Thursday, 4 February 2016

Three quarters of a million

Or a mere seven hundred and fifty thousand. Take your pick. People are reading about intelligence research.


Wednesday, 3 February 2016

50 Russian oblasts

The last time I walked around Red Square, many years ago, my companion Nick pointed out that there was a light Cessna plane on the cobbles surrounded by a temporary barrier. I was not interested in it. It was a glorious night, beautiful Russian women were promenading about, the Red Flag was flying in a breeze specially created for it by an air compressor hidden in the flagpole, the Border Guards were celebrating their national day by being amiably blind drunk, and I was looking forward to giving a talk at a conference the following day. The Cold War seemed to be coming to an end.

The next day international journalists accosted me the moment I left the hotel not, as usual, to get my wise perspectives on psychological matters, but to ask if I knew the name of the doctor attending the conference who had filmed the Cessna landing in Red Square. A German boy had eluded Russian air defences and brought his plane down in central Moscow. The unknown doctor had videod the landing, and eventually sold it to the media for a small sum. The immediate story was that the boy was trying to impress his girlfriend, but the later account was that he was making a gesture in favour of world peace. Whatever the cause, it allowed Gorbachev to fire a few incompetent military men.

Now there has been a landing of a different sort: The data for literacy, infant mortality, fertility and stature in the late nineteenth century are available for 50 provinces of European Russia. The percentages of the population that were literate in 1897 were calculated from the data of the Russian Imperial census carried out 28 January, 1897 a mere 119 years ago, or almost 5 generations back.

Regional differences in intelligence, infant mortality, stature and fertility in European Russia in the late nineteenth century. Andrei Grigoriev, Ekaterina Lapteva, Richard Lynn.  Intelligence 55 (2016) 34-37

Estonia and Livonia were (and probably still are) the bright (literate) provinces of Russia, no doubt something to do with having been Swedish dominions until 1710. They tower over the rest of Russia. On average, Estonians are said to have 49.5% of West European Hunter-Gatherer (WHG) ancestry, the highest percentage of any living population. Nearby Pskov, slightly to the East and 95% Russian, had the lowest literacy rates.

The Russian provinces differed significantly by geographical location. The positive correlations with latitude (r= .33, p<.05) and the negative correlation with longitude (r=−.43, p<.01) show that the rates of literacy were higher in the northand west than in the south and east. These trends were partly determined by the rates of literacy being highest in the north-western provinces of St. Petersburg and the three Baltic states of Estland, Livland and Kourland(correspondingapproximately but not precisely to contemporary Estonia and Latvia; Livland consisted of southern part of contemporary Estonia and eastern part of contemporary Latvia). Removing these four regions makes both correlations non-significant (.21 and −.23).




Literacy was strongly positively associated with stature. The more literate provinces had lower infant mortality, probably due to their higher wealth. They also had smaller families, but Lynn finds this does not correlate with stature, suggesting it is not a wealth effect but probably part of a general dysgenic trend at that time.

This is a very interesting data set and is part of a trend towards regional comparisons, showing that intelligence not only impacts individuals and countries, but also districts, states and provinces. This is a valuable contribution, given that such matters are routinely ignored in most travelogues and political discourses. It is also testimony to what can be achieved when one scholar, despite scarce resources and considerable opposition, makes links with psychologists across the world, and puts together the results for countries and regions so as assemble an archive of ability across the world.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

The saving grace

I am a saver, but I do not know exactly why. For a rainy day perhaps, but rainy days are plentiful and cheap: I stay in and read something. Perhaps I save so that I can be gently fed when unable to do so in old age. More likely, perhaps I secretly wish to astound my neighbours by driving up in a red Ferrari, though rather than admiration this will more likely engender doubts about my mental state. Furthermore, I am told that only a very limited set of Ferraris hold their value. Moreover, after relaxing the rules regarding how pensions could be spent, a Government Minister agreed that pensioners “could blow the whole lot on a Lamborghini”. Decisions, decisions.

Savings have survival value. Food and resources get you through lean periods. It is prudent to fear the worst and provide a buffer against storm and starvation. Surely everyone realises that?

R.W. Hafer. Cross-country evidence on the link between IQ and financial development. Intelligence 55 (2016) 7-13.

Research finds that individuals with higher levels of intelligence are likely to save relatively more than others. Evidence from macro-level studies shows that countries with higher than average IQs also are characterized by greater levels of saving. These two outcomes suggest the testable hypothesis: Do countries with higher national average IQs, on average, have more developed financial markets to accommodate this increased savings activity? Using three popular measures of financial development and the Lynn-Vanhanen national IQ measure, I test that hypothesis for a large sample of countries. The evidence indicates that, all else the same, IQ is a signficant predictor of financial development.

The author takes 3 measures of national wealth and plots them against IQ. The bivariate correlation between IQ and Liquid Liabilities, Private Credit and Bank Assets is, respectively, 0.66, 0.76, and 0.66.  Private Credit is considered the most accurate measure of savings, so I have used that one, but all three are similar.



French legal systems are less conducive to wealth generation than those from other countries, such that the correlations between French legislation and wealth are negative. 

Hafer puts in other predictive variables, and finds they made a contribution, but not so much as to alter the conclusion that the main driver is human ability.

The evidence presented here indicates that countries with higher national IQ are more likely to experience greater financial development than countries with lower levels of IQ. Using three popular measures of financial development, the effect of IQ occurs independently of a country's legal origin, its initial level of real GDP per capita and its level of economic freedom. This finding is robust to a variety of tests, including the addition of alternative institutional measures, such as human development, health, and education, as well as more specific indexes of economic freedom.

Not only do individuals with higher IQs tend to be thriftier and save more, but countries comprised of such individuals apparently establish and develop financial institutions that promote such behavior.

In brief, when clever people save, and when countries are composed of clever people save, then financial institutions evolve to handle those savings, and to cater for deferred expenditures. Money transfers are the first step, financial instruments like mortgages and futures markets the second. Such markets facilitate the saving habit, reduce transaction costs, speed up the re-allocation of resources, and provide deep pools of wealth to get societies through times of trouble. That is the theory anyway. The study period started in 1980 and for painfully obvious reasons stopped in 2009. The deep pools were not deep enough. Have the advanced and clever nations been clever in carrying out Quantitative Easing? I don’t think so, but as Chou En Lai remarked of the French Revolution “It is too early to tell”. (Yes, I know he misheard the question, and thought that Kissinger was asking about the effects of the then recent French Student revolution of 1968).

Read the whole thing here:

Friday, 29 January 2016

Vita brevis, intelligentia longa

Yesterday, at a lakeside party, Bob told me about the evening he drove up to an isolated beachside hotel in Guatemala, some four decades ago, and made his way through the deserted lobby to talk to the sole member of staff, a waiter with a skew-whiff bow tie. “Have I time to swim in the sea before dinner?” Bob asked. The waiter looked at him calmly and said “Tenemos mas tiempo que vida” (we have more Time than Life).

It is curious that there should be any correlation between intelligence and longevity. The contemporary fashionable view of intelligence is that it is a creature of priviledge, a confection of schooling and private tutors, granting acess to good jobs for those who can manipulate a narrow range of logical symbols, no better grounded in real ability than the recitation of classic verse or the oratorical flourishes of rhetoric. Such hothouse flowers bloom in sheltered spaces, and have nothing else to commend them. If they live longer, it is because they dine well and sleep in feathered beds. If this is remotely true, then “correcting” for social class should cancel out any effects of upbringing and living circumstances on lifespan.

To the contrary, much research (Der, Batty, & Deary, 2009; Deary, Whalley, & Starr, 2009; Gottfredson, 2004) finds that measures of intelligence taken in early childhood are good predictors of lifespan, even when social class is taken into account.

Intelligence and Early Life Mortality: Findings From a Longitudinal Sample of Youth

Kevin M. Beaver, Joseph A. Schwartz, Eric J. Connolly,Mohammed Said Al-Ghamdi, Ahmed Nezar Kobeisy, J. C. Barnes & Brian B. Boutwell

DOI: 10.1080/07481187.2015.1137994


The current study examined whether adolescent IQ predicted risk for mortality by the age of 32. Analyses of data from the Add Health revealed that IQ was related to mortality risk, such that respondents with relatively lower IQs were significantly more likely to experience early life mortality when compared with respondents with comparatively higher IQs. This association remained statistically significant even after controlling for a host of covariates such as race, gender, involvement in violent behaviors, levels of self-control, and poverty. The average IQ of deceased respondents was approximately 95 while the average IQ of living respondents was about 100.

Persons with comparatively lower IQ scores have been found, for instance, to be more likely to engage in risky behaviors that have been shown to compromise short- and long-term health (Gottfredson & Deary, 2004). Additionally, research findings have revealed significant direct associations between IQ and a number of health outcomes, including asthma, depression, high cholesterol, and tumor growth to name just a few (Der et al., 2009). Beyond these associations with health outcomes, IQ also appears to be related to the way in which individuals respond to medical advice and directions. To illustrate, once diagnosed with a health-debilitating disorder, individuals with lower levels of intelligence are less likely to take prescription medications as instructed and are less likely to schedule follow-up appointments compared to those with higher levels of intelligence (Gottfredson & Deary, 2004). Taken together, these findings from the cognitive epidemiological literature point to IQ as one of the most important factors that is connected with overall health (Deary, 2009).

Data for this study were drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health; Udry, 2003) a four-wave prospective study that was initially based on a nationally representative sample of American youth. The sampling frame consisted of all high schools with an 11th grade class and that had an enrollment of at least thirty students. A systematic random sample of these schools was then selected with the end result being the inclusion of 80 schools. The schools were stratified based on region, school type, percentage white, and urbanicity. The largest feeder school for each of these 80 schools was then selected to be included in the study. With this sampling procedure in place, there were a total of 132 schools that were retained. The first wave of data was collected in 1994–1995 when in-school surveys were administered to students who were in attendance at these middle or high schools on a specified day. In addition, an in-home component to wave 1 data was also included when 20,745 youth were selected to be re-interviewed in their homes along with their primary caregiver. The second wave of data was collected approximately 1.5 years later when 14,738 of the original respondents completed the survey instrument. Nearly seven years after the wave 1 data were originally collected, the third round of surveys were administered to 15,197 participants when the majority of the respondents were between the ages of 18 and 26 years old. The fourth and final wave of data was collected in 2008–2009when most of the 15,701 respondents were between the ages of 24 and 32 years of age and 50.5% of the sample was female. Overall, the Add Health data span approximately 14 years of human development (Harris, 2009; Harris et al., 2003).

At wave 3, participants were administered the Picture Vocabulary Test (PVT), which is a shortened version of the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised (PPVT-R). The PVT is designed to measure individual variation in verbal skills and receptive vocabulary.




So, even at the early age of 32, a 5 IQ point handicap is making  difference between life and death.

First, and in line with existing research, there was a negative and statistically significant association between IQ scores and the odds of mortality. This significant association was detected in a bivariate rare-events binary logistic regression model as well as in the more fully specified models that accounted for the confounding effects of age, gender, race, involvement in violent behavior, levels of self-control, and poverty. Taken together, these findings suggest that lower IQ scores in adolescence are related to an increased risk of mortality in late adolescence and early adulthood.

The second main finding to emerge from the analyses was that, prior to including controls for violence and self-control, African Americans were about 2.61 times more likely to have experienced death by early adulthood relative to other races. This association was expected as previous research has revealed African Americans—as a group—are at increased risk for unhealthy outcomes and premature death and that their mean life expectancy is lower than that of other races (Crimmins & Saito, 2001). What was particularly surprising about the analyses, however, was that that the influence of race was no longer statistically significant in the fully specified model that accounted not only for IQ, but also for involvement in violent behaviors and for levels of self-control. These findings converge with those focusing on other phenotypes, wherein the effects of race can be fully accounted for when including a complete list of covariates (Beaver et al., 2013; Wright et al., 2014), some of which may serve as mediators.

Nonetheless, the authors are very cautious about intelligence being causal, particularly through a shared genetic pathway, though that is likely from other research. The short Peabody test was given when respondents were 18-26, which is old enough for other things to have influenced their intelligence (though this is probably not a big factor, but cannot be discounted). Moral: test intelligence early, at 4 years of age before kids go to school. That is already a very predictive score. The authors are happy with the Peabody test, saying it correlates well with other kid’s tests. I don’t question that, but I have the feeling it is insensitive for the higher ranges, so the correlations found here may be under-estimates of the real effect. Of course, happily for the subjects, few of them have died, but their good fortune makes it hard for the researchers to be sure of their findings. I am already pretty sure, because it fits in with other findings, but they, quite properly, cannot be.

Read it all here:

In my view this is another finding to strengthen Deary’s “system integrity” hypothesis. In genetic terms, whatever makes us bright makes us healthier and longer-lived.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

The Famous Four


Intelligence research may seem a lonely career choice. The public understanding of intelligence has fallen so far that all and sundry have a gut-full of disparagement to offer, and not much in the way of reasoned evidence.

Indeed, the capacity of fools to regard themselves as founts of wisdom was well studied by one of the four I will discuss below.

In a very refreshing change, four intelligence researchers have been singled out for honours. The American Psychological Association has listed the following in their Rising Stars of 2015

University of California, Irvine

Bailey studies the contributions of domain-general cognitive abilities and children’s specific mathematical skills to children’s mathematical development.

University of Edinburgh

Ritchie's research contributes significantly to the understanding of the causes of cognitive differences and their real-life impacts.

Goldsmiths College, University of London

Von Stumm innovates assessment methods in the behavioral sciences and produces original knowledge on life-span cognitive development.

Vrije Universiteit, Brussels

Woodley of Menie developed the best-supported theory in explaining positive and negative Flynn effects.

So, three out of the four rising stars had already been featured in “Psychological Comments” and I will repair my apparent omission of Drew Bailey as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, use their names in the search bar and the many mentions of their work will pop up for you to read.

The one who looked at people’s judgements about their own intelligence?

In terms of Tetlock’s superforecasters, on the narrow front of upcoming intelligence researchers I proudly claim a 75% success rate. (Long discursive meditations about predictive accuracy metrics to follow in due course).

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

3rd London Conference on Intelligence 13-15 May 2016


Would you be interested in attending the London Conference on Intelligence, to be held over the long weekend of 13-15 May?

Speakers will include many of the researchers whose work I have covered in this blog, and will be a mixture of papers and informal discussions. It will be relatively small scale, so that there is plenty of chance for interaction and conversation. If you are interested in researching intelligence or personality, or combining intelligence measures with other research you are doing, this would be a chance to meet researchers with new things to say.

The format is that we meet in central London on a Friday afternoon for a few hours of informal discussion between delegates, then a few keynote lectures, and then go off to a nearby pub for a drink and something to eat.

On Saturday starting at 9 am papers are presented and discussed all day,  and then in the evening we go to another pub followed by the conference dinner at an Italian restaurant. Two or three traditional toasts.

On Sunday papers are presented till mid-day with a final summary session on future projects.  Then we have informal end of conference lunches, sandwiches etc and more conversations.

If you would like to present a paper, send a one page abstract to me for consideration.

For readers, the Registration Fee is set at £20 in cash to cover tea, coffee and biscuits and room hire for the 3 days. We don’t have facilities to take credit cards.

If you would like to attend, (this is written so as to confuse a robot) write to me at my electronic address, using my first and second names separated by a dot, then the at sign, and then        

I will then send you further details.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Hive Minds ?


I am very glad that Garrett Jones has written “Hive Mind: How your nation’s IQ matters so much more than your own”.

And yes, I know that I have just posted up Stuart Ritchie’s review of the same book, but I had already made a long-drawn-out start on mine, so I am giving you the benefit of two perspectives. 

Jones has focussed attention on the collective effects of intelligence, showing that intelligence strongly shapes societies and economies. This will be something of a shock to many economists, and to The Economist magazine, and the disturbance this may cause them provides intelligence researchers with a source of harmless amusement. It is time that the default hypothesis of equi-potential economic humans was challenged, and this book may do it, if economists get round to reading it. If intelligence is important, and groups vary in intelligence, then the speed with which they learn new things will also vary, with profound consequences for their group achievements.

On a narrower front, how does one distinguish between a hive mind and a set of individuals working together? Is there anything extra? Does the hypothesis of a “hive” mind lead to any testable conclusions? That is, can we detect the difference between an aggregate mind and a hive mind, the assumption being that the spirit of a bee hive involves a higher sense of purpose, and of more closely coordinated intellects, or indeed a critical mass of inter-conectedness that a mere agglomeration of intellects could not achieve?

Were the scientists in the Manhattan Project a Hive Mind? They were certainly very bright, had a common purpose, and worked together pretty well. However, it was clear to all that some were very much brighter than others. Oppie led the pack, Richard Feynmann was more than a sounding board to his elders, and with Neil Bohr and Enrico Fermi the four of them could probably have got the device together, bar the long-winded, hand-operated computing (which Feynmann reorganised into a speedier and more effective process anyway). I say probably, because so many contributed, and I wouldn’t want to exclude Hans Bethe and Joseph Rotblatt, the latter not only for his abilities but for the amusing stories he told me about the project.

Has the Internet made us all into a hive mind? There is certainly a case to be made that our collective ability to retrieve and apply knowledge has increased considerably, and we are more closely inter-connected in terms of thoughts and knowledge than ever before, though Britain, France, Germany and Italy  in the Enlightenment must have been close rivals, certainly in terms of quality and depth of thought, if not quantity of communications. Here is the European Core as depicted by Charles Murray in “Human Accomplishment”.



So, what do we make of Hive Mind? First, Jones writes well. He wants to communicate, and has thought about the problems inherent in describing intelligence to those determined not to believe that it exists as a measureable characteristic of any importance. His explanations are good: well thought out and clearly written. Being understood takes much more work than being confusing. For example, he describes Spearman’s work in measuring ability as a decathlon where the best athletes tend to do well on all most of the ten events. Although forgotten, Spearman included the discrimination of musical pitch in his tests, finding it correlated with Maths and language ability, suggesting a more general capability than that caused by schooling. Jones calls this “the Da Vinci” effect. Jones says that the summary of ability given by the concept of g  is no more nor less a simplification than giving a person’s temperature in a single number.

Another example: his description of Axelrod’s wonderful “The Evolution of Cooperation”  is a fresh and interesting read. Patience, pleasantness and perceptiveness are required for good cooperation, and higher ability people have more of those than average.

Perhaps higher intelligence only leads to apparently patient behaviour because carefully considering the future requires keeping many facts in mind simultaneously, and having to do a few calculations.

Jones has a deep knowledge of economics, so there is much in the book about the link between personal characteristics and economic behaviour, and therefore between group differences and national economies. The core of the book is a set of explanations about how deeper and faster thinkers make better, more long-term and often kinder decisions.

I learned new things from this book, and also found much that I already knew expressed very well in ways which improve comprehension and memorability. We need more of these books, bringing up to date intelligence research to enclosed subject domains still working on distorted and poor quality findings.

Patience is often mentioned by Jones as a virtue of intelligent people. Since patience, by operational definition, requires the capacity to anticipate future events and to calculate the benefits of delayed gratification, this is part of intelligence,and no further explanation seems necessary. Jones seems to suggest that patience is an important personality variable which may be linked to intelligence. In current parlance “patience” is a facet of the major personality factors, such that patience is an aspect of the conjunction of agreeableness and emotional stability. I think that we will need to do some work on personality variables and economic achievement before concluding that patience is an essential extra requirement.

I admit I can’t understand Jones’s argument about why low skill (low IQ) immigrants are good for high productivity (high IQ) countries. I would have thought the whole tenor of the book was against that notion, but I may have been reading that chapter too late at night. He does say that he hopes rich countries will find “deep and effective” ways of raising the ability levels of people from poor countries, but if, as is very likely, rich countries are rich because of the high ability of their citizens derived from surviving demanding circumstances for many generations, and poor countries are poor because there was less selection for ability, then this quick few-generation IQ-boosting project is unlikely to be successful.

Has Jones proved that “your nation’s IQ matters so much more than your own”. Not really. Bright people do well in all countries. Bright people can also emigrate to brighter countries, and at least half of them do, away from Africa at least. A bright person can generally make their way anywhere. Jews, even when they are small in number, generally do very well, though much better in open societies.

Can we really prove the contrary assertion “Your IQ matters more than anybody else’s”? Not quite. Jones acknowledges that the smart fraction probably contribute far more than everyone else, but points out that this fraction is mathematically related to the average ability of each nation. A fair point, though the authors did their best to test the soundness of their results by comparing the average IQ with the higher smart fraction IQ, and the finding of stronger effects for the latter seem to be holding up.

Have humans achieved a Hive Mind? I think they are on the way to that, having made the biggest leap by switching on the Web at the turn of the Millenium (and about 40% of the world now has access From that collective library we get so much of what we know, or think we know, all of which has become retrievable by anyone with any curiosity, and almost for free. Things known after the year 2000 are more easily retrieved, so now is the new Gutenberg.

I hope this book gets read, and it would be marvellous if The Economist were to review it.  Some-one send them a copy.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Democracy devours her children

In the 1930s an Argentine friend of mine was advised by his father to learn English “because English is the language of the future, but stay here because Argentina is the country of the future”. So, with perfect English he built up the family business in Buenos Aires, and after observing the Argentinian commercial and political scene for 60 years (including his experiences as Chairman of the Anglo Argentine Chamber of Commerce during the Falklands War) he gave me his conclusions over dinner at his lakeside house: “Argentina is the country of the future, but always will be”.

With this wry assessment in mind, I turned to a book written by Gustavo Semeria, from Buenos Aires "Adios a la Democracia. Un dios que para reinar devora a sus hijos".  “Goodbye to Democracy, a god who reigns by devouring her children”.

Semeria tells me: I'm a follower of the discoveries of Dr. Lynn in matters of intelligence and wealth generation, as well as political institutions, so I wrote this book particularly addressing the underdevelopment of Latin America, its relation with ethnic roots, culture and low intelligence, and its difficulties when trying to create stable democratic systems. It's an essay written to divulge these advances and discoveries in the psychology of intelligence. It also wants to alert people to the dangers of segregation and cultural conflicts in the region.

The book is available in Spanish in digital format at and will be in paperback in a short time.

Facebook link:

Read the whole thing (in Spanish) for free here:

The book has a very broad scope, and once again I stand in awe of people who write books on factual matters. The whole task must have take ages. The first part covers many issues and I only list a few: Out of Africa, a summary of intelligence research, welfare states, middle-class Burgher values; intelligence and economic progress; voting rights, education in Latin America, school choice or school vouchers, the education of elites. All this and more in what is only Part 1. Part 2 covers much on Amerindians, mestizos, racial conflicts in Latin America, immigration to Latin America, gated communities and public slums, and an overview of democratic progress in Latin American countries.

Naturally, this is aimed at a Spanish speaking Latin American audience, and will bring them much about genetics and intelligence which may be new to them, particularly regarding recent intelligence research. The specifically Latin American content is of particular interest, especially that focussing on the uncertain progress of democracy in Latin America. Semeria covers historical ground when describing the clash between the Spanish Conquistadors and the indigenous natives, where the superior weapons of the invaders, and their resistance to the diseases they carried and transmitted to the natives who had no immunity resulted in those natives being overthrown and to all purposes enslaved. Friar Bartolomé de las Casas, in the middle of the 16th Century was the first to argue that the Indians were able to reason, and should therefore be treated as human beings. The conquerors had shown no such inclinations. Nordic Europeans took over North America, Mediterranean Europeans South America.

Semeria points out that the Aztecs and the Incas had not achieved the same levels of development as the ancient civilizations of the fertile crescent 3500 years before. They were backward civilizations, the European Adelantados a Forward one.  Semeria avers that this clash of civilizations was so profound that the effects in Latin America are felt to this day: society is stratified by racial appearance and by degree of European blood. Argentina (4.5 million Europeans) and Brazil (4 million Europeans) had a whitening policy of encouraging European immigration.

Latin America has not succeeded in integrating its different races, Semeria argues. He notes, in Argentina particularly, the enormous rise of gated communities, almost exclusively white, in which the middle classes live protected by guards, paying for their own infrastructure and largely keeping to themselves. The high payments required raise the possibility that these large enclaves may, for practical purposes, be their own local governments, like Swiss Cantons, and the bigger ones will probably house up to 80,000 residents. This is hardly a prescription for social harmony, though it is an understandable reaction to the open borders which allow large scale migration from poorer and more Indian countries in South America.

The book contains a grand history of the sort not much told nowadays. It is a good read, but not a quick one. The book needs an executive summary. It also needs pictures, Tables, Figures, Maps, diagrams, and more pictures, in the hope that each and every one of them will save one thousand words. The book is too long a journey for the average reader, though a persistent one will be rewarded. The section on immigration to Argentina and Brazil is good, but even that could have been improved with more graphs showing any relationship between migrant inflows and national wealth. Page 345 has one table which is powerful, showing IQ (coeficiente de inteligencia) GDP per nation, together with the European fraction of the population.


This could have been analysed further, to great advantage. Other data sets, for example the recent summary of a decade of surveys on trust in Latin America (pretty low in most countries, outside immediate family members) would have been a very useful addition.

As regards the capacity of Latin Americans for self-government, the great liberator Simon Bolivar had this to say:

America is ungovernable: those who have served the revolution have ploughed the sea. These countries will inevitably fall into the hands of the disenfranchised multitude to then fragment into small tyrannies of all colours and races, devoured by their crimes and extinguished by their own ferocity.

Admittedly, Bolivar was a better warrior than governor, but those who benefitted from his campaigns made a monumental mess of governing what he had conquered, squabbling amongst themselves, and continually requiring him to hack back across the continent to reconquer what they had squandered. More than a liberator he was a peripatetic fire-fighter. Marie Arana has written a good biography: Bolivar: American Liberator. 2013.

In my view democracy has an internal contradiction, which is that votes are per head, not per contribution. Thus it is always rational for voters to favour policies which give them a bigger share of the contribution of others, thus driving collective policy towards wealth distribution or debt, or both. Does this lead the State to devour its children, or to creating a benign government, though one apt to run perpetual deficits and to postpone difficult decisions? This is a question which all democracies must ponder, but for Latin America two questions remain. Would they have done better to have imported more Europeans from Northern Europe than the Mediterranean? Can they get their europeans to create European style democracies, with equivalent levels of wealth and social benefits?

Argentina is looking up at the moment, or so its harassed citizens believe, but the quality of the new government will be tested severely over the next few years.

Meanwhile, the concrete pillar with the beach shower got knocked down a week ago. It snapped clean over, showing the green garden hose in the middle of the concrete. The beach chair man said that a lorry from the Municipality came and smashed it over, by mistake it was presumed, though opinions differed. Current popular estimates for its replacement run into the middle of 2017. The Municipality is bankrupt, and the new administration (right of centre) which was voted in last August cannot do anything until they receive the January local taxes. The Gorriti island lights have been turned off to save electricity, thus disappointing all walkers and diners on the Rambla. Worse, there is still no Government marijuana. They are planting some best-quality Government weed somewhere in the interior, but none of it is ready, and may indeed never be ready. Perhaps none has really been planted. No-one knows, because they are all on free-enterprise marijuana. Bolivar would not be surprised.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Adam Perkins corrects Jonathan Portes


CORRECTION: The ONS weblink from 6th October 2015 which Mr Portes claimed was Dr Perkins’s data source for the numbers of children in working, mixed and workless households is incorrect since The Welfare Trait was printed in September 2015 and was published in November 2015. This timeline makes it impossible for the book to have cited ONS source data from 6th October 2015. The actual source data used by Dr Perkins in The Welfare Trait was published by the ONS on 25th March 2014 and is shown at the ONS weblink below (see dataset ref 002530).

As can be seen at this weblink, line 11 of the Excel spreadsheet states “Households here refer to those where at least one occupant is aged 16-64 and at least one occupant is aged 0-15”. This fact renders incorrect Mr Portes’s allegation that the ONS source data used by Dr Perkins does not contain the information that each household shown contained “at least one occupant is aged 0-15”.