The Flynn Effect and the End of Paternalism

James R. Flynn, the professor of political science at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, declares that intelligence quotients, as measured by certain tests, have been steadily growing since the turn of the century.

Flynn's carefully documented findings have provoked a sort of soul-searching among many in the psychological and sociological communities. Before Flynn published his research in the 1980s, IQ tests had their critics. In general, however, the tests were viewed as imperfect yet highly helpful indicators of a person's acuity and various mental abilities or lack thereof. But after the widespread discussion of the eponymous Flynn effect, nothing has been the same. Debates roil about what the tests really measure, what kinds of intelligence there are, whether racial differences persist and, if IQ truly is increasing, why and what the political and social implications are.

"It is transforming work," comments Ulric Neisser of Cornell University, editor of The Rising Curve. The recent book, which emerged from a 1996 American Psychological Association symposium, reviews the Flynn effect and the various explanations for it--including better nutrition and parenting, more extensive schooling, improved test-taking ability, and the impact of the visual and spatial demands that accompany a television-laden, video-game-rich world.

He discovered that certain IQ tests - specifically, the Stanford-Binet and Wechsler series - had new and old versions and that both were sometimes given to the same group of people. In the case of one of the Wechsler tests, for instance, the two versions had been given to the same set of children. The children did much better on the 1949 test than they did on the 1974 one. Everywhere Flynn looked, he noticed that groups performed much more intelligently on older tests. Americans had gained about 13.8 IQ points in 46 years, Flynn reported in 1984.

Critics, including Jensen, responded by saying that the tests must have higher educational loading than previously suspected. So Flynn looked at performance changes in a test called Raven Progressive Matrices, which measures what is called fluid g: on-the-spot problem solving that is not educationally or culturally loaded. Amazingly, it turned out that the highest gains were on the Raven. Flynn observed that in 14 countries - today he has data from at least 20 - IQ was growing anywhere from five to 25 points in one generation.

What, then, are the political implications of the Rising Curve? As we have seen, certain factors characterise contemporary Western society.  There is mass alienation and defection from social and political institutions. In the recent UK census large numbers of males were found to be ‘missing’. It is increasingly difficult to get indigenous people to do dead end jobs – they prefer the dole: or to get young, poor males to enlist in the Armed forces. Contempt for patrician culture is commonplace. Above all, fewer and fewer people vote.

It is usual for the Establishmentarian academics (both liberal and conservative) to equate intelligence with organized religion, ‘rational voting’, abiding by the law and conformity to ‘societal’ (i.e. patrician values). Misalignment with these values denotes, for them, declining rationale and education. To these observers, the explanation offered for these phenomena in this article might ruffle a few feathers with its reverse logic. However, it is eminently plausible when examined in depth: people are becoming more intelligent. And because the IQ curve is steadily rising, the hackneyed ploys devised by the elite to deceive the masses are failing.

Take voting. In contemporary Britain we know only around half the population votes. But non-voting is rational. There is no real difference between the major Western political parties, who have a preoccupation with the highly paid upper-middle class and complete indifference to the concerns of the vast majority (largely because they are themselves so wildly unrepresentative).  On top of which, it is not really a democracy, anyway. In Britain the majority consistently favour the death penalty, and the liberal elite continually deny them. It isn’t space plasma physics: a primary school child can see that mass opinion is completely ignored in Britain on virtually every issue. Hence non-voting is a wholly rational response in a largely non-democratic society. The rise of the BNP is not the emergence of political racism so often described; rather, it represents a rational protest vote on the part of the disenfranchised that forces the oligarchy to listen. And it works: only since the white working class started voting BNP has their very existence received grudging acceptance by the elite after an infinity of neglect. No behaviour could be more rational.

Associated with non-voting is a rising tide of contempt for the elite and their interests. Furthermore, this contempt is completely rational. It extends to high art – where the game is truly up. Listening to someone like Tracey Emin makes any rational person realise that modern art is utter nonsense. As Jean Gimpel cites in the Cult of Art, modern art largely exists to exclude the masses from the cultural life. Its vaunted conceptual content is completely spurious, a farrago of Freudian nonsense.

In intellectual terms, the game is up with Freud, Marx, and Feminism. Most educated people today wonder how these irrational anachronisms lasted so long against socio-biology and sociology. The rising IQ of the general population has cut through them, leaving their smashed remnants around its iron shod feet. Eysenck’s devastating defeat of Freud is now common knowledge.

The final collapse of organised religion in the West coincides neatly with the Flynn Effect. The textual discrepancies in the New Testament are highlighted in best sellers like The Jesus Mysteries. The fact that Church going (like voting) is now the preserve of the elderly is not without significance in relation to Flynn’s arguments.

The use of national Lottery funds – overwhelmingly provided by the poor – to finance the pleasures of the rich (opera houses and abstract art galleries) has provoked an enormous outcry. Even a generation ago such upper-middle class effrontery would have been met by dumb acquiescence – not today.

Consider also mass resentment at having to pay a TV licence – effectively a levy on the population to give patronising Public Schoolboys careers.

Even the elite eccentrics who stress the value of work and effort know they are talking nonsense. Why should they fool anyone else? Crime is rational. Crime is the only way for disenfranchised males to get money and its attendant pleasures of sex and ease. Honest toil offers no rewards whatever. While once, only the most spirited and intelligent of the poor would opt for a life of crime (something pointed out by H.G. Wells a century ago), the Flynn Effect has secured the mass criminality we see around us.

We have looked specifically at mass disenchantment with the meaningless fanfare of ‘democratic’ politics and the eccentric injunctions of the elite in general. On issues like sentencing, immigration, Asylum Seekers and so on the broad masses remain deeply critical. No one is fooled by elites who promote multiculturalism while sending their children to traditional private schools, any more. Other signs of burgeoning mass intelligence (than merely not voting and the other issues we have considered) include:

·     Men not getting married (they don't want to be destitute after divorce).
·     People not breeding (a child is now to best way to spend one’s best years in penury).
·     Contempt for formal education (liberal education being little more than a ludicrous attempt to impose elite values and experience outside a moneyed lifestyle – as many an unemployed Graduate has discovered).
·     (In the UK) not enlisting in the armed forces. Why should the disenfranchised defend a socio-political system that has utterly rejected them? In fact, most people favour a period of National Service to give elite youth some taste of consensus reality and develop understanding between the different social classes.
·     Rejection of insulated elite opinion on a vast range of issues including law, politics, psychology, healthcare, victim’s rights and the Welfare State. The rising IQ curve has been like awakening from a dream in many respects. We live in an exciting intellectual age where various elite Sacred Cows – Freud, Marx, artistic Modernism, left-liberalism, environmentalism, multiculturalism, child-centred learning and paternalism – have been challenged and comprehensively refuted after decades of tired hegemony.
·     Mass concern about the misapplication of liberal values to unsuitable social groups. Upper middle class liberal values permeate all social groups, especially those to whom they are most harmful (the urban poor). Without their traditional internal thrift and discipline, the poor are rapidly collapsing into barbarism.

People have disengaged with electoral politics. However, the massive success of writers like Ann Coulter and Michael Moore paradoxically show that mass interest in political debate is alive and well. Neither of these political celebrities has anything positive to say. Their entire function is to attack the liberal (Coulter) and conservative (Moore) upper-middle class. Viewed as a total phenomenon, they have achieved celebrity by critiquing the snobbery, remoteness, elitism and hypocrisy of the elite. Hatred of the elite seems to be the dominant political factor in America. This is increasingly shared in mainland Europe and Britain. Hence the conceptual fireworks detonated by the success of right-wing populists like the BNP are common to most Western nations.

The older democratic political structures no longer mean much. All parties - nominal liberals/conservatives in the West - seem completely out of touch with intelligent mass opinion. For example, probably 90% of Americans, Britons (or whoever) now want drugs legalized. But no way will they ever be. Nominal Western democracies grossly underestimate the intelligence and maturity of their populations. Political parties are woodenly partisan and out of touch. A new mood is growing in the masses - a radical liberalism, if you will - which wants commonsense on issues like drugs/pornography/prostitution, an end to upper-middle class exemption from societal obligations, an end to liberal elitist hypocrisy (multiculturalism for the poor but not for leafy suburbs). Until this movement finds active political expression the alienation of most from 'democratic politics' (i.e. upper-middle class eccentricity and hypocrisy) will worsen. In other words we need democracy that treats people like grown-ups, not infants.

‘Democratic’ politics no longer reflects mass opinion in any Western nation. In fact, the international political class is still rooted in the 1950s, assuming everyone goes to Church, is married and has 2.4 children. You only have to listen to the panel on Question Time to realise this is so. The brute fact that Britain is now secular, for example, seldom impinges on their eccentric discourse.

Some would say the mass social criticism I describe as characteristic of the West. Perhaps, but half the population (or more) not voting is new. Also, the discontent is with the general remoteness of the elites, not specific issues. There is mass awareness that Western societies are run by a self-serving, remote and uninformed upper-middle class cadre. This is quite distinct from the specifically middle class 'radicalism' of the Sixties.

A specific, probably Flynn-related crisis in Anglo Saxon culture is the collapse of mass faith in upper-middle class opinion. Since the soft sciences (psychology, sociology) are essentially faltering and non-scientific, they are prey to the unjustified assumptions of their practitioners. But most people do not accept that mass killers are ‘ill’, that multiculturalism works or that non-selective education is fair. In fact, low voting levels and general political disengagement owe much to mass dissatisfaction with such unfounded elite assumptions.

What is key to the problem is the lack of contact between classes in the West. In real terms elites are no more accepting of pedophiles, immigrants or Asylum Seekers than the poor. Their liberalism depends on the distance afforded from these issues by high incomes.

The rise of the far right and mass alienation from ‘democracy’ is symptomatic of a collapse of faith in the sanctity of upper-middle class opinion. It is self-evident that the elite are too detached from mass experience to pass meaningful social comment or formulate constructive social policy. The lower middle class and aspirant working classes no longer listen to elite opinion – and justifiably so. The Rising Curve that frees the majority from intellectual deference has crossed its Rubicon.

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