IQ and the Wealth of Nations

This terrifying book by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen, shows us the elephant in the room of politics: the difference between have and have-not nations is intelligence.

The more intelligent nations not only invent more things, but they’re aware of a longer-term time-scale to their goals, so they value things like civic morality, collective awareness, intelligence and self-discipline.

The dumber nations have none of this, and so whoever’s got the mango right now is the hippest kid on the block, and anyone who invents a new way of doing things is a witch doctor and should be burned. Before you get jubilant over how much better you are than these people, you should remember that most third-world nations are decayed forms of once-prosperous and intelligent places.

Those intelligent places got run over by hipsterism, drama, and social reality, and so declined as their population devolved and became diverse, leaving them with an undifferentiated mass of useless people.

The book includes the authors’ calculation of average IQ scores for 81 countries, based on their analysis of published reports. It reports their observation that national IQ correlates with gross domestic product per capita at 0.82, and with the rate of economic growth from 1950-1990 at 0.64.

The authors believe that average IQ differences between nations are due to both genetic and economic factors. They also believe that low GDP can cause low IQ, just as low IQ can cause low GDP.

Erich Weede and Sebastian Kampf wrote that “there is one clear and robust result: average IQ does promote growth.”[17] Edward Miller wrote that “the theory helps significantly to explain why some countries are rich and some poor.”[18] Michael Palairet wrote that “Lynn and Vanhanen have launched a powerful challenge to economic historians and development economists who prefer not to use IQ as an analytical input.”[19] In a reanalysis of the Lynn and Vanhanen’s hypothesis, Dickerson (2006) finds that IQ and GDP data is best fitted by an exponential function, with IQ explaining approximately 70% of the variation in GDP.[20] Dickerson concludes that as a rough approximation “an increase of 10 points in mean IQ results in a doubling of the per capita GDP.”

Whetzel and McDaniel (2006) conclude that the book’s “results regarding the relationship between IQ, democracy and economic freedom are robust”.[21] Moreover, they address “criticisms concerning the measurement of IQ in purportedly low IQ countries”, finding that by setting “all IQ scores below 90 to equal 90, the relationship between IQ and wealth of nations remained strong and actually increased in magnitude.” On this question they conclude that their findings “argue against claims made by some that inaccuracies in IQ estimation of low IQ countries invalidate conclusions about the relationship between IQ and national wealth.”

Both Lynn and Rushton have suggested that high IQ is associated with colder climates. To test this hypothesis, Templer and Arikawa (2006) compare the national IQ data from Lynn and Vanhanen with data sets that describe national average skin color and average winter and summer temperatures.[24] They find that the strongest correlations to national IQ were −0.92 for skin color and −0.76 for average high winter temperature. They interpret this finding as strong support for IQ-climate association.

Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel instead argues that historical differences in economic and technological development for different areas can be explained by differences in geography (which affects factors like population density and spread of new technology) and differences in available crops and domesticatable animals.


As we can see, an interesting book. I’ve clipped all of the dumb and obvious comments people made about it and saved instead the only reliable counter-thesis, which is Jared Diamond’s idea that geography defines innovation. There are many problems with it as well, but it’s here for context.

Wikipedia also gives us something lovely — and this is probably the most compelling maker of Lynn/Vanhanen’s argument:


When people allude to IQ and the wealth of nations, just like The Bell Curve, they’re suggesting a powerful truth:

Natural selection is real and exists among us to this day.

Those who prosper are the smarter; this also favors ethnic groups and races (these two come into play with nationality) as well as classes within each ethnic group.

Those who are rich are most likely, statistically, to be rich because they have intellectual powers; those who are poor are most likely, statistically, to be poor because they have less intellectual ability.

So… I’ve known some smart poor people. However, they were a tiny minority, and almost always had middle class or upper middle-class ancestors, even if some generations removed. Same with the few dumb rich people I knew — usually the sons of millionaires who married strippers, cocktail waitresses, models, actresses and people from other nitwit professions.

Anecdotally, I’d estimate there’s a 2% at most deviation from the model, and those people sink or swim according to how much will they can summon toward change.

Historically speaking, their models are roughly accurate as well — and roughly accurate is about the best it gets. Look at the chart, and pick which nations you’d like to live in. Now pay attention to their history: which were spoiled rich kids who degenerated, and which never evolved? Both ways reach the same end result.

(There’s a more complete version of that chart, but one that’s less visually clear from a glance, at Steve Sailer’s website.)

For more reading material: if you’re wondering whether IQ is genetically determined and how it affects the life of an individual, read The Blank Slate. For an explanation of how races, clines, ethnicities and classes overlap, and how historically they spread and diversified, read Genes, Culture and Human Evolution: A Synthesis.

Another interesting factor is the effect of revolutions: Russia and France both lag behind their neighbors, probably a consequence of the political murder of elites and aristocrats who would have raised the IQ curve. (The American Revolution is strictly put, not a revolution, but a colonial war of independence.)

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