IQ and Industrialism

My recent post on demographic myths unleashed a lively discussion on the issue of race and IQ in the comments section. I’m not too interested in wading into it: not out of any misplaced respect for political correctness, of course, but simply because though I think there are good arguments for both sides, it misses the largest issue. On the one hand, that there exist differences in measured IQ between races in the US and between nations is beyond dispute, and there is strong evidence to suggest that IQ is a strongly hereditary trait. On the other hand, one must also keep in mind that culture plays an indelible role on the formation and very definition of IQ. One striking demonstration of this is a “similarities test” administered by Michael Cole on members of the Kpelle tribe in Liberia, in which they were asked to group objects into categories such as food, tools, etc. They chose functional pairings – e.g. knife and potato, because a knife could not not cut a spoon – because a “Wise man could do such-and-such”. It was only when the researchers asked “How would a fool do it” that the tribesmen rearranged the items into their “correct” categories. So can the Kpelle really be called dumb? Isn’t their form of intelligence, though demented in the eyes of industrial man, actually eminently suited for their natural environment?

However, once upon a time, European peoples too had this psychology. Throughout the world the illiterate peasant tended to be dull, uninquisitive, childlike. (In stark contrast to the slick, lettered, cosmopolitan city-dweller). For instance, in an earlier post I mentioned the article Reconsidering Weber: Literacy and the Spirit of Capitalism by Russian sociologist Andrey Korotayev.

Literacy does not simply facilitate the process of perceiving innovation by an individual. It also changes her or his cognition to a certain extent. [A study by Soviet psychologists on Central Asians during the 1930's] shows that education has a fundamental effect on the formation of cognitive processes (perception, memory, cognition). The researchers found out that illiterate respondents, unlike literate ones, preferred concrete names for colors to abstract ones, and situative groupings of items to categorical ones (note that abstract thinking is based on category cognition). Furthermore, illiterate respondents could not solve syllogistic problems like the following one – “Precious metals do not get rust. Gold is a precious metal. Can gold get rust or not?”. These syllogistic problems did not make any sense to illiterate respondents because they were out of the sphere of their practical experience. Literate respondents who had at least minimal formal education solved the suggested syllogistic problems easily (Luria 1974, 1976, 1982: 47–69).

Therefore, literate workers, soldiers, inventors and so on turn out to be more effective than illiterate ones not only due to their ability to read instructions, manuals, and textbooks, but also because of the developed skills of abstract thinking…

So, 1970’s Kpelle = 1930’s Central Asians? Now fast forward to today. Many Central Asians are Turkic, and their level of social development – if not economic development (due to an adverse geography and a socialist legacy) – is similar to Turkey’s. The Turks are estimated to have a national IQ of 85-90; not retarded, but substantially less intelligent than average Europeans and East Asians. For instance, the IQ of the US is estimated to be around 10 points higher. But if American children during the 1930’s had taken the IQ tests of the 1990’s, it is estimated they’d have performed about 20-25 points lower (that’s like today’s India or Brazil, or 10 points lower than Turks)! This is explained by the rapid secular rise in intelligence during the past century called the Flynn Effect.

iq-world-map

[Map of world IQ (Richard Lynn & Tatu Vanhanen, 2002). Click to enlarge.]

Such an increase is beyond the power of genetics. According to Flynn – and I find this to be convincing – his effect can be ascribed to the environmental changes produced by modernization and the industrial system. He cites the following example: in response to the question “What do a dog and a rabbit have in common?”, whereas a modern respondent would say they are both mammals (abstract answer), someone from a century ago might say that one would catch rabbits with dogs (a concrete or functional answer). It would appear that it’s not so much general IQ that has improved – though probably it did too thanks to better nutrition – but the specialized IQ (abstract, categorizing) that is needed to sustain an industrial system.

But I’d prefer to imagine it in the following way. Think of the brain as hardware. Just as human races* possess various skin colors and physiologies that have evolved over eons in their environments, so it is likely that there appeared subtle racial variations in the genetic component of intelligence. To take a (very idealized) example, it would seem intuitive that someone descended from “hunters” would have a predilection for motor skills (to chuck spears at prey), while someone whose distant ancestors were “gatherers” would be relatively more adept at pattern recognition (to notice berries and be able to tell which are poisonous and which are not).

Nonetheless, three factors would mitigate these differences. First, the human species is very mixed and interbred; apart from small groups that spent a long time in isolation (such as the Tasmanian aborigines), inter-racial distinctions are unlikely to be very sharp. Second, the brain’s hardware works much more effectively if properly maintained; to that end, improvements in nutrition would have the effect of raising IQ levels, especially from the lower end of the scale (as indeed happened in the US during the 20th century). Third, and most importantly, the actual software of intelligence – the intangible of culture and memetics, which is a product of an (ever-changing) environment – has been evolving far, far faster than the hardware. Whatever their racial differences, a Gaelic office worker has far more in common with an ethnic !Kung physicist living in Ireland (mentally, psychologically) than with his own ancestors of a mere century ago.

Peasants and hunter-gatherers may not have much skill in abstract thinking, but they do tend to be intimately aware of the world around them and cognizant of things that will help them get food on the table or cure a sickness. Today’s Arabs in the Middle East may score low on IQ tests and have the lowest literacy rates outside sub-Saharan Africa – even bin Laden complained that more books are translated into Spanish every year than have ever been translated into Arabic! – but many of them are phenomenal mentats who can recite the Koran from cover to cover (if not necessarily actually read the script!). Very impressive, but not that useful for building an industrial base, let alone an innovation economy. As for the typical Westerner, unlike a few decades ago – or unlike today’s Russians, for that matter, who still memorize Pushkin and Lermontov by heart at school – he or she can’t recite a single classical poem. But Westerners are unparalleled at creating and inventing new products and services in the unfolding Information Age…

Why have some human societies been much more successful at industrializing and modernizing than others? The roots are unlikely to be racial differences in IQ. The work of people like David Landes or Jared Diamond explains this better…

Furthermore, the link between modernization and IQ is not one way. The main determinant of long-term economic growth is a country’s human capital (see 1, 2, 3), which for the most part consists of the educational attainment of its population, which in turn is strongly correlated with its level of national IQ**.

 education-capital

[In my old post Education as the Elixir of Growth, I worked out a Human Capital Index for a range of countries - based on things such as literacy, international standardized test scores (which are closely correlated with national IQ) and tertiary enrollment - and plotted them against their levels of GDP per capita. Red dots are countries with a socialist legacy and are below the level they are expected to be at; green dots are countries propelled into being upper outliers by virtue of resource windfalls, such as Saudi Arabia. Cyan dots are all other outliers. Click to enlarge.]

education-growth

[Countries are marked by GDP / capita growth rates from 1997 to 2007. The colors go as follows: white (1.0-1.9%); yellow (2.0-2.9%); orange (3.0-3.9%); red (4.0-5.9%); dark red (6.0%-7.9%) and black (8.0%-14.9%). GDP per capita figures (on the y-axis) are for 1997 – this is because what we are interested in is the influence of education levels on future growth, which we know for the period from 1997 up until today. Unfortunately, educational stats for 1997 are much less comprehensive (PISA and TIMMS embraced much fewer countries then), plus it would take a lot of time digging them up – hence I made a rough assumption that they were the same as for 2007 (which is fairly accurate - it is impossible to radically change a country's human capital profile within the space of a single decade). Note how almost all the fastest-growing countries were well below the logical level dictated by their human capital potential. Click to enlarge.]

This, incidentally, explains my fundamental optimism about the long-term prospects of China and Russia (1, 2) – and my pessimism on India and Brazil. (Amongst the Economist-reading class which thinks liberal democracy is a panacea the impression tends to be the inverse). In summary:

  • China is the biggest creditor and set to become the world’s biggest manufacturer in 2011; though its level of tertiary attainment is still low, it has good basic education and a high national IQ. Russia has superb human capital, energy windfall and fiscal firepower. Similar things can be said for most of the rest of Eastern Europe, East Asia and Eurasia.
  • Many Indians remain functionally illiterate; though Brazil has progressed further, international standardized tests confirm its woeful educational standards. Similar things can be said about most of the rest of Latin America, South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. These regions are unlikely to converge to developed levels anytime soon.
  • In the West itself, the Flynn Effect has stalled and may even have gone into slow retreat – in any case, human capital development is no longer a driver of growth. Meanwhile, it faces many challenges, such as fiscal (un)sustainability and aging populations. It will remain near the theoretical upper boundaries of development, but these boundaries are likely to start contracting in the years ahead under the pressures of energy depletion.

None of this is due to the fact that Estonians or Chinese are “superior” to Indians or Germans. These are deep structural factors we’re talking about. Quite simply, unlike Mexicans, the former have the type of culture, education, IQ (call it what you will) that will enable them to sustain a developed techno-industrial base. According to the results of the PISA 2006 standardized tests in science, only 15% of Brazilians, 11% of Indonesians, 18% of Mexicans and 22% of Turks possessed skills beyond those needed for purely linear problem-solving, in contrast to 40% of Israelis, 48% of Russians, 51% of Americans, and 68% of Koreans. In other words, the latter nations have about 2-5x as many cadres capable of moving into hi-tech and high added-value manufacturing or services as the former. Is it really a logical leap then to consider their long-term development prospects that much brighter?

Likewise, the reason that Russians and Chinese will gain on Germans and Americans is also simple – the former have the capacity to absorb modern productivity-enhancing technologies, whereas the latter are already developed. This is just catch-up growth. Interestingly, I suspect that their catch-up will be very rapid in historical perspective due to 1) the economic waning of the Western world due to unsustainable fiscal policies, debt and rising costs of energy inputs and 2) the unprecedented ease of technology transfer (and theft!) bequeathed by the Internet.

In the near future, there will appear definite limits to further growth of the global techno-industrial base. Consequently, in a globalized world in which capital resources flow to where they can produce the greatest returns, we can expect nations like China to expand their share of global manufacturing to levels commensurate with their skilled industrial workforces. In fact, this seems to have been the case in the oil shock-induced crisis of 2008-2009: for instance, whereas global vehicle production fell by 14%, it expanded by a blistering 48% (!) in China, which now accounts for nearly a quarter of world output.

* Yes, I realize some scientists deny race and prefer to talk of genotypes, phenotypes and clines. For the sake of clarity, I’ll use the term “race” with the understanding that it is highly qualified.

** See my first post Education as the Elixir of Growth for the original argument. I didn’t bother connecting education with national IQ there, though I was familiar with their close relation, because I didn’t want to incite controversy. (Now I realize that’s a bad idea for a popular blogger!). In the last comment Steve Sailer made the connection explicit.

Comments

  1. While technological and industrial progress and developments may boost some cognitive processes in some people, at the same time it degrades others. Look at Internet: reading some comments, you think to yourself “where did you guys go to school?” The grammar is non existent. I notice that in Russian as well as English comments. I understand that people are in a hurry and those are just plain comments, but it migrates to real life and folks start writing like this in letters and essays. Same with text messages. Fast and short texts make us forget how to spell correctly. So, industrialism and overall progress is not always an IQ booster.

    • The Flynn Effect stopped at around the late 1980’s or 1990’s, and may have gone into decline. So IQ increase has become de-synced from technological progress, at least for the time being. I don’t think the Internet has anything to do with it, I think the potentialities of “industrial IQ” have simply become exhausted.

      I don’t really see a problem with the rise of 1337speak. The emphasis on correct spelling and impeccable grammar is very much a product of the industrial system which seeks to standardize and regiment everything. Under the conditions of post-industrialism these standards are becoming obsolete and others should be encouraged to take their place: creativity, innovation, inter-connections, etc.

  2. georgesdelatour says:

    I think this is the UK story you were referring to:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/4548943/British-teenagers-have-lower-IQs-than-their-counterparts-did-30-years-ago.html

    So why the IQ decline? Is it – as the article suggests – that the 14-year olds of 2008 have changed cultural attitudes from the 14-year olds of 1980. Or is it that the 14-year olds of 2008 have different genetic origins from the 14-year olds of 1980? Probably a mix of both.

    Culturally, the bad can drive out the good. As Quentin Crisp said, “don’t keep up with the Joneses – drag them down to your level!”. I remember the UK used to be the only country in the world with soccer hooligans. But gradually we taught the rest of the world how to do hooliganism properly. Now the Turks and the Poles are much better at it than we are!

    • I think the small downwards drift in IQ is partly due to the decline of the work ethic and intellectual curiosity in Britain during the last generation. (The same thing has happened in most other developed countries, including even Japan if the film Battle Royale is anything to go by! ;) ). As you can probably feel there is a very strong anti-intellectual atmosphere in Britain, a strong contrast from the 1980’s, especially amongst the middle class.

      We can find the inverse of these trends elsewhere. E.g., the main reason Asians have higher IQ’s than whites in the US is that they are simply a lot more driven to succeed by their parents; socio-psychologically, they are where whites were during the 1950’s. They study hard, intelligence is respected not dissed. The same dynamic works amongst diaspora Jews. However, contrary to the stereotypes, Jews are not innately brilliant – Israel* has a relatively low IQ and standardized test scores relative to other developed countries.

      * Of course it’s a complicated picture there, with Sephardi Jews and Arabs diluting the higher IQ’s of Ashkenazim Jews. Nonetheless, even if you only consider the latter, their performance would still be on the scale of an average north European country.

      • georgesdelatour says:

        Anatoly

        What is the clearest evidence of the decline of the USA? The size of the deficit? Reverses in Afghanistan? No.

        Massively – repeat massively – the clearest evidence that America is in decline is the huge commercial success of the Black Eyed Peas song “I Gotta Feeling”. It’s not just that the song is dumb and it got to Number One. Dumb songs have always got to number one – for brief moments. But this is an exceptionally dumb song that stayed at number one for ages. It has gone on to become the fifth most popular song in American history. For the listeners who put it there, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” must feel as difficult, complicated and unapproachable as the late Beethoven string quartets felt to the average Simon and Garfunkel listener in 1970.

        It feels as if Black eyed Peas wrote the song just to prove Adorno’s theory of the “regression of hearing” right.

      • As you said Israel has a lot of Arabs, Sephardi Jews, pure Russians and especially many mixed groups. Pure Ashkenazi Jews account for about 20% – and they are the ones who made Israel the high-tech superpower it is today. So Israel’s average IQ means nothing.
        All the studies conducted in Europe and America has shown that Ashkenazi Jews are indeed (on average) a lot smarter than West Europeans and East Asians. (You can also check the noble prize winners list for proof).

        • How many Ashkenazim were there before the Nazis killed (let’s take the most ‘official’ number) 6 million of them? I just looked and found that they apparently were about 10 million Ashkenazim in 1900, which happens to be just as they are today (out of 13 million Jews total or so). So let’s say, for the sake of the argument, that after the wave of Pogroms and anti-Jewish legislation (the ‘May Laws’) in the Russian empire beginning in the 1880s; after Drumont published his “La France juive” which became a huge continental best-seller, and created the Antisemitic League of France in 1889; after also, still in France, the Dreyfus Affair that lasted from 1894 to 1906 and showed significant mass popular hostility towards Jews – leading Hertzl to abandon all hope of Jewish assimilationism in favor of Zionism -; after the largely Jewish-led Bolshevik revolution in Russia in 1917, and Germany’s defeat in 1918 being blamed by its then last de facto supreme leader Ludendorff as caused by a treason, a stab in the back, of which Jews, along with socialists, etc. were the first to blame; and after the rise and seizure of power of Hitler in 1933, how many intelligent and wealthy Ashkenazim would still be in Europe in 1935 when the Nuremberg laws were proclaimed, or 1939 at the declaration of war, or in 1942 when the death camps began fully operating (if my memory serves correct)? Could it be that, on average, those who managed to be spared by sensing something bad was on the way, fleeing during the initial developments, successfully hiding if they had stayed too long already, or what not, and got away and lived, had a quite significantly higher mean IQ than that of those who didn’t? If so, wouldn’t anyone expect the removal of the lower IQ’d (I’m simplifying a bit but you get my point) 60% of a population to have a drastic positive impact on the mean IQ of the remaining group? It’s a bit strange to have to state something this obvious…

          As for getting so many Nobel Prizes and the such, Jews being concentrated in the most influential contemporary urban settings, constituting a minority of persons with a highly salient sense of identity and common history as well as destiny, and hence practices a radical degree of solidarity whenever not detrimental to one’s own self-interest, etc. all account for it quite easily I believe. I bet an important % of the past century’s Jewish Nobel prize recipients come out of say 3 or 4 cities (e.g. Vienna, Berlin, Paris, and New-York, or something of the kind) and that you can trace networks within each of their discipline where you’ll find a bunch of them, even knowing them long before they get the prize helping each other out getting professorships and passing to each other the most useful of other people’s work for the advancement of their own so that they can produce something shiny quick, which will then be presented to the folks in the Nobel Committee which previous winners will have done their best to bond with when they were awarded their own prize. I mean, just classic networking, clique, minority, sectarian behavior. Whole bookshelves have been written on that; the first line of work relating to it coming to me now being Serge Moscovici’s on minority influence. There’s a lot more where that came from (Randall Collins’ “Sociology of Philosophy” is a cool one too, which pertains; there’s a whole lot in the field of elite theory as well, with Pareto, Mosca, Michels, and their successors; many works explicitly claiming to be of the field of social psychology also delve into it, and on and on). Just saying.

  3. georgesdelatour says:

    BTW Anatoly, where is the Russian education system at now? In the Communist days, the impression we had in the west was that it was brilliant at selecting out brilliant research scientists, concert pianists, chess grand masters, ballet dancers and gymnasts who were the envy of the world. We had no idea how good it was at educating the average Russian citizen. What’s happened since?

    • Russia’s results on international standardized tests are very similar to what you get in the USA. Whereas some like to speak of an educational collapse in Russia after the USSR, the stats don’t really bear them out – the overall picture is one of stagnation (except in tertiary enrollment which has risen substantially).

      The main problem there is of course the work ethic and anti-intellectualism, which if anything appeared even earlier (and to a deeper extent) than what is now happening in the West.

      • Some random thoughts on Russian education:

        1. Cheating and bribery are said to be rampant at all levels. However, such things also existed in the Soviet period. My wife attended a reasonably prestigious univ. in Moscow in the 1980s, and she said that practically everybody cheated, hard scientists included.

        2. Title inflation obscures the true nature of Soviet education. In the USSR, any tech worker capable of repairing a radio could be described as an “engineer.” The USSR churned out more “engineers” than probably anywhere else on earth, but an inspection of that country’s infrastructure and machinery would cast doubt on the quality of those engineers. (The situation was similar in medicine – I believe Adomanis had a post on that a while back)

        3. Anti-intellectualism: almost all the young people I’ve met are studying some “practical” subject (accounting, marketing, business, law etc.), and few of them seem to have serious intellectual interests. In Soviet times, I met people who studied English because they wanted to read English literature in the original, or they wanted access to material they couldn’t get in Russian. Now, I meet people who study English because they want to do business.

        4. The negative comments above do not contradict the fact that there were and are genuinely brilliant and intellectually engaged people in Russia. After all, the great Russian intellectual tradition didn’t come out of nowhere. However, this tradition has been withering under the usual forces: consumerism, market forces, brain drainage, and demographic trends.

        • I agree – this is a fair and well-balanced account. It’s interesting to observe that all of these four features can also be observed, to varying degrees, not only in Russia and Eastern Europe, but in the West. Especially 3) – most of the scientific disciplines are in collapse. The only two major exceptions are Computer Science (kickass leaving salaries) and Math (gateway to investment banking & finance).

          • Scowspi says:

            Coincidentally I’ve recently read some material from scientists, warning American students not to go into science as a career; very difficult to make a living in those fields now. I don’t think even Computer Science is good anymore – don’t they send all those jobs to India now?

  4. I do not think China is much better off than India in the literacy department. Their official numbers are higher, of course – but the Chinese fudge their numbers. I recall a story an old Chinese professor told me about the literacy tests he had seen in rural China – recognize 100 characters, said he, and they counted you literate. Most first year Chinese students can write at least 200 characters; Japanese college entry examines require testers to know upwards 2,400.

    • To the best of my knowledge, pretty much all national literacy tests are very simple. Look at the YouTube comments – do you really think America has a 99% literacy rate? ;) But more seriously, I remember a study showing that in the US around 25% of the population is functionally illiterate. If you’re going to be using more stringent standards for China, it would have to apply to all other countries and literacy rates will start dropping everywhere.

      I agree with you, however, that gauging China’s human capital is very challenging. There are simply no good stats. On the one hand, the ethnic Chinese from Taiwan and Hong Kong ace the international standardized tests (PISA, TIMMS, PIRLS) and are estimated to have IQ’s of around 106, which are substantially higher than European peoples who average around 100. However, there are no such test scores from the PR China (as opposed to individual regions like Shanghai and Beijing which although very high are not representative of the country). But on the other hand, the Chinese data on enrollment indicates that the amount of schooling its children get is roughly equivalent to countries like Turkey or Indonesia. Its level of tertiary enrollment is pretty low at around 20%, compared to 50-80% in developed nations. More work needs to be done to find out whether the Chinese labor force is more Korean or more Turkish, or somewhere in the middle. I lean towards the “middle”. Across China as a whole today, average IQ is probably at around 95-100 (which is about the same as displayed by San Francisco’s Chinatown residents in 1975).

      I think India’s human capital is almost certainly well below China’s. According to some numbers thrown out in Amartya Sens’ Development as Freedom, almost half of India’s children are malnourished (for comparative purposes this is equivalent to the rate in late Tsarist Russia!), which will inevitably tell on average IQ levels. Speaking of which, while the evidence is hardly conclusive, they do seem to be much lower than China’s. I don’t always agree with Steve Sailer, but I think he does not excellent job of summarizing China/India differences in Interesting India, Competitive China and Lynn’s Race Differences in Intelligence: PC Won’t Make Them Go Away.

  5. Scowspi says:

    On the general subject of human capital and those who comment on it, I enjoyed this pessimistic take perhaps a bit more than I should have:

    http://www.fredoneverything.net/Commentators.shtml

    “Liberal commentators want everyone to go to college, when about a fifth of people have the brains. Conservatives think that people can rise by hard work and sacrifice as certainly many people have. Thing is, most people can’t. Commentators only see those who made it.

    “The tendency of the Beltway 99th to live in an imaginary world, of conservatives to think that everybody can be a Horatio Alger, of liberals to believe that inequality arises from discrimination, guarantees wretched policy. Those who can do almost anything need to recognize the existence of those who can do almost nothing. Few of the latter are parasites. The waitress has worked all her life, as has the truck driver. They ended up with nothing.”

    • Scowspi, I never read this Fred guy before and may well not like most of the stuff he writes, but that blog post was excellent. Thank for the link! As someone who lived in the DC area for thirteen years I can attest that much of what Fred wrote is right on the money. And, of course, it’s not only DC.

      On the subject of education: my daughter just graduated from High School here in Vermont. While thinking of her public school education, I have to say that although I’m not impressed by the depth of the education she received, for the most part I’m grateful for the teachers she had. Although limited by the official curriculum and bureaucracy, several of those teachers were able to stimulate their students with intellectual curiosity and thirst for knowledge. They encouraged their students to go on their own beyond the curriculum. Bad teachers are bad not only because they teach their subject badly, but because they turn off students from the subject they are teaching. (My daughter had a few bad teachers, but, fortunately, not many.)

  6. My hastily-written and not-too-much-thought-out comments:

    It seems to me that in some respects Brazil has an advantage vs. Russia. Assuming the PISA score is a valid measure of linear thinking, 15% of Brazilians possess skills beyond linear poblem-solving sufficent to maintain a complex technological society (versus 48% of Russians). Brazil’s population, currently comparable to that of Russia (about 180 vs. 150 million), is growing while Russia’s is shrinking (not as catastrophically as some Westerners write, but still). Eventually, even if the percentage of those who are educated within the general Brazilian population improves only modestly, the number of educated Brazilians will surpass that of educated Russians. At the same time, the large pool of less educated people should not be seen as too much of a disadvantage. Their presence means that Brazil will maintain demographic health and will always have a large internal pool of people from which to draw “first generation” intellectuals. For similar reasons India seems healthier than China, long-term.

    Moreover, unlike India Brazil is blessed with plenty of land and natural resources to sustain its growing population. Indeed, in some respects Brazil is reminiscent of tsarist, Stolypin era Russia with a well-educated upper tier, expanding/industrializing/modernizing economy, and unlike in later Soviet times a demographically healthy expanding population base.

    • Scowspi says:

      Actually, your comment reminds me of a joke Brazilians like to tell about themselves: “Brazil is the country of the future – and always will be!”

    • I completely disagree.

      First, ignorance really isn’t strength. As you well know, Tsarist Russia lost the war to Germany, which had less than half as many people but far more educated and competent ones. За одного битого двух небитых дают. ;)

      Second, we don’t live in Idiocracy either. Brazil had a fertility rate of 1.88 children per woman in 2008 (that’s slightly below replacement level rates). Much, much better educated Finland had a fertility rate of 1.85 children per woman in 2008.

      • Maybe you’re right abut Brazil – it was a quick comment of my mine. About Tsarist Russia, though – don’t fall into the Russophobic myths about its performance during World War I. It singlehandedly defeated two of the 3 central powers. The Brusilov offensive broke the Austro-Hungarian Army, largely reducing that country to a dependency of Germany. Compared to the British failure of Gallipoli, Russia was in control of about 1/4 of Ottoman territory in the east and prior tot he Revolution its forces there had just beaten back a major Turkish assault. Look up the Kerensky offensive to see that Russia still had offesnive capabilities vs. Germany just before the Revolution took it out of the war. As for the Russian “cannon fodder” perceptioons in the west – feel free to double check but my impression is that Russian WWI casualties were lower than those of the western Allies engaging in trench warfare in the West, if not in total number then certainly in terms of percentage of men taking the field.

        Basically Russia left the war due to internal collapse not because it was defeated externally.

        • Just to add links (wikipedia, whch is the easiest) and numbers to my claims about the Russophobic myth of Tsarist Russia’s military being a horde of incompetent cannon fodder during World War I. In terms of casualties, military + civilian Russia lost 1.8% of its population during World War I. This compares to 4.29% for France, 2.19% for the UK, 3.05% for Austria-Hungary, 3.82% for Germany and over 13% for the Ottoman Empire. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I_casualties#Casualties_by_1914_borders

          In comparison to most of the other countries, Russia had many more civilian casualties, thus the military fatalities per population are even more in Russia’s favor.

          As for Russia’s performance, it totally crushed the Austrian military during the Brusilov offensive (500,000 Russian casualties vs. 1.5 million Austrian casualties). Brusilov pioneered the “shock” tactics that differed from the human wave attacks usually employed during the war by the other powers, and which would be eventually adopted during World War II. Read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brusilov_offensive

          The Russians also convincingly and regularly defeated the Ottomans, such as during their successful Trebizond Campaign in April 1916 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trebizond_Campaign) and their defeat of the Ottoman forces under the future Ataturk when they attempted to counterattack. The full story is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caucasus_Campaign#1916

          Russia performed less well vs. Germany, but so did everyone else. But even against Germany, tsarist Russian forces maintained a stalemate after having lost central Poland and Lithuania and even pulled off an offensive tht simply disintegrated due to desertions etc. caused in large part to the post-tsarist government’s refusal to execute soldiers who desert on the battlefield:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerensky_Offensive

          Basically, Tsarist Russia did not do too badly, militarily, during World War I.

      • According to the CIA worldfactbook:

        https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2127rank.html

        The total fertility rate for Brazil in 2010 was 2.19, compared to 1.41 for Russia (and 1.73 for Finland).

        In terms of birth rate per 1,000 population, it was 18.11 for Brazil and 11.11 for Russia (and 10.37 for Finland) in 2010.

        At some point, assuming even modest gains in education in Brazil, the numbers of educated Brazilians will surpass those of educated Russians even if they as a percentage of the overall Brazilian population do not surpass that of Russia. My impression from working closely with Latino colleagues is that South American society generally, traditionally, does closely resemble that of pre-revolutionary Russia (this is even reflected in the literatures, not to mention educated Latino affinity for the Russian classics) minus pre-Revolutionary Russia’s rapid industrialization and economic growth. If Brazil’s industrialization and modernization take root Brazil may serve as a hypothetical example of Russia could have become, and in a way – not exactly, of course, but to a certain extent – comparing Brazil to Russia would be akin to comparing pre to post Communist Russia.

  7. Kiwiguy says:

    Another line of argument on industrialism comes from Professor Greg Clark from UC Davis. Clark basically argues that the middle classes demographically enlarged and the poorer less productive groups declined in the lead up to the Industrial Revolution. Professor Steve Hsu discusses a recent paper summarising Clark’s views here.

    http://infoproc.blogspot.co.nz/2010/07/social-darwinism-21st-century-edition.html

    Hsu also has a post here about a similar process in Asia.

    http://infoproc.blogspot.co.nz/2011/08/demography-and-fast-evolution.html

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