Influential blogger Steve Sailer has a recent post questioning the popular feel-good idea that bullies are low self-esteem losers. While this stereotype might be generally true, many bullies are probably high self-esteem winners, who go on to achieve great success in life. Sailer cites the following quote from sociologist Robert Faris:
On average, the future for bullies is bleak. They tend to come from homes that are problematic, and then end up having long-term problems. But there’s a caveat to that: another category of kids who are highly aggressive, kids who come from good homes, kids who are often quite popular. Those children are probably more skillful in the way that they use aggression. They often have high social skills, and do quite well in later life. There are probably a number of politicians and successful business leaders who fall into that category.
Upon reading that, I immediately thought of Chris Hargensen, the attractive rich female bully with a tested IQ of 140 from Stephen King’s novel Carrie. I was also reminded of blog commentator Santoculto’s assertion that many highly successful people are sociopaths. But the corollary is that many extreme losers (i.e. people living in abject poverty) should have towering morality; and indeed many spiritual teachers vow to give up all material possessions.
I would think that sociopathy would be even more advantageous in politics than business because politicians often have to make decisions of war and peace for political reasons so it would help to have a cold-blooded personality that wouldn’t lose much sleep over such moral dilemmas. This may help explain why U.S. presidents appear to have an average IQ around 130, which while incredibly high, seems kind of low for people who, for many years, were arguably the most powerful person on the planet and typically attended extremely elite schools while young. In fact, an IQ of 130 is not much beyond the average Ivy League student, so U.S. presidents are probably not much brighter than the elite college kids they went to school with, despite the fact that they are light-years more successful than the average elite college grad. Although I disagree with the Lion of the Blogosphere‘s claim that high IQ is only useful for getting credentials, and after that virtually irrelevant to success, when it comes to politicians, his theory looks quite accurate.
However I suspect that high IQ is actually a huge competitive advantage, even in politics, but sociopathy is also a huge advantage, and since sociopaths have lower IQ’s, this drags down the IQ’s of elite politicians. So instead of comparing elite politicians to their typical Ivy League classmate (IQ 128), we should be comparing them to the average sociopathic Ivy League classmates (probably IQ 118, since criminal and delinquent types typically have IQ’s 10 points lower than demographically similar counterparts). So the average U.S. president (IQ 130) cognitively towers over his sociopathic elite college classmates (IQ 118), once again confirming the importance of IQ.
Of course not all U.S. presidents went to elite schools, and many most certainly are not sociopaths. Obviously I don’t know any of these men personally so I have no way of judging their true character, but President Jimmy Carter, for example, is considered a man of outstanding morality in his unwillingness to use military force and President Barack Obama has been praised as a good father and faithful husband who fought tirelessly to bring health care to working-class Americans.
It’s interesting that scholar Charles Murray said the following about Jimmy Carter:
The last thing we need are more pointy-headed intellectuals running the government. Probably the smartest president we’ve had in terms of I.Q. in the last 50 years was Jimmy Carter, and I think he is the worst president of the last 50 years.
Perhaps high IQ people make bad presidents because they’re not sociopathic enough for such a tough job.