The Son Also Rises

Economist and Australian politician Andrew Leigh has a very informative review of Gregory Clark’s The Son Also Rises:

If you want to know who made up Australia’s elite in the nineteenth century, a useful place to look is the Australian Dictionary of Biography. In its many volumes, you’ll find business leaders, scientists, media barons and politicians who have featured among the upper echelons of Australian society.

Now, suppose we take the first cohort of significant Australians – those who died before 1880 – and identify those with unusual surnames like Ebden or Maconochie. People with those names were overrepresented among the elite in the nineteenth century. Are they still at the top of society, or are they mixed through?

The answer to this question will depend on the level of social mobility we have in Australia.

…For Australia, it turns out that if we look at the register of modern-day medical practitioners, we find the privileged names of the nineteenth century overrepresented by a factor of nearly three. In other words, if your ancestor was at the top of Australian society six generations ago, you are three times more likely to be a doctor today than the average Australian.

…if we accept Gregory Clark’s methodology, his results imply a very static society. For Britain, the United States, India, Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Chile and even Sweden, he concludes that the intergenerational elasticity is between 0.7 and 0.9. This would mean that social status is at least as hereditable as height. It suggests that while the ruling class and the underclass are not permanent, they are extremely long-lasting. Erasing privilege takes not two or three generations, but ten to fifteen generations.

Read the whole thing.

Comments

'This would mean that social status is at least as hereditable as height'

Or, social status is as determined by wealth as height is.

Which is interestingly mundane, when a major influence on height is diet. Seen in aggregate, for example, in Japan - where height increased significantly during the postwar period.

Example of research here - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16140897 and here http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/31/2/383.abstract

The rich not only get richer, they get taller. It has nothing to do with heredity, though - as the Japanese example shows.

(Seems accurate enough in detailing the Japanese experience, with historical perspective -
'Every year since 1946, Japanese government, private sector companies and foundations have carried out meticulous research of the Japanese physique and have discovered several startling statistics. Height, weight, susceptibility to cancer, female menstruation, and puberty have been measured consistently. Japanese children now weigh as much as their adult counterparts (Weight loss surgery for children) after the WWII. Over a period of 10,000 years in Japanese history, from the study of archeological finds and records, Japanese had grown by only less than 10 cm . But within last 100 years, the record of last 10,000 years has been shattered. In the mid-1990s, Japanese girls experienced the biggest change at the primary school 6th grade level as they were taller than their postwar 1940s counterpart by nearly 16 cm. As for female 7th graders, they are more than 12 kg heavier than their postwar 1940s counterpart. Now, Japanese over 5 feet 7 inches or even 6 feet are very common.' http://www.naturalheightgrowth.com/2012/10/13/the-changing-body-and-increase-in-height-of-japanese-women-and-girls-in-the-last-century/ )

Sorry, but being taller does not make a doctor or lawyer. Having the chance and example of going to university backed by family wealth helps a lot, assuming you had a good basic education and motivation.

Height is a function of diet/environment plus genes, but as diets improve universally, the role of genes or strong cultural transmission mechanisms play a larger role. Hence the equivalence of social persistence in both rich and poor countries, in those with more and less egalitarian policies, suggests that there are non-environmental elements of persistence. In the same way that racial and ethnic groups in the US do not converge to the same heights even after generations in the middle to upper classes.

Maybe, but last I heard, those Koch brothers were over 16 ft tall.

Very interesting until:

"How do we break the pattern? Part of the answer must lie in a fair tax system, a targeted social welfare system, effective early childhood programs, and getting great teachers in front of disadvantaged classrooms. We need banks willing to take a chance on funding an outsider, and it doesn’t hurt to maintain a healthy Aussie scepticism about inherited privilege."

What is it with everyone doing this lately? Pikkety's entire work follows Marx in this as well: Interesting historical observations and analysis, followed by questionable forecasting based on simplifactions, further followed by wacky lets-tear-down-the-system-in-the-exact-ways-we've-always-wanted prognosis. Is everyone on crazy logic pills?

Quite right old chap quite right. Could you imagine if People of Quality were no longer able to make the decisions? The Wrong people would be making them! They might turn th Lake District into a giant caravan park for heavens sake!

"How can we bring the genetically endowed down to mediocrity with us? Part of the answer must lie in a complex system of weights and counterweights that I like to call 'Harrison Bergeron'. For each gift someone is born with, we must apply an equal and opposite burden until everyone is equal."

Inheritable Privilege makes it sound like becoming a doctor is easy. No 8 years of study and years of low pay and 80 hour work weeks as a resident or in your specialty. You may have an advantage in obtaining an MD or JD but you don't inherit it. You get it by a lot of hard work.

Indeed. This whole nonsense is a solution looking for a problem.

Are there enough doctors? Are they qualified? If I'm sick can I see one in a timely way?

In Canada these blithering idiots got on their Marxist bandwagon in the early 90's and decided that there were too many doctors and nurses which were driving up the costs. Made it so that there were 13 month waiting lists to find a GP when you were pregnant.

All I can say to these twits is DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING. You will make it worse.

If it's that hard for someone with huge advantages imagine how hard it is without those advantages. The fact that it's a lot of hard work doesn't mean anything. Working multiple minimum wage jobs is also a lot of hard work, the difference is that the reward is much smaller.

Unrelated the 80 hours a week sounds a lot like a symptom of engineered scarcity on the part of cartels.

Yes, but the propensity to hard word itself is highly heritable:

"Broad genetic influence on the five dimensions of Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness was estimated at 41%, 53%, 61%, 41%, and 44%, respectively."

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8776880

Among leftists there's always this underlying assumption that this "privilege" is mostly undeserved and needs to be taken away, but they don't bother actually demonstrating that. It seems likely to me that the *long-run* effect is mostly due to genetics - after all as the article itself points out, lineages seem quite capable or recovering from "black sheep" generations that weren't so successful, which suggests that the phenomenon is not largely a matter of material inheritance.

If the poor just chose their genetics better they could be successful too - its not as if this is just something due to pure luck! God why don't these leftists get it?!

Quite right, old chap. Every person should be gene-sequenced at birth so we can determine the appropriate level of taxation to apply to them to make their lives as miserable as everyone else's. Can't have the gifted going around making our society unequal! As you obviously are aware, inequality is the highest sin of all. We must not let concerns about silly things like privacy, the right to pursuit of happiness, or overall welfare of the people interfere with our engineering of the perfect equal society.

Typical Leftist Blowhard. Go back to Europe!

If a poor non married woman wants to have a child, one of the best decisions she could make to increase the likelihood of that child having academic and economic success would be to choose a high IQ sperm donor.

Progress! The phrenologists are now measuring bumps on the inside of skull.

Because extending privileges to poor people is exactly the same as taking them away from the well-off.

Here's my review of Clark's "The Son Also Rises" in Taki's Magazine:

http://takimag.com/article/give_it_up_psmithe_steves_sailer/print#axzz30Ordg0Zt

Social scientist stumbles into genetics and inter-generational culture, bemoans elitism, proposes socialism.

Australia's continued xenophobic and anti-immigrant bent is actually helping to contribute to world inequality however I see nothing mentioned about that

So medical practitioners are == 'The Ruling Class' now?

So much wrong with this methodology im not even sure where to begin.

It is said of some societies that on the surface the people look educated and refined, but 10 minutes into the conversation you find that they come out with crazy conspiracy theories or some ridiculous misconceptions, which gives you insight on why their societies are seriously dysfunctional in important ways.

We are presented with a similar example. Any sentient being who has been awake for more than a couple decades has figured out that when the word 'study' is used, it is a nice way to clothe prejudices, lies or just plain stupidity with respectability.

Put 'study' in the same category as 'green'. Assume that it is fraud until proven otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt.

"In a very mobile society, privilege dissipates quickly. Children of doctors become labourers, and children of cleaners become lawyers. “Class-jumping” is the norm."
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I'm sorry was there ever a point in time that people ever believed the above? The children of doctors becoming ditch diggers sounds like some sort of Marxian fantasy not based on anything approaching reality. .

There's also the normative question -- is this even how we should want things to pan out? Is that the ideal world?

One methodological question that Clark deals with partially but not definitively is the effect of surname-changing, which seems not wholly uncommon among the ambitious: e.g., Donald Tokowitz becomes Donald Sterling, William Wilhelm becomes Bill DeBlasio, etc.

Given that medicine (in the US) has been a way for smart lower class youths to get high incomes, I'm curious about their choice of professions.

The rich (kids) that I know are mostly yoga teachers now. Much much easier.

The data I've seen suggests that medicine in the US is a way for smart middle class kids to become upper middle class -- very few truly poor kids enter into it. Upper Middle class kids go into law and financial advising.

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/03/21/chart-of-the-week-do-firefighters-or-musicians-have-richer-parents/

Can you tell me what percent of medical school graduates come from the lower class?

Otherwise,what support do you have for your statement.

For an A plus grade show what percent of low income children become doctors.

a better question might be "what percent of high income people who grew up poor are doctors? Compared to the percentage of doctors amongst all high income people in general"

Clark's focus on MDs and lawyers seems a little too tightly focused. When Nathaniel Weyl pioneered the techniques Clark used back in the 1960s, he used more gauges of professional accomplishment.

For example, Clark sees a slight decline in the rate of Jews in the U.S. becoming doctors as evidence that Americans are -- very, very slowly -- regressing toward the mean, but that might mean that more are just going more for either even better potential paying careers (e.g., Mark Zuckerberg is the son of a dentist) or more self-fulfilling careers because they already have money (e.g., Mark Zuckerberg's sister is get a doctorate in Classics).

The problem I have with the last name analysis approach is this. In the western tradition of the surname following the Y chromosome, there is a convergence of last names. Men who fail to have boys will see their name die out. Men who have lots of boys will see their name multiply. The smaller the population, the faster this process works. Equating the number of male children with success does not hold up. Behavioral traits that were prized in 6th century England were not of much use in 16th century England.

I'm not dismissing it. It just feels like we're missing a middle term.

Why isn't this feature distributed equally across rich and poor? Please explain your point in more detail and why surname usage doesn't work. The only thing I could see is that poor people might die before procreating or reaching their earning potential.

It strikes me that what surname analysis may be "discovering" is the the natural convergence of surnames that will play out in any human society where the surname follows the male. Put 100 couple on an island and assume they each have two children, one of each sex. Do this generation after generation and you get a constant distribution of surnames.

In reality, some couples will have two girls, some will have five boys, some will have no children. Those will all girls or no children will see their name die out. Replay this over enough generations and everyone will eventually have the same surname.

????I still dont get what you are saying. Whether people have a distribution of boys over girls is independent, or at least random.

Maybe you can make an argument that if men make more than women, then the initial condition of wealth favors men.

While I think Bill's criticism of Z's criticism has merit and that Z's criticism is oversimplifying things, there are all sorts of biases in who has boys and who has girls in the literature. It's not random. It might actually be the case that the kind of people who are better at earning money and status tend to have boys rather than girls.

You're mixing apples and oranges. Remove thoughts of wealth and status and just consider surname drift. In my simple example of an island of 50 uniquely surnamed couples, we can calculate how many generations it will take to to end up with one surname.

Adding back in whatever biases for or against certain names you like and expanding the model to cover a big island like Britain, gets the result observed. in other words, wealth and status are just static and what's really going on is surname drift.

Surnames are created as well as destroyed.

But leaving that aside, your criticism doesn't address why some surnames stay rich and others stay poor. It just says surnames should drop in number. That's orthogonal to what's being investigated. It may not even be true.

I can think of two reasons why some surnames stay rich and others stay poor. One is that rich and poor is heritable, through genetics or through the direct transmission of wealth, life lessons, etc. Two is that people with the qualities necessary to gain wealth are more likely to have boys and therefore have their surname survive.

I suppose a third reason is that surname creation is biased poor. That might be the case, but it's not obviously so.

I don't know about Australia, but globally you have things like Ellis-Island names competing against power-couple hyphenation and inclusion of honorifics or status jobs.

@Fitch,

I don't know if the correlation between high status and surname is strong. I know there is a book possibly making that claim. We do know that in first millennium England, people modified their names and personal history to be on the winning side.

Yeah, it might be complete BS. I haven't formed an opinion, although I think people are limiting their thinking as to what might cause this.

I'm just saying your criticism that the number of surnames will fall with time doesn't address it at all.

Clark's methodology strikes me as pretty solid -- it's been 7 years since "A Farewell to Alms" and he's clearly been working hard since then. My main concern would be surname-changing which is biased toward higher status names: E.g., Clark Rockefeller, Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt, Remington Chase, Donald Sterling are all dubious characters who picked out surnames redolent of money.

But, Z should check out the book and see if his methodological critique is accounted for.

Yeah but traditional daughters of upper middle class men married upper middle class men or above. So I think using surnames is still a decent measure.

Open the telephone book to a random page, pick a random male name and tell us what "class" to which he belongs. Oh, before you begin, bet us $1000 that you can do it.

If the address is listed with the name you could probably win that bet...

Probably pretty easy to do in San Francisco and Manhattan.

Or Detroit. If the first name has an apostrophe....

Noise in the data is irrelevant for statistical analysis. Clark's not claiming that certain names are purely upper class or lower class, he's claiming that certain names are overrepresented or underrepresented. If you're analyzing data sets where n>100,000, then the sigma pretty much washes out. Statistics 101, dawg.

Why do you see two and three generations of police, firefighters, military, teachers, construction trades, small business owners etc? Why are some groups over represented in some professions? Does nature or nurture generate a comparative advantage in some fields? Why do some countries, or areas of a country, specialize? Because of a lack of mobility?

Groups that migrate to America, do they have more or less income mobility then native born citizens? Why?

How important is physical location? Do smaller communities offer less mobility?

For example, small town doctor has son who takes over his practice. "Elite" status is maintained across generations but does town suffer. Would town be better off if the son moved to big city and town was forced to recruit doctor from outside community?

Should we expect, all else equal, for "elites" to just occur randomly?

Do read the whole thing, especially the last paragraph:

"Yet Gregory Clark’s results also remind policy-makers that this is no easy nut to crack. Part of the transmission of social status occurs through genes. On top of this, people tend to marry those with similar levels of education; and researchers have also documented significant differences in parenting approaches among different social groups. Making the system a bit fairer is within our reach – but a complete transformation may prove elusive."

Yes, yes it will. Culture matters, and I'm not comfortable with trying to legislate that, which is where you ultimately have to go to get rid of privilege. As a parent, I do everything in my power to help my kids develop attributes that I believe will bring them joy and success in life. The formula for doing this and its effectiveness will vary from parent to parent as will their success at applying it. You can't completely mitigate it.

Education seems the best place to level the playing field. Ironically, those who appear to be most concerned about privilege are also the most likely to block meaningful K-12 reforms.

WTF is "privilege" in this context? Anyone who succeeds is privileged if their parents also "succeeded"? How stupid a use of the term is that?

Well I believe it's the common use of the term as in "a privileged background" - quite an often used statement, I supposed it's wrong though if you say so. I make no bones about my privileged background having come from a navy family - my great grandfather was at Trafalgar of course, and my father rose to become Second Sea Lord. Does give one a boost when entering the service.

I would not say that is the common use of the term. That is one use of the term within a phrase. The actual meaning of "privilege" is "a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people."

Well one does use terms within phrases and phrases within other phrases, when one uses enough phrases one can build a paragraph! At least that's what those of us with proper Public School educations were taught. At Eton I was known for using an awful lot of phrases when I spoke. I've always considered us old Etonians a special group and I've had many an advantage ever since my father got me in there.

I don't mind the use of the word "privilege" as much as I detest the notion that there is something inherently unfair about this.

I think it is pretty firmly rooted in biology that humans generally have a desire to protect and nurture their offspring. Earning wealth does privilege people and their heirs from many hardships. But when the antonym of this becomes "underprivileged," then we begin to see the detestable class warfare inherent in these characterizations and arguments.

The people making these arguments aren't to be privileged with our attention. They should be targeted with scorn, contempt, and rotten vegetables.

And a Gapshot off the port bow!

...says the Social Darwinist.

Living in a neighborhood with better schools.

"most likely to block meaningful K-12 reforms."
By "meaningful reform" do you have any thing in particular in mind, or are you just using words that sound good? Seems like every major recent reform of K-12 education - NCLB, Common Core - has been wildly unpopular for some reason or another, despite technocrats' best efforts.

Clearly, you haven't read Greg Clark.

Clark argues for more social safety nets because some groups will have predictable lower societal success. Education will not help nor will any other of these environmental/cultural policies that have been tried the last century. Sweden -- Sweden! -- has the same social mobility as the US, China & UK. You can say culture matters, but it does not. It never did. The only exception where culture matters to social mobility is India. Why? Because their endogamous caste system makes social mobility through culture even harder. Education, safety nets, health care, inheritance taxes. et al may be just policies to make sure you're not punished for being born in the lower social strata. Any sane moral person would support that.

The libertarian ideal of society has been put to rest by Clark. It's over. Just like the progressive policies or Republican family values blabla. It's the genes -- all else is noise.

Does anybody else find Maciano's comment a little frightening?

Bobby and Joey differ in genetic endowment. Bobby is handsome and Joey is plain. Bobby is tall and Joey is short. Bobby is smart and Joey is dull. Bobby is energetic and Joey is lazy. Conclusion: Society should step in to equalize their outcomes.

It's not at all obvious to me that this is just, or that any sane moral person would support it. The cure is potentially much worse than the disease. I don't think you need to be libertarian to see that.

Yeah you might live the horror that is Sweden or Switzerland.

Who said redistribution is necessary, just that some of it might make society more just to those who lost out on qualities that dispose to success. If you think it's a better idea to keep punishing ppl for lack of talents, I think you'll have to state your case.

Where did I mention equalizing outcomes? I didn't.

Read the book, finch. It's not a plea for socialism, more eightened classism mixed w/ noblesse oblige.

You said, "Education, safety nets, health care, inheritance taxes. et al may be just policies to make sure you’re not punished for being born in the lower social strata. Any sane moral person would support that."

I just read your comment. I was responding to it, not the book.

If Clark is right -- and I think he is, his work validates all sorts of other work on IQ, talents, heritable qualities -- then the economists, esp the libertarian econs, must go to the back of the bus for a while. Economists who are still acting as if people in their models are interchangable units are not serious. It's time for them to shape up, come clean and stop the nonsense.

Progressive policies, good family values or hard work won't make, say, French-Americans as a group do as well as Coptic-Americans for many, many generations. In Clark's book, he mentions that the descendants of the Anglo-Normans (1066!) are still over-represented today among Oxford-students. This can't be remedied with better schools, less bullying, less teen moms or the will to make it. In fact, "the will to make it" is something the better performing groups excel at, while those who perform worse do very poor at.

Look, it's the genes. Don't look further. It's the genes. Not culture, money, connections. Genes.

You go from "it's the genes" to "we must fix this" without explaining your reasoning. Even if I accept "it's the genes" it's not clear I should want to do something about this. Endowments are unequal. So what?

I can't play hockey like Sidney Crosby. Is it at all reasonable to call me punished by this?

Maybe you just mean that only really bad endowments are punishments, and you'll totally know where to draw the line and no one will game it. Tell me another one.

Equalizing outcomes, no, however society should certainly not be structured under the notion that we need Bobby to have all these super duper Superstar incentives, as that's what "encourages" him to be tall, handsome, smart and workaholic.

Nor that Bobby is where he is because of his "free will" or "effort" and so deserves an unequal outcome.

Clark, to the extent he does suggest proscriptions (not very much), does not suggest equalising outcomes, but rather removing any pointless socially constructed perks that make individuals on the upper edge of the talent spectrum more absolutely advantaged than they would be, without actually delivering benefits to the people as a whole nor having any defensive justice to them. Does that frighten anyone? It shouldn't.

I can’t play hockey like Sidney Crosby. Is it at all reasonable to call me punished by this?

No, but if you can never be as good then giving Sidney a bunch of money to encourage him to play hockey better than you seems pointless and a waste of cash now (and that money would be spent spreading the wealth around).

Huh? At least in the US and Canada, taxes are progressive and benefits are regressive. Crosby has _less_ incentive to earn an additional dollar than less talented people. He's not given advantages by society, he's given an anchor to carry around. He pays for everybody else.

Matt gets it.

Read the book, Finch. Quit Caplan & the Mises crowd for a month.

Should the author have looked at highly skilled professions? Doctors, to a large degree, require basic intelligence and traits that can be inherited. Lawyers require rainmaking ability and networks. Why lump them together?

Hollywood is full of nepotism. Is that bad?

Politics seem to be full of family dynasties. How can we use education and the tax code to end this practice?

Media is full of people with "connections". I am amazed at the family and professional connections of media people. Should we prevent this? Is this a sign of the corruption of the system? Or the natural result of monopoly power? Or the fact that the skills needed are often minimal?

It's time for a Constitutional amendment banning anyone whose parent, sibling, child, or spouse was ever President from becoming President.

It would set the right tone for our culture.

Extend that amendment to also exclude relatives of senators.

I may be confused, but it seems all you need to explain this is (a) IQ is somewhat inherited; (b) good genes for health are somewhat inherited; together with (c) some transmission of healthy cultural traits (hard work, delayed gratification, etc.). Even if all of these influences are partial and transmission is imperfect, over generations there would be quite a bit of explanatory power, no? It doesn't have to be all about the inheritance of money and power at least.

Most of these places during the period Clark looks at did not even pretend to be meritocratic. Likewise, (or more likely because of that) assortative mating would have been comparatively low. In those conditions genetic regression to the mean doesn't take fifteen generations.

I disagree. In the past, I suspect mating was highly assortative, with the matching of social class, race and religion all very important.

"transmission of healthy cultural traits (hard work, delayed gratification, etc.)"

Clark's point is exactly that THESE traits are heritable. They're not cultural, he researched this. That's why he compared various nations & political systems over long time periods.

There are no "cultural" personality traits, that's a myth. There are cultural customs say folk music/dance OR personality traits like say neuroticism or drive.

Yes, the children of doctors have a greater propensity to become doctors, children of police become law enforcement officers, children 0f teachers become teachers and professors, children of business owners work in the store when kids and become entrepreneurs, so what?

Didn't Charles Murray once look within families and note that the smarter siblings earned significantly more than their duller brother/sister? Yes, he did.

And since these kids shared the same family, family connections, parents, schools, etc, i.e. "privileges" ,yet had very different outcomes based on their aptitudes, might we entertain the idea that these patterns of intergenerational success are mostly not privilege and instead represent something else that's highly heritable?

This is completely irrelevant. Charles Murray was looking at the mid 20th century United States, a place with very high inter-generational mobility - maybe the highest in world history. Clark is looking at far time period and geographic range of places - many of which did not even pretend to operate on meritocratic principles. Unsurprisingly Clark finds that elites no matter the selection criteria are really good at keeping their offspring at the top. This isn't 1960 America anymore.

Read the book.

Be intellectually honest.

Do you really think there's nothing peculiar about the children of elite Samurai to be overrepresented among today's elites?
Or the descendants of Anglo-Norman invaders of 1066 to still be rich & succesful today in the UK?
Or medieval formed nobility in today's Sweden?

That's not culture, that's genes.

Assortative mating is a major factor: in Britain, there are people who are direct descendants of Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley, Thomas Arnold, and John Maynard Keynes' father.

Having just been all over australia I must admit it felt like a very classist old school british elitist type of place. Must be hard being a redneck there, not like the US where they are glorified. Instead the prime minister wants to reintroduce knighthood.

I can't say I appreciate rednecks, but I appreciate a society that finds some majesty in unsophisticated folk. A prosperous lifestyle working on a fishing boat in Alaska, duck hunting, catching and cooking muskrats, or running a pawn shop is illustrative of hard work and unpretentious nature.

My discomfort, though, comes from the "race to the bottom" in this form of admiration. Popular media is exalting scumbags who possess no redeeming qualities.

The really amusing thing is watching proletarians emulate "TV proletarians." Go down to any construction site or auto garage and look at the Duck Dynasty t-shirts and Sons of Anarchy bumper stickers.

Australian rednecks get paid really well because they have such larger natural resources and a still relatively small population. Being a fully cashed up bogan is about as good as it's ever been for the working classes in history.

This must mean that the trend will be for the upper echelon to reproduce smarter and more acquisitive offspring that eventually leads to an improvement in the species while the lower orders slide into a genetic slough that creates a sub-human population of drudges. There will be an evolutionary divergence into 2 groups that might eventually be incapable of interbreeding to produce fertile offspring, like asses and horses. What are we going to do about that?

Read HG Wells and you'll see. Google "Eloi and Morlocks"

No need to worry. The ancestors of Homo sapiens in Africa and Neandertals in Europe diverged 500,000 years ago, and when they met in Europe -- recently, on that time scale -- they were quite capable of interbreeding, which is why humans outside of Africa are all part Neandertal.

There is still a lurking myth that these people are successful because of their family wealth rather than by their own merits. In the times of Isaac Newton, only the sons of wealthy people had advanced educations, and they studied mainly in daddy's extensive private library and in private schools. Despite these advantages, only a minuscule number of these people became world-class members of their profession. Isaac Newton was simply brilliant and hard working, regardless of the height of the platform from which he launched his career.

It is more probable than possible that many worthy individuals failed to reach notoriety because of humble beginnings, but this does not mean that they failed to meet with success by their own standards.

This entire debate smacks of hatred of the rich and accomplished for somehow cheating. It is rather unremarkable that the sons and grandsons and great grandsons of relatively wealthy people became doctors, lawyers, generals, and politicians.

I certainly hope that my daughters have a better than average chance of becoming highly successful as a result of my education, their private schooling, and by providing them a life sheltered from deprivation. The idea that it is somehow unfair for people to transfer their wealth to their offspring is both repugnant and a violation of fundamental notions of property rights.

The funny thing about eliminating the top 1% is that a new top 1% magically springs up to replace them.

I always thought a better comparison would be Vietnamese immigrants to the US. When I grew up in East San Jose in an area now called Little Saigon, I noticed that the Vietnamese that ultimately did best in the US came from families that were professionals or business types in Vietnam before the revolution and escape from the country. People whose families were peasants in VN typically did less well in the US.

Since the vast majority of these immigrants came to the US without a dime to their name (most came to the US in 1979 or later *after* being stripped by the Communists; a few who came during the escape in 1975 had a bit of money), you have a rare empirical situation where they all basically "started equal", with nothing else but their family histories and genetics.

My thought was always that the families from richer families knew that there was always a "game" to be played, so they figured out what the game was and played it. Also, they knew that education couldn't hurt, and they came complete with fanatic "tiger moms" and high expectations for their kids, so many of them went to top universities despite going to crappy "urban" high schools.

And now you know that genes may have mattered as well.

The study looked only at Australia. Are the same results true in civilized countries?

Clearly genes are irrelevant.

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