Hive Mind

How Your Nation’s IQ Matters So Much More Than Your Own

[Amazon Link]

Another book snagged for me by the intrepid librarians at the University Near Here from Williams College via the Boston Library Consortium. I will miss this service when I retire in a few months.

This book by is by Garett Jones, an econ prof at George Mason University's Center for Study of Public Choice. I believe I put it on the to-be-read pile when I read a glowing review from Jones's GMU co-prof, Bryan Caplan. (Also see Caplan's followup post.) The book is short (168 pages of main text) and accessibly written; although the underlying thesis is heavily statistical, I don't think I saw a single R2 value; there are several scatterplots which imply important correlations.

The thesis is summed up pretty neatly by the book's subtitle. In short, it's good to be smart, but as far as your quality of life goes, it's better to be in close proximity to a lot of smart people. Why? The book delves into the ways high-IQ polities can (and to whatever extent research can verify) do lead to advantage. High-IQ people tend to be more patient, with longer time horizons; hence investment is favored over consumption. This also implies they can play out, in a game-theoretical sense, long-term strategies that result in positive-sum outcomes. In the political arena, smart voters are less likely to fall for fallacious arguments from ignorant and demagogic candidates… oh, hey, wait a minute here.

[Coincidentally, I noted this recent article: "Human intelligence is declining according to Stanford geneticist". Oh oh.]

It's all well and good to observe the relation between mass-IQ and mass well-being, but what does that imply for policy? Well, Jones makes much of the Flynn Effect, the notion that average IQ improved over recent history. (But see above.) Jones argues, plausibly, that whatever we can do to improve average IQ (short of, you know, the bad old eugenicist tactics) would be worth exploring: improved childhood nutrtion, alter immigration policies to favor the smarter, etc.

All in all, a decent read.


Last Modified 2016-04-25 5:56 AM EDT