Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tom Sowell conveys the core of his message

-the message of his many books and articles--in four paragraphs [here]:
Native intelligence may indeed not vary by neighborhood but actual performance-- whether in schools, on the job or elsewhere-- involves far more than native intelligence. Wasted intelligence does nothing for an individual or society.

The reason a surgeon can operate on your heart, while someone of equal intelligence who is not a surgeon cannot, is because of what different people actually did with their intelligence. That has always varied, not only from individual to individual but from group to group-- and not only in this country, but in countries around the world and across the centuries of human history.

One of the biggest fallacies of our time is the notion that, if all groups are not proportionally represented in institutions, professions or income levels, that shows something wrong with society. The very possibility that people make their own choices, and that those choices have consequences-- for themselves and for others-- is ignored. Society is the universal scapegoat.

If "luck" is involved, it is the luck to be born into families and communities whose values and choices turn out to be productive for themselves and for others who benefit from the skills they acquire. Observers who blame tests or other criteria for the demographic imbalances which are the rule-- not the exception-- around the world, are blaming whatever conveys differences for creating those differences.


The probligo said...

I think that my disagreement with this guy would start from the very first sentence.
actual performance-- whether in schools, on the job or elsewhere-- involves far more than native intelligence

That certainly is true. But it also hides the fact that the first qualification has to be that "native intelligence".

The "making of choices", given equal intelligence is applied, is a second myth. That is why you can easily find in "disadvantaged areas" people whose "native intelligence" is at the top end of the scale but whose achievement does not reflect their intellect.

The myth says - at that point - "they made bad choices". That conclusion (Dodgson's "delusion" is so apt here) is so bad as to be laughable. My father taught "disadvantaged and slow-learners" of age 13 onward. Many of these kids were close to illiterate.

Was that the result of "bad choices"? Perhaps so, if you scope in the fact that their parents chose to farm in a remote area instead of being on a state benefit in the "city".

The probligo said...


There is a "consequence" here as well.

Humans have a built-in ("native" if you like) conservative nature. There is a very real resistance to change which, if you put your mind to it, is visible in just about every human life and culture. It is why I still yearn to move back to the remote rural environment I came from. It is why my wife wants to stay close to the city. It is why people chose to follow the life of their parents - it is what they know, what they have lived.

You can call that consequence "luck" for all that you are worth. You can try and shackle it to "choices" if you want. Neither of those really considers the fact that human nature can (quite stubbornly, and quite inexplicably to the outside observer) resist change. Even to the extent that when facing starvation, there is a strong emotional tie that over-rides the temptation to "move to better parts".

Al said...

I don't see a disagreement.