Friday, October 19, 2007

Economic Intelligence

Dr. James Watson made a strange statement.

In an interview published in the October 14, 2007 edition of the Sunday Times, Watson was quoted as saying he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa". "All our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours -- whereas all the testing says not really."

This is the kind of stupid statement scientists make sometimes when they talk about politics and economics. It reminds me of the liberal Isaac Asimov, who never made racist statements, but used to lose 100 points of IQ when he wrote about politics.

Dr. Watson further confused the issue by backtracking as if he didn't say what he said:

"I am mortified about what has happened," he told a group of scientists and journalists. "I can certainly understand why people, reading those words, have reacted in the ways they have.

"To all those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologize unreservedly.

"That is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief."

There is no explanation of what Dr. Watson's original statement was supposed to mean. What IS the meaning of this statement?

All our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours -- whereas all the testing says not really.

Our "social policies" consist of giving Africa handouts. These handouts don't seem to do any good, so Dr. Watson concludes from his testing that it is because the negro race lacks intelligence. I see no other way to read this statement. Dr. Watson gives no evidence to support his outrageous statement about "their intelligence" -- however, his statement gives plenty of evidence that he lacks intelligence in economics.

If he had thought his proposition through, he might have considered the Palestinians. We have given them billions of dollars over the years, none of which did a damn bit of good. Much of the money ended up in Arafat's Swiss bank account. The Palestinians are caucasian.

Or he might have considered the Soviet Union. In that communist country, run by white people in their brilliance, there were always shortages in the stores and the masses had a low standard of living, despite the fact that Russia has vast natural resources.

I bring up the Soviet Union because their problems were caused by the same thing causing Africa's woes: they lacked freedom. As Ludwig von Mises explained, it doesn't matter what race a people is, if their economy is planned, they will lack intelligence. Economic intelligence comes when free individuals in a free market use the pricing system to make rational calculations.

Our "social policies" lack intelligence. Following the morality of altruism, we throw money at Africa. The money does nothing but make altruists feel they have done their moral duty. To do the truly intelligent thing (and the truly moral thing), we need to shut off all foreign aid to Africa and demand that the socialist hellholes and thugocracies free their people and respect property rights. Any poor country that tries this soon looks like a country filled with brilliant people -- when they are only people using prices to pursue their self-interest.

Dr. Watson needs to read Ludwig von Mises. Perhaps then he would stop embarrassing himself with his economic ignorance.

9 comments:

Adrian Hester said...

Watson: "All our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours -- whereas all the testing says not really." To which Myrhaf replies, "...Dr. Watson concludes from his testing that it is because the negro race lacks intelligence. I see no other way to read this statement."

I can see something else he might have meant, thanks to hanging out for too long in the past on evolutionary psychology forums. Certain EPers who are convinced of inherent differences in intelligence among the races make a great deal of the fact that many African groups score quite a bit lower on IQ tests than other groups do (one such fellow popped up recently in the comments at Gus Van Horn's site, for example). There were any number of responses to this. These included some pretty sharp valid critiques of the whole program such as (and here I'm working from memories that are not very fresh) (1) the testing methodology, in that many of the Africans who were tested might well never have had such tests before, in which case the difference is about what you see in the rise between first and third or later tests among western schoolchildren and (2) the wole assumption that IQ measures "general intelligence" as opposed to a particular set of skills. Watson might have been alluding to the second of these, for there were several people who responded that what IQ tests measure is the form of intelligence necessary for success in modern industrial societies, not the societies in which they currently live.

But of course we're talking about EPers, who like to attack the very possibility of free will as an unscientific myth (some differ; Dawkins and Pinker, I believe, admit some form of free will into the mix, at least in the sense of free choice among given alternatives, but most dismiss this as a refusal to accept the only "truly scientific" position, determinism) and dismiss the influence of cultural factors on behavior as at best an overrated reinforcement of biologically programmed behavior and m ore often as perfect examples of the leftist dogma of the blank slate (this is one of those unsubtle cudgels that these types like to wield to dismiss anything that sounds too much like humanities majors talking, because believe you me, they *really* despise humanities and social science types).

Anonymous said...

"...because believe you me, they *really* despise humanities and social science types..."

This has been my experience also with Epers. They not only despise humanities types, they hate Ayn Rand. They consider her philosophy entirely deduced from arbitrary premises believe it or not. It shocked me the first time I encountered it, to hear Ayn Rand described that way. And all Epers are biological determinists. They actually link free will with religion!! Can you imagine. If you argue for free will they will consider you a religious absolutist. Professional atheist Sam Harris is an example of one such EPer. Read the footnotes in his book "The End of Faith" for further evidence.

Objectivism is not only going to face scorn from religionists and leftist humanists but also from the scientific community itself. Determinism has such a death grip on much of scientific academia that it will take Herculean efforts to make an impact there.

John Kim

Myrhaf said...

What is an EPer?

Anonymous said...

An advocate of Evolutionary Psychology.

John Kim

EdMcGon said...

It sounds like EPers completely ignore environmental factors on an individual's intelligence. Genetics is only one part of the overall intelligence equation.

It seems to me that when blacks break out of the various economic traps, such as the dictatorships of Africa or the welfare policies of America, they seem to do just as well as any other race. When you break down IQ testing based on income levels, you will see there are negligable differences between ALL races.

Adrian Hester said...

John Kim: "They actually link free will with religion!! Can you imagine. If you argue for free will they will consider you a religious absolutist."

Yep. In fact, I've seen claims that experimental psychology has disproved the existence of free will. How? Well, when you present subjects with clear live choices, they almost all make the same choice; if there were free will, then you'd have essentially random choices. Instead, they say, this proves that people's behavior is not free because it is determined by outside forces (benefits, ideals, and so on)--the same causes lead to the same effects, and thus it's strict deterministic causation of the behaviorist type.

I simply didn't believe it when I first read this argument, but it's seriously meant, and in fact it's a response to a particular Christian view of free will--that true free will is nothing but the freedom to choose Jesus Christ as one's savior regardless of consequences or upbringing or benefits or reasons or doubts. And in fact I have read Christians dismiss books like Dennett's Freedom Evolving and others, in which he tries to reconcile a limited form of free will with determinism--quite interesting books but not entirely successful--on the grounds that the freedom to choose between given alternatives is not sufficient for real Christians. So yes, it's a live issue, but applied to the Objectivist view of free will as the freedom to choose to think or not, it's a strawman.

Anonymous said...

"Instead, they say, this proves that people's behavior is not free because it is determined by outside forces (benefits, ideals, and so on)--the same causes lead to the same effects, and thus it's strict deterministic causation of the behaviorist type."

This is interesting because I see a similar argument coming from economists of "econometric model" types. They don't believe that morality has any role in economics because all that counts is "incentives". In fact many of them also don't believe in free will but there they tend to favor environmental determinism or in this case determinism by economic class which fits in so nicely with Marxism. If you tried to tell such an economist that volition and morality are absolutely essential in a proper approach to economics, they would look at you as if you were autistic.

John Kim

JR said...

The attempts by do-gooders to dismiss the evidence against racial differences in IQ are often amusing for their desperation. They almost invariably come up with claims and ideas that have been very thoroughly raked over long ago and are too arrogant to suspect that they might learn something by checking the research on the subject. (Rushton's demolition of Gould's "Mismeasure of Man" is a handy introduction to some of the more common issues). In his Freakonomics blog on the New York Times, however, economist Steven D. Levitt has come up with something that is at least original -- though at the price of absurdity. He reports a study in which he studied the IQs of one-year-olds. And guess what? At that age there were no differences between blacks and whites.

The idea that one-year-olds can have their IQs reliably measured is of course a joke and Steve Sailer satirizes it well. Steve does not go the full monte, however, so I will -- thus making me perhaps the most incorrect blogger on the net. I regret if it loses me readers but I have never shrunk from telling the full truth.

The fact is that if Levitt had included one-year-old chimpanzees in his group of infants, he WOULD have found a difference -- in favour of chimpanzees. Generally speaking, the higher the final IQ, the longer it takes to reach its peak. If the test used by Levitt had really measured IQ, he would almost certainly have found the white children at that age to be LESS intelligent than black children. Levitt was the simpleton for being unable even to form a reasonable hypothesis for his study.

The outrage brigade will have stopped reading by now but I must make clear that I am NOT equating blacks with chimpanzees. Blacks are clearly vastly more intelligent than chimpanzees. But comparisons between primates can sometimes help illuminate general principles. Leftists have long claimed to find great significance for human beings in the behaviour of the "peaceful" Bonobos, for instance. But more on that some other time.

Finally, let me add a routine caveat: People have a tendency to see statements about groups as applying to all members of that group. That is rarely so and is certainly not true in this instance. There is no inconsistency in saying that blacks as a whole are less intelligent while also acknowledging that some individual blacks are very intelligent. What is true of most need not be true of all.

Anonymous said...

JR,

Here is an Objectivist's findings after doing research on the subject.

http://prodos.thinkertothinker.com/?p=353

His conclusion:

"The research and arguments I investigated (only a small portion are included in this study) which advanced a case for either lower overall genetically determined Black intelligence or higher overall genetically determined Black psychopathy failed to establish either position.

Indeed, they relied on flawed and often careless correlations and at no point succeeded or even sought to establish any causal links."

John Kim