Intelligence (IQ) And Public Policy

By George Noga

Mokita – Something we all Know but Won’t Discuss

This is the second of two posts dealing with IQ; the first is on our website; it revealed the radically transformed role of IQ in our private lives.

This post undauntedly goes where few have gone before, the role of IQ in public policy. In Papua New Guinea their Kivila language has a word, Mokita, which describes a truth we all know but agree not to talk about. So it is with IQ.

“A mokita is a truth we all know but agree not to talk about.”

So why does MLLG go there now; why not leave well enough alone? The US public policy debate has become atrophied and twisted by myth and political correctness. Many of our biggest social and economic problems (education, poverty, homelessness, et seq.) are much more accurately defined and explained by IQ than by any other cause.

Before we can begin to solve such problems, we must understand them and be willing to look for solutions where the data lead. What follows is a fact-based and principled look at IQ and public policy in America.

Psychometrics of IQ in America

We are a nation of 310 million; that means about 2.5%, or 8 million of us, have IQ below 70 which is two standard deviations (“SD”) below the norm. Another 30 million have IQ between 70 and 80.

An IQ below 70 means significant limitations in two or more areas and de facto retardation. IQ between 70 and 80 means trouble with everyday demands such as filling out routine forms; such people have borderline retardation and limited trainability. Those 40 million Americans with IQ of 80 or less are the focus of public policy questions in this post.

The Role of IQ in Public Policy

Jumping straightaway to the ineluctable point, IQ should inform our public policies where applicable. Today we not only ignore IQ, we are loath even to talk about it and quick to castigate the few intrepid souls who dare raise the issue.

Every measure of social pathology is strongly correlated with low IQ. Poverty, unemployment, welfare, poor parenting, crime, injury, delinquency, drug abuse, illegitimacy, child neglect and even incivility are inexorably and directly linked.

The converse is true of those with high IQ; they manifest virtually no social pathologies including every one of the aforementioned listed supra. Let’s touch briefly on just three areas where policy should be informed by IQ: poverty, education and homelessness. Of course, criminal justice, the drug war and many other areas of public policy also are impacted.

“Poverty, unemployment, welfare, bad parenting, homelessness, crime, injury, delinquency, drug abuse, illegitimacy, child neglect, incivility and all other social pathologies are strongly correlated with low IQ.”

Poverty: The true level of poverty in America, as defined by those who experience material hardship, i.e. lack the resources to meet basic needs for healthy living including food, shelter, clothing and medical care, is only 2% to 3% of the population. Of the people government classifies as being in poverty, two-thirds (67%) by their own reports suffer no material hardships; in addition, another 17% are illegal aliens. When we subtract those two cohorts, the computed result is eight million people living legally in America who suffer material hardships. These eight million people who experience material hardships are substantially the same eight million cohort with IQ below 70. It seems clear enough; poverty at its root is not primarily an economic or social problem, it is one of low IQ that demands entirely different solutions.

George Noga

Education: What if the vast majority of children in the very worst schools had sub 70 (or sub 80) IQ? There is  no amount of spending that could make a difference. Contrary to public perception, Head Start is a failure; it achieves only short-term gains, all of which disappear by third grade. What is bien entendu is no way ever has been demonstrated permanently to raise IQ. Programs like Head Start only raise performance up to the level of a student’s inherent capability as circumscribed by IQ. Throwing unlimited money at schools with low IQ students is ineffective. Remember, these are kids who are either retarded or have difficulty filling out a form. If we honestly recognized the situation, we could craft better approaches. We are not doing justice to the very kids we are trying to help and all because we find truth uncomfortable.

Homelessness: This is open and shut; today no one in America is homeless absent social pathologies. That explains why the media go into a frenzy whenever they think they find a mainstream family in that circumstance. Because both homelessness and low IQ involve pathologies, it seems clear enough that homelessness results from low IQ; government agencies now understand this but aren’t willing to extend this knowledge to poverty and education.

Implications and Solutions – Private and Public

Let’s distinguish between private and public behavior. Individuals (liberal and conservative) readily understand the increasing role of IQ in achieving success. People want smart kids and make their marriage and parenting decisions accordingly.

The market value of IQ is soaring and differences between elites and others are turning into a chasm. Something must be done about this cavernous cognitive and cultural divide before we soon inhabit a brave new world in which vastly outnumbered Alphas become isolated in communities surrounded by razor wire to protect against the Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons bent on their destruction. It already is happening in much of the world and the trend is well underway in the USA.

“We must not shirk from the truth even when it is radioactive.”

In the public sphere, we must change the culture to value truth above all else and not to shirk when it is uncomfortable – even radioactive. None of our worst problems will be solved with myths and political correctness. We must craft approaches and solutions to real problems based on real causes. We can improve failing schools, poverty and other problems only if and when we are honest. Failure to bridge this cognitive/cultural chasm will come at a steep price indeed.

“Everyone needs a valued place in society and to live on a human scale in a community without complex rules in a culture emphasizing virtue.”

There are other things government and society can do to shrink the cognitive-cultural divide and to permit everyone a valued place in America; these actions include:

  1. Restore and emphasize local neighborhoods and communities;
  2. Vastly reduce and simplify laws, rules and regulations to make it easy for people to live;
  3. Make it easier to earn a living;
  4. Facilitate living a virtuous life including restoration of marriage and, above all;
  5. Everyone, regardless of cognitive ability, should have a valued place in society.

Mokita harms those who practice it because they fundamentally are dishonest; the greatest toll however is on those we purport to shield via vapid political correctness. Of course, all the while we engage in mokita publicly, we privately practice selective marriage and breeding. After all, we certainly don’t want political correctness to interfere with our own family, do we?

Credits and source notes: Charles Murray’s books “The Bell Curve” and “Coming Apart” were the source of ideas and data about the role of intelligence as was “The Global Bell Curve” by Richard Lynn. In addition, I read numerous scholarly journal articles in 2008-09 while researching a chapter about IQ for a book on family history.


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