Some time back, the always controversial Satoshi Kanazawa made the claim that liberals were smarter than conservatives stating:
Liberals usually support such social welfare programs and higher taxes to finance them, and conservatives usually oppose them. Defined as such, liberalism is evolutionarily novel. Humans (like other species) are evolutionarily designed to be altruistic toward their genetic kin, their friends and allies, and members of their deme (a group of intermarrying individuals) or ethnic group. They are not designed to be altruistic toward an indefinite number of complete strangers whom they are not likely ever to meet or interact with. This is largely because our ancestors lived in a small band of 50-150 genetically related individuals, and large cities and nations with thousands and millions of people are themselves evolutionarily novel.
Studies then show that those who call themselves “very liberal” have an IQ of 106.4 and very conservative have an IQ of only 94.8. Obviously, liberals repeated the study ad-nauseum (I wonder if Steven Jay Gould rolled over in his grave).
Others have even gone so for as to pathologize conservatism. A study for the University of California Berkeley (gee, I wonder where this is going) stated that “conservatism is pathological or that conservative beliefs are necessarily false, irrational, or unprincipled.”
Now everything about both these IQ tests and the Berkeley “study” are questionable. Does a college student voting for tax increases upon other people to finance his or her own education count as “altruistic?” What about a public employee supporting public unions which will increase his own wages? What about some activist group asking for money to finance their own operation (and salaries)? Indeed, what does the government have to do with personal altruism. After all, studies have repeatedly shown that conservatives donate more money to charity, give more time to charity and donate more blood than their liberal counterparts. Apparently, they even hug their kids more. Sorry to say, but voting for tax increases does not in itself make you a good person.
And since, as Noel Sheppard points out, the definitions used for liberal and conservative really come down to unselfish vs selfish, if that assumption is wrong (which it appears to be), the whole study is bunk. And even if it it isn’t, correlation doesn’t equal causation (liberal universities indoctrinating the typically smarter individuals who go to college may have something to do with this).
All that being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if your average latte-drinking-pot-smoking-yuppie-urbanite liberal is a bit smarter than your average gun-toting-tobacco-chewing-flag-waving-backwater conservative. But there does appear to be one area that liberals are just utterly stupid in: economics.
As Daniel Klein notes:
Zogby researcher Zeljka Buturovic and I considered the 4,835 respondents’ (all American adults) answers to eight survey questions about basic economics. We also asked the respondents about their political leanings: progressive/very liberal; liberal; moderate; conservative; very conservative; and libertarian.
Rather than focusing on whether respondents answered a question correctly, we instead looked at whether they answered incorrectly. A response was counted as incorrect only if it was flatly unenlightened.
1. Restrictions on housing development make housing less affordable.
2. Mandatory licensing of professional services increases the prices of those services.
3. Overall, the standard of living is higher today than it was 30 years ago.
4. Rent control leads to housing shortages.
5. A company with the largest market share is a monopoly.
6. Third-world workers working for American companies overseas are being exploited.
7. Free trade leads to unemployment.
8. Minimum wage laws raise unemployment.
How did everybody do?
Very conservative: 1.30
Progressive/very liberal: 5.26
(Based on number incorrect, from 1-8)
This is truly sad. Just guessing would get you a 4, which means both liberals and progressives are worse at economics than your average monkey. Good thing such questions aren’t on the Stanford-Binet ehh Satoshi? I mean honestly, what would a restriction on housing do other than raise the prices?
I’m surprised and a bit saddened that the ultra conservatives beat out libertarians. I thought they were more interested in proving that rabbit fossils could be found in the Cambrian age than in learning basic economics.
Oh well, after all, the blog Half Sigma, has looked at the Wordsum test to see which scores correlated with which political beliefs. Libertarians dominate.
He looks at government spending, welfare, regulation, price controls, housing and the environment. With each one, other than the environment (smart people apparently like mother nature and don’t trust property rights with her) the better the score on Wordsum, the more libertarian the position. For example, on price controls, people who scored between an 8-10 (10 is the best, 6 is average), 18.6% were strongly against while only 3.2% were strongly in favor. 54.8% were against price controls while only 22.6% were for them.
Another spurious correlation? Perhaps. Or perhaps it’s just that smart people like freedom the most.