it, but for most people IQ will then have become ‘settled science.’

    • gcochran9 says:

      “I say Greg’s IQ is about 160”

      want to bet?

    • There are physiological variables like brain size and reaction time that we can measure on absolute ratio scale with a true zero point and these suggest that at least the fundamentals of intelligence have a Gaussian distribution. There are also certain psychometric tests like Digit Span, total vocabulary, & Digit Symbol as well as certain psycholinguistic measures that can be measured on a a true ratio scale or at least increase in difficulty with equal intervals and these also show that intelligence is normally distributed.

      However if you were to ask people who have never seen a rubik’s cube before to figure out how to solve using pure fluid reasoning (no cheating) you’d find some people could figure it out thousands of times faster than others (controlling for persistence & effort).

      So no exact solution to your question is possible. It depends how you define intelligence & what criteria you use to measure it. I proposed a scale above & you didn’t like it.

      As for Greg’s IQ; probably way too high to be accurately measured by any psychometric test except perhaps Ron Hoeflin’s. Even though the old SAT had an extremely high ceiling (perfect 1600 = 171 IQ (sigma 15)), the most brilliant person I had ever known (one in 30 million level chronometrics & superhuman pattern recognition & spatial ability) was convinced it couldn’t measure intelligence above the 1400 level. 1500+ people were much better students than 1400+ people, but they probably can’t solve complex novel problems any better. However below 1400, the SAT discriminates quite well. 1400+ is much smarter than 1300+ etc.

  45. Ed says:

    Reasons not to worry about population IQ differences:
    1) The main things we need high IQ people for involve original creative work. Average IQ is unimportant – it is the quantity of very smart people that matters (and there are such a lot of people; actually the problem is not wasting the smart ones we have.)
    2) We will choose our children’s genes in a few generations; eugenics would just reduce the data set to choose from.
    3) The Flynn effect.

    • gcochran9 says:

      You sure need to worry about it.

    • santoculto says:

      ”Average IQ is unimportant – it is the quantity of very smart people that matters ”

      Fight among social classes and alienation. Example: Ed.

      We need to remove the mattoides elite who control society. These useless celebrities who make millions doing nothing to provide, sociopathic politicians and technically intelligent students with mental retardation in the category wisdom.

      Only he who can see the correct path is the one who can keep the burning flame of civilization. I’m seeing cognitive elites failing in most nations. There must be some explanation for this. Politics attracts sociopaths, culture attracts sociopaths-of-the-garden.

      Reminds me of the movie Trust, Hal Hartley, where high iq genius (there are 3 types of geniuses, my opinion) try to fix the errors encountered during the process of manufacturing parts of any technological trinket of the 90’s. However, the high dome (high functioning sociopaths) company scolds him because he is trying to end their profits, ie sell defective products, short-term, for consumers to buy more and more products.

      India must have millions of highly intelligent people. And yet, the country is a disaster. Is never bad cherish for quality.

    • AnotherDad says:

      “Average IQ is unimportant”
      Unless you care about, oh, say for example, your society’s …
      — prosperity, it’s economic performance, development and growth rate
      — corruption
      — crime
      — quality of schools your kids\grandkids will attend
      — price of housing in a neighborhood with “good schools”
      — amount of garbage on the street
      — environmental quality
      — traffic accident rate, likelihood of death on the street
      — quality and reliability of health care
      — culture … the kind of crap served up to your family
      — civil society, how involved and cooperative your fellow citizens are setting up churches, charities, little league, Boy Scouts, etc. and keeping an eye on the government
      — competence\quality of legitimate public services (roads, sewers, schools, police, etc.)
      — level of taxation, transfer payments to underperformers
      — functioning of\capability for democratic institutions
      — intrusiveness (busybodying) of the state in “managing” inter-group conflicts and doling out rewards
      — respect for your rights and freedoms
      — ability to remain a republic at all.

      Outside of those items, yeah “Average IQ is unimportant”.

      Stupidity so profound it can only come from bookish “reasoning” or ideology.

  46. dlreader says:

    “Considering those issues, it’s pretty obvious that what we now consider an efficient way of running an economy has disastrous long-term consequences for human capital formation.”

    gotta disagree with you on this. Thanks to the recent advent of cheap/effective/convenient birth control, the biggest natural selection effect that is going on right now among humans (in advanced societies anyway) isn’t between smart women and less smart women. It is between those who ‘really do want kids’ and those who ‘don’t really want kids’. The ‘don’t want kids’ population is very efficiently eliminating itself from the gene pool, and pretty soon there isn’t going to be anything left but people who ‘really want kids’. Presumably multiple genes have a positive impact on the trait, and so the effect will continue to intensify. Won’t be long before everyone will want kids, a lot, men and women both, and it will just get stronger from there. How long till then? Hard to say, but we are talking about some pretty massive selection pressure here. Like core motivation stuff.

    Until just a few years ago, nature had it nailed, the richer you were, the more kids you had. Rich guys were married, for sure, and sometimes had multiple wives/concubines/etc, cause sex, yay!, and they could afford to feed their wives a rich enough diet that they were fertile; and they could afford to feed the inevitable offspring, even in hard times, unlike their poorer neighbors. So the selective pressure on guys was on craving sex and craving status/power/money. Birth control upended that cart. Now everyone can have all the sex they want, and there isn’t any winnowing of the population at all on the rich/poor spectrum : if you can’t support your kids, the state will step in and make sure they don’t starve. So now the reproductive payoff is to two populations: people too stupid to remember to take their birth control pills, and people who just really really want kids so much they are willing to put up with all the extra work and inconvenience, etc, not just once, or twice, but 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 or 7 times. Those people do exist. And they are going to get a lot more common in the future. And people who only want 0 or 1 or 2 kids, are going to become rare to non-existant.

    My bet is that the people who really, really like kids are all over the map on IQ, there’s no reason why it should track high or low, so IQ will decline a bit in the short run, due to the people who are too stupid to remember to take their birth control pills, and whose many mistakes are raised for them by the state. But once EVERYONE LEFT IN THE GENE POOL really, really, wants to have 5 or 8 or 10 kids; when that’s a core motivation, like ‘get laid’ is now, then things are going to change. Then competition for resources is going to heat up again, I expect, one way or another. Hard to say how it will play out, but it won’t look like today.

  47. Steven C. says:

    Maybe what many need to learn is not Algebra II but personal finance. Likewise the better solution to people who perform badly in a classroom isn’t more classroom education, but suitable vocation training; something the Anglospherian nations are deficient in.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s