IQ and the Values of Nations

Like individuals, nations vary in their preferences and values

Posted May 03, 2010

The Hypothesis about the effect of general intelligence on individual preferences and values may also have implications for national differences in their characters, institutions, and laws.  More intelligent populations may hold different collective preferences and values than less intelligent populations.

If more intelligent individuals are more likely to be liberal and atheistic, and if more intelligent men are more likely to value sexual exclusivity, then it follows that, at the societal level, populations with higher average intelligence are more likely to be liberal, to be atheistic, and to practice monogamy than populations with lower average intelligence.  Data indeed do confirm these macrolevel implications of the Hypothesis.

Even after statistically controlling for such relevant factors as economic development, education, and history of communism, societies with higher average intelligence are more liberal, less religious, and more monogamous.  For example, average intelligence in society increases the highest marginal tax rate (as an expression of people’s willingness to contribute their private resources for the welfare of genetically unrelated others) and, partly as a result, decreases income inequality.  The more intelligent the population, the more they pay in income taxes and the more egalitarian their income distribution.

The average intelligence of the population is the strongest determinant of the highest marginal tax rate and the level of income inequality in the society.  Each IQ point in average intelligence increases the highest marginal income tax rate by more than half a percentage point; in societies with higher average intelligence by 10 IQ points, individuals pay more than 5% more of their individual incomes in taxes.

Similarly, average intelligence in society decreases the proportion of the population who believe in God, how important God is to the people, and the proportion of the population who consider themselves to be religious.  The more intelligent the population, the less religious they are on average.  The average intelligence of the population is the strongest determinant of its level of religiosity.  Each IQ point in average intelligence, for example, decreases the percentage of the population who believe in God by 1.2%, and the proportion of people who consider themselves to be religious by 1.8%.  Average intelligence singlehandedly explains 70% of the variance in how important God is in different nations.

Finally, average intelligence in society decreases its degree of polygyny.  The more intelligent the population, the less polygynous (and more monogamous) they are.  The average intelligence of the population is the strongest determinant of its level of polygyny.  The average intelligence of the population has a stronger effect on polygyny than income inequality or even Muslim religion.

In an earlier post, I suggest that there may be something in the human nature that longs for hereditary monarchy because we seem to want to see our political leaders succeeded by their wives, children, and other family members.  If this is indeed the case, then it means that some form of hereditary monarchy – transmission of political power within families – may be evolutionarily familiar, and representative democracy (and all other forms of government) may be evolutionarily novel.  Thus the Hypothesis would predict that more intelligent individuals are more likely to prefer representative democracy and less likely to prefer hereditary monarchy.  At the societal level, the Hypothesis would imply that the average intelligence in society will increase the degree of democracy.

From this perspective, it is interesting to note that the work of the Finnish political scientist Tatu Vanhanen supports this speculation.  His comprehensive study of 172 nations in the world demonstrates that the average intelligence in society increases its degree of democracy.  The more intelligent the population, the more democratic their government.  This suggests that representative democracy may indeed be evolutionarily novel and unnatural for humans.  Once again, remember not to commit the naturalistic fallacy.  Unnatural does not mean bad or undesirable.  It simply means that humans did not evolve to practice representative democracy.

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