Friday, July 17, 2009

IQ and economic inequality

There are those, particularly among the libertarian ranks, who are of the mind that an uber-intelligent society is not optimal because there still must be people to wash the dishes and pick up the trash, something those of modest intelligence are putatively better at doing than brainiacs are. But even in an industry such as trucking, higher IQs make for better truckers. And more intelligent people cause less in the ways of costly externalities like crimal activity and poor health. They are also more likely to come up with more efficient and effective ways of doing menial jobs in addition to the more complex ones, and add societal value without recompense (Linux, the blogosphere, or free media-inspired entertainment). For a fuller refutation of the fallacies in this strain of thought, see Randall Parker's classic post, Benthamite Libertarian Collectivists Wrong On Open Borders.

Equality of outcomes is not generally at the top of the libertarian's priority list. It is for many on the left, however. So here's a reason for the left to support policies aimed at raising average IQ (merit immigration, welfare for sterilization, progressive child tax credits, etc): More intelligent states are more economically egalitarian states. As of 2006, the correlation between a state's average IQ and its gini coefficient is .68 (p=0). This means nearly half (46%) of the income inequality in a state is explained by its population's estimated average IQ.

Unfortunately, another ostensible top priority on the left is the maximization demographic diversity, which is at odds (not just in actuality, but even tautologically) with equality. At Taki's Magazine, Austin Bramwell and Robert Spencer have come up with two broad distinctions in libertarian thought, the comic (optimistic) and the tragic (pessimistic). I prefer a binary distinction based on ends and means, and conceptualize the comic and the tragic accordingly. That is, the comic wants ecumenical freedom for the individual and is focused on maximizing positive rights for him in every context, while the tragic is concerned with ensuring what might be termed "cultural federalism" or more simply just "localism"--allowing people to have a hand in determining the laws, mores, and ways of the societies they live in, whatever their nature.

On the right, there are perhaps three major sub-categories of conservatism: The social, concerned with things like abortion and same-sex marriage; the fiscal, concerned with taxation and governmental wealth redistribution; and the national security, concerned with ensuring the US maintains strong, ambitious military capabilities on the global stage.

Is there a similar set of broad distinctions on the contemporary Western left? From my vantage point, an obvious perforated edge along which to tear it in two is on the primacy given to egalitarianism (of outcome, not just isonomic) or to maximizing demographic diversity. I've not seen this distinction given much thoughtful treatment in the US. In Europe, diversity seems subjugated in importance to egalitarianism, and is promoted more as a consequence of equality than as an ends in itself. That is, Muslims vociferously advocating the adoption of sharia law in the UK are supported by the left because they don't want to be seen as limiting the rights of a specific group more than because they want to increase the size of the South Asian and Middle Eastern population in their country. I might be wrong on that, though.

15 comments:

The Undiscovered Jew said...

This post is extremely timely of you.

I just so happen to have finished reading Peter Singer's short 2000 pamphlet/book A Darwinian Left.

Although Singer totally downplays race, he does try to establish some foundational rules for a left that factors sociobiology into its policy framework.

Singer concedes considerable ground to the rightwing by saying, for instance, that it is very likely humans are universally hardwired to be hierarchical and that attempts to breakdown old hierarchies simply result in new human hierarchies filling the societal vacuum.

He also admits that a left which incorporates Darwin will have to set vastly more realistic goals for social engineering.

After yielding so much to the right, Singer outlines his vision of the future left-right divide.

Singer sees the conflict between a Darwinian right and a Darwinian left as being a conflict over whether to make society more cooperative or more competitive.

Singer, of course, is in favor of greater altruism and cooperation for the sake of those who did not luck out in the gene lottery department. For example, Singer speaks favorably of economist Robert Frank's suggestion that the excessively wealthy can be encouraged to reduce aesthetically obscene displays of wealth by taxing consumption more.

In other words, Singer is on the side of what I like to call, "Genetic Rawlsianism."

Singer does not explain how greater cooperation is possible in a multicultural society, however. He mostly sticks to discussing universal human characteristics such as hierarchy and sex roles, rather than between group variations.

Nonetheless, this is a good "sketch" of what a Darwinian left will stand for.

bgc said...

Some social conservatives may be more accurately termed religious conservatives - whose differences with the mainstream are mainly apparent in the social domain.

I have been pretty-much persuaded by the negative critiques of blogger Mencius Moldbug that democracy is intrinsically socialist and that the reactionary stance is the only coherent form of conservatism - however (unlike MM) I am convinced that reaction must be based on religion.

To the secular conservative, the transcendental principles of reaction (truth, order, justice - whatever) are merely idiosyncratic personal views, with no deeper rationale. They seem arbitrary.

Whereas these principles (also beauty and virtue) flow naturally and coherently from a traditional Christian basis in divine. revelation.

Anonymous said...

I am convinced that this constant call for diversity is simply a scheme by corporate interests to populate America with poor huddled masses (85-95 IQ) yearning for jobs and willing to take less for their labors.

The history of American immigration seems to always parallel the need for cheap labor, and I think that the left has fallen into the diversity trap that simply serves the interests of multi-national corporations and other business interests.

By 2050, American will be teaming with over 450 million citizens all needing resources and eventually jobs. Simple visions of supply and demand do not paint a very rosy picture of the future.

On the other hand, speaking of Darwinism, how can anyone be "liberal" and at the same time believe in evolution?

The more I understand evolution, the more I am made aware of conflict - constant conflict and incessant competition (internally and externally), most of which occur unconsciously. And the more I understand biology, the more I realize that humans have definite limitations and neither coercion or psychic malleability will ever result in utopia. What is wrong with the left? Don't they realize that diversity actually causes more conflict, isolation and unhappiness (see Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone)? A society needs more than grudging tolerance to make it in the long run!

Audacious Epigone said...

On the other hand, speaking of Darwinism, how can anyone be "liberal" and at the same time believe in evolution?

Great question. Christian-inspired humanistic values leading to an avoidance of the 'naturalistic fallacy'--assuming that because something is natural, it is also moral. The question then, though, is where does the inspiration for a fitness-reducing morality come from?

TUJ,

Thanks. I'll add it to my reading list. I've found Singer interesting since I first read an excerpt from Animal Liberation as a freshman in college. As the progression in genetics continues, the blank slatist, it's-all-environment left is setting its self up to be totally bankrupt. Singer is a coherent alternative to that.

Anonymous said...

The "left" continually points to reciprocal altruism or Robert Wrights's non-zero sum economic cooperation model as the basis of what you accurately term "fitness reducing morality". But these kinds of arrangements to my way of thinking are no more than cynical business contracts essentially equivalent to moral prostitution.

Much of the problem stems from the fact that people (especially on the left)like (demand) bedtime stories with an upbeat ending, science stories that do not threaten their ideology, e.g. Lewontin's "race is a social construct," IQ is irrelevant as in "The Mismeasure of Man", or western civilization was simply happenstance as in "Guns, Germs and Steel", etc.

Wright's first book "The Moral Animal", Pinker's "Blank Slate" or Judy Harris'"The Nurture Assumption" were harpooned by the left, and I'm sure sales were hurt by their facile criticisms. But all three learned their lessons and slipped in rosier evaluations of human behavior in subsequent books.

Contrary to what you might think, I am not a pessimist about the potential for true altruistic human behavior, but true altruism can only happen when the left realizes that religion may be the basis of fitness reducing morality (I'm an atheist) and we as a society make every effort in the future to ensure that morality is not fitness reducing.

Fabulous Max said...

Yes. The right is fractured into warring groups as is the left. It is the genius of a Khomeini or an Obama to fool the fractious groups within a revolutionary coalition into believing that they are all working toward the same ends.

Individual leftists may understand and even acknowledge the importance of IQ in creating a more harmonious society, but leftism as a movement cannot afford to even entertain the concept.

Any attempt at reasoning with the left as a group is a complete waste of time. As individuals, some leftists may be more open minded and accessible to rational argument.

Anonymous said...

"The history of American immigration seems to always parallel the need for cheap labor, and I think that the left has fallen into the diversity trap that simply serves the interests of multi-national corporations and other business interests."

No trap. The left is perfectly fine with anything, even activities by "Big Business" that furthers race replacement in Western nations. Notice how workers rights, the environment, you name it are all distant seconds when it comes to that goal.

DGL said...

Quoting BGC:

To the secular conservative, the transcendental principles of reaction (truth, order, justice - whatever) are merely idiosyncratic personal views, with no deeper rationale. They seem arbitrary.

I must politely disagree. Truth (rather than falsehood), order (rather than disorder), and justice (rather than injustice) need not be wedded to any transcendent ideal. I think all three of these principles are made manifest to a normally-functioning nervous system. This person sees each as advantageous over their counterparts. Not at all times of course, especially when one's personal or familial interests are at stake, but there is an acknowledgment of their superiority.

David said...

I guess the better off you are the more opportunities you have are exposed to. Middle class people taking graduating school for granted where as for others it is a real achievement.

Anonymous said...

As of 2006, the correlation between a state's average IQ and its gini coefficient is .68 (p=0). This means nearly half (46%) of the income inequality in a state is explained by its population's estimated average IQ.

Please explain where you got the 46%.

Thanks.

blue anonymous said...

Anon,
That'd be r-squared.

r is the Pearson correlation coefficient.

r^2 has a name too, which I forget. At any rate it's r times r.

blue anonymous said...

Ah, the name is "coefficient of determination."

Anonymous said...

Wow. I know plenty of libertarians, and I simply haven't heard any of them claim that it's desirable to keep around uneducated people in society, basically to do everyone else's dirty work. I'm not saying that no libertarian thinks that, but I just don't think that there is any reason to specifically mention libertarians as maintaining that belief. Most libertarians I know tend to be pretty pro-technology, and believe that innovation can replace many menial jobs, leaving more and more humans to innovate, and to do more creative work. Additionally, while the long-term goal is for immigrants and people in developing countries, to also have "meaningful" jobs, immigration and trade means that fewer and fewer people in developed countries must take on less intellectual jobs, allowing others, who previously had no jobs, to fulfill these roles (and hopefully be on the track for them or their children to one day have intellectually demanding jobs, as well).

Audacious Epigone said...

Anon,

Sorry for the delayed response, but blue anonymous addressed it perfectly.

Libertarian anon,

I am generalizing, but I have in mind major libertarian publications, Reason probably being top among them. It basically argues for no restrictions on immigration of any kind.

Audacious Epigone said...

Rob,

Seven percent. The distribution appears to be pretty normal, with a median score of 4 for the Wordsum test. So it doesn't look like there's too much reason to presume that unintelligent political illiterates are skewing the results.