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Intelligence vs. Wisdom

SEATTLE, Washington - My current man-crush, Don Boudreaux (sorry, Daniel Craig, times are a-changing), recently made some interesting comments about intelligence, wisdom, and economics.

Dr Boudreax got on the topic as a result of a Newsweek article about Paul Krugman where Krugman notes that part of his original attraction to economics was that it seemed to reveal "the beauty of pushing a button to solve problems." Boudreax noted the hubris of proposing button-pushing "solutions" to address issues in complex market economies - what Hayek called "the fatal conceit".

In response to comments that Krugman is "no dunce" and that he probably has a appreciation of complex markets comparable to his own, Boudreax noted:

A believer in the existence of buttons to push is either overly impressed with his or her own intelligence or simply unaware of the true complexity of any market economy (or both).

It's true that Krugman is no dunce. I have absolutely no doubt that his I.Q. is significantly higher than my own -- and, more relevantly and much more impressively, that it is significantly higher than that of 95 percent of all other economists. But intelligence is not the same thing as wisdom. In fact, I suspect that, after I.Q. reaches a certain (above-average) level, I.Q. and wisdom are negatively correlated with each other. Cleverness becomes mistaken for insight. The two are not at all the same.
This ties back a bit to at least half of my old quip that the smartest and dumbest 25% of the population gravitate to leftist politics - the really smart ones think that they're not only smart enough to run their own life, but to run everyone else's life as well.

Note the end of this post by Judith Warner, where she says that we are now governed by "this book-writing president and his coterie of brilliant advisers." Well, now we're set - the guys in charge should feel free to fire the CEO of General Motors, shake up the board, funnel the production of the company into unwanted "green" technologies, pour billions of taxpayer dollars down the funnel, etc... after all, they're brilliant.*

Dennis Prager has touched on the topic of wisdom over the years - in particular how young people going to college are immersed in the ideology of the people who tend to populate college campuses (definitely of a certain political stripe, and intelligent - college professors are really smart, right?) and assume this is the Correct Way of Looking At The World, without realizing that there are other factors (e.g. wisdom) that come into play when shaping a world-view and values system.

Codicil: Hopefully this Dr Boudreaux is not the same as the one Tom Tolbert discussed on The Jim Rome Show.

* Warner did not endorse those specific policies, she was just swooning over the brainpower of the guys in charge now.


Christine said...

You have some boring man-crushes! Do you lay in bed at night thinking of economics? Jeez, I am at least thinking of sex I am not getting.

I would describe intelligence as IQ. Knowledge is the information that you accumulate. Wisdom is a mix of knowledge and life experiences and is an ability to discern useful information from whatever around you. Wisdom, to me, is like common sense. Some people have it and some people don't. It doesn't particularly correlate with IQ, although the wisest person have both.