How Economists Think
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July 19, 2007, 01:51 AM
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Tyler Cowen blogs:

IQ and the Wealth of Nations

How many more times will someone suggest this book in the comments section of this blog? I like this book and I think it offers a real contribution. Nonetheless I feel no need to suggest it in the comments sections of other peoples` blogs.

I do not treat this book as foundational because of personal experience. I`ve spent much time in one rural Mexican village, San Agustin Oapan, and spent much time chatting with the people there. They are extremely smart, have an excellent sense of humor, and are never boring. And that`s in their second language, Spanish.

I`m also sure they if you gave them an IQ test, they would do miserably. In fact I can`t think of any written test — no matter how simple — they could pass. They simply don`t have experience with that kind of exercise.

When it comes to understanding the properties of different corn varieties, catching fish in the river, mending torn amate paper, sketching a landscape from memory, or gossiping about the neighbors, they are awesome.

Some of us like to think that intelligence is mostly one-dimensional, but at best this is true only within well-defined peer groups of broadly similar people. If you gave Juan Camilo a test on predicting rainfall he would crush me like a bug.

OK, maybe I hang out with a select group within the village. But still, there you have it. Terrible IQ scores (if they could even take the test), real smarts.

So why should I think this book is the key to understanding economic underdevelopment?

Crossposted at