The Implications of The Bell Curve

Saw this tweet, which went hugely viral (and was deleted):

This agrees with posts [1] on thig blog from years ago in which I argue that The Bell Curve is not just a sociology book but a portal into America’s increasingly unequal or stratified future, in which IQ inequality is equivalent to wealth inequality. Just another example of how correct I was (and still am) about things.

“The Bell Curve” has been controversial since its publication. It’s not that the authors advocated for discrimination or a caste system by IQ, as mistakenly assumed by the book’s numerous and vocal critics, but rather that IQ, which is highly heritable, is predictive of all sorts of negative and positive life outcomes, and that and group differences of IQ can explain why some groups tend to perform worse than others despite multi-decade, multi-billion dollar efforts by policy makers to narrow such performance gaps or differences, to much futility. [This is obviously an oversimplification, and it’s not uncommon for individuals to have much higher or lower IQs than predicted by their group averages alone.] Why does biology stop above the neck? Critics or deniers of IQ fall victim to a sort of cognitive dissonance in which they have to reconcile that this thing, which has the properties of intelligence, exists but it’s not measurable or not intelligence. So what is it? Isn’t it just easier to say that some people are smarter than others.

That’s not to say IQ is the be-all-end-all. A lot of big-brained people lost money in subprime in 2008. Or tech stocks in 2000-2003. Or Enron/WorldCom in 2001-2002. Or lost money in Bitcoin in 2021-2022. Good heuristics and an intuitive understanding of capital markets beats just being smart and having no understanding of those things.

Regarding race, the black-white IQ gap is actually wider at higher socioeconomic status levels:

This reveals an inherent contradiction of the anti-IQ view: if the black-white IQ gap is due to racism, how is it that the children of successful blacks still score lower than whites if wealth is an indication of successful cultural assimilation?

The observation of moneyed elites pulling away from everyone else is not new–the Gilded Age comes to mind–but the key difference is the rise of the meritocracy. This means much more upward mobility for smart people, particularly in STEM, business, law, medicine, consulting, etc. (the so-called ‘professional middle class’ [2]), who may not have connections or family wealth but rise to the top tiers of society through raw intellect and merit alone.

In the post IQ is not that important…except for all the things in which it is I describe how many people in their late 20s and 30s are achieving financial independence through STEM jobs and diligent investing and saving (the so-called ‘FIRE movement’):

On popular Reddit subs such as /r/fatfire, /r/financialindependence, and /r/investing, those who attain financial independence early in life, in their 30s or 40s, are almost all high IQ, even if they inherited their wealth, such as tech, finance, law, medical, start-ups, etc. I cannot recall ever seeing anyone on any of those subs who made millions by their 30s or 40s in a blue collar profession. I am sure it has happened, but it’s exceedingly rare. Thus, it would seem, if a goal in life is to have a lot of money, then having a decently high IQ is pretty much a prerequisite. (Yes, there are possible exceptions, such as politicians, in which the link between ability and wealth is much more tenuous or even non-existent).

Blue collar workers can do well, such as HVAC or construction, but the college wage premium is still the widest it has ever been and keeps widening.

50 years ago financial independence at the age of 30 wasn’t really possible (unless you were a famous musician, I suppose). Adjusted for inflation, in the ’70s, many PMC jobs either didn’t exist or paid much worse. There was no equivalent of the $200k-500k/year finance or coding job in the ’70s like there is today, or lucrative NSO or ISO plans. Also, stock market returns were much worse and interest rates were much higher (even compared to today). Same for home prices, which were flat in the ’60s and ’70s compared to the post-2000s never-ending housing boom.

Also, luck played a much bigger role in success 50 years ago compared today, in which IQ and luck both matter, but IQ more I think.

The third key observation is old, moneyed elites losing power and wealth due to the rise of IQ-led meritocracy. Monocles, top hats, and canes have been replaced by Teslas and inconspicuous professional-casual attire. [3] The Forbes 100 list of wealthiest people is composed of almost all self-made people in tech or finance who had no connections or family wealth, like the founders of Google. Robert F. Kennedy recently had some Facebook and Instagram pages removed for supposed vaccine misinformation, which shows how far this once mighty dynasty has fallen that they can be pushed around by a 30-something year old billionaire nerd. Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. was one of the most powerful men in America and patriarchs of one of the most powerful families…not anymore.

[1] The Bell Curve is becoming reality, part 2

The Bell Curve is Becoming Reality

[2] The PMC is commonly referred to as ‘professional–managerial class’, but I prefer to call it the ‘professional middle class’ instead, because this encompasses a wide range of high-status professions that confer an upper-middle class salary, which is still a lot of money (up to $300k/year, which I think is the technical divide between the upper-middle class and the ‘wealthy’).

[3] Bezos, Musk, and Warren Buffett downplay their wealth, and are much wealthier than even adjusted for inflation than the robber barons of a century ago. Also, their wealth will not vanish either. I predict Musk and Bezos will be the first trillionaires by 2030.

3 comments

  1. The Jolly Heretic recently pointed out that 84% of the human genome is brain related, it’s where most Darwinian pressure is exerted, imagine the implications if this is even remotely true. I’m afraid there’s an evolutionary divide between us that cannot be bridged.

  2. IQ is the ultimate taboo. Merely mentioning it triggers a response as visceral (though still less lethal) as defacing a Kim Jong Un portrait in Pyongyang.

  3. College premium? Only exists for elite colleges.

    If one has to attend a university not in the top tier of the US News book, one is better off not attending one.

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