Why Are People Talking About IQ So Much?

Why Are People Talking About IQ So Much?Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of articles about IQ — from liberal websites. For example, Vox has published a number, most recently, So You’ve Learned You’ve Got A “Pitifully” Low IQ. How Worried Should You Be? And I always hear the same thing: IQ measures something real, but it doesn’t mean anything on an individual basis. So: smart people will rise to the top, but we shouldn’t assume that a brown-skinned person, say, is dumb because it doesn’t work that way.

Liberals Embracing The Bell Curve

The problem is that this is exactly the argument that Murray and Herrnstein were making in The Bell Curve. The book wasn’t saying that blacks are stupid. It was just saying that blacks tend to be stupider and that this is why they are much more likely to be poor. Thus, the income inequality that we have is not random but based on IQ. Thus, we shouldn’t have Affirmative Action, because black people are poor because they just aren’t as smart as white people.

It bothers me that so many “liberal” people are so comfortable with this argument. Because here’s the thing: it’s bunk. We don’t have economic inequality because our system is so good at rewarding the productive people. For one thing, the number one reason people are rich is because they inherited their money. As I discussed two years ago, Donald Trump Is Rich Because He Was Born Rich. He actually has far less money today than he would have had if he had simply put his inheritance in an indexed mutual fund. That means that I’m better at business than America’s most famous rich guy.

But it’s more than just that. I haven’t inherited any money from anyone. But I did inherit a relatively (middle-class) social circle. I also got lots of other things like parents who greatly valued education. All of the things I inherited date back thousands of years. African Americans inherit little that is older than 150 years. This is critically important.

IQ Is Not Inherent

Let’s get back to the whole IQ debate, however. When I was in college, I read a psychology paper that looked at children who were adopted by affluent families. Now if IQ was just this thing that we were born with, those kids should have had average IQs. But they didn’t. Their IQs were well over one standard deviation above the average. That’s because IQ is greatly affected by life experience. Being around people who care about ideas helps. Going to museums and similar mind-broadening places helps. But the theory that IQ is a great indicator of success just makes it less likely that poor children will get the experiences that will help them develop high IQs.

I got some push-back some time ago when I noted that being smart was its own reward and that if anything, I deserved to have less money than those who are not similarly blessed. But I still think that. Or more accurately, I don’t think that being smart is something that society should reward me for. Nothing that went into giving me a high IQ was my doing. My IQ is no more a moral function of me than my diminutive body size.

Don’t Be Tricked, Liberals

Liberals need to be careful. And rich liberals need to be especially careful. It’s very easy for conservatives to wrap their vile ideas in a patina of science. And before you know it, liberals are saying that income inequality is no big deal. It is. It’s a very big deal. Of course, I don’t really think of myself as a liberal for this very reason. I don’t think humans should need to prove their productivity to have a decent life.

All humans deserve that.

7 thoughts on “Why Are People Talking About IQ So Much?

  1. The “low IQ makes you poor” thing is just a variation of “blaming the victim”

    Of course, reducing education opportunities for poor and middle class reduces chances for them to gain any sort of financial success. Yet, libertarians and the GOP argue against improving education for all, while simultaneously claiming that everyone has an equal chance in life, and that rich people are just better

    As I’ve said before, if you’re going to rig the game, you can’t admit that it’s rigged

    • Humorous note. For a split second I read your “libertarians and the GOP argue against improving education” as LIBRARIANS and the GOP. And I was immediately outraged. Librarians are the best! How dare you, sir!

      What struck me as funny is that on other forums I see this kind of response pretty frequently, where the commenter didn’t read carefully. And now I just did it! Shows how we consume writing these days. It’s whiz-bang fast (indeed, for-profit websites want us to read that fast, so we click on the next thing).

      Loved your line about rigging the game.

  2. The exceedingly old and wise Rick Salutin of the Toronto Star wrote a very similar column today.

    “The speedy shortcut to not being “viewed” as privileged would be not being captivated by your own elite status: knowing it’s less the result of merit than of privilege itself (via family and other startup advantages, like race), plus luck. But that would mean downgrading your self-esteem, which is a lot to ask. It’s hard not to be elitist when you know you’re better than everyone else.”

    https://www.thestar.com/opinion/star-columnists/2017/11/08/its-hard-not-to-be-elitist-when-youre-better-than-everyone-salutin.html

    There is great comfort in reading old, wise liberals. They don’t get too angry about the latest setback nor too optimistic about the latest polls. They know progress is a long haul. Somebody asked Dr. Noam recently if he thinks about being old and he compared it to a kid learning how to ride a bike: you just have to keep pedaling. Thank goodness for the old liberals who keep pedaling!

    • At first I read “William Saletan” and didn’t know what you were talking about. Reading is a very strange process, but given I suffer from both forms of dyslexia, it isn’t surprising.

      Both those quotes are good. For me, it is something akin to “liberal guilt.” I am so blessed in so many ways. It annoys me that others react to this realization of themselves with justifications for it. Thanksgiving is fast approaching, but I find Americans amazingly ungrateful. When they are grateful, it is to God. But that’s really just a way of complimenting themselves. They must be worthy of God’s favor, instead of what it is: dumb luck.

      One last thing: what’s great about old liberals is that they are actually liberal.

      BTW: Doug Jones, who is running for US Senate in Alabama, can use all our help. He has a good chance of winning. You don’t have to have any money. If you have a telephone, you can help out. This would be a great pick-up in a general sense. But also, it would keep the truly vile Roy Moore out of Congress. Check out Doug Jones for Senate. The election is in December. Let’s make this happen!

  3. The exceedingly old and wise Rick Salutin of the Toronto Star wrote a very similar column today.

    “The speedy shortcut to not being “viewed” as privileged would be not being captivated by your own elite status: knowing it’s less the result of merit than of privilege itself (via family and other startup advantages, like race), plus luck. But that would mean downgrading your self-esteem, which is a lot to ask. It’s hard not to be elitist when you know you’re better than everyone else.”

    https://www.thestar.com/opinion/star-columnists/2017/11/08/its-hard-not-to-be-elitist-when-youre-better-than-everyone-salutin.html

    There is great comfort in reading old, wise liberals. They don’t get too angry about the latest setback nor too optimistic about the latest polls. They know progress is a long haul. Somebody asked Dr. Noam recently if he thinks about being old and he compared it to a kid learning how to ride a bike: you just have to keep pedaling. Thank goodness for the old liberals who keep pedaling!

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