Monday, June 12, 2023

Regression to the Historical Mean - Vox Popoli

 Harold Robinson takes the time to explain the obvious and inevitable, namely, the inability of complex systems to survive the incompetent:

America must be understood as a system of interwoven systems; the healthcare system sends a bill to a patient using the postal system, and that patient uses the mobile phone system to pay the bill with a credit card issued by the banking system. All these systems must be assumed to work for anyone to make even simple decisions. But the failure of one system has cascading consequences for all of the adjacent systems. As a consequence of escalating rates of failure, America’s complex systems are slowly collapsing.

The core issue is that changing political mores have established the systematic promotion of the unqualified and sidelining of the competent. This has continually weakened our society’s ability to manage modern systems. At its inception, it represented a break from the trend of the 1920s to the 1960s, when the direct meritocratic evaluation of competence became the norm across vast swaths of American society.

In the first decades of the twentieth century, the idea that individuals should be systematically evaluated and selected based on their ability rather than wealth, class, or political connections, led to significant changes in selection techniques at all levels of American society. The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) revolutionized college admissions by allowing elite universities to find and recruit talented students from beyond the boarding schools of New England. Following the adoption of the SAT, aptitude tests such as Wonderlic (1936), Graduate Record Examination (1936), Army General Classification Test (1941), and Law School Admission Test (1948) swept the United States. Spurred on by the demands of two world wars, this system of institutional management electrified the Tennessee Valley, created the first atom bomb, invented the transistor, and put a man on the moon.

By the 1960s, the systematic selection for competence came into direct conflict with the political imperatives of the civil rights movement. During the period from 1961 to 1972, a series of Supreme Court rulings, executive orders, and laws—most critically, the Civil Rights Act of 1964—put meritocracy and the new political imperative of protected-group diversity on a collision course. Administrative law judges have accepted statistically observable disparities in outcomes between groups as prima facie evidence of illegal discrimination. The result has been clear: any time meritocracy and diversity come into direct conflict, diversity must take priority.

The resulting norms have steadily eroded institutional competency, causing America’s complex systems to fail with increasing regularity. In the language of a systems theorist, by decreasing the competency of the actors within the system, formerly stable systems have begun to experience normal accidents at a rate that is faster than the system can adapt. The prognosis is harsh but clear: either selection for competence will return or America will experience devolution to more primitive forms of civilization and loss of geopolitical power.

Unfortunately, it’s not possible for selection for competence to return, because the demographic changes to the US population means that politics are no longer ideology-based, but identity-based, and people from cultures that have never valued individual merit in any way are not going to start doing so in a post-meritocratic United States.

Furthermore, the average level of intelligence, and therefore, the average level of competence, has declined with the mass infusion of inferior genetics, to such an extent that the average IQ is probably 10 points lower than it was before 1965, when the Emergency Quota Act of 1921 was superseded by the Immigration and Nationality Act.

One doesn’t need to be a eugenicist to understand the societal consequences of long-term dysgenics. Think of it as large-scale regression to the historical mean, or, if you’re not an abstract thinker, why the USA is going to lose its ability to provide widespread indoor plumbing to its inhabitants.