Stupid People With Money

The IQ guys swear that high IQ strongly correlates to success. That’s tempting to believe until you start thinking about the fabulously successful people who were also incredibly stupid. Caligula is the guy who comes to mind whenever someone mentions intelligence and our political leaders. Caligula was clever at times, but no one would call him intelligent. He managed to screw up so much he was murdered after just four years as emperor. Granted, he was probably mad, but that just underscores the fact you can get pretty far without being terribly bright.

One of the most oddly successful salesman I ever met was very dumb. He sold auto accessories to retail stores and job shops. He worked hard, had a great personality and was willing to spend all day selling gaudy crap to people who had customers looking for gaudy crap. He was also a white guy willing to go into the ghetto. He made a lot of money because he had the right products and the right attitude. He had a big house and a Cadillac, along with an 95 IQ.

When I was a teenager, I talked my way into a graduate seminar on proto-Marxism taught by a guy who was jarringly brilliant. He spoke five languages, could write in seven. He had a masters in math as well as a PhD in history. I don’t think he had two nickels to rub together and I doubt he cared. He drove a car that looked like it would collapse in a heap at any minute. I’m not sure if he was the smartest person I’ve met, but he is a good example of how a high IQ does not necessarily mean a high status, big money or even success in a narrow field.

There’s that and then there is the fact that serendipity plays a determinative role at the extremes. Germanicus, the father of Caligula, was a smart and accomplished guy, but he was unlucky and just a click less smart than Tiberius, who had him killed. Caligula was outlandishly lucky to find himself in the role of emperor. Of course, his successor was probably the luckiest man who ever lived. Claudius was an able emperor, but his rise to power still fascinates classicists because of its improbability. His relatively long reign is just as improbable.

In modern times, we have seen some people hit the lottery and become billionaires, despite not being terribly bright. Mark Cuban is a good example. He is a hustler and a risk taker. He does not mind making a spectacle of himself in public. He also got outlandishly lucky when fools totting dot-com money bought his worthless company for billions. The Facebook boys were similarly lucky. The proof of that is MySpace is the same product, but never caught on like Facebook. Mark Zuckerburglar is not stupid, but he is not a billion time smarter than you.

That’s what we’re seeing here with the death of the New Republic. The venerable progressive journal founded by the Mussolini loving Herbert Croly was recently purchased by Facebook lotto winner Chris Hughes. That was two years ago and now he has decided to turn it in Gawker, because he likes saying the phrase “digital media property.” The staff resigned en masse this week, making a big show of it for each other.

The Communications Revolution, like the Industrial Revolution, has created a lot of very rich people. Some of those rich people are super-rich, like Chris Hughes. The cultural elite of every society lives off the generosity of the financial elite. They don’t always live well, but the arts can only exist with the ascent and support of the monied elites. One of the fun parts about Nero’s biography is what we learn about the status of entertainers. In Rome, they were the bottom of the social order, even though they were supported by the ruling elite.

The current cultural elites have always lived in a world where the rich are willing to write checks for the privilege of mingling with the intellectuals. Journals like The New Republic never made money, but they got rich patrons to bankroll them so the writers could have nice middle-class lives. National Review, for example, purged all of their conservative writers because their patrons demanded it. Guys like John Derbyshire and Bob Weissberg refuse to go along with the official dogma so they were sent to the fringe.

The new money appears to be different from the old financial backers. The robber barons from Silicon Valley are not interested in hanging out with smug progressive writers. They want to hang out with ball players and starlets. That means the New Republic has to become a gossip site based in New York or Los Angeles, not a journal of dogmatic political thought serving the homely people of Washington. Never mind that there are plenty of gossip sites and the value of the New Republic lies in its ties to the Washington power elite.

It will be interesting to see this unfolds. The Cult is not going to take kindly to having their friends unemployed because some rich Nazi wants a different toy. Robber barons like Chris Hughes have the money to put up a good fight, but the Cult has the power of the state. They also know how things work, which apparently Chris Hughes does not. If he was half as smart as he thinks, he would have used TNR as a way into DC’s power elite. Then again, the Golden Rule says the man with the gold makes the rules.

From WW1 through the 1970’s we did not see the creation of great fortunes. Great fortunes are made at the start of great economic revolutions. That left a long time for the relationships between the cultural, political and financial elites to settle in place. The Communications Revolution has created a whole new batch of great fortunes. The first batch, Larry Ellison, Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Steve Jobs, etc were happy to ape the style and manner of the established great fortunes. That meant buying their way into the cultural and political elites, without making any demands. The second batch of great fortunes is not looking to follow that path.

We now have a lot of stupid people with money buying up elite real estate, physical and mental. That will not be without consequence.

9 thoughts on “Stupid People With Money

  1. On the other hand, maybe high IQ doesn’t correlate with high wealth because at higher levels of IQ one can lead a fulfilling life without needing wealth. You’re smart enough to say “I got a good life, I don’t need to hustle”. Smart enough to say “what’s the use of working sixty-hour weeks to pay for the boat I never use?” Smart enough to see the fun in reading an old book, as opposed to buying that boat because it’s the only idea of fun you have.


    You do make a good point about rich people paying to hang out with intellectuals. That’s pretty much how most art prior to the 20th century got made–because some rich guy wanted to own A Painting By Michaelangelo, or wanted to let all his bros know that he was so rich he could have Bach write a whole symphony just for him. It’s not like da Vinci did the Mona Lisa for kicks and it accidentally got famous. The idea that an artist could have a paying career on their own is a very modern one–and, you’ll note, the people who’ve started paying for cultural experiences are the ones telling us that artists shouldn’t have any expectation of making money beyond work-for-hire or the immediacy of performance. (see: all the anticopyright zealots.)

  2. Well, Henry Ford became very rich after WWI and well before the 1970s; so did many others; look it up.

    As for IQ, it is mostly a measure of academic intelligence and does not have much to do with suceeding in life which is mostly determined by motivation, drive and common sense. There are many “geniuses” that are simply F’n clueless, and they flock together in academia and government because in these two institutions very little of usefulness to the people need be produced and because they can live off the public dime.
    Most geniuses spend their time impressing other like minded, like thinking individuals, and produce nothing .

  3. “…but free money will run out one day and then we will see some fireworks.”

    One day?
    Have you picked up a paper in the last six years?
    Look up The National Debt. NOW include unfunded liabilities. NOW include “free” health care. NOW include the REAL percentage of folks without a “regular” taxable income. Now estimate the number of US “economy”, and foreign “aid” dollars, that “recirculate” to foreign “interests”, by the forklift pallet load, with astonishingly ignorant frequency.
    Of course, (ie)The New York Times MAY present alternative “interpretation”, based on alternative “adjusted data”.

  4. The only thing I will say about successful, and therefore wealthy, people I have met along the way is that they were willing to work hard. The ones who can’t work may be able to scam some money out of others for a time (doing things like running away after selling ‘drugs’ that are almost pure white cleaning agents) or milking the benefits system. Milking until even the stupid government sees that they are being taxed themselves — not so worried about ordinary people — to pay for the grubby greed of the unemployed and unemployable.

    The old message of working to earn money is of course lost on large tracts of the population in our current culture, but free money will run out one day and then we will see some fireworks.

  5. According to a study, and a few studies have merit though it takes more work than it’s worth to dig looking for holes which is the best you can do because it is way, way too much effort to duplicate the results:

    There is a tendency of higher IQ leading to higher economic success until the very highest IQ’s who are not prone to such economic success (and possibly not much success at anything but it’s been too long ago to recall it all).

  6. I have two good friends that are self made millionaires. One is an auto mechanic who bought a cheap building he used as a garage to fix cars. In his spare time he bought dirt cheap cars and fixed them and sold them. Simple as that, no genius not even a great mechanic. The other guy bought a used dump truck then a used trash truck and now owns a dozen trash trucks and contracts with the city to pick up trash in a small nieghborhood. A multimillionaire who can’t even spell the word. I have know a few geniuses who live comfortably, own their home and a decent car and like their jobs. I did ask one why he didn’t parlay his skills into millions and he said he didn’t want riches he wanted family, love and comfort. That was really smart. That may be the smartest thing a man can do with his life; family, love and comfort.

  7. I think there is more to this than meets the eye. TNR was the house organ for the old Democrat/neoliberal coalition now represented by Hillary Clinton. Marty Peretz, the old owner, was a staunchly pro-Israeli Jew who often said and wrote impolitic things about Muslims, blacks, and Hispanics.

    The Millenial LeftObama Coalition, of which Chris Hughes and his husband are exemplars, is a very different group of progressives. They hate whites, they hate straights, they hate the U.S., and they especially hate Israel. They went after Peretz with a fury, until he had finally had enough and sold out, and now they are going after the rest of his legacy, and the legacy of his version of the Left.

    The Jews at TNR have been pushed out: Expect a strongly anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian viewpoint to prevail at the new New Republic.

    Literary editor Leon Wieseltier, one of the two major figures whose resignation sparked the exodus, was very close to Peretz, supported the Iraq war, and wrote a letter of support for Scooter Libbey. One can see why he and Hughes clashed.

    The old Democrat coalition is dead, and everyone knows it except Hillary Clinton. Its replacement, the Obama coalition, is collapsing around the tarnished figure of their Dear Leader. The progressive millenials are desperate to staunch the bleeding, and probably figured they could utilize what’s left of THR’s storied reputation to assist in the endeavor. Hughes, who along with his husband is desparate to make a difference is the savior with a bank account.

    This is the sort of thing the Millenial Left has in mind for Israel:

    • That’s a good point about Hughes and the new-new-left. People assume all Jews support Israel, but that’s never been the case. The Zionists have always been a minority within the American Jewish community. Israel gets most of its support in the US from Evangelicals.

      The sight queer Nazis savaging the liberal establishment is tearing me up inside.

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