Natural Aristocracy

Gregory Clark finds that social status is strongly heritable. Combined with a very high degree of assortative mating for the genetic factors behind this heritability, social mobility is surprisingly low. This happens without anyone particularly trying to make it this way – although it can happen less if people do try to stop it. An interesting example out of Plomin’s group:  genetics explains  “twice as much variance in educational attainment and occupational status in the post-Soviet era compared with the Soviet era.”

Plomin  ( or maybe more exactly his student Kaili Rimfeld) says that “The extent of genetic influence on these social outcomes can be viewed as an index of success in achieving meritocratic values of equality of opportunity by rewarding talent and hard work, which are to a large extent influenced by genetic factors, rather than rewarding environmentally driven privilege. ”

I don’t think that statement is entirely wrong.  Estonia today is better run than it was in 1953, or 1990.  But  I am just as sure that it isn’t entirely right.  We’re talking about genetic factors that tend to increase social status: intelligence helps, sure, but the people at the top, the people running the show are rarely the smartest – or the most decent, or the most effective.  If we define ‘merit’ as a tendency to effective action that favors the best interest of society as a whole – surely what  high-status people have more of is only loosely associated with ‘merit’.  They have more of what works for themselves. Call it moxie.

So the ideal social policy would attempt  – and succeed – at picking people for high-status job that were good at getting the job done – not just good at getting the job. Talent and hard work are influenced by genetic factors, but then so is being a back-stabbing, credit-stealing asshole.

I don’t think it would be easy: nature’s agin it. But it’s possible. I think. To a degree.

What should the Classical Greeks have done with Alcibiades, who surely had enough genetic moxie for a platoon? Answer: shoot the bastard. Him better off dead.

In principle this is a question that liberals should be thinking about, but apparently thinking clearly – about anything – is a job that American liberals just won’t do.






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92 Responses to Natural Aristocracy

  1. Cpluskx says:

    ”So the ideal social policy would attempt – and succeed – at picking people for high-status job that were good at getting the job done – not just good at getting the job”

    This is so hard to do. (American liberals thinking about it is even more difficult) How would you do it without some very strong state influence? Not very easy to distinguish and high status people are disgusting, they would create so much mayhem.

  2. Cpluskx says:

    I used to classify high status people -roughly- like this:

    Extremely smart and perfect to average personality: Scientists, academics etc. (Ed Witten)
    Very smart and average to disgusting personality: Business types. (Bezos)
    Above average smart and disgusting to evil personality: Politicians (Mcconnell)

    • Jason says:

      I personally know a good number of academics with politician tier personalities, and some are distinguished. I personally know a few (Provincial level) politicians with noble souls, and they’re all somewhat ineffective.

    • Hugh Mann says:

      Academia has long been famous for back-stabbing, bottom-licking and other unpleasant behaviours.

  3. Dave Pinsen says:

    An easier approach might be to structure incentives so high status people do what’s in the interest of everyone else, which will probably include hiring people that are good at getting their jobs done.

    As an example, consider Congress. The current incentives are to get reelected, and at some point leverage the job to a higher one in government, or a more remunerative one trading on their government contacts in the private sector, such as as a lobbyist. I’m not sure how you would go about getting people to vote for more competent candidates, rather than ones who are better at winning elections, but there are certainly ways to improve incentives for Congressmen.

    One might be to ban lobbying, and instead offer generous variable compensation based on how their constituents fare. You could come up with a formula that takes into account, say, per capita income in their districts relative to per capita government debt, average life expectancy, crime rates, combat deaths, etc., and use a rolling average to account for the time it takes policies to kick in and for cyclical recessions and such. So, for example, a Congressman who’s been in office 5 years might get a variable comp bonus at the end of that year based the average metrics over the last 5 years.

    • AppSocRes says:

      An alternative incentive for elected politicians might be allowing their constituents to vote on the rewards granted after they leave office. The options might range from a lifetime pension and other benefits, based on various decreasing fractions of their official salary and benefits, down through public humiliation, imprisonment for an extended period, or even death.

    • Eugine Nier says:

      One might be to ban lobbying

      How? Are you going to bad people talking to politicians to present their complaints/suggestions/problems? Because fundamentally that’s what lobbying is.

  4. J says:

    Alcibiades was very talented but totally amoral: he betrayed Athens to Sparta in the middle of a war, and then he sold his services to the Persians. In general, Classic Greeks thought nothing of selling their daughters to a bordello or delivering their countries to the enemy, and when planning their strategies, the certainty of betrayal was calculated in. Such amorality has few parallels in our days, maybe Quisling working for the Nazis in Norway, or the British Secret Service in the Cold War, that worked for the Soviet Union. Probably that tendency has been steadily weeded out from Western populations.

    • Cloveoil says:

      Alcibiades was regarded by Cleckley as a psychopath, rather than typical of his time. Though this was obviously not a clinical diagnosis!

    • Jaakko Raipala says:

      History is full of Quislings. When a small country gets conquered there will always be a Quisling ready to assume power and give the same rationalizations – that he can deal with the occupiers to make the conditions better for the locals so he can call himself a patriot even if people call him a traitor etc. Many similar figures popped up in Eastern European countries that were taken by Germany or the USSR.

      Quisling just received extraordinary (and of course justified) mockery in English-speaking countries because Norway was known as a pro-British state so it was very obvious that any pro-German stance didn’t have popular support. A big part of why Norway had wanted to separate from Sweden was that Sweden was oriented towards Germany and the eastern Baltic Sea while the Norwegians wanted to prioritize relations with Britain.

    • Eugine Nier says:

      Alcibiades was very talented but totally amoral: he betrayed Athens to Sparta in the middle of a war

      Reading the history it seems more like Athens betrayed him. Specifically, his political enemies arranged for him to be sentenced to death in abstentia for a likely trumped up charge of sacrilege while he was away commanding an army and thus couldn’t defend himself. (The situation is slightly more complicated but the Athenians don’t come of as looking good.)

      BTW, Alcibiades isn’t the only leader the Athenians pulled a stunt like this on. For example, Themistocles, the person most responsible for organizing the successful Greek defense against the Persian invasion. Ended up accused of being a Persian traitor (to give you an idea how ridiculous this charge was, the modern equivalent would be accusing Churchill of being a German agent), ostracized, i.e., exiled, later sentenced to death and forced to flee from one part of Greece to another, until he had to choice but to defect to Persia.

      • gcochran9 says:

        He may well have been a traitor ( in intent) . He communicated with the Persians to set up the battle of Salamis: perhaps he was surprised when the Greeks won.

        Selling out to the Persians was not a rare thing among the Greeks. Medizers.

      • J says:

        Athenians assumed that their generals were betraying them because it seemed plausible. I know of no contemporary general being even suspected of disloyalty. Some genes were selected out.

        • Dave Pinsen says:

          Or there’s little incentive for disloyalty. How can the Islamic State offer an American general a better deal than he has already?

        • Zenit says:

          Republican criticism of the John Birch Society intensified after Welch circulated a letter calling President Dwight D. Eisenhower a possible “conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy”. Welch went further in a book titled The Politician, written in 1956 and privately printed, rather than by the JBS, for Welch in 1963.

        • Jaakko Raipala says:

          More likely modern states are better at vetting for loyalty (or better at spying on their citizens, if you like to put it more cynically). The Athenian state didn’t have intelligence agencies and the like. A high ranking American officer will go through all sorts of background checking every time that he gets promoted so people who reach the rank of general have been thoroughly checked.

          They’ve checked whether the man has relatives with connections to the Chinese Communist Party, whether he has debts that could be used by a blackmailer, whether he visits crimethink blogs etc. Modern generals are going to be pretty loyal to whatever regime they work for. Of course that doesn’t mean that soldiers are necessarily impressed: Tsarist Russia had properly vetted its generals so they remained overwhelmingly loyal to the monarchy but then a lot of the conscripts and lower ranking officers decided that the Tsar was an enemy of the people…

          • gcochran9 says:

            I don’t believe that typical security-clearance type vetting does much good. Anyhow, we did better before it existed.

            • Ursiform says:

              In most of the bad espionage cases there were red flags, of exactly the sort people are warned to look out for, that were ignored.

              The actual investigations are conducted by contractors paid by the file. Kinda Uber for national security.

              • Jim says:

                Yes but for any kind of test for a rare condition (such as being a spy or a potential berserker) false positives are often much more common than true positives. Tests for rare conditions must have very low false positive rates to be very useful.

              • Ursiform says:

                Um, racking up disciplinary problems and having two supervisors say you shouldn’t be trusted with classified information is a rare condition? (Manning)

                Having another agency conclude you can’t be trusted with sensitive information is a rare condition? (CIA, not communicated to NSA, Snowden)

              • Jim says:

                No on the contrary it is being a spy (or a potential berserker) that is a rare condition. Having disciplinary problems is not so rare. I suspect the percent of Federal employees who have disciplinary problems but are actually not spies is not so low.

                Of course there is a solution to the problem of false positives. Kill them all and let God sort them out. Stalin leaned toward that solution and it seemed to work for him.

        • Eugine Nier says:

          Haven’t been following current politics have you?

        • Glengarry says:

          John Brennan is a commie who ended up as CIA boss. Many more such cases! (Go to the Venona papers.)

      • Young says:

        I think you are right about Athens betraying Alcibiades. He likely would have defeated Syracuse if he had not been tried in absentia and sentenced to death. He escaped from those sent to arrest him and only then went to Sparta where he prospered until seducing the wife of a Spartan king. Subsequently he returned to Athens when it was losing the war, was welcomed, and led the Athenians to the brink of victory when he was again accused of disloyalty because of the failure of a minor general. He fled again. The sea battle that put an end of Athenian hopes took place near where Alcibiades lived. He rode to the shore and managed to tell the Athenians the were about to make a grave mistake. He was right but ignored and the Athenians lost the battle and, ultimately, the war. Near the very end the Athenians were hoping Alcibiades would return and save them, but too late for that. Others had the same thought and he was assassinated. The Athenians were not forgiving when it came to their best: Miltiades, Aristedes, Themistocles, Socrates, Alcibiades.

    • Zenit says:

      Wrong examples. Quisling was true believing fascist, leader of minuscule pre-war fascist party in Norway. The British agents were also idealists, believing in bright communist future. Better examples would be the late cold war double agents like Aldrich Ames, they were in it purely for the money.

  5. One approach would be to have public service as an ideal, and require people, as a matter of good form, to spend some of their time “giving back”. In fact, many ex-business types do that, working as game-keepers rather than poachers, running charities not companies, and concentrating on training and mentoring. It happens, spontaneously.

    • MikeP says:

      As I understand it, the way to advance in the Mormon Church is to take every assignment they offer without question and to do a good job of it. They keep giving you more responsibility if you succeed and if you keep doing a good job you are eventually elevated to bishop or stake president or even higher office. They key is that everyone is “called” to a job by someone higher up, not elected. The question then becomes is the Mormon church well run?

    • savantissimo says:

      It happens spontaneously, but only as a matter of form rather than substance. Such people want to be seen to be doing good but not to have any possibility of engendering future competition for themselves.

      In high school (boarding) we had a “career night”, which only a handful of students attended, despite having nothing better to do and only a few dozen yards to walk. A physics Nobel-prize winner was one of the speakers, perhaps the second or third most famous such of the latter twentieth century, so it wasn’t as if there were no draw. He looked as though he had pulled a decade of all-nighters, and blathered something useless about superstrings. Another speaker, then in his 20s and only worth a few tens of millions, but within fifteen years to become the third richest man in the world, humble-bragged about how challenging it was to maintain over 20% growth for his computer business year after year, but when asked how he had lined up his suppliers, he refused point-blank to give even a general idea.

      The effective advice they gave was to be totally self-centered and to concern oneself with the appearance of being helpful insofar as it furthered one’s standing, but to avoid the actuality. Not so bad, really, once one cracked the code. Maybe the other students knew that instinctively and weren’t really so foolish to give the thing a miss.

  6. teageegeepea says:

    What do you think of the “relatedness disequilibrium regression” research indicating that many heritability estimates are too high because they are impacted by parental genetics which shape the environment for their children?

    • candid_observer says:

      I wonder how much sense such an idea might have for the good number of cognitive/behavioral traits for which the evidence is strong that heritability goes up, not down, as the individual escapes the influence of their parents?

      How would this even work, under the account that a good portion of heritability of, say, IQ is due to parental influence? Is there any plausible account under which the component of heritability due to parental influence doesn’t go down, instead of up, after someone leaves their parental home? If it goes down, as expected, why doesn’t the entire amount of heritabiity go down as well?

    • Thanks for the link. Couple of things here. In honest scientific endeavor to find answers,these sorts of understandings look valuable, sorting out real effects from appearance. However, as I read it, the estimates of lower heritability also serve to establish a more solid floor, even if a lower one. Some possible arguments for large amounts of environmental influence are now weakened.

      There is also the heritability argument as it is believed among the chattering classes, which has influence on the culture. For that, their approach is more properly studied in reverse: behaviors and abilities that are associated with environmental differences as studied in educational literature – family education, income, parental stability, class size, number of books, access to good wifi – might just as easily be genetic. If your dad abandoned the family, leaving only an empty bottle of booze, conservatives would say that environment will put you at risk. Except the sumbitch left his irresponsible genes behind as well. If you attend bad schools where very few kids score well, liberals will claim it’s the bad school holding you back and push for you to be given enhanced chances. Except not all the low-scoring kids from your school got that way because their parents had some unlucky mishap. Some of them got there because of boxarox genes.

      Still, cool to read them trying to disentangle.

  7. Alex says:

    USSR was very much an affirmative action state, placing and rewarding managers on the basis of their minority, gender or other fixed status (“born in a proletarian family”). Removing this system sort of automatically resulted in smarter people having more chances to move up.

    • Cloveoil says:

      And yet the Soviets preserved a culture of Great Men, of high arts such as ballet, and a negativity toward the social liberalism of the west.

      Edumacaded people tend to think outside the box; so when faced with a long line of concensus from say Aristotle to Abe Lincoln, the college grad thinks they know better than the real experts. They ‘outthink’ established bases for defining great art and tragically even science. And of course they have to know better than the ordinary redneck as regards gays, abortions, and everything else

      Anti-intellectualism… reclaim the word.

    • J says:

      USSR and all the other Communist countries very much promoted people on the basis of their humble origins and totally closed advancement to the former middle class. That may be the REAL cause of the failure of all those countries, the USSR, China, Eastern Europe.

    • That may have been true in the Dr Zhivago era, but they very quickly developed their own elites – whose children got the ballet and orchestral lessons and positions. Only on things they really cared about – hockey and building weapons – did some meritocracy obtain.

      I agree that ridding the population of all people who have accomplished some small thing – even on a one-shot deal – can’t be good for a nation going forward.

  8. info says:

    Napoleon Bonaparte may be a good example of a natural aristocracy rising from minor nobility.

  9. Two older books deal constructively with the policy issues, one about the USA (“Choosing Elitres,” Basic Books, 1985), the other more broadly including China under Mao (“Elitism and Meritocracy in Developing Countreis,” Johns Hopkins U.P., 1986).

  10. pyrrhus says:

    There is considerable evidence that as societies/civilizations age, the psychopathy/selfishness of the ruling classes increases until things crater…. American society certainly seems to be an example, although it also has the twist that much of the current, highly ethnocentric ruling class arrived by immigration and largely does not identify with the lower classes.

  11. Warren Notes says:

    Linda Gottfredson talked about the connection between occupational prestige and IQ as far back as 1984. That connection, combined with the demise of factory and industrial jobs in the U.S., which was well underway but hadn’t become obvious to casual observers by 1984, is what eventually resulted in large, forgotten segments of the country voting for Trump. Without those jobs, their occupational prestige took a nose dive down to fast food and temp jobs. Gottfredson talked about is the connection between IQ and GETTING a prestige job. The bigger problem, though, is determining how well someone in a prestige job is performing – because performance appraisals are so lousy. This leads to schemes like George W.’s attempt to evaluate schools (and, with a trickle down effect, teachers) based on standardized test results. The problem with that is that intelligent people have more money, and they want their kids, who have inherited their intelligence, to go to prestigious schools – those in “good” neighborhoods. As has been mentioned several times by Gregory, programs, interventions and technique don’t seem to matter much when it comes to education – what matters is IQ. In brief – birds of a feather flock together. So the “good” schools in Bush’s accounting are nothing more than the schools with “good,” (i.e., high IQ) students. Even performance “results” that are famous can be debated. For example, did Jack Welch’s famous turnaround at G.E. come about because of genius leadership that involved firing the lowest “performing” 10 percent of employees every year? Countless popular “management practice” and management consulting” books would have us think so? But it could have been his seldom recalled decision to get G.E. heavily involved in financial services – a sector that experienced a huge boom for years after? Yes – his timing was good – but G.E. divested that business in 2015; financial services had some problems around 2007-2008. His retirement timing was also good – we’ll never know if he would have foreseen that and reacted in time. We can make a good guess though – because very few did foresee it.
    Here’s a link to the abstract of Gottfredson’s article:

  12. AppSocRes says:

    Almost the entirety of Herrnstein and Murray’s “The Bell Curve” explored the threat a purely meritocratic system combined with homogamy posed for egalitarian idealism. Herrnstein and Murray were worried about the consequences and wrote the book in part as a warning. Contrary to PC SJW propaganda, this was the book’s sole purpose.

    To forestall obvious criticism that they failed to address the issue of racial discrimination, Herrnstein and Murray devoted twenty pages in a four-hundred page book to a discussion of IQ differences across races. Their conclusion in 1994, was that the reasons for observed differences were unclear and might well not be the result of heredity. We know better now the importance of heredity but that was a reasonable opinion back then.

    Prog assholes like S. J. Gould used this well-intentioned tactical blunder, as an excuse to relentlessly attack Herrnstein and Murray, e.g. in that piece of mendacious trash, “The Mismeasure of Man”.

    My point is that progs don’t want anyone even thinking about the issues raised here, earlier in the 1990s by Murray and Herrnstein, and even a half-century earlier by the British politician and novelist, Michael Young ( ). Those who offend progs in this manner with their doubleplusungoodthink will be punished as severely as possible.

  13. ohwilleke says:

    I don’t think you need a statist solution if you are willing to be patient. Just recruit a lot of such people to run businesses that you provide with capital on the condition that you are in charge in the hiring and promotion function. Then wait for the companies to become extremely successful to the point that they are dominant in the economy.

  14. Ryan Baldini says:

    I think when Clark says status is heritable, he’s just referring to an empirically observed correlation. Not genetics per se – I don’t think his methods can distinguish that, if I recall. Obviously Plomin’s methods do, but hard to do twin studies on historical populations.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Listening to his latest talk, it’s clear that he thinks it’s all genetic. The title kind of gives it away: “How Genetics Determines Social Status’ .

      For some reason he said this pretty openly some time ago when being interviewed by non-English speakers.

      • RCB says:

        True. I actually had the pleasure of talking to him a few years back about all this, on a long bus ride from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. He was clearly leaning toward genetics. And despite not being trained in it, he understood all the complications about heritability, shared environment, etc., quite well. Very smart guy.

        One interesting thing from his book The Son Also Rises was that there appeared to be greater correlation between distant relatives (e.g. descendants after 4+ generations) than made sense from heritability estimates. This puzzled me, from a mechanistic perspective, for a bit.

        I believe the resolution, though, is assortative mating. Without assortative mating (as is usually assumed in the calculation), there is a one-generation regression to the mean equal to 1-h^2, and then a decay factor of 0.5 in every generation after that (under the assumption that each next mating is random, therefore expected mate mean of 0). With assortative mating, you get the first generation regression of 1-h^2 just as before, but all following generations decay to mean only at the rate of 0.5*(1+a), where a is assortative mating coefficient (approximately). In other words, there is basically a short-term (one-generation) decay due to imperfect heritability, and a long-term decay determined by assortative mating. So, traits can show surprising many-generational persistence with only mild heritabilties, if assortative mating is strong enough. That may be the case for traits that determine social status?

        • RCB says:

          (It’s actually a bit more complicated that I let on. E.g., assortative mating leads to correlation in both genetic and environmental effects of mates, because they are assumed to assort on total phenotype. But the intuition is basically correct.)

  15. Lior says:

    The best way to achieve real meritocracy is for everyone to simply pretend that we are living in a meritocracy, that way everyone who thinks of advancing his position thorough underhanded means will think there is no point of doing so because we’re living in a meritocracy.
    If everyone believes that the only way of gaining high stauts is by being good, than even selfish people will behave in a good maner.
    Personally, I have been pretending that we are living in a merit based society for years and if you ask me it’s been working great.

    • Eugine Nier says:

      If everyone believes that the only way of gaining high stauts is by being good, than even selfish people will behave in a good maner.

      The problem is what if that belief is in fact false. Someone’s going to try gaining status by underhanded means, and if they succeed well some much for your meritocracy.

      Frankly, all ideas of the form “we just need to get everyone to believe [thing whose falseness they can easily observe for themselves]” tend to work out really badly.

      • Lior says:

        I was kind of kidding about ‘getting everyone to believe a false thing’, so I agree with you in general, although I would seriously state that you can reduce bad behavior thorough propaganda.

        Since figuring out what are your chances of getting caught for committing fraud or other crimes can be very costly if you underestimate the risks, you can deter people by making them think the risks are high by publicizing arrests and show trials.

      • dearieme says:

        That subtle dig at trannies did not go unnoticed.

  16. reziac says:

    Social status in spotted hyenas has been studied extensively, is very definitely inherited, and was found via hormone assays to follow directly from testosterone status. (Too lazy to look up the papers this instant, but there are a bunch on the topic.) And you can pretty much spot the dominant individuals by physical characteristics — notably head width and muscling around the skull.

    As a dog trainer/breeder with several decades experience handling a large kennel, I’ve noted that status is born, not made. Rarely, an extremely intelligent animal can learn to fake it, but I’ve seen this… once. And in a fight, the higher-ranked individual always wins regardless of relative physical prowess. (Alphas do not fight among themselves, nor will they pick fights with underlings; but betas do so at every opportunity.)

  17. Greying Wanderer says:

    clones – or at least a population where the elite are as closely related to the citizens as possible – like Denmark

    to get this in the past you probably needed a small flattish, roundish country (to equalize travel times) and a culture of exogamous marriage within the bounds of a smallish endogamous population and then simmer for n centuries.

    (i wonder if this is partly why the smaller, lower population western countries tend to dominate top 10 best country lists)

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      “a population where the elite are as closely related to the citizens as possible”

      actually now i think of it that would be a side effect of a “farewell to alms scenario”

  18. Given the different capacities and natural motivations of the people, wherever people organize and cooperate freely a natural aristocracy will emerge, which will be required by society, as a source of authority, to solve problems. When the socio-political rise does not depend on the free resolutions of the people, but on the goings-on of corrupt parties and organizations, the result is what we have now.

    Everyone admires Brad Pitt or any musical star much more than any politician, but no one would require them to run the national economy or the judiciary.

    I think we should investigate the way in which evolution took that path (the survival of the richest), and then apply it systematically. It seems that it was a worldwide phenomenon in pre-industrial societies. It would be necessary to restructure the national moral to try that the intelligence is correlated with the best moral characteristics. I think that before it worked like this, today neither excellence nor intelligence is selected.

  19. Bob says:

    So the ideal social policy would attempt – and succeed – at picking people for high-status job that were good at getting the job done – not just good at getting the job. Talent and hard work are influenced by genetic factors, but then so is being a back-stabbing, credit-stealing asshole.

    I don’t think it would be easy: nature’s agin it. But it’s possible. I think. To a degree.

    Perhaps individual selection is against it, but what about state competition and group selection? It would seem to me that only external force in the form of state competition (and or environmental pressures) would impose the requisite discipline necessary for this. This seems to be Michael Woodley’s explanation for selection for traits like higher IQ over the past millenium.

  20. MattxXx says:

    Moxie. Looks like they already found it. They called the trait ‘ranking potential’ and claim a heritability of ~2/3. It’s basically a set of character traits that signals your higher or lower rank to others on an instinctive level. At the top of dominance hierarchies you naturally find almost exclusively people with a high ranking potential.

    Some of the traits that form ‘ranking potential’ seem to be: ability to tolerate a higher level of conflict without feeling bad, feeling of superiority, reduced sense of guilt. The problem in dominance hierarchies (e.g. a big company) seems to be high ranking people who are also high in ‘primativeness’ (another trait they define as ‘propensity to act on instinct’). You can be high or low in primativeness. High primative people MUST do what their instincts demand, low primative people can (to a certain degree) act against instinct. The author claims good leaders are high in ranking potential, but relatively low in primativeness’ (in addition to skills of course), whereas bad leaders tend to be high in ranking potential and high in primitiveness, which makes them ‘tyrants’.

    Read for yourself, look for the term ‘ranking potential’. It’s spread out all over the article. The piece is about mating and not about hierarchies, but the theme pops up often. It’s the only copy I could find on the internet. I’m a manager and not a scientist, and I found the piece extremely helpful at work and in private.

  21. sinij says:

    I am surprised that you conclude that high social status is heritable, because historically high status was really detrimental to reproductive fitness. Revolutions, palace intrigue and coups, conquests, chivalry and honor code… all seems to be good counter examples.

    • ziel says:

      That stuff happened amongst the nobility, and you’re right that was not a good recipe for gene spreading. But Clark’s thesis explicitly excludes nobles, for those very reasons as well as that there aren’t all that many of them.

    • Jokah Macpherson says:

      A trait does’t have to be beneficial to heritable.

      Although Clark’s argument is that at the bourgeoise level in the centuries leading up to the industrial revolution, fitness was really terrific.

    • Sinij says:

      I think high status is an indication of individual’s position in a hierarchy, which is relative to other member of the same society. Such hierarchy can be based on any number of traits, including traits that are highly detrimental.

      There are high-status incarcerated felons, who are likely more violent than average felon. This doesn’t mean that predisposition to violence indicative of overall fitness, even if it is heritable and correlated to a high status in some specific hierarchy.

  22. Maciano says:

    Clark’s findings are spectacular. He refutes Murray’s assortative mating fears, antisemitic theories claiming jews come out ahead because of ethnic nepotism, feminist and leftists laments about old boys networks, structural racism, etc. I’ve never seen a more stunning proof of genetic determinism.

    He even argues the English elites/WASPs got displaced because of lower class founding stock, Canada and Australia still have English elites running the show, reason: more immigration of higher classes — except Quebec. The general conclusion is: high moxie ethnicities move up in countries with lower moxie ethnicities. The Overseas Chinese are the best example — though in Malaysia I noticed that even Indians displaced Malays economically…

    I’ve often marveled at centuries long success of Dutch Noble and Patrician families. These surnames pop up constantly in politics, academia, art, etc.

    • Bob says:

      Canadian and Australian elites basically follow American elites and do what the US tells them to do.

      Australia did not have much non British and Irish immigration until after WW2.

      I believe Canada’s immigration was mostly British as well until recently.

      America just got a lot more European immigration than Australia and Canada did.

      • Maciano says:

        You should watch the video.

        • Bob says:

          Australia didn’t have significant non British and Irish immigration before WW2. After WW2, Australia began to promote mass immigration from non traditional sources, but a plurality, around 40%, continued to be from Britain and Ireland. The rest of the immigrants were mainly from Southern Europe and the Balkans.

          Whereas the US had had significant German, Scandinavian, Jewish, and other European immigration for a century before WW2. The US took in a lot more immigrants and took them in from more varied sources than Australia did.

  23. Little spoon says:

    Moxie is a thing? Really, is it? I thought general intelligence was a thing because the component types of intelligence that contribute to it tend to be correlated. So people tend to have correlated intelligence across domains relevant to overall intelligence.

    Is moxie like this? Let’s say it has heritable sub components like ability to manipulate, selfishness, ability to understand nuances in social hierarchies etc. Can we identify a set of sub components that all drive overall social status that are both heritable and intercorrelated to an unusually high degree?

    • Mike Sanders says:

      Moxie is a thing? Really, is it?

      Just thinking aloud. Synonymous with any/all of: able, acumen, adept, adroit, astute, capable, deft, dexterous, nimble, shrewd

      Such a one is often considered ‘gifted’ (imples inheritance).

  24. Airgap says:

    Regarding this ideal social policy, I have a notion I’ve been kicking around for a while, and maybe Greg (or somebody else here) can tell me why it’s stupid.

    Replace our system of democracy with a system whereby I and all the people on my block vote for a “block supervisor” who would have a part time job making sure the storm drains weren’t clogged and the traffic lights worked and that kinda thing, and receive a small salary for it (he’d probably have another job too). The neighborhood block supervisors would all vote for a “neighborhood supervisor,” who would have more responsibilities, and might by this point be doing this full-time, have a budget for assistants. This continues until the point where “state supervisors” elect a president.

    The idea is that rather than having random people deciding abstract social policy, you have them picking from their Dunbar-ish sized local group which person is responsible enough to handle local problems affecting the group, which is something that the average human is more likely to be able to do than understand abstract social policy. At every point in the process, the person elevated to the next level is someone a small amount of people know, can talk about, and are responsible for the office-holder’s power. My dream with this is rather than having media-event campaigns concerned with the appeal of a candidate, you have a bunch of highly-vetted people discussing who’s actually good at stuff.

    I haven’t thought a lot about the logistics of applying this (let alone switching to it), and that’s probably a huge problem, but no doubt there are other ones. Can anyone tell me why this is stupid so I can stop thinking about it?

    • Eugine Nier says:

      This was more-or-less the original idea when the constitution was adopted. (The electoral college is a vestige of this system.) The problem, and the reason it failed, is that Jefferson and Hamilton had philosophically different ideas about how the country should be run. Thus in order to ensure they’re candidate for president one, they needed to ensure that the electoral college was filled with people who would vote for him, in order to do that they needed to make sure the state legislators (at the time electors were appointed by state legislators) were filled with people who would appoint the right electors. Thus by the time of the first contested presidential election they found themselves basically creating national political parties with candidates for every office.

    • dearieme says:

      If there were an easy solution like that the Greeks would have thought of it. To come up with a good solution that the Greeks wouldn’t have thought of you probably need to consider using technology that was not available to the Greeks.

    • Wency says:

      Eugine is correct — well-organized parties are designed to subvert a system that relies on people making pragmatic, non-ideological choices about candidates.

      Such a system had a better chance of working in the days before mass media, where people knew their neighbors very well and D.C. was a very distant place. But the original constitutional vision quickly broke down even then.

      Nowadays people don’t know their neighbors, but they do know the people they see on TV, whether real or fictional. Trump is discussed on TV 24/7, but the only place I hear anything about my town’s mayor is at my local barber shop, and even there they talk more about Trump.

      Practically the whole thing that brings people to the polls is voting on the President, even if the President isn’t running for election that year. So a system that takes that power away is going to be deeply unpopular.

  25. Bob says:

    So the ideal social policy would attempt – and succeed – at picking people for high-status job that were good at getting the job done – not just good at getting the job. Talent and hard work are influenced by genetic factors, but then so is being a back-stabbing, credit-stealing asshole.

    The problem is that these jobs remunerate the people holding them regardless of the job done or above and beyond the job done. That’s what attracts the assholes in the first place.

    What is it that remunerates a producer above and beyond the job done? Monopoly.

    Monopolists are able to set a higher price than they would be able to under competitive conditions. The difference between the higher monopoly price and the normal price is economic rent. Economic rent is what attracts the assholes. A baker under competitive conditions is going to be compensated according to how well he bakes bread. If he’s granted a bread monopoly by the state, he will be able to charge the higher monopoly price with the same or lesser quality of bread.

    So either you have to eliminate the monopolistic character of these jobs, or you have to tax away the economic rents that naturally accrue to these jobs.

  26. MikeP says:

    Singapore seems to be a well-run nation. How does it select its leaders?

  27. Cantman says:

    Liberals are the Moxie Party.

  28. Chris P says:

    Assortative mating isn’t nearly as strong as people claim, especially with men. Women mate highly assortatively, but claiming that men do as well is unrealistic.

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