(Warning: this is NOT an effortpost)
The title of his article is “The Intellectual Conceit of IQ Ideology”. There is, of course, no such thing as “IQ Ideology”, that’s something Tucker just made up.
Right out of the gate he says something intensely irritating:
“Where matters become elusive is in codifying those skills, reducing them all to a single quantitative number, aggregating them based on other demographic traits, assessing the variability of the results, comparing the results across large population groups, determining the variety of causal factors – genetic, environmental, sheer personal determination – that make up what we call intelligence, and cobbling together a plan for what to do with the results.”
Codifying skills is not elusive. You have a standard, and you code performance in some way.
Aggregating them based on demographics is also not elusive; you can average them, or find the median of a group.
Assessing the variability is also not elusive – we have very standard statistical formulas for quantifying and visualizing variability.
Comparing the results across population groups is also not at all elusive.
As for determining causal factors being elusive – this is a proclamation from mount stupid. This is something that people who do a tiny bit of research like to say, “we don’t know the cause of IQ differences” – when in fact we have a pretty good idea of not only the general heritability of IQ within the United States, but also between races as well. We also know about the between-test reliability, and the predictive validity of IQ (it’s better than education level).
None of this is elusive, it just requires looking at data.
“Here we have a much more complex problem, as complex as the human mind itself. “
No it’s not. With IQ you’re measuring cognitive performance in various tasks – you don’t have to know anything about the mechanics of the brain to know the predictive validity of IQ or its heritability. Like with muscles – you don’t have to know how muscles work to assess the importance of strength as measured by a series of lifts is for predicting performance in a given sport.
In most of the article, Jeffrey Tucker talks about how IQ was used to justify eugenics and how un-libertarian this is. He cites and probably misquotes various authors talking about this. The obvious pro of eugenics is that at the end you have a high IQ society, or whatever traits you are selecting for, and that’s a better outcome than free breeding. And typically this is argued in terms of a trade-off: liberty versus the gains from eugenics. But Tucker then denies the gains from eugenics with three really, really stupid proclamations:
“First, consumers have odd tastes that have little to do with intelligence, scientifically defined. Abstract Intelligence is not necessarily the thing rewarded by the market, and that matters. In a free society, the value of a resource is not objective; value is conferred on services by the choices we make, whatever they may be.”
Correct and if you had a society of chimps they would demand very stupid things. That is the point of eugenics, that you’ll have better people who will want and do better things – better being defined beforehand as that which you are selecting for. If you disagree, that’s one thing, but simply pointing out the tautology that low IQ people want things is not relevant at all to the reasons people pushed for eugenics.
He then talks about Michael Phelps and low IQ music, and how low IQ people like shitty things, and how that’s an argument against eugenics.
This is akin to saying, “You think humans are better than chimps? Well I’ll have you know that things that chimps like are very different from things that humans like! Checkmate statists!”
“Second, the law of association makes everyone valuable. A core belief of the IQ ideology is that smart people, as measured by tests, are more valuable to the social order than dumber people. But economics has made a different discovery…”
Tucker then goes on to give us the good news about the division of labor. I don’t know what he means by “law of association”, but no, it’s not at all clear that everyone around you is valuable. In “Hive Mind: How Your Nation’s IQ Matters So Much More Than Your Own”, Garret Jones argues that increasing the average IQ of the country you live in would improve your standard of living 6 times as much as raising your own IQ.
Now there’s an obvious issue here with government: having low IQ people in your country will cause them to vote for low IQ policies, and this leads to things like Haiti, Detroit, Baltimore, Jamaica, Stockholm and the continent of Africa. The brute reality is that whites in South Africa are far worse off than whites in New Zealand. And the totalitarianism and poverty of black rule is a far more real thing in the world today, and a far more likely thing to grow and spread than the long-dead eugenics movement that Tucker has taken a sudden, bizarre interest in.
I get the feeling Tucker wishes eugenics was a going concern so that he could have an old-timey bowtie debate about it.
This is not something I have thought much about, since I don’t think about libertarian things much anymore, but it’s possible that having low IQ people around you, even if they have zero influence in government, can reduce the living standards for the high IQ people. And by that I mean 1 million high IQ people may be better off in their own isolated area than if they were combined 1 million high IQ and 9 million low IQ people, even if nobody votes and there is a polycentric legal order.
For example, being around low IQ people can stunt the high IQ peoples’ intellectual development. High IQ people, instead of researching more complex things that high IQ people find interesting and pay money for, find it easier to produce low IQ products, and go for the quick buck instead of that which benefits everyone in the long run. Of course you can counter with “the market has spoken and short-term baubles that low IQ people like is proven superior to developing computing technology”. But that is again tautological – you would just be referencing what people want, and the whole point of eugenics is that what low IQ people want is stupid.
The market is just the summation of what people want, so there’s no reason to inherently care about what the market wants. It’s like saying “people like plastic dinosaurs, so that’s the correct thing to make. Taxing people and spending on basic scientific research on non-binary computing is incorrect.”
To take an extreme example, imagine bringing in a bunch of chimpanzees, calling them citizens and giving them rights. Do you think your life would be improved by that? Obviously low IQ people aren’t like chimpanzees, but how low does the IQ have to go before they become a detriment? That’s an empirical question than can’t just be Mises’d or axiom’d away.
But I digress, the point is that I can speculate and imagine how high IQ people could be better off isolated from low IQ people even in an anarcho-capitalist society, and since this has never been tested, it can’t be ruled out. So you can’t just say with deductive certainty that the damage associated with living around low IQ people that Garrett Jones talks about only occurs because we live in states.
“A third criticism of this literature is more profound. It observes that the intelligence necessary for the building of a great society does not reside in the minds of particular individuals. The highest intelligence of the social order resides in the processes and institutions of society itself. It doesn’t exist in total in any single mind and it doesn’t emerge consciously from the plans of any group.”
Sure – the Congo. Namibia. Nigeria, Mozambique. What are “the processes and institutions” of those “societies” like? Or less extreme, Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan. These are the societies that emerge from those low IQs; sure, there are some high IQ people in Pakistan, but they get overpowered by the low IQs and end up with a lower standard of living than if all the high IQ people in Pakistan were their own country.
Any maybe this would be different in a polycentric legal order – but that’s neither proven, nor relevant. For now we live in states and in states, having low IQ people decisively damages the lives of high IQ people.
Now to be clear, I am not an IQ nationalist or a eugenicist. I am simply responding to Jeffrey Tuckers’ really stupid arguments.