Hugo Rifkind

Hugo Rifkind: Are those who criticise Boris for his IQ remarks just being thick? 

Plus: Logic should be mandatory in schools; why we probably won't get the right message from poor Peaches' tweet

7 December 2013

9:00 AM

7 December 2013

9:00 AM

It’s funny, really, because most of the time I think that my university education was a bit of a waste. It was pleasant enough, I’ll tell people, but I mainly spent it sitting around, eating biscuits and smoking things. Growing dreadlocks. Getting intimidatingly good at Tekken 2 on a PlayStation. Taking some excellent walks. Just occasionally, though, I’m struck with the pleasing realisation that three years of philosophy in one of the best universities in the world did, in fact, leave its mark. Because everybody else is a total idiot.

It is not my plan, here and now, to discuss whether Boris Johnson was right, in his well reported speech to the Centre for Policy Studies other week, that equality is impossible because some people are cleverer than others. We can, however, discuss how unable vast swathes of everybody seemed to be to comprehend what he was saying. They thought they disagreed, these Twitter hordes, but they actually hadn’t got that far, because they didn’t understand what they were disagreeing with. Their utterances, as I think Gottlob Frege would have put it, were devoid of truth value. But of course, they wouldn’t have known what that meant, either.

Johnson’s critics took a vague proposition — that, all other things being fair, economic inequality would still exist due to variance in human ability — and mistook it for various other things. These included:

1 A conditional which demonstrably isn’t true, best expressed as ‘If stupid then poor’ (or ‘A⊃B’)

2 The opposite conditional which also demonstrably isn’t true, best expressed as ‘If poor then stupid’ (or ‘B⊃A’)

3 Both of those conditionals at once, or the biconditional ‘Poor if and only if stupid’ (or ‘A≡B’), which I shouldn’t even have to tell you is demonstrably untrue, because I already have. In fact, twice.

Then (no, I’m sorry, but there’s more), from nowhere, they plucked a whole new set of wholly different conditionals, about the rich, and how clever Boris must think they invariably, essentially are, as though that set inevitably followed from the first set — or worse, meant the same thing as the first set — which isn’t the case, at all. And then — then! — having comprehensively failed to grasp the logical structure of what was being said, they suddenly dragged in another discipline entirely, plunging us into the realms of ethics. So, where Johnson’s fairly intuitive hypothesis ended up, was somewhere like, ‘If you’re poor you deserve to be because you’re invariably stupid, too, and if you’re rich you deserve it, too, because you’re a genius.’ Which was not what he said. Or, indeed, thinks. Probably.

I was lousy at philosophy, and particularly poor at logical philosophy, so if my conditionals up there are all over the place, please do forgive. But what I learnt, and will never forget, is that they exist. I also learnt that quite a lot of the time, people have simply no idea that they’re talking no end of crap. True, not all philosophers believe that arguments devoid of logic are senseless. Bertrand Russell thought they were merely wrong. Either way, they’re a waste of everybody’s time.

And yet, these are most of the arguments we have. Occasionally, yes, philosophical terms pop up in popular discourse, but they are used so crassly and badly (‘Ad hominem!’ ‘The argument from deference!’) that they do far more harm than good. Like drivers who can’t work a clutch, our world throngs with thinkers who don’t know how to think.

With this, perhaps I, unlike Johnson, really am guilty of elitism. If so, that only goes to show how poor a state we’re in. There should be nothing elite about knowing how logic works. These formulations are the building blocks of sense, and if you don’t know how they work, then you can’t, well, build it. Every once in a while, somebody writes an article calling for philosophy, or at least logic, to be mandatory in schools. This should be considered one of them. Think of Wittgenstein’s beautiful phrase, so often so completely misunderstood. ‘Whereof one cannot speak, one must remain silent.’ And right now, we can’t speak whereof very much.

Peaches’ breaches

It was, of course, quite stupid of Peaches Geldof to suppose that tweeting the names of women who allegedly allowed a man to abuse their babies would be a good idea. Probably it’s indicative of how daft our courts have become — about injunctions and the like — that when something like this is kept out of the papers, the first assumption of many is that it shouldn’t be.

What I mainly wonder, though, is how all this is going to end. Probably, Geldof didn’t give the courts any thought at all. Today, everyone is a publisher, and everyone can tweet, Facebook, blog and audiowhatsit. So is everybody going to learn media law? Will a few high profile cases — like that of poor Peaches, and poor (now poorer) Sally Bercow — cause the population at large to get the message? I don’t think it will. And yet, I also don’t think that court protections which prohibit the identification of victims, or libel laws (albeit in a revised form) are things that we want to lose. Although maybe we will.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Hugo Rifkind is a writer for the Times.

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Show comments
  • viewcode

    Erm, hasn’t this article got things bass-ackward? I can’t speak for other people’s objections to Boris’s speech, but my objection was that he elided “high-IQ” with “successful”, and “low-IQ” with “unsuccessful”. IQ is not a predictor of success (in fact, there’s a slight negative correlation, bizarrely enough), and things like courage, charisma, work ethic, opportunity are more important than cleverness.

    But be that as it may, Boris’s speech was just wrong. Financial success isn’t derived from good or bad characteristics, it’s derived from supply and demand. And nothing else: not IQ, not courage, not charisma, will alter that. David Beckham would be a toothless farm labourer if he was born in 1800. Bill Gates would be a poor stonemason if he were born in 1300.

    We can demand our citizenry be hardworking, lawabiding, self-reliant, and not play loud music after 11pm. Demanding that they also be clever and successful is just taking the p*ss.

    • pp22pp

      No. Smarter people can do things like design super-computers. Thick people can’t.

      Individuals and populations need to be treated separately.

      A population of low IQ people gives you Uganda. A population of high IQ people gives you Japan. These is a high correlation between the overall IQ of a population and the the average wealth/life expectancy of a society. They all work really hard in Bangladesh, but they’re still poor.

      The correlation between intelligence and wealth also holds true within societies. In the US, the IQ’s of blacks, Hispanics, whites and Asians correlates with their average wealth. There is also a very high correlation between the average IQ of a population and its willingness to obey the law.

      IQ also matters because we are not living in 1300. In this society and this era, economic success as a society is defined by the ability to make and sell things that other people can’t. If you are Saudi Arabia, that is oil. If you are Japan, that it high tech. If you are Britain, that used to be industrial goods. Now it is government debt.

      I would love to be a top-notch physicist. It will never happen, because I lack the IQ.

      • Daniel Maris

        The IQ scoring is problematic for your theory. If Blacks perform better than Hispanics, Black African societies should be wealthier than Latin American ones. Hispanics in any case are in genetic terms principally a Euro-Asian mix.

        There may differences between population groups, just as it appears West Africans, on average, have more sprinting ability than Europeans and East Africans have more long distance running ability than West Africans.

        But how significant are they in reality and how much differentiation is there in reality?

        And how do you disentangle those factors from other real factors? For instance, if we started raising millions of Europeans in the East African highlands with no Daddy’s car to take them to school, I have a feeling there would be more world class European long distance athletes .

        • pp22pp

          Blacks do not outscore Hispanics on IQ tests – far from it. Of course, environment plays a part. But how can evolution have simply come to a halt 50,000 years ago?

          I understand why these ideas are unpleasant. Hitler used them as an excuse to murder millions. However, Hitler also used lavatory paper. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. Shouldn’t we just ignore his musings and start again? Also, Marxists who denied human variation and insisted on the primacy of nurture over nature were quite prepared to exterminate millions.

          The challenge is to accept human differences as a way to work out ideas and policies that are equitable to all of homo sapiens regardless of IQ.

          • Daniel Maris

            I do not find the idea of there being some inherent differences in brain functioning between different population groups “unpleasant”. I am challenging your claims that there is such clear evidence and I am challenging the conclusions you draw.
            If Chinese Asians are, as you claim, more intelligent than Europeans, what policy changes should flow from that? Should we stop throwing money at white kids and focus everything on developing Asians? Should we hand over our government to them ?

            I’d be interested to see what the original IQ testing showed about differences between not just white Americans and black Americans but also Chinese Americans. All Americans perform hugely better on non-verbal IQ tests than they did 70 years ago. It’s for you to explain how that can be if IQ tests measure innate intelligence.

          • pp22pp

            This is the problem, isn’t it. When we were a homogeneous ethno-state, none of this mattered. However, in our blind insistence that all humans are the same, we allowed in huge numbers of people with very different ethnic and cultural backgrounds and we’re struggling to square the circle. Multi-ethnic societies don’t have a great track-record because some groups end up being wealthier and more powerful and this stirs resentment. I don’t know what to do for the best. The genie has been let out of the bottle. I don’t like the idea of being ruled by others one little bit. We are smart enough to do just fine as a people – as we have proved with our 100+ IQ’s.

            Unfortunately, it’s no use crying over spilled milk.

          • Daniel Maris

            We? I thought you were American. You were never an homogenous ethno-state. You always had large numbers Africans, Jews, Hispanics and Native Americans. So America as a multi-ethnic state has a great track record. It is seems to be the most popular country on earth in terms of where migrants head for.

          • Fergus Pickering

            These things are averages. There are plenty of bollock-stupid chinamen about, many of them governing their country. There are plenty of intelligent black people too. Why should I have to say this?

          • pp22pp

            Of course there are stupid Ashkenazi and brilliant blacks. We’re talking about populations, not individuals. In terms of populations there are wide variations. For someone with an awesome IQ, you do have difficulty understanding some pretty basic concepts.

          • Daniel Maris

            But there is no such thing as collective intelligence. There is, as Mrs Thatcher said, no such thing as society, there are only individuals.

          • Fergus Pickering

            I don’t think he has difficulty in understanding your concepts. He just doesn’t believe they are true.

          • Daniel Maris

            Because some people want to build policies and laws on the back of some interesting average differences between population groups.

          • Fergus Pickering

            Evolution did not come to a halt 50,000 years ago. But 50,000 years is too short a time to see evolutionary effects clearly. If you believe in Darwin’s theory, that is. I mean all of it..

          • pp22pp

            I have studied palaeonotology to degree level and if the environment is unstable 50,000 years is plenty of time to see changes. Ever heard of punctuated equilibrium?

          • Fergus Pickering

            No, never. Educate me.

          • Fergus Pickering

            Define equitable. It sounds like one of those weasel words to me. How does it differ from equal? The head of a bank in the UK earns more than a hundred times what a schoolteacher earns. Is that equitable? Could it be argued it is equitable? In my opinion it is a hanging matter.

        • Fergus Pickering

          What is the definiton of Hispanics. Is Spain populated by Hispanics or do Hispanics only live in the USA?

    • Daniel Maris

      Quite – people with very high IQs are often highly unstable and fight it difficult to adjust socially. They may end up as inventive geniuses – but often they end up as dysfunctional wrecks.

      • pp22pp

        In my youth, I did a stint in a sink school. Low IQers are even more likely to end up as wrecks. It was pitiful to see how hard they found even the most mundane tasks.

        • Daniel Maris

          I never said they weren’t – of course low IQers often find it difficult to cope with society. My point was that high IQers are not always functional in society.

          “Great wits to madness are near allied.”

          • pp22pp

            Geniuses are very rare and are often a little crazy. People with IQ’s of 110-130 are common and are, in most cases, perfectly sane.

      • Fergus Pickering

        I have an amazingly high IO and I am a most peaceful person. On the other hand my brother has an even higher IQ and is a complete nutcase. I believe the Moors murderer has a very high IQ. I read it somewhere. It would be interesting to know the scores of Boris, Dave, Nick Clegg and the Milibum.

        • Daniel Maris

          That’s a good party game. I’d say –

          Boris – 125
          Milibum – 112

          Dave – 101
          Nick – 84

  • anyfool

    I took what he said to mean, that if all other things are equal then the most intelligent will prevail, that is not elitist it is common sense, a commodity that is becoming very rare in this benighted country.

    • viewcode

      All other things being equal, strength and beauty prevails, not intelligence. Wealthy people don’t need to be smart: you can rent smart people and discard when not needed.

  • viewcode

    6) Wealth is not happiness, lawfulness, or legality. Wealth is wealth.

    “There is also a very high correlation between the average IQ of a population and its willingness to obey the law.” Possibly so (I genuinely don’t know), but slavish obediance to the law is not a guarantor nor producer of wealth.

    Economic success is amoral. It doesn’t care if you are good, bad, smart, stupid, lawful or a villain. It cares if you have something it wants. Economic success is a function of a) supply, b) demand, c) nothing else.

    • pp22pp

      You just said that corruption was a major factor behind economic failure and then you say that economic success is amoral. That is a logical non-sequitur.

      If you do not follow rules, you cannot have enforceable contracts.

      • viewcode

        Not quite: I said an uncorrupt judiciary and civil service are preconditions. Without these things contracts get wrongly enforced and the whole shebang collapses.

        As for the illogical part: it is not illogical to assert that corruption reduces success and that economic success is amoral

  • viewcode

    5) Wealth is created by adding value.

    “IQ also matters because we are not living in 1300. In this society and this era, economic success as a society is defined by the ability to make and sell things that other people can’t. If you are Saudi Arabia, that is oil. If you are Japan, that it high tech. If you are Britain, that used to be industrial goods. Now it is government debt.”

    In any society, be it Pharonic Egypt, Imperial Rome, Eisenhower America or whatever, economic success is dependent on a) property rights, b) the rule of law, c) free trade, d) enforcable contracts. To get those you need an uncorrupt judiciary, civil service, freedom of entry and exit into a trade, and other stuff. Education and IQ is helpful but not necessary.

    • pp22pp

      I agree that corruption van make a difference, but the ability to do high IQ jobs is limited to those with high IQs. An uncorrupt judiciary is hugely important, but it alone won’t make you rich.

      • viewcode

        No it won’t make you rich alone: it’s necessary, not sufficient

        A corrupt judiciary means contracts do not get enforced. Unenforced contracts reduce innovation and ensures inventors go unrewarded. Error accumulates in the system and wealth becomes aggregated in the hands of the dumb rich who stick it up their nose, breed idiot sons, and slowly destroy wealth.

        • Daniel Maris

          Yes, these cultural and constitutional factors are extremely important.

          • pp22pp

            No one is denying the importance of environmental factors.

          • Daniel Maris

            Well very often in this thread it sounds like you have been denying their importance.

            Giving them an arbitrary value, as you do, like “genetics 70% and environmental 30%” is meaningless, based on the dodgy stats of a few IQ obsessed researchers.

            No one can really disentangle the influences of genetics, culture, history, climate, flora and fauna….to name a few.

  • viewcode

    4) Averages are not totals and life is not wealth

    “These is a high correlation between the overall IQ of a population and the the average wealth/life expectancy of a society.”

    Are you sure about that? Sweden is educated as all heck and has wealth and longevity (supporting your thesis), but Switzerland is less educated and richer. Saudi Arabia decries education (if you are a Saudi woman and, apparently, many are…:-)) but is rich. Russia, both now and in its Soviet Union phase, greatly valued education and produced chess champions like weeds: still poor as s**t, then and now. I’d believe a correlation betwen IQ and life expectancy (the 40’s child immunisation program is why we have lots of pesky 70 year olds instead of decently dying at 40 like they did in the 30’s), but wealth? Really? Life is not wealth.

    An interesting example is the Americans: on average, to be honest, a bit dim. But they have research labs second only to God and invented the concept of the research university whilst Oxbridge were content to stay finishing schools for the wealthy stupid. USA produced damn-nearly everything involving the word “computer”, or “biotech” and are a very rich nation in total despite not being very clever on average. Averages are not totals.

    • pp22pp

      White and Asian Americans have awesome PISA scores and they are the ones who drove the innovations in computer technology.

      • viewcode

        Fair point, but this illustrates my point. The smart people who invented computer tech did not die rich. The mercantile people who worked out a way to commercially exploit it did. The person who invented the mouse and the person who invented HTML did not and will not die rich. But Bill Gates and Steve Jobs (who were entrepreneurs, not inventors) died/will die with enough money for their own air forces.

        Wealthy doesn’t need to be smart. Wealthy employs smart

        • pp22pp

          But you have to have smart people to employ.

          • viewcode

            True. But you don’t need many (proportionately speaking). How many people did the Manhattan Project employ? Hundreds of thousands. How many were high-IQ? Thousands, possibly only hundreds. How many geniuses? Five, ten, fifteen?

          • pp22pp

            You also need smart people to perform a host of lesser functions efficiently. Einsteins and Newtons are rare, but a good engineer makes a big difference. Also societies that produce lots of good engineers also tend to produce the odd genius.

            Germany gave us a lot of reliable plodders, but it also gave us Heisenberg and Schrodinger.

            Somalia gave us pirates, who were easily squished when we got over our PC prissiness. Somali high tech is an oxymoron.

            OVERALL IQ and OVERALL living standards correlate closely. Of course they do not correlate 100%, but the correlation is close.

          • viewcode

            If you’re generalising, then I’ll concede the point (because at that point we’re not disagreeing any more). However, it does raise the fascinating question: do clever people produce wealthy societies, or do wealthy societies produce clever people?

            And by extension: do wealthy people produce clever people? More generally, do the lifestyles and habits of the wealthy produce clever people or stupid people?

          • pp22pp

            I am a geologist by training, but not by profession. Lectures often began with a twenty minute laugh-in at the expense of the God Squad. The message was that it is dumb to deny evolution. I couldn’t agree more.

            However, humanity, we were taught, emerged during the last interglacial and then spread out of Africa. I seems improbable to me that human evolution simply stopped at that point and that all human variation is purely cosmetic.

            Human populations have evolved over tens of thousands of years in response to highly variable environmental challenges. It seems implausible that we would all have the same abilities. I would say that smart populations produce wealthy societes, not the other way round.

          • Daniel Maris

            That may be the case, and there may be real differences ,but the attempt to isolate them from cultural, technological and educational factors is doomed.

            Scandinavian countries and Iceland were dirt poor places back in the mid 19th century. And yet now they are prosperous and score high on things like IQ tests.

            I think you need to read a bit more history. Also, given your geological background I am surprised you don’t recognise the importance of factors like climate, flora and fauna. It’s very difficult to build up a complex society with a developed economy in a equatorial rainforest areas. There are no easily domesticable animals (that you find in temperate zones), and it is difficult to build up grain surplus economies. Wooden structures rot very quickly. Put it all together and you can see why civilisation tends to develop more often in the temperate zones.

          • pp22pp

            Disease is a major issue. The Mayans and Khmer did build complex civilizations in a rain forest.
            Also, ancient languages are a hobby of mine and I read a great deal of history. The Jesuits who sailed to Asia in the sixteenth century were vary aware of these differences and credited the Chinese and Japanese with higher intelligence than any of the other peoples they ad encountered en route.

          • Daniel Maris

            I didn’t say it was impossible to build up a complex society within rainforest but it is clearly difficult as I suggested. It may be for instance that although being in a rainforest area, the Mayans had easy access to stone, which is not always the case in rainforest areas where the soil can be many feet deep. I suspect that may have aided both the Mayans and Khmers.

            The Jesuits might have noticed that both Chinese and Japanese were in the temperate/sub-tropical zone.

            Clearly you can’t have complex social development until a species reaches a certain level of cognitive development.

            But the factors enabling such development are not really related to cognition – they are much more things like the ability to generate food surpluses, to provide a full range of nutrition, to live in a benign climate, to find sources of energy, to mine for useful minerals and so on.

            In just about 100 years Americans grew in height, on average, by about 8 inches. The USA did literally take the starved masses of Europe and pump them full of nutrition. It’s hardly surprising it has been such as successful society.

          • pp22pp

            Oh shut up, you dumb-ass. Where races live together in the same countries and they are not at war, then differences in IQ and income rapidly assert themselves. Look at the USA, Australia, Sweden, France and Canada. If that isn’t evidence, the you don’t know what is. How many Africans have ever won a Fields Medal? This is obvious to anyone who isn’t a wilful moron. Now piss off.

          • Daniel Maris

            “OVERALL IQ and OVERALL living standards correlate closely. Of course they do not correlate 100%, but the correlation is close.”

            Well would you expect anything else? Of course IQ tests reflect the culture in advanced modern industrial societies. Would Anglo Saxons from 500AD have scored well on these tests? Would Ashkenazi Jews from 1000AD? Would Singaporeans from 1800AD? Of course not.

            So, the likely explanation for these high scores is much more likely to be education and cultural progress.

          • v_3

            If one compares the post WWII progress of divided societies like Germany, Korea, Vietnam, India & Pakistan and Hong Kong & Taiwan vs mainland China, where the populations were genetically similar if not identical, we have a grotesque live laboratory experiment. In all cases the societies produced very different outcomes, proving the importance of “nurture” over “nature”

            While the high IQ of Ashkenazi Jews is often cited, I have some acquaintances from that demographic who can best be described as “nice but stupid”.

            A high IQ does undoubtedly bestow an advantage, but without Emotional Quotient and hard work plus luck is unlikely to produce great wealth. Many academics fall into the high IQ low EQ camp and are not the most wealthy of classes.

          • Daniel Maris

            I agree. culture, geography, history (both personal and social), and economics are more important than any presumed IQ performance differential.

          • pp22pp

            There we disagree. Innate intelligence is more important than culture.

          • Daniel Maris

            You say that like there’s an equal weight of evidence, but so far you’ve given us nothing to suggest there is even a weak correlation between IQ test results and anything else apart from ability to score well at IQ tests.

          • pp22pp

            There is also a correlation in terms of income and crime stats. Why are you taking this so personally? The data is everywhere.

          • pp22pp

            Mongolians have high IQ’s and they are one generation out of the yurt.

          • Daniel Maris

            Have you ever considered that IQ tests might just be well suited to the way Mongolian people think. They are scoring high and yet all they are known for, historically, is being in turn violent, rapacious and dirt poor. That’s no recommendation for high IQ is it?

          • pp22pp

            In the absence of modern technology, it is difficult to make Mongolia into the Garden of Eden. Now that that particular control on their progress has been removed, it will be interesting to see how well they do. They are currently in the middle of a mining boom. I agree that they are not the most pleasant people. The weeks I spent there on a new mine were the longest of my entire life. I have also lived in Costa Rica. They are not hugely smart, but they are extremely “amable” and don’t have the alcohol problem that plagues the Mongols.

            Costa Rica is another interesting case study. Given their human capital they have done just about everything right, but cannot break out of their current second world status. Not having an army means, however, that they have avoided the constant infighting that has plagued the rest of that region. Nicaragua has the same human capital and has done everything wrong and the less said about Honduras the better.

      • Daniel Maris

        Why is China so much poorer than the USA – both before and since Communism?

        • pp22pp

          America has a great deal more land and natural resources per capita and China’s economic growth has been enormous since the fall of Communism. America also has large numbers of high IQ people – enough of them to carry those with lower IQ.

          • Daniel Maris

            You are not being logical Mr Spock…

            On your theory, China should have enjoyed tremendous economic growth BEFORE Communism.They did not.

            Also, land and natural resources should be pretty much irrelevant to your theory. Or are you saying people with high IQ can’t overcome environmental factors?

            You seem mightily confused.

            Or maybe not, since you seem to end up supporting any factor that appears to back up your initial prejudice.

          • pp22pp

            Chinese history is long. The country has enjoyed periods of great poverty and great wealth. In the Ming era, the land was famously prosperous, until the general cooling of the climate in the seventeenth century brought the Manchu nomads south. The 1640’s were a period of great famine and suffering. The Southern Song who were destroyed by the Mongols in the thirteenth century ruled over a prosperous and innovative civilization. The Qing took over in 1644 and ruled until 1910. That is a long period and at the end of it they were hopelessly corrupt. The Chinese in their arrogance had failed to follow the example of the Japanese and import and learn Western science. The result was humiliation at the hands of Britain in the Opium Wars and of Japan in the Sino-Japanese War. There followed a period of chaos followed by the Japanese invasions and the revolution of 1949. The restoration of order and the abolition of communist controls has seen the economy flourish.

          • Daniel Maris

            Wow! What a great teacher you are: “The country has enjoyed periods of great poverty and great wealth.” Thank you for those telling insights…not.

            You can busk it as much as you like, but you haven’t shown any evidence correlating IQ scores and relative wealth.

            If Chinese have been high IQ for thousands of years, they shouldn’t end up dirt poor according to your theory.

            Also, if they are so clever why were hundreds of millions fooled by such a stupid theory as Maoism?

            You have no answers, only assertions.

          • pp22pp


            Different IQ’s, different incomes. Sorry if that’s too hard for you,

  • viewcode

    3) Hard work and success are not synonyms

    “They all work really hard in Bangladesh, but they’re still poor.”

    Fair point. But Bangladesh is poor not because of its people but because it’s built on mud (Bangladesh is one big swamp). Its chief exports and imports (and for all I know cuisine) are mud, mud and more mud.

    • pp22pp

      Bangladesh is built on mud. So it Holland and so is Venice.

      • viewcode

        True. And Renaissance Venice illustrates my point. The best example of merchant princes ever, it produced a mercantile empire of capitalist men who, through risk taking, courage and pursuit of profit made themselves and their societies rich and produced some of the best art ever.

        And they weren’t too bright.

        Instead, they *employed* bright people (da Vinci and Michaelangelo if memory serves), paid for the use of their IQ, then discarded them when necessary. Merchant Princes do not navigate ships nor make maps nor astrolabes: they employ smart people to do that.

        • pp22pp

          Northern Italians have high IQ’s. Within Italy there is a big difference between Sicily and Lombardy. How do you know the merchant princes were dim?

        • Daniel Maris

          As I recall, Venice was a kind of refuge city for the Roman elite. That explains its success as well – huge starting capital (they would have brought with them hoards of gold and silver) and a concentration of business knowledge.

          • pp22pp

            The Ostrogoths, Byzantines and Lombards were all fighting over Italy. The destruction was enormous and no one had very much capital. The first settlements were an attempt to escape the destruction and rapine. I doubt that any one arrived with huge amounts of capital. Venice was then subject to Byzantium. It took some time to emerge as a major power in the Mediterranean.
            I have never said that environmental factors are unimportant. I am just saying that genetic factors are somewhat more important (70 to 30). Over the generations, environmental factors will become genetic factors.

          • Daniel Maris

            “and no one had very much capital” – that is a ludicrous statement which just shows you haven’t read much history. Gold is extremely portable which is one of the reasons it is favoured as a measure of value.

            “Over the generations, environmental factors will become genetic factors.” What are you on about? There have been maybe 65 generations since Venice was founded. Not long enough to effect the sorts of changes you are talking about.

          • pp22pp

            You are a hysterical ideologue. You need to calm down and actually criticise what I am saying rather than putting words into my mouth. If the economy has collapsed gold is of little value. You cannot buy things and nothing is for sale.

            Rome was reduced from a city of millions to one of 30,000. Are you really suggesting that what one small group of refugees carried to Venice was enough to explain a 1000 years of prosperity.

            I wasn’t suggesting that Venetians IQ’s had evolved SINCE the foundation of the city.

            I read lots of history – at the moment Suetonius in the original.

          • Daniel Maris

            Again, you know nothing of history. Gold has remained a valuable currency throughout Europe since Roman times. Vikings, Mongol and Muslim plunderers were equally keen to get their hands on it.

            You know nothing of history. Rome was never a city of “millions”. It was at most something over a million.

            Yes, I am suggesting that the refugees brought with them business knowledge, capital and a culture of education that became concentrated in Venice and which created a perfect launch pad for a vigorous mercantile empire. You can look at Israel today – a highly successful economy – to see how refugees can create a vibrant economy.

  • viewcode

    2) Smart and Rich are not synonyms for populations

    “A population of low IQ people gives you Uganda. A population of high IQ people gives you Japan.”

    I don’t actually know this to be true, but let’s take this on trust for the moment. Uganda is not poor because of its population’s stupidity or otherwise, it’s poor because it’s corrupt and tribal. Neither of which are functions of stupidity, more a function of bad morals and violence. Similarly, Japan is not rich because of its population’s intelligence or otherwise, it’s rich because of the work ethic from hell and national loyalty

    • pp22pp

      Unfortunately, ethnicity and IQ correlate with Ashkenazi Jews on top. I wish my own ethnicity were on top, but I have learned to accept that we are not. That should not, however, stop us from defending our interests. The gaps between various Israeli sub-populations are huge. White and Asian Americans do VERY well in PISA scores. The average is dragged down by black and Hispanic students.

      • viewcode

        Fair enough, but what you are telling me is that different ethnicities have different IQs on average. I’m saying that “IQ” and “financial success” are not synonyms. These are different points.

        • Daniel Maris

          I agree. Most IQ tests tend to put Asians out in front but most Asian economies are far poorer than American, Australian, European and Gulf Arab ones.

      • Daniel Maris

        This is very silly.

        Back in the 300AD Germanic peoples were living in mud huts, following irrational animistic religions, and nailing Roman soldiers to trees, Commanche-like. They were also dirt poor.

        120 years ago Chinese were dirt poor and considered an inferior race by Europeans and Japanese.

        Ashkenazi Jews lived in extreme poverty across Eastern Europe following ancient customs.

        If we had tried out PISA type questions on our population in 1850 the results would have been dire, not least because half the population wouldn’t be able to read the questions, let alone attempt them.

        • pp22pp

          Denying evolution is silly.
          The difference is that we are not living in 300 BC and environmental controls are far less important now than they were then. Thus, nature can emerge as the dominant factor. You need technology to overcome the disadvantages of climate and terrain. In the USA, every has been done to “close the gap” but it has proven intractable.

          • Daniel Maris

            That’s counter-intuitive. Evolutionary processes are generally held to be more important in the past, when there were no health and welfare services.

            Really must laugh at the idea “everything has been done” to close the gap. The USA is one of the most unequal societies on earth, so trying to make it more equal has certainly not been tried.

          • pp22pp

            The effects of what we see now are due to evolution in the past. In the past certain environments selected for certain traits. The changes in technology that have changed our lives are recent. Thus, differences in environment make less of a difference. Icelanders have been able to capitalise on their intelligence to overcome their problems posed by their environment.

            America has all-pervasive programmes of positive discrimination and racial set-asides.

            Brazil and South Africa also have lousy GINI coefficients. They are also diverse and, again, income correlates with ethnicity. Groups in diverse societies rarely enjoy equal incomes and equal educational outcomes. Homogeneity is an enormous strength that we idiotically threw away.

            In the Middle East, Christians are richer than Muslims, and in Canada, Chinese are richer than Inuit.

          • Daniel Maris

            Why couldn’t Icelanders overcome their problems between 1500 and 1800 when their population was in freefall if they are so clever?

          • Fergus Pickering

            More unequal than, say, Zimbabwe where some people are immensely rich and other people have nothing at all?

          • Daniel Maris

            No, but more unequal than most European countries – which have better health and educational outcomes.

          • Fergus Pickering

            Evolution is not evident over the short term and 1700 years is very short term indeed. Don’t drag in stuff ou can’t be bothered to understand.

          • pp22pp

            I am not saying that, you idiot. I am saying that we have more technology now to overcome environmental difficulties. Learn to read.

            A smart population today is less likely to be held back by a poor environment.

          • Fergus Pickering

            Then why mention evlution at all since it has nothing to do with it?

          • pp22pp

            I am a geologist by training and so I have some idea what I’m talking about. I don’t think you do. I have been having two long keyboard conversations with two other people. My point is that human intelligence is the product of evolution and that, as a result, human populations that have emerged in different areas have different IQ’s.

  • viewcode


    I’ll respond with your individual points as follows:

    1) Smart and Rich are not synonyms for individuals

    “Smarter people can do things like design super-computers. Thick people can’t.”

    You mistake my meaning. I didn’t say smart people can’t do smart things. I said (amongst other things) that “IQ” and “financial success” are not synonyms. Financial success is driven by a) supply b) demand c) nothing else.

    • pp22pp

      No, they are not synonymous for individuals, but they do correlate for populations. Also, if the supply of 0, the demand doesn’t matter.

      • viewcode

        I’ve dealt with the population correlation part below

  • James Allen

    Probably, like me, they responded to reports of the speech and not the speech itself. Having now had the opportunity to listen to it, I have changed my view. Although I am still concerned that modern-day Tories do not pay enough attention to the working class… they are too obsessed with helping the middle class. This is one reason UKIP is making substantial gains amongst working class voters despite being further to the right than the Tories…. Why on earth, for example, have the Tories allowed the Lib Dems to be the party that cuts taxes for the poor?

    • Doh

      It’s pretty f#ing simple to be able to prove that the sun will rise tomorrow, given that both Newton and Einstein show us how to do the requisite calculations for up to a billion or so years into the future.

      • Daniel Maris

        Doh – Back to the first year philosophy course for you…

        It’s not at all easy to prove that the sun will rise tomorrow. Given scientists tell us something like 90% of energy and matter in the universe is unknown how could you possibly know for sure that something won’t wipe out the sun before tomorrow comes?

        But you claim to know what will happen in billions of years’ time! LOL

      • James Allen

        Oh dear…. go and read Hume and come back to me…

  • James Allen

    To be fair to Peaches, who I enjoyed seeing eviscerated by Katie Holmes on national TV, the MoJ mistakenly published the list of names on its own website (which was were she got them). If Peaches were prosecuted for this, they’d have to prosecute themselves too, which would be interesting to see….

  • rtj1211

    I think you might perhaps like to consider that productivity declines if those of high IQ are required to do tasks more suited to those of lower IQ.

    You might like to consider that those of higher IQ are less likely to work in slave-like circumstances for greedy financiers than those with no other choice. The very high IQ ‘financiers’ set up a financial system to bleed other people dry and, unless the rest of the country is full of subservient thickos, they are setting themselves up for trouble.

    I guess you could look at it differently and say that greed is a function of being thick, namely thinking that you can be as avaricious and as swinish as you will, but everyone else must accept that like good little christians. Those with slightly higher IQ will realise that if you spread the benefits more widely, you have a longer basis for sustainability.

    If you are actually intelligent, you will realise that those at the top have no interest in playing by the rules but are brutal in enforcing those rules on others if they have any chance so to do. On taxation, on drugs, on prostitution, on media coverage, on sport, on politics, on everything: strong messages on morality to control the masses whilst you do whatever you want behind closed doors.

    Thickness in public life comes from parroting stuff which, in an internet age, will be shown to be out of date bullshit within a week.

    There is nothing thick in saying: ‘address the true issues like a statesman, please’.

    There is something very thick in saying: ‘I was born to rule’.

    You EARN THE RIGHT to rule and only in worlds controlled by unelected, unaccountable, anti-democratic shadowy figures is that right granted to those who bluster bullshit before doing their research.

    Any potential Prime Minister should have investigated all the major issues of government a decade before, such that they only need to update their knowledge each year in a manageable manner and identify how priorities are changing for the next generation.

    You don’t start doing your basic research in office, because then you get wars like Iraq.

    You get drug prices going sky high because Labour didn’t understand how NHS procurement worked.

    You get privatisations to you false chums at low prices because you have no concept of value over a Kondratyev cycle of economic activity.

    There’s nothing thick about holding aspirant PMs to the highest set of standards around. And there’s absolutely no reason not to tear them to pieces for idiocy when they do that through their media chums to anyone who threatens their megalomania.

    What’s thick is to fawn to an Old Etonian just because he went to Oxford.

    • Daniel Maris

      Yes, a lot of truth in what you say. Putting it into class terms, the super-rich class always need to be careful they don’t alienate the lower middle classes who have the wherewithal to under what is going on socially and economically. To do so can quickly summon the spectre of revolution – both the French and Russian revolutions essentially involved the lower middle classes getting together with the working class.

      The super-rich are essentially taking the p*ss now, much as French and Russian aristos did.

  • MrDDavies

    People don’t disagree with Johnson or any other Tory because of the logic deficit, whether real or imagined, of their arguments. They disagree with them through sheer bloody-minded prejudice. Having a “posh” accent doesn’t help either.
    There is nothing more bigoted than a modern “liberal”.

  • Nick


  • 21stcnow

    “I also learnt that quite a lot of the time, people have simply no idea that they’re talking no end of crap”. Spot on Hugo. Self demolition in one.

  • Cymrugel

    Your university career was “pleasant enough” was it Hugo?
    Goodness me lad! Your entire life is pleasant enough! – feather bedded from cradle to grave, with open access to the corridors of power; free to select the career of your choice without having to slog too hard at university or worry about money or interviews; doors swinging open at the sound of a surname or a well placed phone call.
    Yes pleasant indeed.
    am I jealous? Is the Pope a Catholic?
    and the idea of son-of-Rifkind with dreadlocks!
    Comedy gold!!