Gun voodoo and intentionality

There’s a recent article about gun violence in Haiti that features the following quotes:

But the anthropological lesson from Haiti is that the truth is more complex. It isn’t just the technological lethality of guns that makes them dangerous: They also exert a power on human agency. They change us. It is both the technology and the symbolism of a gun that can encourage someone to shoot.

[…] There is a lesson to be gleaned from understanding the supernatural potency of guns. We cannot think about guns and people as separate entities, debating gun restrictions on one hand and mental-health policy on the other. The target of intervention must be the gun-person composite. If we are to truly understand and control gun violence, we need to accept that guns have potent technological and psychological effects on people – effects that inspire violent ways of being and acting in the world.

This article has come in for a great deal of mockery from gunfolks since it issued. Representative bits of snark: “Apparently, the ‘magic’ of a professorship can turn you into an imbecile.”, “Gun owners in US- approx 100 million. If this bozo was right, everyone would be dead.”, and a picture of an AR-15 with speech balloons saying “Pick me up…Shoot me at unarmed people…you are powerless.”

I’m probably going to startle a lot of my readers by asserting that the article is not entirely wrong and gunfolks’ dismissal of it is not entirely right. In fact I’m here to argue that almost the entire quoted paragraph is exactly correct, and the last sentence would be correct if it replaced the word “violent ways” with “both violent and virtuous ways”.

So keep reading…

All tools change their users. A man with an axe is a man who can chop down trees, and may well feel an actual desire to do that, because exerting power can be its own reward. A man with a gun may experience a desire to commit aggressive violence with it; what Chelsey Kivland (the article’s author) misses is that it can potentiate desire to be a defender and prevent aggressive violence.

That’s how I experience carrying a gun, and statistics tell me I am not alone. Ever since Gary Kleck’s pioneering study in the 1990s it has been well understood that in the U.S. defensive gun uses far outnumber criminal ones. Occasional attempts to refute this (such as this one) fallaciously or dishonestly ignore the fact that most DGUs not only don’t involve firing the weapon, they’re never reported to police. By the numbers, personal firearms in the U.S. magnify good more than evil.

But Haiti is not the U.S. Context cannot be ignored. Kivland’s account of the sociology of gun use in Haiti rings pretty true to anyone who’s ever lived in a Third-World country, as I have. If you haven’t, it is worth reading. Guns in the hands of people with the average IQ and time preference of Haitians have different consequences from guns in the hands of people with the average IQ and time preference of Americans. Lethality combines badly with limited capacity for forward planning and poor impulse control.

American gunfolks resist thinking or talking about this, for two different reasons. One is that they fear ceding any rhetorical ground to gun-control advocates. And in an American culture context, with the level of impulse control typical in Americans, the proposition “Guns don’t kill; people do.” is a very defensible one. It takes an exceptionally stupid or drug/alcohol-impaired American to succumb to Kivland’s bad juju and perpetrate an impulse killing just because the gun makes it possible. Among middle-class white Americans this sort of crime is so rare that you’d gave to trawl through police blotters for years to find one.

But my last sentence hints at the other reason that gunfolks don’t want to acknowledge that Kivland has a point. Because it is quite difficult to actually engage her point factually without saying things that will get one (unfairly) tagged as a a racist. And gunfolks already have a problem with their opponents’ eagerness to dismiss them as knuckledragging white supremacists.

But here at Armed & Dangerous we make a point of having no fear, so I’m going to baldly state the relevant numbers. Americans in general: average IQ 100. Black Americans, average IQ 85. Estimates for Haitian average IQ should be taken with a grain of salt but cluster around 67 – I’m going to use that figure as none of the estimates I’ve seen are enough higher for the implications to be very different. Half the people in Kivland’s street scenes are dimmer than that, well into the range of what the DSM-V categorizes as mental retardation.

On that basis you’d expect gun crimes revealing poor impulse control and lack of forward planning to be rather more common among American blacks than American whites, and you’d be right (“He dissed me, so I shot him.”). But they’d be vastly and tragically more common in Haitians, who average dimmer than American blacks by far more than the black-white average IQ gap in the U.S. Compared to the Haitians in Kivland’s street stories, your average black American gangbanger is quite intellectually gifted and forethoughtful.

Which brings us back to bad juju. If you have an IQ of 67 or below – and in the U.S. this is quite unusual outside of mental institutions – it might well be the case that having a weapon in your hand is a kind of reality-distorting, violence-producing magic. Kivland’s account deserves a more respectful hearing than gun-owners in the U.S. are wont to give it. Where she goes wrong is in supposing that the Haitian experience has much to teach us about good policy for populations less handicapped than Haitians.

So, why am I poking this hornet’s nest? The usual reason: I believe those who do not acknowledge the facts about the extent of human variability and IQ distribution will eventually be mugged by them. In particular, if we leave the likes of Kivland to tell compelling stories about Haitian gun violence, and deny the truth they carry about the nexus of guns and poor impulse control, we leave ourselves vulnerable to being outflanked in the public conversation.

The truth is, just saying “Guns don’t kill people!” isn’t enough. Because most people understand that a man with an axe in his hand can become attracted to the thought of chopping down trees. That intuition fits their own experience of being tool-users. We’re trying to tell them something that they know is not entirely true.

That’s not a safe mistake to make when certain political tendencies constantly strive to disarm us. For the sake of our own liberty, and for the sake of our unarmed neighbors who rely on us more than they know to prevent a range of ills from crime up through civil disorder to totalitarian takeover, we have a duty not to let ourselves be outflanked this way.

To meet Kivland’s analysis head-on, we have to be willing to say, straight up, that it does not apply to a population averaging 33 IQ points higher than the Haitian mean, and we have to be clear about why: the readily observable correlation between IQ and time preference. Smarter people know better. They plan better. They’re less prone to self-destructive behavior.

Thankfully, we even get to say her analysis doesn’t apply all that well to American blacks at only 18 points above the Haitian mean. Maintaining that won’t keep grievance-peddlers from yelling “racist!” at us, but nothing else (including ignoring the issue) will either. The position we have to take, and have nerves of steel about holding, is that average IQ matters a lot and skin color not even a little. Helpfully, this is true.

The “Guns don’t kill people; people do!” shibboleth had actually been bothering me for years before Kivland’s article brought my misgivings into focus. Literally it’s completely true, but in the Gricean way of engaging the strongest possible version of your opponent’s arguments it is not quite sufficient. That’s the kernel of truth in Kivland’s argument, and we have a duty to deal with it.

117 thoughts on “Gun voodoo and intentionality

  1. You are as usual correct, certainly for all practical purposes. If you wanted to formulate a simple proposition and found it necessary to defend it you could. Lieutenant Colonel John D. “Jeff” Cooper has written extensively about the feeling – and responsibility – of carrying the thunderbolt of Zeus. There is a common, and wise, saying to the effect “Don’t let a gun take you where you wouldn’t go without one” implying mind effects associated with possession. Johnny Cash wrote “Don’t take your guns to town, son don’t take your guns to town.” The most important part of John Farnam’s teaching is “don’t go to stupid places, hang around with stupid people, or do stupid things.” Stupid is the operative word for Mr. Farnam hard though it might be to acknowledge in ourselves.

    In particular maintaining our liberties in a time when half the world stands ready to trade rights for a little security we need to remember that for some of our hoplophobic friends guns do exert a fascination. Some people really do think the gun is a magic wand; a black magic wand, and not a tool at all.

    A good time to remember such notions as “I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.” Still I do think a fine tool is a good thing and if not loved cherished.

  2. I do hope you have called your local constabulary in order to avoid being SWATted.
    <70 IQ is bad. SJW outrage is worse.
    Feel free to come to Wyoming, where you won’t have such problems, and if you look carefully you wlll find gigabit internet.
    just as John Galt.

  3. Also, time preference, aggression, etc. are DIFFERNET AND DISJOINT from IQ, even if correlated.
    Mother Theresa’s Sisters of Charity may have lower IQ, but I wouldn’t feel threataned.
    Fiat currency destroys time preference (among the rational).
    Aggression can be successful, africicanized honey bees?

    • Fiat currency destroys time preference (among the rational).

      Really? I would not have expected that result at all. Do you have a source for that (not a gotcha… actually interested)? I briefly searched on Scholar.google.com but couldn’t find anything.

      I note your qualifier of “among the rational”, i’m assuming you mean something (very broadly) along the lines of “not diagnosably crazy”?

      • Inflation. In an inflationary regime, it’s “use it or lose it” for your money. Savers get penalized because inflation eats away their savings, and the only way to get an expected return higher than inflation is to take on a significant amount of risk.

        • Fiat currency is neither necessary nor sufficient for inflation – Gresham’s Law was coined in an era of hard currency, and the Romans knew how to inflate their currency.

          • That is true enough, and can happen via fractional reserve lending even without debasing the metallic currency, but fiat currency makes it much easier to do. The Weimar Republic’s experience is a good example of this, taken to the extreme, but the USD is another good example. First 200 years or so of the USD, the purchasing power was relatively stable, even increasing as new technology made various goods cheaper. From 1913 on, it has lost more than 90% of its purchasing power, with significant spikes in the rate of loss with the various additional restrictions on exchaning it for gold.

    • Fiat currency destroys time preference (among the rational).

      For some very odd values of “rational” and “destroys”.

      Fiat just means “not token or metallic”.

      Fiat currency with a demonstrable and trustworthy commitment it targeted inflation (the US since, er, 1980 or so?) does not have the effect of destroying time preference among rational people; “oh, we should expect 3% of inflation a year” is something people just price into their savings and spending calculations.

      Fiat currency in a place without that commitment does damage it (thus people move to other currencies or investments where possible), and places with an active disregard for it (cf. Zimbabwe, Venezuela) do destroy time preference – spend it or lose it.

      (Notionally one could have a deliberately deflationary fiat currency, but that’s such a bad idea nobody tries. Hell, being deflationary was always a tick against BitCoin, which isn’t even fiat money.)

      But let’s not pretend this is some magic or inherent property of fiat currency, or that metallism is somehow immune to time preference attacks (Roosevelt and gold, anyone?).

      • The American dollar is not, by this definition, a fiat currency.

        It is a metallic currency.

        Plutonium is a metal.

        -Shannon

      • Inflation doesn’t destroy time preferences, it just shifts behavior. In a regime of high or erratic inflation, the person with short time preferences spends their money right away on consumables. The person with long time preferences spends their money right away on durable goods or physical investments, or on something with a possibly non-monetary long-term payoff. Spending your money right away isn’t necessarily a sign of short time preferences; it all depends what you spend the money on.

  4. The position we have to take, and have nerves of steel about holding, is that average IQ matters a lot and skin color not even a little.

    One can only bridge that gap – i.e. go from “this group has a measurably lower IQ than this other group” to “this group is racially inferior“- with identity politics, either of the left/socialist type, or the right/fascist type.

    It’s telling that both groups adopt the same (racist) identity politics based approach to the problem, and should serve as wake-up call for at least the well-intentioned non-fascists. If you’re agreeing with literal NAZIs, that should at least be cause to check your premises.

    This subject is even more relevant to me, now that I have (adopted) young black American relatives. The difference in their academic performance since they’ve been rescued from their violence-ridden, substandard, schools and neighborhoods is incredible, and its only been a few years.

  5. If you’re agreeing with literal NAZIs, that should at least be cause to check your premises.

    I’m glad to see that you’re not a vegetarian, but your dislike of dogs is saddening.

    • I’m glad to see that you’re not a vegetarian, but your dislike of dogs is saddening.

      Wait, what? Explain it to me like I’m virus-ridden and at home in a dressing gown and slippers. Not at my sparkling best, in other words.

        • Oh! Right.

          Yes my suggestion of premise-checking was based on the assumption that no group is wrong about everything, but that agreement with some of history’s vilest monsters should at least give one pause, to ask “am I sure about this?”

          From Wikipedia:

          Personal accounts from people who knew Hitler and were familiar with his diet indicate that he did not consume meat as part of his diet during this period, with several contemporaneous witnesses—such as Albert Speer (in his memoirs, Inside the Third Reich)—noting that Hitler used vivid and gruesome descriptions of animal suffering and slaughter at the dinner table to try to dissuade his colleagues from eating meat.

          I know that the NAZIs considered certain people – Jews, homosexuals, etc. – subhuman, but I hadn’t realised how far below human they meant. I get the sense from that description of Hitler that he’d rate them significantly below farm animals.

          • The Nazis did not consider their “race enemies” to be subhuman, or beneath farm animals.

            They kept farm animals around because they are useful and minimally dangerous. (One can get gored by a cow or kicked by a horse.)

            They got rid of Jews because (in their minds) Jews were dangerous degenerate humans. They never denied the humanity of Jews, any more than they denied the humanity of the mentally ill or mentally retarded. They just killed them all.

            And there was the real horror of Nazi thinking – that it’s OK to kill people.

            (Likewise, the deeper immorality of slavery is the idea that it’s OK to to own people.)

  6. Getting into racial IQ debates sort of misses the point(as tz suggested above). Even if we say for sake of argument that time preference is correlated with IQ and IQ is correlated with race/nationality, you’re still two steps removed from the important measurements. The things we actually care about here are time preference and aggression levels. Unless your IQ is literally so low that you don’t understand what shooting someone does(e.g., an infant), IQ is not the important variable here.

    I don’t mind someone engaging with touchy topics if it’s done cautiously, but throwing it in at random is really poor practice – you do no service to the discussion, and run a very high risk of gratuitously insulting people, if you don’t watch your step. Racial IQ is incredibly sensitive, and this was not cautious in the slightest, nor was it even especially germane. I’ve read enough of your stuff to feel confident that you’re not a racist, but if I was stumbling across your blog for the first time today, I’d be pretty sure that you were at least friendly to white nationalists based on the way you phrased this post.

    Also, you’re sort of undermining your gun rights arguments by taking an IQ-based approach. Ignoring any kind of subgroup analysis for a minute, about 1/70 Americans should be expected to have IQs of 67 or lower(using mean=100, SD=15). If IQ 67 individuals can’t be trusted with guns, then that’s something like four million Americans who probably shouldn’t have gun rights. That’s a heck of a lot of dangerous people who can buy guns at their local Walmart. Do you favour IQ tests for gun ownership? How low would American IQs have to drop before you’d want to repeal the Second Amendment?

    • >Even if we say for sake of argument that time preference is correlated with IQ and IQ is correlated with race/nationality,

      This is not a “for the sake of argument”. It is a hard fact with hard consequences. Now go look up the percentage of Nobel prizes copped by Ashkenazic Jews.

      >Unless your IQ is literally so low that you don’t understand what shooting someone does(e.g., an infant), IQ is not the important variable here.

      You think not? Are you really unaware that one of the things IQ measures pretty well is the ability to forward-plan about hypotheticals and conditionals?

      A person who is very stupid may understand that shooting a person will seriously harm or kill them, and that shooting someone has penalties, but lack the capacity to anticipate a future in which those consequences actually come to pass. You have trouble understanding what having a very short planning horizon is like precisely because you don’t.

      >I’d be pretty sure that you were at least friendly to white nationalists based on the way you phrased this post

      OK, so find me a white nationalist who thinks “skin color doesn’t matter even a little bit” for me to be friendly with. You will pardon me if I don’t hold my breath while you’re looking.

      >If IQ 67 individuals can’t be trusted with guns, then that’s something like four million Americans who probably shouldn’t have gun rights.

      So many, many things wrong with your assumptions here.

      For starters, it isn’t 4M. It probably isn’t even close to that. The reason: if you have an IQ of 67 and are not of pretty undiluted sub-Saharan black ancestry, something went so badly wrong in your morphogenesis that you should probably be dead. The extreme low ends of the IQ distribution in most other populations fall off more rapidly than you’d expect from a pure Gaussian because the causes of that low an IQ are co-morbid with lots of things that aren’t survivable.

      SSAs are different because 67 isn’t outside their normal developmental range. There are actually a few other minor populations for which this is also true – Australian aborigines, for example. In populations like that people with a 67 IQ don’t present as mental retardates and can be perfectly functional within their own societies.

      Which brings me to your second wrong assumption. A person with a 67 IQ can be trusted with a gun if he is a functioning member of a society or religion that forward-plans for him by providing a sufficiently strong normative structure that he, himself, does not have to do the kind of consequential reasoning about his behavior that he’s not very good at.

      Third bad assumption: everybody below 67 IQ who didn’t die of one of those co-morbid things is a risk. Er, no. A lot of people in that range will never kill anyone because they are quite literally so dimwitted that they can’t form the intention, or execute it. Your unsafe cases are actually the brighter ones, comparatively speaking – capable of planning to the point of the crime but not of modeling the longer-term consequences.

      >How low would American IQs have to drop before you’d want to repeal the Second Amendment?

      How many unicorns can dance on the head of a hippogriff? Not an interesting question unless and until I believe that something is going to drastically cut IQ and raise time preference in this country.

      • 67 IQ – visit Mogadishuappolis Mall or America or Lewiston Maine.

        >”OK, so find me a white nationalist who thinks “skin color doesn’t matter even a little bit” for me to be friendly with. You will pardon me if I don’t hold my breath while you’re looking.

        Nationalist or supremacist? If you aren’t frendly with those who think skin color matters (if only correlation), you oppose yourself.

        Beyond that, you didn’t say what it mattered for. Consider that Jews, multiple Asian races, and multiple white (european) races might break into tribes, and race would matter.

        Skin color doesn’t matter technically, but the Asian shame societies will be different than the european guilt soceties.

        It is difficult to play 20 questions to determine someone isn’t really a SJW and is fully assimilated into western civilization, but simple to assume based on statistics than an H1-B isn’t and maybe isn’t even competent. (I haven’t dealt with them but have Chinese which hasn’t been … pleasant).

      • “A person with a 67 IQ can be trusted with a gun if he is a functioning member of a society or religion that forward-plans for him by providing a sufficiently strong normative structure that he, himself, does not have to do the kind of consequential reasoning about his behavior that he’s not very good at.”

        A child of 11 could fall into that category, with an ‘adult’ IQ score somewhere in that neighborhood. And 11 was about the age of “first trusted with guns” in Traditional America.

        • …and indeed plenty of children as young as 11 (and younger) *are* trusted with firearms – under adult supervision, of course.

          She’s older now, but this vid of Shyanne shows how capable girls can be :)

          • It was very often without adult supervision, back in the day. With parental permission, yes, but that’s a different and much looser thing.

            Today’s legal requirements for direct adult supervision any time a minor touches a firearm is one part pearl-clutching, one part attempt to apply “one size fits all” to children of widely varying ages, and one part anti-gun culture war.

            • Sure, things were very different back in the day ;)

              I don’t totally concur with your characterization of ‘adult supervision’ though. Sure, there’s the pearl clutching tendrils of gun control with some of it. There’s also the knowledge that often the age at which you are capable of handling firearms and the age at which you are independently responsible with them, are often several years apart. I imagine if a parent allowed their child to use a firearm unsupervised, and the child’s death resulted, said parent would have to be put on suicide watch. Wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

      • Not an interesting question unless and until I believe that something is going to drastically cut IQ and raise time preference in this country.

        You seem to be studiously avoiding the mass importation of a replacement electorate.

        • Agree, and the problem is not just immigrants but also the fact that 70% of all births (concentrated in certain races) are out-of-wedlock — to welfare mothers who breed in order to get bigger checks. Most of those kids have no prospects of any career except crime, and are both more ignorant and with higher time-preference than the norm. It’s probably too late to stop the Marching Morons; they’re already here.

          • “70% of all births (concentrated in certain races) are out-of-wedlock — to welfare mothers who breed in order to get bigger checks.”

            This is a stupid canard which should have been buried long ago. The problem population is people with low competence (usually low IQ, but not always) and short time preferences: the same people who commit disproportionate amounts of violent crime. These are not people who conceive now for a benefits increase in nine months.

            Besides which, the welfare reforms of the 1990s pretty much eliminated welfare dependency as a career choice.

            What the welfare system (and associated mechanisms) does do is enable the general sloppiness that leads to bastardy: sexual promiscuity and failure to practice contraception rigorously.

            They don’t choose it. It happens because they don’t take the trouble to avoid it – in part because our society cushions the fall.

        • >You seem to be studiously avoiding the mass importation of a replacement electorate.

          Even if the Democrats succeed at this, I don’t expect the change to be fast enough or large enough to present a serious problem to gun rights defenders. Though it could certainly be grievous enough in other ways.

      • > For starters, it isn’t 4M. It probably isn’t even close to that
        This table says 1.39% of the population has an IQ of 67 or lower. That puts the US population of 67 or lower at about 4.5 million. You have trouble believing that number because your IQ is so far above that level that you literally can’t comprehend how someone can be that stupid and still be alive. I can believe it because The Bride of Monster is personnel manager at a sheltered workshop for developmentally-disabled people, most of whom have at least some mental deficiency as part of their disabilities. I’ve met these people, and I understand that the reason they aren’t dead is because of people like TBoM and their caseworkers making sure they aren’t put in situations where their mental shortcomings can get them killed.

        Most of these people have guardians (although many, mostly higher-functioning ones do not), and there’s where we can address the situation. If you are mentally disabled to the point where you aren’t considered competent to manage your own affairs, then I’m OK with the government saying you’re not allowed to have firearms. But the burden of proof is always on those who wish to restrict someone’s rights: Some kind of judicial hearing must be held to officially declare someone’s reduced competency, and they have the right to bring their own witnesses and evidence, as well as to have a re-hearing at a later date if their condition changes. The fact that those 4.5 M or so are incompetent should not be used as an excuse to deprive the ~300M competent adults of our rights.

        • >This table says 1.39% of the population has an IQ of 67 or lower.

          Monster, I know that table very well. I’ve frequently referred to it in postings and comments here. I also know its limitations, and you’re making exactly the error of assumption I was trying to warn against.

          The table is accurate only if IQ follows a model Gaussian all the way down both extrema of the distribution. But that it does is an ASSUMPTION, which can be falsified by facts. I believe it is in fact falsified, though at present my confidence is provisional rather than very high and I am eager for either confirming or disconfirming evidence.

          Yes, I’m now quite aware that human beings can be alive and functional at IQ 67, though this fact and the causative factors behind it are relatively new to me and I am still thinking through the implications.

          Here are some of the related things I think I know.

          * Millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa are functional at IQ 67 or below within societies that have evolved to enable them to function with the cognitive capability they have.

          * A 67-IQ human being from almost any population other than SSAs has had some kind of severe developmental problem and thus probably has minimal-brain-damage deficits including but not limited to motor-control impairment, speech difficulties, autism, dyslexia, etc. Compromised immune system is also likely. He is lucky not to be dead; many of those who would have been his 67-IQ peers succumbed to prenatal, perinatal, or early-childhood mortality. He will probably require institutional support and light caregiving all his life. He is rather unlikely to marry or have children.

          * A 67-IQ SSA (or Australian abo) is developmentally and socially normal. He will not do well in situations that require abstract reasoning, forward planning, or reasoning about complex hypotheticals. Consequently, by European standards he will be impulsive and have high time preference. But he is functional. He can make a living, form social bonds, raise a family.

          * The 67-IQ SSA inhabits a portion of his population’s IQ curve over which an ideal Gaussian is a good fit. A 67-IQ Caucasian does not. Co-morbidity with things that will kill you early means that the actual incidence of IQ that low among his genetic kin is lower than an ideal Gaussian would predict. How much lower, I don’t know; a numeric estimate would require data I don’t have.

          That’s why I think there are probably many fewer than 4M people at IQ 67 in the U.S. In the white population, some unknown but significant fraction of the people you’d predict to be living in that range from a Gaussian curve fit are dead instead.

          • There are (according to Wikipedia) about 40 million black people in the U.S. Assuming mean IQ of 85 and sigma of 15, 11.5% are IQ 67 or lower, which is already over 4½ million.

            Among whites (mean IQ = 100, sigma = 15), a gaussian distribution would give you 1.4% at IQ 67 or lower, which is about 3.2 million (out of 233 million white population). These days, we’re probably capable of keeping two-thirds of them alive despite their various organic deficits., so that adds another 2 million.

          • “The table is accurate only if IQ follows a model Gaussian all the way down both extrema of the distribution. But that it does is an ASSUMPTION, which can be falsified by facts. I believe it is in fact falsified, though at present my confidence is provisional rather than very high and I am eager for either confirming or disconfirming evidence.”

            If you think about it the actual form of the distribution is probably more like a Boltzmann distribution just because the left tail butts up against 0 while the right tail is open to infinity. Gaussians go to infinity on both tails and so are symmetrical, but IQ distributions are real biological phenomena and so not likely to be symmetrical because the causes which set the lower limits are not the same as the causes which set the upper limits.

            • >Gaussians go to infinity on both tails and so are symmetrical, but IQ distributions are real biological phenomena and so not likely to be symmetrical because the causes which set the lower limits are not the same as the causes which set the upper limits.

              A more general way of stating the point I was trying to make, thanks.

      • This is not a “for the sake of argument”. It is a hard fact with hard consequences. Now go look up the percentage of Nobel prizes copped by Ashkenazic Jews.

        You mean the group with the most aggressively intellectual culture on the planet? IQ isn’t required to explain why they do well in sciences. (FWIW, I don’t mean to say that I disbelieve those claims, either. I find them both fairly plausible, but their actual truth-value wasn’t germane to the point I was making, and I haven’t researched either one enough to confidently state my opinions on them, so I glossed over it.)

        You think not? Are you really unaware that one of the things IQ measures pretty well is the ability to forward-plan about hypotheticals and conditionals?

        A person who is very stupid may understand that shooting a person will seriously harm or kill them, and that shooting someone has penalties, but lack the capacity to anticipate a future in which those consequences actually come to pass. You have trouble understanding what having a very short planning horizon is like precisely because you don’t.

        “Kill people=go to jail” is only slightly harder to understand than “Shoot people=kill people”. Again, there are millions of Americans with the IQ levels you describe. They’re not all murderers, so clearly there’s something standing in their way.

        OK, so find me a white nationalist who thinks “skin color doesn’t matter even a little bit” for me to be friendly with. You will pardon me if I don’t hold my breath while you’re looking.

        They sometimes come closer than you might expect, but no, none have gone so far as “doesn’t matter even a little bit” that I can recall.

        (This post has been sitting half-finished for a week, and I doubt I’ll have time to finish it, so I’ll post it here as-is. tl;dr, my concern is reasonable non-malicious misinterpretation, but I am not concerned about your actual beliefs.)

  7. Racial IQ is incredibly sensitive, and this was not cautious in the slightest, nor was it even especially germane.

    I believe ESR went out of his way to explicitly state that this isn’t about race:

    The position we have to take, and have nerves of steel about holding, is that average IQ matters a lot and skin color not even a little.

    A thought experiment will probably suffice, here. Imagine a black family in Haiti adopted a white child, and raised that child in the awful combination of poverty, ignorance, violence, and disease that is arrayed against the long-suffering, predominantly black, population of Haiti.

    Do you think that white child would be likely to have a measured IQ of around 100? I don’t think so, and I think ESR is pretty clear that he doesn’t either.

    Another thought experiment (slightly more real for me, as I’ve noted elsewhere): imagine a white family in America adopted a black Haitian baby, and raised that child in an affluent suburb in the USA. What do you think the odds are that that child would reach adulthood with an IQ of 67?

    The point here is that the only reason to make this about race is if race matters to you; either because you subscribe to identity politics, or you’re a literal racist, or you just want to tar ESR with either of those brushes.

    • Somehow scorpions, venomous snakes, with IQs in the low single digits, manage to avoid most problems with deadly weapons.

      Time Preference is another discussion entirely – but once you have a high time preference, IQ can tell you the proper path, but that can be done by proxy.

      Aggression or impulsiveness, not so much. Even so, in an armed society, the impulsive or the aggressive would be shot, and at worst might take someone else with them.

    • A thought experiment will probably suffice, here. Imagine a black family in Haiti adopted a white child, and raised that child in the awful combination of poverty, ignorance, violence, and disease that is arrayed against the long-suffering, predominantly black, population of Haiti.

      Do you think that white child would be likely to have a measured IQ of around 100? I don’t think so, and I think ESR is pretty clear that he doesn’t either.

      Another thought experiment (slightly more real for me, as I’ve noted elsewhere): imagine a white family in America adopted a black Haitian baby, and raised that child in an affluent suburb in the USA. What do you think the odds are that that child would reach adulthood with an IQ of 67?

      See, this is the sort of caution I was referring to. If he’d gone into that a bit more, I’d have fewer concerns here. But he didn’t. He made the right comment about skin color not mattering, but a lot of people with nasty views will include things like that in their writings, so it doesn’t help to differentiate between racists and non-racists very well. (It does distinguish between *open* racists and others, but those are vanishingly rare). FWIW, your quote from Rand below is precisely correct – in fact, that essay was the first place I saw this view expressed, and I’ve held to it ever since.

      If IQ is primarily a function of upbringing (education, nutrition, lead levels, or whatever else), then this isn’t a huge issue from the point of view of racism. But ESR never actually said that in the OP. He just picked stats that sure looked racial, quoted them without any discussion in this direction, and threw in a “skin colour doesn’t matter” at the bottom that sure looks incongruous in this essay.

      The point here is that the only reason to make this about race is if race matters to you; either because you subscribe to identity politics, or you’re a literal racist, or you just want to tar ESR with either of those brushes.

      I won’t go into the weeds here, but the short version is that I’ve seen similar arguments play out before, as I’ve watched people go rabid and abandon conservative/libertarian politics in favour of racism. Personal acquaintances, political commentators, local politicians I liked, and so on. I’ve been reading ESR for a long time, enough that I have a decent sense of the guy. Like I said, I feel confident that he’s not actually racist. But this is pattern-matching racists pretty strongly, and I am not the only one who’ll notice that.

      Mostly, I bring this up because I think he’s tapdancing through a minefield here. I don’t want this post to be Exhibit A in some lefty troll brigade’s unpersoning efforts. They will not have that context, and the people they rope in to discuss the outrage du jour won’t either. If someone linked this post as a standalone, ESR would look plausibly racist, and that’s not a good place to be. There’s always going to be a few haters, and you can’t avoid that. But you can avoid making sane people think that the haters are right.

      • >ESR would look plausibly racist, and that’s not a good place to be.

        Too late. There are already plenty of idiots who think I’m a racist.

        If I let that bother me, or prevent me from speaking, I’d have to crawl into a hole and pull it in after me. This is not in my nature.

        • Too late. There are already plenty of idiots who think I’m a racist.

          Not to mention sexist. I’ve been flamed by one such individual, to such an extent and with such venom that he’s the only individual for whom I’ve ever created their very own mail rule.

      • >I’ve watched people go rabid and abandon conservative/libertarian politics in favour of racism.

        I think I’ve seen this happen exactly once. Not someone I know personally, but a regular commenter on a blog I read.

        It’s disquieting, to be sure. More disquieting because, if I am to believe his own account of how his beliefs changed from libertarian to white nationalist, I can’t say it was crazy. Wrong, yes, but not outright crazy.

        He’s bought into the idea that there’s an elite conspiracy to eliminate white Americans in favor of brown people who will make more tractable serfs in a rigidly stratified future. I don’t believe there is is any such conspiracy…but the reason I can only call him “wrong” rather than “crazy” is that a large portion of our elites now behave in a way that is not readily distinguishable from how they would if that conspiracy theory were true.

        The “sanctuary city” thing in California, and the weird racialized neo-feudalism developing around H1B visas and housing shortages there – those could be exhibit A for the trend. As repellent as I find racism qua racism, it’s hard to blame the guy much for over-fitting to data like that, seeing malice and planning where I think there’s only a brew of incompetence. perverse incentives, and cod-Marxism.

    • >Do you think that white child would be likely to have a measured IQ of around 100? I don’t think so, and I think ESR is pretty clear that he doesn’t either.

      Um, probably, but I’m not as sure of that as you seem to be.

      For the sake of the thought experiment, let’s assume that the kid has a markedly higher if-everything-went-right genetic component of IQ than his foster parents. (Theoretically this assumption could be wrong, but under your premises it’s quite unlikely to be.)

      On the one hand, there are certainly environmental insults that can prevent the kid from reaching his genetic IQ ceiling. On the other hand, we do know that when a foster child’s brain rewires itself at adolescence, IQ tends to shift towards the average for its genetic kin, not the average of those who raised it.

      So it’s really a roll of the dice. How badly was our hypothetical child stunted? If the answer is “not much”, then the day might actually come when a 30-point IQ gap opens up between him and his foster parents.

      • Evidence suggests that IQ is quite heritable:

        Intelligence in the normal range is a polygenic trait, meaning that it is influenced by more than one gene, more specifically, over 500, and is thought to be 50% to 80% genetic in origin.

        So it’s probable that if his parents have low IQ, some of that will manifest in his resultant adult IQ. But I’d confidently expect his IQ to be higher as a result of mitigating the non-heritable aspects.

        It’s probably worth reiterating – not for you, but for the benefit other perhaps less charitable readers – that something being heritable doesn’t make it correlate with race.

        • It’s probably worth reiterating – not for you, but for the benefit other perhaps less charitable readers – that something being heritable doesn’t make it correlate with race.

          Well, I suppose it is technically possible that isolated populations in different parts of the world just so happened to end up with distributions of alleles that give the same average intelligence.

  8. Also also, even if race were a significant factor – and there’s plenty of research suggesting it isn’t – it still wouldn’t matter. To quote Ayn Rand from her excellent essay, Racism:

    Even if it were proved — which it is not — that the incidence of men of potentially superior brain power is greater among the members of certain races than among the members of others, it would still tell us nothing about any given individual and it would be irrelevant to one’s judgment of him. A genius is a genius, regardless of the number of morons who belong to the same race — and a moron is a moron, regardless of the number of geniuses who share his racial origin. It is hard to say which is the more outrageous injustice: the claim of Southern racists that a Negro genius should be treated as an inferior because his race has “produced” some brutes — or the claim of a German brute to the status of a superior because his race has “produced” Goethe, Schiller and Brahms.

  9. There are a few problems with your argument here: First of all, in situations like inner city America or Haiti, a lot of the difference in intellectual performance, I think, really comes down to despair: if you perceive that thinking just lets you know you’re screwed earlier than not thinking, why think? But telling people in such situations that they’re dumber than you just tells them that you’ve written them off, which doesn’t help the despair, even if there is a significant degree to which they actually have made themselves dumber by not exercising their mental faculties.

    The other problem is that an intelligence argument is likely to backfire because the liberal stereotype of a second amendment advocate is an inbred rural Alabaman whose entire family has a sum total IQ under 70. Liberals already consider themselves smarter than all the gun nuts, and don’t themselves feel safe using a gun, so certainly nobody too stupid to vote for Hillary is qualified.

    • “First of all, in situations like inner city America or Haiti, a lot of the difference in intellectual performance, I think, really comes down to despair:”

      Certainly a lot of truth in what you say. But I submit you’re looking at symptoms and not root causes. What exactly is the root cause of the despair? Does (did) IQ not play a starring role in the cultural crumble that has lead to the despair?

      “likely to backfire because the liberal stereotype of a second amendment advocate is an inbred rural Alabaman whose entire family has a sum total IQ under 70. “

      True. But doesn’t matter. If we gun owners could prove we all have an IQ of 225 they would still advocate disarmament. Their opposition to guns is ideological, not fact-based.

  10. Do you favour IQ tests for gun ownership?

    It’s interesting to note that countries with gun ownership that have far lower rates of firearm homicide than the USA actually do, in a sense, have IQ tests for gun ownership.

    Not explicitly, but here in Australasia there are licenses, safety tests, paperwork, storage requirements, etc. Navigating all of these can be somewhat daunting even for smart people who are used to bureaucracy, because there’s the entertaining possibility of jail time for failing to understand the legislation.

    It’d never occurred to me before this post, but actually, there’s a minimum intelligence bar that’s being set by all of this, not to mention time preference, as this stuff is time-consuming, long-running, and somewhat expensive.

    (And no, the lower rates have nothing to do with gun restrictions per se; NZ and Australia experienced similar decreases in firearm homicide rates over the same period, despite draconian restrictions in Australia and relatively few in NZ).

  11. Just to head off in a somewhat different direction, culture matters. There are Americans who go on shooting sprees, but we don’t have a problem of acid attacks.

    I’d be surprised if all third world countries have the same level of violence.

  12. >This subject is even more relevant to me, now that I have (adopted) young black American relatives. The difference in their academic performance since they’ve been rescued from their violence-ridden, substandard, schools and neighborhoods is incredible, and its only been a few years.

    This reads to me as the other half of the “racist” factor for effective IQ levels – culture.

    • This reads to me as the other half of the “racist” factor for effective IQ levels – culture.

      I ranked highest in Te Reo Maori (the indigenous language of New Zealand) in high school. I asked my teacher how that could possibly be, given there were actual native speakers in my class.

      His answer was succinct: “you do your homework”.

      In Maori youth culture of the time, there was a strong strain of anti-intellectualism. Literal tribalism, combined with strongly religious views, and a disdain for hard intellectual (but not sporting or military) work that lead people who meticulously submitted homework on time to be put down as “try-hards”. Interestingly I wasn’t; it was positively expected by my Maori peers that I would do my homework, and I copped no flak for that, because I was white.

      At the time, the Maori community was making great efforts to undo that culture, and the statistics show they won (albeit as slowly as one would expect):

      https://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/maoritertiary.jpg

      Note that I was in high school in the early to mid 90s. Since then, Maori participation in tertiary education has overtaken non-Maori, putting the lie to any claims that it had anything to do with racial inferiority.

      • >Note that I was in high school in the early to mid 90s. Since then, Maori participation in tertiary education has overtaken non-Maori, putting the lie to any claims that it had anything to do with racial inferiority.

        Average Maori IQ is, apparently, 102. I hadn’t looked that up before. Explains a lot about the difference in outcomes between Oz and NZ aborigines; the Maori had an allele distribution that allowed them to compete with Europeans once they got decent nutrition and settler society stopped holding them down. Australian aborigines were…less fortunate.

        • The Maori were also a lot better at killing British soldiers. That warrior culture persists to this day, to the discomfort of many:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOMXm8mfwBc

          That Haka drew a lot of fire at first, because of the throat-slitting action. Gave me a chuckle at the time, because when I were a lad, we learned a haka about a Maori folk hero who was disarmed in battle, but prevailed by clubbing his enemies with his gigantic penis. Graphic actions included. I wonder what the prudes would have said if they’d seen that performed by a bunch of schoolkids? :)

          Re. the warrior culture thing, when my brother and I heard that a couple of guys had tried to stop this guy while armed with nothing but baseball bats, we both had the same first thought: “I bet they were Maori or Pasifika”. They were, and they were both high school students.

          • >The Maori were also a lot better at killing British soldiers.

            Heh. You say “also”, I say that’s itself a consequence of the fact that an average Maori wasn’t 40 IQ points behind the average lobsterback.

            • I’ll bet they weren’t drawing from the same pools. In a warrior society, the people fighting on the front line are the best and brightest, because that’s how you progress in society.

              I suspect, but cannot prove, that the upper echelons of Maori society were, with the possible exception of the officers, fighting the lower echelons of British society at the time.

              To probably-misquote-from-memory Scott Adams in The Dilbert Future, talking of British troops fighting the American Revolution:

              Marching along in columns in broad daylight, wearing red, singing the traditional British fighting song that goes “shoot me, shoot me, shoot me”. For more details see Darwin’s On The Origin of Species.

              • There’s an old story about a group of Maori who had forted up during a fight with some British soldiers. The British were getting ready to leave because they were running out of food. So the Maori chief ran up the white flag, walked a fifty-pound bag of flour out to the British, and told them he didn’t want them leaving yet because he and his men were enjoying the war, so please accept our offer of food so we can continue fighting!

    • >This reads to me as the other half of the “racist” factor for effective IQ levels – culture.

      Well, yes, but beware of overinterpreting. Rescues like that can mean that many fewer kinds who are environmentally damaged so they don’t reach the high end of the range their genes will support. But it can’t change the distribution of those alleles in their source population.

      Which means culture will get you more gifted black kids, but the chances that blacks in aggregate will catch up with the Ashkenazic Jewish frequency of Nobel prizewinners are basically nil. Human variation, including human genetic variation, matters a lot.

      And if we have a rule that only racists are allowed to notice this, racists will win the future. I don’t want this, and you shouldn’t either.

      • And if we have a rule that only racists are allowed to notice this, racists will win the future. I don’t want this, and you shouldn’t either.

        I hate to break it to you, but they already have. On one side we have folks who believe in identity politics, support racial (and other) quotas in hiring and education, and on the other literal fascists who believe in their own racial superiority. The USA seems to bounce between electing one or the other group into power these days.

        There is an opportunity here, though, to speak loudly to the centre. The people who occupy neither of those positions, the majority who are often cowed into silence by Antifa or Alt-Right pitchfork mobs. They are the future, the people who matter, the people who are already unhappy with either choice presented to them.

        • >The USA seems to bounce between electing one or the other group into power these days.

          You might think so if you believe what our media tells you, but it’s not true. A pardonable mistake from the distance of Down Under, though.

          One of my favorite current bits of political snark is the observation that Donald Trump, the President our left likes to literally-Hitler at, has more Jewish grandchildren than most Jews.

          • Trump certainly isn’t anti-Semitic, and neither is Bannon or (as far as I can tell) any of his present or former cabinet. But their platform is unmistakably fascist. As the Mises Institute summarised it, “Fascism was a spending, borrowing government, militarism, imperialism, and a planned economy.”

            That’s pretty much how I’d characterise Trump. More about the nationalism and militarism, less about the Jew-hating and gas chambers. He talked a good talk about winding down foreign military engagements prior to election, but backed off from that position pretty quickly once elected.

            Think Mussolini or his great admirer Roosevelt, not Hitler.

            • >“Fascism was a spending, borrowing government, militarism, imperialism, and a planned economy.” That’s pretty much how I’d characterise Trump.

              I don’t agree. Spending and borrowing, yes, but I’m seeing no drive towards a planned economy or imperialism or militarism. And several of the other signature traits of fascism are absent – notably, Trump has not tried to disarm his political enemies, and there’s been no attempt to form militias or new organs of government that swear loyalty to Trump directly rather than to the Constitution.

              Think Poujade, not Mussolini (I’m actually a topic expert on the history and doctrine of Fascism; I’ve thought about this a lot). And try to to confuse the actual Trump with the media-spun fantasies about him. He is in many ways an unlovely figure, and nobody I ever wanted to see in the White House, but not a bogeyman.

              Hm. Maybe I need to to a post titled “Defining Fascism Down” on popular misconceptions about Fascism.

              • “Hm. Maybe I need to to a post titled “Defining Fascism Down” on popular misconceptions about Fascism.”

                Yes. Please.

                It seems fascism has come to mean something along the lines of “anyone not praying for the resuscitation of Lenin”.

                • [To the tune of “Everything is Awesome” from The Lego Movie]

                  Everyone’s a fascist
                  (Everyone opposing the Left and their plans)
                  Everyone is Hitler
                  And they’re members of the Klan

              • I’d also like to see a workable definition of fascism.

                I listen to CSPAN a lot. Just the other day, Trump was giving one of his speeches, and was delivering one of the gun rights movement’s most well-traveled aphorisms: “when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns”. Which is pretty consistent with what I’ve seen from Trump – he’s doubtless opposed to disarming the public, but I don’t expect a very intellectual defense of it.

                Meanwhile, however, the folks at CafeHayek are continually raking Trump’s protectionist and immigration* policies. I have to believe you’re aware of those policies, and simply don’t classify them as economic planning. If so, I could understand that – I tend to think rather of nationalizing industries, fixing prices, and setting quotas. But if you intend to cover Trump’s adjacency to central planning, CafeHayek might be worth skimming to see if they have other complaints. Prof. Boudreaux might even answer your email if you ask about it.

                Speaking of addressing counterpoint: I had a friend claim that libertarians were too willing to simply side with fascists. He’s probably pretty standard leftist-American in his politics, so I had to press a little on this, and ask him what he thought fascism actually was. He referred me to Umberto Eco. I knew Eco had his own definition, but I didn’t have time right then to get into it. And according to at least one SSC comment I read, his definition was useless – you could use it to indict your night light. Nevertheless, if you write that essay, Eco sounds like another thing worth addressing.

                *Prof. Don Boudreaux, the main writer at CafeHayek, seems to be a staunch open-borders guy when it comes to immigration, meaning there shouldn’t even be a distinction between legal and illegal – in his view, probably all immigration should be legal. He seems almost as ancap as you, which led to me being very surprised to hear him claim Trump was nowhere near as bad as Clinton, in terms of economic policy.

                • >And according to at least one SSC comment I read, [Eco’s] definition was useless – you could use it to indict your night light.

                  That’s right. My respect for Eco as a thinker took a nose-dive when I read that essay. It was terrible.

                  > I have to believe you’re aware of those policies, and simply don’t classify them as economic planning.

                  The immigration stuff? No. If you have the nationalist mindset Trump does that’s not “economic planning”, it’s defending the communal property of the American people. After reading Putnam on how diversity erodes social trust I’m not entirely without sympathy for that position myself.

                  The trade protectionism, yes, and I’m no fan of it. But I set that off against Trump’s serious deregulatory push and he comes out no worse than a typical president – certainly not enough worse to justify the “fascist” label.

        • And you would be wrong. The alt-right (to the extent that the term has any definition) went up against the anti-authoritarian-center in argument and lost. The only reason they were ever a major problem has been the media, and the media is no longer capable of setting narratives.

          Western Civilization is reasserting itself after a century of retreat. Service Guarantees Citizenship.

          They just wanted to play vidya….

          • FWIW one problem with “alt right” is that it’s had a number of meanings over the last few years, and is pretty universally used by the media and left to brand anyone to their right as the same kind of alt-retards as Spencer and his lot, who actually happen to be leftwing, and at minimum pan-nationalist, but have done a mah-velous job of dressing themselves up as stereotypical Nazis to dance to the media’s little organ grinder.

            Given that we’ve seen Jordan Peterson, Candice Owens, and Ben Shapiro, among others called white supremacists and “alt right”… it’s meaningless.

            There is still an alternative right sick of conservatives losing with grace and embracing the leftist assumptions, many of them, including me, drifting over from being libertarians. And opposed to the kind of authoritarian crap the alt-retards and left both love.

  13. When I was a kid I lived on an organic produce farm in Vermont (some serious hippie shit was involved.) We had a guns and liquor corner in the kitchen. Several loaded hunting rifles were always leaned over a bottle of Beam and a bottle of Gordon’s, and we used them to kill deer (the rifles, not the gin.) Well, hippies have bad taste in liquor is the moral of this story.

    I grew up in Vermont, where every boy had a rifle, back in the day. You’d drive to school with a rifle and leave it on the rack on the back of your truck, because who would steal it?

    Everyone was armed, as I recall. Everyone was polite, or polite enough. There were burglaries, but no home invasions. And no one got shot, despite all the guns we had, and we had a lot of them.

    It’s culture that matters.I come from a culture where everyone has guns and it’s not a problem. I wonder what has gone so wrong with yours (and mine) that it has become a problem.

    • I lived from age 10-18 in one of those Kansas counties with more cattle than people. Lots of people had a rifle and/or shotgun in the gun rack of the pickup trucks they parked in the high-school parking lot. No one ever got shot at that school. Not exactly hippies, but comfortable around guns.

      • Well, the prevailing culture where I grew up in was not hippies- my people were the first wave of hippie interlopers, and maybe made of different stuff than the later waves of Flatlanders who have half taken over Northern Vermont now.

        The prevailing culture was- well, we used to call them rednecks, but after living in the South for a few years, and after having met some real rednecks, I’m less inclined to use that word. Woodchucks is maybe more appropriate. Townies- people who had lived in the same town for six or seven generations, and considered people who had been there for only a few decades newcomers. And people with a distinct culture (one that I think is dying now, but one that was still very strong when I was a child.)

        Guns were an integral part of that culture, and there was a very strong taboo against turning them on people, except in extremis. It just wasn’t done.

        And there was violence in that culture- it was an honor culture, and you could get jumped and have the shit kicked out of you with some shit-kicker boots for talking to the wrong girl at a party, or for looking at someone the wrong way, or for no very good reason at all, though that wasn’t the norm. But the guns didn’t come out even when everyone involved owned a few and had easy access to more.

        Maybe it was because you were trained to never point a gun at a person very early on, maybe it was because you hunted from a young age and knew what guns do, and maybe it was precisely because there were a lot of guns, and escalating to guns was just going to get you shot. But it wasn’t done, and high-school fistfights remained just that.

        Interesting to compare with some traditional gun cultures from the southeast, where things often have escalated. There are not a lot of Hatfield-McCoy stories I know of from Vermont, and it might be worth asking what differed between those cultures.

  14. Pingback: Gun voodoo and intentionality – Wince and Nod

  15. I did my own study and determined that severely restricting gun ownership in a 100-point-average-IQ-population produces a tendency towards a supine, tractable populace, increasingly dependent upon the state for selfhood.
    Well, ok, I did not do a study, but I just want to point out that these kinds of arguments can run in various directions, depending upon the personality trait or behaviour being considered.

  16. I thought at first that it was a parody article when I read it. Seriously? This woman is actually trying to comment on American gun culture by highlighting Haitian societal dysfunctions? Has she lost her fucking mind?

    Firearms are not Gollum’s ring, warping the soul of man.

    Like most purchases, tools – such as firearms and axes – are bought *purposefully*. There is intent behind the acquisition of a tool – a job needs doing. Guns and axes don’t just fall into my shopping cart out of thin air like an impulse purchase at Walmart. I have trees that need felling. I have deer I’d like to eat. I have a home and person I’d like to protect. All rational, decent purposes that do not result in mayhem and carnage.

    However, for some, their purpose for acquisition is “I have turf to defend” etc…resulting in Chicago-levels of violence.

    To conflate the two contexts is intellectually absurd, bordering on malpractice.

  17. ESR, you’re suggesting that the US historical rate of violent crime tracks the its average IQ, falling in negative correlation to the Flynn effect? Over the past century our average IQs have risen by some 30 points. The murder rate rather better tracks the prevalence of environmental lead.

    You offer a triply deterministic hypothesis: the rate of violent crime depends (primarily?) on IQ, because IQ correlates with forward planning and poor impulse control, and IQ also correlates strongly with race. Maybe you could at least *acknowledge* some other top factors? There are better and worse ways to poke a hornet’s nest.

    The US murder rates peaked in 1933 and 1980—perhaps Alcohol Prohibition and the Drug War somehow affected our IQs? Under Prohibition the criminal gangs were Italian, Irish, Polish, and Jewish—do you think those ethnic groups immigrated with low IQs, but then got on the Flynn escalator? Russia has quite few blacks, and strict gun control, but a murder rate nearly double that of the US–I hadn’t heard that Russians have low IQs, but Russians do tell me that they could not be trusted with guns.

    Prohibition gave the US its first gun control—the National Firearms Act of 1934—in the wake of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre. Prohibition-related crime motivates gun control today (though the largely young, white victims of public mass shootings put sympathetic faces on the disproportionately black statistics).

    It’s time that conservatives dropped their fixation on the who, and leftists dropped their fixation on the how, and we all focused on the why: the perverse incentives of the black market. If not for honesty, do it for self-interest, because otherwise you will eventually lose your guns.

    Brainwash episode 4 would interest you:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hjernevask
    It contains a segment about the relationship between honor cultures and violence. That’s another interesting factor, but of course just one of many.

    Having said all that, let me compliment you for noting that guns turn most people into defenders. The popularity of super-hero comic books and movies show that most people’s empowerment fantasies are positive.

    • >Maybe you could at least *acknowledge* some other top factors?

      Well, sure – if I were looking at longitudinal changes in the U.S. rather than trying to demonstrate why drawing lessons from Haiti is a bad idea.

      I’ve said before that I found the environmental-lead hypothesis very attractive when I first ran across it, but it doesn’t survive a second look very well. One major problem is that we have plenty of implicit evidence for how lead exposure affects (or doesn’t affect) different SES and ethnic/racial groups living cheek-by-jowl with the same exposure in the same places.

      I found I couldn’t walk away from that thinking that lead exposure was a driver unless for other reasons some of these groups are much more vulnerable to the toxic effects than others. In which case we’re almost certainly back to genetics.

      One possible model consistent with the evidence is that lead exposure drags on everybody’s IQ and time preference, but the acute effects are differentially likely to show up among people who’ve been dealt a crappy heritable-factors hand for those traits. That I could believe.

      • >One possible model consistent with the evidence is that lead exposure drags on everybody’s IQ and time preference, but the acute effects are differentially likely to show up among people who’ve been dealt a crappy heritable-factors hand for those traits.

        That I could also believe, especially if it were combined with the additional factors of a black market (temptation of high profit, alteration of the reputation calculation, and violence driving out normal business investment), factory-farm public schools, and the perverse incentives of welfare. Funny, as I wrote that I remembered that you were the one who opened my eyes to reputational incentives, specifically egoboo, a couple of decades ago. I believe (without proof) that these factors can cause a phase transition from a law-abiding mode to a criminal mode of behavior, same as other factors can drive us to other behavioral modes (e.g. mobs, pogroms, war). As in a phase diagram, there are multiple state variables. I’ll grant your IQ variable if you’ll acknowledge the others. I would say the same to leftists who focus on inequality and gun availability.

    • >> Over the past century our average IQs have risen by some 30 points.

      This is untrue. The very definition of the IQ score is that 100 is the mean and 15 is the standard deviation. So our average IQ has been 100 since the concept was created, and will always be 100.

    • Having said all that, let me compliment you for noting that guns turn most people into defenders. The popularity of super-hero comic books and movies show that most people’s empowerment fantasies are positive.

      Batman is the incarnation of the neglected duty of the American householder as citizen defender, come roaring out of the nation’s collective unconscious. No surprise, then, that some critics (and even comic book authors) should attempt to recast him as “male power fantasy”. There are deep cultural memes in play here that will take generations to root out — something that policymakers and policy advocates often don’t fully appreciate. Which is part of why I’m coming to think the only workable solution to America’s gun problems is to make like Gully Foyle and give everybody guns, and pray that the sorting out that follows will be relatively bloodless.

  18. “…Americans in general: average IQ 100. Black Americans, average IQ 85…”

    Soud References Supporting the above statemet would suffice.

    • >Soud References Supporting the above statemet would suffice.

      And you should find them in about two minutes of trawling with a search engine. I just did.

      • You have no sound references for your ideas on race vs. IQ. You get your information on this subject from the racist crackpot Richard Lynn, and we have already debated his ideas. You should remember that the pro-Lynn side lost badly in that debate. Other scientists who study race and IQ – I recall that I provided more than a dozen links to credible scientific papers – were able to point out that Lynn had low-balled his numbers pretty badly and did not understand some very basic issues with IQ tests, particularly as translated into other languages and cultures, and the pro-Lynn side had no useful rebuttals to the critiques other scientists made of Lynn’s badly broken methods.

        I don’t want to rehash that debate, so I’ll simply leave you with this and note that you badly diminish yourself every time you treat Lynn as anything more than a scientific laughingstock.

        • > You have no sound references for your ideas on race vs. IQ. You get your information on this subject from the racist crackpot Richard Lynn, and we have already debated his ideas. You should remember that the pro-Lynn side lost badly in that debate.

          Um, no. You attempted to claim that all the “credible” sources agreed with you by arguing that that any “racist” source, i.e., one disagreeing with you, was not “credible”.

          > I don’t want to rehash that debate, so I’ll simply leave you with this

          This is Eric’s blog, but *you* are certainly free to leave.

          • Um, no. You attempted to claim that all the “credible” sources agreed with you by arguing that that any “racist” source, i.e., one disagreeing with you, was not “credible”.

            If all the credible sources espouse a viewpoint that disagrees with you, then there are two major possibilities:

            1) There is a vast conspiracy to redefine credibility in such a way that only your hated enemies are “credible”

            2) You are wrong, but won’t admit it and cling to fringier and fringier sources in order to rescue your rightness

            Guess which one is more likely. Take all the time you need.

            If you have a problem with everyone around you being an asshole, then you are the true asshole. See also: global warming and climate-science denialism.

            • If you find you can only defend your position using ad hominem attacks and circular definitions of “credibility” and eventually denying basic logic, consider two possibilities.

              1) Logic itself is a white hetero-normative oppressive system.

              2) You are trying to justify a false to fact believe with increasing desperation.

            • You are wrong, but won’t admit it and cling to fringier and fringier sources in order to rescue your rightness

              I can’t help but observe, from a third party perspective, that this describes your comments as well…

              If you have a problem with everyone around you being an asshole, then you are the true asshole.

              How many people around here do you have a problem with?

        • > You get your information on this subject from the racist crackpot Richard Lynn

          Um. No. I actually pay a lot more attention to Jensen, Murray, and Hernstein. No part of my present position is very sensitive to whether Lynn is a “crackpot” or not. The most important things I’ve learned on this topic recently are from Jensen. His work on the differential capability of white and black children at around IQ 70…I’m still processing the implications of that.

          Also, be aware that when somebody with your political commitments calls a psychometrician a racist, it actually raises my estimate of his credibility slightly. That’s how used I’ve become to seeing “racist” being used as an attempted beatdown against Damned Facts.

          • Jensen? They guy who wrote, “…[t]he possibility of a biochemical connection between skin pigmentation and intelligence is not totally unlikely in the view of the biochemical relation between melanins, which are responsible for pigmentation, and some of the neural transmitter substances in the brain. The skin and the cerebral cortex both arise from the ectoderm in the development of the embryo and share some of the same biochemical processes.”

            Stripped of the big words, Jensen claims that “dark skin makes you stupid.”

            Why do you respect these losers?

            • >Stripped of the big words, Jensen claims that “dark skin makes you stupid.”

              No, silly person. Reread what he actually said without the ideological chip on your shoulder.

            • In fairness to Eric, it’s a bit of a leap to make that claim based on Jensen’s words alone, but given the context of his research, maybe not so much.

              I say this because black supremacists use this same underlying theory — biochemical similarities between melanins and certain neurotransmitters — to assert that black people are smarter than whites.

          • That’s how used I’ve become to seeing “racist” being used as an attempted beatdown against Damned Facts.

            Most of the Damned Facts I see here come from Winter and Troutwaxer. Troutwaxer has given you several citations showing you where your sources espouse viewpoints and reach conclusions that are dangerously nutty on their face, and your response is the same: to accuse him of propagandizing by tarring with the “racist” brush beloved of the left. Well, if it looks, walks, and quacks like a racist…

            • Troutwaxer has given you several citations showing you where your sources espouse viewpoints and reach conclusions that are dangerously nutty on their face

              I notice you didn’t say the the conclusions were false. And dismissing true conclusions because they’re “dangerous” is precisely what Eric is complaining about Troutwaxer doing.

        • Oh Jesus.

          I literally had this argument with a guy trying to rally a SJW screech mob at a wargame designer “because he said racist stuff like blacks have lower IQ’s” (paraphrased). I asked “average for population or all blacks individually” and the guy was refusing to believe that the averages were so. Accused me to be a racist. Accused me of not having real science to back me up when the links I sent him were from Wikipedia (ok, may have a point there, but not the one he thinks he’s making, and Wiki isn’t run by people friendly to “racism”), and so forth.

          He eventually tried to “disprove” me by linking in the APA stance on IQ, which stated quite conclusively (with gritted teeth you could hear through the screen) that yes, there were differences in average IQ between racial groups. And they were really sure that it was environmental, though they had no evidence how. But despite being shown to be in part genetic, there was no “direct” evidence that group genetics had anything to do with it.

          • > And they were really sure that it was environmental, though they had no evidence how. But despite being shown to be in part genetic, there was no “direct” evidence that group genetics had anything to do with it.

            Sometimes it’s hilarious watching these people squirm.

            But it’s also very sad. They’re working hard at ceding the truth to racists. That won’t end well.

  19. I think I would interpret the article about Haitian gun violence a little differently. To me, it’s not about time-binding or IQ, it’s about relative power levels possessed by an individual, and it’s worth remembering the old-West’s conception of the gun as an “equalizer.” If you’re in a position similar to that of a Haitian street kid, and suddenly you have a gun, you’re in possession of more power than you know what to do with. You’ve made a transition from being extremely vulnerable to being extremely potent,

    On the other hand, if I come into the possession of a gun… I’ve got an education. I own a car. I have a good job. I can move a couple-thousand dollars in the direction of a lawyer (and this ability is crucial) if I need to. I’ve got a network of great people, some of them with substantial economic power, some of them with substantial amounts of other kinds of power, who I can call upon for help if I require assistance with some major life problem. I get good medical care (though I need it very infrequently) and the possession of a gun doesn’t do much to change my power-relationship to the rest of the world. (I actually came into possession of 5 guns, two of them very nice, two years ago, and sold them instantly, with no worries that I’d made myself more vulnerable, and the money was nice.)

    But if I were a Haitian street kid or something similar…

    • This effect is not only seen in Haitian street kids, but in US cops, particularly in big cities that are hostile to gun ownership. What drives it isn’t just that having a gun is empowering, but that guns are especially empowering when they’re rare and restricted, and that having a gun under those circumstances make one a special person, an elite that the normal rules no longer apply to.

      When guns are common and socially accepted, such that old men and young women have them too, then a countervailing effect kicks in, the one pointed to by the saw “an armed society is a polite society.”

      • With police officers I think the problem is more a matter of really poor training. You can train a police officer that they are a minor bureaucrat in charge of ensuring that laws are obeyed, and that their gun is a rarely-used piece of protective gear, or you can train police that they are an occupying army in hostile territory. One guess which approach leads to more deaths… but I’m not going to argue too hard with you, because yours is probably true for some reasonable fraction of cases.

        • In Sengoku-era Japan, samurai had the right of kirisute-gomen, basically the right to cut down any commoner who pissed them off. Samurai had zero accountability to anyone of lower social stature, and that led to the expected places, including samurai using commoners as live training dummies for sword practice.

          In the USA, police have a rough equivalent to kirisute-gomen, as being sufficiently insolent to an LEO in the Land of the Free can get you arrested or shot (especially if your skin is the wrong color); in such “contempt of cop” cases the officer may well lie on the stand, reasonably confident that no grand nor petit jury will disbelieve him or hold him to account for his actions.

          The point I’m getting at is that it’s not only inadequate training that led to the current situation with cops. It’s lack of accountability.

        • It would be nice if you could establish that “the problem” actually exists before you start trying to diagnose it. It’s telling that every instance that gets drummed up by the media, upon further inspection turns out not to be an example.

  20. Oh this is fun… Can’t wait for the reasoned argument of why we shouldn’t have an IQ test requirement for gun permits…

    • “Oh this is fun… Can’t wait for the reasoned argument of why we shouldn’t have an IQ test requirement for gun permits…”

      No need for a “reasoned argument”. (You wouldn’t be persuaded by it anyways, that’s not how Leftards function.)

      All you need is a bit of observation of recent history to know that it would give The Enemy yet another vector from which to game away our rights. That’s why no such infringement can be tolerated.

      How many Ninth Circuit rulings would it require before Einstein-On-Adderall couldn’t pass it?

      The upside of such a law tho would be in keeping firearms out of the hands of most Democrats.

    • I don’t submit to anyones judgement of my desire to obtain useful technology. You have zero authority in the matter because I do not recognize or grant you any.

      You can talk among yourselves and create all the ‘laws’ and schemes you like, I’m not interested. Zero authority multiplied by any number of your mob is still zero authority.

      There’s only one destination at the end of your path, and you won’t like it at all.

    • In some ways, it would be better than the alternative: to grant/revoke basic rights based on group averages rather than individual merit. I’m liberal enough to be uncomfortable with all such policies.

  21. I repeat myself that the original post is as correct as humanly possible. Mocking the work from Haiti is unwise. Examining the work critically may be wise.

    Thinking the Unthinkable has already been used as a title but titles are subject to reuse. Ad hominum and mockery in general are logical fallacies when the discussion is intended to be logical. Few suppositions are completely wrong and almost all have a basis in observation.

    Sadly the commentary in my not all humble opinion goes astray. Going astray is of course the joy of the internet.

    Folks here are not using the same definitions for some of the combinations of letters on the page. IQ is a useful term when used as a primitive. When strictly applied it must be portmateaued as again for example with a time stamp from early days of a quotient to latter day usage as a standardized gaussian.

    FREX “Under Prohibition the criminal gangs were Italian, Irish, Polish, and Jewish—do you think those ethnic groups immigrated with low IQs but then got on the Flynn escalator?” Again taking that as testable hypothesis I couldn’t refute it though I would not ascribe rising scores to a Flynn effect but maybe.

    On the other hand I could accuse the “Italian, Irish, Polish, and Jewish” post of being racist. I do not do so; my intention is to say by example much of the bandying around of racist in this thread is ad hominum beyond any hope of logic. My wife grew up in Thunder Road country where the Methodist men – if Irish it was relocated Scots and obviously protestant – went out after church on Sunday and busted up the equally Scots-Irish stills that furnished Saturday night’s entertainment.

    Looking for example at Army testing associated with the WWI forces buildup there is a strong case that Ashkenazi Jews in America as a class ranked with Appalachian Whites for what was then labeled IQ. Nobody thinks the Ashkenazi Jews as a group were stupid. One commonly accepted and likely correct theory is that a recent immigrant from Russia, straight out of Fiddler on the Roof, will score poorly on testing standardized against the then existing American population. That is the people did indeed immigrate with a low IQ for some value of IQ and a higher value for intelligence and potential for some value of intelligence. My point is that attacking the original post by focusing on a technical meaning of IQ as opposed to a shorthand is silly.

    Seems to me the most extended opposition to the OP include the most ad hominum attacks and so IMHO reinforce the original suppositions. That is I find myself more likely to believe ESR after an ad hominum by a familiar name.

    Going astray myself, but I argue in a related fashion, I am reminded of Buckley’s famous quote to the effect: “I would rather be governed by the first 2,000 people in the telephone directory, than by the Harvard University faculty.”

    Mr. Heinlein in the aftermath to Star Ship Troopers – where successfully dealing with weapons including weapons of mass destruction by individuals was a test for voting – discussed qualifications for voting, that is power over others, including a property qualification, an ability to solve simple quadratics by inspection and others including having born a child or children and so having a stake in the future.

    But IQ tests that might be used for licensing weapons like literacy tests for voting have been shown to be more abused than useful and so might be discussed then must be rejected in the market place of ideas.

    • You’re mischaracterizing Starship Troopers pretty badly. Only a term of military service was required to have a vote. No handling of higher math or WMDs was required. You could spend your time as a warehouse worker in their logistics train and get the vote. What was required was essentially a demonstration that you put the welfare of your nation before other considerations, and that required a term of military service.

      • An easy mistake, but ST required a term of “Federal service” for citizenship, not military. Col DuBois talked about someone only capable of dropping beans in a bottle but that still qualifying them as full citizens.

        The Mobile Infantry was an elite unit with special tools. Navy SEALS have access to lots of ‘splody toys that a mere nuclear power plant operator like me did not.

        • I always took “Federal Service” as an euphemism for “Military Service,” but either way, no math or ‘splody was required.

  22. Anyone who still believes that the existence and widespread availability of devices gives zero rise to the urge to use them probably has never owned a smartphone, and certainly doesn’t have a kid with a smartphone.

    • That’s different. Smartphones and smartphone apps are deliberately designed to suck away your attention for as long as possible, in a way that guns are not. Does a gun pelt me with notifications? Does a gun reward me with Facebook likes or in-game currency for using it? Do guns show ads at all? Do guns automatically fire themselves, the way videos automatically play?

    • Any “urge” I have to use my firearms is only an urge to meet head-on the violence that always accompanies the arrival of thugs, tyrants, SJWs, communists, socialists, and muslims.

      And for that no apologies are offered.

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