is the subject of my Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:
But is it really? It was only when Alvin Capino mentioned it in Karambola
(DWIZ, weekday mornings; frankly, it’s the smartest radio talk show
today) that I became aware of how shockingly low the Philippine’s
average IQ level is. My first reaction was: well that explains a lot,
particularly our propensity for undisciplined traffic and for voting
idiots into public office.
The Philippines scored an average of 86, which (in the Binet
Scale) qualifies as dull. I actually prefer the old, politically
incorrect classification (if only to ram the point home): we actually
are borderline cretin in terms of IQ, just one level up from moron and
two levels up from an imbecile.
The country with the highest average IQ score is Hong Kong (with 107),
followed by South Korea (106), Japan (105), Taiwan (104), Singapore
(103), Austria (102), Germany (102), Italy (102), Netherlands (102). The
US scored 98. On the other hand, the Philippines keeps for company
countries such as Libya (84), Lebanon (86), and Burma (86). China,
Thailand, and Indonesia all scored higher than us (100, 91, 89,
Which probably indicates that the ability to speak foreign-accented English means nothing in terms of intelligence.
Scoring lower would be countries like Angola (69), Ethiopia (63), and
Somalia (68). And at least Ethiopia beats us (actually many times over)
as far as the Olympics is concerned.
The foregoing data was taken from 2002’s IQ and the Wealth of Nations by University of Ulster’s Dr. Richard Lynn and University of Tampere’s Dr. Tatu Vanhanen.
The findings -- expectedly -- garnered its fair share of critics and as
rebuttal (along with additional information and analysis) the two
released in 2006 IQ and Global Inequality. The two books essentially
contain the same general conclusions: that differences in national
income are related to differences in average national intelligence.
Indeed, a simple glance at the top 10 and the lowest 10 of Drs. Lynn and
Vanhanen’s list would show the clear disparity in economic success.
While some, perhaps more for ideological reasons than anything else,
will dispute the importance of IQs in place of more politically
sensitive ratings such as emotional quotient or EQs, nevertheless, the
significance of IQs can’t be denied nor should it be ignored. While it
is definitely not the case that IQs are the sole determining factor of
individual success or merit, George Mason University’s Garett Jones (National IQ and National Productivity: The Hive Mind Across Asia;
Asian Development Review, 2011) gives strong support to the study
mentioned above: "National average IQ has a strong positive correlation
with gross domestic product per worker across Asian countries. Jones and
Schneider (2006) demonstrated that the relationship between national IQ
and economic performance is robust across hundreds of growth
regressions controlling for dozens of widely used control variables."
Jones insight is that there "are good reasons for thinking that
intelligence -- the name used for the underlying trait measured by IQ
tests -- matters more for nations than for individuals."
For instance, the capacity of a people to be patient (hence saving more
and building up capital), be more cooperative with each other (and
preserving better wealth-creating institutions), productive, and open to
seeing "the invisible hand," thus making prosperity more likely, all
hinge on the people’s intelligence.
The foregoing also seems to support George Mason University’s John Nye.
In a recent visit to Manila, he discussed an upcoming paper dealing with
the matter of trust: the more intelligent a country’s population the
more trusting it is and, as our previously mentioned studies have shown,
apparently richer as well.
But I also think intelligence is a trait that restrains promiscuity,
produces disciplined motorists, promotes adherence to the rule of law,
and makes people demand greater accountability.
However, the question remains: why does our population have such low IQ
scores? The answer may lie in something mentioned by Jones: "In the
Visayas region of the Philippines, Solon et al. (2008) found evidence
that lead levels reduced the IQ of children. In their study, one
microgram of lead per liter of blood was associated with a 2.5 point
reduction in the verbal IQ of older children, and a 3.3 point reduction
in the IQ of young children. In their sample of children, the levels of
lead in the blood averaged 7.1 micrograms per liter, so lead exposure
could be costing the average child in this sample 15 IQ points even
under conservative estimates."
So something in our environment, whether it be lead content in the water
or (as sometimes suspected) mercury levels in certain fish, or the
quality of media, entertainment, parenting, or education, is dragging
the country’s collective intelligence down.
One way or another, this must be addressed primarily because, as
mentioned at the start of this article, it obviously accounts for our
voting patterns. As the old adage goes, we get the leaders we deserve.
Or put another way: birds of the same feather flock together.