Friday, July 13, 2012

Apropos My Previous Post.

As I said in my previous post, it appears that both national IQ and culture matter with regard to a country's economic performance.  Richard Lynn, one of the authors of, IQ and the Wealth of Nations, has put up and updated list of National IQ correlated to academic performance. Unlike some of the strong HBD supporters, even Lynn recognises that IQ only partially, though quite significantly, explains the economic success of a country.

To test this hypothesis, Lynn and Vanhanen (2002) examined the relationship between measured national IQs of 81 nations and GDP (gross domestic product) in 1998. The correlation was .73. It was argued from this result that national IQs explained 53 per cent of the variance in national per capita income[ED], and therefore that it provided a major contribution to a long-standing problem in  development economics first raised by Adam Smith (1776) in his Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of  Nations, and summarized by Landes (1999) as the problem of “Why some are so rich and some are so poor”. The solution proposed by Lynn and Vanhanen (2002) to this question was that some are so rich partly because they have higher average IQs than those who are so poor. It was argued that this should be regarded as a causal relationship because it is an extension to nations of the established causal relationship of IQ to income among individuals.
Rindermann and Thompson, in Cognitive Capitalism, put forth an quite forceful argument linking the wealth of nations with the IQ of their elites. But even here they did this with a qualifier;
The results underscore the relevance of human capital for the wealth of nations, more particularly, the relevance of the intellectual classes, as mediated by high accomplishment in STEM and by economic freedom.[Ed]
I'm more impressed by this idea (and its implications) than the national IQ approach because the governing elites provide the mileau amongst which their lessers operate in.

But it also appears the IQ alone is not enough, rather an IQ that can deal with scientific and technical issues is the one that provides the payoff. Arts IQ doesn't seem to provide the goods.  The interesting thing is why is this so?  Why does STEM competency translate into economic development? The obvious answer would be that STEM competency translates into industrial might which raises living standards, but I think this would a false conclusion.  Russia has provided some of the best scientists and engineers ever and yet it's economic development lagged the West.

My personal view is that STEM competency is conditional on an understanding of reality. In other words, you can't ignore reality and be competent in the STEM fields. On the other hand, you can be competent in the humanities with a total disregard to reality. Russia may have had brilliant engineers but it was ruled by a taliban of Communists who literally ignored the realities of human nature and hence operated its society with system of flawed morals. Likewise, particularly in the Anglosphere West, our ruling elites are made up of humanities majors "i.e Lawyers" who hold a view of human nature that is at odds with reality.  Their decision making is idiotic because their understanding of the world is idiotic as well.

I'm not saying that the Humanities are irrelevant; a world without art and culture would be an impoverished one, rather a Humanities disconnected with reality of human nature is a malignant version of it. A classical education, for all its faults, at least thoroughly schooled men in the reality of human nature.  It's understanding of beauty at least produced beautiful buildings as opposed to modern architecture which seems deliberately designed to uglify the world.  It's emphasis on philosophy at least emphasised the principles of logic based on commonsense.

The secret to economic success from a national perspective seems to be  and elite which possess both high IQ technical competence and moral conservatism.


Brandon said...

So basically the Protestant Work Ethic is what you're alluding to here.

Jason said...

Reading your essay doctor made me think of China, and why it is not as powerful as it should be. With its huge population, its strong Confucian values, its high IQ elites, and so forth, it should be ruling the world right now (This is an extreme statement, I know – there are obviously also historical reasons for why China is more behind than it should be). Yet so often China seems to shoot itself in the foot, with its draconian population policies, its lack of respect for property rights, its often hyper-nationalism, its bullying attitude towards neighbors and other ethnities (e.g. Tibetans), etc. Although it might be a little simplistic to say this, it seems safe to say that a lot of China’s backwardness stems from its lack of moral conservatism, as you put it.

mdavid said...

SP, Unlike some of the strong HBD supporters, even Lynn recognises that IQ only partially, though quite significantly, explains the economic success of a country.

This sounds like a liberal red herring. I've never read a single person who claims that IQ "fully explains" the economic success of any group of people. And even if one did, he would merely be an idiot, a crank, and so who cares?

And what's a "strong HBD supporter", anyway? Somebody like Steve Sailer? Or anybody who recognizes human HDB, that is, that evolution applies to humans? Because that's how the media and mainstream public views it, even at the university level, where these ideas are not allowed to be spoken without trial. See: Larry Summers. See: James Watson

The reality is that IQ shows a strong correlation to wealth for large groups, and most people seem to find this reality something they don't like and try to bury it as best they can, either by confusing the issue via straw men, or when that fails, by attacking the credibility of the messenger. This post seems to thread the needle between the two, drive-by style, but I'm open to correction.

The Social Pathologist said...


Well the Protestant work ethic is a powerful example of the effect of culture on wealth. Prole culture is another. In this latter culture, bettering oneself is seen as elitist so there is net force dragging a man down, stifling innovation.

Whilst intelligence may solve problems, morals and manners provide an environment in which the new found solutions can be implemented.


China is a fantastic example of while the HBD argument is only partially correct. If IQ is genetically based, then SE Asia should have achieved economic and cultural domination years before the West. What stifles China's economic growth and power is it's culture. The superstrong culture of consensus(lack of legitimate individualism) in Asia stifles innovation, (plus the fact that I think Asians have a weaker Creativity quotient) which means that they're only ever as good as the ideas that they can "borrow" from the West.

I've mentioned this before, but the Chinese Academy of Sciences was commissioned by the Communist Party to study what gave the West so much power. Remember, these were all the High IQ guys who were looking at this problem. There conclusion in the end was..........Christianity.

It provided the foundations for a culture in which economic growth and exploitation of technological innovation could thrive. A thousand years ago, the Chinese were in many way superior to that of the West. The problem is that their culture stifled all those innovations. It's strange that the HBD crowd love to push the idea of Genetic Calvanism but when their genetic superiors point out the cause of the West's strength they ignore it.

The Social Pathologist said...


I do believe in the genetic influence of intelligence (including populations genetics) but the HBD crowd, Sailer included, don't give other factors the time of day; factors which may be just as important.

Even Lynn, who found the relation with IQ and wealth recognised that it only accounted for approximately half of the effect. Once again, I'm not saying IQ is not important.

The other issue that concerns me is that the HBD crowd conflate intelligence with morality. As if better morality is somehow a product of higher intelligence instead of it being an independent variable. Stupid people can be successful by following simple but appropriate rules whilst smart people can squander all their gifts by living amorally. The Nazi party had some super IQ people on board. We all know how that turned out.

David Foster said...

Apropos of culture, I just re-linked some very interesting comments by Don Domingo Perez de Grandallana, a Spanish naval official writing in 1797, about the reasons his country (an their then-ally, France) tended to lose naval engagements with the British.

The Social Pathologist said...

Thanks for the link David.

It's a good illustration of just how culture can complement or frustrate intelligence and ability.

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