The Economist: Talking (Almost) About IQ
October 15, 2006, 05:00 AM
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The Economist magazine aspires to be the newsweekly for Davos Man. The magazine likes to give the impression that its kind of people never actually live anywhere—instead, they are "based out" of somewhere, frequently Singapore. While they own multiple houses, they are really only at home in the First Class lounges of international airports. And, of course, they find having a nationality as quaint and trivial as having an astrological sign.

So The Economist never misses a chance to speak up for the interests of that not exactly silent minority, the global overclass.

Yet, in its nine-article survey The Search for Talent (October 5, 2006) about the growing worldwide competition among countries and corporations for smart individuals, the multinational periodical gives the strong impression that someday it hopes to grow up and develop enough courage to become … VDARE.com!

In essays like the survey's lead article, "The battle for brainpower," by its Washington bureau chief Adrian Wooldridge, and in "The revenge of the bell curve," The Economist gingerly steps right up to the brink of discussing the crucial issues that we at VDARE.com cover regularly.

And then it falters.

Wooldridge explains:

"This survey will argue that the talent war has to be taken seriously. It will try to avoid defining talent either too broadly or too narrowly but simply take it to mean brainpower—the ability to solve complex problems or invent new solutions."

In other words, The Economist considers "talent" to be essentially IQ ( problem solving ability) plus creativity. (They are not the same thing, by the way, although without some sufficient level of IQ, even the most creative person won't be able to work on difficult problems.)

Then, Wooldridge daringly suggests:

"It would be wonderful if talent were distributed equally across races, classes and genders. But what if a free market shows it not to be, raising all sorts of political problems?"

Good question!

But where's the answer? Well, I said The Economist appears to wish it had as much backbone as VDARE.com. I didn't say that it does have as much backbone.

You might think that for your $98 annual subscription price, The Economist would try to explore that topic for you.

At VDARE.COM, our reasons for wanting to understand the impact of differing levels of IQ on society here and abroad are largely public spirited—as the motto of Faber College in Animal House noted, "Knowledge Is Good." We believe that the truth is better for humanity than ignorance, lies, and wishful thinking. Understanding the empirical distribution of talent is crucial to being able to deal effectively and humanely with the political problems it raises.

Yet, even if your motivations were wholly mercenary, it would be useful for fine-tuning your investment portfolio if The Economist were to tell you which races, classes, genders, and nationalities tended to have more brainpower.

Amusingly, the magazine has only once mentioned the landmark 2002 book by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen, IQ and the Wealth of Nations, which demonstrates a strikingly high correlation between national average IQ and national average per capita income—a finding of some significance to global investors, no? But that was when The Economist was hornswoggled into attributing to Lynn and Vanhanen a phony table of made-up mean IQs by state concocted by a Democrat wanting to claim that his party colleagues were smarter than Republicans. (The next week, The Economist gallantly admitted, "Alas, we were the victim of a hoax.")

Why this diffidence?

As Wooldridge explains:

"But the subject [talent] is strewn with landmines. Think of the furor that greeted Charles Murray's and Richard Herrnstein's book "The Bell Curve," which argued that there are differences in the average intelligence of different racial groups; or the ejection of Lawrence Summers as president of Harvard University because he had speculated publicly about why there are so few women in the upper ranks of science."

Bearing in mind what The Economist obviously regards as object lessons in the peril of excessive honesty, you should read between the lines to grasp what Wooldridge and Co. are hinting at. What's not mentioned is as important as what is.

For example, the 15-page survey talks a lot about all the talent in China and India (although I think you'll find our 2004 article "Interesting India, Competitive China" comparing those two giga-countries more lucid and insightful because we are frank about the differences between them). This is reasonable, since these countries have lots of smart people. The magazine, as is its wont, suggests America should accept more high-brainpower immigrants from China and India.

Yet Latin America, which has 550 million people and supplies vastly more immigrants to America than the two Asian giants, never comes up in any of the nine articles on talent.

As Wooldridge implies, talent isn't equally distributed. For instance, there are over 10 million people of Mexican origin in California. But how have many have made a major contribution in California's Silicon Valley?

I've been looking for examples for a decade. And I've found a good one: Héctor Ruiz, the respected CEO of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), the number two American CPU chip-maker. And Ruiz isn't a product of Mexico's upper class, either—he grew up poor in the Mexican town of Piedras Negras. His is an impressive story. Unfortunately, it's also a rare one.

The logic of importing talent that seems so obvious to The Economist had zero (0) impact on last May's disastrous Senate immigration bill. Instead, the bill devoted to sucking in tens of millions more untalented manual laborers.

In The Economist's entire collection of essays, however, the newsweekly only vaguely hints at dissatisfaction with the main thrust of American immigration policy.

Honestly, reading these expensive magazines on vital but unpopular topics like talent can be like watching POW Jeremiah Denton blink out "T-O-R-T-U-R-E" in Morse code when his North Vietnamese captors put him on TV.

What's the point of being a Master of the Universe (okay, besides the money, power, flattery, and frequent flier miles) if your magazine doesn't think you deserve to be told the straight story? [Ask The Economist].

You can read it on VDARE.COM for free.

Although tax-deductible contributions are welcome!

[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog.]