Sunday, August 19, 2007

Corroboration, of a Sort

In "Positive Rights and Cosmic Justice: Part IV"
I argue that cosmic justice (a.k.a. redistributionism) is largely futile. Those who are created less-than-equal -- with respect to the attributes that yield material success -- cannot be made equal by handouts, "head starts," or affirmative action.
Arnold Kling, writing today at EconLog, puts it this way:
My guess is that the reason that resistance to the use of IQ as an explanatory variable is high, and particularly high among people on the left, is that it appears to offer less scope for government policy to achieve social improvements. If everything depends on IQ, and IQ is fixed, then social programs can ameliorate problems but not solve them.

If you think that the key variable is college education, then sending more low-IQ youngsters to college is good policy. If you think that the key variable is IQ, then sending more low-IQ youngsters to college is a waste.
So far, so good. Kling continues, however, by erecting a strawman:
One of the stereotypes that people have about IQ is that it is 100 percent inherited, with no environmental influences. I believe that this stereotype is wrong. I believe that the Flynn effect is real and important.
I do not know if it is a "stereotype" that IQ is 100 percent inherited, but genetic inheritance evidently is more important than environmental influences. Invoking an invalid "stereotype" does not disprove the fact that nature outweighs nurture when it comes to IQ. (See my post, linked above.)

As for the general rise in IQ over time (the Flynn effect), it may have narrowed the racial gap in IQ (by some measures), but the gap remains large. The causes of the Flynn effect are uncertain, but the Flynn effect probably has more to do with economic growth -- which occurs in spite of government -- and its attendant improvements in nutrition, exposure to media, etc., than it does with "policies that could achieve gains in IQ that appear to be available from environmental influences," whatever those might be.

In any event, the Flynn effect is a weak justification for such policies, which are counterproductive because they must be funded by taxing success. That is to say, such policies have a significant opportunity cost: They rob fuel from the main engines of economic growth: invention, innovation, capital formation, and entrepreneurship.