Limits to Cognitive Elitism

This is a good anti-immigration argument that you see nowadays in those gray areas of online commentary that attempt to straddle that fine line that delineates barely acceptable from unacceptable discourse in respectable society.

Of course, very conveniently, very few Syrians – let alone Sub-Saharan Africans – would qualify, as pointed out by Steve Sailer and psychometricians like James Thompson and Heiner Rindermann.

It’s an argument I bought into myself for quite a few years. But I’m not really sure I do so nowadays. Here are a few reasons.

(1) Regression to the mean. This is the least important reason. It only happens once, and if the immigrants in question are at >125 IQs, their progeny are virtually guaranteed to continue to be well above average in the future (if not to as great an extent).

(2) Cognitive colonialism. Scouring the Third World of its already very limited stock of high IQ people will very seriously hamper their already dim development prospects. Sure, this will not have any discernible effect if you’re talking about China. 7% of the Chinese population, or ~100 million people of its 1350 million people, has a >125 IQ assuming a 103 average and S.D. = 15. But the equivalent figure for Syria, with its 81 average IQ, is 0.2%, or a mere 40,000 or so of its 20 million population. These tail effects will be all the more extreme for ~70 IQ Sub-Saharan Africans, of whom only 0.1% would qualify. Strip those societies of the cognitive elites they need to institute good policies that would make those countries more prosperous and habitable – and incidentally, less likely to generate massive refugee waves in the first place – and you end up creating only fairly marginal additional benefits to the already cognitively gifted First World. One could call this cognitive colonialism.

(3) Cultural bell curves. Societies can also differ cardinally from each other in terms of cultural values even if they have otherwise equal IQ levels. For instance, translated onto an IQ-like scale, there is possibly a greater than 1 S.D. difference between the Greeks and the Germans in terms of their future time orientation. Even though they have achieved similar levels of economic output per capita (since that depends very largely just on IQ), these differences in national time orientations arguably underlie much of the Eurozone’s economic dysfunction. The differences between Europeans and Arabs, or Europeans and Africans, will likely be all the more profound and not just in terms of time horizons but also in propensities towards violent crimeethnocentrism, and other cultural factors too subtle to measure or potentially even define.

(4) Ethnic capture. This is at the very border between edgy and taboo, between the academese of Amy Chua’s “market dominant minorities,” the quasi-academese of Kevin MacDonald’s (and W.D. Hamilton’s) “ethnic genetic interests,” and the decidedly non-academese of “Zionist Occupation Government” propounded by members of a certain weather related forum. But it’s worth mentioning at least in passing. The theory goes that certain ethnic groups, because of their above average levels of guile, intelligence, ethnic solidarity, and/or some combination thereof, can in effect “seize” or at least substantially influence their host country’s policies – and not always to the benefit of the indigenous population. Even if they are not successful at that they can still, by virtue of their cognitive elite status – and in the US, at least, policy always hews to the preferences of the cognitive elites, while the proles have to follow along – conceivably shift society’s mores and values in a direction deeply at odds with the wishes and desires of the indigenous population. In short, why risk even testing this theory out, if you don’t absolutely have to?

So overall that’s a pretty solid case if I do say so myself. More importantly, it covers pretty much all ideological bases. The first argument is just elementary biology. The second is progressive and anti-imperialist. The third is primarily cultural and should appeal somewhat to mainstream conservatives. The fourth I suspect is for people who let’s just say probably don’t need much convincing in the first place.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. But the equivalent figure for Syria is 0.2%, or a mere 40,000 or so of its population.

  2. A Foreign Observer says

    According to Wikipedia, the population of Syria is 17,951,639 -July 2014 estimate.

    So, 0.2% equals 36,000 people.

    AK: Thanks, fixed.

  3. I don’t think 3 is really cultural.

    For instance, translated onto an IQ-like scale, there is possibly a greater than 1 S.D. difference between the Greeks and the Germans in terms of their future time orientation.

    If Greek (say) society is different in the aforementioned respect, it likely differs in ways that compensate for any lack of genetically hard wired future time orientation in Greeks, in a more permissive social environment, Greeks could suffer downward assimilation (ie worse outcomes as they become assimilated) far greater that a 1 SD estimate based on them in their homeland would suggest. It’s naive rationalism to think you can predict how things will pan out when moving people to a cultural environment they are not adapted to.

  4. Stubborn in Germany says

    a certain weather related forum

    Made me chuckle 😉

    We all have our own brilliant ideas as to the best immigration policy, but hardly any of us agree.

    Perhaps a slight majority could be assembled to insist illegal immigration must end and most un-documenteds will be made to leave one way or another (in the U.S., that is; fat chance of getting that far in Germany haha).

    Beyond that, i.e., how much legal immigration, who and from where?

    Zero chance of obtaining consensus.

  5. I always figured we should just shut it down to give the new arrivals time to assimilate. We’ve done this after every major wave. And until they invented multiculturalism…it worked!

  6. Syria, with its 81 average IQ

    Actually, Syria’s average IQ is 79. Which is the lowest among middle easterners:

    On the other hand, of all the MENAs the Syrians (and Lebanese) are genetically and phenotypically closest to europeans.

    Btw, Steve Jobs biological father was a Syrian muslim immigrant and his biological mother was German-American. And Ashkenazi jews are more or less a levantine-euro hybrid. So, nothwithstanding simplistic HBD calculations, Germany may benefit from this influx after all.

  7. The children of post war Greek migrants to Australia don’t seem to have underperformed. These migrants were neither highly skilled nor educated, if anything the opposite. See the study below.
    I am skeptical of the value of comparing first world IQ scores to less developed regions. Post immigration sample offer a much more reliable indicator although it can be hard to account for selection effects.

    Kevin Marjoribanks, J. Biosoc. Sci. (1982) 14, 99-107

  8. East Asian are less anxious, more conformist personality profiles, which accepts orders from above, and less neurotic, especially in terms of critical thinking.

    This, in part, explains why they to do so well in school (as well woman). And that also explains why so many teachers are so conformist.

  9. Lebanon and Syria were same country for many time. Most of ”skilled” syrians is likely to immigrate to little and cosmopolitan Lebanon. Is like Washington and Western Virginia. Lebanon still is little and rich. Other problem is dysgenic effects caused by western medicine in region and any eugenic ideology in this region. Is like Western Virginia had suffered demographic swelling.

  10. silviosilver says

    There is not a single reasonable argument in favour mass immigration. Mass immigration is bullshit, complete bullshit, and nothing but complete bullshit. People who want more immigration have ulterior motives, which have nothing to do with the good of the country. That’s really all there is to say on the subject.

  11. You start with “mass immigration” and end with just “immigration” (or “more immigration”.) You need to define what “mass” means. Surely 1 million/year meets that bar, but what about 100/year? Where would you draw the line? Zero? Can you concede that this is partly about semantics?

    It is quite obvious that a sudden movement of large numbers of people will cause instability and ought to be avoided, but you treat immigration as an issue devised purely by the elites and for the elites when you say “people who want more immigration”. As if an immigrant were a widget being produced by an assembly line, to be released one-by-one or in spurts at the will of this evil shadowy elite! Think of immigrants as being flesh-and-blood human beings in their own right, with motives and aspirations of their own, and you’ll get a better sense of the migration challenge (I refuse to call it the “immigration” challenge, which implies that only the host country and people have anything to do with this issue.)

  12. Anatoly Karlin says

    I think having ~1-2% nationally and ~5% in the largest city(ies) is about the optimal figure. A Chinatown or two really does add value and (real) vibrancy.

    Aiming for absolute zero is counterproductive and I don’t think the sorts of regimes that will aim for this or be capable of this would be particularly desirable. That said, even that is preferable to total inundation.

  13. If you really think 1% is optimal, that would make you one of the most pro-immigration persons in the US today. Based on the statistics I have seen, the number of legal immigrants (green card recipients) is typically 1 million/year, and has never exceeded 1.8 million (which was an exceptional year, I think, just after the fall of the Berlin wall). 1% of the US population is more than 3 million.

    I admit to being puzzled by the current refugee crisis in Europe. Was it triggered by some policy change or announcement in the northern European countries (like Germany)? Were some rumors spread in the local media of the source countries indicating that emigration options were there for the taking? The current scramble has all the hallmarks of people trying to make use of opportunities (to escape to a rich country) while such opportunities exist. I am sure that most of those people think that there is a small window that will soon close, and they don’t want to be the suckers who got left out. Otherwise bona fide refugees from Syria ought to be pretty content with staying in Turkey until their country returns to some sort of a normal state.

  14. Anatoly Karlin says

    No no no I meant stocks not flows. Sorry about the confusion.

    Cap immigrant percentages at those levels and adjust/loosen immigration policy as needed. (In general it would have to be very tight).

  15. Hector_St_Clare says


    Cognitive colonialism is probably a big part of why East Germany’s economic performance was 50% behind the west. The generation born before the Berlin Wall had (according to the Lynn data) an IQ 10-13 points lower than West Germans, and I suspect that’s largely because the smartest 20% left for the west (though that could only explain about 35% of the difference- maybe babies born to rape-traumatized mothers explains the rest).

  16. Well, that is not all there is to say on the subject.

    There is significant fraction of people who think that national borders are bullshit, and I am pretty sure that faction is growing. I know their political influence is growing.

  17. silviosilver says

    Think of immigrants as being flesh-and-blood human beings in their own right, with motives and aspirations of their own, and you’ll get a better sense of the migration challenge

    Think of the people in the receiving country who have their lives upended and their culture diluted by the arrival of immigrant assholes who care next to nothing for them except what they can take them for and you’ll get a better sense of the immigration scam.

    As for where I’d draw the line, obviously I would not tolerate for a second a race-replacing Indian like you in any country whose immigration policy I was in charge of. I would do everything in my power to draw the line well before we arrive at the likes of you, however.

  18. silviosilver says

    I think having ~1-2% nationally and ~5% in the largest city(ies) is about the optimal figure. A Chinatown or two really does add value and (real) vibrancy.

    Have you given any consideration as to how you’d actually achieve this? It’s much easier said than done.

    Let’s say you institute the right immigration policy and you arrive at your 1-2% nationally and 5% in the largest city(ies). You then terminate the immigration policy that led to those proportions. Job done? No.

    In real life, people inhabiting the same territory, speaking the same language, growing into the same/similar cultural mold mix. Given enough time, they mix thoroughly. The initial 1-2% vanish into the larger population. You’ll then have to restart immigration again. And then same mixing process will repeat itself.

    Rinse and repeat a sufficient number of times and you’ll have achieved the same race-replacement effect your policy was initially intended to prevent, the only difference being the amount of time necessary to complete the replacement.

    It’s quite understandable why beneficiaries of that process are in favor of it, but what of the people being race-replaced by it? You know, people like you and those closest to you. Do you really look forward to a world in which there’s no one remotely resembling a Russian as we today know him inhabiting this planet? Does that really make you jump for joy? As in “Woohoo, no more us! Awesome! Now this is what I call real living! Breath it in people, this is the stuff of life!”

  19. race-replacing Indian like you

    Thanks, I’ll take that as a compliment. Though I said nothing about race or nationality, you choose to stoop to abuse. You are a seriously warped person, and some part of me feels sorry for you. I read some of your older posts and you present a very strange and unconvincing picture of how you became a “race realist”; I think it was in response to a comment by Ron Unz. It seems you obsess a lot about other people? Is that because your own life achievements leave much to be desired?

    As for me, I only care for individuals and not for any race, neither yours nor mine. And as an individual, you are a pretty execrable specimen, so never worry, I have no intention of emigrating anywhere, least of all any place you inhabit.

    Good day!

  20. Think of the people in the receiving country who have their lives upended and their culture diluted by the arrival of immigrant assholes

    Yes, how upsetting to see a bunch of people of a different skin color shopping at your local supermarket. Instead of straight away picking their favorite brand of cereal from the cereal aisle, these barbarians stand around actually considering what brand of cereal they ought to buy. Culture gone to the dogs! Bring out the smelling salts somebody!