Award-Winning Economist: I'm Ignorant About My Purported Specialty And I Intend To Stay That Way
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From the NY Times's Freakonomist blog:
Last week, we solicited your questions for award-winning Oxford University economist Paul Collier, author of The Bottom Billion and the just-published Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places .

In his answers below, Collier talks about why the impact of colonialism on Africa is exaggerated, how African countries are “too big to be nations, yet too small to be states,” and his belief that the I.Q. of a country’s citizens is “not closely related to the performance of an economy.”

Collier received one unwelcome question:
Q. What do you think of Richard Lynn‘s findings about race differences in intelligence and their relatedness to Africa’s continuing state of underdevelopment? In his work, Mr. Lynn compiled the results of numerous studies which appear to show fairly unambiguously that average I.Q.’s in sub-Saharan Africa are below 70. Studies furthermore show that this disadvantage is almost certainly inherited genetically. — Denis Bider

A. I don’t know this stuff and don’t want to. But I am just about prepared to believe that the average Chinese person is smarter than the average Englishman. Despite this, the average Englishman is more than 10 times richer than the average Chinese person — so intelligence is manifestly not closely related to the performance of an economy.

In other words, "Please don't Watson me! I'll be however stupid I have to be in order to keep my nice job at Oxford."

Ironically, the very low average IQs found in Africa can't all be genetic in origin because the gap between Africans (mean IQ of 70 according to dozens of studies) and African-Americans (mean IQ of 85 according to hundreds of studies) is as large as the gap between African-Americans and white Americans (100). Yet, African-Americans are no more than 20% white by genealogy. Richard Lynn himself has repeatedly pointed to poor nutrition as one cause of low average IQs in some poor countries. We know of two micronutrients—iodine and iron—that can lower your IQ when not in sufficient supply in your diet. That's why in America salt is fortified with iodine and flour with iron. Extending these fortification programs to the Third World as a way to raise average IQ would probably give more bang for the buck than anything else.

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