Economics old and new

When I reviewed Hive Mind, I mentioned that its thesis ‘IQ matters for national prosperity’ was more true today than it had been in, say, 1970, because of the fall of Communism, which was quite capable of making a country – even a smarter-than-average country – a lot poorer than it otherwise would have been. If you consider other circumstances, for example far earlier times, IQ mattered even less. If you look at a near-Malthusian society, one in which population size is near the carrying capacity (as set by the current knowledge and available resources), average IQ shouldn’t influence prosperity (in terms of food availability) at all. A smarter society might have more elaborate forms of entertainment, might have more sophisticated tools and crafts, but as long as technological progress (that affecting food production) was slower than population growth, no improvement. A higher standard of living is a short-run outcome of disasters like the Black Death.

And other changes mattered as well. Today countries with no significant natural resources can be very successful, if they have high human capital. Sometimes they can achieve this by pursuing strategies that don’t require much in terms of traditional natural resources – insurance, finance, and software are good examples. In some cases, countries with abundant human capital have found ways to fake up effective equivalents for traditionally-necessary natural resources. The most important example is the Haber-Bosch method of making ammonia: another is the development of mass production of synthetic rubber by the United States and Germany in WWII. This kind of substitution has become increasing possible over time.

In a world where transportation costs are low, international trade is fairly free (a function of political environment: not true in 1942!), a country can develop industries that require natural resources that don’t exist locally at all. So Japan could have a big steel industry, even though Japan has only a little low-grade coal and no significant iron ores. That is, it can if it has sufficient human capital. Japan does: many countries don’t.

Although it once had little effect on living standards,average national IQ now has a big influence. The world changed. Of course, it’s going to change again.

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153 Responses to Economics old and new

  1. IC says:

    “A higher standard of living is a short-run outcome of disasters like the Black Death. ”

    Rushton credited black death for higher achievement of renaissance due to increased average IQ afterward. Your idea of increased wealth after black death might be even better for leisure class formation to day dreaming a lot of great ideas.

    • JayMan says:

      HBD Chick is clearly the best person to go to for the various whys of European history.

      • IC says:

        No body is authority figure for me. Even Confucius included. Let alone some name on internet.

        • JayMan says:

          I never said she was an “authority” (there are none in science). But you’d be wise to be aware of what she says if you’re seriously interested in this matter.

          • JayMan was recommending someone to go to in order to find out about a subject. Don’t object to people because “they are a name on the internet”. You are a name on the internet. Judge people by the quality of their contribution. Read some of her work, and then make your judgment, and not before.

          • IC says:

            Yup, I am just a name on internet. I do not look for your approval either. So I do not care what you think of me either.

            My curiosity is based on my own rational thinking process with evidences or data. Authority of any thing is meaningless for me. For people whose reasoning based on quote of authority figures is no different from people believing higher power like God. Their entire rationalization is based their worshiping higher power. These people exhibit absolute faith in their higher authority. Unfortunately some people like Jayman exhibit such worshiping attitude toward This Chick. When Jayman presented HBD Chick to me, it is like devoted Christian who tried to persuade me to read words of God (Bible).

            A big turn off.

            As to what I believe? I only believe myself. If my belief in line with others, great! If I am wrong, I will modify. If others wrong, it will depend others ability to understand their mistake. I will not try hard to correct them. You just can not make some one changing their level of understanding thing in this world. Some people clearly displayed their low ability in their way of reasoning or arguments. Do not waste time with people of lower ability. If you could make idiot into genius by arguing, then there would be great hope for educational system. Unfortunately, you can not.

            Forgive my bias against people who only have Master degree in their education. They are just not so bright in their reasoning ability. You need at least PhD or MD to get most thing right in the world. No wonder diagnosis of disease or cancer is a scientific process or investigation with evidences. Mistake is not well tolerated in the field.

            A true scientist or MD is their ability to find the truth. You do not find truth by quoting others or pure reasoning. Truth is based on objective evidences.


            It is no surprise that MDs at higher end of IQ. Higher intelligence means higher ability to figure out truth.

            This comment will not be very popular or politically correct or morally correct since people with PhD or MDs are minority. But truth is not always pleasant to hear. Populism is not truth.

          • Ursiform says:

            Dear IC: I have a PhD. I don’t think your argument is coherent. By the way, according to your link, some janitors have higher IQs then some doctors. The PhD is not always the smartest or most objective person in the room. The MD often isn’t.

  2. Jim says:

    An example of this is the Scandanavian insurance industry which was built primarily on a high level of human capital.

    • j says:

      The Swiss financial/insurance sector is a better example.

      • Jim says:

        The Scandanavians have made the most importantt contributions to modern actuarial science.

        • Pyrrhus says:

          The modern insurance and annuity business was invented in Britain, with Lloyds and the Scottish Widows programs…

          • Jim says:

            Yes, Britain was a early leader in this field and Edmund Halley was one of the first to develop the basic principles of actuarial science. Abraham DeMoivre, friend of both Halley and Newton, also made important contributions.

            However in more modern times the Scandanavians have been dominant – Cramer, Phragmen, Sparre Andersen, Essen etc.

  3. IC says:

    Economy is trade of goods or service with money as media. Value is determined by supply/demand ratio. To achieve wealth, first is need to be part of trading system; economical isolation is recipe for poverty just like old economy limited by geography. Second is to provide goods/service other trading partners need. The ability to produce such thing might be g factor dependent, or pure luck like oil, or bravery to risk life or reputation. Some time this serve or goods is willing to sacrifice something others do not want to. Example: Nevada might not be high IQ state. But it is willing to do thing others do now want like gambling and prostitution. Thus this state provided service others did not. Drug dealers are in the same boat, which provides goods with others afraid to do.

    Intelligence is only a factor in wealth creation, not sole determent. Non-intelligent talent (good look or muscle for sport), luck, guts (to risk bad reputation or laws or life) all can become wealth creation elements.

    • Ilya says:

      To achieve wealth, first is need to be part of trading system; economical isolation is recipe for poverty just like old economy limited by geography.

      No. Look up, “autarky.” It is possible, and it is the future, after the world goes through the Singularity of Idiocracy stage that we are moving towards. It may take quite a few generations to get through though.

      The (good) future is maximum competition between cultures, and very little trade between antagonistic spheres. There will be 2,3, at most 4 cultural survivors.

      • IC says:

        autarky: Amish people are good example.

      • IC says:

        This part is best explained by Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.

        Read the book and you will understand. Well worth.

        • Ilya says:

          Look, I’m aware of this argument. It is indeed correct when we talk about either older, pre-industrial/early indilustrial states or modern states that lack critical resources (eg land, minerals) and are unable to pursue conquest (eg today’s Japan or most Euros).

          However, it is not correct to extend the principle of comparative advantage to situations of naturally rich, late/post-industrial nations with a sizable high-IQ, technically educated strata . Again, see USSR vs Russia (i.e. Industrial nation vs steady regression towards banana republic, de facto)

          This situation gets especially more pertinent as more large nations (eg future China) enter the so-called post-industrial stage, of advanced automation and very high urbanization. In such cases you find that economies become demand-bound, as opposed to supply-bound, requiring governments to pursue make-work or welfare policies for their citizens.

          This is where high-IQ nation vs high-IQ nation antagonistic competition (with, possibly, very limited warfare) is a good thing overall. Such competition fosters real work and preserves the eugenic pressure (plus cohesion!) internally, within each such nation.

          This is, basically, inter-cultural (inter-group) competiton. See Price’s equation or read Turchin’s explanation thereof in his book Ultrasociety.

          • pithom says:

            Now this is just nonsense. At full employment, the economy is always supply-bound. And Russian living standards are way better now than thirty years ago, especially in the diversity of consumer goods.

            Autocracy generally is a recipe for poverty, but some nations (Japan, U.S., Brazil) can manage without much foreign trade.

          • Ilya says:

            Sometimes, certain comments are so idiotic that one doesn’t know where to start . But I’ll try.

            Autarky != autocracy

            Autocracy != poor or disaster

            No: Japan absolutely must rely on trade for its very survival (forget even prosperity), for the 100+ million it needs to feed. In fact, it tends to import more than export, clearly a problem.

            No: Modern late-industrial economies (eg USA) are great examples of make-work (bullshit work), to employ the barely employable segments of population (see government agencies stuffed with absolutely useless clerks, various useless programs with humongous admin overheads, etc etc etc)

          • Ilya says:

            I should modify “Japan” to “post-WW2 Japan.”

            Clearly, had Japanese ambitions of possessing East Asia been fulfilled, there’d be no need for them to worry about the current trade imbalance . In fact, there’d be barely any need to worry about trade at all :-).

            If the current neoliberal economic order breaks, it will lead to very interesting repercussions. For example, as far-fetched as George Friedman’s (of Stratfor fame) predictions might be, if Japan’s ability to export its high value added products into the West is hampered, it might face the difficult dilemma between becoming a part of China or seeking conquest of at least certain parts of the world/maritime routes, in order to guarantee supply of goods and fuel).

            Also, re Brazil: it’s still a banana republic, even if with some factories. Sure, an autarky there, but then you need to consider the conquerable jungle “economy” an autarky, too. But then again, maybe I’m biased, as I almost got run over by their president’s motorcade when she was visiting civilization (the US).

        • Ilya says:

          Re Russia: Russians don’t need no Western “pederastic high quality of life.” What they need is discipline and camaraderie. I know Russian soul, personally.


          I’m half-jesting, but yes, different people think differently and get motivated by different things. The issue of IQ is orthogonal.

      • Bob says:

        The (good) future is maximum competition between cultures, and very little trade between antagonistic spheres. There will be 2,3, at most 4 cultural survivors.

        So like 1984? Plus maybe some Brave New World thrown in for extra “internal cohesion”? Sounds great.

        • Ilya says:


          Yes, “1984,” inasmuch as it portrays the extent of the State’s power over its citizens, has got a correct intuition. Such a situation is quite likely: the result of intergroup competition, selecting for a better combo of national dogma/religion and its enforcement.

          But contra many people who dread this scenario, including Orwell himself, I believe that it does not necessarily need to entail a “boot stamping on a human face – forever.” The reason is that such systems can evolve slowly over time, along with corresponding human psyche and societal institutions. Here, just check this blog’s authors research:

          Basically, human traits (beyond IQ) evolve, too. These traits allow individuals to cope and even prosper within newly evolved societal arrangements.

          In fact, I’ve lived in Russia, Israel, and traveled to other countries. What amazes me is that people are very different and there are actually patterns, especially when one sees tight groups that evolved for a long time together.

          Orwell’s sentiment is echoed, via a completely different route, by Oxford’s philosopher Derek Parfit in his so-called Repugnant Conclusion.

          However, according to me, this is not so “repugnant” when one fixes the criteria for “repugnancy” and allows evolution to work out its magic.

          Btw, this is where (again, in my opinion) religion has a huge advantage over pure State enforcement, as it relies on human conscience, conviction, and motivation stemming from cohesion. This is why, depending on the particulars, of course, I think a high-tech totalitarian theocracy is better than totalitarian secular autocracy.

          • Ilya says:

            This is why, depending on the particulars, of course, I think a high-tech totalitarian theocracy is better than totalitarian secular autocracy.

            I do not preclude, however, that in the “end” (if particulars are right), these systems both may exhibit a convergent “institutional phenotype” over time, in many aspects of their functioning.

          • Bob says:

            But contra many people who dread this scenario, including Orwell himself, I believe that it does not necessarily need to entail a “boot stamping on a human face – forever.”

            Yes, I know. That’s why I added the bit about Brave New World.

            The point is that not everybody shares your preferences, regardless of how it’s achieved.

          • Ilya says:

            Also, when it comes to secular autocracy/technocracy/oligarchy I don’t see how 85% human-meat “Proles” is a viable scenario in a very long term. Assuming strong intergroup competition, a highly technologically advanced cohesive society that does not max out out on its population count while also maximizing on group-IQ, will not be as successful, especially when it’s time to colonize other planets/stars.

          • Ilya says:

            I understand that you may not share my preferences. In fact, in my response to you I tried to stay away from “preferences” and hypothesize about which scenarios are more evolutionarily plausible.

            Preferences are irrelevant to this.

          • Bob says:

            Fair enough, but you did say it was “good”.

          • Ilya says:

            Agree, my bad, with regard to that conflation.

  4. “If you consider other circumstances, for example far earlier times, IQ mattered even less.” However, if you look at the extent to which we still note the eminence of practitioners what we now call science,in the period 800 BC to 1950 (from Murray’s Human Accomplishment) then that relates to country STEM and GDP, so it must have mattered somewhat, in order to still show up in the long run.

    • gcochran9 says:

      It can matter to individuals while having no effect on average national wealth. A rat-race.

      • Oliver Cromwell says:

        If a society has a fixed proportion working in agriculture, law, government, cultural production – rather than our current ever-decreasing share in physical production, ever-increasing share in services – then eugenic rat races increase the quality of society, by increasing the quality of law, government, culture, produced by those fixed fractions. Everyone gets to enjoy them, even if an agricultural labourer with no chance of becoming anything else. Fixed income with fixed fraction going to food buys better quality entertainments for the same price.

      • Oliver Cromwell says:

        Analogy: the dating market in a country with low obesity vs high obesity. Since the market cares about relative value, no one benefits from living in a low obesity society as against others in that society, but everyone benefits in terms of mate quality over living in the high obesity society.

  5. “IQ and the Wealth of Nations” is a book by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen on this subject that of course got blistering reviews. Here is the response in part by K Richardson who reviewed their book.

    “This is not so much science as a social crusade…..This is a blast from another age, an old fashioned attempt to give an imperial mindset biological validity. As Binet himself said when he saw his test being wielded like a dipstick by Anglo- American eugenicists ‘we must protest against this brutal pessimism.’ ”

    K Richardson and company, and boy o boy does he have a lot of company, think you and your kind are low down dirty eugenicists that are trying keep those third worlders in their place with your brutal pessimism. If you would just stop looking at all those damned lying graphs showing a very high correlation between IQ and the wealth of nations why we could all engage is some happy optimism.

    What’s that ! Those lying graphs won’t go away and if fact are getting worse and worse when we remove communism and move farther and farther away from the industrial revolution. Optimism everybody, more optimism! We are all equal and don’t you forget it.

  6. Matt says:

    Standard of living is a nice idea in that you can measure it biologically (bones, population growth rates). So we can, in theory, find out if divergence in biological living standards for say West Africa 500 AD – China 500 AD were larger or smaller than today. Today smart societies can buy cheap commodities, often from less smart societies, and make products. By the same token, less smart societies can buy products from smarter societies, which are sometimes trivial for them to produce but with a low hanging fruit effect on prosperity (most of the basic 20th century Western medicine being not too so to copy and implement?).

    • AppSocRes says:

      Interesting point. The Roman Empire suffered a steady drain of precious metals to the Far East to pay for luxury goods imported along the Silk Road. Many centuries later the British discovered that the Chinese were not interested in most of the shoddy items the Brits offered in trade for e.g., tea, ceramics, and silks; hence the Opium Wars. Maybe that Southeast Asian IQ advantage has been around for a very long time.

      • Matt says:

        The Romans couldn’t cultivate silks or many spices within their empire (either because of where the species originated and time or simple climatic limitations), but they largely ran steady economic growth, the grumbles of Pliny aside.

        I don’t know how many Chinese really had a chance in the late Qing to actually offer their opinion on European made luxury goods, under the Canton System.

        However, the Opium Wars did happen when silver mining and coining became temporarily much more difficult in the West, due to wars of independence. And even for smart countries, like the Britain at that time, substitution is difficult. There was no need for the West to understand how to sell to China, when they had easy silver and there was demand for easy silver. Opium was the best some of those merchants had, and they used it. And then they were backed by a government which was much smarter at making and using weapons. Not that the Chinese trade was at the time a particularly significant part of economic growth of accumulation in Britain, in any case. Even the silk trade in Britain was largely with France and Italy (, although with raw silks from Asia having a comparatively high prominence (climate again, I expect).

        See – and others for more information on the currency issue.

      • athEIst says:

        All through history the Orient(India and China) have been a sink for precious metals. The gold and silver of the Americas went to China after short durations in Spain/Europe.

    • RK says:

      Malthusianism is a major issue though. In a premodern society all advances in technology and surplus are being consumed by increased population, driving everyone back to subsistence. Many high-density agricultural societies would have had much higher levels of morbidity and mortality than small-scale societies, in which territoriality, low technological achievement and warfare help to drive down density. Alexander Allende’s book, ‘health and human civilisation’, was one of the first to overturn the old notion of ‘starving HGs vs technologically advanced Neolithics!’

      In both Western Europe and East Asia in the early modern period, varying levels of contraception, delayed marriage, infanticide, and birth spacing helped to hold these societies back from the Malthusian limit for a bit, giving a bit of breathing space and allowing living standards to pull away from those in India, MENA, Eastern Europe etc. for some time after the 13th century even as sub-regions of these civilisations reached unprecedented population densities. While this divergence was sustainable in Europe, it never was for East Asia until the modern period.

      Angus Maddison and other economic historians are a good place to see some of these processes.

      To control for Malthusianism, Niall Ferguson came up with an alternative index that integrated consumption level per capita, population density, and size of the largest city, as proxies of economic and thus technological and social achievement, and his dataset was pretty useful IMO. Esp as Largest City Size would have served as a complex and comprehensive proxy for advances in the cultural and ideological apparatus and the capacity of the population to cooperate, self-organise, and self-administer.

  7. RCB says:

    Sounds like you’ve been reading Gregory Clark.

  8. JayMan says:

    “IQ matters for national prosperity’ was more true today than it had been in, say, 1970, because of the fall of Communism, which was quite capable of making a country – even a smarter-than-average country – a lot poorer than it otherwise would have been.”

    Indeed. The ex-communist countries however still lag behind. There is more going on than average IQ.

    • eurogenes says:

      What’s your time frame for getting over 50 years of Communism?

      Are you suggesting that, say, 25 years is enough? A bit optimistic, no?

      • JayMan says:

        Maybe the problem is not “getting over communism”.

        • pithom says:

          Not in Germany. Or Estonia. I don’t doubt though, that Ukraine and Moldova (and probably the southern Soviet Republics) would still be relatively dysfunctional without legacy of Communism.

        • eurogenes says:

          Let me rephrase the question, since you obviously didn’t get it.

          Are you suggesting that a Northwestern European country could get over 50 years of communism in, say, 25 years? If so, what are you basing this assumption on exactly?

          A bit optimistic, no?

          • JayMan says:

            East Germany. Estonia. ‘Nuff said.

            Why were the countries that were communist communist?

          • jasonbayz says:

            Have East Germany and Estonia gotten over the period of communist rule? Consider the difference in GDP per capita of Estonia and Finland.

            “Why were the countries that were communist communist?”

            The Red Army. Yalta.

            • JayMan says:

              They’re about as good as they’re going to get, more or less. That’s part of my point: better than the rest of the ex-communist world, but not full on NW Europe.

              Communism may have been a suppressant to progress while it was in place, but now decades later, what you see is the result of the innate traits of the people, and I mean more than just IQ.

          • akarlin says:

            East Germany. Estonia. ‘Nuff said.

            East Germany – a trillion dollars worth of infusions from West Germany for less than 20 million people and complete legal/institutional integration with a 103 IQ country that had been unbrokenly developing its liberal capitalist institutions for more than 50 years.

            Estonia – Is at less than 70% of the level of its natural comparator, Finland. (Gap would remain even accounting for poorer performance of its 25% Slavic minority). As a small country and entrepot it has also benefited disproportionately from EU convergence funds and FDI.

            • JayMan says:

              “East Germany – a trillion dollars worth of infusions from West Germany for less than 20 million people and complete legal/institutional integration with a 103 IQ country”

              East Germany was the best performing country of the Soviet bloc. It’s GDP per capita was comparable to the Southern European countries by 1990.

              “Estonia – Is at less than 70% of the level of its natural comparator, Finland. (Gap would remain even accounting for poorer performance of its 25% Slavic minority). As a small country and entrepot it has also benefited disproportionately from EU convergence funds and FDI.”

              Or maybe the causation between performance and FDI goes the other way? It’s not working so well for say Albania.

              All the West Slavic nations perform better than their Eastern and Southern counterparts – not as well as NW Europe (indeed, today Eastern Germany lags behind the West), but better than the countries farther outside the Hajnal line. This isn’t just in GDP per capita, but corruption, strength of democracy, etc. This is exactly as you’d expect if there was a gradient in innate WEIRDness in ways relevant to development in today’s world.

              Occam’s Razor is usually your friend.

      • akarlin says:

        I like Jayman’s stuff, but the guy seriously argues there’s a non minor HBD element to the difference between South Korea and North Korea.

        So I tend to take his arguments about this with a grain of salt.

        In 1913, yes the Russian Empire was backward, but it was already less backward than Portugal. And the USSR surged well ahead of Portugal in the next 50 years despite being shackled by a centrally planned economy and 20 lost years worth of war. Nonetheless, Portugal achieved 70% of EU’s level of GDP per capita (PPP) by the late 20th century and is actually a perfectly nice place to live in.

    • eurogenes says:

      JayMan, your comments on this topic show that you have a very superficial knowledge of the subject of Eastern Europe and probably very little real interest in it.

      You need to try and get beyond attempting to prove your pet theories at every turn. Once you do that, you’ll be a lot more useful.

      And if you can’t do this, then don’t focus on something you don’t know anything about.

      • JayMan says:

        Sure…. Why don’t you share your wisdom?

        I’ll count the number of erroneous/irrelevant claims I’ve heard before.

        • Bob says:

          What exactly is your claim? You seem to be begging the question: poor, communist countries are poor, communist countries because they are poor, communist countries.

          • Greying Wanderer says:

            I guess the claim is there’s more to genetics than just IQ.

          • Bob says:

            That’s a trivial claim that nobody is disputing. Seems pretty irrelevant.

          • Toddy Cat says:

            If the theory is that only genetically-predisposed countries end up Communist, the fact that the only reason most of Eastern Europe and North Korea ended up Communist is that it was forcibly imposed by the Red Army should blow this out of the water. If the Eclipse lines had been drawn differently by the victorious Allied Powers, the parts of Europe that were behind the Iron Curtain would have been very different. I don’t doubt that there are some significant genetic differences between Eastern and Western Europe, and possibly between North and South Korea, but, whatever they are, I do not believe that they were strong enough to alter the course of WWII. Both the Red Army and the Forces of the Western Allies crossed the Hajnal Line with ease…

            • JayMan says:

              ” If the Eclipse lines had been drawn differently by the victorious Allied Powers, the parts of Europe that were behind the Iron Curtain would have been very different. I don’t doubt that there are some significant genetic differences between Eastern and Western Europe, and possibly between North and South Korea, but, whatever they are, I do not believe that they were strong enough to alter the course of WWII.”

              Damn the butterfly effect, even…

  9. JayMan says:

    There are various studies noting that predictivity of national success in the past to national success today, even going back millennia. There is some carry over (though not a huge amount) from age to age.

    Ancestry and Long-Run Growth Reading Club: Putterman and Weil, Bryan Caplan | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty

    (There’s a comment from me there too.)

  10. Jerome says:

    High IQ may lead to societal wealth, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is evolutionarily favored. Perhaps the opposite. The big question here is why birth rates have fallen in the First World, when resources are plentiful. It seems clear that the reason is that educated women have fewer children. I suspect that high intelligence is adaptive in males, and women were basically taken along for the genetic ride because they share the genes, and had little control over when they became pregnant. But women in a position to exercise their Right to Choose mostly don’t choose to have lots of children.

    • jb says:

      The big question here is why birth rates have fallen in the First World, when resources are plentiful.

      Western countries today expect women to work. While there are undeniable advantages to this, it makes having children — especially more than one or two! — very difficult. There are plenty of young women in the West — I know a few! — who would love to have large families, but just don’t see how they can manage it. Multiply this across the entire Western world, and I think you have most of the answer you are looking for.

      • Yudi says:

        Except that the demographic transition has hardly been limited to Western countries. And some societies with extremely low birth rates are unenthusiastic about women working while married. It’s more likely to be education.

        • Ilya says:

          Re: education.

          Strongly concur.

          This is doubly so for post-baby boomer generations. They get feminist (which includes antinatalist) not only in school, but at home, too. Triply so for current generation: they live in sheltered suburbia, so they are prevented from even empirically finding out the truth… On top of that, getting drugged with Aderall etc.

          The developed world has gone mad, and it’s getting worse still.

      • JayMan says:

        Fertility rates are quite a bit lower in Southern and Eastern Europe and in East Asia than they are in NW Europe and the Anglosphere. Whatever it is, the problem isn’t something unique about Western countries.

        I’ll tell you what the problem is: having kids is a pain in the ass. They cost money, demand time, and change your lifestyle. Of course, in my opinion, it’s all worth it, but many people in the past wouldn’t have bothered, either if it wasn’t an inevitable consequence of sex. Modernity is selecting for people who value children for their own sake.

        • The Monster from Polaris says:

          And, of course, for people who have lots of children for religious reasons. (Here I go on my hobby horse again…)

        • jb says:

          I’ll tell you what the problem is: having kids is a pain in the ass.

          Yeah, that’s a broader answer that subsumes the issue of women being expected to work. Still, I do know women who would like to have larger families, but can’t, because they work. I don’t think it’s a trivial factor.

        • Greying Wanderer says:

          Yes, for a long time women didn’t get a choice so desire for children wasn’t strongly selected for. Now they do have a choice the level of desire for children has to be selected for and that process takes time – so there’s naturally a dip in the interim.

      • Esso says:

        This just in:

        There is a fairly visible correlation in the direction opposite to your suggestion. I think it is a case of northern welfare states both subsidizing having children and facilitating working as a mother (Kindergärten).

        The orthodox interpretation has something to do with the babymaking magic of gender equality. I’m not quite sure.

        • Greying Wanderer says:

          easily disproved by looking at sub groups within those populations – those sub-groups with the lowest female labor force participation have highest fertility.

    • Pyrrhus says:

      High IQ is evolutionarily favored for the reasons set forth in Greg Clark’s books. Even in a Malthusian society, it enables brighter children to displace duller ones in the hierarchy, and to outbreed them. And the evidence is that selection pressure was strong in Britain…This gets turned around a bit when the fit are taxed to support the less fit, as in the modern West…

    • EH says:

      Women’s choices, such as their apparent choice to chase credentials instead of having kids, cannot be free in any real sense since, when given a choice, they prefer to conform to social expectations. Adding to their propensity to waste their fertile years on university is their valid belief that higher-quality mates are to be had there, and their incorrect belief that the social status of a degree makes women more attractive to men.

      If women were offered a socially endorsed option at age 15-20 of being assigned husbands of status commensurate with the women’s looks, I think most of them would go that route, especially if it were made obvious that the quality of potential matches would decline as they got older.

  11. Purple Furple says:

    Of course, it’s going to change again.

    Mr. Cochran,

    Robots, designer babies, fertility transition, or famine?

    • Maciano says:

      I hope he means that, too.

      But I fear, the (far-right tail of the bell curve) human capital is already declining fast. The average competence of ‘smart’ societies is going down fast, with current levels of third world migration; if you look at the youngest cohorts, in US, UK, Germany and France, it’s very bleak. I’m not even counting the very low fertility of smart women in general.

      • I respectfully disagree with your contention that the average competence of smart societies is going down fast, it is going down slowly. As for the percentage of geniuses produced, it would indeed decrease very rapidly IF assortative mating remained as random as it has been, but I don’t think that is the case. Women with graduate degrees do indeed average half as many children as women who drop out of high school in the United States, BUT these women with graduate degrees pair up with men with graduate degrees so it is not yet determined if this assortative mating pattern counteracts the dumbing down of the average person, at least for the percentage of highly intelligent offspring in the general population.

        I thought the same thing you do about five years ago that our future looks very bleak, but I no longer do. We have three positives going on right now that have changed my opinion.

        1) Increase in assortative mating behavior of very bright people ever since women were allowed into the very best schools and very best jobs, where more often than not, they meet their mates.
        2) Amazing reversal in population trends everywhere but Africa and the Middle East in the last generation.
        3) It is a matter of time (just my opinion) until scientists discover and manipulate the genetic architecture of human intelligence and the next generation of dumbshits is given the option of higher intelligence.

        This is all highly speculative, nobody knows the future, BUT I don’t think out future is that bleak. Europe won’t be overwhelmed with a flood of Africans, dumb wars led by dumb people will of course continue but they will be regional skirmishes, the NEWS will continue to stand for Nonsense Everybody Wants Sickness, but life will go on and it is far more likely we will get our shit together rather than spiral down into a total FUBAR.

        Stay tuned

        • Li says:

          Oh I was beaten to the question. Recent developments have made me less pessimistic too, especially in regard to point 3.

          I thought the best we could hope for was in-vitro selection of many random embryos knowing their genetic cognitive ability make-up but with the advent of CRISPR, if Steve Hsu is correct that IQ decreasing alleles play a significant part in the genetic architecture of cognitive ability, the possibility of gene-editing applied to IQ could become an extreme watershed event (the real end of history sort of thing). The technology part of the solution looks imminent the way CRSIPR is going, all we need now is to start finding those genes.

        • maciano says:

          I know all that.

          But the absolute amount of very smart people is going down; the Goethes, the Eulers, the Edisons.

          There will be fewer geniuses bc we’re messing up the genetic recipe in the West. In israel too, btw, where Ashkenazim now marry Mizrahim.

          Also, my hope is on gene-editing & fertility reversals (there are signs high IQ women get on avg more babies today than 10yrs ago), too, but it will take a while to get to a desired eugenic situation. Mainstream dominant culture seems pretty hostile discussing these vital issues fairly.

          • Ursiform says:

            “But the absolute amount of very smart people is going down; the Goethes, the Eulers, the Edisons.”

            I think you are confusing ability with opportunity to work across multiple problems. As our knowledge and technology bases increase very smart people tend to be focused on narrower areas of investigation.

    • Pyrrhus says:

      Famine, energy shortages, and growing mutation load…

  12. Adaptability, which likely correlates with IQ yet is distinct from it, is going to become more important for personal comfort. Whether it has any effect on reproductive success is another matter.

  13. Dave Pinsen says:

    South Korea is another country that prioritized having a steel industry despite a lack of natural resources.

  14. j says:

    The Black Death clearly improved the living standard of the surviving population. Yet even in the over crowded Malthusian society before, there was slow technological progress and the areas with higher IQ population (Northern Italy, the Rhine Valley, Northern France, England) led this process. I cannot imagine a society where average IQ is meaningless. Not in the past, not in the present, not in the future.

  15. bob sykes says:

    We are entering an era of declining population numbers nearly everywhere except Africa. Can we expect a Black Death like improvement in living standards? Is IQ relevant under population collapse scenarios?

  16. Li says:

    “Of course, it’s going to change again.”

    How so?

  17. Florida resident says:

    Dear Dr. Cochran:
    Have you, by any chance, commented on
    “Microbes and Alzheimer’s Disease”

  18. John Hostetler says:

    I notice the high trust nations have never gone in for doctrinaire communism unless forced to, as in East Germany. Doctrinaire communism tends to violence and despotism. Presumably the high trust nations haven’t needed it, because they get to similar levels of egalitarianism through far more peaceful means of re-distribution: Sweden.

    More peaceful until now, it’s looking like.

    Orlov: ‘Minnesotans will make far more idealistic communists than peevish Russians ever could.’

    • Bob says:

      Mercantile capitalism could be quite forceful as well.

      The woman’s husband was pressed, their goods seized for some debt of his, and she, with two small children, turned into the streets a-begging…She went to a linendraper’s shop, took some coarse linen off the counter, and slipped it under her cloak. The shopman saw her, and she laid it down. For this she was hanged! Her defence was, “that she had lived in credit, and wanted for nothing, till a press-gang came and stole her husband from her; but since then she had no bed to lie on – nothing to give her children to eat – and they were almost naked; and perhaps she might have done something wrong, for she scarcely knew what she did.” The parish officers testified to the truth of this story; but it seems there had been a good deal of shoplifting about Ludgate. An example was thought necessary (by the Judges), and this woman was hanged for the comfort and satisfaction of some shopkeepers in Ludgate-street.

  19. Bob says:

    Communism had different connotations for many backward countries. It was considered to be one of the methods of achieving modernization and industrialization.

  20. Fd says:

    If you look at a near-Malthusian society, one in which population size is near the carrying capacity (as set by the current knowledge and available resources), average IQ shouldn’t influence prosperity (in terms of food availability) at all.

    Isn’t the “(in terms of food availability)” part begging the question, though? When people correlate average IQ and per capita income, they use GDP.

    Detailed explanation for other commenters:

    I will argue against this interpretation of Malthusian Trap, namely that Malthusian Trap means level of income will be equal.

    The key insight is carrying capacity is dependent on food production capacity. Why? Because we are talking about polities, more or less integrated economic regions where food import cannot significantly and reliably be increased: Nations and tribes in more primitive societies. In smaller units such as cities carrying capacity may depend on water for example, such that construction of an aqueduct may cause a population boom, as has been seen in history.

    A smarter society might have more elaborate forms of entertainment, might have more sophisticated tools and crafts,

    Consider two societies in carrying capacity at some year much earlier than industrial revolution:
    Say France and Sub-saharan tribe in 1000.

    A french peasant has 2000 calories/day of food and more of other stuff including elaborate entertainment and tools.

    A tribesman has 2000 calories/day of food and less of other stuff including less elaborate entertainment and tools.

    This means by definition per capita income was higher in France than the tribe in question. We can see this especially if we normalize income with respect to food prices, as argued by Adam Smith.

    • Jim says:

      Early European explorers in Sub-Saharan Africa often commented on the easy life of Africans.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Starving to death makes it hard to remember all your other creature comforts. I know this is hard to appreciate in the US today, but food is really important. In the most advanced countries in the world in 1700, the poor were always on the edge, and in bad years, people starved to death. Lots of people, in those places where the average IQ today is 100 or higher. Africa almost certainly had fewer famines than Europe or China or Japan in those days. Good organization and good government put you closer to the Malthusian edge.

      This is all obvious, in the usual sense, meaning that nobody knows it.

      • Jim says:

        Wikipedia’s list of famines lists quite a few in European countries in the centuries before 1800. This includes one in Finland in 1696-97 in which a third of the population died.

      • RCB says:

        I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

    • John Hostetler says:

      I like the way ‘entertainment’ is used in the this blog entry of Greg’s. What do people think? Are the great cathedrals and everything that went on in them ‘elaborate entertainment’?

      Personally I’d say, “yeah, pretty much.”

    • RCB says:

      Remember, calories may not be the only thing holding the population in check. Disease and violence can also do the trick.

      So it’s possible for, say, a tribesman to be living on 4000 calories/day while a peasant lives on 2000/day (for example). The latter’s population may be kept in check by hunger; the former, by tropical diseases or machetes. Gregory Clark might say that the former has a “higher quality of living” (if I understood him correctly), because he effectively has a higher “income”. I would say that violence and malaria are pretty damn unpleasant, too, so whatever.

      • RCB says:

        It’s the Law of Conservation of Misery, as one of my grad advisers put it. (A law that broke after the industrial revolution.)

  21. In “far earlier times, IQ mattered even less.” I will try to explain further why I demur. If the IQ of a country in earlier times did not matter, then there should be no effect whatsoever of earlier eminence on current GDP, but there is an indirect effect. In a simple path analysis the link with Eminent scientists rate from 800 BC to 1950 is 0.37 to current STEM excellence, and thereby to 1998 GDP at .39 Of course, the effect of current IQ is much bigger at .54 but there is still a trace from earlier IQ over 2800 years, as derived from notable intellects in the Human Excellence database, an elite group, but a good proxy for the general intellectual level of those former times.
    Can’t paste up an image in this comment box, but the relevant path analysis is shown here:

    • gcochran9 says:

      In a Malthusian situation there are as many people as it is possible to feed. Most of the world,, until the Industrial revolution, was in a situation something like that. To the extent that there was a lot of mortality from local violence or infectious disease, they might have somewhat more to eat than the bare minimum, but then you also have the violence and disease.

      Look, Japan in, say, 1000 AD had a complex culture with advanced crafts, some literacy, advanced metallurgy. For example:

      “The legitimate Japanese sword is made from Japanese steel “Tamahagane”.[39] The most common lamination method the Japanese sword blade is formed from is a combination of two different steels: a harder outer jacket of steel wrapped around a softer inner core of steel.[40] This creates a blade which has a hard, razor sharp cutting edge with the ability to absorb shock in a way which reduces the possibility of the blade breaking when used in combat. The hadagane, for the outer skin of the blade, is produced by heating a block of raw steel, which is then hammered out into a bar, and the flexible back portion. This is then cooled and broken up into smaller blocks which are checked for further impurities and then reassembled and reforged. During this process the billet of steel is heated and hammered, split and folded back upon itself many times and re-welded to create a complex structure of many thousands of layers. Each different steel is folded differently, in order to provide the necessary strength and flexibility to the different steels.[41][42][43] The precise way in which the steel is folded, hammered and re-welded determines the distinctive grain pattern of the blade, the jihada, (also called jigane when referring to the actual surface of the steel blade) a feature which is indicative of the period, place of manufacture and actual maker of the blade. The practice of folding also ensures a somewhat more homogeneous product, with the carbon in the steel being evenly distributed and the steel having no voids that could lead to fractures and failure of the blade in combat.
      Cross sections of Japanese sword blades showing lamination types.

      The shingane (for the inner core of the blade) is of a relatively softer steel with a lower carbon content than the hadagane. For this, the block is again hammered, folded and welded in a similar fashion to the hadagane, but with fewer folds. At this point, the hadagane block is once again heated, hammered out and folded into a ‘U’ shape, into which the shingane is inserted to a point just short of the tip. The new composite steel billet is then heated and hammered out ensuring that no air or dirt is trapped between the two layers of steel. The bar increases in length during this process until it approximates the final size and shape of the finished sword blade. A triangular section is cut off from the tip of the bar and shaped to create what will be the kissaki. At this point in the process, the blank for the blade is of rectangular section. This rough shape is referred to as a sunobe.

      The sunobe is again heated, section by section and hammered to create a shape which has many of the recognisable characteristics of the finished blade. These are a thick back (mune), a thinner edge (ha), a curved tip (kissaki), notches on the edge (hamachi) and back (munemachi) which separate the blade from the tang (nakago). Details such as the ridge line (shinogi) another distinctive characteristic of the Japanese sword, are added at this stage of the process. The smith’s skill at this point comes into play as the hammering process causes the blade to naturally curve in an erratic way, the thicker back tending to curve towards the thinner edge, and he must skillfully control the shape to give it the required upward curvature. The sunobe is finished by a process of filing and scraping which leaves all the physical characteristics and shapes of the blade recognisable. The surface of the blade is left in a relatively rough state, ready for the hardening processes. The sunobe is then covered all over with a clay mixture which is applied more thickly along the back and sides of the blade than along the edge. The blade is left to dry while the smith prepares the forge for the final heat treatment of the blade, the yaki-ire, the hardening of the cutting edge.

      This process takes place in a darkened smithy, traditionally at night, in order that the smith can judge by eye the colour and therefore the temperature of the sword as it is repeatedly passed through the glowing charcoal. When the time is deemed right (traditionally the blade should be the colour of the moon in February and August which are the two months that appear most commonly on dated inscriptions on the tang), the blade is plunged edge down and point forward into a tank of water. The precise time taken to heat the sword, the temperature of the blade and of the water into which it is plunged are all individual to each smith and they have generally been closely guarded secrets. Legend tells of a particular smith who cut off his apprentice’s hand for testing the temperature of the water he used for the hardening process. In the different schools of swordmakers there are many subtle variations in the materials used in the various processes and techniques outlined above, specifically in the form of clay applied to the blade prior to the yaki-ire, but all follow the same general procedures.

      The application of the clay in different thicknesses to the blade allows the steel to cool more quickly along the thinner coated edge when plunged into the tank of water and thereby develop into the harder form of steel called martensite, which can be ground to razor-like sharpness. The thickly coated back cools more slowly retaining the pearlite steel characteristics of relative softness and flexibility. The precise way in which the clay is applied, and partially scraped off at the edge, is a determining factor in the formation of the shape and features of the crystalline structure known as the hamon. This distinctive tempering line found near the edge is one of the main characteristics to be assessed when examining a blade.

      The martensitic steel which forms from the edge of the blade to the hamon is in effect the transition line between these two different forms of steel, and is where most of the shapes, colours and beauty in the steel of the Japanese sword are to be found. The variations in the form and structure of the hamon are all indicative of the period, smith, school or place of manufacture of the sword. As well as the aesthetic qualities of the hamon, there are, perhaps not unsurprisingly, real practical functions. The hardened edge is where most of any potential damage to the blade will occur in battle. This hardened edge is capable of being reground and sharpened many times, although the process will alter the shape of the blade. Altering the shape will allow more resistance when fighting in hand-to-hand combat. ”

      I’m thinking that this required some brains. And there was probably individual advantage associated with IQ – a fitness advantage – else the Japanese wouldn’t have the IQ they have today.
      But people had kids faster than techniques improved – standard of living in terms of calories wasn’t going up.

      The French in 1700 had a lot of technical skills that hadn’t existed in Roman times. Pascal and Fermat had done their work. Yet France had famines in 1683-1694 and 1709-10 that killed some ten percent of the population.

      • j says:

        France in 1790 had a population of about 25 million – surviving in a Malthusian limit situation. Substitute the French by a lower IQ population (say Aborigines or pygmies) and the Malthusian limit would have been achieved with a much reduced population, may be no more than one million. Average IQ is decisive.

        • st says:

          Interesting. Was population density of what is now France higher in 1790 than in Roman times? I think it most certainly was. So the malthusian limit could have been lower than 25 millions in Roman times – we do not know. Perhaps this means that IQ actually mattered back then. As always. Unless you live atop of a sea of crude oil. Then it does not – as long as there is someone smart enough to create industrial revolution and oil fueled engines. Which takes rather high population IQ and the loop looks closed. Of course IQ mattered. I mean back then and back now. I do not know if it will in the future – especially if the west is heading towards Aby Dabi and Emirates kind of capitalism. Which seems to be the direction. Connections, kins, family relations, bloodlines, even religious denomination might suddenly start matter more than population IQ. We will see.

      • I am bewitched by the sword. Many thanks. Will keep thinking about the problem with renewed vigour.

      • RCB says:

        I seem to recall that Aleutians and similar groups had a pretty sophisticated tool kit, at least relative to other hunter gatherers. Compare that to the Yaghan down in the southern coasts of Tierra del Fuego – they didn’t even have clothes, despite being in a similar climate. Perhaps the Aleutians were simply smarter. But probably both lived near carrying capacity (?), so the Aleutians didn’t really have it any better than the Yaghans. Apart from having awesome coats, boats, and harpoons – which is something, I guess.

      • Got it. Japanese society, culture and economy became folded over like Tamahagane steel. They had know-how, and a very significant Smart Fraction. Even if Japan lost many to famine that would mostly be the poor and unskilled, so there was GENERAL selective advantage a la Gregory Clark. Overall standard of living might not have increased much despite increased skill and knowledge. Same was true for medieval technology, cathedrals, clocks, automata, until coal came along as a driving force. Then, on the fertile soil of a bright population, IR.

      • Toad says:

        But the swordsmiths were illiterate. And could a really smart person make a better sword than an average person? A smart person in modern times can learn to operate the robotic equipment in a modern steel factory, but couldn’t really out-produce a skilled but average swordsmith if he lived in the past.

  22. spottedtoad says:

    This is more-or-less exactly the point I was trying to make here ( ): not that heritability is always correlated with socioeconomic status, which isn’t true, but that on a bigger-picture level we should expect richer, more technological societies to reward heritable cognitive traits more consistently than pre-technological societies.

    A kind of meta question which is interesting is whether that’s always a good thing. Let’s say that heritability of reading ability is extremely high in technological societies (it is!)– why does it seem like we don’t get better writers than we did before this was true?

  23. akarlin says:

    If you consider other circumstances, for example far earlier times, IQ mattered even less. If you look at a near-Malthusian society, one in which population size is near the carrying capacity (as set by the current knowledge and available resources), average IQ shouldn’t influence prosperity (in terms of food availability) at all. A smarter society might have more elaborate forms of entertainment, might have more sophisticated tools and crafts, but as long as technological progress (that affecting food production) was slower than population growth, no improvement. A higher standard of living is a short-run outcome of disasters like the Black Death.

    Generally true but a few additional points to be considered:

    (1) Although living standards (as measured in per capita caloric consumption) might have always regressed to subsistence under Malthusianism, their rate of technological innovation was faster because far more of their bell curve was in front of the threshold for advancing the technological frontier. (This is the crux of Apollo’s Ascent theory). Eventually – perhaps more than anything enabled by the coming of something resembling mass literacy in England and the United Provinces by the 17th century – it would become fast enough to spring them out of the Malthusian trap entirely.

    (2) Another thing I don’t really recall being mentioned anywhere is that most of the classical GDP per capita estimates in the deep past we have are based on things like the purchasing power in terms of grain of a carpenter or whatever in different societies. But that of course is not all there is to GDP, even if agriculture did account for a huge portion of it before industrialism. Adam Smith in Wealth of Nations noted that the average Englishman is far wealthier in terms of material things than a primitive savage, even though during that period most “savages” would have had a superior diet in terms of both calories and variety. I am thinking that perhaps “energy capture” would be a more reasonable proxy for historic GDP levels than how many bushels of wheat an unskilled laborer could buy on a week’s salary.

    (3) It appears that even in the distant past some regions had systemically better nutritional profiles even at subsistence levels because of varying agricultural arrangements. European and especially northern European agriculture relied far more on livestock than China or Japan. The equilibrium level of food consumption (that is the point at which natality = mortality) might have been equivalent in caloric terms, but the European basket – with a lot more protein in it – would have been considerably superior (I think Van Zanden pretty much proves this, and its even heavily hinted at in 10,000YE). Throughout most of the past millennium I would wager that average European IQs were considerably less depressed by the environment than East Asian IQs, which if so would help explain a big part of the puzzle why Europe ended up “winning” this world’s Civilization game and not China.

    • gcochran9 says:

      The nutritional profiles probably improved over time, mostly: crop variety increased, and that probably solved or ameliorated a few problems. And people were adapting to the agricultural diets. I say mostly, because new products like sugar and tobacco didn’t help.

      Let me add medicine as something else that didn’t shown any improvement until very recently. In fact, new diseases kept showing up, spread through trade and long-distance travel, and the only counteracting effect was adaptation (slow!) and, sometimes, luck, as when the brown rat replaced the black rat in Europe.

      Considering that Western medicine was less than useless for a couple of thousand years after Hippocrates, maybe we should be patient with social psychology and molybdomancy.

      • st says:

        Some people think they did. (coffee, tobacco and sugar). The sobriety of coffee and the mild stimulating effect of tobacco (nicotine induced increase in IQ with 3-5) instead of the alcohol intoxication typical for the earlier times in Europe might have helped the emergence of phenomenons like science, renaissance and walking sobre at 5am to take over the factory shift in the midst of industrial revolution. The states that did not go the way of coffee and cigarettes and stack to the old ways – alcohol consumption from morning till midnight – say imperial Russia, never entered industrial epoch.
        How is the battle against tobacco smoking going it the USA, btw? Smoking must have decreased like 300-500 % in the last 3 decades, congratulations. I assume the life expectancy at birth increased accordingly thanks to this great achievement. Say, 10 years- the supposed difference in the life span of nonsmoker and smoker. No? It did not? Wait, it decreased? What?

        • Anonymous says:

          Smoking in US pop went from about 60% to 20% in US males from the fifities to today and from about 30% to 15% in females over the same time period. So not a 300-500% decline.

          I took a quick look at the 2001 CSO Ultimate Mortality Table for female smokers vs. female non-smokers and the difference in life expectancy at age 16 was about a year.

        • Jim says:

          Percent of US pop who are smokers decreased from the fifties to now by 60% to 20% for males and 30% to 15% for females. So not a 300-500% decrease. I just checked the 2001 CSO Ultimate Tables and got about a six year difference in life expectancy between female smokers and non-smokers.

        • RCB says:

          are you actually trying to say that US life expectancy has decreased in the last 3 decades?

    • RCB says:

      “(1) Although living standards (as measured in per capita caloric consumption) might have always regressed to subsistence under Malthusianism, their rate of technological innovation was faster because far more of their bell curve was in front of the threshold for advancing the technological frontier. (This is the crux of Apollo’s Ascent theory).”

      I’m confused… are you saying that technological innovation was faster in Malthusian populations than in post-industrial-revolution populations?

      • akarlin says:

        No, merely that tech growth was faster in smarter societies than in duller societies, even though under Malthusianism this was not reflected in food availability per capita.

  24. st says:

    “….which if so would help explain a big part of the puzzle why Europe ended up “winning” this world’s Civilization game and not China.”
    You mean, China ever tried “winning”?
    “.. Europe ended up “winning” this world’s Civilization game”
    Did not know game’s ended. Europe won? Really? Does Europe looks like a winner to you? Rome won big once, too.Just before its demise from the map and the ban on its pagan religion.

    While ago i red a book by a chinese author from 2nd century ago,regarding the lands and states west of china he visited during a trip he made to Rome. His reading is a blessing for the reader – ancient Rome trough the eyes of complete alien. Rome, Egypt, Hirkania – it is all unrecognisable, as distant as Mars both to the reader and the author, who claims that rome is full of camels. Then reader realises that the guy does not make a difference b/n rome and hirkania, the greek speaking state that lays on the eastern shore of caspian sea, so cammel come handy. But to the author they are the same ting – hirkania and rome, its all greek to him. So alike to each other (except camels) that it is pointless to distinguish. But that’ s not my point. The chinese visitor got in trouble after writing the book – wasn’t authorised by the chinese emperor to do so. His book was not on the list. So he got punished and his privileges stripped. Ostracised. My point is, to write a book or make a record of a trip in 2nd century china, it looks, one needed emperors’s permission. Great bureaucracy. Resulted in fewer books written in china than in medieval europe – i mean, if you google it there were 2 millions of books authored in western europe during the middle ages. Nobody cared to ask permission for it. That i think, and not the “depressed iQ” of east asians made europe the hope of industrial revolution and whatever followed.

    • akarlin says:

      Resulted in fewer books written in china than in medieval europe – i mean, if you google it there were 2 millions of books authored in western europe during the middle ages.

      This sounds exceedingly unlikely considering China had the printing press and medieval Europe didn’t. I can try to dig up the source if you wish but I recall (from Van Zanden I think) that the total quantity of published books in Europe only overtook China in the mid-17th century.

      Lots of socially and politically charged books were banned in Europe as well. Index Librorum Prohibitorum.

      • st says:

        To be banned, they had to be written first. The chinese books were not banned – including the one i am referring to -their authors were discouraged to write further books with no imperial chancellery request.
        Index Librorum Prohibitorum was not a valid document for the entire Europe. Not all states were catholic in Europe all the time. Some never.
        Again, I am not talking about “published” books. I am saying “authored”. I do not know what the chinese were allowed to use the printing press for, but if i recall correctly the majority of their books were written on bamboo sticks some of which few kilometers long. I heard the claim that chinese have authored more titles than western europe during medieval epoch. It is so pointless that i am not going to argue at all.

        Yet China was more technically advanced than roman empire at this time – say they were using bamboo sticks, besides for writing miles long books, to to drill and extract natural gas in their mines. We they smarter than romans? Perhaps, judging both from their technical advancement and population density. Yet they never made the great leap forward until recently. Perhaps because they never wanted to, unless they had to. Besides, they would had needed the authorisation of imperial chancellery to do it. Why bother?

        • Jim says:

          In comparing the development of Europe and China in the medieval epoch a huge difference was the Mongol Invasion of China. The Mongols had no direct impact on Western Europe. Western Europe and North Africa were the two areas of Old World Civilizations which were not greatly affected by the Mongol expansion.

  25. Greying Wanderer says:


    I guess the claim is there’s more to genetics than just IQ.
    Bob says:
    March 10, 2016 at 1:24 pm
    That’s a trivial claim that nobody is disputing. Seems pretty irrelevant.

    If IQ is the main driver then institutions or genetic traits that effect how well IQ is directed to the commonweal (maximum synergy?) will be the other factor.

    For example an illiterate 100 IQ population might have an IQ multiplying factor of 0.1

    Or genetic traits that improve synergy might be the difference between a multiplier of 0.9 in one population and 0.8 in another i.e. it might explain some of the difference in the “wealth of nations” lists.

    Seems it might be relevant to me.

  26. Greying Wanderer says:

    North vs South Korea

    looking at a physical map

    and comparing land area with population

    i would suggest a non-trivial hbd difference between north and south Korea might be caused by north Korea having a higher percentage of mountains.


    another possible example of this effect (if it exists) would be Scandinavia imo

    • Jim says:

      Don’t mountainous area tend to have lower dietary iodine?

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        That’s one thing I’ve read – also i imagine (?) marriage opportunities are more limited in mountainous regions as the population is contained within separate valleys – dunno if that has any effect , just a thought.

        • Jim says:

          There’s the stereotype (don’t know it it’s true or not) about inbred hillbillies.

          • Greying Wanderer says:

            Yes and if there’s no mechanism that could make a more evenly related population actively cooperate more maybe it works the other way round by removing friction.

  27. Greying Wanderer says:

    If you have a society with a Clarkian effect in place and there’s only 10% cognitive roles to fill then high IQ would likely spill over and so you end up with lots of bored smart blacksmiths waiting for someone to invent a printing press.

    If you look at the IR a lot of the big names have a blacksmith grand-dad.

    The best practical example i know of where excess brains isn’t wasted is if you have a military where the brains only reaches down to the colonel level they will be chewed up by a military where the brains reaches down to the NCOs.

  28. Joachim Strobel says:

    It seems to me, that one aspect is left out. Even 10kYE leaves it out: The selective power of wars. Which type of soldier dies first: Hi or Lo IQ? One might guess, that this would depend on the type of war, how long it has been fought and if a whole country participates with all its blood. Combat probably shapes more than shelter seeking.
    Much has been written about the surprising rise of Germany and Japan after WWII, linking it to the countries smartness or the Marshal plan. But nobody seemed to have made the obvious connection. Take Germany. WWII was triggered by Germany’s desire to be as prosperous as France and England when Germany ranked even with Romenia. The war changed that, but in a surprisingly different way than its starters had pictured. This opens the question about who did survive the war and then shaped the postwar society in which way? I would imagine that the Japanese story is similar. I am sort of awaiting a post about these type of selection processes.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Just before WWII, Germany had a sightly higher per-capita income than England, noticeably higher than France.

      • Joachim Strobel says:

        Since 40 years I am reading literature covering pre-war times, in particular G Aly. I also have a regional closeness that opens other sources. I do not believe the statistics you present is correct. It seems to result from incorrect sources, I quickly found this link for a review:
        My favorite benchmark is the ratio of people living in their own property. It was around 40% before WWII, where UK and France where at 60%.

        I need to be fair to Romenia: They had a respectable economy before WWII and matching them with Germany is not a bad thing.

        • gcochran9 says:

          They are correct. From the Angus Maddison database: (per-capita GDP in 1990 international dollars:

          US: 7010
          UK: 6856
          France: 4042
          Germany: 5403
          Soviet Union: 2144

          Romania – no estimate for 1940. low, probably less than 1000

          Romania was backwards and drastically poorer than the US, Germany, or the UK. They’re still pretty backward.

          If you think about it, it’s obvious that Germany had an advanced industrial economy: else they couldn’t have built tens of thousands of tanks and airplanes, weapons that were technologically competitive with those of the Soviet Union and the Western Allies. You can look at per-capita horsepower back then: 5.72 for Germany, 7.96 for the UK, 2.21 for the USSR, 12.27 for the US.

          The idea that Germany’s war aim was prosperity is genuinely funny. Reminds me of the typical Russian reaction when they invaded East Prussia and ran into lots of neat little farms: ” with everything so nice, why did they try to steal our crappy country?”

          • Joachim Strobel says:

            Germany wanted to level with France and the U.K. to be recognized as superpower. It was not granted that, France and Uk looked down on Germany. Some exception occurred, mostly from the US by Ford, Kennedy, Lindberg and others.
            Be careful with your figures, from 1938 onward they include Austria and Czechoslovakia. Later Germany stripped the invaded countries from all their money. That was well planned and brilliantly accomplished. Ask the Greek people.
            The prewar industry looks good because it was based on printed money that was planned to be paid back by a won war only. That is the trouble with all these statistics. It is like admiring Germany for the nice Olympic Games from 1936 – I am sure some people still do, and likewise I will not win my economic argument.
            Romania was the world’s 7th largest oil producer then.

  29. j says:

    In the static economy described by Ricardo and Malthus, the wealth of the nations was a function of their natural resources, principally good agricultural land. Germany’s main objective in WWII was to conquer Lebensraum, living space, the fertile lands of Ukraine sans Ukrainians. But Malthus was wrong and the Germans lost much land but are wealthier than ever. Humans are not cattle whose numbers are limited by the grassland’s carrying capacity.

    • EH says:

      No, they are stupid and ungrateful sheep saved from predation, destitution and starvation only by the providence of their “privileged” and “oppressive” guardians / sheepdogs and geniuses / shepherds.

    • Bob says:

      Germany was under a blockade during WWI by the British Empire. Before WW2, the British Empire, the US, the USSR, and the Dutch controlled most of the territories of raw materials imports like oil and foreign export markets, and could do things like blockade Germany to cut it off from those markets. After WW2, those empires dissolved and the US ensured access to those foreign markets for Germany and others.

      People today still live on agricultural staples and on livestock fed by those staples, Humans are not plants who synthesize solar energy directly.

  30. Learner says:

    Mr Cochran, just in case it might be of interest to you, a blog article citing studies claiming that higher IQ people are more cooperative. My apologies if you already know them.

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