Friday 8 November 2013

The delusion that dumb people are a problem


People certainly have-gotten and are-getting dumber - as has now become objectively known from the slowing of reaction times over the past century- and this is a big big problem for science, technology and capability...

(since there are now very few geniuses and therefore not enough breakthroughs to compensate for the collapsed efficiency due to bureaucracy and Leftism and thereby sustain the world's current population).

But the constant complaint of how dumb are the people in charge, is misplaced.

Because in situations where there are extremely intelligent people in charge they mess-up just the same or worse, because they are insane. Insane is worse than dumb.


It is the psychotic behaviour of modern secular Leftists that is the problem, since they partly cannot, and partly will not, understand basic realities.

It doesn't take very much intelligence to understand basic realities - it just takes common sense and the capacity to learn from experience; but these traits are precisely what is absent from the modern rulers of the large powerful social systems (government, law, education, the mass media etc). 

Absent common sense and the capacity to learn from experience, cleverness will  make things worse - indeed there is no perceivable limit to the extent and ways in which clever-psychotic people can mess-up (as can be seen from the horrible history of communism).

The number one trait most needed, and most lacking, is not intelligence but honesty. Ruthless and total and habitual honesty. It's worth incomparably more than one or two standard deviations of IQ.



Luqman said...

This is a common point brought up by some of the secular right, particularly hbd bloggers, but being smart means being that much better at being evil. The important dichotomy is good vs. evil, not smart vs. dumb, though there is naturally some overlap. Then there is the confounding factor of the problems of high intelligence, the `spiritual autism` that seems to afflict more people the more right you go on the curve of IQ distribution.

That said, dumb people may be considered to be a problem as far as they compose the crowd. While intelligence is not a guarantee that one will be able to see past mass media or mass leftism, it probably helps.

Bruce Charlton said...

@L - "While intelligence is not a guarantee that one will be able to see past mass media or mass leftism, it probably helps."

Does it? I can't see it. About average intelligence seems best for this.

MC said...

Did you see this speech by John Derbyshire?

Handle said...

'The number one trait most needed, and most lacking, is not intelligence but honesty'

I believe the principal moral virtue is general trustworthiness. And you can only do so much to create institutions which incentivize integrity if the individuals will not voluntarily act that way out of internal motivation the second they find themselves in a blind-sport institutions mechanisms.

Why should men love the Church? Why should they love her laws?
She tells them of Life and Death, and of all that they would forget.
She is tender where they would be hard, and hard where they like to be soft.
She tells them of Evil and Sin, and other unpleasant facts.
They constantly try to escape
From the darkness outside and within
By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.
But the man that is will shadow
The man that pretends to be.

—T. S. Eliot, “Choruses from ‘The Rock’”

All that being said, even within a good Churched Society, I would not trust all men to always be angels. So, trust, but reinforce.

And the reinforcement to honesty is that one's performance be put to a 'reality-test'.

In the market, this is the test of competitive rivals. No one will stay loyal to your automobile brand for long if they can get one at better quality and lower price elsewhere.

In the military, there is of course the enemy who will kill you for any lie you tell yourself about the optimal conduct of combat.

But the nature of leftist state institutions is to be insulated by the government as much as possible from any possible reality test or any genuine competition. Those are the conditions in which lies prosper and propagate.

You don't need to be a market fundamentalist to see that the state monopoly on anything is a breeding ground for delusion and folly.

stephen c said...

I don't live in England; where I live, in the American suburbs, average intelligence seems like the worst place to be, as that is exactly where the greatest relative quantity of advertisements and enticements of the media are targeted. But I have heard America is not as far gone as England ...

Bruce Charlton said...

@MC - Yes I read it at the time. I am against voting - I think it is a pernicious way of making decisions.


@H - One virtue is never enough. But dishonesty will undermine anything and everything. Most people running British institutions are generally trustworthy - and that is a great problem, because they are zealous in their wrecking.

@sc - The main point of this post is negative - from where we are, smarts will not help.

Sure, you can see a gradient between IQ and crime etc, and higher average IQ places are usually pleasanter (when the context is generally pleasant) - but agglomerations of the most intelligent people have fatal problems, they are pointed in the wrong direction - such societies are indeed actively killing themselves. That will not be solved by more intelligence.

I personally love exercising my intelligence - but hardly any intelligent people ever do this.

Nicholas Fulford said...

"I personally love exercising my intelligence - but hardly any intelligent people ever do this" - Bruce Charlton

I don't know about that. I am in the midst of reading "The Brothers Karamazov" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and it is a very challenging book requiring a lot of reflection. I quite enjoy the exercise.

As to whether intelligence is a virtue - I would say that it is amoral. Having intelligence does not make one more or less moral, though it provides a capacity to dig more deeply into questions of morality and philosophy if one is so inclined.

Honesty, and especially internal honesty is a virtue. Being unwilling to cast light into the shadows of oneself is a moral failing. One needs to have courage to probe into the shadows, and to reform oneself into an honest person who will pay a price to do what is right. This is a very challenging exercise, and must be practiced regularly. It is far too easy to become vested and fall into denial and hypocrisy.

Bruce Charlton said...

@NF - If you imagine that intelligent people like to exercise their intelligence, you should spend some time in a university ;-)

I agree that intelligence is not a virtue - but quite a few people I read on blogs clearly regard it as a virtue.

For example, they find it very difficult to oppose someone whom they regard as highly intelligent, or support somebody they regard as unintelligent - and they accuse people of being dumb as if this was indeed a moral failing; or they accuse people of being dumb who are obviously in the top ten percent of world IQ or higher (given that average intelligence is high in the West and lower in many of the larger and faster growing places) - and perhaps in the top one percent of all the people in the world if you included children and the elderly...

The secular Right are perhaps the worst of all in this respect - in terms of overvaluing intelligence, and denigrating those they disagree with for being dumb/ stupid/ idiots or (that inept and self-invalidating term) 'a retard'.

Ugh said...

"The secular Right are perhaps the worst of all in this respect - in terms of overvaluing intelligence, and denigrating those they disagree with for being dumb/ stupid/ idiots or (that inept and self-invalidating term) 'a retard'."

I would agree that the secular right do themselves no favor with this attitude, but it comes from misguided honesty, whereas the leftist is patronizingly super sweet to the less intelligent for their own evil purposes. The use of slogans and simple to repeat lies solidifies in the minds of the less curious preventing the possibility of absorbing higher concepts and contributing to the pollution of society.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ugh - I would regard it more as a reaction-against a particular dominant Leftist dishonesty, than being particularly honest.

Also, within the US, the high IQ areas are generally the most pleasurable and comfortable to dwell - so high average IQ seems like A Good Thing - but of course this does not apply to the past and present high average IQ communist hellholes in East Asia.

dearieme said...

I saw the claim recently that Kennedy and his assassin had the same IQ. I permitted myself a wry smile.

Brett Stevens said...

While I think the point is well taken that it's a moral failing and not intellectual failing at the basis of our Western decline, I can't agree with this post at all.

Dumb people are a huge problem. Being dumb, they screw up. Per the Dunning-Kruger/Downing effect, they're also unaware of this. Thus they tend to be arrogant and deniers of reality.

Dumb people are great when they're reminded of their place in a caste system.

If that isn't done, they become de facto agents of decay. Sort of like when you tell them their votes are of equal worth to those of their betters, as happened in France in 1789, precipitating the birth of liberalism and decline of the West.

Nature's order consists of replacing the dumb with the intelligent. This is a useful order. Legitimizing the stupid is not.

Bruce Charlton said...


The intellectual Left, in my experience, also glorifies intelligence: they just have different notions of how it's distributed among the population than the secular Right.

Leftists are committed to theoretical notions of sexual and racial equality(...). The fact they are so outraged by the suggestion of racial inequality in IQ shows that they consider intelligence a virtue (...).

But get a leftist talking about conservative whites, and you'll find one of their principle modes of attack is denigrating the intelligence of conservatives. Witness the canard about George W Bush's low IQ, or the average IQ of Republicans (based on a faulty interpretation of Lynn and Vanhanen 2002). It often gets close to open classism: contempt for low IQ conservatives is not far from contempt for low IQ lower class whites. I've not yet pointed this out to a leftist who makes those kinds of judgments, though I'd be interested to see the reaction.

Leftism is, of course, becoming gradually more elitist, given that the elite is becoming more and more leftist.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Brett - We are dumb, compared with people 1-200 years ago. We have to make do with what we've got.