*The Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy*

That is the new book by Christopher Hayes, here is one marvelously good review.  I was myself very impressed by the level of execution in this book.

In terms of pushback, I would offer two points.

1. The best critiques of meritocracy usually come from those with extreme merit.

2. I wish the book had been more Hegelian.  One could well have written a book called *The Twilight of the Non-Elites*, for instance:

“Can’t you’all have some better schools?  It’s not mainly about money, rather a school is a collection of parents and children.”

“Get married.  And stay married.”

“You didn’t have to falsify your income on that mortgage application; isn’t that a felony?”

“It’s your fault you ended up in jail, don’t blame the elites.”

And so on.  What’s interesting about today’s scene is that both “Twilights” seem correct.


Here's the one I want to see:
"Twilight of Oversimplification: America after Dichotomies"

There was a Nat Geo article about trying to increase the Tiger population but they ran into a little snag that apparently the do-gooders hadn't thought of- Tigers and people don't get along. But enough about golf. I'm counting the minutes until this story appears on All Things Considered. I think in normal discourse it must be super important to misunderstand the other side. There are a lot of days out there to fill up with content. I don't give a crap about elites or non-elites until they try to make me do stuff. I generally side with the non-elites because they do that the least often and at least have the common courtesy to do the violence themselves without all the guilt trip.

My wife is from the boonies of Sumatra, and their perspective on tigers is just a bit different from an American's. Tigers in the forest, pirates in the Straight, and owning a gun is a death penalty offense.

strait, dammit.

it's not a paradox that both are correct. if you think Junior will land on his feet, the incentive to resort to nepotism is lessened. If you think it's nepotism or poverty, you'll give junior a leg up.
As Murray's "death of the white middle class" heats up, expect to see more "haves" use what they can, when they can, to insulate their kids from that force

Don't knock nepotism. I tried it once and it was very successful.

I tried it successfully too. The only problem was that I tried it on a non-family member.

I prefer simony to nepotism.

Of course, some groups have a dual-nepotism at their disposal.

These groups retain both highly successful, well-placed family and friends and an entire ethnic group with a strong sense of collective identity. When this is juxtaposed against already high cognitive ability, the results are startling.

What happens with low cognitive ability?

Nepotism with low cognitive ability?

The interesting thing is that there's relatively little of this in America. African Americans and Latinos, while voting as blocks, demonstrate little collective solidarity when it comes to employment.

South Asians also demonstrate a low collective consciousness, which is not surprising considering the caste system.

Right. The more likely members of a racial group call each other "brother" and "sister," the less effective they are at acting nepotistically toward each other.

I'd say the dismissal of the reforming mayor in Washington demonstrates that blacks see municipal jobs in majority black cities as their right, something that black people should be able to get and enjoy — at very comfortable pay and very little effort — for life.

And it demonstrated that they can successfully enforce that nepotism even when it really hurts a very large minority of people with better organizational and cognitive skills.

Blacks do demonstrate collective solidarity in employment - there have been lawsuits against black supervisors for discriminating against white and hispanic applicants, and the observable fact that clerical positions in many government agencies are almost entirely staffed by blacks, even when the agency's applicant pool is not primarily black, is more evidence for collective solidarity in employment.

Right, African Americans are encouraged constantly by the media to organize politically against whites, but on the level of daily life, they tend to treat each other badly, victimizing each other of crimes, violent and nonviolent, at much higher rates than other groups.

The New York Times constantly calls upon Latinos to organize politically against whites (e.g., over immigration), but apathy tends to be the dominant trait of Mexican-American social life.

Here in Europe, if your family is very rich and your cognitive ability very poor, you risk being mistaken for royalty and sentenced to a life of drifting from one opening ceremony to the next.

Not in Scandinavia. There -- if your cognitive ability is very poor -- you are put on welfare and have to suffer the indignity of not working for years, and only having to show up in a desultory fashion at a simple job for several months before the process starts all over.

Not in Scandinavia? You don't know that Denmark, Sweden, and Norway are all monarchies?

"Get married"
"Stay married"
are kind of antagonists.

“Can’t you’all have some better schools? It’s not mainly about money, rather a school is a collection of parents and children.”

It's "y'all." I bet if parents signed the checks they could. They don't, so probably not. The success of kids in elite taxing areas is evidence for this. That's where the parents are involved. They have options. Since nobody seems to want to bring up the "only have kids when you have come up with something worth reproducing" and the related "then you will be able to afford their care and instruction" theories we are stuck for the time being with the "paying for other peoples' kids" and "other people being irresponsible" problems. I'd propose child-rearing mortgages but think of what a disaster that would be.

If, as teachers increasingly tell us, "Can’t you’all have some better schools? It’s not mainly about money, rather a school is a collection of parents and children." maybe we can start be reining in some of the misdirected spending.

I see parallels with medical services (I refuse to call it healthcare). 1. lionize gross aggregate spending as its own virtue, divorced from assessment of value attained per dollar. 2. Take it out of the affordability of the average person. 3. Make it an equality issue, not to mention "too important" to leave to the market 4. "We can't just leave the money and decisions in the hands of the non-expert ______ (parent, patient, etc.). 5. Compete for the chair.

I couldn't agree more with this statement:

"Since nobody seems to want to bring up the “only have kids when you have come up with something worth reproducing” and the related “then you will be able to afford their care and instruction” theories we are stuck for the time being with the “paying for other peoples’ kids” and “other people being irresponsible” problems."

At some point we need to start talking about the fact that too many ill-equipped people have children they can't ever hope to care for. Unfortunately neither dominant political party has any interest in addressing the issue for fear of angering their "bases."

A political party addressing that would be terrifying. If you want it done, you will have to it yourself.

The American meritocracy will remain robust enough to highlight the increasing returns to intelligence >1,2,3 SD above the mean.

I discussed the prospects of enhancement this decade, in the median wage post. It's not going to happen. It's a widely ignored topic gaining the attention of medical professionals and ethicists in earnest because it's viewed as an eventuality over a longer horizon.

Among the least deleterious means of improving our lot is to increase our intelligence through voluntary means. In sufficient numbers, the positive externalities benefit everyone, regardless of their participation.

Israel dispenses Ritalin over-the-counter.


Here is the reasoning behind the decision.

>The head of the IMA’s Ethics Board, Professor Avinoam Reches said:

>“Everyone has the right to make the most of themselves so long as it doesn’t hurt or endanger others…Though a person may not suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder, if Ritalin helps him concentrate then it is allowed. It is the same for memory-improvement drugs. If they help a person with slightly worsened cognitive skills then there is no reason not to give them to him…”

Israel offers Ritalin over-the-counter.


Here is the reasoning.

>The head of the IMA’s Ethics Board, Professor Avinoam Reches said:
>“Everyone has the right to make the most of themselves so long as it doesn’t hurt or endanger others…Though a person may not suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder, if Ritalin helps him concentrate then it is allowed. It is the same for memory-improvement drugs. If they help a person with slightly worsened cognitive skills then there is no reason not to give them to him…”

I should write a book called "Learning from Israel."

Their toilets are European style - PITA to keep clean :-)

Is that a regulatory failure, or could you make money selling American-style toilets to large buyers by touting the savings in cleaning costs?

That was the IMA, not the law. Erowid says no. translation of their source.

I would recommend legalizing modafinil before ritalin.

Thanks for the correction.

Modafinil is the best candidate for OTC access. However, Ritalin is safe enough to be dispensed behind the counter by a pharmacist.

"We" give it to millions of kids based on a 30 second note fired off from school. It must be deadly dangerous.

There must also be no environmental cause of either the lack of concentration or the perceived need for greater concentration than was previously required necessitating performance enhancing drugs.

See, we need to medicate a large percentage of our kids and nothing is wrong.

It's funny how pragmatic countries become when surrounded by hundreds of millions of people who want to kill them.

It's weird how- at least based on reviews- both Hayes and Maddow have written books that basically riff off Palin's "big city elites don't care about Real America" shtick (yes, I am aware Nixon, Bryan, Jackson et al got there even earlier). Is it just globalization -> converging efficiency-adjusted wages in lower to middle class jobs across geography, while the size of the global economy increases-> stagnant median real income/wealth in rich countries, while "superstars" see their income rise-> universal agreement in rich countries that "our system doesn't work" though obviously not on how?

1. The best critiques of meritocracy usually come from those with extreme merit.

Only those who have "been there" are in a position to see what exactly the elite have (and don't have) to offer.

do only those who have “been there” are in a position to see what exactly the un-elite have to offer?

From the review: "The only cure is to reduce economic inequality." And who will decide what constitutes economic inequality and how to "reduce" it (the reviewer comes up with a fantastically new idea: raise taxes on the rich!)? Why, the elites will! This is just another Marxist utopian dream. And when Marxist utopian dreamers find their way into power, they kill people by the millions.

Only if they resist.

Yes, Sweden is full murder and murdering Marxist murders.
I lived there and still cannot believe that I escaped alive.

Sweden is not Marxist, nor are all Swedes economically equal.

My comment claims neither – was addressed to hopaulius' point?

But they confiscated your spelling ability.

Socialists. They are always confiscating.

Oh my god. Holy Shit. I made a spelling mistake.

Zzzzz ...

Settle down. It was a joke. Hyperbole. Like your comment about making it out of Sweden alive.

Unlike global capitalism, that has a death toll exceeding anything in human history.

Oh, that's right - there's not one person pushing buttons labelled' kill' so it's OK. Silly me.

It's all been downhill since the Garden Of Eden.

A pre-scarcity society?

It would be much more accurate to say global capitalism has saved more lives than anything in human history.

I found the review to be pretty terrible and vaguely offensive. A select quote:

"Instead of a world in which there are a handful of big networks with the money to run television shows, everyone could afford to have their Sunday morning conversations filmed and livestreamed. Instead of only huge conglomerates having the capital and distribution to launch new product lines, everyone could make and market their own line of underwear or video games (instead of just elite Red Sox pitchers)."

That would be an improvement? Really??? We would be better off abandoning the television of today for livestreamed Sunday conversations?? You would rather watch some boring amateur crap than the Wire, Mad Men, Battlestar Gallactica, Arrested Development, etc. etc.(substitute your own favorite)?

It's funny to me that a Red Sox pitcher starting a video game company is a counter-example to their point. He failed by the way, despite a fair-to-middlin' product, though not because of "The Man," well, not "That Man" anyway.

On the other hand, fiction is different from news shows. I cannot watch news anymore.

The bizarre thing about that quote is, pretty much all of what they describe is already not only possible but happening on a massive scale. The internet is full of amateur-created video games, multimedia content, and product lines (I'm sure that includes underwear, though I don't feel like checking to find out). Exactly what is it that they think people need to be enabled to do?

I interpreted it to mean that somehow the "inequality" in these areas should be reduced by reducing the power of the companies with the most power/most popular shows/whatever, and that somehow we would be replacing the brilliant entertainment we are presently enjoying with what, as you rightly point out, is already available on YouTube in enormous quantity.

It reminds me of the arrogance of Calif

It reminds me of the arrogance of California regulators mandating that X% of cars sold must be electric or whatever. It's almost like these people don't realize that some things are consumed in large quantities because large quantities of people choose to consume them.

They do realize that, they just don't care.
Do what your betters tell you, peasant!

You would rather watch some boring amateur crap than Battlestar Gallactica

There's a difference between those two? Thinking about it, I guess there is. That boring amateur crap has a plot...

I don't read books, but I'd bet the reality is the opposite of what the book says.

The reality is I spend time seeking out things like Peter Thiel talks and watching a lot of amateur Youtube videos.

It is a hollowing out of the middle because the long-tail is undercutting them and all that is left is the winner-take-all super-elites because they also benefit from the decline of gatekeepers. Before the internet Peter Thiel would be, well, not the Peter Thiel of the internet, but I digress. Better example, I would be less able to find Warren Buffett CEO letters and more likely to settle for a business textbook. It is at least in part the low-end residual energy, not to mention cheap foreign labor access to our markets that is undercutting the middle.

Making my own underwear line seems like a project so trivial that I'm not even intrigued.

I read the review you linked to and the comments and all I can say is "Ick". I bet the alternative title for the book was "Blame Successful People for Everything -- They're Trying Too Hard!" Has some progressive vampire taken over Tyler's byline?

Haven't read the book, but Hayes piece in the Nation seemed pretty obtuse on one level; it talks at length about admissions to elite NY public high schools, without mentioning once that the system of tests/test-prep is one that has given an overwhelmingly disproportionate share of the spots to Asians. Many of these Asian "elites" are children of immigrants, with no special wealth or privilege.

Whether this situation is good or bad, it's obviously an important part of the story, and it seems clueless in the extreme not to even bring it up. Now maybe the book is better, but I'm not expecting much.

(This was pointed out by both Razib and Sailer http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2012/06/the-invisible-academic-asian/)

Does anyone pay any attention to facts? Does anyone care? Note the line.

"Thanks to test prep, the rich get lots of time to practice on it, while even smart poor kids don't."

Sadly, this is BS. From http://online.wsj.com/article/...

"SAT Coaching Found to Boost Scores -- Barely

The college counselors' report concludes that, on average, prep courses yield only a modest benefit, "contrary to the claims made by many test-preparation providers." It found that SAT coaching resulted in about 30 points in score improvement on the SAT, out of a possible 1600 and less than one point out of a possible 36 on the ACT, the other main college-entrance exam, says Derek Briggs, chairman of the research and methodology department at the University of Colorado in Boulder and author of the admissions counselors' report."

From http://collegeapps.about.com/o...

"Two studies suggest that SAT prep courses and SAT coaching raise the verbal score by about 10 points and the math score by about 20 points:

A College Board study conducted in the mid 1990s showed that SAT coaching resulted in an average verbal increase of 8 points and an average math score increase of 18 points.A 2009 study by NACAC, the National Association of College Admission Counseling, showed that SAT prep courses raised critical reading scores by about 10 points and math scores by about 20 points

The two studies, although conducted over a decade apart, show consistent data. On average, SAT prep courses and SAT coaching raised total scores by roughly 30 points. Given that SAT prep classes can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars, the average result is not many points for the money."

And no, income doesn't drive SAT scores, at least no directly.

See "The Widening Racial Scoring Gap on the SAT College Admissions Test"

From "The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education" (http://www.jbhe.com/features/4...

"Blacks from families with incomes of more than $100,000 had a mean SAT score that was 85 points below the mean score for whites from all income levels, 139 points below the mean score of whites from families at the same income level, and 10 points below the average score of white students from families whose income was less than $10,000."

Like it or not, test prep is, at best, a minor advantage for the families that can afford it. Nor does income in general account for SAT performance. Kumon and the like are big plus for the kids who participate. However, these schools require many hours of rigorous study, not some breezy test prep course that will (supposedly) let you ace the ACT/SAT.

I wonder why you never read articles about that in the KaplanWashington Post?


Educationrealist has a wonderful takedown of Hayes (a demolition is more like it). See "Why Chris Hayes Fails" - http://educationrealist.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/why-chris-hayes-fails/

"Chris Hayes has a book to sell and guilt to expunge. The poor lad feels guilty that he benefited from the Evil Mostly White Meritocracy:

But the problem with my alma mater is that over time, the mechanisms of meritocracy have broken down. In 1995, when I was a student at Hunter, the student body was 12 percent black and 6 percent Hispanic. Not coincidentally, there was no test-prep industry for the Hunter entrance exam. That’s no longer the case. Now, so-called cram schools like Elite Academy in Queens can charge thousands of dollars for after-school and weekend courses where sixth graders memorize vocabulary words and learn advanced math. Meanwhile, in the wealthier precincts of Manhattan, parents can hire $90-an-hour private tutors for one-on-one sessions with their children.

By 2009, Hunter’s demographics were radically different—just 3 percent black and 1 percent Hispanic, according to the New York Times. With the rise of a sophisticated and expensive test-preparation industry, the means of selecting entrants to Hunter has grown less independent of the social and economic hierarchies in New York at large. The pyramid of merit has come to mirror the pyramid of wealth and cultural capital.

Here, Hayes is relying on the cheapest and most meretricious of the education myths: the rich have the ability to improve their test scores, SAT or otherwise, through expensive test prep, while the low income blacks and Hispanics do not. The higher scores are not genuine, and thus the acceptance is not truly meritocratic.

There’s just one tiny glitch in this mythology:

Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to use test prep than whites. Cite, cite, and oh look, this cite has a table:"

Read it all. Educationrealist has actually worked as a test prep tutor, school teacher, etc.

Not all test prep is created equal. I moonlight as an ACT tutor (exclusively one-on-one) for a company that guarantees a 3 point improvement for a 30 hour contract. Very few of the students miss that mark. Part of the benefit that rich, well-connected parents offer their children is that they can afford and know where to find the services of people like me.

I'll agree that throwing $200 at a Kaplan knock-off is a waste of money, but that doesn't mean that higher impact test prep isn't available.

But that wouldn't explain why the improvements are so unequal even for the same test prep, or why low income whites/Asians do better than high income blacks generally.

It's pretty clear that certain cultures are just more more compatible with learning. That sort of thing is inculcated almost from birth and can't be significantly altered in a few tutoring sessions.

Rich parents can't buy buy their kid intelligence, and they can only pass on study skills and an interest in the life of the mind to the degree that they possess or value those things themselves. (Not that some kids can't pick those things up on their own or from a teacher, it's just vanishingly rare).

I simply wanted to refute the argument that test prep can't affect one's score. It absolutely can, but only if the student is committed to learning and is at least minimally prepared. In fact, the attributes that would cause a student to do well on the test to begin with also make them better able to take advantage of my help.

only if the student is committed to learning and is at least minimally prepared

Yep. Culture dominates.

The subprime mortgage mess was a classic example of elites (e.g., Angelo Mozilo, Henry Cisneros, and George W. Bush) teaming up with strawberry pickers at the bottom and various hustlers in the middle to defraud the responsible, all in the name of fighting discrimination.

Yeah, you forgot that it was also in the name of making money before the bell rang. Crony capitalism, whether of its affirmative action and social engineering variants or not, is very profitable for a select few. As it happens that select few has a limited stake in the long-term future of the U.S. and every other Western nation.

"Diversity" is now our most sacred value, so diversity rationalizations are currently wielded by our most ambitious scoundrels: for example, consider the 2002-2005 Bush-Mozilo-Cisneros push for getting regulators to allow zero down payment mortgages in the name of "Increasing Minority Homeownership." The problem is that we are still, in 2012, so blinded by the worship of diversity that we can't even notice how the crooks used it on us to justify their subprime deeds.

The crooks used a lot of tricks; you make it sound as if "diversity" was the big scam in their bag. It wasn't.

The sub-prime disaster had a lot of underlying causes but it's a stretch to imagine that diversity was a big one.

"The sub-prime disaster had a lot of underlying causes but it’s a stretch to imagine that diversity was a big one."

Diversity wasn't the only one, but it was a big one. Quote without comment (http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/countrywide-expands-commitment-to-1-trillion-in-home-loans-to-minority-and-lower-income-borrowers-54027497.html)

"Countrywide Expands Commitment to $1 Trillion in Home Loans to Minority and Lower-Income Borrowers
- We House America Challenge Leads the Industry in Affordable Lending -

ORLANDO, Fla., Jan. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., a
national leader in expanding homeownership across America, today announced an
extension of its We House America(R) initiative to fund $1 trillion in home
loans to minorities and lower-income borrowers and communities through 2010.
"The $1 Trillion We House America Challenge, expanded from $600 billion
announced in 2003, embodies Countrywide's long-standing commitment to lead the
mortgage industry in closing the homeownership gap for minority and
lower-income families and communities," said Countrywide Financial Corporation
Chairman and CEO Angelo Mozilo, who announced the initiative at the
International Builders' Show in Orlando.
"For several years now, Countrywide has been a leading lender to
minorities and lower-income households," Mozilo said. "I am proud of our
lending record and pleased to announce the expansion of our lending commitment
to $1 trillion. The We House America program has already placed 2.4 million
families into homes, and we expect to nearly triple that number by 2010.""

See also "Reckless Endangerment" (http://www.realclearmarkets.com/articles/2011/06/29/housing_and_reckless_disregard_for_risk_99102.html)

"Morgenson and Rosner have a different story to tell. It was Fannie Mae, they argue, which led the way in relaxing loan underwriting standards in the industry, and Fannie Mae whose lobbying tactics, using affordable housing as a cudgel to expand its portfolio with risky lending, was "watched closely and subsequently imitated by others in the private sector." It was Fannie Mae who showed those on Wall Street how it was possible to eliminate the traditional due diligence conducted by lenders, which "soon became the playbook for financial executives across the country," and executives at Fannie Mae who, when all else failed, viciously and personally attacked those who questioned its practices, in the process destroying a few careers. As a congressional aide said of Fannie Mae, although it had a grandmotherly image, "they'll castrate you, decapitate you, tie up and throw you in the Potomac." No wonder Congress barely blinked when, in 1994, Fannie Mae announced a $1 trillion commitment to affordable housing, including money lent under inferior underwriting standards."

Dude, do you mean to say Jews? Just say so. Dog whistling is uncouth.

"consider the 2002-2005 Bush-Mozilo-Cisneros push"

"Dude, do you mean to say Jews?"

You must know something about George W. Bush, Angelo Mozilo, and Henry Cisneros that the rest of us don't. Barbara Bush is sure going to have a lot of explaining to do to George H.W. Bush when you go public with your revelations!

Don't underestimate the resilience of the "Fight Discrimination ... Whatever the Cost" meme.

Apparently falsifying signitures when done by a bank is NOT a felony. And in Washigton DC, falsifying income on a mortgage application is a very elite felony and can get you electeed to the City Council

Judging from the excerpt from Hayes' book in The Nation, the book is considerably better than that silly Crooked Timber review.

In general, though, it's extremely difficult to discuss intelligence intelligently without risking James D. Watson-style career-cratering. But, to adequately understand contemporary elite behavior without explicitly including average IQ differences among Jews, Asians, blacks and Hispanics in your model is hopeless. So, our discourse is intellectually emasculated.

I often wonder why you sputter on this line of thought. We lack the sophisticated demographic studies to divine this result (i.e. isolating and implicating heritable factors). Among the exceptions, Ashkenazi Jews research suggests a higher mean g, but the results remain contested.

Given other modes of tackling intelligence and inhibition control problems on the left-side of the g-curve, your approach seems antiquated, slow-moving, and subject to harmful social externalities.

Ashkenazi Jews have a higher mean g, but this is weighted disproportionately towards verbal intelligence. For East Asians of high mean g, verbal cognitive ability is relatively less high. Thus, we see the bifurcation of these two high IQ populations into different professions. On my money, the Asian orientation towards engineering, math, and science is more valuable (however mimetic) than a predisposition towards verbal facility in law, politics, and media.

Ranjit says:

"On my money, the Asian orientation towards engineering, math, and science is more valuable (however mimetic) than a predisposition towards verbal facility in law, politics, and media."

According to a Jewish Telegraph Agency study in 2009, Jews make up about 2% of the U.S. population but about 35% of the Forbes 400.

How many people are on the Forbes 400? (Come on, Steve. I bet you can figure it out. Use that high-quality heritable g of yours.) Does 35% of that sample allow you to say anything about the aggregate performance of several million people?

Milliam snarks:

"Does 35% of that sample allow you to say anything about the aggregate performance of several million people?"

Yes, it does. That's how bell curves work. Try thinking about it for a few seconds.

The question of Jewish wealth has been investigated by the quasi-governmental Israeli thinktank, the Jewish People Planning Institute, which is chaired by Obama Administration official Stuart Eizenstat and run by a former head of Israeli military intelligence. In their recent book "2030: Alternative Futures for the Jewish People," the JPPI notes:

"World Jewry today is at a historical zenith of absolute wealth creation. …

"There are no data comparing Jewish and non-Jewish levels of accumulated wealth. One can base the predictions only on non-scientific analysis such as the prominence of Jews among: Nobel laureates, lists of rich people and the 'Russian oligarchs,' leaders of financial institutions, entertainment, hi-tech industries, and political representatives. ...

"Based on these observations, one can say that Jewish wealth is higher than almost any other ethnic group worldwide."

"2030" is a highly informative book, which you can download here:


Doesn't this depend on how one defines "valuable"? If in terms of "ability to mint money" then Steve is right.

That they are also the most oppressed of any people ever is a clever marketing trick. But I don't really want any part of this discussion.

the sophisticated demographic studies to divine this result (i.e. isolating and implicating heritable factors)

What sort of sophisticated demographic studies are you thinking about?

Anyway, it does not matter whether racial differences in IQ are mainly due to genes or something else. What matters is that the differences are persistent over generations. You cannot understand America's current class structure without taking them into account.

Given other modes of tackling intelligence and inhibition control problems on the left-side of the g-curve

What other modes?

>>What sort of sophisticated demographic studies are you thinking about?

Demographic studies that isolate heritable factors implicated in intelligence across population groups.

>>Anyway, it does not matter whether racial differences in IQ are mainly due to genes or something else. What matters is that the differences are persistent over generations. You cannot understand America’s current class structure without taking them into account.

In totality, yes.

Among latinos and african americans, heritability aside, there are non-trivial gaps in academic performance, wealth, and life outcomes. I don't dispute this.

>>>Given other modes of tackling intelligence and inhibition control problems on the left-side of the g-curve.
>> What other modes?

Unguided structural changes in the labour market which divert idle low performing labour to productive ends. School programs with tiered access to university-level and technical skill preparation courses. Improvements in early childhood nutrition through subsidized healthy school meals. Voucher programs to improve the quality of education. And so on....

Wealth and academic achievement hurdles for immigration eligibility also serve as decent filters against low-g candidates.

What the elites fail to understand is that IQ is not close to a limiting factor in fulfilling the aspirations of almost anyone here in 21st century America.

As Bridget Fonda explained to Samuel L. Jackson in "Jackie Brown," it depends upon what your aspirations are.

I think it's actually pretty hard to argue that getting high and watching TV is a less rational goal than, say, being CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

So true...unless your aspirations include doing anything more complicated than menial labor or customer service jobs.

What a bleak view of human potential you hold. This is a profoundly lazy and smug brand of cynicism.

Dear Brian:

Yes, but we're funnier than you are.

Best wishes,
The Cynical

What probability would you assign to the following statement: "This book is essentially a highly complex, well-executed and rather reasonable sounding good vs evil story."

Maybe this is what Tyler was getting out when he said he'd wished it were more Hegelian?

It's plausible to me that the mechanisms identified in the book are material, but my sense from the reviews is that, in important ways, the author's more interested in the good guy/bad guy story than he is that underlying theory. The tax the rich solution in particular stands out as something that doesn’t seem to follow from the theory, but fits nicely in to the trusty old rich wealthy elite = bad guys that should be cut down to size story.

That being said... sometimes good vs evil stories are full of wisdom.

I haven't read the book, but both the review and the piece in the Nation (excerpted by Steve Sailer on his blog) stress the problem of elites attempting to shield their children from the rigors of the meritocracy. I agree that this is a problem. I am a big fan of downward mobility--I think it is necessary to facilitate the upward mobility of those with merit who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. So what do Hayes and his reviewer propose as a solution? Tax the rich!!! Don't they understand that this will do little more than stimulate new forms of tax avoidance? These are the ELITES we're talking about! They don't just lie down and let you take away their gains. Hell, John Kerry moved his yacht out of Massachusetts to avoid high taxes, and Ted Kennedy opposed a windfarm off Cape Cod because it would spoil the local view. The real problems, in fact, are various kinds of privilege that accompany wealth and success. So I ask myself, what is the institution in this nation that is most resistant to privilege. Is it government? No. Is it big business? No--big business is always looking for ways to capture some sort or privilege. (I strongly approve of the complaints about crony capitalism that one hears from folks like Luigi Zingales.) The answer is free markets. Markets don't care about privilege--in fact, they are surest way to undermine privilege. Hayes and his reviewer are clearly in thrall to the progressive narrative that was gutted by Deidre McCloskey the other day.


I don't have a problem with shielding the progeny as long as you pay for it yourself.

But then we'll assume that your money only came to you because of your privilege and we are back to square one.

"They may even be running the company at record profits, but that's only because they are trust fund babies!!!"

We need studies. LOTS of studies.

Free markets!? These are the ELITES we’re talking about! If they don’t just lie down and let you take away their gains, do you think they let you send them to jail or make them take their own losses.

Bravo. Run for office.

Haven't read the book. Can anyone who has explain how it can argue social mobility is dead -- because the elites have rigged it -- despite the meteoric rise of Asian immigrants and their offspring?

If you look at prestige universities, they look nothing like the elite of 20 years ago or even the elite of today's adults. Today's elite (say top 5% not top .5% who run the world) is largely gentile whites and they make up, what?, 30 percent of people at Harvard and equivalent? As elites go, I'd say that this one is worse than any in history at closing the doors because all its tricks can be duplicated by anyone who gives a damn.

Or does the book just ignore Asians?

"Haven’t read the book. Can anyone who has explain how it can argue social mobility is dead — because the elites have rigged it — despite the meteoric rise of Asian immigrants and their offspring?"

Saying its dead and then using government programs to prevent it from dying is the easiest way for the elites to hold on to their own positions and lower real social mobility.

You miss what is happening here. the elites are evolving social competition strategies to try to get the lower classes on their side in the social war against certain groups.

You miss the obvious reason. Saying that social mobility is dead and instituting redistributionary strategies is the best way for the elites to stay on top. Its an evolved mechanism for preventing other groups from rising.

Here's a summary of the book's argument from an anonymous reviewer on Amazon (and if you can trust anonymous reviewers, who can you trust?):

"The primary idea underlying "Twilight of the Elites" is simple -- America's upper class, male WASP Protestant elite, that ruled the country until the 1960s, is being replaced by a multiracial coed elite drawn from all classes and chosen by meritocratic means -- college entrance exams, job performance and other tests. Our President is half-black, was raised by grandparents and a single mother, and still went to Harvard Law School.

"The author argues the new elite is not governing any better than the old elite and that this is clearly shown by the U.S. economic downturn and other societal problems. The author appears to believe that the new elite may be worse at running the country than the old elite. The author illustrates these points by citing spectacular failures: Enron, the collapse of Lehmann Brothers investment firm, the pedophilia scandals of the Catholic church, and numerous other scandals."

"The author argues the new elite is not governing any better than the old elite and that this is clearly shown by the U.S. economic downturn and other societal problems."

True, elites are pretty terrible at running things. They are great at being elite in whatever field they pick, but "running things" is something no one should do.

I haven't read the book, but the thesis, as presented by the Amazon reviewer, sounds almost identical to Nicholas Lehman's "The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy."

"The Big Test" ... That was one lame book ...

I was corresponding with Lemann while he was writing it. There was all this pressure on him to deliver The Refutation of "The Bell Curve," but the more he boned up on the subject, the more defeated he became. So, he ended up publishing a book that consisted of vaste wastelands of human interest stuff about some incredibly dull people, like the rich lady who led the fight for quotas in California, plus the usual snark about Who can really say what is intelligence, etc etc

He then fled writing about this subject he's publicly studied up on for years.

I agree. I only read it recently out of a library bargain bin (!). I commend him for tackling the subject, but you get the sense that he retreated less than half-way.

Having said that, the book provides further reason to question: has meritocratic testing aided American and Western development any more than it did in Confucian China?

Meritocratic testing provided medieval China with the world's most competent bureaucracy -- the 16th Century Jesuits came back to Europe raving about meritocratic testing. Having competent public services like canal dredging and pest control allowed China's population to grow to enormous levels. The problem was that when government competence or control slipped, the population would die off in vast numbers.

My old professor Martin Wiener argued that the mandarin applicants were tested on the wrong things, the Confucian classics, like Victorians got ahead by learning Latin and Greek. Maybe ...

"Or does the book just ignore Asians?"

Certainly, Hayes' excerpt about demographic changes at his Hunter College High School ignores Asians, who now outnumber whites at this elite public school on the Upper East Side. He does use the code word "Queens," which New Yorkers will grasp as a euphemism for "Asians," while leaving the flyover folks in the dark (where New Yorkers like them to be).

In general, I think Hayes means well and wants to move the ball forward in public discourse about what's happening in America, but the rules of what's off limits to put in writing if you have a career in the media are so hamstringing these days that we never get very far.

A late friend of mine, Jim Chapin, taught history at Yale while George W. Bush was an undergrad. Bush got in under the wire. Bush's class was just about the last one at Yale admitted using a sizable anti-Semitic quota to keep the number of Jews down. (Yale was one of the later Ivy League colleges to give up on anti-Semitic quotas.) Chapin said that by 1966 the intellectual life on campus was dramatically more electric than just two years earlier, because the big increase in Jewish students (especially in the the numbers of Russian Jews, in contrast to the genteel German Jews) brought so much more energy and IQ points to campus. (By the way, Bush's biographer says that Bush hated the change in atmosphere at Yale after his freshman year.)

So, I suspect that what Hayes is really writing about is his concern over the effects of the triumph during the last half century of Russian Jewish values over WASP values, especially on Wall Street. Of course, to come out and say that would probably not be good for his career ...

Those weren't "Russian Jews" - they were East European Jews (or "Shtetl Jews") from what had been Tsarist Russia, but they weren't Russian. For the most part you are really talking about the descendants of Yiddish or Polish speaking Jews from what is now Poland, Ukraine, or Belarus. True "Russian Jews" - i.e. Jews who have absorbed Russian culture, are not very religious and have attenuated contact at best to Yiddish culture - are really a creation of the USSR and didn't begin immigrating in large numbers to the US until the late 1970s.



Interesting idea, but I doubt it. Why would he spend so much time on the Catholic Church, or the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? Just to provide cover?

I would have much more confidence in Tyler's story about lower trust than in this story about elites who run things badly. For one thing, it agrees more with technological progress since 1960. Instead of implying that better technology is associated with worse styles of management (broadly defined) (which is dubious), the trust story implies that better technology is associated with breakdowns in mutual trust and authority, especially communications technology, and that weakens trust in leaders (which is very credible).

"Failure" is not really what happened in these institutions, not so much as "abuses of power". Organised religion, the military, auditing firms, the CIA, and the broadcast media are not facing threats to their existences. Leaders have always abused power, but more media competition and better communication technology lets us see those abuses more often (despite the review's praise of Murrow, most journalists of the time were not as informative as the modern media).

"Bad meritocracy" could explain why leaders are morally bad, from the usual moral perspective (they do not associate with us, they are not like us, they are an outgroup), but it does not explain why they would choose to take risks with their institutions that could jeopardise their positions even further.

The review, incidentally, is preposterous. Its policy recommendation is to generate massive technological and economic growth. Apparently, we can doing that by taxing the bejesus out of people who come up with ideas to generate technological and economic growth. Need one even say that by Keynes's standards, the western world has tiny slivers of people facing "problems of economic necessity"? Does this not suggest that technological growth is not a panacea to the desire to improve one's economic position, because the definition of absolute economic necessity improves with technological standards, and that attempts to take money from people, in the name of economic inequality reduction. therefore have real costs? Or that, by the very logic of the article, we need no longer worry about economic inequality, because we've reached the limit of absolute economic needs (as of the UK in the 1930s)? Furthermore, all evidence suggests that when you give "the 99%" capital to invest, they mostly buy shares in large corporations through pension funds rather than investing in their own tiny amateur enterprises, because they are not idiots and Adam Smith was right about pin factories. "marvelously good" - Tyler Cowen would be a better and more influential blogger if you knew when he was being sincere.

"Tyler Cowen would be a better and more influential blogger if you knew when he was being sincere."

What century are you living in? To be influential, you can be sincere and stupid, like Malcolm Gladwell, or smart and insincere, like Jared Diamond.

Over the last few years, Tyler has been sincere enough for readers who are smart enough.

>Tyler Cowen would be a better and more influential blogger if you knew when he was being sincere.

Ah, "but ambiguity is richness", as Borges wrote.

I agree. He is more interesting as an author, but less influential as a blogger, due to this style (which is definitely related to magic realism, you've got that allusion precisely right).

Let me excerpt something I wrote in 2005 about why then-Harvard President Larry Summers crumpled so completely under feminist kvetching about his extremely well-informed explanation of why Harvard's mechanical engineering professors aren't half female. It explains a lot about how elites work in the 21st Century:

Summers' job is partly to enhance, but mostly to protect, one of the world's most valuable brand names. "Harvard" stands for "intelligence," extreme far right edge of the IQ Bell Curve smarts. America is increasingly stratified by IQ, and the resulting class war that the clever are waging upon the clueless means that having Harvard's endorsement of your brainpower is ever more desirable. Thus, applications and SAT scores have skyrocketed over the last half century.

Yet, Harvard's IQ elitism sharply contradicts its professed egalitarianism. The typical Harvard professor or student considers himself superior to ordinary folks for two conflicting reasons: first, he constantly proclaims his belief in human equality, but they don't; and second, he has a high IQ, but they don't.

Further, he believes his brains weren't the luck of his genes. No, he earned them. Which in turn means he feels that dumb people deserve to be dumb.

Ivy League presidents aren't much worried that the left half of the Bell Curve will get themselves well enough organized to challenge the hegemony of the IQ overclass. No, what they fear is opposition to their use of IQ sorting mechanisms, such as the politically incorrect but crucial SAT, from those identity politics pressure groups who perform below average in a pure meritocracy, such as women, blacks, and Hispanics. But, they each boast enough high IQ activists, like [MIT professor and professional feminist] Nancy Hopkins, to make trouble for prestige universities.

So, Harvard, like virtually all famous universities, buys off females and minorities with "a commitment to diversity" -- in other words, quotas. By boosting less competent women, blacks and Hispanics at the expense of the more marginal men, whites, and Asians, Harvard preserves most of its freedom to continue to discriminate ruthlessly on IQ.

What is obviously in the best interest of Harvard, and of the IQ aristocracy in general, is for everybody just to shut up about group differences in intelligence. Stifling arguments allows the IQ upper class to quietly push its interests at the expense of everyone else. So, Summers bought peace fast.


I think it's doubtful that Harvard professors are so aloof as to believe their intelligence is the result of hard work. I see it more likely that they believe their position is the result of high-motivation, intelligence, and some good fortune at the margin (i.e. chance).

Intelligence, like lifespan, is real and materially different across individuals. Neither is amenable to significant gains and so stratification shouldn't surprise us. Stratification might be far greater today except that the offspring of high-g parents are subject to reversion-to-the-mean.

Long story short:

This new elite has exploited the fact that the prior WASP elite had constructed a rather robust system of economic rents that protected their position in the US society, and then lost sight of the fact that this rent stream wasn’t really reflective of their merit. The new elites are simply better at rent-seeking than the prior elites — and that’s pretty much the size of it. All other advantages such as quasi-affirmative action, etc. are primarily results of superior-rent seeking combined with the self-deception of elites that they weren’t rent collectors.

“Economic rent” as defined by Ricardo is woefully inadequate—and is probably better defined as “the sum of all externalities”, which can, within the environment of a parasitic Federal Reserve Banking system, best be estimated by what neo-classical economists talk of as “modern portfolio theory” and its “risk free interest rate” usually approximated by short term Treasury instruments, although public choice theory has a lot to offer in this regard as well (indeed it subsumes the Fed).

"The new elites are simply better at rent-seeking than the prior elites"

The old WASP elites started to believe their own propaganda about fair play and sportsmanship and all that, as if the world were one big U.S. Open golf tournament where everybody could be counted on to call penalties on themselves. Will new elites make the same mistake? We shall see ...

The WASP elites are gone? I must have missed that changeover.

In 2009, The Atlantic Monthly published its list of the 50 most influential pundits in the American media. Only 20% were from Protestant backgrounds:


If you overgeneralize, you can make any long story short.

Whenever I worry about anykind of problem, like the elites, I consult economists because they've got nifty keen freakonomically hermetic answers that, if we all just went along, if we all just held everything else even, would solve everything. Here's our best economist:

"The more I have tried to study the actual facts as to the present physical condition of the human race, the more I am convinced of the tremendous power of the degenerative tendencies.... A method of attaining the contrary results--namely, reproducing from the best and suppressing reproduction from the worst--has been suggested by the late Sir Francis Galton of England, under the name of 'eugenics'...Few people have any idea, unless they have looked into the pedigrees of some of these people, what awful contamination can be saved the race by a wise application of eugenics.

If nothing of the sort happens ... then surely the dark ages lie ahead of us. The Nordic race will, as Madison Grant says, vanish or lose its dominance if, in fact, the whole human race does not
sink so low as to become the prey, as H. G. Wells imagines, of some less degenerate animal!

We are now draining off great stagnant pools of population which no current of intellectual or moral activity has stirred for ages. Thousands and hundreds of thousands of those who represent the very lowest stage of degradation to which human beings can be reduced are found among the new citizens whom the last decade has brought into the republic; and these are but the forerunners of hundreds of thousands and millions more, unless this stream is checked. The subject deserves, demands, instant and full consideration. The Economic Association can do no better service to the country than by taking it up for earnest, candid, searching investigation."

"best economist"

I thought that was a quote from Paul Krugman's idol, John Maynard Keynes, who was a eugenics activist up through 1946, the year of his death. Keynes was convinced that an English welfare state without eugenics would eventually be overrun by chavs and yobs. How unscientific they were back then!

When is Krugman going to write about Keynes' life-long love affair with eugenics in his NYT column? He has certainly written about everything else conceivably Keynes-related. Or would Mrs. Krugman toss him out?

Pretty ironic, considering Krugman has claimed the Tea Party is a modern KKK.

What does that have to do with Keynes thoughts on economics? Also, Krugman is coming from the perspective of 70 years of evidence that Keynesian economics work. He's not speaking hypothetically.

We also have 70 years of evidence that Keynes was actually pretty spot on about eugenics.

"70 years of evidence that Keynesian economics work"

What's that?

The 70's stagflation? The past decade?

We have WW2 that proved if you draft men and threaten to kill them they will get to work. Then kill off a bunch of them and the rest will have decent employment opportunities.

What else?

"Keynes was convinced that an English welfare state without eugenics would eventually be overrun by chavs and yobs. How unscientific they were back then!"

It did get overrun with chavs and yobs. Thats what the London riots where all about.

(for the records, forced eugenics is evil.)

Forced eugenics is evil, but creating incentives for violent and anti-social people not to breed would seem to be in the best interest of society

A little bit Godwin-ey, but, the right point. Since trickle-down doesn't really seem to work - we're all on the page that wages are stagnant and productivity gains since the 70s have been marginal and not beneficial to the population as a whole, and that most rising living standards in the last 20 years have been driven by credit, yes? Increasing deregulation and 'more free markets' has really done bugger-all except increase financialization.

So what it really boils down to is whether you think economic systems should be a morality game or not. (Note the 'morality' here can be whatever you like, including 'smartness', 'WASP-yness', etc.) If no particular broad economic or living standard gain is associated with punishing people for not associating with whatever morality you choose, should we do it anyway? Put it this way: do you want 'dumb' people who don't share your values to live, poor, borderline lives because they are 'dumb' and don't share your values? An economy allocates resources, and absent magical information flows and unlimited purchasing power, it does so according to some implicit value system. So what are yours? Note that, yes, the teleology of this point is "just killing them", though there are much more artful ways that allow you (as part of the 'smart' category to who benefits, and therefore decisions about what that value system is) to extract very marginal productivity from the other category(ies).

You get liberty and equality for all - which is to say, a democratic system, or you get strong recognition of your morality system - a fascist one. I'm bored of people not explicitly flying their flags, or trying to sweep this distinction under the rug with vague language.

Personally, I think individuals owe greater care toward the people around them, diminishing off in vaguely concentric rings. (For example, I wish all the intelligent life forms of the Andromeda Galaxy well, but am not feeling terribly motivated to do anything for them, even if I could.) For instance, I feel I owe more to my fellow American citizens than to randon non-citizens.

This is an extremely boring moral philosophy because it's the way most people feel, think, and behave, so you can't score any status climbing points by articulating it.

"Most people feel, think and behave" has been a pretty poor heuristic for human behaviour, in retrospect.

The world is much more complicated than you make it out to be.

Cliff, how hard would it have been to put some thought into your comment?

There are more things in heaven and earth, Steve, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Someone noted a while back that today's America is what you get after a few generations of meritocracy, that's why the rich get richer.

People who are going to stay married are also people who are going to be successful. People who are going to have good schools (parents + children) are people are who are going to be successful.

You could take all their money away and give it to the non-successful and not much would change; within a generation they would be on top again, given free markets.

Probably the biggest mistaken assumption in policy is that money creates success rather than the other way around.

"Probably the biggest mistaken assumption in policy is that money creates success rather than the other way around."

We need LOTS of studies.

The funny thing is, it's not that hard to find this out. People have tested the proposition; there was a guy not that long ago who tried it, started out from scratch, homeless and broke, and within a year had saved thousands of dollars. Along the way he catalogued all sorts of dysfunction that kept other people in that situation from doing the same.

No one wants to hear that poor-ness and rich-ness are cultural results, or that money is almost purely a result of successful behaviors with very little feedback the other way -- it all sounds too much like those awful Ayn Rand books. But the truth is, you could take away every money-derived advantage of the rich and they would still succeed; it's just what they do.

“Probably the biggest mistaken assumption in policy is that money creates success rather than the other way around.”

It's just been beaten by the mistaken assumption that the causal relationship between money and success is unidirectional and thus does not suffer from simultaneity bias.

"You could take all their money away and give it to the non-successful and not much would change; within a generation they would be on top again, given free markets."

Now there's a proposition to behold.

Right; I see this tossed around a lot, but it's just something you're expected to accept because Lord knows you'll never be able to prove or disprove it empirically.

Of course on a literal level it's obviously not true. No one believes that *everyone* will end up *exactly* where they were before the Great Redistribution. What they really mean is that *most* (or just many?) people will end up more or less where they were beforehand. Which is almost certainly true, but also doesn't tell us a lot. There's a lot of hedging there. The fact is, sensitivity to initial conditions matters. Luck - or, more accurately, randomness - also matters way more than most people are willing to admit, especially when you get to the far right end. Meritocracy explains why some people make $10 an hour and some people are highly respected software developers. It doesn't necessarily explain why some highly respected software developers make $150 gs a year and some are Mark Zuckerberg.

Yes, the distribution within the top 10% might change a lot due to very-hard-to-predict variables (I hesitate to call Zuckerberg/Bezos/etc. merely "lucky"), but the overall distribution likely would not.

It's difficult to test this directly, though some examples exist (see Zimbabwe, for instance; clearly ownership of land was not the problem!). Probably <1% of software startups result in even 8-figure valuations, but otoh <1% of the people who started failed software startups spend the rest of their lives in poverty as a result of the failure.

People on the left over-estimate luck. People on the right under-estimate it.

I've watched lots and lots people in all socioeconomic classes make incredibly stupid decisions. It was pretty straightforward to see what the bad decision would do, but the very minor short-term gain in convenience was more important than doing 10 minutes worth of work that they would regret not doing the next day.

I've also seen people succeed in business against all possible explanation. They just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Smart hard-working people who get really lucky can end up billionaires. (If Bill Gates had been born 5 years sooner or 5 years later, he wouldn't have run the company with the OS monopoly. He'd probably still have managed a very successful software business and be worth a high 8 figures, though.)

"Right; I see this tossed around a lot, but it’s just something you’re expected to accept because Lord knows you’ll never be able to prove or disprove it empirically."

Its been tested. Look at the jews who fled germany during ww2, or the french that fled france during the revolution.

I suppose there are a handful of folks with their heart set on hard science or deep math who are frustrated by their IQs. And yes, I suppose in the self-referential little world of academia it seems all-important.

In my experience, people who run companies, and the most successful and impressive people in a fields like law, medicine, and government, are usually not the smartest people in the room.

At least half of Americans are "smart enough" to reach the pinnacle in all but a handful of esoteric fields, provided they posess other, more important qualities. Most of the rest, I agree, have less lofty aspirations that are well within their reach. I'm not making any judgments here- there is not a thing in the world wrong about having modest aspirations.

"At least half of Americans are “smart enough” to reach the pinnacle in all but a handful of esoteric fields ..."

Of course ... Who wouldn't believe that?

Look, 30% of the population doesn't have the cognitive ability to do well enough on the military's AFQT to be allowed the pleasure of attending boot camp.

30% of the population, or 30% of those who take the test?

And is this 'cognitive ability' which the test purportedly measures a reflection of genetic inheritance alone, or is part of the story a failure to develop potential?

I enjoy the privilege of having attended an elite university, and I work in an esoteric, technical profession among other smart people. But I live in the same, decidedly-unexceptional town in which I grew up, among a cross-section of Middle America, people of whom I suspect your understanding is an entirely theoretical caricature (unfunny, non-cynical, dupes of clever New Yorkers.)

I believe I have a better measure of you and your ilk than you do of me and mine. Traveling exclusively in circles of the new "tout le monde", y'all reinforce each other's prejudices- the fetishization of IQ being an excellent example.

The average human being enjoys an extremely formidable genetic inheritance and manifold strategies for survival and success. High IQ helps- in some rare cases (that are wildly over represented on sites like this), high IQ is decisive.

Brian Donohue asks:

"30% of the population, or 30% of those who take the test?"

The former. That's about 100 million (out of 313 million in the country) who aren't bright enough to be given much of a chance to go to boot camp and get yelled at while doing push-ups.

The U.S. military's AFQT enlistment test (4 heavily g-loaded sections of the 10-section ASVAB) is periodically renormed against the National Longitudinal Study of Youth. (The military supplied Murray and Herrnsteing the NLSY79 data.) The AFQT has since been renormed against NLSY97.

During the worst years of the Iraq War, the Army boosted the percent of new recruits scoring in the bottom 30% of the country to 4%; in most years for most services, those scoring at the 30th percentile or lower are about 1%.

Back during the Korean War, Congress passed a law that prevents the military from inducting any recruits scoring in the bottom 10%. Robert MacNamara, in his infinite wisdom, started a program to send the bottom 10% to Vietnam. The results were not pretty.

The military has been studying the correlation of IQ and performance for approaching a century and has learned a lot. The Pentagon doesn't go out of its way to publicize what it has learned because it would be a shock to the conventional wisdom, but most of it is out on the Internet. There are, for example, numerous Rand Corp. reports for the Pentagon on the subject.

I realize you have strong opinions on the subject of IQ, but you really need to learn more facts first.

Thanks for the civil response, along with the depressing suggested reading.

Work for Latinos and African Americans will always be proportionally lower quality. This happens in many countries not only in USA, it is true that there are countries better than others on these issues but I think that is unique to USA. I think that even a very rich country should not forget how young he is todabia, and achieve things despite his youth.
Joe Hobbs.


If you wanted to create an anti-meritocratic system -- that is, a system that gave no advantage to the hardworking, the intelligent, etc -- how would you do it? Could you make such a system sustainable over the long term? How would you design the Incompetent's Paradise?

Good question... I suppose random drawings for compulsory service instead of elections might be one way to do it. You get a letter in the mail one day that requires you to report to Washington to fulfill your civic obligation as a Senator… like Jury Duty kind of. Or maybe it’s not compulsory, but rather an offer one may accept or decline.

Same thing with private businesses…. lots of random hiring, random promotions, etc. So in her senior year of high school, lady X receives a bunch of letters from companies and government offices she’s never heard of offering her positions. She selects the one she likes and then, if necessary, goes about getting the proper education in support of the job (if she’s going to be a Lawyer, she’ll need a law degree). Of course, the law school she gets in will also be random, but she’ll need to be more or less assured of getting in some sort of law school. The more minimum requirements that exist, the dirty, nasty, mean elites may be able to rig the system! Presumably we want this to anti-meritocracy to be “fair”.

Of course, the random system would be an IDEAL means to promote the maintenance of an elite power structure were it not truly random.

See "sortition democracy".

I'd make a social democratic welfare state. And no, it is not sustainable over the long term.

I'm surprised Tyler has not linked this to the books by Peter Turchin who he has read. Turchin is a historian attempting to create a model of history based on statistics and quantifiable facts, which he calls cliometrics. In his books, he mentions that nations go through a period of secular cycles. At one point, growth is easy and everyone benefits, but at a certain point the ranks of the elites swell and intra-elite competition gets intense. The elites start to plunder the lower classes for more wealth, and then eventually begin to battle between themselves. Eventually, it causes a crisis, the country collapses, and the elites thin out. At bottom, growth begins again.

This sounds suspiciously like what we are going through right now, and what this book describes.

Asibya, as Ibn Khaldun would say.

Here was my attempt to apply Turchin's "Structural-Demographic Theory" (which he got from the sociologist Jack Goldstone) to our current moment: http://thefredherring.com/?p=71. It's just for fun, but if you want a serious look, you'll have to wait until Turchin gets around to publishing his upcoming book on America (for a teaser, read his letter to nature here:http://cliodynamics.info/PDF/Nature2020letter.pdf. He predicts peak instability in the year 2020).

The people that replaced the old WASP elite and took up positions of trust and authority in government, academia and business are, unsurprisingly, more sophisticated in playing the rent-seeking and zero-sum games required to gain access to resources necessary to "succeed". However, due to the kinds of games that must be played to acquire these resources, the effect on the overall human ecology has been to deprive the traditional American people -- the folks who invented the airplane, computer, transistor, planar integrated circuit, etc., -- of the resources to express their historic ingenuity. As a consequence, fundamental technological innovation hasn't occurred for decades.

"The elites" are not uniform -- there are parasites and producers among the elites and the parasites are specialized at winning the confidence of the producers that lack perception and burying the producers that can see with labels like "racist" and "antisemite". The parasites will win.

Sometimes Tyler's sarcasm tags are easy to miss.

I was amused to see that the reviewer that wrote the above-linked "marvelously good review" of the Hayes book also wrote a brief review of Prof. Cowen's "The Great Stagnation."

Swartz says that TGS is "A dreadful little book, which boils down to nothing more than a vast tract of economic illiteracy."

Time to unleash Tyrone perhaps.

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