November 07, 2007

Watson and the prospect of Africa

Last 14 October the Sunday Times reported about James Watson:
He says that he is “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really.”
Some critics of Watson have correctly pointed out the lack of convincing evidence on genetic differences in intelligence between people of different geographic origins. Some defenders of Watson have correctly argued that this matter deserves study and public discussion, and that shutting Watson up is another ridiculous instance of political correctness. Jared Diamond wrote in Guns, Germs, and Steel that Papuans are innately more intelligent than Westerners and nothing happened to him because bashing Westerners happens to be politically correct.

I want to focus on Watson's point about social policy. He says that "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours." But, quite the opposite, policies towards Africa tend to assume that Africans are so stupid that they can not prosper by their own efforts, as people elsewhere have done. Even African politicians appear to make the same assumption. Take Mugabe. The faulty logic behind his current policy is that the only way blacks can own land or other capital is by stealing it from whites. These condescending and self-condescending policies are part of the reason why Africans have done so poorly.

I am optimistic about the prospect of Africa because the policies that assume that Africans are intelligent and capable are gaining ground - alas, not in Zimbabwe. Let Africans have private property protected from government seizure, and they will prosper.

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