Sunday, February 18, 2007

Idiocracy and Inflation

In Mike Judge's Idiocracy, the movie's protagonist, an average Joe-turned-relative-genius, is stuck 500 years in the future. Due to dysgenic birthing patterns, humanity has vulgarly regressed to something less than Butt-head's living room. In 2505, Joe's the most intelligent man alive, and his contemporaneous companion, a trollop from the dregs of early 21st Century society, appears to be a relatively close second.

Hoping to get back home, Joe asks his lawyer, Frito, to take him to a time machine so he can be transported back to his own circa. The lawyer initially resists, but reconsiders when Joe offers to open a bank account in Frito's name upon returning to 2005. At first, Joe promises Frito $10 billion (which, in a savings account with a reasonable APR of 1.1%, would require an intital deposit of more than $40 million before even considering taxes--in my opinion, one of too few subtelties in a movie with a fascinating subject that, while entertaining, falls short of expoiting its full potential). Frito rejects the offer, informing Joe that the cost of using the time machine is $20 billion.

That a very mundane version of It's a Small World requires shelling out $20 billion may seem to indicate that an ever-more idiotic society has led to the devaluation of the dollar to such an extent that currency has become useless as a trade medium, like what you'd expect after fifty decades of living under Robert Mugabe.

But actually, $20 billion for a cheesy carnival ride half a millenia from now suggests an average annual inflation rate of only 4.7%. That's tame for such a society as vacuous as Judge's 2505 America. Removing Barbados due to its unique position as a financial safehaven and Zimbabwe due to its astronomically high inflation rate (officially 976.4%, and estimated to be considerably higher than that), the most recent inflation numbers and IQ inversely correlate at a statistically significant and strong .58.

From the regression equation built from this relationship and assuming the lame time machine ride would cost a couple of bucks today, this posits an average IQ of just under 95 in the idiocratic future. While the movie's demographic future looks like, and has the economic stability of, modern-day Brazil, today's Latin America (from which Mike Judge comes)--as lacking in afflatus as it may be--is probably a lot more edifying than the idiocratic future.

But even in the seminal stages of the Idiocracy pandemic, Judge's contemporary audience would be bemused by the price of a ride on the time machine given an average idiocratic IQ a bit south of 70 (which appears to be the future Joe finds himself in). Using the same regression, the price comes to more than $10E+80. So few in the audience would recognize the amount, however you'd say it, that an important effect of the movie would be ruined--one of the dolts in the movie's future would be able to count higher than nearly everyone watching in the audience.


J. said...

Respectfully, but I dont understand. And I am living in the 21th century and am considered normal, at least by my dog. Could you please say it again maybe less ingeniously but more understandably? Thank you in advance.

crush41 said...


I doubt I'm more ingenious than an Israeli engineer.

In a nutshell, $20 billion for a carnival ride 500 years from now suggests inflation has been pretty low. But low inflation is not the mark of lower IQ societies--high inflation is. So, to make the movie more realistic, the time machine ride should've cost $8000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 (or so). But if Frito, the idiot lawyer, had to say that number (however you say it), he'd appear smart. And that would run counter to what makes the movie enjoyable--that everyone in the future is hopelessly idiotic. So Judge did what he should have.

Steve Sailer said...

You should try regressing inflation rates by religion of the populous. My vague impression is that in the second half of the 20th Century, inflation tended to be a Catholic disease, brought on by a benign desire to be nice to everybody.

crush41 said...


Interesting. I'll gladly give it a look. Any sources you recommend for accurate religious denominational information? CIA factbook is okay but not consistent (ie US is X Catholic, X Lutheran, X Pentecostal; Nigeria is X Christian).

This site looks promising for Catholic stats. Controlling for IQ is probably necessary just by the looks. Despite the catholicism of Catholicism, it's disproportionately found a home in South and Central America.

crush41 said...

... This site ...