John Derbyshire has a bit in his weekly transmission bout Smart Fraction Theory. The argument, one that John describes well in his broadcast, is that a society needs to have a certain number of high IQ people in order to maintain the institutions necessary for a functioning society. The author of the paper argues that there is a threshold number of “smart people” described as possessing an IQ above 108. About 30% of the American population falls into that category. A basket case like Equatorial Guinea probably has less than 1% that fall into this category as they have an average IQ at about 60. The few truly intelligent rule over the rest in the same way the one eyed man is the king of the blind.
John raises the topic in relation to Detroit. No one says it publicly, but the general belief is that when Detroit went black it was never coming back. The crime, corruption and dysfunction were baked in the cake and would follow the predictable path. Coleman Young, the first black mayor, was so openly hostile to whites that he could fairly be described as the Robert Mugabe of American politics. Like most post-colonial African potentates, Coleman held a mixed bag of Marxist ideas and a deep seeded hatred of the white middle-class. Within a few years he drove most of the whites out of Detroit.
The conclusion many make is that since there are no majority black societies that are thriving, the cause of the problem must be IQ. Prior to the 60’s, Detroit had a majority white population who supplied the bulk of the “smart fraction” needed to carry the underclass. Once they left, the remaining black population lacked the number smart people to carry the underclass. The result is what we see in sub-Saharan Africa. The smart fraction turns the institutions into weapons to rule over the rest and extract what value lies therein. They exploit the available resources in a great bust out until it collapses. Basically, it is the Jim Goad argument.
I think that looking strictly at IQ misses a wide swath of observable facts that play a role as well. Lebanon is not exactly brimming with geniuses. If not for outside intervention by Israel and Syria, it would be a peaceful and prosperous land, by the standards of the Arab world. It would not be a rich country, but it would not be Detroit either. West Virginia is brimming with pinheads, yet manages to avoid the pathologies we see in Detroit, Camden, Chicago and other cities. Culture can and does provide a structure within which people make choices.
Much of what plagues sub-Saharan Africa is anti-colonialism. The ruling elite that replaced the Europeans rulers were motivated by what turned out to be an insane desire to scrub away the stain of colonialism. That led to doing the opposite of what made sense in many cases. Killing the white farmers in Mozambique resulted in the exodus of all whites, along with their wealth and expertise. Robert Mugabe eventually went down the same path and Zimbabwe is now one of the poorest nations in the world. The Europeans did some awful things in Africa as colonial masters, but they did the basics right. The wholesale rejection of colonialism based in emotion is as much the cause of the consequent collapse as dimwittedness.
Detroit went through a similar process. The same is true of many cities, particularly those in the north. Blacks had moved from the Old Confederacy to the north for factory jobs. Whites found a way to segregate without resorting to the same tactics of the South. I suspect the popularity of liberalism has a lot to do with the fact that northern whites felt guilty about shoving blacks into ghettos and keeping them out of public office. It is easier to talk like MLK than to live like MLK. Eventually, blacks demanded whites live up to the words. The bitterness of blacks who came along in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s is due in large part to the realization their white collaborators were not really that interested in sharing the wealth with them. That resentment is what drove the new black politicians like Coleman Young to pursue anti-white polices, even though it resulted in a massive exodus of whites from the city. There was enough residual value in the city to keep the patronage machine going for a few decades, so they got to feel good without paying the price.
That’s the big question raised by the Detroit bankruptcy. We’ll never have a public debate on IQ. We can have a public debate on culture. The Left’s desire to nurse black hatred of whites cannot hold up if every majority black city in the nations is falling into bankruptcy. Even a few is enough to get the attention of the public. The fact that race relations appear to be getting worse, despite the election of Obama twice, tells me the gap between public debate and on-the-ground reality is getting big. Most whites are willing to accept blacks into society as long as blacks drop the grievance games and accept the responsibilities that come with being in the mainstream.