Academic race-baiting?

Here’s Bryan Caplan:

More populous countries today produce many more scientific, technological, and cultural innovations that less populous countries. There’s even a +.46 correlation between population and gold medals in the 2004 Olympics—India notwithstanding. Here’s a challenge for you: Name the most credible measure of idea production that isn’t at least moderately positively correlated with population.

I’ve got one: IQ! But I blog anonymously.

He’s trying to get Greg Clark to bite.

Is this the academic version of playing the race card? We all know what the truth is, but we can’t really admit it. Caplan wins the argument because we’re not allowed to answer the question. Congrats.

Caplan’s argument – that more population is correlated with “idea production” – is obviously false. Has Haiti’s idea production increased a lot in the last 50 years? Has Nigeria’s? Is Nigeria’s this much better than Iceland’s?

(Note: I’m reading “idea production” to mean “economic growth”, because the idea that merely producing ideas – any ideas! – is good is too retarded for me to contemplate).

A world filled with people whose IQs are below 70 is not going to produce more ideas than a world than consists of a handful of people with 210 IQs. Unless fart jokes count as ideas.

12 Responses to Academic race-baiting?

  1. todd says:

    Why wouldn’t fart jokes count as ideas? In a world of IQ 70 people, I’m guessing that increasing the number of fart jokes might do more to improve the quality of life of the population than 10 new Shakespeare plays.

  2. Tschafer says:

    This is kind of a variation on the old “if you let thousands of monkeys type randomly long enough, they’ll produce the complete works of Shakespere” canard, viz, “If you have enough people, regardless of intelligence, they will produce as many good ideas as a bunch of geniuses”. Yet another reason not to take Bryan Caplan seriously – as if one was needed. How’s this for a theory – if we had enough Bryan Caplans, they would eventually produce every possible stupid idea on Earth. That libertarians seem to take this guy seriously does not reflect well on the movement as a whole.

  3. Brian says:

    More likely that idea production – better farming, industry, crime prevention, and health care for instance – leads to population growth, no?

    But this is Caplan we’re talking about.

  4. dearieme says:

    “Have that one on me. ma’am.”

  5. jay says:

    First of all, ideas come from individuals only. There is no such thing as country ideas or group ideas. Countries and groups can generally agree to ideas, through politics, but ideas always instantiate in the mind of one person.

    If you get an idea, one that might be of enough value to trade with others, you need a framework to implement it.

    The minimal framework would be that you have some spare time and savings. If you’re living hand to mouth, your idea will not go past your mind, no matter what your IQ is.

    Someone with an IQ of 90 isn’t going have a valuable idea in the field of electronics, but he might have a valuable idea for a new kitchen appliance. Or he might have the more modest idea of learning how to fix kitchen appliances and selling his services to others. But that won’t work if he lives in a den of thieves.

    Lawyers, bureaucrats, and accountants are valuable in small numbers, but they are always overhead. When their numbers and political strength grow to the extent that their overhead exceeds their value, the ideas from the modest IQers become impractical to implement first. They are the canary in the coal mine.

  6. RS says:

    > Why wouldn’t fart jokes count as ideas? In a world of IQ 70 people, I’m guessing that increasing the number of fart jokes might do more to improve the quality of life of the population than 10 new Shakespeare plays.

    That is why eudaimonism is better than utilitarianism.

  7. Bruce Charlton says:

    Greg Clark’s book had a massive impact on my ideas, opening up new vistas – but economists *cannot* allow themselves to be persuaded.

    Because if economics as a discipline were honestly to concede that all humans are not essentially the same, and were to follow-through the implications of that idea… well that would be the end of economics, because just-about the whole subject makes that assumption.

    Which also means that economics as is is fundamentally and deeply flawed.

    Which means that economics is a dangerously misleading distraction from understanding reality.

    And so on…

  8. “Yet another reason not to take Bryan Caplan seriously – as if one was needed.”

    Bryan Caplan is a smart guy – but he is an academic. He is required to say certain stupid things, and pretend to think certain stupid things. On topics where dissent is permitted, he dissents. Unfortunately, the areas where dissent is permitted are rapidly shrinking. The areas where one is not even permitted to remain silent, but have to believe manifestly stupid and evil things with convincing fervor and apparent sincerity are rapidly increasing.

  9. […] – “Academic Race-Baiting?“, […]

  10. Alrenous says:

    IQ’s correlated with population. The more people you have, the higher the odds of a 210 IQ.

    However, there’s still the very serious problem of having the 210 in fact apply their intelligence to creating new, useful ideas.

    I think you just inspired me to understand how universities work. They ghettoize smart people with basically the only other people they can have a conversation with – which means the smarties are terrified of being ostracized. Just fab for whoever is at the top of the hierarchy…

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