By Paul Slavin

The paradoxical nature of modern society is painfully apparent: while suffused in material wealth and technology inconceivable to our grandfathers it is evident that the human element of the mix which constitutes society has failed to keep pace with its material surroundings. Witness the decline in academic standards, the disregard for civility and the widespread acceptance of social behaviours which only a generation ago were confined to those that society deemed to be "dysfunctional".

Can it be that a society which demonstrates an increasing aptitude for material and technological advance can simultaneously show a decreasing capability to adhere to the standards that form the foundations of a fair and civil society? To answer this question requires that the society under discussion be analysed more closely.

i. The Education Revolution

Between the end of the Second World War and the mid 1980s, the system of tertiary education in Western nations underwent nothing less than a revolution. Before 1950, access to Higher education was restricted to a tiny percentage of the population whose "suitability" for this privilege was determined by their race, religion or socio-economic status (SES). Many perfectly able pupils were denied this access by their "failure" to fit the archetype of what a university student "should be". As such, the university population of any nation would differ considerably from the population of those who possessed the highest intellectual capacity; what could be termed the "cognitive elite".

Since this time, however, this edifice of privilege and exclusion has been systematically dismantled by educators and legislators. It is no longer true that the "wrong" SES, religion or race can prevent a bright student from being accepted by a good university. The tertiary education system has become far more efficient in finding the most able scholars and inducting them into a world which offers the chance to realise their academic potential, to secure a rewarding job on graduation and to embark upon a successful and productive career which gives the individual a meaningful place in society and enables them, by their labour, to contribute to the greater good.

It is no wonder then, that we should live in society of material abundance and rapid technological advance when we are blessed with such an able group of individuals and an education system which channels that ability to the professions in which it has the greatest potential to broadcast its insights to society as a whole.

ii. A Fractured Society

That the cognitive elite should now make such a significant contribution to society would appear to be an exclusively beneficial circumstance. Their isolation inside certain neighbourhoods and professions however, has a corollary effect which explains the dichotomy that lies behind the extremes of individual success and failure which manifest themselves in our societies.

Those with the intellectual ability to succeed in a demanding profession or to contribute to humanity by their innovation and resourcefulness represent only a tiny percentage of society as a whole. For those who lack this potential our modern, technologically complex society has become a place in which it is increasingly difficult to play a meaningful role. As manufacturing industry becomes ever more dependent upon the technology produced by the cognitive elite and as the "knowledge industries" of the service sector account for an increasing proportion of economic activity, the opportunity for those lacking the raw intelligence required to participate in such intricate ventures shrinks accordingly. Through no fault of their own, the least intelligent members of society find it increasingly difficult to contribute.

Excluded by their natural endowment of intellect from making an economically and culturally positive contribution to society, the retreat of this group is frequently to welfare-dependency, drugs and crime. And with this development of a "cognitive underclass" alongside the "cognitive elite", society has lost the cohesion which once ensured that it held a "place for everyone", be they a quantum physicist or a lift attendant. Today, where the lifts can talk for themselves but quantum physics has become no less complex, it is inevitable that society must become stratified by cognitive ability.

iii. Managing Redundancy: The Price of Dysgenics

That differences in intelligence exist between individuals has always been true of every society which has ever existed. Even if the significance of these differences have been exacerbated by the nature of modern labour markets, what is it that makes the modern circumstance so distinct from that of, say, Periclean Athens or Medieval Saxony?

The simple answer is "demographics". If one does not consider it alarming enough that today, for the first time in recorded history, there exists a class of people incapable of contributing to society in any meaningful way, your concern may well be aroused by the fact that this class, as a proportion of society, is expanding at a phenomenal rate. The reason for this is the biological fact of differential fertility between groups with differing intelligence levels that has been observed for centuries. Encouraged by the comprehensive welfare systems found in Western societies, the cognitive underclass has to bear little of the cost of rearing its children. The state effectively subsidises the reproduction of this group and does so with funds given it by the cognitive elite. At the opposite extreme of the intelligence distribution, the brightest citizens are failing to replenish their numbers, as the following diagram illustrates:

Age at childbearing

Cognitive Class Mean Age at First Birth
I - Very Bright 27.2
II - Bright 25.5
III - Normal 23.4
IV - Dull 21.0
V - Very Dull 19.8

Source: The Bell Curve, Herrnstein & Murray, 1994

  Not only does this suggest that the least able people are having more children than the brightest, but that their generation length is also shorter; the dullest citizens having more generations in any time period than do the brightest.

These twin pressures, the decline of the cognitive elite and the growth of the cognitive underclass, lead inevitably to a proliferation of those with the lowest intelligence and therefore the dysfunctional behaviours such as crime, illegitimacy and welfare dependency which are so strongly correlated with low IQ.

Given this trend, how long will a shrinking roll of taxpayers be able to fund a growing class of claimants? How can society continue to function where a significant proportion of its electorate is unable to comprehend the issues on which they are required to vote? How can an education system cater for those who lack the intellect to be educable? What happens to an economy when large numbers of its workforce lack the skill that it requires?

Whatever one's opinion as to the eventual outcome of this dysgenic trend, there is one objective certainty: nothing positive can come from the falling average IQ of a society. The following diagram suggests that the outcome could be decidedly negative:

The swing in social problems that results from a small shift in the mean IQ

Change when average IQ is 97 103
Permanent high school dropouts +15% -29%
Children not living with either parent +14% -24%
Males ever interviewed in jail +13% -25%
Persons below the poverty line +10% -27%
Children living in poverty +13% -21%
Women who become chronic welfare recipients +7% -19%
Children born out of wedlock +8% -16%

Source: The Bell Curve, Herrnstein & Murray, 1994 iv. The Role of Social Policy: A Eugenic Solution

Where the price of continued indifference to the nature of their population is so high, it is evident that legislators should take urgent action to halt the dysgenic trend and indeed reverse it by encouraging childbearing amongst those who will leave a valuable genetic legacy to their offspring. Perhaps simplest amongst the many methods of achieving this is action to reduce unplanned pregnancies. As pregnancy outside marriage predominates amongst those with the lowest IQ, any effort to curb this, be it by way of easier access to contraception for welfare claimants, more flexible and less bureaucratic pregnancy terminations, will inherently have a eugenic effect. More significant progress can be achieved by policymakers recognising the fact that the cognitively least-able members of society are also, by definition, the least able to make responsible decisions about parenthood. As such, it is moral and correct for the state, or for non-governmental organisations, to lend their expertise in determining whether it is in the interests of society, and most importantly in the interests of the child itself, for a member of the lowest quartile of the intelligence distribution to have offspring. An entity comprising psychological and medical expertise and having access to academic records and behavioural assessments would be ideally placed to determine the suitability of any individual to take upon themselves the onerous burden of parenthood.

A century ago, government believed that it had no moral obligation to provide medical facilities which its citizens, irrespective of age or income, could use free of charge. It believed that it had no moral obligation to care for the elderly, for the newborn, for those incapable of caring for themselves. Today is displays a similarly contemptuous disregard for the quality of its citizens' offspring. In the light of the evidence this paper presents, it is apparent that to avoid a society fractured beyond all ability to function effectively as a cultural, moral, and economic force, the morality of the future must acknowledge the duty of those who wield power to assure the genetic quality of the populace. Only upon a foundation of able citizens can a society construct its future.

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