Posted on August 22, 2020

Who is Capable of Democracy?

Hippocrates, American Renaissance, September 2010

Tatu Vanhanen, The Limits of Democratization: Climate, Intelligence, and Resource Distribution, Washington Summit Publishers, 2009, 382 pp.

Tatu Vanhanen is Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of Tampere in Finland, and the father of Matti Vanhanen, who just resigned after serving as prime minister of Finland for five yeas. Professor Vanhanen’s main work during his long career has been on democratization (the extent to which different countries have established democracies), ethnic and racial conflict, and the application of evolutionary ideas to the study of politics and human conditions.

Tatu Vanhanen

Tatu Vanhanen

In his early comparative studies of democratization, Professor Vanhanen used a resource-distribution theory to explain national variations in the levels of democratization. According to this theory, more equal distribution of important intellectual and economic “power resources” is expected to lead to democratization, whereas the concentration of resources in the hands of a few is expected to lead to autocratic systems. Empirical evidence supports this theory; Professor Vanhanen has found a strong correlation between distribution of power resources and democratization.

In these earlier studies, however, Professor Vanhanen did not try to explain why resource distribution varies so greatly from country to country. In his recent book, The Limits of Democratization, he provides one answer to this problem: The level of resource distribution is partly dependent on average national intelligence. He compares the national IQs published in IQ and Global Inequality, co-authored by Professor Richard Lynn, to 172 countries’ scores on how democratic they were in 2006. On a scale that runs from zero to 44.2, the highest Index of Democratization values were for the following ten countries: Belgium 44.2, Denmark 43.5, Netherlands 42.0, Switzerland 41.4, Iceland 40.4, Sweden 40.1, Cyprus 38.7, Norway 38.6, Finland 37.6, and Germany 37.0. The United States scored 34.5, and the United Kingdom 29.5. The lowest-scoring European country was Russia (17.3). The East Asian countries populated by the classical Mongoloid peoples are more varied. Japan (32.8), South Korea (26.8) and Taiwan (28.7) score high, but Singapore (9.0), China (0) and North Korea (0) score low, despite high IQs.

Few of the countries of South East Asia, South Asia, and North Africa achieve high scores. The most successful are India (25.6) and Sri Lanka (25.3), followed by Bangladesh (17.3), but none of the others approach these scores: Cambodia (4.0), Thailand (0), Malaysia (11.4), Pakistan (5.7), Iran (3.0), Burma (0), and Saudi Arabia (0) are undistinguished, while in North Africa the scores range from zero for Libya to 5.5 for Tunisia.

The results for Latin America are more varied. The highest scores on the Index of Democratization are achieved by the countries with almost entirely European populations: Argentina (which beats the United States with a score of 35.8) and Uruguay (31.8), followed by Brazil (28.1), in which about half the population is European. The countries with minority European populations all score below 25. The countries of the Caribbean with black majority populations all score below 23. Jamaica (13.1) and Haiti (11.3) are typical.

Sub-Saharan Africa scores low. Ghana is at the top, at 19.1, but most countries score below 12 and five (Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, Eritrea, and Somalia) score zero. There is a correlation of 0.57 between national IQ and democratization, and by Prof. Vanhanen’s calculations national IQ explains 33 percent of the variation in democratization, but distribution of power resources counts for a lot too (see below.)

As for why countries have different average IQs, Prof. Vanhanen adopts what has become the accepted theory among those working on this problem. This is that when early peoples migrated north out of Africa, they encountered colder environments where it was more difficult to survive. The colder these new environments, the more intelligence was required. To check this theory, Prof. Vanhanen examines the relation between annual mean temperature and national IQ, and finds a negative correlation of 0.52. This explains why IQs are highest among the North East Asians (105), followed by Europeans (100), North Africans and South Asians (80-85), and finally by sub-Saharan Africans (67).

Professor Vanhanen therefore proposes a causal sequence in which geographical differences in temperature have been the original stimulus driving up the IQs, first of South Asians and North Africans in temperate latitudes, and later driving up further the IQs of Europeans and North East Asians in colder environments. He argues that the higher IQs of the Europeans and North East Asians contribute to democracy in two separate ways: through first, the advantages of high IQ itself, and second, the better distribution of power resources in high-IQ countries.

Prof. Vanhanen proposes that high IQ per se is necessary for democracy because “people in countries with low national IQs are not as able to organize themselves, to take part in national politics, and to defend their rights against those in power as people in countries with higher national IQs” (p.270). The peoples of low-IQ countries may want democracy, but they cannot establish and maintain it.

High IQ also contributes to the other factor essential to democracy: broad distribution of power resources. One might assume that the level of concentration of wealth and power reflects the standard deviation of IQ in a society rather than the average; that societies of the very rich and very poor might have greater variations in intelligence than societies with large middle classes. Prof. Vanhanen concludes otherwise: A high average, rather than a tight distribution of IQs is what creates the middle class. More intelligent people are better able to defend and further their interests and to acquire education, which prevents the concentration of power resources. This distribution of political power supports the emergence of market economies, which help distribute power resources more widely. Standard deviation in IQ is probably similar for most countries, but those with high averages are more equal and more democratic.

The conclusion to be drawn is that none of the low-IQ countries of sub-Saharan Africa is capable of sustaining full democracy. The South East Asian, South Asian, North African, Caribbean, and Latin American countries with minority European populations — with IQs in the range between 80-89 — are capable only of imperfect and fragile democracies.

Professor Vanhanen’s conclusions are unquestionably important, not least for American presidents who have been persuaded by gung-ho neo-cons that the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan (and no doubt Iran) are all ready and longing for democracy, and that all America need do is send in the army, topple their corrupt rulers, and the people will welcome democracy and adopt it! The president and his staff could learn a great deal from Prof. Vanhanen.