[VDARE.com note: News from the year 2000! This, one of our earliest articles, is being pinned to the front page on election day, 2012, to remind you, as Steve Sailer blogged today, that no one seems to have drawn any lesson from the failure of so many minority voters to pass the intelligence test represented by a (slightly) confusing ballot.]
Having recently published a five part series in VDARE on the plight of the intellectually challenged in modern America, I was pleased that so many Al Gore supporters in Florida's Palm Beach County have chosen to make themselves the poster children for the easily confused. By their willingness to go on national television and proclaim their failure to understand that an arrow pointing from Al Gore's name to a punch hole means that they should have punched that hole ... well, I never expected my argument to get that much free publicity. [For a picture of the baffling ballot, see here.]
As IQ researcher Linda Gottfredson has pointed out, "Life is an IQ test." Performance on practically every task that has ever been studied is positively correlated with IQ. Thus, it's by no means surprising how much trouble the elderly and the permanently dim experience trying to decipher a new ballot design, no matter how simple.
Of course, stupidity is not confined to Gore supporters. While 19,000 ballots were screwed-up in Gore-loving Palm Beach County, the heavily Republican voters of Florida's Duval County botched 22,000 ballots—an astounding 8% of the county's total.
Democrats in Palm Beach complain that it was confusing to have the Presidential candidates names printed on both the left and right pages of the now-notorious "butterfly ballot." In Duval, however, election officials chose the other possible layout. They put the names of the candidate just on the left hand page. They couldn't squeeze all ten candidates onto just one page, so they printed, "Continued on the next page" at the bottom, and listed the rest of the candidates on a second left hand page. A remarkable fraction of Duval voters proceeded to vote for one Presidential candidate from each page! [Duval tosses 22,000 votes Unusually high rate to draw closer look By David DeCamp, Florida Times-Union, November 11, 2000]
No doubt in the rest of Florida, tens of thousands of other voters managed to make a hash of their ballots too. So, there is no reason to assume that the people of Florida "actually" wanted to elect Gore. No, the only thing unique about Palm Beach is the culture of kvetch and victimism that encourages the residents to assume that their mistakes are not their own fault and then loudly proclaim that they should get a second try to do it right. Can you imagine some respectable Japanese gentleman from Kyoto going on TV to say that his ineptness in the voting booth cost his party control of the Diet? If he did, he'd probably commit seppuku immediately afterward.
A high proportion of spoiled ballots in African American precincts have long been the bane of black candidates. Jesse Jackson used to complain during his runs at the Democratic nomination about how many of his supporters' ballots were disqualified.
Jews, of course, tend to perform well above average at deciphering complexity. But age takes a terrible toll on problem solving ability. VDARE contributor Daniel Seligman reported on this in his A Question of Intelligence.
IQ test scores are adjusted for age. On the popular Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, a 25-year-old's raw score of 114 and a 60-year-old's raw score of 93 are equivalized to equal 100. Yet, the real slippage tends to take place after age 65.
"Crystallized Intelligence" remains fairly strong, though. Short of senility, for example, the old don't lose much of their vocabulary. Most of the deterioration is in "fluid intelligence," the kind you need to solve new problems. Seligman wrote, "Research performed over several generations tells us that elderly people have more difficulty than young adults in following instructions about matters not familiar to them."
For example, when I was a personal computer technician at age 26, I enjoyed few things more than reading a new computer manual from cover to cover. By age 30, however, I had to seek refuge in the less rigorous field of corporate strategy. Today, at 41, my brainpower has so diminished that I must eke out my living as a pundit. (Fortunately, the competition has gotten increasingly less formidable with each career change.)
This problem isn't going away. In 2011, the first wave of Baby Boomers hits 65. As with everything that has ever personally confronted my immensely tiresome generation, this issue will suddenly become the Biggest Crisis in the History of America.
But there's no moral reason for waiting until then to start thinking about how to help our cerebrally limited fellow citizens. There are tens of millions of Americans out there who were born as clueless as those Palm Beach retirees took 80 years to become. As the Palm Beach / Duval examples show, it will never be easy to make things easier for the unintelligent. But it's time we at least thought about it. And the single most obvious way to help our fellow Americans who lost out in the genetic IQ lottery is to not import unskilled immigrants to compete against them and drive down their wages.
November 14, 2000