The IQ Revolution?
By Arnold Kling
Millenia of living in stable societies, under tight Malthusian pressures that rewarded effort, accumulation, and fertility limitation, encouraged the development of cultural forms–in terms of work inputs, time preference, and family formation–which facilitated modern economic growth.
This is from his forthcoming book. Clark argues that the Industrial Revolution first took off in England because its population was slightly ahead of the rest of the world in bourgeois virtues (to use Deirdre McCloskey’s term), literacy, and numeracy. He avoids using the term IQ.
It comes out in September. In addition to predicting that Anglospherists, Bryan Caplan, and Steve Sailer will appreciate Clark’s book, I strongly recommend it to anyone looking for a topic for a Ph.D dissertation. Each chapter contains provocative analysis based on interesting but limited empirical work, which cries out for further study.
On the book jacket, Tyler Cowen is quoted as saying that Clark’s book “may just prove to be the next blockbuster in economics.” Indeed it is, if nothing else because of the clever ways that Clark uses data to try argue his points. However, neither Tyler nor I are entirely persuaded. Responding to one of Tyler’s posts, I wrote,
Clark claims that these changes were due to natural selection of personality traits, rather than institutional changes. I would think that if this were true, one would tend to find smooth, exponential improvement. If institutions were important, one would be more likely to see jumps and plateaus.
Clark makes exactly such a claim. In chapter 12, he writes,
The appearance of a sudden shock to the economic system was created instead by accidents and contingencies. In particular the enormous population growth in England after 1760, Britain’s military successes in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, and the development of the United States all contributed to the appearance of abrupt departure, as opposed to the continuation of more gradual changes.
In another post, I wrote,
I wonder how to reconcile Clark’s views with those of William Lewis (The Power of Productivity), who says that you can take an unskilled man from Latin America and turn him into a highly productive construction worker simply by moving him to the United States and putting him to work under American management practices.
This question occurred to me again while reading my pre-publication copy of Clark’s book.
I am highly tempted to write a very, very long review essay. For this post, I will resist temptation and stop here.