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Bell-curve racism for nations
by Louis Proyect
07 March 2002 14:26 UTC
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(I received this from John Landon, a Marxism list subscriber who ran into
it on the evo-psych mailing list, an influential forum with thousands of
subscribers. Phillipe Rushton is a well-known racist who has appeared on
platforms with the ultra right-wing National Party in Great Britain. What's
next? Academic articles and books arguing for eugenics?)

The Intelligence Of Nations

A review 
By Philippe Rushton

IQ and the Wealth of Nations. Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen, Westport, CT:
Praeger (2002), 256 pp., U.S. $64.95 (Hdbk.) ISBN 0-275-97510-X (Available
from amazon.com)

IQ and the Wealth of Nations. is a brilliantly-conceived, superbly-written,
path-breaking book that does for the global study of economic prosperity
what The Bell Curve did for the USA. Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen examine
IQ scores and economic indicators in 185 countries. They document that
national differences in wealth are explained most importantly by the
intelligence levels of the populations. They calculate that mean national
IQ correlates powerfully--more than 0.7--with per capita Gross Domestic
Product (GDP). National IQs predict both long-term and short term economic
growth rates. Second in importance is whether the countries have market or
socialist economies. Only third is the widely-credited factor of natural
resources, like oil.

One arresting fact emerges: the average national IQ of the world is only
90. Fewer than one in five countries have IQs equal or near the British
average of 100. Almost half have IQs of 90 or less. This poses a serious
problem if the book's conclusion that IQ = 90 forms the threshold for a
technological economy is correct.

Lynn and Vanhanen review the theories advanced over the last 250 years to
explain why some countries are rich while others are poor. These include:
climate theories (temperate zones are said to be best); geographic theories
(an East-West Axis is said to be best); modernization theories
(urbanization and division of labor are said to be good); dependency
theories (exploitation and peripheralization of poor nations are said to be
bad); neoliberal theories (market economies are said to be good);
psychological theories (cultural values like thriftiness, the Protestant
Ethic, and motivation for achievement are said to be good). Some of these
factors no doubt play a role. But it turns out that IQ that does the heavy

Next, Lynn and Vanhanen review the scientific literature and find that IQ
is an important determinant of educational attainment, earnings, economic
success, etc. In the United States and Britain, the correlation between IQ
and earnings for individuals is approximately 0.35. (That is, cleverness is
a fairly loose guarantee of economic success for an individual, but is
significant across an entire population. If you bet on it at a gaming table
you wouldn't win on every throw, but you would make a lot of money over an
evening.) Of course, it makes sense that intelligence determines earnings.
More intelligent people learn more quickly, solve problems more
effectively, can be trained to acquire more complex skills, and work more
productively and efficiently.

Nations whose people have high IQ levels also have high educational
attainment and large numbers of individuals who make significant
contributions to national life. On the flipside, nations with low levels of
intelligence have low levels of educational attainment and few individuals
who make significant contributions. Low intelligence leads to unfavorable
social outcomes like crime, unemployment, welfare dependency, and single

Lynn and Vanhanen prove that the widespread though rarely stated assumption
of economists and political scientists--that all peoples and nations have
the same average IQ--is wildly wrong. Their evidence documents substantial
national differences in average intelligence. The highest average IQs are
found among the Oriental countries of North East Asia (average IQ = 104),
followed by the European nations (average IQ = 98), and the mainly White
populations of North America and Australasia (average IQ = 98). Further
behind are the countries of South and Southwest Asia, from the Middle East
through Turkey to India and Malaysia (average IQ = 87), as are the
countries of South East Asia and the Pacific Islands (average IQ = 86), and
Latin America and the Caribbean (IQ = 85). Lowest are the countries of
Africa (average IQ = 70).

Lynn and Vanhanen find that some countries do have higher or lower per
capita incomes than their national IQ averages would predict. This is where
having a market or socialist economy or sitting atop a sea of crude oil
comes in.

Some of the countries with a higher per capita income than would be
predicted from their average IQs are Australia, Austria, Barbados, Belgium,
Canada, Denmark, France, Ireland, Qatar, Singapore, South Africa,
Switzerland, and the U.S. Except for Qatar, South Africa, and Barbados, all
of these are technologically highly developed market economies. Qatar's
exceptionally high per capita income comes from oil exporting, which is
actually managed and controlled by corporations and people from European
and North American countries. South Africa's much higher than expected per
capita income derives from the high performance of the industries
established and managed by the country's European minority. Similarly,
Barbados's above average wealth comes from its well-established tourist
industry and financial services, which are owned, controlled and managed by
American and European countries.

Some of the countries with lower per capita income than would be predicted
from their average IQ: Bulgaria, China, Hungary, Iraq, South Korea, the
Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Thailand, and Uruguay. Most of these
are present or former socialist countries. Iraq has suffered from losing
the Gulf War and a decade of UN trade sanctions. The large amount of ethnic
conflict in the Philippines decreased growth.

Lynn and Vanhanen provide a detailed examination how well IQ theory stacks
up against its competitors. For example, two significant exceptions to the
view that a tropical climate is detrimental to wealth are Singapore and
Hong Kong, which lie in the tropical zone but are rich. Conversely, Lesotho
and Swaziland are temperate, lying slightly south of the Tropic of
Capricorn, but poor. These differences, however, can be explained in terms
of intelligence theory. The people of Singapore and Hong Kong belong to the
ethnic group with the highest average IQs; the people of Lesotho and
Swaziland belong to the ethnic group with the lowest.

Modernization theories, according to which all economies would evolve from
subsistence agriculture through to various stages of urbanization and
industrialization, have worked for Western Europe and the Pacific Rim but
have failed for the four remaining groups of nations (South Asia, the
Pacific Islands, Latin America, and sub-Saharan Africa). IQ and the Wealth
of Nations proposes that modernization theories describe Western Europe and
the Pacific Rim because these countries have appreciably the same or
somewhat higher IQs than in the United States. But they did not work for
the other four groups of countries because average IQs are below the
technological threshold.

But why did the peoples of East Asia, with their high IQs, lag behind the
European peoples until the second half of the 20th Century? Well, China's
science and technology were generally more advanced than Europe's for
around two thousand years, from about 500 B.C. up to around 1500 A.D. But
in the 15th century, Chinese inventiveness came to an end and from that
time on virtually all the important advances were made by Europeans, first
in Europe and later in the U.S. The explanation may be that Europeans
developed the market economy, while China stagnated through authoritarian
bureaucracy and central planning.

The failure of Japan to develop economically until the late 19th century is
largely attributed to a regulated economy and isolation from the rest of
the world. By 1867-68 a revolution occurred and the new rulers embarked on
a program to modernize Japan by adopting Western education and technology,
and by freeing up the economy by transforming state monopolies into private
corporations. Much of the Japanese economic success in the 20th century was
built by adopting inventions made in the West, improving them, and selling
them more competitively in world markets. Japan thereby built up its
motorcycle, automobile, shipbuilding, and electronics industries. Although
it is sometimes asserted that the Japanese have not made any significant
scientific and technological innovations of their own, this underestimates
their technological achievements: the fiber-tipped pen (1960), bullet
trains traveling at 210 km per hour, much faster than any Western trains
(1964), laser radar (1966), quartz watches (1967), VHS video home systems
(1976), flat screen televisions using liquid crystal display (1979), video
discs (1980), CD-ROM (read only memory) disks (1985), digital audio tape
(1987), and digital networks for sending signals along coaxial cables and
optical fibers (1988).

African countries are at the opposite pole from China and Japan in national
IQ. This may explain why they are such a major anomaly for modernization
theory. The low rate of economic growth of African countries following
their independence from colonial rule in the 1960s is one of the major
problems in developmental economics. During the years 1976-98, the average
rate of economic growth per capita GNP of the 41 countries of sub-Saharan
Africa for which data are available is much lower than in the rest of the
world. Many of the African countries actually suffered negative per capita
growth rate. Economists have quantified all possible factors, such as
climate, ethnic diversity, geography, mismanagement, unemployment and the
like, and compared the situation to elsewhere in the world, especially
Asia. They concluded that these factors do not provide a complete
explanation and that there is some "missing element." Some have suggested
the low level of "social capital," i.e., the widespread corruption and lack
of trust in commercial relationships, poor roads and railways, unreliable
telephones and electricity supplies, and the prevalence of tropical
diseases such as malaria.

IQ and the Wealth of Nations identifies IQ as the missing link. Some of
these "social capital" are actually manifestations of a low level of
intelligence in the populations. Poor telephone services and electricity
supplies, low agricultural yields, and the poor advice given by government
advisory boards reflect low average IQ. With a mean IQ of 70, the
populations of Africa cannot be expected to match the rates of economic
growth achieved elsewhere in the world.

Finally, Lynn and Vanhanen peer into the future. They predict future growth
is most likely in countries with high national IQ scores but currently bad
economic systems. The countries of the former Communist Bloc--Russia,
Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania, and the People's Republic of China, and
Vietnam--are good bets.

What else can be done? Lynn and Vanhanen also list some of the factors,
some environmental and some genetic, that might raise IQ scores and
somewhat alleviate the disparities in national average IQ. These include:
better nutrition, education and health; and ending the dysgenic fertility
trends where the lowest IQ people produce the most children. (Obviously,
immigration policy has a role to play too.)

The take-home message of IQ and the Wealth of Nations: national differences
in IQ are here to stay and so is the gap between the rich and the poor
countries. Political promises that the gap is temporary, and will be
remedied by aid from rich countries to poor countries, or even by poor
countries adopting appropriate institutions, will not be fulfilled. Such
promises assume that all human populations have equal mental abilities to
adopt modern technologies and to achieve equal levels of economic
development. They do not. The authors sound a clarion call for the
recognition of national and race differences in intelligence.

Adapted from:

The Bigger Bell Curve: Intelligence, National Achievement, and The Global
Economy, 22 October 2001, (PDF version) in Elsevier Science journal
Personality and Individual Differences)

Philippe Rushton is a professor of psychology at the University of Western
Ontario and the author of Race, Evolution, and Behavior: A Life History

Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org

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