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Deferred gratification – the basis of civilisation and progress?

Monday – Wednesday blog

Explanations or excuses?

It has become quite fashionable for much cleverer people than myself to write books explaining why some countries developed while others didn’t. The two books that I remember are Guns, Germs and Steel (1998) by Jared Diamond and Prisoners of Geography (2016) by Tim Marshall. Though I imagine there must be several more of their ilk. But writing this blog, I’ve just come across a book I’ve never read – The Intelligence of Nations (2019) by Richard Lynn and David Becker. The blurb on Amazon says:

Richard Lynn and David Becker update IQs for all nations in the world showing that they range from an average of 69 in sub-Saharan Africa to 105 in Northeast Asia. In addition, they summarize studies of the genetic and climatic causes of these IQ differences and also of their numerous educational, economic, sociological and demographic effects. They conclude by discussing the future of national IQs and argue that dysgenic fertility and immigration will reduce intelligence in the United States and Europe, leaving China to emerge as the world super-power in the second half of the twenty-first century

On Amazon, Guns Germs and Steel has 11,812 reader reviews, Prisoners of Geography has 18,660 reader reviews and The Intelligene of Nations has just 2 reader reviews, both very negative. There are two possible reasons for the disparity in the number of reader reviews. Perhaps The Intelligence of Nations is a lousy book which nobody bought? Or perhaps, people in today’s politically-correct, woke society are terrified of the thought that there might actually be marked differences between the IQs of different races and countries? After all, isn’t that the great taboo?

Why intelligence can differ

We all know that intelligence is a product of heredity and environment. We know that our characteristics are a result of our parents’ genes. Several top sportspeople are children of athletes. And children of academics and scientists tend to have higher IQs than average. Moreover, one’s environment will stimulate, or not, one’s intellectual development – someone brought up in a complex, technologically-advanced Western society is more likely to have a higher IQ than someone from an African village. Tests have shown, for example, that learning a musical instrument can boost a person’s IQ by up to 7 points and my personal belief (though I’ve never seen this mentioned anywhere) is that the higher IQ bell curve of the Chinese can be partially attributed to the complexity of the language children have to learn.

Why is this important?

Here’s a chart which claims to show the average IQ by country:

(left-click on chart, then left-click again to see more clearly)

I’ve recently been in a country where the average IQ is 88.6. It’s around 100 in most of Western Europe. And I’ve worked in over 15 countries around the world. The key difference I’ve noticed between higher IQ countries and those with lower scores is the ability to defer gratification. Let me try to explain:

  • a few years ago I featured a YouTube video made by a Chinese engineer who had been sent to work on a project in Africa. He was amazed at how the Africans had received so much from us supposedly ‘evil’ British colonizers – roads, railways, trains, hospitals, schools and much else – and how the Africans had allowed everything to rot away
  • if we compare a poor English village from a few hundred years ago with an African village today, the key difference would probably be that in the English village, the men would get together and decide to improve things like roads making it easier for that village to get its goods to market and create prosperity. In the African village, men mostly sit around all day chewing some local drug or drinking cheap alcohol while the women produce babies and farm a small patch of almost worthless scrubland. Nothing develops and nothing improves.
  • you’ll often see ads on daytime TV from charities showing how they’ve brought fresh water to poverty-stricked African villages. I suspect, though cannot prove, that as soon as the charity workers and film crew have gone, the local men dig up most of the metal piping and sell it for scrap plunging their village back into the poverty the fresh water could have helped them escape
  • I recently saw a documentary about South Africa’s ongoing collapse and Zimbabwification. One of the key reasons for the country’s economic self-impoverishment was the failure of the state electricity generator, Eskom, to provide constant power. Blackouts of 10 to 12 hours were common. And nobody can run a successful business, create wealth and hire more people if they don’t have a reliable electricity supply. Eskom’s failure was largely due to corruption and incompetence. The company had just become a feeding trough for members of the useless, venal ANC and a bunch of ANC-linked criminal gangs. There was seldom any preventive maintenance done on key equipment; all kinds of equipment would be stolen and sold off for a pittance; trucks with coal would turn up, be weighed, be signed off as having delivered and then would just drive away only to return a couple of days later with the same coal and be signed off as having delivered yet again and much more like this. And when there were power cuts, gangs would go around cutting down electricity cables to sell for scrap metal. Eventually the situation became so desperate that the company had to hire a white man to try and sort it out. But his efforts were constantly blocked by thieving ANC politicians and criminal gangs and so the country’s electricity shortages and economic decline continue

I may not have explained this terribly well. But anyone who has spent any time in any of the world’s more intellectually-challenged countries will know what I mean.

In all these cases, the inability of people to understand the benefits of delayed gratification were ruining their lives. They simply couldn’t see that by investing a bit of time and effort, rather than always looking for immediate gratification, would bring them longer-term benefits.

As we import a million Third-worlders a year, most with a lower IQ than the British (yes, amazingly that is possible), what will happen to our country? Will be see our ever more diverse population giving us a renaissance – a flourishing of initiative, industry and prosperity benefiting us all? After all, as we all know, ‘diversity is our strength’. Or will we gradually turn into the Third World – social breakdown, decline and self-imposed impoverishment?

5 comments to Deferred gratification – the basis of civilisation and progress?

  • david brown

    What percentage of the uk migrants are from Africa , from Asia and other places. Also those from African countries are probably from the more intelligent part of those countries population.
    Net immigration, more people arrive to live in the UK than leave it to live overseas. As a consequence every three years an additional two million plus people are added to our population. Starmers plan to deal with this is a massive house building programme using brown and green belt land.

  • A Thorpe

    An interesting topic that even a book cannot answer. I read that one of the Roman writers recommended that British slaves should be avoided because they were too stupid and could not be trained to do even the simplest tasks. Also when the Romans left Britain we let everything decay. Look what we eventually achieved with the industrial revolution. Don’t write Africa off just yet.

    I find it difficult to make sense of IQ but one person who discusses it a lot is Edward Dutton, the Jolly Heretic. He has been saying recently that IQ is declining. I tried to find a Thomas Sowell quote but failed. It was something along the lines that somethings are so stupid that only an intellectual could believe them. He said about social problems that intellectuals have theories that do not fit the real world and so they believe that it is the real world that needs changing, and also that they lie to gain power. I think we have to be careful about assuming that IQ and intelligence equates to wisdom.

    I am sure you are right about music, but is part of it that musicians develop an astonishing memory. It is something I failed to do, because I never saw the point of remembering poems or even dates in history because I could just look them up. But maths and science were different because I had to remember and it was logical. My memory does let me down and I feel that it can be trained, but do schools emphasise this. However, a good memory and high IQ doesn’t necessarily mean an ability to solve problems or to do the right thing.

    I have been following the Mises Institute and I believe they have the correct view of the economy. There are many free books on their website. One is by Ludwig von Mises called Human Action (1949), which I have still to read but I saw a quote from it this weekend:

    “The laws of the universe about which physics, biology, and praxeology [essentially economics] provide knowledge are independent of the human will, they are primary ontological facts rigidly restricting man’s power to act.

    Only the insane venture to disregard physical and biological laws. But it is quite common to disdain praxeological laws. Rulers do not like to admit that their power is restricted by any laws other than those of physics and biology. They never ascribe their failures and frustrations to the violation of economic law.”

    It is interesting because Mises believed nobody would disregard the laws of science, but now they are doing exactly that. Our rulers deny the laws of physics and biology to gain power over us, just as they deny rational economic laws.

    What is the point of a high IQ or supposed intellect when it is not used to benefit everybody, but to gain control over us?

    This brings me to the tile. What we have now in the west is instant gratification. Perhaps our decline will be an opportunity for Africa and it has vast material wealth.

  • A Thorpe

    The Jolly Heretic has posted a video jokingly linking declining IQ to all the flooding. He is right when he says the councils and planners don’t look ahead and don’t make sufficient provision to prevent flooding or put in adequate drainage. Endless flood assessment reports will be written but they still don’t get it right.

    They don’t even get the falls on roads right. There is a section of pavement near me which cannot be used in heavy rain because water collects and drivers seem to get childish pleasure from driving through it. We either have to cross to the other side or hope for a gap in the traffic.

  • Jeffrey Palmer

    I recall a former British colonial administrator, late of one of our African colonies, saying that the the main problem with sub-Saharan Africans was ‘’An imperfect grasp of the laws of cause and effect’’. Which very much goes along with the idea of instant gratification rather than the deferred variety. The absence of such foresight seems to me to go far to explain the wholly disproportionate number of black people currently occupying the UK’s prison cells.

    As far as IQ is concerned, for the betterment of society a high IQ must be allied to a desire and an ability to get things done. And those two qualities don’t necessarily go together. But I know many builders who are less than academically gifted, yet are able to get a lot done in a remarkably short space of time once someone has handed them a project. Whereas I also know some very smart people who are crippled by inertia or procrastination.

    A high IQ must also be allied to an ability to think up and create new things. It has been reported that the Japanese have for some time been concerned that their well-documented ability to copy, vastly improve, and flawlessly manufacture things that have already been invented by Western brains is not matched by a commensurate ability for themselves to create new things from scratch.

    It seems to me that the evident absence of all three of the above necessary qualities is primarily responsible for the ongoing state of sub-Saharan Africa.

    I fear, however, that the constant dumbing-down of educational requirements in order to provide third-worlders with box-ticking jobs in Western societies, coupled with their right to vote in our elections and indeed to become government ministers, is soon going to result in all Western societies ending up as replicas of South Africa.

  • Stuart Worthington

    Many thanks for the article David. It makes one think of where our country/world is heading. Also, thanks to you all above for the very good comments adding to the article.

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