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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/12881/measuring-the-immeasurable/

Measuring the Immeasurable

June 3, 2010 by

Although Richard Lynn’s analysis of IQ and GDP has stirred up controversy, it is largely based on false premises. IQ is not a measure of one’s ability to meet one’s own wants, and GDP is not a measure of the satisfaction of those wants. FULL ARTICLE by Predrag Rajsic


newson June 3, 2010 at 9:40 am

wisdom, not intelligence, is what is in chronically short-supply. not amenable to statistical methods, either.

Jonathan June 3, 2010 at 9:42 am

Because something is immeasurable does not mean it is irrelevant.

I understand one mark of human intelligence over other animals is the ability to read others intentions and values. If some humans have more of this kind of ‘intelligence’ it seems clear that they will be more able to think of opportunities for trade than the less intelligent, leading to greater wealth.
I suspect this is hard to refute although I respect the authors sensitivity around genetic based intelligence being correlated with outcomes in society as it has an ugly historical record.
However, to deny intelligence has anything to do with wealth seems absurd.

Beefcake the Mighty June 3, 2010 at 9:45 am

From this article I take it that anyone who believes that racial differences exist and may be important in some way are closet Nazis. That’s just lovely. This is the mises blog, yes? Or, is this the kind of thing we can expect now that the Paul family’s political careers are deemed important by the various players here?

Daniel Hewitt June 3, 2010 at 11:09 am

I don’t think that this article made the connection between believing that racial differences exist and being a Nazi. The important step in between is wanting to re-engineer a society based upon real or perceived racial differences, ie. eugenics.

The main point (what I took away from reading it, anyways) is summed up in the last few sentences … that wealth and intelligence are not quantifiable.

Beefcake the Mighty June 3, 2010 at 11:12 am

“I take the conclusions of Lynn’s book a bit personally, because it reminded me of an anthropology book that I used to own but have since lost. It was printed in 1941 under the sponsorship of the Nazi regime operating in the Balkans, and it was full of drawings of human skull measurements and comparisons of different “racial features.”"

I stand corrected; the author is suggesting that people who study racial differences are Ustasha, not Nazis.

Daniel Hewitt June 3, 2010 at 11:36 am

You only excerpted part of the paragraph. The very next sentence talks about using racial differences as a basis for eugenics programs (which Keynes believed in BTW).

Beefcake the Mighty June 3, 2010 at 11:48 am

First of all, who cares what Keynes thought about this issue? Are we discussing Keynes, or are you just mudslinging?

Second of all, what is the relevance of the Swedish (not Croatian) govt’s eugenics program to this point? The author is clearly engaging in guilt-by-association here (along with irrelevant details of his family’s suffering under German-sponsored tyranny). This is exactly the kind of things left-liberals like to do to stifle debate (or worse, in such enlightened democracies as Canada and the EU).

Jake_nonphixion June 3, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Beefcake, do you truly not see the correlation between Richard Lynn’s conclusions and ones by eugenic scientists that justified tyrannical policies to be implemented in Sweden and Nazi Germany? They both make the same argument: productivity is related to genetics, so to increase productivity you must improve genetics. To ignore this correlation is to discount the influence of prevalent belief on public policy. While the author is not stating that the US will sterilize or murder people, it is extremely relevant that governments have done so in the past. In this article Lynn’s conclusions are not only invalidated, but their dangers are also described. The severity of these dangers makes the absolutely significant. The dangers are not pure conjecture. People really were murdered by the tens of millions in the name of eugenics.

Beefcake the Mighty June 3, 2010 at 12:28 pm

“Beefcake, do you truly not see the correlation between Richard Lynn’s conclusions and ones by eugenic scientists that justified tyrannical policies to be implemented in Sweden and Nazi Germany?”

No Jake, truly I do not. Sorry to shock you here, but perhaps you should not get on the computer if these kinds of things bother you so much.

Jake_nonphixion June 3, 2010 at 12:41 pm

I see that you have no intention to being swayed by argument, so I’ll concede to your stubbornness. But I think that you drastically underestimate the influence that scientifically “proven” beliefs in genetic superiority can have on societies. Richard Lynn in no way shape or form is condoning ethnic cleansing, but it is important to repudiate his conclusions as well as to acknowledge their dogmatic impact.

Beefcake the Mighty June 3, 2010 at 12:56 pm

“I see that you have no intention to being swayed by argument, so I’ll concede to your stubbornness.”

Not at all, I’m always open to honest and intelligent arguments. It’s just that you have yet to put forth *any* kind of argument here, you’re just engaging in left-liberal hysteria on the issue.

Jake_nonphixion June 3, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Ok Beefcake, well lets try and narrow down what we are talking about then to make sure that we are even arguing about the same thing. Do you reject that Richard Lynn’s conclusions imply genetic superiority? Do you reject that belief in genetic superiority was at the route of the eugenics programs of the 20th century? Do you reject that belief in genetic superiority could ever be the cause of oppressive policies in the future? I understand your claim that correlating an article relating IQ to GDP with ethnic cleansing is borderline hysterical. It does seem a rather significant leap. But unless you reject all of the questions proposed it is impossible to disregard the correlation completely.

Beefcake the Mighty June 3, 2010 at 1:24 pm


“Do you reject that Richard Lynn’s conclusions imply genetic superiority?”

They obviously imply (as do countless other studies in similar areas) that certain levels of attainment (which can be characterized as better or worse, or if you prefer, superior or inferior) are due partly (largely but certainly not exclusively) to genetic/biological factors. I (and I suspect Lynn) reject your obviously loaded terminology here.”

Do you reject that belief in genetic superiority was at the route of the eugenics programs of the 20th century?

“There were lots of ideological factors at play there, not all of which can be characterized by your loaded terminology.

“Do you reject that belief in genetic superiority could ever be the cause of oppressive policies in the future?”

Of course not, but countless other beliefs that have nothing to do with oppression could lead to such policies.

“I understand your claim that correlating an article relating IQ to GDP with ethnic cleansing is borderline hysterical. It does seem a rather significant leap. But unless you reject all of the questions proposed it is impossible to disregard the correlation completely.”

If there’s supposed to be a link between these statements and your previous questions, I’m completely missing it.

Michael June 4, 2010 at 7:28 am

Arguably the most relevant of Rajsic’s observations to this discussion is the following:

“Unlike what is presented in some aggregate models, the true nature of comparative advantage is not national or racial, but individual. Only individuals know their own production possibilities and preferences, which they express through voluntary, market transactions. This is why one’s “nation” and “race” are not relevant economic categories within the framework of the subjective theory of value.”

I would add that “race” is not only irrelevant as an aggregate economic category; it is also not a real biological category, since it is now well established that there is a wider range of genetic variation within races than between them. This shows that the concept of “race” reflects social convention, not biological reality. In reality, race is a social category that is as useless an organizing principle in biology as in human action (i.e., economics). Human action is individual action, for “to be” human is “to be” an individual.

As the author points out, GDP can tell us something about a particular region, but it “cannot tell us much about some of the most important economic concepts, such as value and economic success.” In the same way, though it may give us a foggy idea about a person’s ancestry, “race” cannot tell us the most important things about an individual (e.g., intelligence—however that gets measured—productive capacity—however that gets measured—preferences, values—family or otherwise—phobias, etc.).

The article also shows how these dubious IQ studies promote the same old discredited eugenics programs that the Old-New Order elites have always wanted to implement against unruly populations turned on to ideas of natural rights and private property. Thus, it would be wise for Austrian economists and libertarians to wise up to the fallacies of “race” and its historical use by elites as a tool for dividing and conquering people and for justifying genocide. This episode of the Corbett Report addresses the latest way the international elite are trying to insinuate genocidal policies under a veneer of pseudo-science that is similar to the bogus race science of the late 19th and early 20th centuries: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTbyjUnYmMs

mariosaintdehaven July 30, 2010 at 1:41 am

That was an idiotic comment. Your concern is a political agenda rather than the subject at hand. You claim that this is limited to “left-liberals” enjoying the stifling of debates. If you actually believe this, then, a comment such as yours is exclusively limited to the rantings of the “intellectually challenged”.

mpolzkill July 30, 2010 at 3:22 am


Yes, and wasn’t this just mindbending?

“The author is clearly engaging in guilt-by-association here…This is exactly the kind of things left-liberals like to do to stifle debate.”


Michael, please ask Beefcake/Byzantine?/Buzungulus to tell you about all the problems he has with Mises.org.

Jake_nonphixion June 3, 2010 at 11:42 am

He was simply illustrating the tendency for populations to act in fanatical nationalist fervor when “science” implies to them that they are racially superior. A point well met considering the last century’s track record.

The implications that follow the suggestion that wealth is correlated to racial superiority are economically dangerous since they advocate isolationism. To propose that nations should protect themselves from the economic influence of less intelligent nations implies trade restrictions, that if you read mises.org I don’t need to describe how they would be only harmful.

Eugenics is morally reprehensible and has proven to be ineffective in its stated goal of improving evolution. While trends can be found relating personality and intelligence to genetics, there is a surprising number of anomalous individuals that defy these trends by being born more intelligent and creative than expected. Only a collectivist would break these eggs to serve society an omelet.

Byzantine June 3, 2010 at 1:22 pm

People practice eugenics all the time. I can pretty much guarantee that you will select a breeding partner within 5 IQ points of yourself. Keep this up over several millenia, and you get different mean IQ’s for different population groups. Look around the globe, and ask yourself which population groups are wealthier. The correlation with higher IQ is extremely high. The author of this article is just having a Canadian moment.

K Ackermann June 4, 2010 at 11:12 am

Really? And which population groups are wealthier?

What about in the US… which genetic groups in the US are wealhier?

Beefcake the Mighty June 4, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Not sure what you’re driving at here, but Jews are certainly one of, if not the, wealthiest “population groups” (ie, races) in America.

Here’s an interesting article:


K Ackermann June 4, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Well then Israel should be about the wealthiest nation there is on a per capita basis.

I know some of the Arab states are quite wealthy. They must be smart as hell.

Beefcake the Mighty June 4, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Perhaps one of these days K Ackermann can tell us what point he’s trying to make.

Byzantine June 4, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Anglo-Saxons, Scots-Irish, Ashkenazi Jews.

newson June 4, 2010 at 8:50 pm

note the problems with racial categorization that israel itself faces with respect to african jews, eager to immigrate. the same problem exists in australia with aboriginals, certain (generous) welfare payments being open only to them. proof of aborigine extraction is a mix of cultural evidence and tracing (where possible) family ties.

this same fuzziness has thwarted “dangerous breed” legislation here in australia. the defendent’s lawyer tells the court that the pit-bull is really a poodle with a jus a touch of something more aggressive, and only looks like a killer. case dismissed.

Biorealist June 10, 2010 at 4:37 pm

***K Ackermann June 4, 2010 at 12:40 pm
Well then Israel should be about the wealthiest nation there is on a per capita basis.***

Note that the study relates to Ashkenazi Jews who average about 110. I understand they make up about 35% of the Israeli population?

Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence, Journal of Biosocial Science 38 (5), pp. 659–693 (2006)

Russ June 4, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Does this take into account the scientifically indisputable fact that a nice pair of tits can lower a man’s IQ by 20 points?

K Ackermann June 4, 2010 at 12:43 pm

That’s only a temporary reduction, and the loss can be substantially higher.

It gives new meaning to ‘Ignorance is Bliss.’

Robert Blumen June 3, 2010 at 10:15 am

My definition of intelligence is the ability to make successful choices in your environment concerning your needs.

Does IQ measure this? I’m not sure and I’m not familiar with that literature. I suspect that people with high IQs are more likely to be admitted to medical school or law school. Do entrepreneurs tend to have high IQs? I don’t know. While they are very important to the economic development of a nation, they may have something that is not measurable other than by their success in the market.

High IQs can also be neutral-to-harmful to a nation. I don’t doubt that all of the socialist and communist academics with Ph.D.s have high IQs. They use their intelligence to influence the nation’s policies and persuade the population to go in a direction that diminishes economic growth.

I remember reading an article about Clinton administration policy maker Ira Magaziner. This guy had a big role in drafting the Clinton health care bill. The bill was quite long and complex (thought probably not as long as the one that recently passed). I’m sure that this guy had a really high IQ and was doing his best to damage the economy.

K Ackermann June 4, 2010 at 11:15 am

Being illiterate in Cambodia was a good survival trait under Pol Pot.

Robert Blumen June 3, 2010 at 10:17 am

To continue my previous post, a small group of people with high IQs can retard or eliminate the productive contributions of a large class of entrepreneurs.

Beefcake the Mighty June 3, 2010 at 10:23 am

So, are you suggesting that entrepreneurs would be better off collaborating with stupid people, rather than smart people?

Arend June 3, 2010 at 10:59 am

Basic logic learns you that Mr. Blumen never claimed that the fact that certain intelligent/high IQ people retard productivity and wealth means that all intelligent/high IQ people do that.

Personally I totally agree with Jonathan. Also, statistical significance means it CAN be measured but it does not mean we can know its influence vis-a-vis other independent variables, which are always somehow dependent as well.

Thereby, experts who decide top-down do not have a good track record in history as far as I can see. Intelligent people can do good in the one institutional framework and do bad in another. My thesis would be that intelligent people would probably be highly productive in an individualist society vis-a-vis a collectivist society. They would do bad in the latter whether they have ‘good’ or ‘bad’ ideas, morals etc. just because of the institutional make-up. Individualist societies will be beneficial for both intelligent and less intelligent people just as a result of emergent orders inherent in human nature (private property, the tendency towards non-agression, division of labor etc). A country with brainiacs but without much capital will however not be able to fare at the top level of productivity just because human capital is not enough. Furthermore, the causal mechanism might be opposite: the extent to which people can effectuate their potentiality depends on educational institutions, which will only be effective in countries which are relatively more wealthy in the first place and which are relatively less collectivist.

The relationship between IQ and wealth is much too simple an equation.

Ed June 3, 2010 at 11:47 am

The IQ argument is irrelevant for many reasons. Anthropological studies have shown the Cro-Magnon man (humans of ~30,000 yrs ago) had on average slightly larger brains than modern humans. While this does not necessitate a higher iq; chances are, on an individual basis, Cro-Magnon man was smarter (in a multi-area way) than the modern individual. Were they richer than modern man?

And this makes sense. Almost any wild species on an individual basis is smarter than a domesticated species (of the same order). Wolves, e.g., are smarter than dogs. As a population becomes more domesticated, in the case of humans, more economically developed; there’s less of a need for being individually bright since self-sufficiency (hunting e.g.) is no longer necessary. Everyone becomes literally more like sheep in a herd.

Moreover, you could just as easily make the argument that the blossoming of wide-scale cooperation requires a bit of docility on behalf of some individuals. And docility does not equal greater IQ.

Byzantine June 3, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Cro-Magnon man was smarter (in a multi-area way) than the modern individual. Were they richer than modern man?

No, because civilization is a process of accretion that spans millenia. For the first folks to figure out how to survive the Ice Age, they did pretty damn good. We currently reap the fruits of our Cro-Magnon ancestors being winnowed through natural selection for tool-making and abstract thought.

Wolves, e.g., are smarter than dogs. As a population becomes more domesticated, in the case of humans, more economically developed; there’s less of a need for being individually bright since self-sufficiency (hunting e.g.) is no longer necessary. Everyone becomes literally more like sheep in a herd.

QED, given the content of your post. But all sarcasm aside,

Dogs are less intelligent in certain areas because of the selection pressures put on them by humans. We don’t want them figuring out how to ambush small prey (i.e., children), so we breed their hunting skill set out of them, depending on the breed. In facial recognition and empathic response, Canis domesticus scores higher than his wild cousins. Again, selection pressures in a domestic human environment are different than selection pressures in old growth forests. Incidentally, as either Watson or Crick pointed out, if you want to know how human evolution works, don’t waste your time with chimps. Study dogs instead.

BTW, economic development doesn’t mean human evolution has stopped. If anything, the process of genetic selection appears to be accelerating. Granted we’re no longer selecting for spear-throwing or tracking prey, but we are selecting.

J. Murray June 3, 2010 at 2:03 pm

The problem is you’ve made an improper assumption on the method of calculating intelligence. The reason Cro-Magnon man is considered “smarter” than modern man is the brain-mass ratio. Study of the Cro-Magnon cranium has shown it to have a larger brain to body mass ratio than modern man. But, there are a number of problems with this.

First is hard to demonstrate. The strongest indicator of intelligence is not brain mass but surface area. The larger the surface area, the greater potential intelligence. Surface area is dictated by the “wrinkles” in the brain. A smooth brain will have less intellectual capacity as a highly wrinkled one of the same mass. Since we do not know the makeup of the cro-magnon brain (it’s a soft organ made of fat and water, it won’t fossilize), we can’t claim that cro-magnon was any smarter.

Second, cro-magnon man lacked a physical trait that held them back relative to modern humans. This trait is the clefted chin. Cro-magnon skulls have a jutting chin, which allows for limited speech, but without the cleft that modern humans posess, the range of motion of the lower jaw was severely restricted, meaning cro-magnon man had far more limited speech capabilities, which translated into poorer coordination and poorer communication skills. The same problem is evidenced in Neanderthal man, which had a much larger brain than cro-magnon and modern man, but lacked even the jutting chin which to latch a useful tendon to.

Third, tool complexity of the three were overwhelmingly in favor of modern humans. Modern humans simply made superior tools to the other two groups, indicating a higher degree of intellect. It’s also why modern man ended up dominating over their cousins, modern man was simply better equipped to handle environmental changes that drove the other two branches to extinction.

The problem is that there is a definite correlation between intelligence and genetics and that, hypothetically, eugenics can work. However, eugenics is unnecessary in a limited government, market driven system since such individuals will naturally find themselves undesirable mates for reproduction.

Today, though, we are seeing a reversal of millenia of growth in this factor since the advent of social welfare systems. Social welfare programs do prove, unquestionably, that eugenics works, just that the impact is in the exact opposite of beneficial. The main issue is in reproduction, where government programs do create strong incentives for the least capable of our society to be the most prolific breeders. The wealthy and successful are punished to pay for the children of the poorest and least successful, thus removing resources to have children of their own.

The real answer is eugenics is just another one of those bad ideas to counter another bad idea when all we have to do is get rid of the original bad idea. Eliminate the welfare state and nature will take care of itself as those who are wealthy and successful will become the most likely to procreate.

Ed June 3, 2010 at 2:55 pm

I agree. Intelligence is difficult define. My intention was to suggest that it’s a plausible hypothesis that Cro-Magnon exceeded modern humans in IQ; not only due to larger brain size but also because the selective pressure today versus then (30,000 yrs ago) would arguably be less towards the type of intelligence tested for in IQ examinations. Rather more specialized types of intelligence (not accounted for in IQ tests) would be selected for (due to the build up division of labor); or in the case of the heavy welfare-state, less cooperative individuals that lack very little ability for self-sufficiency (for example planning ability).

And as for tool complexity there is recent evidence that humans may have adopted the tools of Neandertals, rather than have already been using different ‘better’ types. We came to Europe, stole the tools of Neandertals and wiped them out in the process. In other words, we’re more opportunists than anything. Check out the most recent Scientific American.

Allen Weingarten June 3, 2010 at 12:30 pm

I believe in the subjective theory of value, and also with von Mises, when he notes that “Individum est ineffabile”. Nonetheless, I submit that a group of people who have a 50 point IQ over another group, will be more productive. Does anyone believe it would not entail loss to hire the mentally handicapped? This does not mean that IQ is the primary cause of productivity, but that it is one of the factors that is correlated with the mix of causes. Similarly, when a nation increases its GDP (by any of many non-fraudulent measures) it indicates a rise in the satisfaction of wants. Does anyone deny that during the Great Depression people were worse off than they were a few years earlier? Or that people were better off in the post WWII years?

The view that we have no objective way of measuring intelligence or Gross Domestic Product, or their correlation, is not helpful. Rather it leaves the field to those who do so poorly.

Allen Weingarten June 3, 2010 at 1:36 pm

An Austrian might object to my acceptance of measurement, on the grounds that economics is a deductive science, such as mathematics, rather than an a posteriori science that depends upon measurement. Yet mathematicians take advantage of measurement, such as by sampling and simulations that do not prove theorems, but provide promising lines of investigation. More pertinent is that engineers will rely upon such data to render decisions that are most plausible. So an Austrian may take advantage of measurements, not to derive theorems, but to render plausible conclusions, and to engage in economic policy which goes beyond economic science.

Predrag June 3, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Thank you all for reading the article. I am glad there is interest in the topic. I will not address all the comments, as some are already addressed in the article.

With respect to the “guilt by association” claim and the relevance of my personal link to the issue, the purpose of this was to provide some context. It may, or may not be relevant, depending on the reader.

Regarding the claim that everyone who studies “racial” differences is a closed Nazi – no, that does not follow from the article. Whether this applies to Lynn, is a question that others have written about. The literature is available.

Note that I am not questioning Lynn’s statistical results but the economic meaning of those results, and his normative prescriptions.The definitions of economic success and value, elaborated in the article, are important here.

Also, the difference between practicing eugenics as personal preference (i.e., marrying someone you think is superior to others) and eugenics as public policy (i.e., regulating individual lives in order to achieve some outcome, preferred by the policy-maker) is important.

Byzantine June 3, 2010 at 3:39 pm

The only normative prescription by Lynn that you reference is, basically, an IQ test for immigration. Universities, among many other public and private institutions, discriminate on the basis of IQ all the time. They don’t regard IQ as irrelevant (or immeasurable) at all. Objections to the State aside, desiring a certain level of g factor intelligence in the people who will be your neighbors does not give rise to the parade of horribles you seem to think it would. Civil society is highly stratified by IQ and, uncomfortable fact, racial groups are not equally distributed across the strata. And, to get back to Lynn’s point, financial worth generally (not, of course, always) tends to be greater among higher IQ individuals.

Do you really believe a country with a mean IQ of 85 can achieve the same degree of economic success as a country with a mean IQ of 100, all other things being equal? The evidence, as Lynn points out, is that they cannot. This is where I find your article rather intellectually slippery: you cannot dispute Lynn’s findings, so you simply say, “It doesn’t matter,” as if Liberia is equivalent to Germany because people in both countries are able to exert action to satisfy their wants–end of story. Well, no it’s not, and that’s why people select for IQit appears to matter very much to universities, prospective spouses, neighbors, investors, etc.

Predrag June 3, 2010 at 6:35 pm

No, Lynn does not suggest an IQ test for immigration but immigration policies based on the race/nation of origin, and justifies them by claiming that it is better to promote immigration from the nations with high average IQ scores. There is no disputes among psychologists that IQ scores (because these are actual numbers) vary within a population. In this sense, even Lynn and the like-minded psychologists agree that there are high IQ individuals in all populations. However, they opt for the racial “shortcut”.

No one disputes that people use their own preferences (that may include any characteristic of another individual) when forming associations. However, one of the points of the article is that individual preferences do not qualify as a universal ethical principle. This is why I make reference to Kant, Rothbard and Hoppe.

With respect to the “it doesn’t matter” argument – it may matter to you or many other people, and that’s fine. All of us are free (more or less) to evaluate different places based on our own subjective valuations.With respect to the “economic success of countries”, in the article, I have clearly defined economic success (within the subjective theory of value) as the degree to which one (an individual) satisfies his or her wants and needs.

No one disputes that there are more, say – cars, in Germany than in Liberia. But this does not imply that there are not enough cars in Liberia.The way one could determine whether there are indeed not enough cars in the geographic area called Liberia would be to allow individuals in from this area, and elsewhere, freely associate with the individuals in the other geographic areas. In this case, some might pick their associates based on eye colour, physical build, intellectual characteristics etc. That’s all fine. What does not follow is that one characteristic should be imposed on all to be the most important – and this is the main objective of racial hygiene argument.

Byzantine June 4, 2010 at 8:18 am

However, they opt for the racial “shortcut”.

All right, but you’re still dancing around the data. If I assume Liberian immigrants will have lower IQ than German immigrants and skew immigration quotas in favor of Germany, what’s going to happen–I’m going to miss out on Liberia’s vast knowledge base of engineering and metallurgy?

in the article, I have clearly defined economic success (within the subjective theory of value) as the degree to which one (an individual) satisfies his or her wants and needs.

But how helpful is that? If the Liberians are able to satisfy (completely!) their wants for machetes and gang-rape, does that make them an ‘economic success?’

Predrag June 4, 2010 at 8:33 am

I don’t think I am dancing around the area. I am arguing that if one prefers high IQ people then he can find them anywhere in the world. You (as an individual) are free to associate with any person in the world based on your personal preferences. However, imposing immigration standards based on race, institutionalizes someone’s preferences about the desirable qualities of other humans.

Beefcake the Mighty June 4, 2010 at 8:37 am

Imposing *any* immigration standards “institutionalizes someone’s preferences about the desirable qualities of other humans.” Or, are you an open borders advocate? Do you think there should be NO restrictions on immigration (really, migration)?

Michael June 4, 2010 at 8:55 am

Excellent points! I’ve noticed that many who reject the author’s treatment of IQ or racial and national intelligence as unimportant economic categories simply assume that IQ scores are valid measures of a nebulous and ill-defined concept of “intelligence.”

I hasten to point out that in his essay on natural elites and intellectuals (http://mises.org/etexts/intellectuals.asp), Hoppe observes that, throughout history, those who are most economically successful–defined as those who best satisfy the needs and wants of others and, in doing so, gain the means to satisfy their own needs and wants–tend NOT to be intellectuals, and thus presumably would score low on the very tests designed by the state-supported intellectuals to measure what they, the intellectuals, deem to be “intelligence.”

Now let’s be “anti-intellectual intellectuals” and think about the ideas being foisted on us by these intellectuals!

Now, if I were in charge of developing the IQ test, the first question I would ask would be:

(1) True or False: IQ researchers have found a valid measure of a unitary phenomenon known as “intelligence,” have correlated performance on objective intelligence tests with race, and have a falsifiable, well developed theory explaining the relationship between cognitive ability and certain genes underlying traits deemed by social convention to be racial indicators.

If your answer is true, you fail the test. Low score for you.

“The Bell Curve” argument for IQ, much like Keynesian economics, has been subjected to devastating critiques from which it can never hope to recover, because the assumptions on which it is based have been shown to be, at best, inadequately established, if not totally false. See Gould’s “The Mismeasure of Man”; Marvin Harris’s “Theories of Culture in a Post-Modern World” (pp. 65-98); Lawrence Kuznar’s “Reclaiming a Scientific Anthropology” (pp.101-108 ).)

(See also my post above on the “race” as a bogus biological category.)

(See also this episode of the Corbett Report addresses the latest way the international elite are trying to insinuate genocidal policies under a veneer of pseudo-science that is similar to the bogus race science of the late 19th and early 20th centuries: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTbyjUnYmMs)

Predrag June 4, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Beefcake the Mighty, people who possess qualities that I, my wife and child agree to be interesting to us, is always welcome in our home (and home here is not a metaphor for a country but the actual residence). However, I cannot provide much input to those looking for a standard to be imposed on others who wish to welcome someone in their home, property, business etc.

Beefcake the Mighty June 4, 2010 at 1:31 pm

OK, by your evasion I conclude you’re an open borders advocate.

Predrag June 4, 2010 at 1:39 pm

I have been labeled many things. It’s pretty ironic actually, since I am quite label-averse. But, that’s beside the point. All the best!

Schwartz June 10, 2010 at 1:52 am

***See Gould’s “The Mismeasure of Man”***


Gould not only leaves out information that is inconvenient, bit goes as far as misrepresenting the positions of others. Very little of what Gould says stands up to scrutiny, whether it is his comments on factor analysis & g, brain size, or group scores of Ashkenazi jews. For an up to date view on psychometrics and progress on understanding the neurological basis for intelligence see:

The neuroscience of human intelligence differenceslarspenke.eu [PDF]IJ Deary, L Penke, W Johnson – Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2010


Gottfredson, L. S. (in press). Intelligence and social inequality: Why the biological link? In T. Chamorro-Premuzic, A. Furhnam, & S. von Stumm (Eds.), Handbook of Individual Differences. Wiley-Blackwell.

newson June 4, 2010 at 9:27 pm

what is needed is a “scientific” study linking satisfaction with intelligence.

newson June 4, 2010 at 9:22 pm

this sounds like homo oeconomicus. “success” is not just monetary wealth.

Anthony June 3, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Does nobody realize that correaltion does not equal causation? What came first, poverty or low IQ? Is it perhaps that the educational opportunities, superior nutrition, etc. in western countries led to superior IQ? Maybe and maybe not, but these historical population studies are unable to solve the problem. That is not even mentoning the idea that IQ tests are inevitably biased towards the culture that wrote them.

This is not to say that I don’t believe in intelligience, or even that people in one region could have a higher intelligience than people in another region. The problem is with drawing conclusions about what caused what based only on statistics.

Mises dealt quite well with the problems of using statistics to analyse human action in the opening chapters of Human Acition.

barack obama II June 3, 2010 at 5:01 pm


Beefcake the Mighty June 3, 2010 at 3:09 pm

“Is it perhaps that the educational opportunities, superior nutrition, etc. in western countries led to superior IQ?”

And all of of these things just fell out of the sky, randomly falling in western nations and not non-western nations?

barack obama II June 3, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Yes. Well, actually the infant just fell out of his mother’s womb into the western world. Consider the mathematical phenomena of compounding.

Anthony June 3, 2010 at 11:14 pm

I don’t doubt that the culture in many non-western nations leads to fewer opportunities, nor that the cultural environment in the “West” (very broadly construed) is more conducive to material wealth. What I doubt is that the success (or lack thereof) is inherently based on race.

If I white baby from a rich family was switched at birth with a poor African baby do you truly think that the white baby would do better because of some inherent superiority, independent of the opportunities presented by his upbringing?

Schwartz June 10, 2010 at 1:55 am

***If I white baby from a rich family was switched at birth with a poor African baby do you truly think that the white baby would do better because of some inherent superiority, independent of the opportunities presented by his upbringing?***

See the results of adoption studies and studies debated here.

June 2005 issue of Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol. 11, No. 2.

Also, a good summary on the Gene Expression site.



Tony Flood June 3, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Relevant to all this is Mises’ Socialism, Chapter 19, Section 5. The whole section, entitled “Racial War,” is interesting, of course, but see especially this: “We see at once,” writes Mises, “that it [racial theory] contains nothing directly inimical to the doctrine of the division of labour. The two are quite compatible. It may be assumed that races do differ in intelligence and will power, and that, this being so, they are very unequal in their ability to form society, and further that the better races distinguish themselves precisely by their special aptitude for strengthening social co-operation. This hypothesis throws light on various aspects of social evolution not otherwise easily comprehensible. It enables us to explain the development and regression of the social division of labour and the flowering and decline of civilizations. We leave it open whether the hypothesis itself and the hypothesis erected on it are tenable. At the moment this does not concern us. We are solely concerned to show that the race theory is easily compatible with our theory of social co-operation.” (Italics added.)Does Rajsic believe Mises was wrong to “leave it open,” that racial theory and economic theory are not compatible, that Mises was evidencing some cognitive dissonance, or that what follows Mises’ “it may be assumed” is not something Mises actually believes?

Predrag June 3, 2010 at 3:40 pm

I think that what Mises is arguing here is that the case for social cooperation remains unchanged, regardless of the answer to the proposed racial hypothesis. I do not disagree with this. In fact, this is one of the main points of the article. I would just add that the choice whether to cooperate or not is individual, not racial. I don’t think Mises would disagree on this.

Beefcake the Mighty June 3, 2010 at 3:54 pm

True, but this has very little to do with Lynn’s point. As Byzantine pointed out, you seem to be engaged in a bit of slipperyness in this whole endeavor.

Predrag June 3, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Hopefully, the above comment addresses this.

Beefcake the Mighty June 4, 2010 at 7:55 am

Not really. The way you define economic success precludes any aggregation. That’s fine, Austrians have given many good reasons for viewing aggregation as problematic. But to say it’s problematic doesn’t mean its illegitimate or meaningless; there’s plenty wrong with the concept of GDP, but do you really think that if GDP decreased by 10% (say) in one year, that wouldn’t be telling you something about the individuals whose consumption makes up that aggregate? Lynn plainly doesn’t agree with your implicit strong viewpoint on aggregation, so you are not really addressing his claims.

Predrag June 4, 2010 at 8:13 am

While important, aggregation is not the main issue here. As I said in the article, the GDP would tell you something about a region (depending what you are looking for) but what it would not allow you to do is to compare the degree to which individuals in different regions met their ends. Aggregation only compounds the pre-existing problem of interpersonal incomparability of utility.

Del Lindley June 3, 2010 at 4:03 pm

I would think that the members of this community would find Lynn’s result an unsurprising corollary of Economic Theory. The fact that the multi-dimensional concepts of wealth and intelligence cannot be measured in a scalar fashion does not mean that information regarding their presence cannot be extracted from populations.

Let us assume that the IQ test measures something called “IQ-ness” (the ability to conduct basic abstract thinking quickly) and GDP measures something called “GDP-ness” (the level of real spending for goods and services.) While IQ-ness discounts the ability to conduct advanced abstract thinking slowly and GDP-ness ignores non-monetary transactions, it is clear that both gauges are incomplete even with respect to their advertized qualities. However it can be argued rather convincingly that IQ-ness and GDP-ness are necessary attributes of their broader conceptual counterparts.

I can see two theoretical avenues that could explain a correlation between IQ-ness and GDP-ness among nations:

1) It would be entirely plausible to expect that there is a correlation between IQ-ness and time preference (consumption/savings). Abstract thinkers are perhaps more likely to appreciate the value in deferred gratification (savings) than those with limited planning abilities. If this is true then we would arrive at the obvious “result” that, ceteris paribus, nations of greater wealth tend to have lower social time preferences.

2) The greater the IQ-ness of a nation, the easier it would be for this population to progress into a deeper production structure once the social time preference permits it. The abilities of abstract thinkers (as labor factors) will in general find greater expression (i.e. productivity) when employed as planners and producers of capital goods. To the degree that each labor factors makes some contribution to each stage of production, a high overall IQ-ness further eases the transitions within a progressing economy.

Ultimately it is the social time preference (and its consequences) that controls the material wealth potential of a nation. How fully this potential is achieved depends on the range of preferences, interests, talents, and skills of its people.

Of course none of these comments should be interpreted as an argument for a public “genetics” policy.

Beefcake the Mighty June 3, 2010 at 4:15 pm

If I recall correctly, Lynn also highlights a point Austrians should find sensible: institutions matter. Thus, high-IQ Poles and Chinese have had (until recently) poor economic performance, attributable to the rotten economic systems they had adopted/imposed upon them.

barack obama II June 3, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Whatever happened to the different forms of intelligence?

What difference does a poet with a high IQ make to productivity?

I know plenty of small business owners who are very successful — not one of them would be classified with an extraordinarily high IQ; many never attended college. Yet, they are more productive than any academic.

If we’re taking this to the extreme (mental retardation vs. not mental retardation), then there might be a point.

Statue of Liberty June 3, 2010 at 7:49 pm

From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Joe June 3, 2010 at 10:26 pm

For 6 thousand years humankind was on the verge of starvation. All the intellects in the world did little to change the situation. Lo and behold there was an Industrial Revolution in England and magically the plight of the poor man was greatly reduced.
Here is a fact and I hope you all have common sense to understand. Any nation that does not have a social system with free markets and property rights will continue to barely survive. It has nothing to do withs their IQ’s. Embrace CAPITALISM and give people the freedom to succeed based on their efforts and you will be able to feed the world. China is a Communistic country and they are finding out that to feed all of their citizens they needed to resort to Capitalism. THe USA is going in the other direction, and they will find out the pain of Socialism.
As they say, ” what goes around comes around.”

Anthony June 3, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Well said, Joe.

Sean W. Malone June 4, 2010 at 3:13 pm

6 thousand? Try… 200,000+

Troy Camplin June 4, 2010 at 1:46 am

The problem is that Lynn gets it backwards. Wealth comes about from trade, and denser populations then emerge from that trade, making trade easier to engage in, increasing wealth. This results in a more complex society. The brains of the people living in such societies complexify in response to the complexity of their societies, thus increasing their I.Q. Thus, it is wealth which increases I.Q.

Byzantine June 4, 2010 at 8:33 am

Assuming trade and population density increase IQ, how do you explain disparities in mean IQ among population groups in, say, the US?

barack obama II June 4, 2010 at 2:24 pm

I would simply say that is empirical evidence of whatever you want it to be. Nothing can be determined from that information alone. Statistical Analysis was a beautiful class and I would be interested to see what equation is being used to control for the contribution that ONLY “population group” has on IQ. Even then, one would have to explain why it’s “population group” as opposed to hair color or nail length that is making that contribution.

Byzantine June 4, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Even then, one would have to explain why it’s “population group” as opposed to hair color or nail length that is making that contribution.

It’s a pretty discrete set of phenotypes. I’ll leave you to guess which ones.

K Ackermann June 4, 2010 at 11:26 am

All in all, I liked the article.

One thing I’d question is the idea that charity could be wasted on those deemed not worthy of receiving it. It only uses half of the calculus. The less worthy need to eat too, and they will eat, even if they have to steal from you. It’s always best to make sure everyone is well fed.

Michael June 8, 2010 at 9:20 am

Is this by any chance Ken from UD?

Tony Flood June 4, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Economic theory’s interdict against interpersonal comparability of utility should not be abused to suggest that the ethically relevant question, “Why are some countries wealthier than others?” is unintelligible. The individual is not a species unto himself or herself: qua human, we all “prefer life to death, health to sickness, nourishment to starvation, abundance to poverty,” as Mises put it (http://mises.org/daily/2528).Less Kantian, more natural law-type theorists than Mises, however, have not been theoretically satisfied with an empirical observation of these “preferences” (which can unfortunately connote person-variable tastes). No, built into the foundation of their thinking is the affirmation of life, health, nourishment, and abundance as good objectively, that is, regardless of whether they are valued subjectively. (Unlike Mr. Rajsic, I would not mention Kant, Hoppe, and the Rothbard in the same breath on the subject of ethics without qualifying my point, practically to death.)Now, an objective standard of the good is a sound basis for interpersonal comparison. That is, one may say that, for example, Jones is leading a good life, or approximating that standard better than Smith. And, without committing the fallacy of composition, we can judge whether one population is composed of people who enjoy more elements of the good life, and to a higher degree, than is another, and therefore infer that one population is in an important sense wealthier than another. And then we can ask why this is so. Even if we conclude that I.Q is a factor in the explanation and accept that that factor has a genetic as well as a cultural root, no state-eugenics policy recommendations follow. Rejection of Lynn’s politics – a no-brainer for libertarians – should not color a libertarian’s assessment of the evidence for his “racial realism.”While we are scribbling about this, we may hope that Hoppe and Lynn are engaged in a fruitful exchange of ideas at the Property and Freedom Society meeting in Bodrum .

Predrag June 4, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Thank you, Mr. Flood, for your comment. However, what I see here is that Mises asks the question – given that, ceteris paribus, most of us prefer life to death, health to sickness,etc. what is the social arrangement that is most likely to bring about these goals? (Peter Boettke extends this analysis in a great way). In that sense, we could claim that, say, most Liberians would prefer a system that would bring about more of everything for everyone.

I don’t dispute that one may be able to explain why some geographical regions are different from some other regions (in many respects). Many people have done this in brilliant ways.

We can also compare different statistical metrics in different regions such as life expectancy etc. However, the ceteris paribus criterion does not hold any more, and this is why quantitative comparisons are problematic.

The point that I wanted to make is that, given the circumstances, one cannot claim that a person in, say Germany, is more able to meet his/her needs (i.e., more efficient) than some person in some other place.

But, this does not mean that the socio-economic system in one place cannot be changed to be more conductive for the individual’s pursuit of their own goals.

I will give an example from my own life but this is just for illustration purposes. I came to Canada 9 years ago. If someone asked me, where would I prefer to live now, I would say – here, in Canada. But this is mainly because I have adapted to this place and I don’t want to go thought the hassle of moving adapting to a new environment again (if there are not some other benefits there).

If someone asked me – were you better able to meet your needs (i.e. were you more efficient as an economic actor) in former Yugoslavia then or here in Canada now – I would say – I can’t compare this. I don’t know; I did my best in both places. I had different things then compared to now.

However, I could claim that the socio-economic system in Canada is more conductive to what I would like to do now.

The whole point is that if a person lives his/her whole life digging roots in the middle of a jungle – this does not mean he is less economically efficient than a BMW designer. Both are doing their best given the circumstances.

One might, however, put his/her own value judgment whether it is better to satisfy your needs in one or the other way. Now, whether I would like to cooperate with someone digging roots? Maybe, maybe not, bit this is a personal choice.

Biorealist June 10, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Smart fractions are particularly important.

“A large amount of studies published in the last two decades has shown that cognitive ability
levels of societies are relevant for the development of positively valued aspects of peoples
and countries. Following an economic research tradition “human capital” is relevant for
economic growth and wealth (Hanushek & Kimko, 2000; Lynn & Vanhanen, 2002, 2006; Jones &
Schneider, 2006; Weede, 2006; Rindermann, 2008a). In addition, cognitive ability of nations has
a positive impact on political development, in that it helps building up democracy, the rule of
law and political liberty (Simpson, 1997; Rindermann, 2008b). Intelligence, knowledge and
the intelligent use of knowledge also have beneficial effects on health, for instance they act as
a brake on the spread of HIV (Oesterdiekhoff & Rindermann, 2007; Lakhanpal & Ram, 2008;
Rindermann & Meisenberg, 2009). Finally, cognitive competence is relevant for the
development of modernity as a societal and especially as a cultural phenomenon consisting of
education, autonomy, liberty, morality and rationality (Habermas, 1985/1981; Meisenberg,
2004; Oesterdiekhoff, 2008; Lynn, Harvey & Nyborg, 2009). Societies at a higher ability level
develop more complex, more evidence-based, more ethical and more rational world views.
For some scholars like Georg Oesterdiekhoff (2000) or Michael Hart (2007) intelligence is the
driving force of history.

These broad effects at the cross-national data level are backed in different societies by results
at the individual level for job performance and wealth (Bacharach & Baumeister, 1998; Schmidt
& Hunter, 2004; Irwing & Lynn, 2006; Rindermann & Thompson, 2009), for tolerance, civic
political attitudes and participation in elections (Herrnstein & Murray, 1994; Denny & Doyle,
2008; Deary, Batty & Gale, 2008), for health behavior and health (Goldman & Smith, 2002;
Gottfredson, 2004), moral judgment (Piaget, 1997/1932; Kohlberg, 1987) and more rational
world views (Oesterdiekhoff, 2000; Nyborg, 2009)…

The smart fraction is regarded as responsible for progress in a utilitarian sense (wealth, health
and power), but also for achievements in a non-utilitarian sense (music, literature, art, religion,
ethics, philosophy and world-views).”

‘The impact of smart fractions, cognitive ability of politicians and average competence of peoples on social development’

Talent Development & Excellence
Vol. 1, No. 1, 2009, 3-25

Heiner Rindermann1,*, Michael Sailer1 and James Thompson2


Predrag June 13, 2010 at 12:04 am

Again, this is an exercise in, on one had, stating the obvious (that individuals and populations around the globe are not identical), and on the other, measuring the degree to which different people and populations meet some arbitrary standard, deemed desirable by the observer. By whom are these “positively valued aspects of peoples and countries” being determined?

Fifty years ago, half of the planet thought that a one-party communist system is something that should be “positively valued”.Before 1592, North Americans had a stable socio-political and economic system based on communal property, and a system of national/tribal negotiations for conflict resolution. Then some more “complex” people came to show them that there are some other societal aspects that should be “positively valued,” like killing and enslaving people who have particular skin pigmentation.

Furthermore, It is not obvious (and what is not obvious needs to be explained) why complexity is better than simplicity; why participation in elections is better than non-participation; why democracy is better than any other political system; and so on.

Dostoevsky understood well that there is a thin line between idiocy and genius and that both are present in each of us. For example, Nikola Tesla, whom some call “the man who invented the twentieth century” died alone and penniless in a New York hotel. He saw a mental picture of an alternate current generator (this is what powers most electrical devices now) while reciting one of Goethe’s poems. Everything he did had to be divisible by 3. If it wasn’t, he would repeat everything until this condition was fulfilled. Even though he had over 700 patents, he ended up using up all his assets and trust of the investors by pursuing one failed project, which he believed would provide a source of free energy for all humanity. At the time his generators lighted up the Chicago Fair, he was one of the most celebrated public figures. At the end of his life he was ridiculed and pitied by pretty much everyone. Tesla was one of those who discovered both his inner genius and the inner idiot. Some of us discover one or the other and some discover none.

Predrag June 14, 2010 at 7:32 am

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