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Archive for the month “November, 2013”

Idiot Quotient

Mr Johnson said: ‘I am afraid that a violent economic centrifuge is operating on human beings who are already very far from equal in raw ability, if not spiritual worth.

‘Whatever you may think of the value of IQ tests, it is surely  relevant to a conversation about equality that as many as 16 per cent of our species have an IQ below 85, while about 2 per cent have an IQ above 130.

‘The harder you shake the pack, the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top. And for one reason or another – boardroom greed or, as I am assured, the  natural and God-given talent of boardroom inhabitants – the income gap between the top cornflakes and the bottom cornflakes is getting wider than ever.

‘I stress I don’t believe that economic equality is possible. Indeed, some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity.’  

Oh, where to begin with this mountain of piffle? I suppose someone of genius IQ like wot Boris has will often performs this experiment with cornflakes. Perhaps he puts them in a centrifuge. Who knows what these brain bod types do for entertainment? However, let’s make the following basic points

IQ tests are culturally biased, appeal to only a certain type of mind, and have little connection to real intelligence:- IQ tests have been criticised from within the psychological community almost from the get-go. The idea that something intangible as intelligence can be measured by answering a set of standard questions which don’t deviate much from the test set in the 1950s is, I would contend, the sign of an inability to grasp that the mind is a great deal more complex than that. A study of over 100,000 participants by Canada’s Western University in 2012 found pretty much the same thing, with Dr Adrian Owen, the team leader, quoted as saying “IQ tests are pretty meaningless – if you are not good at them, all it proves is that you are not good at IQ tests”.

People are not cornflakes: In Boris’ lovely metaphor, some always rise to the top (I was taught scum always rises to the top in fluids, but perhaps that isn’t the message he is trying to get across). Of course, what it ignores, the cornflake metaphor, is that some will always be chained to the bottom. For whatever reason. Be it genetic or be it environmental, random chance or cultural capital, some of those cornflakes will never make their way to the top. And – whisper it quietly – some of those cornflakes weren’t in the same packet as you or I. Boris is one of those, as is his putative leader. They were put, at a very early age, into a box most of the rest of us could never access. There, they were lovingly glazed with honey, until the time came for them to enter the general box. The box was given a shake, several, and then our lovely honey-glazed cornflakes were sprinkled on top. And we were told that this was on merit.

“Natural and god-given talent”: Whilst there was an element of tongue in cheek here from ol’ BoJo, he’s kind of making the same point as Dr Owen did with regards IQ tests, only he is doing it unintentionally. It’s a very basic point, but one which should bear trumpeting: The ability to succeed in business proves one thing, and one thing alone. That you are able to succeed in business. Why you are – IQ, old boy network, sociopathic ruthlessness, all of the prior and more – is as valid a measure of intelligence as IQ tests, in this nameless drone’s humble opinion. If someone has some correlating evidence which shows businessmen are more likely to be successes in other walks of life than non-businessmen – you know, fantastic businessmen make fantastic political leaders, or incredible authors, or amazing thinkers – then I’d be pleased to hear it. I can’t really see much of an equation between the two. Some of the greatest minds in history have been staggeringly bad at business, and, for that matter, their personal accounts, limping from one financial disaster to the next – Old Winston, who the Tories love to trot out as someone to be emulated, frequently flirted with utter ruin and was saved only by his pen (and there’s the ultimate bit of old boy networking, writing a history of World War 2 as one of the participants. Made a tidy few bob, that did). Given that IQ doesn’t measure your aptitude for business (and, one could argue, that aptitude can’t be measured until such time you step in the door of your first job), perhaps we shouldn’t be handing out start up loans based on the Wechsler test just yet.

The truth of the matter, of course, is that this is all about justification. He’s giving a speech to a bunch of rich folk who subsidise him and his party and he loves those rich folk (because they subsidise him, and his party) and he just wants to make them feel good about themselves. So he trots out the laziest of fig-leafs, the “deserving rich” mantra. Like its sister under the skin, the “undeserving poor” mantra, this bears little resemblance to the complexity of anyone’s life, pays scant attention to the vast wodges of privilege and power operating in plain sight to sustain those at the top, treats life as some sort of competition in which the only goal is to amass more things, and can be seen through by anyone whose IQ is above that of a pot-plant.

” Reject these attitudes. Reject the values and false morality that underlie these attitudes. A rat race is for rats. We’re not rats. We’re human beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement. This is how it starts, and before you know where you are, you’re a fully paid-up member of the rat-pack. The price is too high. It entails the loss of your dignity and human spirit.”

(By the way, the last time I took an IQ test, it gave the same answer that I have consistently had for the past 3 and a half decades – in the mid 130s. Where’s my boardroom seat? Where’s my share deal? Where’s my bonus?)


To be filed under “useful idiots”

From the Guardian:-

For years, economists have debated if there is a cut-off point beyond which growth adds nothing to wellbeing. Now – in a study published on Thursday, the day that official figures show the fastest growth for three years – two economists have gone a step further and estimated that “sweet spot” with some precision. And the UK has reached it.

According to Eugenio Proto of Warwick University and Aldo Rustichini of University of Minnesota, life satisfaction peaks when incomes per head – adjusted so that money buys the same basket of goods and services worldwide – reach $36,000 (£22,000) a year. Per capita incomes in the UK on this basis are $37,000. Beyond this point, they say, we get richer but less contented.

Now far be it from me to question such sterling science, which, apparently, takes in amazing scientific evidence like “survey evidence and GDP data”, but I’m pretty damn sure that Professor Eugenio Proto (do you think he’s a lecturer? Average higher education salary, £37,000.00 a year, apparently. Eugenio must be way miserable) and his delightfully named colleague from Minnesota are talking what we in the know call “bollocks”. I’m on just under £20,000 a year, and most of the time, I’m bastard miserable about it. I’m miserable because I can barely afford to do any of the things that I want to do. I’m miserable because one or two nights out a month – if it’s in any way reasonable, say – a meal, four or five drinks, a bus and taxi home (yes, my fault for living in the arse end of the universe, I grasp this) – eats up pretty much most of my disposable income. But according to Eugenius, I’m a mere 2k a year away from the tipping point where I get Oh! so miserable…once I get to that point, I begin – apparently – to yearn to keep up with the Evanses. And woe is me, for I cannot afford the white goods and faffy food, woe woe and thrice woe.

Only problem is, I – and many, many of my countrymen and women – can’t afford them now. And some months, we can’t afford off-white goods, and junk food.

I do wonder whether the authors of the above report are deliberately trolling us all, are subsidised by some firm offering zero hour contracts, or have decided that nobody yet has quite nailed the “dismal” part of the old insulting description of their discipline and are therefore going for it.

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