During the past 4 months I have been involved in collecting data, writing, and visiting various universities to talk about two topics: the extent to which different nations vary in their overall intelligence, and in the distribution of intelligence within their populations. (You can read up on the background for these studies by looking at my book Human Intelligence, Chapter 11. Surely your library has a copy!).
During the discussion period after one of these talks I received a very good question. I'd be most interested in the answers any readers of this blog may have.
The question was: "Suppose that the distribution of intelligence in a nation is fixed. How should that nation be organized to maximize the benefits gained from intelligence?"
Let us generalize this as bit, by saying "organized to maximize the benefits of current intelligence and to improve future intelligence in a way that will maximize future benefits?"
I think that answering this question requires pretty careful reasoning. Here are some facts that have to be considered.
Internationally, it has been shown that measures of economic well-being, such as wealth or income per capita, are better predicted by the abilities of the top 5% of the population, in terms of cognition, than by measures of average cognitive ability or the ability of the lowest 5% of the population. On the other hand, measures of social discord, such as crime rates or HIV/AIDS infection rates, are best predicted by the level of cognitive ability in the lowest 5%. Similar data has been found within the United States. Studies of people who, as early teen-agers, have extremely high test scores have shown that by the time they are 40 they have been extremely productive. These studies mirror similar findings, 50 years earlier, by Louis Terman and his colleagues at Stanford University. On the other hand, studies of disadvantaged children who receive intensive pre-school programs have shown that the social benefits show up 15 to 20 years later, and that these benefits are very largely due to the children in the programs not becoming "burdens on society" (e.g. by being incarcerated or being on welfare) when they grow up.