Why the elite is dumb and getting dumber

When recruiting people for administration, administrators very reasonably look for past experience on the administration track. To him that has shall be given, to him that has not, even what little he has shall be taken away. However success at the lowest levels of the administration track is at best a poor indicator of intelligence, and in government, and in large schlerotic organizations choked on red tape, is a strong negative indicator of intelligence. Dumb people thrive in an environment where there are lots of committees, and lots of time is spent attending meetings.

This is a big problem with businesses that are immune from market pressures, businesses that like General Motors are too big to fail, with universities, and of course, with the biggest business of them all:  Government.  Professors of resentment studies are stupid.  Government employees in management positions in the governing apparatus are really stupid, and are even more fireproof than professors of resentment studies.

Three cases that should be studied: The Challenger disaster, Washington Mutual, and Countrywide, where demonstrably stupid people were given power, catastrophically fouled up, and got into trouble for so doing.  These are not the most stupid people of course, they are just the most stupid people doing stuff where stupidity can get you into trouble.  In most areas of government, stupidity, such as letting the 9/11 hijackers do obviously suspicious stuff, will get you promoted.  And no one can foul up resentment studies, even when resentment coursework leads to race hate gang rapes on campus.  Recall that the Major Hasan case was supposedly not a tragedy because Hasan murdered a bunch of people.  It was supposedly a tragedy because it might cause people to doubt that affirmative actioning Muslims into militarily sensitive positions of power was a good idea.So in looking at these cases, keep in mind that these cases are occurring where elite stupidity is likely to be the least severe, not where it is likely to be most severe.  I am relying on unsympathetic investigations of disastrous stupidity, but stupidity is likely to be most severe in those areas where no amount of stupidity, no matter how disastrous the consequences, can get you into trouble and result in unsympathetic investigation.

Some people are going to say that because Mozillo and Killinger made hundreds of millions of dollars in the course of destroying their banks, they must be really smart people.  But the  smart people, the ones that knew that they were robbing the banking system blind, got the hell out in 2006, leaving people like Mozilo and Killinger to take the blame.  There was a massive panic stricken exodus in late 2005, early 2006.  Anyone that did not get out while the getting was good is stupid.

Consensus tends to be dominated by those who will not shift their purported beliefs in the face of evidence and rational argument, thus dominated by the evil and the insane, meaning by those who lie about what their beliefs are, and thus have purported beliefs that are unaffected by reality, and those who genuinely have beliefs unaffected by reality. To fit in with such a consensus, it helps if you are stupid. See the scientific debate on linguistic deep structure for a debate dominated by the evil, dominated by those for whom scientific theory was one more club with which to destroy their enemies in academic struggles over power and funding, and the scientific debate on red meat and animal fats in the human diet for a debate dominated by the insane, dominated by those for whom health means spiritual health, which is best obtained by not exploiting or oppressing animals. In both cases, stupidity, real or feigned, helps advance one’s scientific career. Too much smarts will incur the wrath of a small but fanatical group, which no sensible person is going to provoke.

To compensate for the fact that success at low levels of management is a poor filter for people of ability, businesses look to universities to select management track people for them, so that only the very smart get started on that track. But increasingly universities accredit people in much the same way that large bureaucratic organization gives people experience on the management track. You are required to sincerely believe six impossible things before breakfast every morning, and it is a lot easier for stupid people to sincerely believe, to fit in.

Observe that one can get a computer science degree from a name university, despite total lack of ability to write a non trivial program. Course material is no longer filtering out the less clever, and political correctness and general requirements for conformity are filtering out the clever. This is a problem even with engineering courses, and it is a much bigger problem with management track postgraduate courses. If someone has a management track postgraduate degree in engineering from an elite university, he is pretty much guaranteed to be stupid, relative to an engineer from a no name university who has successfully done some actual engineering at work – which is what we saw happening in the Challenger disaster:  Management track engineers not only did not want to believe the disturbing reports submitted by engineering track engineers, but were unable to understand those reports.

And that is what happened with the Challenger disaster: Murray signed off on a report by Lund that said that the Challenger was going to explode, but never understood what he was signing off on.

The lesson of the Challenger disaster is that a postgraduate engineering degree in management is like a postgraduate science degree in interdisciplinary studies:  It is a degree in Stupid.

Since low level administrative experience does not select for intelligence, administrators rely on universities to filter for intelligence – but universities are not filtering for intelligence either.  Increasingly, university degrees are degrees in Stupid, for example resentment studies degrees, interdisciplinary studies degrees, and even degrees in Smart, for example computer science degrees, let an alarming number of stupid people through the filter.  An awful lot of Computer Science graduates just cannot write a non trivial program.

In the case of the Challenger disaster, the people who knew the Challenger was going to blow up, and wrote reports saying so, were engineers trained on the engineering track. At university they studied engineering problems. At work, they held their jobs on the ability to solve engineering problems. The people who did not know, and did not want to know, that the Challenger was going to blow up, were engineers who did postgraduate work on the business management track, trained to manage engineers, not to themselves engineer, and their careers were from the very beginning in management – they went directly from university to low level management. As managers, they were judged not on their ability to solve engineering problems, but on their ability to solve people problems – and if you are smarter than your boss, it is a problem.

If we look at Kerry Killinger, CEO of Washington Mutual, we find that Washington Mutual had reports saying that it was going to collapse, because its borrowers could only pay their mortgages by flipping their houses, so as soon as housing prices stopped rising, Washington Mutual’s mortgages would collapse, just as NASA had reports saying that the Challenger was going to explode, which reports were, of course, ignored. Let us look at Kerry Killinger’s resume, leading to his job as CEO. It is all that he served on the X committee, and was Chairman of the Y committee. Committees work by consensus, so tend to be dominated by the evil and the insane, so it helps to be stupid to fit in. His management background was a career in the track that tends to most strongly select for stupidity, conformity, and willingness to conform to what is stupid, evil and insane.  Kerry Killinger came from a management track where ability to ignore reality is a major asset, and led his company to disaster by ignoring reality.

The Countrywide disaster was in large part caused by affirmative action, and by selection for true believers in affirmative action, which is to say, for stupid people. The CEO, Angelo R. Mozilo, was an affirmative action hire, and also a sincere believer in affirmative action lending. His bank became large and powerful in part by making special loans to politicians and regulators, in part by enthusiastically making loans to the supposedly oppressed, in other words, entirely by left wing politics. He made an enormous number of “VIP loans” to fellow leftists in positions of power. Since left wing politics requires sincere belief in no end of ridiculous stuff, leftists tend to be stupid, even when they do not affirmative action dimwits into power among themselves.

Angelo Mozilo is a particular case that affirmative action people in power tend to be stupid, and that leftists tend to be stupid.  That leftists tend to be stupid is the most important case of the problem that those whose path to power went through committees tend to be stupid, evil, and insane.

To recap

Success in low level administration fails to filter out the stupid people, and is apt to filter out the smart people.  So administrators rely on universities to filter smart people onto the administration track, and filter stupid people off that track. Unfortunately universities are no longer effectively filtering smart people in and stupid people out, as demonstrated by the fact that degrees in resentment studies, interdisciplinary studies, post graduate management studies courses for engineers, and so on and so forth are usually degrees in Stupid, are usually a reliable indicator of a stupid person, and that even among people with degrees in Smart, a substantial minority are stupid.  Something like one third of Computer Science graduates just cannot write a non trivial program.

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57 Responses to “Why the elite is dumb and getting dumber”

  1. spandrell says:

    I think we all know how (badly) a bureaucracy works.
    The real question might be what was different in the late 19th century?
    How did they filter out the stupid people? WW1 still happened, and that wasn’t very smart.

    • Steve Johnson says:

      It’s not that it wasn’t smart.

      It’s that it was evil.

      WW1 was a raging success at wiping out any remaining European monarchies.

      • jim says:

        The monarchies time had come. When the Czar will not defend his royal prerogative, who will defend it?

        It was the Kaiser that shipped Lenin into Russia with chest full of gold, sealed in a box car like a crate of memetic plague. It was the German left, not the allies, that overthrew the Kaiser. And the German left was in substantial part a creation of the Kaiser’s social democratic policies – indeed I would argue that modern social democracy owes as much to the Kaiser as the Bolsheviks did – the Kaiser self destructed.

        Mencius’s nostalgia for the rightful King is appropriate for Charles the Second, who purged the left (or who gave General Monck the legitimacy necessary for Monck to purge the left) but the Czar and the Kaiser appeased and rewarded the left, rather than purging them, with results similar to that of the Palestinian Peace Process. Lenin was sent for a brief stay in a special country club prison that featured hunting, fishing and horseriding, though the Czar had ample legal grounds to simply shoot him for numerous extremely serious crimes.

  2. I think Angelo R. Mozilo is just a mobbed-up crook.

    And I think universities are graduating people without educating them because they are no longer in the business of education. They are now in the business of indoctrinating innocent children into a politically correct, leftist cult — and convincing them to borrow a lifetime of debt from Uncle Sam on the day they can legally sign a contract.

    • jim says:

      I think Angelo R. Mozilo is just a mobbed-up crook.

      Yes, but he was paying off the management of Fanny and Freddy, so they are crooks also.

      And if, in the course of debating the recent financial crisis, you point to the various Fanny and Freddy shenanigans that came to light before the crisis, the entire left will be full of outrage, and explain to you how that was just a capitalist plot to destroy Fanny and Freddy, so the entire left are a mob of crooks also.

      Angelo Mozilo was political. Just as the municipal left in Detroit was palsy walsy with street gangs and pimps, was in fact street gangs and pimps, aka community organizers, the left in Washington was Angelo Mozilo. The overclass ties with the underclass have corrupted both the overclass, and their “community organizers”. Having brought in low IQ criminals to help get out the vote, trust levels within the overclass have collapsed, and with the help of these low IQ criminals, of which Angelo Mozilo was one, they are proceeding to loot the state. He was low IQ affirmative action crook from a non elite university, yet he was paying off all these high IQ people from elite universities.

      “Diversity” does not just destroy the neighborhood, because people stop going out, stop trusting each other, and stop contributing. It also destroys class cohesion – to which they respond by doubling down on ideological homogeneity, with the results that were made visible in the occupy movement.

  3. Bill says:

    Dumb people thrive in an environment where there are lots of committees, and lots of time is spent attending meetings.

    Here and elsewhere, you are using dumb in an unusual way, i.e. a way which does not mean low IQ. You are using it to mean uncreative, incurious, conformist, cowardly, and boring. But there are already words for those characteristics. Our present elite is very highly intelligent probably more so than it has ever been or ever will be again. It is also largely uncreative, incurious, conformist, cowardly, and boring.

    The percentage of the corporate and bureaucratic elite which are lawyers (esp lawyers trained in elite institutions) has been steadily increasing. Lawyers are the canonical example of highly intelligent but uncreative, incurious, conformist, cowardly, and boring people. The LSAT is an IQ test.

    • Zach says:

      Your commentary seems accurate. I still give credit to Jim for arousing my curiosity yet again.

      The problem so far as I see it is that smart people are aka dumb in that smart people believe false and stupid things.

      To add some experience to this commentary I have many friends in computer science. Many of them – dare I say tons of them are easily over 130 IQ, and all of them are left leaning, left thinking, and Obama liking.

      The problem, so far as I see it, is that truth is not intuitive. Economics is not intuitive, until you learn economics. History, especially world history, is blatantly ignored.

      That is the problem, and since that is the problem, they are aka dumb.

      If you wiki the ACT you will see the scores rocket into places previous years couldn’t possibly reach but I’m not arguing that “chart” is all consuming. I merely mention that chart as a curiosity:


      I may be shown (later) that that chart is a joke, and it may well be. But I speak in terms of personal experience anyway.

      I’m 34 and I suspect Jim, the Engineer, is a bit older. So this contrast makes this especially interesting to me.

      • Bill says:

        OK, I know lots of people just like that, too. I just wouldn’t call them dumb. If your friends’ problem is that they don’t know enough history or economics, then they are ignorant. The distinction is relevant because Murray is not arguing that our elite is extremely knowledgeable, courageous, and interesting, just that they are smart.

        • Zach says:

          Ignorance indeed.

          It seems to me people are getting more or less tainted after they leave a University than before they entered one.

          The smart are still the smart. The genius are still the genius. The bright are still the bright; yet they are all influenced by the culture of society – the “left singularity” if you will.

          Sure, the consequences of AA here is real, but it is still perhaps statistically negligible.

          I have previously mentioned that something else is at play here, not intelligence. Jim pointed me to THE MADNESS OF CROWDS bit. I read that x3, and ultimately decided the piece was interesting, yet lacking in evidence. Such as most of his persuasion is, which is fine. That’s why I read it.

          I personally feel Jim hasn’t been a part of a school or university for a long time. He’s probably your friend and highly intelligent yet has no real world experience to back him up as of late, but obviously I could be wrong. I feel he would be almost taken aback by how smart the elite actually are, and in fact the problem is not what he thinks it is but something else. He could easily deduce what this something else is, because I come here weekly and know he can deduce a lot from a little.

          To conserve time and effort I feel it may be best to explore why the elite are ignorant as opposed to why the elite are not the elite.

          • jim says:

            I feel he would be almost taken aback by how smart the elite actually are,

            Krugman, Diamond, and Gould produce rationalizations for what the elite want to believe. They don’t need to produce very good rationalizations, therefore the elite is not all that smart.

            The elite reads Jared Diamond’s “Guns Germs and Steel”, and fails to say “Gee, what an idiot”. Anyone who has seen a circus as a kid back in the days when animal acts were permitted can see that most animals are domesticable, that any pack animal or herd animal takes naturally to domestication.

            Therefore, the elite are stupid.

            I read Nobel Prize Winning Economist Krugman’s Nobel prize winning rationalizations and excuses. The Nobel committee is stupid. People say Krugman’s column looks stupid, but his Nobel Prize winning and widely cited economics papers, though better, are not a whole lot better.

            People were wondering how Enron was making money, how it was possible that Enron was making money. Eventually a bunch of accountancy students went over the fine print in Enron’s books, and discovered that Enron was not in fact making money, but was losing money hand over fist. Krugman supplied excuses and rationalizations as to how it might be possible that Enron was making money. A smart guy would have been at least a little bit suspicious. A lot of smart guys were a little bit suspicious. Enron hired Krugman to spread the faith. He was paid to be credulous – but found it much too easy to be credulous. A smart guy would have produced excuses to assauge suspicions that never seemed to occur to Krugman to begin with.

            Krugman has been called the thinking man’s Michael Moore. He is what the supposedly smart people read when they want to have their world view confirmed. Therefore, the supposedly smart people are not all that smart. They don’t need, nor can they use, an overly sophisticated confirmation of their world view. If they were smart, Krugman would need to produce better excuses for believing what they want to believe.

      • Again theres a vast difference between being smart and intelligent. Smart people usually become rich while the intelligent thrive.

    • jim says:

      You are using it to mean uncreative, incurious, conformist, cowardly, and boring.

      Perhaps they have IQs around 105, 110. But supposed rocket scientist Murray could not understand real rocket scientist Lund’s presentation of why the Space Shuttle was about to explode, and Angelo Mozillo got a degree from a no name university only by affirmative action. Killinger was told things were going to blow up financially, much as Murray was told things were going to blow up with fire in the sky, but failed to get out while the getting was good.

      The guys at Goldman Sachs were smarter, in that they started to panic 2007, but everyone I knew panicked 2006, so, not as smart as me, not as smart as most people I know.

      So I think I am using “dumb” to mean, “dumb compared to most people I know”

      The LSAT is an IQ test.

      I suspect that if we had our ruling elite’s LSAT scores we would be seriously underwhelmed. While elite university students are typically high LSAT, it is far from being the only thing that gets you into an elite university. A lot of the elite did their postgrad at an elite university, but their undergrad at one of those universities you go to if your SAT is so low that being wealthy and culturally a member of the elite does not help that much.

      Further, all tests are of limited accuracy. If you first apply a filter (LSAT) that selects the smart, and then apply subsequent filters (ability to believe six impossible things before breakfast) that tend to select the stupid, you will wind up with the people whose LSAT score is misleading.

      NASA’s Murray had a postgraduate degree from an elite university, and he was just plain stupid. Similarly, Michael Mann. Angelo had an affirmative action degree from a no name university, and he was about the same.

      What I see coming out of our elite universities into our ruling elite is just not what I would expect to see selected by a high LSAT score. So maybe the LSAT is just not that reliable, or maybe elite universities are letting in a significant number of people with low LSAT, or very likely something of both.

      • Bill says:

        Paul Krugman does not have an IQ of 110. You are seriously underestimating how hard it is to do what he has done—not the disgusting fellatio of NYT readers, but the technical work in economics. I have an IQ of 135-140, and I am sure he is smarter than I am. Maybe I slipped through the stupid filters because I am secretly stupid, though.

        • jim says:

          His work in economics seems incomprehensible to you in the same way works written in Latin appear incomprehensible to me these days. Spend some time learning the language, maths, and theory, you will be less impressed. Yes, he is a lot smarter than 110, but I doubt he is smarter than 135-140.

          You think he is smart because he writes stuff you don’t understand, and his fellows do understand and hail as very smart. That is a poor basis to judge someone’s smarts. Any moron, and any clique of morons, can write stuff that other people do not understand. In the case of the postmodernists, it is because they write incoherent ravings and only pretend to understand each other, as Sokal demonstrated. Krugman’s writings are meaningful and significant, unlike that of the postmodernists, but less impressive when understood.

          Arcane language is sometimes genuinely necessary, and often convenient. I cannot say that Krugman is being deliberately obscure to impress, but he does not at all mind being obscure and is satisfied to thus impress people.

          If a low status person writes stuff that is incomprehensible, people conclude he is an idiot. Even if his stuff actually makes sense, people do not take the trouble to understand it. If a high status person writes stuff that is incomprehensible, people conclude he is a genius. If they make a big effort to understand it, and actually succeed in understanding it, they are apt to conclude the high status person is an even greater genius in proportion to the effort needed, and fail to notice that what the guy actually said is trite stuff written in arcane language. I doubt that one person on the Nobel Committee understood the work that they were giving him a Nobel prize for. This is not reason to conclude that the work is genius, but reason to doubt that the work is genius.

          • Bill says:

            I am a PhD economist. My undergrad degree was in math. His stuff is not hard for me to understand. I’ve written theory, though none of it as good as his. Mostly, I do empirical work. Thinking of ideas which are new, true, provable, and important to some ongoing discussion is really, really hard. “I could have thought of that. That’s not so hard.” is a common reaction of someone who is smart enough to understand theory but who has never really tried to do it. I thought that way in graduate school, for example.

            Mathematicians, theoretical physicists, and the right kind of philosophers are almost always really smart because what they do requires it. Top economic theorists are like this (though somewhat less smart than top people in each of the other three groups I just mentioned, as far as I can tell).

            Unless Krugman is a plagiarist, he is very smart.

          • jim says:

            Perhaps I, being prejudiced against him, and not having a degree in economics, was unduly apt to say “well, so what. That is obvious”. Being one of his competitors, you are better placed than I to say what is really hard, since you were trying to do the same as him.

            So I conclude your judgment on this matter is better than mine, and Krugman is a really smart guy. Still crazy and evil though. But smart.

          • Baduin says:

            I have one remark.

            Bill here says, about Krugman: “I am a PhD economist. My undergrad degree was in math. His stuff is not hard for me to understand. I’ve written theory, though none of it as good as his. Mostly, I do empirical work. Thinking of ideas which are new, true, provable, and important to some ongoing discussion is really, really hard.”

            He makes a certain assumption: He thinks that saying that one is an economist gives one great status; as one would say: “I am a Druid knowing by heart the required number of stories. Hear and learn.”

            It used to be so; it is still so, amongst the unintelligent. But by now intelligent people know that the official economics are much less true and interesting than alchemy.

            If one says: “I am an economist, believe me and tremble!”, this sounds as if he said: “I had brain surgery, and received an illumination from Martians” – this is not impossible per se; but the presumption goes against the Illuminatus.

            I can believe in the illumination from Mars if given good arguments. But, if the Illuminatus thinks that his Illumination is an argument by itself – I will not listen any longer, because he is clearly insane.

            And, if someone has managed not to notice by now that the official economics, as practiced by Krugman, have no point of contact with reality – he is that Martian Illuminatus, and will have to work very hard to be taken seriously by serious people.

          • jim says:

            Even though official macroeconomics is out of contact with reality, it still an IQ test, one at which Bill says Krugman has done better than Bill.

            Microeconomics is fine.

            We never have had an adequate theory of macroeconomics, since macroeconomics is a theory of collective human behavior, macro economics is a rough first pass at psychohistory, thus, nicely mathematical theories of macro economics, the stuff that qualifies one for a good score on the Economics IQ test, are unlikely to be in any serious contact with reality.

            Macroeconomics is a theory about the same phenomena as are also described as the wisdom of crowds and the madness of crowds, for which concepts such as “wisdom”, “evil”, and “madness” are more essential, and perhaps more easily measurable and definable, than the highly scientific sounding but undefinable and unmeasurable “price level” or “volume of money”.

            For example, it is impossible to describe the recent crash without reference to evil (the massive corruption of the financial system which caused ridiculous mortgages to be issued, and caused the banks to lose track of who owned the mortgages after they were issued) and madness (the theory that the Mexican underclass was going to become middle class, and buy up and pay off large numbers of suburban houses in leafy green suburbs).

            It discussing the current economic crisis, it is also necessary to consider the effect of female hypergamy on the inclination of working class males to work, rather than drop into the underclass, and you won’t get a Nobel prize for economics works that contain the word “hypergamy”.

          • Baduin says:


            No, it is not. This supply curve is still turned the wrong way.

            Look at this:


            If someone didn’t notice that his science blew up and disappeared a few years ago, he is not a good IQ benchmark.

          • Bill says:


            Read what I was replying to, you supercilious moron. Afterwards, please do as you promised and cease listening and responding to me.

          • Bill says:


            I’ve never done macro, and you are right that it is dysfunctional. In fact, the guy who graded the macro comprehensive exams when I took them in grad school bellyached to me that it was hard deciding whether to overturn their longstanding policy of not failing anyone in my case. Good times.

            The two leading camps (religions?), Keynesian and Real Business Cycle, each believe rather loopy things, and to the extent they talk to each other at all, it is to ritually point out the other side’s loopiness.

          • jim says:

            Ritually and quite correctly.

            Though I think that to the extent that Real Business Cycle is humbler, they are, like Socrates, closer to the truth, since they know that they do not know. Pretty obviously our most recent crisis did involve massive malinvestment. People made lots of money subtracting value, when they thought that they were adding value. That has to bite sooner or later. Like the seven blind men and the elephant, the various macro schools have fragments of the truth, but not enough fragments to fit them together correctly.

          • Baduin says:

            I hoped that Bill would explain to me how Supply Curve can be drawn with price rising together with quantity. In reality mass production means that the increased production causes price to fall.

            But explaining such things to morons is obviously not worth the time of a PhD economist.

            If Bill doesn’t want to listen to me, let the Master speak – Milton Friedman, who, I suppose, can be called the father of modern economics.

            Bill, of course, knows perfectly well the paper I quote, so it would be presumptuous to name it.

            “Viewed as a body of substantive hypotheses, theory is to be judged by its predictive power for the class of phenomena which it is intended to “explain.” Only factual evidence can show whether it is “right” or “wrong” or, better, tentatively “accepted” as valid or “rejected.”

            “The validity of a hypothesis in this sense is not by itself a sufficient criterion for choosing among alternative hypotheses. Observed facts are necessarily finite in number; possible hypotheses, infinite. If there is one hypothesis that is consistant with available evidence, there are always an infinite number that are.”

            “The difficulty in the social sciences of getting new evidence for this class of phenomena and of judging its conformity
            with the implications of the hypothesis makes it tempting to suppose that other, more readily available, evidence is equally relevant to the validity of the hypothesis – to suppose that hypotheses have not only “implications” but also “assumptions” and that the conformity of these “assumptions” to “reality” is a test of the validity of the hypothesis different from or additional to the test by implications.”

            “Truly important and significant hypotheses will be found to have “assumptions” that are wildly inaccurate descriptive representations of reality, and, in general, the more significant the theory, the more unrealistic the assumptions (in this sense). The reason is simple. A hypothesis is important if it “explains” much by little, that is, if it abstracts the common and crucial elements from the mass of complex and detailed circumstances surrounding the phenomena to be explained and permits valid predictions on the basis of them alone. To be important, therefore, a hypothesis must be descriptively false in its assumptions; it takes account of, and accounts for, none of the many other attendant circumstances, since its very success shows them to be irrelevant for the phenomena to be explained.”

            The contradictions inherent in those quotes should be obvious for the careful reader – and they make modern economics a pseudo-science.

  4. RS says:

    The NYT offers some fascinating evidence for non-artifactuality of the Flynn-Lynn effect, though it may be yet to be reviewed by other computationists, and may never constitute really strong evidence by itself:

    He has also discovered that the way people play [chess] has evolved. According to his analysis, the player now ranked No. 40 in the world plays as well as Anatoly Karpov did in the 1970s, when he was world champion and was described as a machine.

    The guy did this by comparing against near-ideal lines of play by machines that edge human world champs.

    I find plausible an increase in elite IQ, whether by improved meritocratic selection and/or Flynn effect, simultaneous with reduced performance in innovative (and to a lesser extent, merely very independent) thought caused by increased A and C. This has been proposed pretty exactly this way by Charleton, as I understand. While C is potent for ordinary performance, that’s not the case with innovation, which may depend much more on P, and inverse correlate of both A and C.

    Chess is quite interesting because of its complete objectivity (though cheating might distort what we observe in some extent). Note that Kasparov is a one-man operation. He doesn’t need a PR agent, internal or external, to kick your ass, neither does Deep Blue really need to sweet-talk your ass. You could argue Kasparov needed living human mentors, hence traits like A, to develop, but that probably isn’t very significant. Pretty much, his performance depends on no one and nothing but intelligence, though there’s also the matter of psychological intimidation/manipulation when you’re playing another human.

    • RS says:

      > P, and inverse correlate of both A and C.


    • Zach says:

      Quite obviously chess and the skill ceiling of chess players today as compared with yesterday is NOT complete objectivity as it pertains to cognitive ability or IQ.

      Anybody that has bothered to play Chess or GO already know this.

      You have suggested Kasparov’s ability to play chess is dependent on no one. This is false.

      Interesting bit though. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least that the game and culture of Chess has evolved to the point that a great player today is the best player yesterday.

      • Zach says:

        With your post I feel as though I’m reading Godel’s theorem. That which was posited is logical, but just looking at a black board with a few lines of math bodes ill for the same conclusion.

    • jim says:

      If the Flynn effect is real, then people in Shakespeare’s time must have been real dumb. But a lot Shakespeare’s stuff flies over the heads of modern audiences.

      The guy did this by comparing against near-ideal lines of play by machines that edge human world champs.

      Alternatively, this could merely indicate that modern players, who tend to practice against machines, play more like machines than earlier players who practiced only against humans – that their play is better against a machine player than that of earlier chess players.

  5. RS says:

    I don’t think A and C selection ail the biosciences to the extent Charleton claims. I would go to maybe 35% of the distance he does. The rest of the stagnation you see in natural sciences stems, in my mind, from the low-hanging fruit issue.

    • jim says:

      Physics, yes, low hanging fruit is plausibly gone. Biosciences should be booming, since our technological progress in the very small has brought vast amounts of new fruit within grasp. Chemistry should be booming for the same reasons.

      There was rapid progress in materials and energy conversion up to 1972, and then it stopped dead, leaving some low hanging fruit half plucked. We really should all be driving turbocharged two stroke diesels.

      The system is that you have two opposed pistons. When they are pulled back to the maximum extent, they expose the vents, and the turbines blow the burned gases out and fresh compressed air in – so no valves, or rather the piston is the valves. Then the piston compresses the air, and you squirt in diesel fuel. It is high efficiency, because of the high compression, and high power to weight, because of the turbo and the fact that it is two stroke.

      We just abandoned that line of technology, except in ships.

    • Bill says:

      Can you say why you think this? I am pretty confident that economics is grinding to a halt because of A and C selection and because of the institutional environments built for and by A and C selected people. From what I can see, things are worse in the biomedical sciences than they are in economics.

      • jim says:

        A and C selection? What is A and C?

        What I am seeing is that people in science say that to get data that was actually good we would have to do X, where X is impossible or unreasonably expensive, so we will get any data convenient, and draw whatever conclusions we please from it – that real science is too hard, so we are excused from doing it – that they much too easily say that proper science is too difficult, and then proclaim that whatever gets government funding constitutes science, which I would attribute to the corruption induced by grantsmanship that seeks to appease bureaucrats who neither care about science, nor understand it.

        This is similar to the decline in art.

        When the Cornaro family funded Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Theresa, they gained status from the greatness of Bernini’s art. So of course they funded the greatest artist, and greatest art, that they could.

        Joe the puppeteer, on the other hand, is higher status than the man who composes a coke commercial, even though Joe’s work is ugly and obscene while the coke commercial is beautiful, because he gains status from his funder, because his funder, the state, has higher status than Coca Cola. Similarly, art declined in the Roman empire.

        The sheer ugliness, obscenity, and incompetence of Joe’s condom puppets, the complete lack of skill that they display, signifies that his sponsor is higher status than the entity that sponsors the coca cola advertisement.

        Bernini adds to the reputational status of the Cornaro family whereas Joe the puppeteer merely puts the political status of his sponsor on display, himself gaining status by the fact of being hired.

        • Bill says:

          A=agreeableness and C=conscientiousness. They are personality characteristics. A is, IMO, basically a euphemism for cowardice/submissiveness and C means, in context, willingness/ability to plod through some sequence of rule-directed, boring, drivel.

          A and C selection is the tendency for the system of credentialling and advancement in science to favor people with those characteristics. People with high A and C find it much easier to get published (because they are more willing to plod through the entirely pointless busywork of dealing with referees and editors in peer review) and to get grants (same reason). The A and C also makes it easier for them to give blowjobs to the great and the good in their fields, and this is highly conducive to getting published and getting grants.

          The typical assistant professor today is really different (I think!) from the typical assistant professor in, say, 1955 on these characteristics, at least in economics. The increase in “professionalism” is just jaw-dropping even over the period of my direct experience (late 80s to now).

          then proclaim that whatever gets government funding constitutes science, which I would attribute to the corruption induced by grantsmanship that seeks to appease bureaucrats who neither care about science, nor understand it.

          Universities are clearly corrupted by grant money. If you can get lots of grant money consistently and publish papers consistently, then you are a superstar. At any university anywhere. Doing science is incidental. If journals and funders require you to do science or if you just happen to feel like using your funding to do science, then universities are fine with that. If not, they are fine with that, too.

          To get funded you must either convince a semi-anonymous group of your peers that your project is in the top 5% or so of proposals or you must convince a bureaucrat internal to the funding agency to go to bat for you. The former course requires a high degree of agreement among the group of peers—one person who really hates you is usually enough to sink your chances. For example, I know about a proposal which was to study the effects of financial incentives on obesity which was sunk because some sociologist went ballistic at the very idea that obesity could be under individual control. How can you blame the poor, sick victim that way!!?? Publishing is the same way—you must convince an editor and two or three referees to say yes to get a paper published. One no and you are sunk.

          The latter course requires that you get a bureaucrat to love you. Oddly and unfortunately, this does not usually seem to involve bribery, but, instead a mixture of flattery and giving the bureaucrat what he needs to do well in his next performance evaluation.

          Anyway, you can see how important it is that you be diligent in negotiating the nonsense all of this entails. You can also see how important it is that people think of you as a “good egg.” Thus, A and C selection.

          Also, this is all new. Peer review of publications is new. Peer review of grant applications is new. Though retards never tire of pretending it is a part of the SCIENTIFIC METHOD ™. And it corresponds, temporally, to the apparent collapse in genuine innovative output from universities, i.e. to the postwar period, roughly.

          • jim says:

            I am fond of arguing that Einstein’s papers would never have been published under the current system.

            Peer review is consensus, and consensus is, as Galileo argued, fundamentally hostile to the scientific method. Einstein proposed his special relativity paper as his PhD thesis, and it was, of course, predictably, rejected. If rejected as a PhD thesis, probably unpublishable under peer review.

            A functional system would be that to get published, you need to impress one person of N, not N of N. Or better, everything gets published on the internet, but most of it gets ignored unless noticed by one person prominent in the field.

          • Bill says:

            Yeah, we basically agree. If the government is going to fund science, it should do it by hand out big piles of no-strings-attached money to a few big men. Then, 10 or 15 years later, give them another big pile if they have produced science. That way, they can worry about parceling it out to little men, and they are likely to do that by giving it to people who can, themselves, produce science. And if they need to have a numerical method to determine whether the big man has done his job, some crowd-sourced method like what you suggest is probably best.

            Some of the silliness is driven by the need to avoid sex discrimination suits in tenure cases. When Suzy sues, saying “Bob got tenure with 15 publications; I have 16 publications; my tenure denial was sex bias” she wins. That stuff can be counted. It’s hard for the university to respond: “Bob has parcels of good ideas and insightful comments he hands out to everyone. Bob holds graduate students’ noses to the grindstone so that they actually do useful work. Bob is a hardass about evaluating his peer’s work. Suzy, on the other hand, is a drag on everyone around her. Her ideas suck, and we have to waste time explaining to her that her ideas suck. Worse, to get her to sign off on their work, grad students have to do pointless garbage.” This stuff is not verifiable. Plenty of people like Bob got tenure in economics with few publications in the 70s and before. Not any more.

  6. RS says:

    O course, it’s probably a mistake to think of P-enabled, C-inhibited activities on one hand, and then, cleanly separated, C-enabled P-inhibited ones. Some performances may be enabled by both (very few could be inhibited by both?).

    There’s probably more of a continuum, but the difference is probably there, and most tasks are probably dominated by their enablement by C.

  7. RS says:

    > It wouldn’t surprise me in the least that the game and culture of Chess has evolved to the point that a great player today is the best player yesterday.

    Touche, ouch

    > With your post I feel as though I’m reading Godel’s theorem. That which was posited is logical, but just looking at a black board with a few lines of math bodes ill for the same conclusion.

    Was following you much better just a moment ago…

  8. RS says:

    > I feel he would be almost taken aback by how smart the elite actually are, and in fact the problem is not what he thinks it is but something else. He could easily deduce what this something else is, because I come here weekly and know he can deduce a lot from a little.

    I tend to agree with that. I mean, I usually feel pretty hyper-competent (I flubbed the chess thing, but did immediately see how right you are that I flubbed it), and I know the world is swarming with quantum geniuses that I can’t match. If your instincts run against an elite IQ decline, you might be interested in a P(sychoticism) decline, you might be interested in ‘low-hanging fruit’.

    Or, at least in some cases, the ‘real’ IQ elite gets cowed by rhetoricians, deceivers, self-deceivers, for lack of courage or vision. Which is related to (possibly) increased ‘election’ into the elite by level of A(greeableness). Gould seems to have been rather modest in IQ, Diamond (a biochemist by training) is probably higher, but Guns Germs Steel is more interesting than convincing, and may reflect a high capacity for ‘pious’ self-deception that mitigates against his high IQ. All in all, neither man delivered a superb performance, but they (I believe) have lately exerted more influence over the conventional race-IQ wisdom than anyone, at least on the side of supposed ‘inquiry’. On the style and intuition side, artists who promote the cult of compassion over the cult of excellence may well have had more and broader influence than these two scholars Gould and Diamond.

    • RS says:

      > may well have had more and broader influence than these two scholars Gould and Diamond

      Because it comes down to ethical orientations in the end, that most people harbor but don’t understand? All in all, they’ve been taught that compassion for the screwed-upness of Blacks ethically trumps inquiry, including even inquiries that bear on the quest for personal and civilizational excellence. So not a lot of inquiring gets going in the first place. Some do inquire, but not very ‘hard’; they inquire very gently and come to rest on Gould and Diamond. Gould and Diamond may not be very convincing at all until material conditions, and cultural figures who rely on intuition almost by itself, have conjointly caused the soft, archetypally (not literally) femme pole of the human mind to encroach very deeply indeed on the hard, male one.

      • RS says:

        The upshot of which is, who or what is really elite? If eliteness is the power to control history, then maybe material conditions are ‘elite’, maybe Neil Young and Led Zep are just as elite as Diamond — even within the rather narrow context of the race-IQ question. Young may have made rather few and flaccid ethical utterances himself, I wouldn’t know, but he and just a few others did a whole lot to legitimate the revolution of 1965-75 with his artistic genius.

        • RS says:

          The material conditions I have in mind are of course the Industrial and Scientific Revolutions….. leading to the end or remission of starvation and bacterial infection, and the end or remission of large-scale war in the West in 1945. It seems obvious that these events bear hugely on the contraction of the harsh, masculine, excellence-oriented pole vis-a-vis compassion. Virtu, excellence, was not such a personal and refined pursuit before 1945, it was just as much ‘crudely’ practical. It was just as much the ability to wage war and thus avoid receiving rape, pillage, enslavement, as it was anything ‘lofty’. Excellence used to have both a lofty poetry and an incredibly crude necessity backing up its position as the ‘great thing’, the thing sine qua non, the thing without which you and your polity wind up utterly smashed and suffering. Now it’s just an ‘ideal’ — not to be a lowly drunk or lech or otherwise degraded person is merely an ideal, and one finds lots of compassion when one fails to reach this ideal. No doubt these profound material changes, feeding into ethical changes, have affected elites at least as much as any decline in their level of Psychoticism.

          • jim says:

            This is the theory that prosperity leads to social decay, that money leads to social decay. I don’t think so.

            When people get financial support for voting, as women and the underclass do, as with the Roman bread and circuses, as with jobs for the boys in Athens under Pericles, that leads to social decay. The opportunity to earn lots of money does not lead to social decay.

      • jim says:

        Gould and Diamond just struck me as not very smart – smarter than the average man in the street no doubt, but not a whole lot smarter.

        They are addressing the elite. Therefore the elite is not very smart.

        As for the domestic-ability of zebras, African elephants, and so forth, take a look at any old style circus. Diamond is just making up any stupid excuse he can find for the underperformance of the inferior races, without worrying much about making sense.

        Diamond is addressing the elite. Diamond is making stupid arguments. Therefore the elite is stupid.

      • jim says:

        Gould and Diamond may not be very convincing at all

        They don’t have to be convincing, just provide excuses for what people want to believe. But their excuses have to make sense. If, as frequently happens, their excuses don’t make sense, then they are addressing an audience incapable of distinguishing between an excuse that makes sense, and an excuse that does not make sense.

        The best studied example of the elite blindness is the Challenger disaster. The management, rocket scientists who were postgrads from elite universities, signed off on reports that in effect said “Challenger is going to explode”, and not only were reluctant to believe what they were signing off on, but also failed to understand what they were signing off on.

        Edward Tufte complains that these presentations were not clear and compelling. Maybe they should have put a graph of burn through versus temperature, and beside it a colorful image of the rocket exploding, body parts flying in all direction, titled “Complete Burn Through”, as if they were addressing children. But they made the big mistake of writing as if they were addressing rocket scientists.

    • jim says:

      Guns Germs Steel is more interesting than convincing, and may reflect a high capacity for ‘pious’ self-deception that mitigates against his high IQ.

      Guns Germs and Steel is a list of excuses for the poor performance of the inferior races. A smart guy writing for a smart audience would come with excuses that might not be all that convincing to a cynic, but would nonetheless be difficult to disprove, as with the classic excuse “The dog ate my homework”. Some of his excuses are just obviously false.

      That his excuses are not always convincing does not indicate that he or his audience are stupid, it merely indicates that they want to be convinced.

      That some of his excuses, most infamously the one about domesticable animals, are just flagrantly bunkum, does indicate that either he is not all that bright, or he does not think his intended audience is all that bright. A smart guy finds unfalsifiable excuses.

  9. Alrenous says:

    In the ongoing series of subverting Wikipedia to confirm Jim’s points…

    “Captain Horace Hayes, in “Points of the Horse” (circa 1893), compared the usefulness of different zebra species. In 1891, Hayes broke a mature, intact mountain zebra stallion to ride in two days time, and the animal was quiet enough for his wife to ride and be photographed upon. He found the Burchell’s zebra easy to break, and considered it ideal for domestication, as it was immune to the bite of the tsetse fly. He considered the quagga (now extinct) well-suited to domestication due to being easy to train to saddle and harness.”

    “In England, the zoological collector Lord Rothschild frequently used zebras to draw a carriage.” (There’s a photo.)

    Its main drawback is apparently panicking under stress, a trait that would pose no difficulty to any horse breeder.

  10. Euro says:

    Jim, you may be interested in this article:


    Also, out of curiosity, what do you base the claim that Mozilo is an AA graduate of Fordham and an AA appointee to CW on?

    • jim says:

      I was guessing, my guess is based on hyperexponential decay. But since you asked, I checked his history. I discovered he is too old to be an AA graduate of Fordham, though just barely young enough to a preferential graduate of Fordham, but the timing is right for him to be an AA appointee to countrywide, and his personal history strongly suggests AA.

      Mozilo is described as Loeb’s “protege” – and Loeb started putting Mozilo’s name on stuff just when Nixon was replacing preferences for minorities in government contracts with quotas, and at the time when the democrats were outflanking Nixon to the left by proclaiming that he was not going far enough. Loeb made Countrywide a business that would attract government preferences by putting Mozilo’s name on it, just when race quotas were first applied were first being applied to government contracts with businesses, and when the Democrats were calling for them to be ever more broadly applied.

      Being a “protege” and getting his name put on the business just when being a minority business came to be worth serious money, looks like affirmative action. Plus hyperexponential decay tells us that when affirmative action is in effect, almost every minority in a highly selected group will be AA.

      Minority preferences in Academia, but not quotas, first took effect quite early in the twentieth century, around 1900 or so, though they tended to be a few poster boys and poster girls, rather than predetermining that x% would be minorities. Further, “Hispanics” did not attract preferences way back then. Women got on the gravy chain first, blacks shortly afterwards, and “Hispanics” considerably later.

      I am not sure when “Hispanics” first became a group that attracted preferences, but this would have happened when the term “Hispanics” first came to mean non whites from latin America, rather than white people from Spain. Checking google for use of the term “Hispanic” I see that “Mexicans” officially became “Hispanics” in 1956, so chances are that “Hispanics” received preferences from 1956 to 1969, and we know they received quotas from 1969 onwards.

      On checking Mozilo’s history I find he was born in 1938, so would have been 18 when preferences for Hispanics came into effect. But at first the number of beneficiaries of preferences was quite small, so one cannot conclude from hyperexponential decay that he was likely to be a beneficiary of preferences. Chances are he earned his admission to Fordham – though once he was in, being “Hispanic”, Fordham would have been reluctant to flunk him out. Flunking a “Hispanic” would have been prejudice, and even though most people in the 1950s were allowed to be prejudiced, academics definitely had not been allowed to be prejudiced for quite some considerable time.

    • jim says:

      Jim, you may be interested in this article:


      Which tells us:

      Today, the Ivy League no longer recruit exclusively from prep schools. At least since the SAT was introduced in the 1920s, they have instead claimed to admit the most promising candidates regardless of background

      The equivalent of the SAT was introduced in 1900, and by 1910 they were already worrying that affluent white males tended to do disproportionately well on it.

      Still “1920s” is a big improvement on the usual claim, which is that meritocracy came into effect around the time the writer was born.

      As evidence that society provides near perfect equality of opportunity, and has done so for some considerable time, I recommend the study “What happens when we randomly assign children to families

      Viscount Wolseley tell us that when he joined the British army, rank came entirely through wealth and gentlemanly or aristocratic background, but then tells us that the British army had became meritocratic around 1880 or so.

      Since ability is genetic, and no test very accurately captures it, because as soon as a test is used to assign people to roles, the test gets gamed. (The test succeeds in predict outcomes only so long as it does not influence outcomes) it is in fact pretty reasonable to assume that kids are going to enter the same social role as their parents, and prep them accordingly. The Chinese mandarinate dismally failed to provide the benefits that one would expect a strict meritocracy to provide. Wolseley’s own career demonstrates that though the British army openly and explicitly took wealth and birth into consideration, it took merit into consideration also – which arguably is optimal way of getting those that are truly the best, since any attempt to estimate merit is imperfect, and likely to become more imperfect the more one relies upon it.

      Further, since actual outcomes tend to be hereditarian, anyone who subscribes to an egalitarian ideology, is always going to see a lot of invisible hidden racism sexism and classism.

      So I am automatically cynical and disbelieving about claims that “Back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, shortly before I was born, wealth and privilege begat wealth and privilege, and to a considerable extent it still does.”

  11. [...] Murray has been going around saying that the elite is smarter than ever before. Jim McDonald thinks otherwise. He says the elite is getting dumber. I think what’s happening is that the elite is getting [...]

  12. Chuck Currie says:

    You say, “There was a massive panic stricken exodus in late 2005, early 2006. Anyone that did not get out while the getting was good is stupid.” Exactly who were these “smart” people/companies who were getting out? I didn’t see anyone getting out. On the contrary I saw Wachovia go from smart to stupid by buying World Savings. I saw more Wall Street players getting in and none of the ones that were in getting out. So please name names.

    And, how is it that one of the two founders (Angelo Mozilo) of Countrywide can be considered an “affirmative action” hire?’

    And, also, there were those of us in the business who said, as soon as they outlaw liar loans the market will collapse; and they did, and it did. But it wasn’t any government regulator or Attorneys General that pulled the plug, it was Wall Street.

    It wasn’t affirmative action, aka Community Reinvestment Act, loans that inflated the bubble and then popped it. It was your mom and dad, brother and sister, aunt and uncle, grandma and grandpa, and all your friends that lied on their loan application about their income and assets that did it. And, if it wasn’t them, then who were those people who signed those thousands of loan applications that went across my desk and the desks of my co-workers?

    You are stupid if you think or believe otherwise.

    • jim says:

      I got out in 2005 November. Everyone I knew who was heavily invested in real estate started to unload it then or shortly afterwards, often on their illiterate and broke hispanic maid or gardener, with a pile of cash under the table should the gardener balk at signing documents he could not read.

      AIG stopped issuing new credit default swaps against mortgaqe backed securities in 2005 November, but could not unload its existing credit default swaps without crashing the market. Late in 2005 or early in 2006 the regulators started rushing around telling the big players not to “irrationally” crash the market, which early in 2006 froze up the market, as everyone wanted to unload their toxic assets, but the big boys could not do so without crashing the market. The little people however could – and did.

    • jim says:

      And, how is it that one of the two founders (Angelo Mozilo) of Countrywide can be considered an “affirmative action” hire?’

      When the non asian minority is the “protege” of the white guy.

    • jim says:

      It wasn’t affirmative action, aka Community Reinvestment Act, loans that inflated the bubble and then popped it. It was your mom and dad, brother and sister, aunt and uncle, grandma and grandpa,

      As close to one hundred percent of dud mortgages in the bay areas as makes no difference are hispanic, though this may in part reflect my friends and and relatives dumping their mortgages on random Mexicans picked up at home depot after November 2005.

  13. tag/treats/ says:


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