Where is zero and what happens when you squish the curve?

Shrinkwrapped thinks about The Bell Curve and Social Stability. The thinking is incomplete and a bit confused in that there is confusion about the distribution of attributes in a population and the many facets of the expression of intelligence.

Wealth is a byproduct of technological progress. It is created by that tiny fraction of the population who have the requisite abilities to take appropriate risks, devote their energies to developing their ideas, and working to bring their ideas to fruition. If this intelligent elite fails to improve the lives of the great bulk of people who ultimately depend on their success, instability is sure to follow.

One issue is the Orwellian concept of equality. This is to make a curve of the distribution of attributes so that its center is as high as possible. That means the difference between those who have least and those who have most is very small. The curve is quite high and very narrow. The other side of this is where differences are exaggerated, there is significant difference between individuals, and the curve is quite wide and never very high.

The consideration often lost in discussing these ‘bell curves’ of the distribution of an attribute over population is that there is a fixed reference – a zero point. This is the minimum attribute possessed by any in the population. A more equal distribution – the Orwellian desire whose curve is high and narrow – means that the entire population is squeezed towards the reduced attribute end. The wide and flat model with large differences between members in the population is open ended with more of the population having more of the attribute. i.e. the more divergent and diverse population will have an overall greater wealth of whatever is being measured but suffer because the difference between low and high is more pronounced which can produce envy and other negative emotion.

The other issue touched upon is about the nature of the attribute. Murray, the stimulus for the blog entry, used IQ as a general measure and was subject to much harsh criticism by those who do not like the idea that some are smart and others aren’t. But the real issue Shrinkwrapped highlights is that IQ can be expressed in many ways. In western cultures, society has promoted and encouraged the expression of intelligence in ways that promote the health and welfare of its citizens. In Muslim cultures, society has encouraged the expression of IQ that leads towards tribal conflict and dictatorships and ruthless behavior.

The distribution of attributes – IQ – in the population exists. Murray got involved in the debate about how much of it was nature and how much nurture. But, perhaps, the more important point he was trying to make is that the social importance is not in where it comes from but what we do with what we have.

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