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Flynn Effect

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There is a new expert survey out which, amongst other things, queries the world’s top psychometrics experts on the future of the FLynn effect (Flynn + Lynn – clever).

future-FLynn-effect-to-2100 James Thompson has a summary at his column.

The two most important reasons for the end of the FLynn effect in the West are regarded to be “low intelligent more children” (henceforth, “dysgenics“) and migration.

Here is my take (assuming no human genetic editing, neural augs, etc).

East Asia – +0. Have no idea where the high end estimates come from – Japan and Korea are already fully developed and have maxed out their FLynn potential, while China’s indicators on education, nutrition, and social well-being – as is typical in Communist countries – are considerably ahead of its GDP per capita. And the former are more important for IQ than pure wealth. I suspect any further marginal FLynn gains will be canceled out by dysgenics, which have been acting on China since the 1960s (Wang et al., 2016).

India – +10. Currently around 80 according to both IQ tests and PISA. I suspect India’s average genotypic IQ is ~95, though strongly differentiated by caste. However, the dysgenics trend seems to be strong, acting via both region (dirt poor and highly illiterate Bihar is the most fertile, while Kerala with its competent governance and historical achievements in mathematics is the least fertile) and caste (scheduled castes have highest fertility, while the Brahmin share of the population is declining since at least the 1930s).

Africa – +10. Currently around 70-75, suspect it “should be” 85-90, but doubt Africa will actually develop enough socio-economically to fully max out its potential FLynn effect.

Latin America – -3. Few of these countries can be described as truly Third World, especially the more significant ones, and nutrition is quite adequate (e.g. Brazil consumes as much meat per capita as Germany). As such, I suspect most of its FLynn gains have already been actualized! Meanwhile, dysgenic trends amongst the elites are strong, while the lower IQ, more indigenous underclass continues to expand rapidly.

Arab/Muslim countries – -3. A lot really depends on whether they start to seriously clamp down on first cousin marriages, which could raise IQs by as much as 10 points. A few like Tajikistan are taking this seriously, but most are not, and first cousin marriages remain stubbornly high. As such, Arab and Muslim IQs will probably decline due to dysgenics and brain drain arising from future geopolitical convulsions (according to some calculations, solar is already reaching cost parity with fossil fuels; what happens when countries like Saudi Arabia lose their oil rents?).

Australia – +0. Agree with the FLynn experts – any modest dysgenics are cancelled out by their cognitively elitist immigration policy.

Eastern Europe – -3. Less likely to be inundated with Third World immigrants, at least so long as Germany doesn’t become a total dump, but East-Central Europe has already maxed out Flynn, continues to experience brain drain, and Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria in particular have a Gypsy problem. Russia and Ukraine might gain a couple of points if, as expected, their Soviet-legacy alcoholization epidemics continue to recede; but Russia, in particular, has immigration issues of its own (Central Asia = Mexico), while Ukraine is bleeding out brains and will in all likelihood long continue to do so. Finally, as in Western Europe, fertility patterns are dysgenic in all these countries.

Israel – -5. Will probably plummet as duller nationalists and the religious continue outbreeding seculars, plus brain drain.

Canada – -3. Cognitively elite immigration policy like Australia, but annul their own efforts by importing Somali refugees.

Scandinavia – -4. Sweden Yes!

West-Middle Europe – -4. Strong dysgenics, and huge IQ hit from immigration, but at least for now gets many of the more intelligent Mediterranean Europeans.

West in general – -4.

Southern Europe – -6. Triple whammy from Third World immigration, brain drain to northern Europe, and possibly the most strongly dysgenic fertility patterns in the world.

USA – -3. Latin America will of course continue exerting downwards pressure, but dysgenics amongst White Americans is relatively mild, it attracts the world’s cognitive crème de la crème, the Hispanic baby boom has subsided following the Great Recession, and Trump is promising a Big Beautiful Wall. So I am considerably more optimistic about the US than most. Furthermore, if Europe truly goes belly up, the US may even get a big cognitive boost from the richer Europeans fleeing the fruits of their earlier political choices.

• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Flynn Effect, Futurism, Psychometrics 
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The Flynn effect has reversed in terms of spatial IQ, according to a big recent meta-study by Jakob Pietschnig and Georg Gittler.

James Thompson has a good summary in Deutschland über alles, dann unter allen?

In the present meta-analysis, we show an inverse u-shaped trajectory of IQ test performance changes in a large number of samples (k = 96; N = 13,172) on a well known test for spatial perception (the three-dimensional cubes test, 3DC) in German-speaking countries over 38 years (1977–2014). Assessment of both item response theory-based measures as well as more standard measures of classical test theory showed initial increases and a subsequent decrease of performance when controlling for age, sample type (general population vs. mixed samples vs. university students) and sex. Our results suggest saturation and diminishing returns of IQ increasing factors (e.g., life history speed) whilst negative associations of IQ changes with psychometric g may have led to the observed IQ score decrease in more recent years.

Below is the version of the graph that has been corrected for age, sex, and sample time. The all time peak seems to have occured around the mid-1990s.


The PISA tests have indicated that (ethnic) Germans might have some of the highest IQs in Europe. This is credible in light of their historical intellectual accomplishments in the 19th century through to the 1930s, even though Germans were typically shorter (i.e. probably less well fed) and certainly poorer per capita than the British. The Finns are brighter on average, but have a small standard deviation, hence much fewer geniuses.

However, I suspect that since the 1920s and certainly since the 1970s German fertility has become strongly dysgenic. This has started outrunning the benefits from better nutrition (essentially maxed out by the 1970s) and more intensive schooling. Furthermore, they have been brought down by immigrants, to the extent that in 2012 Germany as a whole was overtaken by Poland in the PISA tests.

Further from Pietschnig & Gittler:

Results from our linear regression analyses suggest decreases of about 4.8 IQ points per decade when controlling for age, sample type, and sex, thus indicating a substantial negative Flynn effect that is even stronger compared to previously observed positive trends (e.g., Flynn, 1984, 1987; Pietschnig & Voracek, 2015). This trend was observed in linear regression analyses, but our results showed that the present changes over time may be even better described as a curvilinear function, thus indicating initial increases, followed by stagnation (with performance peaking around the mid-1990s), and subsequent decreases of task performance.

Incidentally, this is one of the factors you have to bear in mind when looking at historical “human accomplishment” (in science, literature, art, etc) and the puzzle of why East Asians don’t figure largely in it for all their high IQs. Not only were the key countries – UK, Germany, etc – well ahead of the likes of China and Japan in terms of nutrition (related to IQ) and general development (schooling, funding for science) but they also enjoyed a bonus from not yet having fallen on the dysgenic slope. I suspect this will likely remove any need for Jaymannian “clannishness” as a key explanatory factor.

But I digress; this is for another post.

Back to Germany – if you are in the throes of dysgenic decline, you might want to try to at least do some obvious things to slow it down, like not take in millions of 85 IQ Third World immigrants. Obviously this is not happening but I found it curious that the great scientist Heiner Rindermann has been given column space to call for exactly that in the German magazine Focus.

In it, he makes some of the following points:

  • Unlike the case of the Huguenots, whom the Elector Friedrich Wilhelm welcomed to Prussia in 1685, the wave of immigrants in the past years and months are lacking in human capital.
  • They perform at ~110 points below US and German standards in the PISA tests, or a difference of three years in terms of schooling age. The gap with Africa is more like four and a half years.
  • Even “elite” students like engineering students from the Gulf states are two to four years behind their German counterparts.
  • A recent study in Chemnitz, the city that hosts Rindermann’s university, showed that asylum seekers with university degrees had an average IQ of 93 – that is equivalent to that of Realschule students, i.e. prole children.
  • He mentions that this gap is not closed in the second generation, and even dares to mention cousin marriage as a contributory factor.
  • These groups will have higher unemployment, and their cognitive errors in daily life such as in traffic or professional decisions will negatively impact other people.
  • HE ACTUALLY GOES THERE and mentions the high incidence of violence against dissenters and sexual assaults in places where they congregate, such as immigrant neighborhoods and the refugee camps. He also mentions the statistic that whereas only 12% of the French population are Muslim they constitute 60% of the prison population, and alludes to the Rotherham mass rapes in Britain.
  • Diversity is associated with more crime and inequality, contrary to the positive rhetoric around it.

Furthermore, the comments to his article are generally positive.

Given the current climate, in which Angela Merkel openly demands that Mark Zuckerberg censor “hate” against immigrants on Facebook and the New York Times approving quotes a former East German apparatchik openly commiserating that anti-immigration activists from a village getting swamped by Third World immigrants are not getting arrested, I will admit to some degree of surprise that Rindermann was allowed his not very PC say. I hope he doesn’t get into trouble on account of this.

• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Dysgenic, Flynn Effect, Germany 
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Regular readers of this blog may remember my comments regarding Ron Unz’s theory that East Asians have high IQ’s independent of time/nutrition/urbanization whatever it is that causes the Flynn Effect. Here is his original article on his theory of the “East Asian Exception” and my two responses are here and here.

Anyway a new paper (well, July 2012) I think finally puts this theory to rest: The Flynn effect in Korea: large gains by Jan te Nijenhuis et al. Here is the abstract:

Secular gains in IQ test scores have been reported for many Western countries. This is the first study of secular IQ gains in South Korea, using various datasets. The first question is what the size of the Flynn effect in South Korea is. The gains per decade are 7.7 points for persons born between 1970 and 1990. These gains on broad intelligence batteries are much larger than the gains in Western countries of about 3 IQ points per decade. The second question is whether the Korean IQ gains are comparable to the Japanese IQ gains with a lag of a few decades. The gains in Japan of 7.7 IQ points per decade for those born approximately 1940 1965 are identical to the gains per decade for Koreans born 1970 1990. The third question is whether the Korean gains in height and education lag a few decades behind the Japanese gains. The Koreans reach the educational levels the Japanese reached 25 30 years before, and the gains in height for Koreans born 1970 1990 are very similar to gains in height for Japanese born 1940 1960, so three decades earlier. These findings combined strongly support the hypothesis of similar developmental patterns in the two countries.

So, similar processes (height is of course strongly associated with nutritional quality) leading to the same pattern of steady IQ gains that have been observed for all Western societies.

Incidentally, back during my discussion with Unz, I wrote: “Anyhow, I wish we could do tests on North Koreans. Their meat consumption is at less than 10kg a year and they have periodic famines. They are also directly comparable to South Koreans. They would conclusively prove your theory right or wrong!” The study authors concur on the benefits of testing the Norks:

Theoretically, it would be very interesting to do a study of secular score gains in IQ in North Korea. It appears that height has not increased in North Korea since the end of the Korean war. However, it may be that the quality and number of years of education has improved. This experiment of nature could throw some light on the question to what degree nutrition/hygiene and education influence score gains.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
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A few months ago I posted a table and map of Russian IQ’s as derived from regional PISA performance. Those figures are based on Jarkko Hautamäki’s slideshow comparing regional PISA performance in Finland and Russia.

That material is a bit inadequate because, as had been my custom up that point, I was only making IQ estimates based on the Math and Science components of the PISA tests, and avoiding Reading to maintain reverse compatibility with my (now disused, in favor of just IQ) Human Capital Index. In light of some realizations that verbal IQ is no less important than numerical, I have updated the figures to include the verbal component as well. This doesn’t create any radical changes – the overall IQ only drops by 0.3 points – so I reuse the same map.

(Note that the legend on the map isn’t converted to IQ. “PISA scores, mean 500, SD 100, have to be transformed into IQ values, mean 100, SD 15, by adding or subtracting the deviation from the mean in the relationship 100 : 15 = 6,67.”)


There are any numbers of comments one can make, but I will confine myself to the most important ones:

(1) In some regions, margins of error are high, as samples were low. Nonetheless, it is still possible to identify some concrete patterns. The overall estimate is very accurate because the sample was N=5,308 and representatively distributed across the country.

(2) Moscow pupils performed very well, at the level of the highest scoring OECD countries like Finland, Taiwan, and Korea. This is especially impressive considering the significant numbers of immigrants in that city from the North Caucasus and Central Asia, who come from poorly-scoring countries and rarely have good Russian. This is surely the result of a century of attracting Russia’s (the USSR’s) cognitive elite.

(3) St.-Petersburg and Tyumen oblast performed above the OECD average, while a few other regions performed at or only slightly below the OECD average.

(4) Among ethnic Russian republics, Siberian regions performed well, while the Urals and southern regions performed badly.

(5) Performance in ethnic minority republics differs dramatically. Many of the Turkic and Finno-Ugric regions, such as Tatarstan, Komi, Chuvashia, and Karelia did well; however, Mari El is a big exception. The Buddhist peoples of Asia, such as Chita oblast (now merged into Zabaykalsky Krai) and the Sakha Republic, performed relatively poorly, as did the Muslim North Caucasus region of Dagestan. Chechnya and Ingushetia would probably score around very low – probably in the mid-80′s. We can be pretty confident about that because their unemployment rates are nearly 50% despite tons of federal transfers.

Bear these figures in mind when considering long-term investments into Russia alongside with their business climate, corruption levels, etc.

PISA-derived IQ of Russian regions

The results by each of the 44 Russian regions which participated in PISA are reproduced below:

Moscow 106.6
Saint-Petersburg 102.6
Tyumen oblast 100.6
Novosibirsk 100.0
Chelyabinsk oblast 99.7
Omsk oblast 99.3
Samara oblast 99.2
Vladimir oblast 98.9
Tula oblast 98.6
Karelia 98.1
Tatarstan 98.1
Komi 98.0
Tomsk oblast 97.9
Primorie krai 97.2
Krasnoyarsk 97.1
Chuvashia 97.0
Udmurtia 96.4
Sakhalin oblast 96.4
Saratov oblast 96.0
Tambov oblast 95.9
Moscow oblast 95.6
Volgograd oblast 95.5
Vologda oblast 95.3
Kemerovo oblast 95.3
Altai krai 94.9
Astrakhan oblast 94.8
Ryazan oblast 94.7
Kursk oblast 94.6
Khanty-Mansijsk 94.2
Bashkortostan 93.4
Krasnodar 93.3
Perm krai 93.3
Rostov oblast 93.3
Nizhnij Novgorod 93.1
Voronezh oblast 92.7
Orenburg oblast 92.7
Kaluga oblast 91.7
Sverdlovsk oblast 91.6
Ulyanovsk oblast 91.5
Adygea 91.2
Stavropol 91.0
Mari El 90.1
Dagestan 88.7
Chita oblast 88.5
Sakha (Yakutia) 87.7

Correlation with economic development

Doing the same exercise as I once did with Italy, the exponential correlation between IQ and GDP per capita (adjusted to reflect local prices; 2008) turns out to be R2=0.5262, if we only take into account those regions whose economies aren’t skewed by substantial natural resource sectors.

This is not as good as Italy’s R2=0.7302, but the result is still an amazingly good one in social sciences. In fact in Russia’s case it’s all the more impressive because its economy was for the most part built up under central planning, which isn’t as good as markets at allocating resources efficiently.

Even under a command economy, the principle still holds: Higher average IQ, higher human capital, greater productivity, greater GDP pre capita.

Other data on the Russian average IQ

(1) The PISA-derived IQ is 96.0.

(2) Richard Lynn estimates Russia’s average IQ to be 96.6 in his 2012 book Intelligence: A Unifying Construct for the Social Sciences.

(3) Heiner Rinderman estimates it at 97.3 in a 2009 paper.

The two most comprehensive authorities on international IQ’s, as well as the most comprehensive international standardized test, are all in agreement that Russia’s current average IQ is in the 96-98 range.

Other data on Russian regional IQ

(1) Map of average Unified State Exam (USE) scores among Russians admitted to institutions of higher education in 2010.

This is a biased sample because it only measures those Russians who were admitted to a university in 2010. It is not indicative of average regional IQ.

Data from Межвузовское исследование «Успеваемость студентов первого курсавысших учебных заведений России».

(2) Here is the same data by Federal District. They are, in order: Volga; North-West; Siberia; Central; Urals; Far East; North Caucasus.

(3) The share of “Olympians” (basically students who did really well and get benefits) in the annual university cohort. By region from top to bottom: Northern Caucasus; South; Far East; Volga; Urals; Siberia; North-West; Central.

There is nothing surprising about this. The Central Federal District contains Moscow. The North-West Federal District contains Saint-Petersburg, and I also suspect that ethnic Russians from the North-West region also have the highest IQ potential of all Great Russians because of admixture with Finno-Ugrics. (Finns and ethnic Estonians both have very high PISA scores).

(4) Unfortunately, Russia does not release regional average USE scores. It does this on purpose to avoid inciting ethnic enmity. (Basically, some regions – most of them non-Russian ones – systematically cheat and inflate their USE scores).

(However, I do recall visiting a site showing the number of people from each region who scored a 100/100 on USE subjects such as the Russian language, math, etc. It is a very rigorous exam and getting full marks on a subject like math is exceedingly hard; only a few hundred manage to do it every year if memory serves right. As IQ distributions are bell curves, it should be theoretically possible to get some idea of regional IQ’s by looking at the perfect scorers per capita rate. To do this however I will need to locate that site.)

Other EE Nations

The Ukraine didn’t participate in PISA 2009, but extrapolating from its TIMSS scores, its IQ would be around 93.1. Belarus would probably be considerably higher, because (1) they are basically genetically identical to Great Russians and Poles, and (2) they have done economically better than Ukraine since the 1990′s despite keeping much of their economy state-owned.

This section will be updated with info on other countries in the near future.

Slavic Genetic IQ Ceiling

The Slavic genetic ceiling appears to be around 100 based on the Czechs and Poles. The average height of young Russian men is about 175cm compared to 179cm-180cm among the Central-Europeans (Poles, Czechs, Slovaks). This discrepancy likely arose from the fact that Russia’s (and Ukraine’s) post-Communist transitions were far more catastrophic than those of the Poles and Czechs, involving a major deterioration in quality of nutrition during the 1990′s when the PISA 2009 cohort was growing up.

Russia’s meat consumption per capita (kg).

Russian nutrition has already returned to First World levels however; for instance, meat , fish, fruit, etc. consumption is now basically the same as in Europe or the US. This means that in the next decade I expect the Flynn Effect to kick off in Russia’s favor, raising its average IQ levels to their theoretical peak of 100 by the 2020′s.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
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He writes:

These scores are indeed truly remarkable, and completely confirm the apparent pattern of Lynn’s IQ samples, in which desperately poor East Asians tend to score at or above the levels of the most successful and well-educated Western populations… But since the total population is at least well into the hundreds of millions, heavily rural as well as urban, the average PISA score of 520—corresponding to an IQ of 103—cannot be too dissimilar from the overall Chinese figure. And with China’s per capita GDP still only $3,700 and well over half the population still living in rural villages when the tests were conducted, these are absolutely astonishing results… Although opinions may certainly differ, I regard this new evidence as very strong support for my “East Asian Exception” hypothesis.

China isn’t anywhere near as backward as he portrays it.

(1) The urban-rural ratio was essentially 50/50 according to the 2010 Census. Furthermore, rural Chinese don’t really suffer from the absolute destitution common to peasants in Third World countries. They own their own land and it is almost impossible for them to lose it. Malnutrition is now close to non-existent. Slums are now very rare. According to a Gallup poll, Chinese now actually struggle less than Americans to buy food.

(2) Total Chinese meat consumption overtook US meat consumption in 1990, signifying a nutritionally adequate figure (as Americans eat a lot of and perhaps a bit too much meat anyway). Today Chinese meat consumption is half the US level. The PISA 2009 cohort would have been born in 1993, when Chinese nutrition had already essentially converged with the First World.

(3) He uses nominal GDP per capita which is quite meaningless. The PPP level of Chinese GDP per capita is $8,400 and that figure is probably underestimated.

Basically, if we adjust for the fact that in terms of basics (food, education, housing) China is now essentially equivalent to developed countries, it would make sense that its average IQ level is now only about 5 points from its potential maximum.

But really my fundamental problem with the “East Asia Exception” hypothesis is the huge paradox it exposes: Why was it Europe, and not China, that first underwent the Industrial Revolution? And the (initially unrelated) Scientific Revolution, for that matter? If as Ron Unz says the Flynn Effect barely applies to East Asian populations, then what you’d have had five centuries ago is 100mn Chinese, 20% of them urban – with an average IQ of maybe 95; and 100mn Europeans, only 5% of them urban – with an average IQ of 75. Sure Europe had various advantages (as chronicled by Jared Diamond, Kenneth Pomeranz, etc) but surely it couldn’t have trumped the effects of a 1 S.D. IQ advantage? That is why I believe the East Asia Exception to be historically implausible.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
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The question of Indian IQ is a big puzzle. Far trickier than China’s IQ which I think I’ve basically figured out (101-102 today; 106-108 genetic ceiling).

The PISA-adjusted IQ of India – as extrapolated from the states of Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh, which are relatively rich and are reputed to have good school systems by Indian standards – is a miserly 75.4; Richard Lynn, in his latest estimates based on an international standardized test from 1970 and a more recent TIMSS study in the states of Rajasthan and Orissa is 82.2. The chart above compiled by Steve Sailer from Lynn’s data on numerous IQ tests also indicates it is the low 80′s. In my opinion the low 80′s figures given by the IQ tests is more accurately reflective of today’s Indian g because PISA is after all an academic test and Indian schools leave a lot to be desired.

Regardless, the differences between Indians, and East Asians and Europeans, are huge. India is in fact at the upper level of sub-Saharan African IQ which typically ranges from 65 to 80. There are lots of factors holding India back: Malnutrition (which is on average perhaps worse than in sub-Saharan Africa), vegetarian diets, poor education system, a moderately high rate of consanguineous marriage. But all that said the sheer size of the gap makes me skeptical that all of it is down to environmental factors alone.

On the other hand the average IQ of Indian immigrants to the US is an Ashkenazi Jewish-like 112. Ramanujan was assessed by G.H. Hardy, no lightweight himself, as the most gifted mathematician of his age. Going back further in time, India has a pretty stunning religious, linguistic, mathematical, and philosophical heritage. Only a continuous stream of very high IQ individuals could have both created and sustained such a heritage.

Another very telling feature of India is the pervasive inequality that has characterized it throughout time. Kenneth Pomeranz notes in his book The Great Divergence on why it was Europe and not China that underwent the Industrial Revolution that Early Modern India had levels of inequality significantly in excess of that of either China or Western Europe. Consider that (1) redistributive wealth mechanisms were virtually non-existent then, (2) that India unlike China or Europe nonetheless still had a lot of unused resources which typically puts a damper on inequality; (3) the always relevant correlation between wealth and IQ. All this implies an “IQ Gini index” considerably greater than in either Europe or China even in the pre-industrial past. And according to Sailer, even today whereas “China focuses on giving the masses a solid basic education that prepares them for manufacturing jobs” India on the other hand “focuses more on giving outstanding university educations to the meritocratic elite.”

Finally, we also know that India remains a heavily caste based society, despite very vigorous government attempts to legislate it away. They don’t tend to intermarry. They eat different foods. And they do appear to differ markedly in IQ. Brahmins occupy a lot of the intellectually demanding positions (I cannot find the source but I recall reading that almost all members of India’s version of the Manhattan Project were composed of Brahmins). A lot of the (super high IQ) US Indian immigrants appear to be Brahmins. Meanwhile Indian immigrants to Britain or those who live as diasporas in sub-Saharan Africans tend to under-perform Anglo whites by about 0.5 S.D. These are the “Patels”, etc were talking about who are mostly Vaishya or Shudra and who constitute the vast bulk of India’s population. If they are typically scoring in the low 90′s and India’s average is in the low 80′s then *that* difference can plausibly be ascribed to the Flynn Effect.

So let’s do the power summary for India:

  • Many cultural achievements (philosophy, religion, literature) that up until the Early Modern period compared respectable with those of European, Near Eastern, and East Asian civilization, but were much less prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Levels of inequality in Early Modern times that were higher than in Western Europe, China, or Japan even though on objective factors (e.g. lower levels of land stress) should have been lower.
  • The caste-based nature of traditional Indian society that the government has been powerless to stamp out.

What I conclude from this is that in terms that would be familiar to Westerners: India is a nation of Gypsies and Jews.

Over the centuries, Brahmins have been selected for intelligence. They were expected to master requisite texts and those who couldn’t handle it dropped away. These selective pressures did not apply to the lower castes who made up the vast majority of the population.

The reason for why India split along caste lines was because of Hinduism and its origins as a religion/ideology to hold society together under the boots of the conquering light-skinned Aryans who brought down the original Harappan civilization (indeed 4 millennia on Bollywood still glamorizes lighter-skinned actors and this is not very controversial within Indian society). These invaders became the Kshatriya military caste, and the Brahmins became their spiritual apologists and enablers. (The Kshatriya were also the one major caste that was allowed to eat meat to build up muscles. Quite logical). The darker skinned aborigines had to continue tilling the soil for their new masters.

Christianity.proclaimed the spiritual inequality of all men. In fact it was a very special religion in that it took a very strict line against within-kin marriages in general. Hence why a caste society or anything resembling it is pretty much impossible under Christianity as long as everyone is considered a fellow Christian. (Whereas caste is inherent to Hinduism). Nonetheless we learn that even a millennium after the Norman invasion of Britain people with Norman surnames such as Darcy, Percy, Baskerville and Mandeville are still on average richer than Anglo-Patels like Smith, Mason and Cooper. Nonetheless British society as Western Europe in general traditionally considered itself as one organic society with only small groups of “service nomads” like Gypsies (peddlers, fortune tellers) and Jews (moneylenders) outside it.

In India basically the entire population appears to be composed of “service nomads” who belong to their own groups and exchange services with other groups. The Vaishya are traders and artisans; The Shudra are farmers; the Kshatriya are warriors; the Brahmins are priests and scholars. Their religion is what binds them together and keeps the whole thing flowing, hence why it is not opposed even by those ostensibly disadvantaged by it. Over several millennia of this caste society operating, in which different castes hardly ever intermarried, you got a plethora of distinct populations that were adapted to their particular divinely-appointed task in life.

In practice this meant a small subsection of Ashkenazi Jewish-like Brahmins with very high IQ’s; and a huge mass of peasants with genetic IQ ceilings somewhere in between those of Europeans and Negroids.

(I would also hypothesize that after the coming of medical modernity this makes for a bad dysgenics situation because Brahmin families will probably have far lower fertility rates than say Shudra, so their share of the Indian population will dwindle; in contrast, homogeneous European and East Asian populations would appear to be more insulated against dysgenic trends because in those societies dysgenics only occurs via lower IQ segments of the population having more kids, while in a place like India – or increasingly multicultural America/Europe – not only lower IQ individuals have more kids but also lower IQ population groups).

So my estimates: (1) India’s current IQ is in the low 80′s; (2) The Flynn effect could yet bring it up to perhaps the low 90′s if India successfully develops (in China the gap is about 5 points but China is of course far richer now and eats far more meat); however, successful development is much harder than in China because starting point IQ’s are far lower. We can expect India to continue growing and gaining on the developed nations but at a pace that will never match China’s; nor, barring technological revolutions (brain-computer interfaces, etc), will it feasibly ever develop to the levels of majority East Asian or European societies.

India will continue benefiting from an extremely intelligent and culturally creative but also very small intellectual upper class of Brahmins. Unfortunately much like Jews they cannot be expected to be all that loyal to the Indian nation (to the extent that an Indian nation exists).

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
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In recent days Ron Unz’s article Race, IQ, and Wealth (The American Conservative) has been making the rounds in the HBDsphere. Broadly speaking it argues for the predominance of cultural and environmental factors as opposed to genetic in forming IQ. It is fairly long but it’s also one of the best statements of that position out there, and I highly suggest you go and read it in its entirety (as well as the good discussions it spawned at thanks to hbd* chick, Peter Frost, David Sanders, etc).

(Incidentally, part of the reason it is so good is that it avoids throwing round the racism card in addressing proponents of the genetic-determinist model of IQ, as do all too many mainstream commentators. That is really a kind of trolling, and by and by, will as such no longer be tolerated on this blog as it once was.)

To prove his case Ron Unz takes data from Lynn and Vanhanen, the two foremost compilers of global IQ data (along with Rinderman), and turns it against their own position that national IQ levels – barring a universal Flynn Effect – are essentially fixed: “… I would suggest that the heralded 300-page work by Lynn and Vanhanen constituted a game-ending own-goal against their IQ-determinist side, but that neither of the competing ideological teams ever noticed. … Given that Lynn and Vanhanen rank as titans of the racial-difference camp, perhaps their ideological opponents, who often come from less quantitative backgrounds, are reluctant even to open the pages of their books, fearful lest the vast quantity of data within prove that the racialist analysis is factually correct after all. Meanwhile, the pro-racialist elements may simply skim over the hundreds of pages of dry and detailed quantitative evidence and skip to the summary text, which claims that the data demonstrate IQ is genetically fixed and determines which nations will be rich and which will be poor.”

In support of his thesis Ron Unz cites the wide dispersion seen in IQ results for European populations, which are genetically close. Many East-Central European societies that scored low during the 1950′s-80′s have since come close to converging with results from Western Europe. Furthermore, South Europeans and East Europeans who migrated to the US in the 1920′s scored in the mid-80′s – a 1 S.D. discrepancy that is about as big as that which continually separates Blacks from whites. I.e., very significant. However, these folks all managed to integrate into American society and now have IQ’s higher than those of longer established (and more rural) groups such as the Germans and Dutch. In particular, he cites a test administered to 3,500 Irish schoolchildren in 1972, which showed an average IQ of just 87. That is almost 1 S.D. lower than the IQ of Irish-Americans, or for that matter, more recent PISA results which now show the Irish to be well within the European cognitive mainstream.

At this point I should perhaps mention that I my conversion to the “dark side” of genetic determinism is fairly recent and that as early as six months ago I would have agreed with Unz’s reasoning in its entirety – that national IQ’s are mainly a product of culture and development levels and such and have little to do with racial difference (see IQ and Industrialism, 2010). Now I still consider these factors play an important role, but NOT the dominant one. Ron Unz’s article serves as an excellent foil to explain why:


(1) It is important to emphasize that Lynn and Vanhanen basically collate a wide variety of tests across space and time that are non-standardized. Some measure verbal ability (which Europeans are good at and generally hasn’t risen much); others measure spatial or mathematical abilities (which East Asians are better at than Europeans, and which was very much influenced by the Flynn Effect throughout the 20th century). Many of their tests suffer from small and/or biased samples – and I imagine this would be especially true of IQ tests conducted in East-Central Europe. That said, the results of these tests cannot be dismissed out of hand, because of their relative consistency.

(2) As regards US data on immigrants’ IQ from the 1920′s, we cannot also exclude the (artificial) effects of poor English language comprehension. Certainly we know that liberal arguments against the validity of IQ tests emphasizes that the tests in that period were linguistically rigged against immigrants and if that is true then it would make sense that their scores were “mismeasured”. Had I been subjected to a verbal IQ test in English in 1995, say, I would have come out as a clinical retard.

(3) That said, the low Irish results from 1972 are indeed puzzling and deserve a detailed response. THAT SAID, before rushing to ascribe to the difference in development levels, we must also take note that Ireland before the 1975 was a very high-emigration country.

Note that Ireland’s population was actually declining until 1960, despite births outnumbering deaths by almost 2:1. More than 1% of the Irish left their country every single year. The schoolchildren of 1972 would have presumably been born for the most part in the 1950′s, not far from the end-point of a (likely dysgenic) process that had been going on uninterruptedly since the Great Famine. While there is no way to know for sure, there is reason to suspect that on average emigrants had higher IQ’s than average, as the act of emigration requires initiative, fore-planning, future time orientation, and other factors usually associated with higher IQ’s. Operating for a century this would have surely had a dysgenic effect, but fortunately on its cessation, the population would get a chance to revert to its natural mean. Coupled with big infusions of Poles and other East Europeans during the 2000′s, and the undeniable but modest boost that great wealth can make to IQ, it is probably not that surprising that in the PISA tests the Irish have converged with the West European mainstream.

Note that according to my estimates derived from PISA/TIMMS and Rinderman’s, even today countries with ultra-high rates of emigration such as Moldova (86/92), Georgia (83/88), Armenia (96/93), and Kyrgyzstan (75/70) also have extremely low IQ results relative to where we would intuitively expect them to be. Armenians are the closest genetic relatives of Ashkenazi Jews, who are (in)famous for being well above average; furthermore, Armenians have typically been more educated than average, and quite a lot of Soviet chess Grandmasters were Armenian or part-Armenian. Moldovans are crudely East Slavs and Romanians, and “should” be somewhere in the low 90′s (although note that both Ukraine and especially Romania have had very substantial emigrations of their own). Georgians are crudely Greeks and Turks, and basically something like a fourth of them left – both during the Soviet era, and especially during the 1990′s. The Kyrgyz are a Turkic and Mongoloid-like people, and as with the Georgians, about a quarter of them have left for greener pastures. Though it should be noted that Kyrgyzstan has one of the highest rates of consanguineous marriage in the world (i.e. inbreeding) and that this is surely a huge additional depressant on their IQ.

In short, PISA data suggests that mass emigration – especially when ongoing for a long time – has a very significant dysgenic effect on IQ. I do not think it unreasonable to posit that this is the reason why 3,500 Irish schoolchildren scored an average of 87 in IQ tests held in 1972.

(4) While I agree with hbd* chick’s observation that the emigration had a significant dysgenic effect on Irish IQ (see above), unlike her I think that it has been almost entirely remedied by now. She argues that Irish PISA scores only managed to converge with those of France because of its flood of lower-IQ immigrants that brought the national average down. The data doesn’t back this up however. Ireland’s native PISA score in 2009 was 503 (national – 497), not really ALL that different from France’s 508 (497), the UK’s 508 (500), Poland’s 503 (501), etc.

(5) Extrapolating from these spatio-temporal discrepancies in IQ among West European populations, Ron Unz extends the exercise to Mexico and Hispanic immigration in general. He notes that among Mexican-Americans born in the US, the average IQ as derived from Wordsum improved from 85 (i.e. Third World) to 95 (i.e. basically just about enough to build a First World society). This is substantially higher than the average for Mexico today which is something like 88 (me) or 85 (Rinderman). This is of course highly encouraging.

Possible problems. First, what kind of Mexicans? There are huge disparities between the northern predominantly European states, which are basically something like Portugal, to the southern predominantly Amerindian states, which look more like India. Think of it like Italy Extreme (where IQ ranges from 103 in the northern states to low-90′s in the south). As I understand it, the older migrations was primarily from the former region; indeed, part of the Mexican-American population is indigenous, having been conquered in the 19th century. But it is a fact today that Hispanic migration is primarily from southern Mexico and Central America. Will they be as successful in converging to the American average like Europeans and the old Mexican-Americans?

Second, read David Sanders’ response at VDARE. Overall Hispanic scores have remained low, typically in the low 90′s (unfortunately, Sanders seems to conflate Mexican-Americans with Hispanics, which is not really accurate at all; but the main point stands). PISA confirmed those figures both in 2006 and 2009. Part of this stagnation is surely due to the continuing influx of poor Hispanics with bad English skills. Nonetheless, I am not sure it is possible that it is still the main reason today. After all, the US Hispanic population is now very big, at around 16.3% of the total population according to the last Census. As such the influence of new arrivals on the overall group average is now surely quite modest.

Main things to take home. First, if Hispanic average is low 90′s and Mexican-American average is 95, then Hispanic non-Mexican average is probably something like 90. Flynn magic and acclimatization to America may raise it to 95, while Mexican-Americans may eke out a few more points. Still, hard to see them catching up to the US White average of 103 anytime soon. Encouragingly, this is not the kind of awning difference that leads to quasi-caste societies like in South Africa, on the other hand, the differences will still be significant and not helped by the fact that Hispanic culture is quite different from mainstream US white culture.

(6) Also as noted by David Sanders you could just as easily use isolated test data to argue that being rich LOWERS your IQ. Because for every Greece and Ireland …

Country IQ at Point 1 IQ at Point 2 IQ Change Annual GDP Per Capita Increase Time Gap Between Tests (years)
East Germany 90 99 +9 $769 (using Czech figures) 11
Greece 88 95 +7 $6047 18
Ireland 87 98 +11 $1191 7

There is a France and an Israel.

Country IQ at Point 1 IQ at Point 2 IQ Change GDP Per Capita Increase Time Gap Between Tests (years)
Israel 97 90 -7 $5276 14
Poland 106 92 -14 $561 10
Portugal 101 88 -13 $1073 8
France 99.5 (average of two studies) 94 -5.5 $9630 17

Lynn and Vanhanen’s data is valid for general conclusions because at the large scale noise is smoothed out, but it is very dangerous to use it to illustrate individual examples. Even today, if you look at the geography of PISA test results in the US – a STANDARDIZED test to boot, unlike the IQ tests compiled by L. & V. – there will still be significant differences even in White results which range from about 96 in West Virginia to 106 in Massachusetts. This is perfectly natural and to be expected because of internal migration and cognitive clustering patterns that have lasted decades and centuries.

(7) “Among the higher performing white American groups are the Irish, the Greeks, the Yugoslavs, and the Italians, while Americans of Dutch extraction are near the bottom for whites, as are oldstock Americans who no longer identify with any European country but are presumably British in main ancestry. Meanwhile, German-Americans are generally at or slightly below the white American average.”

Several things we have to bear in mind: (a) Ultimately modest initial differences (especially once we account for linguistic issues in the 1920′s immigrant tests discussed above); (b) Intermarriage which has been very substantial and smooths out ethnic differences in the urban areas; (c) Unz’s own observation – with which I’m fully agreed as it seems to be universal! – that urban dwellers tend to perform better on IQ tests than rural dwellers all other things being equal (as Marx observed: “Idiocy of rural life”).

(8) I notice that Ron Unz steers clear of the elephant in the room as regards theories of IQ as predominantly a product of culture – US Blacks. Problem is, they are more urban than whites; so can’t use the reasoning in the previous point. And as discussed very extensively in The Bell Curve (Murray & Herrnstein), no, this is not because IQ tests are culturally biased or because Blacks just don’t care about them. US Black IQ’s be they derived from SATS or PISA or other tests pretty much all now consistently show them as being in the high-80′s. The Black White gap shrank slowly until the 1990 but since then progress has stalled or even reversed. The sad but logical conclusion is that their genetic IQ potential as a group is now more or less maxed out. It would be interesting to see how Ron Unz would try to explain this away.

Another element of Lynn’s and Vanhanen’s more recent work (e.g. The Global Curve) that has not been tackled is the remarkably consistent tendency for the exact same racial patterns to reproduce themselves all over the world in different countries and within radically different cultural milieus and across time that feature similar hierarchies in economic success, crime, IQ, etc: East Asians, then Whites, then South-East Asians, Indians, and/or Hispanics; then Blacks. It is hard, very hard indeed, to think of any theory that can account for this that doesn’t lean heavily on genetic determinism.

Despite all these caveats and criticisms, it need be borne in mind that only a pure ideologue would argue that IQ is solely genetically determined. Indeed, the Flynn Effect – mostly composed of better nutrition (we can deduce this partly because it is the poorest performers who tend to make the biggest gains, and that furthermore, the Flynn Effect petered out in White countries at just about the time that their average human heights reached a plateau) and various other things such as familiarity with standardized tests – is very significant, typically adding a massive 15-20 IQ points overall (compare US Blacks with scores in the high-80′s, adjust down to 85 to take into account 20% white admixture, then consider that the Ghanans, Nigerians, etc. among whom Flynn hasn’t had much chance to take root yet, score around 65-70). Also of huge significance is the geography of cognitive clustering which has been discussed here in the context of dysgenic emigration, as well as in the cases of some countries, the culturally-mediated factor of consanguineous marriage (which however takes a long time to fix even disregarding the cultural barriers to dismantling such systems).


In an addendum to the initial article, Ron Unz writes about The East Asian Exception to Socio-Economic IQ Influences. He notes that while (Flynn-adjusted) South and East European scores improved form the 88-94 range, this was much less true for the East Asian nations which started off with very high scores even in the 1950′s and 1960′s and only made very marginal improvements to the present day. Ironically, Unz’s explanation for this is primarily genetic and I DISAGREE with it.

The most plausible inference from these decades of accumulated data is that the IQs of East Asian peoples tend to be more robust and insulated against the negative impact of cultural or economic deprivation than those of European groups or various others—a truly remarkable finding. This might be due to cultural factors of some type, or perhaps certain aspects of East Asian spoken or written languages. But a fascinating possibility is that this IQ robustness may have a substantially genetic component. … Over one hundred years ago, The Changing Chinese by A.E. Ross, one of America’s greatest early sociologists, provided copious anecdotal evidence indicating greater Chinese resistance to illness and injury and perhaps even an ability to survive on more meager food rations. Certainly these sorts of traits might be expected to have undergone strong selection in a country such as China, whose huge population had lived many centuries at the absolute Malthusian edge of starvation.

Here I would note several things:

(a) While on paper East Asian GDP’s – especially outside Japan – were indeed quite a lot lower than those of Southern and Eastern Europe in the 1950′s and 1960′s, it does not necessarily follow that there was a huge corresponding difference in food availability. Asian agricultural technology was always advanced relative to their actual level of economic development, and their diets were probably better balanced than in the Mediterranean and almost certainly better balanced than in East-Central Europe.

(b) Sampling issues. This requires further investigation, but it is very important to be nationally representative given cognitive clustering. E.g., people are far brighter in Shanghai or Beijing than in Henan.

(c) “For consistency, all these results are drawn directly from Lynn/Vanhanen, and include their Flynn and other IQ adjustments up and down, several of which seemed rather large and arbitrary…” I.e., if the Flynn adjustments seem “rather large”, then logically the earlier IQ results should be lower than otherwise stated; and hence, the gain thanks to the Flynn Effect correspondingly larger.

(d) In a famous book on China by the American missionary Arthur H. Smith, titled “Chinese Characteristics” and published in the 1890′s, he expresses a low opinion of Chinese intellectual acumen at the time. In a chapter tellingly called “Intellectual Turbidity“, he notes that the great mass of Chinese are seemingly incapable of abstract logical reasoning, WHEREAS Chinese scholars – though understandably few in number, considering the country’s underdevelopment – can display impressive intellectual acumen. This makes total sense given what we now know of psychometrics and life in traditional societies. The masses have peasant-like mentalities and are illiterate and malnourished, which translates into very low IQ’s; the scholars, however, are fairly well nourished and literate and urban and high-IQ, and thus can communicate at Smith’s level. However, as there are so few of them, the characteristics of the dull peasant masses predominate at the average national level so the national IQ level is very low. Today however the Chinese IQ is well above 100 however you measure it. This is the Flynn Effect in action over a century, in China as everywhere else.

So, East Asians probably aren’t as much of an Exception as Ron Unz presents them as. Or not an exception at all. Arguably using them to try to prove that Lynn and Vanhanen scored a “game-ending own goal” is kind of an own goal to Unz’s own minimization of the genetic component of IQ.


In conclusion, I think the Flynn Effect DID act on East Asian societies, though it is plausible that it was not to such a high degree as in European societies for cultural, environmental, or genetic reasons. And as with Europeans they have now maxed out their potential (Japan, Korea, Taiwan) or come close to it (China). However US Blacks also seem to have maxed out their potential and at levels very significantly (1 S.D.) below those of both US Whites / Anglo-Germanic Europe and East Asians. Coupled with lots of other evidence this to me convincingly suggests a strong racial component to group average IQ differences.

Mexican-Americans and especially US Hispanics (who still have many immigrants among them) can still make very substantial gains but given the very big gap between them and US Whites, I am skeptical that they will be able to close it it in the future by themselves. That said intermarriage rates between native-born Hispanics and non-Hispanics are quite high so I expect them to gradually blend in with the US population over the next century. Perhaps a more critical difference from prior European immigrants apart from the lower IQ of Amerindian-stock Hispanic immigrants is that they come from or via a nation contiguous with the US. This lack of distance means that they will be better able to maintain their culture within the US, and the US will slowly become a more “Latinized” country although they will not ever feasibly come to exercise a dominant cultural influence.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
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There are several ways to influence national mean IQ levels. One is to improve nutrition and education, but vitally important though they are, they suffer from diminishing returns as populations bump up against their genetic ceilings. Another is to promote eugenic policies, or at least policies to mitigate the dysgenic trends that are typical of modern developed societies, but they tend to be ethically questionable and politically unfeasible. The third major lever is the immigration system, but how can we assess whether it’s doing its job of only letting in the people who would be a net benefit to the host country?

In my wanderings through the interwebs, I found that the NCES has an excellent “International Data Explorer” with all kinds of socio-economic data on the tested students of each country that participated in the PISA standardized tests (which correlate closely with IQ). Of particular interest was data on scores broken down by immigration status (native, 1st generation, 2nd generation), which was frankly stunning in the degree to which it confirms various stereotypes and explains why migrants succeed in some countries and live in lawless ghettos in others. See the graph below (click to enlarge).

One thing that immediately leaps out from above is that just as US scores leap upwards (from 496 to about 525, in line with Australia and Canada) once only whites are considered, so do scores in many European states when only natives are considered (e.g. Germany from 510 to 533; Switzerland from 517 to 542; the Netherlands from 519 to 533). In fact, the countries mentioned above and a few others equalize with Japan’s 529, Taiwan’s 534, and South Korea’s 541 (the natives of these developed East Asian societies also score a lot higher than their immigrants, but the overall effect on the national average is modest because migrant children are such a small percentage of their school-age populations). In other words, in the worst affected European countries, immigrants are lowering the mean national IQ (converted from PISA scores) by as much as 3 points.

This might not seem like much, but it is highly significant when bearing in mind the extremely close correlation between national IQ and prosperity. Furthermore, since immigrant populations tend to be highly variant – for instance, Britain has a lot of Poles, who are essentially equal to the natives in cognitive capacity (maybe even superior, once you adjust for the fact that it is better-educated Poles who tend to emigrate), and a lot of Pakistanis, who are far below them. This is a good explanation for the general sense of dereliction one sees (and the crime one is likely to experience) when entering Pakistani ghettos in the UK.

Also note from the graph that there is typically a very high degree of overlap between 1st and 2nd generation immigrant children. The 2nd generation children DO typically perform better, presumably because 1st generation immigrants may frequently have language difficulties and problems with adjusting to a new culture. But the degree of convergence of 2nd generation children to the native mean is modest, despite their transferal to typically far more advanced educational environments. Convergence is almost inconsequential in most European countries like Germany, France, Benelux, Norway, and actually negative in the US (i.e. American 2nd generation immigrant children do worse than the 1st generation).

This second chart shows the IQ gap – derived from the differences in PISA scores – between native children, and children who are 2nd generation immigrants (i.e., born within the country in question). I think that it is more useful to compare the 2nd generation with natives than the 1st generation because their educational environments will have been similar; the language issue will have vastly declined in importance; immigrant population will have taken their first step in “reversion to the mean” in terms of their ethnic group IQ; 2nd generation progeny are far less likely to emigrate back to their countries of origin; etc. So what do we see here?

(1) Australia (2nd generation migrants have +2 IQ points relative to natives) and Singapore (+1), two countries with immigration policies that are cognitively elitist in practice, enjoy immigrants that are superior to the native population and will clearly benefit them a lot.

(2) Canada’s (-2) system is mixed, with many immigrants of both high and low quality. The commentator celtthedog has an explanation that sounds plausible: “… Americans who cite Canada’s allegedly magnificent immigration system that only accepts highly skilled immigrants, need to acknowledge that accompanying this is a refugee programm, which lets in scores of pretty much worthless migrants. Do you really think the hoards of Jamaicans, Somalis, Sikhs and Moslems actually benefit Canada in any meaningful way or were brought in on the basis of skills native-born Canadians don’t have? Canada’s system is 50% good, 50% atrocious.”

(3) I’d have expected the UK’s (-2) immigrants to perform about as badly as in the rest of Europe, but on inspection, it’s in the same boat as Canada. Yes, there are many Pakistani and Black immigrants, but Britain also attracts many well-qualified East-Central Europeans and Asians.

(4) The US (-4) has an idiotic immigration system that penalizes highly-qualified workers while being relatively lax at controlling (inevitably unqualified, lower-IQ) illegals from Central America. But nonetheless, it’s an economic and technological dynamo, and despite policy failures there are still plenty of high-IQ immigrants.

(5) Spain (-5), Italy (-6), Norway (-7), Sweden (-9), the Netherlands (-9), France (-9), Germany (-10) and Belgium (-11) have progressively worse quality immigrants relative to the natives in their countries. (The reason for why the Med countries do “better” than the Teutonic ones isn’t because they have better immigrants, but because their native IQ’s are lower). Unlike the US, they tend to have few highly-qualified immigrants, as English speaking (and typically lower tax) nations like Australia, the US, etc. are more attractive to high-IQ cosmopolitans. What’s more, a big proportion of the immigrants to Europe are Muslims, whose faith and habits conflict with local mores to a far greater extent than Catholic Hispanics clash with the indigenous American culture.

(6) In countries like Dubai, Qatar, Kazakhstan, and Israel, the higher quality of immigrants is presumably due to the fairly low human capital of the host nations themselves.

(7) It is interesting to know that the country with the biggest gap between natives and 2nd generation immigrants for which statistics exist is Mexico (-12), which is known for contributing many low-quality immigrants itself. So the immigrants who come to Mexico are truly bottom of the barrel types, which presumably explains why Mexican border defenses to the south are militarized to an extent that would drive liberals apoplectic if implemented in the US. This, and the lure of El Dorado to the north, probably explains why Mexico itself doesn’t have an immigration problem: Although it might have the worst immigrants relative to its indigenous population, Mexico’s native (421) and national (420) average PISA scores are virtually identical, implying that its immigrants are numerically insignificant.

Immigrants are a matter of both quantity and quality. If immigrants are overwhelmingly low-IQ relative to the host population, but very low in numbers, as in Japan or Mexico, then this isn’t a major concern. If they are are high in numbers, but comparable to the host population, as in Australia, then this isn’t a huge concern either. If they are high-IQ relative to the natives, then it’s typically a boon for the host nation, as with Israel (presumably thanks to Ashkenazi Jews from the former USSR), or the Arab oil states; though a longer-term concern might be the emergence of “market dominant minorities”, such as the Jews in old Europe, or the Chinese diaspora in South East Asia.

However, clearly the worst scenario is when immigrants are both many and far inferior in IQ to the aborigine population, to the extent that the mean national IQ appreciably plummets due to their influence. The final graph is perhaps the most important. It shows the difference between national average IQ’s, and average IQ’s for natives, as derived from the PISA scores. Countries experiencing a net fall in the average IQ relative to the native IQ of more than 2 points include Benelux and the Germanic lands. More modest falls in average IQ are experienced in France, the UK, Russia, and Canada. The gap in the US is only 0.9 – presumably, because unskilled Hispanic immigrants aren’t the worst types can get, and are further counterbalanced by many skilled, high-IQ immigrants from Asia; and also because the native US population already includes Blacks, whereas European countries don’t tend to have sizable low-IQ indigenous minorities. In Norway, where Breivik comes from, the effect is only 0.5 points, and in Greece, where the Golden Dawn party recently put up a good showing, it’s a truly insignificant 0.1 points. I wonder why the strongest anti-immigrant reactions are in countries where the issue isn’t all that significant?

It is not controversial to argue that immigration policies should ideally benefit the host country. Liberal economists in particular argue that for loose immigration policies, especially in the case of countries with rapidly aging populations, so as to arrest the decline of the workforce and pressures on pensions. They tend to view the incomers as a source of labor, rarely accounting for its quality in any detail, let alone considering the long-term social and economic consequences of the mass influx of lower mean IQ populations.

In reality, IQ is closely correlated with any number of highly important things like productivity, criminality, civic-mindedness, welfare dependency, etc. and research is converging on the view that IQ is highly heritable and that different ethnic groups have different genetic IQ ceilings. This is all reflected in the far lower average cognitive capacities of the immigrant populations of Europe, and to a lesser extent, the US and Canada, relative to that of natives. For a long time this view necessarily had to be based on stereotypes, anecdotes, or at best limited regional studies, with the consequence that someone raising these issues ran the risk of being called insensitive to “institutional racism” and various other, largely irrelevant liberal/PC hogwash. The detailed PISA results demonstrate that schoolchild immigrant IQ’s may rise somewhat when they are born in developed nations – the average for all countries on which data is available is a rise of 1.6 IQ points from the 1st to 2nd generation – as they get access to better nutrition and education (i.e. experiencing an accelerated Flynn Effect), and resolve any lingering language issues; but for all that, they remain far closer to the stock from which they came, while convergence to native IQ levels typically remains modest or non-existent.

Just giving it more time, Newspeak, and diversity officers won’t resolve these issues. As it stands, to varying extents, the developed world has decided to just that – stick its head in the sand and pour calumnies – not to mention the occasional prosecution for “hate speech” – on dissenters such as Thilo Sarrazin.

The PISA 2009 data in full.

National Native 2nd Gen 1st Gen
Shanghai 577 589
Hong Kong 546 557 554 520
Finland 544 549 464
Singapore 543 550 558 552
South Korea 541 544
Japan 529 535
Canada 527 533 519 521
New Zealand 524 532 497 524
Taiwan 519 534
Australia 519 521 533 521
Netherlands 519 533 471 469
Liechtenstein 518 539
Switzerland 517 542 479 465
Estonia 514 524 479
Germany 510 533 463 458
Belgium 509 525 453 448
Macao 508 514 511 508
Iceland 501 505 426
Poland 501 503
Norway 500 504 456 441
United Kingdom 500 508 495 467
Denmark 499 509 441 421
Slovenia 499 513 455 422
France 497 508 445 429
Ireland 497 503 473
United States 496 502 474 481
Hungary 496 497
Sweden 495 505 447 417
Czech Republic 490 498 451 487
Portugal 490 493 467 460
Slovak Republic 488 495
Austria 487 508 437 407
Latvia 487 489 469
Italy 486 491 449 414
Spain 484 493 461 427
Luxembourg 482 510 447 457
Lithuania 479 486 459
Croatia 474 476 463 453
Greece 473 474 449 415
Russia 468 477 447 452
Dubai, UAE 459 395 467 503
Israel 459 456 470 447
Turkey 454 451
Serbia 442 443 467 446
Chile 439 437
Bulgaria 432 437
Uruguay 427 428
Romania 426 429
Thailand 422 422
Mexico 420 421 344 331
Trinidad & Tobago 413 417 427
Montenegro 404 403 425 405
Jordan 402 402 418 418
Brazil 401 399 323
Colombia 399 394
Kazakhstan 398 402 431 373
Argentina 396 398 365 359
Tunisia 392 387
Azerbaijan 389 403 392
Indonesia 385 378
Albania 384 388
Qatar 373 339 389 452
Panama 369 378 394 328
Peru 368 370
Kyrgyz Republic 325 333
(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
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My recent post on demographic myths unleashed a lively discussion on the issue of race and IQ in the comments section. I’m not too interested in wading into it: not out of any misplaced respect for political correctness, of course, but simply because though I think there are good arguments for both sides, it misses the largest issue. On the one hand, that there exist differences in measured IQ between races in the US and between nations is beyond dispute, and there is strong evidence to suggest that IQ is a strongly hereditary trait. On the other hand, one must also keep in mind that culture plays an indelible role on the formation and very definition of IQ. One striking demonstration of this is a “similarities test” administered by Michael Cole on members of the Kpelle tribe in Liberia, in which they were asked to group objects into categories such as food, tools, etc. They chose functional pairings – e.g. knife and potato, because a knife could not not cut a spoon – because a “Wise man could do such-and-such”. It was only when the researchers asked “How would a fool do it” that the tribesmen rearranged the items into their “correct” categories. So can the Kpelle really be called dumb? Isn’t their form of intelligence, though demented in the eyes of industrial man, actually eminently suited for their natural environment?

However, once upon a time, European peoples too had this psychology. Throughout the world the illiterate peasant tended to be dull, uninquisitive, childlike. (In stark contrast to the slick, lettered, cosmopolitan city-dweller). For instance, in an earlier post I mentioned the article Reconsidering Weber: Literacy and the Spirit of Capitalism by Russian sociologist Andrey Korotayev.

Literacy does not simply facilitate the process of perceiving innovation by an individual. It also changes her or his cognition to a certain extent. [A study by Soviet psychologists on Central Asians during the 1930's] shows that education has a fundamental effect on the formation of cognitive processes (perception, memory, cognition). The researchers found out that illiterate respondents, unlike literate ones, preferred concrete names for colors to abstract ones, and situative groupings of items to categorical ones (note that abstract thinking is based on category cognition). Furthermore, illiterate respondents could not solve syllogistic problems like the following one – “Precious metals do not get rust. Gold is a precious metal. Can gold get rust or not?”. These syllogistic problems did not make any sense to illiterate respondents because they were out of the sphere of their practical experience. Literate respondents who had at least minimal formal education solved the suggested syllogistic problems easily (Luria 1974, 1976, 1982: 47–69).

Therefore, literate workers, soldiers, inventors and so on turn out to be more effective than illiterate ones not only due to their ability to read instructions, manuals, and textbooks, but also because of the developed skills of abstract thinking…

So, 1970′s Kpelle = 1930′s Central Asians? Now fast forward to today. Many Central Asians are Turkic, and their level of social development – if not economic development (due to an adverse geography and a socialist legacy) – is similar to Turkey’s. The Turks are estimated to have a national IQ of 85-90; not retarded, but substantially less intelligent than average Europeans and East Asians. For instance, the IQ of the US is estimated to be around 10 points higher. But if American children during the 1930′s had taken the IQ tests of the 1990′s, it is estimated they’d have performed about 20-25 points lower (that’s like today’s India or Brazil, or 10 points lower than Turks)! This is explained by the rapid secular rise in intelligence during the past century called the Flynn Effect.


[Map of world IQ (Richard Lynn & Tatu Vanhanen, 2002). Click to enlarge.]

Such an increase is beyond the power of genetics. According to Flynn – and I find this to be convincing – his effect can be ascribed to the environmental changes produced by modernization and the industrial system. He cites the following example: in response to the question “What do a dog and a rabbit have in common?”, whereas a modern respondent would say they are both mammals (abstract answer), someone from a century ago might say that one would catch rabbits with dogs (a concrete or functional answer). It would appear that it’s not so much general IQ that has improved – though probably it did too thanks to better nutrition – but the specialized IQ (abstract, categorizing) that is needed to sustain an industrial system.

But I’d prefer to imagine it in the following way. Think of the brain as hardware. Just as human races* possess various skin colors and physiologies that have evolved over eons in their environments, so it is likely that there appeared subtle racial variations in the genetic component of intelligence. To take a (very idealized) example, it would seem intuitive that someone descended from “hunters” would have a predilection for motor skills (to chuck spears at prey), while someone whose distant ancestors were “gatherers” would be relatively more adept at pattern recognition (to notice berries and be able to tell which are poisonous and which are not).

Nonetheless, three factors would mitigate these differences. First, the human species is very mixed and interbred; apart from small groups that spent a long time in isolation (such as the Tasmanian aborigines), inter-racial distinctions are unlikely to be very sharp. Second, the brain’s hardware works much more effectively if properly maintained; to that end, improvements in nutrition would have the effect of raising IQ levels, especially from the lower end of the scale (as indeed happened in the US during the 20th century). Third, and most importantly, the actual software of intelligence – the intangible of culture and memetics, which is a product of an (ever-changing) environment – has been evolving far, far faster than the hardware. Whatever their racial differences, a Gaelic office worker has far more in common with an ethnic !Kung physicist living in Ireland (mentally, psychologically) than with his own ancestors of a mere century ago.

Peasants and hunter-gatherers may not have much skill in abstract thinking, but they do tend to be intimately aware of the world around them and cognizant of things that will help them get food on the table or cure a sickness. Today’s Arabs in the Middle East may score low on IQ tests and have the lowest literacy rates outside sub-Saharan Africa – even bin Laden complained that more books are translated into Spanish every year than have ever been translated into Arabic! – but many of them are phenomenal mentats who can recite the Koran from cover to cover (if not necessarily actually read the script!). Very impressive, but not that useful for building an industrial base, let alone an innovation economy. As for the typical Westerner, unlike a few decades ago – or unlike today’s Russians, for that matter, who still memorize Pushkin and Lermontov by heart at school – he or she can’t recite a single classical poem. But Westerners are unparalleled at creating and inventing new products and services in the unfolding Information Age…

Why have some human societies been much more successful at industrializing and modernizing than others? The roots are unlikely to be racial differences in IQ. The work of people like David Landes or Jared Diamond explains this better…

Furthermore, the link between modernization and IQ is not one way. The main determinant of long-term economic growth is a country’s human capital (see 1, 2, 3), which for the most part consists of the educational attainment of its population, which in turn is strongly correlated with its level of national IQ**.


[In my old post Education as the Elixir of Growth, I worked out a Human Capital Index for a range of countries - based on things such as literacy, international standardized test scores (which are closely correlated with national IQ) and tertiary enrollment - and plotted them against their levels of GDP per capita. Red dots are countries with a socialist legacy and are below the level they are expected to be at; green dots are countries propelled into being upper outliers by virtue of resource windfalls, such as Saudi Arabia. Cyan dots are all other outliers. Click to enlarge.]


[Countries are marked by GDP / capita growth rates from 1997 to 2007. The colors go as follows: white (1.0-1.9%); yellow (2.0-2.9%); orange (3.0-3.9%); red (4.0-5.9%); dark red (6.0%-7.9%) and black (8.0%-14.9%). GDP per capita figures (on the y-axis) are for 1997 – this is because what we are interested in is the influence of education levels on future growth, which we know for the period from 1997 up until today. Unfortunately, educational stats for 1997 are much less comprehensive (PISA and TIMMS embraced much fewer countries then), plus it would take a lot of time digging them up – hence I made a rough assumption that they were the same as for 2007 (which is fairly accurate - it is impossible to radically change a country's human capital profile within the space of a single decade). Note how almost all the fastest-growing countries were well below the logical level dictated by their human capital potential. Click to enlarge.]

This, incidentally, explains my fundamental optimism about the long-term prospects of China and Russia (1, 2) – and my pessimism on India and Brazil. (Amongst the Economist-reading class which thinks liberal democracy is a panacea the impression tends to be the inverse). In summary:

  • China is the biggest creditor and set to become the world’s biggest manufacturer in 2011; though its level of tertiary attainment is still low, it has good basic education and a high national IQ. Russia has superb human capital, energy windfall and fiscal firepower. Similar things can be said for most of the rest of Eastern Europe, East Asia and Eurasia.
  • Many Indians remain functionally illiterate; though Brazil has progressed further, international standardized tests confirm its woeful educational standards. Similar things can be said about most of the rest of Latin America, South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. These regions are unlikely to converge to developed levels anytime soon.
  • In the West itself, the Flynn Effect has stalled and may even have gone into slow retreat – in any case, human capital development is no longer a driver of growth. Meanwhile, it faces many challenges, such as fiscal (un)sustainability and aging populations. It will remain near the theoretical upper boundaries of development, but these boundaries are likely to start contracting in the years ahead under the pressures of energy depletion.

None of this is due to the fact that Estonians or Chinese are “superior” to Indians or Germans. These are deep structural factors we’re talking about. Quite simply, unlike Mexicans, the former have the type of culture, education, IQ (call it what you will) that will enable them to sustain a developed techno-industrial base. According to the results of the PISA 2006 standardized tests in science, only 15% of Brazilians, 11% of Indonesians, 18% of Mexicans and 22% of Turks possessed skills beyond those needed for purely linear problem-solving, in contrast to 40% of Israelis, 48% of Russians, 51% of Americans, and 68% of Koreans. In other words, the latter nations have about 2-5x as many cadres capable of moving into hi-tech and high added-value manufacturing or services as the former. Is it really a logical leap then to consider their long-term development prospects that much brighter?

Likewise, the reason that Russians and Chinese will gain on Germans and Americans is also simple – the former have the capacity to absorb modern productivity-enhancing technologies, whereas the latter are already developed. This is just catch-up growth. Interestingly, I suspect that their catch-up will be very rapid in historical perspective due to 1) the economic waning of the Western world due to unsustainable fiscal policies, debt and rising costs of energy inputs and 2) the unprecedented ease of technology transfer (and theft!) bequeathed by the Internet.

In the near future, there will appear definite limits to further growth of the global techno-industrial base. Consequently, in a globalized world in which capital resources flow to where they can produce the greatest returns, we can expect nations like China to expand their share of global manufacturing to levels commensurate with their skilled industrial workforces. In fact, this seems to have been the case in the oil shock-induced crisis of 2008-2009: for instance, whereas global vehicle production fell by 14%, it expanded by a blistering 48% (!) in China, which now accounts for nearly a quarter of world output.

* Yes, I realize some scientists deny race and prefer to talk of genotypes, phenotypes and clines. For the sake of clarity, I’ll use the term “race” with the understanding that it is highly qualified.

** See my first post Education as the Elixir of Growth for the original argument. I didn’t bother connecting education with national IQ there, though I was familiar with their close relation, because I didn’t want to incite controversy. (Now I realize that’s a bad idea for a popular blogger!). In the last comment Steve Sailer made the connection explicit.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
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Chang, Ha-JoonKicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective (2002)
Category: economy; history; industrial policy; Rating: 5/5
Summary: Kicking Away the Ladder:How the Economic and Intellectual Histories of Capitalism Have Been Re-Written to Justify Neo-Liberal Capitalism (Ha-Joon Chang)

Much has been said of the smug arrogance, cultural aloofness and end-of-history conceit characterizing the neoliberal Washington Consensus, the philosophy that a one-size-fits-all set of “good policies” (e.g. privatization, liberalization, deregulation) and “good institutions” (e.g. patent and IP protection system, etc) can – and must – be transplanted onto any country, irrespective of its historical or cultural traditions, if it were to ever join the developed “international community’. The general bankruptcy of this approach is evident from the facts on the growth, with global GDP growth during the 1960-1980 period of “bad policies” substantially higher than during the “good policies” 1980-2000 period. After seeing high growth during the earlier period, Latin America stagnated, and Africa and Eastern Europe declined during the latter; the major exception was mercantilist China.

Though always disabused by reality, from 1998 Russia to the 2008 crisis, the neoliberals retain their intellectual underpinnings by continuing to claim, like Marxists, that history itself is ultimately on their side – after all, did not Britain and the United States, the world’s greatest economic successes, rise to global preeminence through the virtues of minimal government and free trade? Not at all, argues Ha-Joon Chang in this excellent book.

Britain: From Mercantile Struggle to Kicking Away the Ladder

Take the example of Britain, alleged to be the historical laissez-faire state par excellence, in stark contrast to the stultifying dirigisme of Colbertist France. This is actually an inversion of the truth, for the French state was generally laissez-faire and backward-looking in the period between the end of Napoleon’s Continental System and the post-WW2 years (after which the state began large-scale interventions in the French economy, which experienced burgeoning growth that saw it overtake Britain’s GDP by the 1970′s). On the other hand, Britain was highly protectionist up until it established and cemented its global industrial predominance by the middle of the 19th century.

British protectionism has a long history, stretching back to medieval import substitution designed to foster an indigenous wool manufacturing industry, instead of being reliant on raw wool exports to Europe. Henry VII tried to change this by taxing raw wool exports and poaching skilled workers from the Low Countries. This kick-started the industry that would come to constitute the key element of British industrial supremacy in the 19th C.

In 1721, Walpole expanded on previous Navigation Acts to encompass mercantile measures like lower tariffs on raw materials imports, duty drawbacks on the imported raw materials used for exports, the removal of export duties, the raising of duties in imported manufactures, export subsidies and a system of quality control to maintain the reputation of British exports. The colonies were treated as captive markets and resource appendages to fuel the commerce and industry of the mother country, by measures such as the 1700 ban on (better-quality) Indian calicos, which (possibly) stifled an incipient Indian industrialization. Britain fine-tuned the terms of trade between the US colonies itself to discourage industrialization in the latter, even resorting to overt illiberal measures like outlawing rolling and slitting steel mills on the American continent.

This is how Friedrich List, a leading economist of the German Historical School, described Britain’s rise to industrial dominance in his The National System of Political Economy in 1841:

Having attained to a certain grade of development by means of free trade, the great monarchies [of Britain] perceived that the higher degree of civilization, power, and wealth can only be attained by a combination of manufactures and commerce with agriculture. They perceived that their newly established native manufactures could never hope to succeed in free competition with the old and long-established manufactures of foreigners… Hence they sought, by a system of restrictions, privileges, and encouragements, to transplant on to their native soil the wealth, the talents, and the spirit of enterprise of foreigners. …

It is a very common clever device that when anyone has attained the summit of greatness, he kicks away the ladder by which he climbed up, in order to deprive others of the means of climbing up after him. In this lies the secret of the cosmopolitical doctrine of Adam Smith, and of the cosmopolitical tendencies of his great contemporary William Pitt, and of all his successors in the British Government administrations.

Any nation which by means of protective duties and restrictions on navigation has raised her manufacturing power and her navigation to such a degree of development than no other nation can sustain free competition with her, can do nothing wiser than to throw away these ladders of her greatness, to preach to other nations the benefits of free trade, and to declare in penitent tones that she ha hitherto wandered in the paths of error, and has now for the first time succeeded in discovering the truth.

Even the 1846 repeal of the Corn Laws protecting domestic agriculture were justified by its British supporters on protectionist terms, e.g. Robert Cobden of the Board of Trade:

The factory system would, in all probability, not have taken place in America and Germany. It most certainly could not have flourished, as it has done, both in these states, and in France, Belgium, and Switzerland, through the fostering bounties which the high-priced food of the British artisan has offered to the cheaper fed manufacturer of those countries.

It was only in 1860, by which time Britain’s status as the workshop of the world was unquestioned, that it truly transitioned to a free-trade regime with the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty with France. Yet during the next fifty years it was undermined by German technological prowess and American economies of scale, and was obliged to reintroduce substantial tariffs in 1932 under the stress of the Depression-era protectionism scramble.

[International tariff rates 1820-1950, taken from Google Books].

The Protectionist Roots of Pax Americana

What about the US, then, today’s champion of free trade? This is an ironic position for it to take up, given that in the years after the Civil War and prior to the Second World War, America was the protectionist nation par excellence.

The “infant industry” theory was invented by Alexander Hamilton, the first Treasury Secretary, and the American economist Daniel Raymond. With its history of being held as a resource appendage and captive market by the British and spurred on by the War of 1812, protectionism was firmly established from 1816. A US Congressman, a contemporary of Friedrich List, said of British liberal trade theory, “like most English manufactured goods, [it] is intended for export, not for consumption at home”. President Ulysses Grant, a Civil War hero, remarked of it, “within 200 years, when America has gotten out of protection all that it can offer, it too will adopt free trade”. So the populist right-wing politician Pat Buchanan makes a perfectly valid point when he condemns free trade as being un-American.

Ha-Joon Chang stresses the importance disputes over the proper level of tariffs played over the start of the US Civil War. The crux of the matter was that northern industrial interests wanted high tariffs to protect themselves from British competition, whereas the South, which had no industries of its own and an idle, rapacious elite, wanted lower tariffs to make British goods more affordable. There were frequent spats on this matter from the 1830′s; slavery only provided the fuse. (Chang points out that Lincoln was deeply racist by modern standards and only emancipated the northern slaves in 1862 as a strategic move against the South). Lincoln’s top economic advisor, Henry Carey (described by Marx as the only American economist of any significance), argued that British free trade was an imperialist ploy to consign the US to a future of primary production.

Following the North’s political and military triumph, US tariffs between the Civil War and World War Two remained the highest amongst those of any industrial power, with the sole exception of Russia. As with its British imperial predecessor, the American superpower only ditched free trade once it achieved a global industrial dominance made possible by the wartime devastation of its European competitors. Though tariff rates are now very low, the US somewhat compensates with voluntary export constraints, (textiles) quotas, agricultural subsidies, and unilateral sanctions against countries suspected of dumping, so it remains far more protected than Britain was during the Victorian Golden Age of globalization. Likewise there is extensive state support for R&D, which enabled US success in hi-tech areas like computers, the Internet, aerospace, and biotech.

State Intervention Critical to Economic Sovereignty

The vast majority of other now-developed countries (NDCs) also employed extensive protectionism and state intervention during their periods of successful economic convergence. Though Germany eschewed the kind of “blanket protectionism” used in mercantile Britain and the pre-superpower US, the state was far more active in promoting modern technology, industrial espionage, technological “demonstrations”, teaching science at its world-class universities, and pioneering social welfare by the late 19th C to defuse social tensions. Though Japan was actually forbidden from raising its tariff rates above 5% in the first decades following the Meiji Restoration, it compensated by investing heavily in infrastructure, education, and the acquisition of foreign technologies and institutions. Sweden had high tariff rates (especially in the early 20th C), an unrivaled record in public-private cooperation, and “strategically used tariffs, subsidies, cartels, and state support for R&D to develop key industries, especially textile, steel, and engineering”. It also preserved social harmony through the Saltsjöbaden agreements of 1936, in which labor committed to restraining wage demands in return for the employers committing to building one of the world’s most comprehensive welfare states. As for some of the smaller nations:

There were some exceptions like the Netherlands and Switzerland that have maintained free trade since the late 18th century. However, these were countries that were already on the frontier of technological development by the 18th centuries and therefore did not need much protection. Also, it should be noted that the Netherlands deployed an impressive range of interventionist measures up till the 17th century in order to build up its maritime and commercial supremacy. Moreover, Switzerland did not have a patent law until 1907, flying directly against the emphasis that today’s orthodoxy puts on the protection of intellectual property rights (see below). More interestingly, the Netherlands abolished its 1817 patent law in 1869 on the ground that patents are politically-created monopolies inconsistent with its free-market principles – a position that seems to elude most of today’s free-market economists – and did not introduce another patent law until 1912.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, it was the open economies that failed to develop rapidly. Not much chance for European colonies / captive markets to develop an indigenous industrial base under the constant, unchecked pressure of superior European competition. Semi-independent countries like China and the Ottoman Empire were paralyzed by “unequal treaties” capping tariffs at a 5% flat rate and loss of tariff autonomy (Ha-Joon Chang points out that today the World Bank recommends a maximum 15-25% tariff rate, low and uniform, despite that the development differential between today’s poor and rich countries are vastly greater than they were a century ago). Finally, industrial leader nations (like Britain) tried to stymie the growth of competitors by preventing the outflow of skilled workers in the 18th century, machines in the 19th century, and enforcing intellectual property rights in the 20th century.

Institutions aren’t Everything

The author also points out that institutions today are far better in the developing world today, in most cases, than of NCDs at an an equivalent stage of development. For instance, despite the fact that Britain in 1820 had a similar level of development to India in 2000:

[Britain] did not have universal suffrage (it did not even have universal male suffrage), a central bank, income tax, generalised limited liability, a generalised bankruptcy law, a professional bureaucracy, meaningful securities regulations, and even minimal labour regulations (except for a couple of minimal and hardly-enforced regulations on child labour).

As such, the rich would should moderate their unrealistic demands for the developing nations to instantaneously reform their institutions to world standards. It is a difficult process that took centuries in the NDCs themselves, and besides in some cases the poor countries would be better off spending that money on other things. For instance, would it be better for Gabon to spend its (very limited) resources on hiring legions of (foreign) intellectual property lawyers to ensure a modern IP environment, or should it spend them on training its own primary school teachers? Tough choice, right?

As Tainter teaches us in The Collapse of Complex Societies, complexity isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.

Conclusions & Lessons for the Present

The “official history” of capitalism has been highly distorted by neoliberals with little appreciation of economic history, either maliciously, or because of their ideological blinkers. The reality is that even today’s stalwarts of free trade and liberalization only got to the top though blanket protectionism and intelligent state intervention, a tradition that has been carried on by the East Asian tigers (Korea, Taiwan, etc) – the only major non-Western nations to successfully industrialize after Japan. After they had industrialized, the new leader nation – in modern times, the US – has an interest in creating a global free trade system which could reinforce its hegemony. The poachers become the gamekeepers. The climbing followers become leaders kicking away the ladder.

However, uninterrupted free trade does eventually undermine even its guarantors. Last century, it was Germany challenging Britain. Today, it is China challenging the US.

Leveraging its cheap, docile and decently-educated labor force, China used the window of opportunity thrown open by US trade policy to build up the world’s premier industrial base – as of now, it produced around half the world’s steel and cement. Though it’s economy is ostensibly relatively free-wheeling, China having ditched central planning three decades ago, in practice the state remains extremely active in building up infrastructure, improving human capital and industrial espionage. It couldn’t care less about intellectual property rights, given that it has almost none of its own to protect (you don’t need innovation when you’re at the point when you can just buy or steal the next technological levels), giving it a further competitive advantage. The sheer comparative advantage it has built up in manufacturing means that overt protectionism is simply unnecessary for it.

Open trade has led to the steady deindustrialization and “hallowing out” of the US industrial base, which no longer maintains a positive balance of trade in any manufactured goods category, with the marginal exception of (heavily-subsidized) aerospace. (The effects in some European countries have been as bad, e.g. Italy’s traditional artisanal manufacturing destroyed by cheaper Chinese competition). The US machine tool industry, the heart of any industrial ecosystem, has been decisively buried by European and Asian competition. From 1999 to 2008, US automobile production declined from 13.0mn to 8.7mn units, while in the same period this figure rose amongst its main competitors like Japan (9.9mn to 11.6mn), Germany (5.7mn to 6.0mn), Korea (2.8mn to 3.8mn), and China (1.8mn to 9.3mn).

The shifting winds of history are steadily unraveling Pax Americana‘s center of gravity, threatening to send the global system into a chaotic tailspin. The paradox is that though globalization sustained US hegemony, it also contained within it the seeds of its own destruction. America has overstayed in laissez-faire land, blinded by its own instruments of success to the dangers they pose to itself.

Russia has an exceptionally strong need for protectionism and state intervention, on account of its traditional economic backwardness, highly unfavorable geography, and innate tendencies towards illiberal anarchy (in which nothing gets done at all). Hence the reason for the forward-looking, dirigiste industrial policy pursued under the Putin administration (special economic zones, clauses obligating foreign automobile companies to source a percentage of their parts from Russian suppliers, nanotechnology, etc) – and the likelihood that the state will resume its old rule as the main driver of the Russian economy in the unstable decades to come.

A few criticisms of the book. It makes the blanket statement that growth was higher during the “statist” 1960-1980 period than the “open” 1980-2000 period, but fails to consider other possible factors behind it, such as: a) the end of hyperbolic growth in oil extraction, and more generally, energy production (energy and natural resources are indispensable and highly-neglected factors of economic growth) – i.e. the appearance of limits to growth to the global economy, b) the ebbing of the electro-mechanical / petrochemical cycle and c) the end of the Flynn effect (end of IQ rise), especially pertinent given that education is the elixir of growth. In other words, the scope of the book is rather narrow – state industrial policy as the be all and end all of economic development. That said, his arguments are intuitive and convincing, if not fully complete; though then again, I doubt comprehensiveness would have been one of his aims in a book of just 140 pages.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
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Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.