Tag Archives: social darwinism

Anti-Democracy Sentiment Going Mainstream

This article is going viral right now on Hacker News: In Praise of Passivity, by Michael Huemer of the University of Colorado.

Political actors, including voters, activists, and leaders, are often ignorant of basic facts relevant to policy choices. Even experts have little understanding of the working of society and little ability to predict future outcomes. Only the most simple and uncontroversial political claims can be counted on. This is partly because political knowledge is very difficult to attain, and partly because individuals are not sufficiently motivated to attain it. As a result, the best advice for political actors is very often to simply stop trying to solve social
problems, since interventions not based on precise understanding are likely to do more harm than good.

This article could be posted anywhere, both on liberal and conservative communities, and it would be praised. Anti-democratic sentiment, as part of the recent backlash against ‘low information’, transcends the left/right dichotomy. Especially since 2013, on forums and communities like Reddit, Hacker News, and 4chan, and in general mainstream discourse, people, particularly smart, well-informed people, have become increasingly skeptical of democracy, for many reasons:

1. Democracy is predicated on the falsehood or wishful belief that humans are intrinsically of equal worth (one person, one vote). However, Social Darwinism, which is becoming acutely relevant in post-2008 society, as wealth inequality keeps widening (particularly with smart people earning more than the less intelligent and having more social status), throws cold water on the hopeful belief that everyone is intrinsically, upon conception, equal. No, by virtue of IQ, which is a biological trait, some are perhaps born ‘better’ than others, and this cognitive disparity manifests in individual socioeconomic outcomes. Even liberals who wish to believe in the false god of egalitarianism and equality, when pressed, concede IQ is accurate measure of the worth/value of an individual to society. Why else are parents, many of whom identify themselves as liberal, in New York spending so much money and time on tutoring and other programs in the hope of having their children admitted selective elementary schools that screen for IQ, in order to give their children an ‘edge’ in today’s hyper-competitive economy. When you read stories of high-IQ web 2.0 founders and venture capitalists making hundreds of billions of dollars seemingly overnight, or high-IQ homeowners in Silicon Valley making millions of dollars as their homes appreciate, or how wealth inequality keeps widening between advanced degree holders and everyone else, it’s hard to accept with a strait face that IQ is just a number or that everyone is equal. Maybe equal under a set of laws or the ability to cast only a single vote, but that’s not saying much. I’m pretty sure most people, if given the choice to forfeit their vote in exchange for a million dollars, would choose the money.

He’s right:

2. As the article mentions, the very people who cast the votes, and thus influence policy, are often ignorant of the issues, as also noted by anti-democracy pioneer Bryan Caplan. Also, voters are persuaded by convenient narratives and sound bites that are repeated by the news media, not cold-hard reality. Sometimes the ‘best’ or most feasible policy, of the alternatives, is not the one that is the most popular. Obama came to power promising ‘retribution’ against Wall St., fewer wars and less interventionism, as well as affordable healthcare and education, student loan debt reform, and an abundance of good-paying jobs for all. It was a message that, not surprisingly, appealed to many voters, but failed to live up to the hype and high expectations. Letting people ‘vote for what they want’ is the fundamental problem with democracy. Most people won’t realize their expectations are unreasonable and or come at a cost to a minority, as well as being naive on important issues. Libertarians, more so than most ideologies, realize the limitations of democracy. Although anyone can have unrealistic expectations or be naive, libertarians and reactionaries are at least aware of this problem, whereas too many view democracy as infallible or an unalloyed good.

3. Efforts costing trillions of dollars and costing many lives to spread democracy in the Middle East, largely failed.

4. Democracy does a poor job allocating public resources, compared to alternatives like utilitarianism. Democracy is about what ‘feels good’ (every life is precious, worth saving); utilitarianism is about optimization. Two examples include special education and healthcare. Because of the belief that every life is worth saving at any cost, a disproportionate amount of public healthcare (5% of patients are consuming 50-80% of healthcare resources) is spent on costly end-of-life care, as well as for rare diseases. Any politician that advocated rationing of pubic healthcare, such as by IQ or prognosis, to control government spending would obviously lose, with expected parallels drawn between rationing and ‘Nazism’ – a label that is carelessly thrown around and has a tendency of shutting down debate. The same misallocation problem is also observed in education, particularly special education, which gets substantially more funding than gifted education even though both extremes are equally represented on the Bell Curve. Instead, too much money is spent on those who will likely achieve the least.

Related: On Not Letting Cognitive Capital Go To Waste

5. Democracy can hurt the productive minority. This is why the founding fathers created a constitutional republic instead of a democracy, to protect land owners who were the minority, and to prevent ‘mob rule’. The phrase “tyranny of the majority” was used by John Adams in 1788, and gained further prominence in Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville. James Madison, in Federalist Paper 51, wrote: “It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure.” But there are two extremes here: as shown in #4, democracy means spending too much resources on less productive minorities, but democracy can also hurt more productive minorities.

Biology as a Sorting Mechanism

Some try to frame the left/right dichotomy as a battle between ‘order’ vs. ‘chaos’, but it’s more like ‘egalitarianism’ (forced equality) vs ‘hierarchy‘, whether such hierarchy is biological, social, and or economic. The far-left may deny individual exceptionalism in favor of a ‘blank slate‘ approach, because they believe the state should be able to ‘perfect’ man. The reign of Pol Pot is one such extreme example, where anyone who didn’t conform to the Khmer Rouge’s vision of ‘perfection’ was either murdered or ‘re-educated’. The biological reality that some people are perhaps born ‘better’ than others goes against such aspirations of perfectibility and egalitarianism. A communist regime is very orderly and systematic (the opposite of chaos) in its efforts to force equality, and although the eventual deterioration of the economy may lead to chaos, and the installation of a far-left government may be chaotic, chaos just for the sake of chaos is not the intent. One can make the argument that the left is ‘too orderly’ in trying impose their will on biology and human nature.

But to get a communist government you must first have a revolution, which is why the left seeks crisis – whether economic or geopolitical – as a way of punishing the rich and bringing about a more egalitarian society where everyone is equal, even if it means everyone has less (Sanders’ economic vision comes to mind).

The economic strain of WW1 weakened the Tzar autocracy, eventually leading to revolution:

“Russian Revolution” is the collective term for a pair of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which dismantled the Tsarist autocracy and led to the eventual rise of the Soviet Union. The Russian Empire collapsed with the abdication of Emperor Nicholas II, and the old regime was replaced by a provisional government during the first revolution of February 1917 (March in the Gregorian calendar; the older Julian calendar was in use in Russia at the time). In the second revolution that October, the Provisional Government was removed and replaced with a Bolshevik (Communist) government.

As Pinker and others have noted, there is evidence the world is getting safer, and the left wishes this weren’t so, preferring chaos so that the ‘unfair’ status quo is replaced by a more egalitarian one. Liberals deny individual cognitive exceptionlism, to promote leveling. According to the left, if people succeed it’s because they had an unfair advantage, practiced 10000 hours, cheated, etc. – not because of superior genes.

The left is robbing exceptional people of their exceptionalism by planting seeds of doubt, that maybe exceptional people cheated or are deliberately oppressing the less successful. It’s like Obama’s ‘you didn’t build that’ remark. Nevermind the day traders on Reddit who are consistently making fortunes in the stock market despite the left’s insistence that the market and the economy is rigged. But over and over again, exceptional people keep proving the left wrong.

However when pressed, some on the left will concede that IQ is real, is biological, and is relevant for certain skills, but then they have another strategy, which is to turn IQ into a handicap, meaning that a high IQ must come at the cost of another but more important attribute (for example, that smart people are lazy or unethical).

The question is, can people handle the truth about genes and socioeconomic outcomes, and I’m afraid the answer in many instance is still ‘no’. As I explain in the post IQ Anxieties, the idea of biology as a ‘sorting mechanism’ for society and achievement goes against the concept of ‘free will’ as ingrained by school, parents, teachers, clergy, etc – the conceit that anyone, with enough practice and education funding, can achieve anything (growth mindset vs. fixed mindset). And as explained earlier, such a sorting mechanism goes against the left’s aspirations of ‘perfectibility’. The ‘fixed mindset’ is more accurate, but probably not what people want want to hear, preferring the ‘growth’ one, which sells books and fills Ted talk lectures.

The concept of biological determinism makes many uneasy, because we want to believe we can not only control our lives, but our outcomes too. To quote Scott Adams, your mind is creating little movies in which you are the star.

For better or worse, the disconnect between reality and these ‘mental movies’ is vast. Maybe ‘better’ because, at the personal level, it’s a coping mechanism; ‘worse’ because the consequences of individual delusions are shared by society, in the form of bad policy.

Teachers can identify exceptional students at a very young age, long before 10,000 hours can kick in. Or the especially well-written Salon or Slate article that you know was written by someone with genuine talent at putting words together, talent that manifests early in life. Even in school, there are the ‘smart’ kids and ‘dumb’ ones. Again, no 10,000 hours needed to separate tomorrow’s losers from potential winners. Some defenders of the 10,000 rule may argue that the rule only applies to those who are already talented, with the 10,000 hours of practice supplementing talent instead of of replacing it, in which I agree, but many deny the role of talent altogether. The delusions inspired by the 10,000 hour rule remind me of parents who think their dull kids are smart, or Amazon self-publishers who blame ‘gatekeepers’ for their crappy books being rejected.

We want to live in a world where where if we fail it’s someone else’s fault, a conspiracy, or a failing of society – not a failing of the individual. That’s why Sanders’ blame-the-rich rhetoric is appealing to many – no, it’s not your fault (either due to laziness, poor life choices, bad genes, etc) for failing to succeed at life, it’s those ‘greedy rich people’ keeping you down. Although ‘bad genes’ are obviously beyond one’s control, it’s still an individual problem, not a societal one. This means that the successful and society should not divert too much attention to them (losers), but instead focus on the winners. Maybe this is unfair or mean, but it’s economic and biological reality that some will be better than others, that some will have more than others, and those who have the biological potential to succeed should have priority over those who don’t.

Related: Education and the Blank Slate: Setting Realistic Expectations

Post-2008 Themes

Lately there has been a plethora of these ‘how-world-is-changing’ type articles on social news sites, and they seem to do well, as measured by comments, interactions, and shares, so here is another one:

The Crisis of the Blue Model

Within a decade … between a third and a half of the current employees in finance will lose their jobs to … automation software. It began with the lower-paid clerks … It has moved on to research and analysis, as software … has become capable of parsing enormous data sets far more quickly and reliably than humans ever could. The next ‘tranche’ … will come from the employees who deal with clients: Soon, sophisticated interfaces will mean that clients no longer feel they need or even want to work through a human being.

The Luddite fallacy means that there will always be an abundance of jobs for all skill levels, despite advances in technology. Carriage mechanics become auto mechanics, who become rocket mechanics, etc. Whether or not it remains a fallacy is up to debate, but technology has yet to eliminate all jobs – far from it. However, instead of fewer jobs, the labor market distribution may become bimodal, with a ‘hollowing out’ of the middle.

The Year of Disillusion

Then came the inevitable crash. Home prices collapsed and well-paying white collar jobs disappeared. The brother-in-law who made $150,000 a year as a mortgage broker in 2007 was unemployed in 2009 and driving a FedEx truck in 2010–or doing nothing at all, as the labor force participation rate collapsed. …

But I think every year there is some ‘disillusion’. In the 2000′s it was about 911, Iraq, the dotcom bubble bursting, and in 2008, the financial meltdown. In the 90′s it was about Y2K, militia groups and domestic terrorism against abortion clinics and government buildings, Clinton’s ‘culture wars’, the Persian Gulf War, the first biotech revolution, and the beginning, maturation, and eventual euphoria of the world wide web.

Now it’s apps and social media, Iraq and Syria, on-demand services such as Netflix and Uber, the sharing and gig economy, spree shootings and domestic terrorism by Muslims instead of Christians, ‘outrage porn’ as the new culture wars, perpetually low interest rates, the crummy labor market that never seems to get better, a generation of graduates shackled by debt, and the ongoing debates over wealth inequality.

A major theme of post-2008 America is upheaval, or a re-shuffling to a new, more cut-throat ‘status quo’: jobs that were considered safe and good-paying no longer so, replaced by cheaper but more efficient ones; student loan debt rising, but job opportunities for many graduates falling; ;economic and technological abundance, but possible lack of fulfillment; too many applicants and too little hiring for many jobs; IQ being more important than ever (cognitive castes and Social Darwinism); millennials having to clean-up the mess the baby boomers left behind.

Another theme is the ‘inevitability of everything’, meaning that everything has become predictable up until the moment it happens. The stock market has continued to defy the predictions of collapse and doom and gloom, year after year, leaving the bears empty-handed, yearning for the crisis that will never come, as many seek ‘reset‘. The stock market will keep going up, reflecting the inevitably of the ‘status quo’ economy, that while it may suck for some – is persistent, so you may as well get used to it and adapt. Due to economic fundamentals and other factors, the bull market will likely continue.

Anomie and enniu are other themes, possibly related to the un-participatory nature of both the economy and society:

… what will happen instead is that the economic contributions of the most productive will be able to compensate for the least. The future is one where a decreasingly small percentage of individuals and corporations contribute to the bulk of economic output and activity – the Pareto Principle again, in which 20% contributes 80%, as shown below:

In the future, the curve will become steeper – possibly until a singularity is attained – one company to rule all- the Matrix? This could be the ‘other’ singularity, but instead of AI and computing power, it’s a company or economic entity.

Then you have the social component. Whether it’s the latest physics discovery making headlines, web 2.0 start-ups being worth billions seemingly overnight, Twitter wars, or social media and campus outrage, you have all this activity going on, but on the other hand most of us are on the outside ‘looking in’ rather than contributing or participating in any meaningful way to the debate. Social media platforms give us the illusion of influence and power, but for the vast majority of people it’s very limited, like screaming from the rooftop in a neighborhood where each home is spaced two miles apart. Social media and the celebritization of individualism may magnify this isolation.

Pre-2013, political discourse was dumb, and so was most internet content, too, with the hegemony of Buzzfeed-style ‘listicles’. Then, in 2013, a switch suddenly flicked: the assent of rationalism, long-form internet content, and centrism, all representing a smarter, more evolved form of online discourse and a rejection of ‘low information’, including pandering. This is also related to the post-2013 SJW-backlash and the rise of the ‘alt-right‘, as a challenger to ‘low-information’ mainstream conservatism. Rational liberals, to their credit, played a role in this backlash, denouncing certain aspects of ‘social justice’ once free speech began to be impugned by the more radical elements of the left. Preaching tolerance is hypocritical if you’re only tolerant of those who hold similar views.

In the comments of the Slate Star Codex Sub Reddit, someone bemoans how culture is dominated by a ‘priestly class’ that puts education on the top of the ‘status pedestal’. A retort is that college professors don’t dominate our culture any more than, say, Kim Kardashian.

The common thread here is individualism, a defining characteristic of post-2008 society. What Kim Kardashian and the professor have in common is that their domains are highly individualistic, and both are elevated in society based on individual merits: for the professor, it’s making discoveries, which is related to intellectual-based authenticity and is highly individualistic, and Kim Kardashian for being authentic in her socialite lifestyle, in not having to conform to ‘midstream’ beauty standards and conventional categories of fame (being a singer, actor, etc). Our culture of individualism prizes individual accomplishments (like a physics or math discovery), popularity (Instagram & Twitter followers), and merit (related to individual intellectual accomplishments), which tend to be harder and more exclusive and celebrated than collectivist ones. Religion is inherently collectivist, generally having low barriers to entry for salvation. Same for political parities, which tend to have low barriers to entry for participation. Neither spotlight the individual. But a degree in physics or math, while much harder to obtain than going to church, brings much more prestige to the individual than being a random churchgoer. Perhaps some are tired of the celebration of ‘self’ and wish to return to simpler, more collectivist times. As I discuss earlier, some individualism and intellectualism is need to for society to advance, and there is is probably an optimal balance between the two.

Maybe you can call this New Era the Renaissance of The Mind, one that deals with data and social currency, not mortar and easels.

Not Smart Enough to Succeed: IQ Inequality = Income Inequality

From the Atlantic: Total Inequality

Total Inequality is not merely income inequality (although it matters) nor merely wealth inequality (although that matters, too). Total Inequality would refer to the sum of the financial, psychological, and cultural disadvantages that come with poverty.

It’s not that the poverty causes psychological and cultural imbalance but rather the poverty is caused by it. Although it can be difficult to disentangle genes from environment, many traits, from intelligence to psychopathy, seem to have strong hereditary component:

So how did they get that way? Is it an innate biological condition, a result of social experience, or an interaction between these factors? Longitudinal studies have shown that the personality traits associated with psychopathy are highly stable over time. Early warning signs including “callous-unemotional traits” and antisocial behaviour can be identified in childhood and are highly predictive of future psychopathy. Large-scale twin studies have shown that these traits are highly heritable – identical twins, who share 100% of their genes, are much more similar to each other in this trait than fraternal twins, who share only 50% of their genes. In one study, over 80% of the variation in the callous-unemotional trait across the population was due to genetic differences. In contrast, the effect of a shared family environment was almost nil. Psychopathy seems to be a lifelong trait, or combination of traits, which are heavily influenced by genes and hardly at all by social upbringing.

Simple tests such as ‘marshmallow experiment’ can single out children who may be doomed to underachievement later in life due to ‘high time preference’. Lows IQs, which can be measured children as young as four years old, manifest as impulsiveness, slow learning speed, inability to make inferences (poor critical thinking skills), and poor risk/reward analysis, and these characteristics, while generally harmless in the coddled environment of a school or household, come back to bite in the harsh realities of the hyper-competitive ‘real world’ when these lifelines and artificial environments are severed.

However, college, which values intellectualism, competence, and individualism (result-orientated) over social skills (collectivist), is an exception to the incubator that is primary and secondary school…The world is becoming more like college-like (or maybe graduate school) and less like kindergarten. This means fewer employees getting paid to just ‘show up’ and now more emphasis on ‘value creation’, results, and productivity. Pre-2008 we were in a ‘mediocrity bubble’, with most jobs being the equivalent of finger painting or scribbling with crayons. There’s a joke that to get job at a General Motors (or Chrysler or Ford) plant, you only need to know how to operate a remote that has three options: ‘on’, ‘off’, and ‘jam’. There are stories of employees who would ‘punch in’, quietly exit to hit the bar for the rest of the day, and return at the end of the day to ‘punch out’. Is it any surprise these companies failed and overpaid, coddled union jobs are going away, with high-IQ jobs like coding doing better than ever.

In this new, college-as-reality economy, intellectual poverty is almost the same as literal poverty, and IQ disparity is almost becoming tantamount to wealth disparity, as I discuss in Paul Graham: Economic Inequality and The Refragmentation.

If income vs IQ correlations are any clue, all too often, a poverty of IQ points often entails poverty income-wise.

As the sun sets on union and manufacturing jobs, The harsh reality is that less intelligent people are (and will continue) to be relegated to service sector or gig jobs, which may not pay well but at least create more economic value for employers.

Although entrepreneurs in blue collar industries can do very well, entrepreneurship still requires a strong work ethic, which like intelligence tends to be biological and normally distributed, meaning that a low intelligence combined with low work ethic is a recipe for failure.

How about bad upbringings or racism? Even the birth lottery does not preclude meritocracy, as shown by The Bell Curve (Herrnstein & Murray, 1994):

The Bell Curve (Herrnstein & Murray, 1994) presented general readers an
update of the evidence for the hereditarian position along with several policy
recommendations and an original analysis of 11,878 youths (including 3,022
Blacks) from the 12-year National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. It found that
most 17-year-olds with high scores on the Armed Forces Qualification Test,
regardless of ethnic background, went on to occupational success by their late 20s
and early 30s, whereas those with low scores were more inclined to welfare
dependency.

But it’s also the meritocracy within the birth lottery; the two need not be mutually exclusive, and that’s the way I reconcile the birth lottery wit the meritocracy. Look at the Silicon Valley tech culture, which epitomizes the meritocracy, but is mostly restricted to high-IQ people. Lower IQ people also have their meritocracies within their own IQ caste.

A person who has a PHD in a STEM field but is unemployed has much more earnings power than a barista, even if the latter is employed and the former is not. The PHD has the luxury of being choosy, deferring immediate income in search of a lucrative 6-figure or better job, whereas less educated people have to constantly jump from one low-paying job to another, as the turnover rates tend to be high and the advancement opportunities low. The PHD (or any high-IQ) person can more readily acquire skills that pay well; less intelligent people will find adapting to an economy of automation and ‘low-paying’ service and gig jobs to be more difficult, as good-paying skills will be cognitively out of reach.

Generations ago, in some ways, standards were higher for men (having to start a family, get a good job, get married, serve in war, etc), but also lower in other ways, particularly intellectually. The college and high school completion rates were much lower, and students had much less homework and testing. If you were relatively unskilled, you could still get a good-paying job out of high school. You have to understand, basic abilities like writing cogent sentences were coveted skills back then, whereas today you have an endless supply of freelancers who can write passable prose for little money. And this is because of mass education, which has made these medium-IQ skills more common. This means that an IQ of 140, for example, while very high, is like having an IQ of 120 a generation ago. Likewise, an IQ of 100 today, which is average, is like having an IQ of 80 a generation ago. That’s why so many authors, rejected, are forced to go to Amazon due to the over-supply of literacy in America. It’s not that education is boosting IQ scores; instead, it allowing more people to live to their full cognitive potential, which has the side effect of devaluing average IQ. This means that average IQ people, in order to be competitive and make a decent living, will have to learn skills more suited for IQ >115 people, and this will prove difficult. Genius IQ is still valuable since it’s so rare, but the middle (85-115) is hurt the most due to saturation of skills that one paid well and were uncommon but no longer so.

The ‘UBI’ is a solution that often arises in these discussion, but a A UBI without preconditions (which no longer makes it ‘universal’) will just perpetuate the growing entitlement spending problem. May as well give it to people who are most likely to generate a positive ROI from the income, which is why I advocate the high-IQ basic income.

Marshmallow ‘deferers’ vs. ‘eaters’

Since 2008, economically and socially, we’re also seeing the rise of the ‘deferers’ – the high-IQ kids who deferred eating the marshmallow, now grown-up, and are reaping all the fruits of prosperity in our ‘new economy’, getting richer than ever while the ‘eaters’ are on the lower echelons of society, stuck with crappy, low social status jobs and bad relationships, assuming they even have jobs.

…In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores,[2] educational attainment,[3] body mass index (BMI),[4] and other life measures.[5]

In follow-up studies, Mischel found unexpected correlations between the results of the marshmallow test and the success of the children many years later.[5] The first follow-up study, in 1988, showed that “preschool children who delayed gratification longer in the self-imposed delay paradigm, were described more than 10 years later by their parents as adolescents who were significantly more competent.”

This is just more evidence of how little ‘free will’ we have, how from a very early age through simple experiments it’s possible to separate society’s future winners from the losers.

Beyond the experiment sample, marshmallow ‘eaters’ are analogous to people with poor impulse control and or mediocre IQs that until recently did well economically and socially due to an abundance of overpaid jobs that rewarded mediocre talent, but now in light of recent economic changes find themselves much worse-off than the ‘deferers’, with fewer opportunities in an economy where ‘average is over‘ and productivity, efficiency, merit, quantifiable results, and talent rule. From Paul Graham: Economic Inequality and The Refragmentation:

Everything has become much more efficient (both in the stock market and in corporate america) and competitive, with droves of college graduates applying for jobs that can be completed by high-school dropouts.

The 2008 recession gave employers a great excuse to thin the herd, and keep it thin long after stock prices and earnings made new highs. There were too many people being overpaid to do jobs that could otherwise be automated, outsourced, or simply eliminated.

Today the low-paying service sector dominates, as the labor force becomes bifurcated with the ‘creative class’ or ‘cognitive elite’ on one extreme everyone else on the other.

This echoes James Altucher in his best seller Choose Yourself of how companies used the 2008 financial problem as an excuse to ‘thin the herd’, ushering a new era of hyper-productivity, with S&P 500 profits & earnings growing long after the crisis subsided:

As you can see, profits are at record highs, and I predict they won’t be falling anytime soon:

This parallels the rise of the ‘gig’ and ‘temp’ economy – ‘DIY’ jobs that, unlike the overpaid salaried jobs of a decades ago, may not pay much, are more demanding, have no perks, and where DIY-entrepreneurs are directly accountable for their success or failure.

But as I discuss in Pencil Pushers, the problem with the ‘gig’ economy is that it requires top 5% skills to make a top 50% income, and by virtue of the Bell Curve most people just won’t cut it. There are other gig jobs that are less intellectually demanding – landscaping, dog walking, or making greeting cards. But even then, while a top 5% IQ is not required for these jobs, a top 5% work ethic is (because you have to get the customers yourself, promote yourself, etc), and most people don’t have that either. In the ‘old’ economy, you could get away with a ’50%’ work ethic and a ’50%’ talent. From a social darwinistic standpoint, these ‘eaters’ are at a major disadvantage.

Stock Bull Market Continues, Seven Years Later

The 2009 bull market is third-longest in history: Seven-Year Anniversary: From the Depths of the Crisis, a Bull Run

If you go back to the archives and other posts, you will see that I was among the few pundits who called for a continuation the bull market, even as far back as 2011, as everyone else was predicting ‘crisis’ ‘inflation/deflation’ ‘recession’ and so on. The fed, the US consumer, high-IQ people, exporters, and web 2.0 – all helped, not Obama, who simply rode on the coattails of the successes of smarter people who laid the groundwork for the recovery that continues to this day.

Given that we’re just a few months shy of #2, it will soon be the 2nd longest bull market ever, and I would not be surprised if it takes the #1 spot, too. I still don’t see meaningful headwinds for why the market should collapse as it did in 2008 or 2000 [1].

The way I see it, a bet against the S&P 500 or the Nasdaq 100 is a bet against capitalism, human ingenuity and high-IQ – a bet that I sure as hell would never make. Yes, people are being left out, and the left sees this as justification for why the economy is weak, but also the nature of capitalism is changing, too, with fewer but bigger winners and more losers. The forever rising stock market is an example of Social Darwinism 2.0 in action, with IQ more important than ever, of the most successful and productive being rewarded with rising asset prices (web 2.0 valuations, home prices, stocks, etc) for their economic contributions.

Maybe ‘exit‘ [2] will be the most successful creating their own societies, free of the pull of liberalism that punishes success. But right now, the insular, meritocratic communities of Silicon Valley and other places, enriched by Web 2.0 and stock market windfalls, are a precursor.

[1] It’s going to be slow going. Probably another year of choppiness until new highs are made.

[2] Some in the ‘NRx-sphere’ seek collapse and rebuilding; I (and maybe some others) seek secession, ‘exit’, or incrementalism to some form of techno-monarchy. Or the ‘singularity’.

Reactionary Realism

From Poseidon Awoke, NRx: Against Platonic Rationalism:

I believe that the Dark Enlightenment is the realization that we are currently governed by pseudosciences, which were created out of the Enlightenment exuberance for the human ability to reason (rationalize). What the children of the Enlightenment did not understand was the limits of human cognition and the laundry list of cognitive biases that humans have. As such, we cannot simply think our way forward, deducing from first principles… we have to actually measure and experiment. We have to measure our mental models against the real world. Today, the pseudosciences assume that they are correct because they are logically consistent, but when the real-world outcomes to not match their imaginary models, it is because of some witchcraft (some evil crimethinker), rather than the fact that the imaginary model is not founded on observable truth.

Agree that democracy is a pseudoscience that (as I explain yesterday) requires its subjects suspend disbelief. But I’m not so quick to join the ‘humans are irrational’ bandwagon, because that often segues into turning IQ into a handicap, a tactic common among the left and liberal pop psychology charlatans. If smart people and their models are occasionally wrong, do you think less intelligent people will fare better? If a rocket blows up on the launchpad, do we fire the rocket scientists and replace them with ditch diggers? I would argue that all humans act in a way that they individually perceive as rational, but the rationalizations of smarter people tend to produce better results both individually and for society.

If I had to rename the site, maybe it would be called Rationalist Reaction, Reactionary Rationalism, or Reactionary Realism. The idea is to reconcile free will/ individualism/autonomy within a reactionary and deterministic framework, where the ‘social order’ is both an economic and biological one. This is similar to compatibilism. The example of Hobbes’ river, in contemporary society, is analogous to IQ and other biological factors. For example, the meritocracy by IQ, which means that individuals have free will and self-determination within their cognitive limitations. People with low IQs and genetic markers for violence are influenced by these biological factors to make poor life decisions, so while they have free will to make choices, these choices are often bad.

Conservatives tend to want to preserve the ‘status quo’, but biology helps by creating new caste systems within America, especially since 2008, stratified by IQ, with smart people tending to rise to the top and the less intelligent wedged between the cracks. Thus, Social Darwinism may, in fact, be compatible with conservatism, as both are a means to preserving a social order – the former by biology and the latter by rule of law, culture, and customs – or, preferably, by some combination of both. Rationalism is the understanding of this process, the entanglement of biology with socioeconomics, but it also goes beyond that, to understanding macroeconomics, and to the rejection of superstitions and wishful thinking by the embracing reality even if we don’t always agree with it or like it.

The suggestion that some people are intrinsically better than others is antithetical to egalitarianism and is a view many conservatives, liberals, and libertarians find offensive, wishing it weren’t so. They create these ‘myths’ to explain it away – we need more spending on social programs, more wealth redistribution, stronger families, less regulation…etc, etc. I’m sympathetic to the last two, and indeed stronger families will make for a better society, but it doesn’t change the fact some people are still, at the biological level, better than others. That’s the problem with Thomas Sowell…although he’s right about economics, he dismisses the role of biology and its connection with economic outcomes, arguing like liberals do that to posit such a link is racism. Biological and economic reality throws cold water on these ‘myths’, as evidenced by growing wealth inequality, or how smart, rich people tend to produce more economic value than poorer, less intelligent people. Or how high-IQ people create technologies and research that advances civilization, sometimes getting wealthy in the process, too. Again and again, the research is clear: IQ is biological and strongly influences socioeconomic outcomes. Therefore, some people, upon conception, must better than others – if ‘worth’ is measured by the potential to create economic value and advance civilization, which I think is pretty important. One could argue, of course, that not all high-IQ people are productive, useful members of society, and this is true, but, by in large, the there is a positive correlation between creative output and IQ. In other words, IQ is more than just a number, as much as many were it were.

Some libertarians and conservatives, to their credit, even in rejecting the idea of biological determinism, acknowledge that some people are superior to others by virtue of their economic, scientific, and social contributions.

But back to the subject of policy, if smart people occasionally draft poor policy, that doesn’t mean smart people are the problem. We need better policy and leaders.

Superior vs. Inferior People

I agree that egalitarianism and fat acceptance is bad, but ‘superior’ people are not those who try to specialize, but those who have the innate biological gifts to specialize in fields that pay money and garner recognition, such as specializing in mathematics, physics, coding, and stock trading. Yeah, if you have an IQ of 90 maybe you can specialize in greeting strangers at Walmart. Awesome. As a caveat, a person who is smart but lazy and entitled may be worse than a low or average IQ person who has a strong work ethic. But all else being equal, just like a bigger fighter being stronger than a smaller one, smarter people tend to achieve more in life (as measured by income, academic output, creativity, etc.) than the less intelligent.

But by virtue of IQ, I believe that some people are born ‘better’ than others, and I know this is a view that is quite unpopular among both sides of the political aisle, but I think it’s the correct one. And the empirical evidence, such as high-IQ people reaping most of the wealth in the post-2008 economy, supports this view. I cannot write something I don’t personally believe is true, and what I write is true unless shown otherwise. I’m not the only one who believes this – ask any parent and they will tell you they want their kids to be smart. Parents see the headlines about high-IQ jobs making more money than the low-IQ ones, about high-IQ people pulling ahead of the rest of the country, and they want their kids to not be left behind. That’s how you can explain the cutthroat competitiveness of New York’s most exclusive schools, for example. IQ is not just a number; it’s ultimately a measure of your potential worth/value to society. That is the reality that we live in.

Personally, I don’t mind it (the system we have) too much. I like how society, whether through policy or economic trends, is rewarding high-IQ, although I can understand how this makes others uneasy or feel left out. Smart people do tend to crate more economic value than everyone else, and maybe they deserve more, too. Or to put it another way, in 2008 our ‘old economy’ hit an iceberg and there were only enough lifeboats for the smartest of people. In any situation where there is a scarcity of resources, prioritization is necessary.

Winner-Take-All Nation

From Techcrunch We Are All Venture Capitalists Now

In Extremistan, we are all tournament players, investing our limited time and money in unpredictable ventures that may succeed or fail, quickly or slowly. Wins are fewer, but bigger; losses are more common; and, importantly, volatility is high.

The elephant in the room here is IQ, which Mr. Evans ignores. It’s the high-IQ people who, especially since since 2008, having been winning the ‘tournament’ of life, rising to the top as everyone else either stagnates or falls between the cracks. In our smartist era, smart people are getting rich with perpetually rising stocks & real estate, and wages that beat inflation, not lag it. In a winner-take-all world of Social Darwinism, being smart makes you the most fittest. Even obtaining connections, such as by getting into an elite school, requires high intelligence. An it’s more than money. As we’ve seen with the rise of the STEM celebrity, being smart garners adoration and attention, as intelligence itself has intrinsic value.

This ties into an article by Popular Psychology Why People Don’t Acknowledge You, in which this passage stood out:

In one way or another, virtually everybody dreams of standing out, being admired, acclaimed—even, well, applauded. To be viewed, and to view ourselves, as merely “average” or “adequate” really doesn’t do very much for us—or rather, our ego. And this may be all the more so because we live in a meritorious, American-Idol-type society that refuses to celebrate or lavish praise on individuals unless they’re judged exceptional. This circumstance explains why we may experience a certain envy when we hear drums banging for someone else. Secretly, we long to hear a drum roll beating for us.

That kinds describes the state of post-2008 America, where ‘salvation‘ is not through a traditional religion, but through internal factors (high-IQ) and external ones (recognition, wealth, celebrity), both of which are unobtainable for the vast majority of people. A high-IQ excludes 99% of the people who are average, as does wealth and fame. In the past, it was ‘good enough’ just being a decent person. Now people are expected, compelled to be exceptional, and individual exceptionalism is rewarded in the marketplace, more so than ever.

Related:

Autopilot Nation & The Winner Take all Economy

In Today’s Economy, It Seems Like IQ Is More Important Than Ever

Why Education is Not Curing Poverty

From Vox Education won’t cure poverty, in one chart

It boils down to IQ, in that less intelligent people typically earn less.

Second, the increasingly competitive economy has made IQ more important, magnifying the socioeconomic ramifications of individual cognitive differences. Intelligence tests indirectly measure situational awareness, learning speed, and ability to make inferences between disparate, abstract events and data – skills that are necessary in an increasingly competitive and technological economy, and those who are less intelligent, even if they have a high school diploma, may still be at a major disadvantage since those skills cannot be readily taught in a classroom. Smarter people learn faster because they retain more of what they read and observe, resulting in fewer repetitions to mastery. Although you can create heuristics and shortcuts, you cannot reliably make a person with a low IQ juggle as many ideas simultaneously in his head as someone with a higher IQ. Generations ago, low-IQ people simply did not graduate high school, but now many do because of grade inflation and remedial classes. Not surprisingly, when these dullards get into the real world they fail without the special accommodations and coddling they had earlier in life, especially in today’s hyper-competitive economy. If you took these dullards and transported them back to 1900 they would do better, relatively speaking. Maybe they would earn 70-100% of what was then the mean per capita income in 1900 instead of 50% or so of the mean per capita income in 2015.