The smart money's on better education
This amazing titbit comes from Professor Richard Lynn and his controversial IQ and the Wealth of Nations. His latest book Race Differences in Intelligence is no less polemical.
Some years ago, the professor from the University of Ulster computed the average national IQ of 185 nations and linked it to each country's economic wealth.
He suggested the average national IQ in the world is 90. Only one in five countries has IQs near the British average of 100.
Almost half of countries have IQs well below that. With co-author Professor Tatu Vanhanen, father of Finland's prime minister, Professor Lynn suggested poor nations also has a low national average IQ.
Professor Lynn's new theory in Race Differences suggests East Asians (Japanese and Koreans) have the highest mean IQ at 105, followed by Europeans at 100. South Asians clock in at 84.
What's more, Professor Lynn says "higher IQ countries" are becoming more affluent. The gap between them and "poor low IQ countries" is increasing.
Leave aside that Germany and Japan with topnotch IQs have had low to negative growth in the past decade: if the average IQ of China is the same as Britain's, but India is well below at 84, we have nothing to fear from globalisation, right? We will simply stay ahead because we are smarter.
Don't bet on it. It has been long accepted that education, not IQ, has a close link to economic growth.
Finland, a country with just 4 million people and a high-cost welfare state, does not worry about low-cost, highly-skilled Chinese and Indians half as much as we do.
Finland's average IQ is just below ours (99), but its teenagers now have the highest literacy skills, mathematical and science competency in the world,according to international tests. Better than the brainier Japanese (IQ 105). Better than the brainier Germans (IQ 107). And better than us.
Yet in the mid-Eighties education performance in Finland, like its economic performance, was average, although the average national IQ has not changed.
What changed was that Finland put a lot of effort into being ahead. Prime minister Matti Vanhanen could have told his father that.
South Korea (IQ 109) 40 years ago had the same gross national product as Afghanistan. South Korean children are arguably no cleverer than their parents, but huge investment in education has pushed it towards the top of the education league and the ranks of wealthy nations.
Studies also show that schooling the illiterate can add up to 15 points to IQ.
Every year of school can add three points to an individual IQ. India, with 40 per cent adult illiteracy, is now investing heavily in basic education, and could become the new South Korea. High IQ Japan, Singapore (IQ 103) and Taiwan (IQ 105) would argue neither intelligence nor education is enough.
Creativity matters, too. But get this: research generally agrees creativity rises with intelligence up to IQ 120. Beyond that there is little increase in creativity.
A Doonesbury cartoon from the early Nineties, when America was panicking about the rise of Japan inc and the high academic performance of Asian pupils, features Kim, a national merit scholar. How does she do it? "Getting good grades is a racial characteristic, isn't it, an Asian thing?"
her classmate says.
The implication is there is no point in trying to compete against such an inbuilt advantage.
It's not that East Asians are cleverer, but that clever Europeans are falling behind.
Europe is having to compete with countries who are hungry for knowledge and who want to do better, says Ann Mettler, of the Lisbon Council in Brussels, which looks at Europe's competitiveness. "Europe is operating under its potential," she tells me.
This is similar to the high-IQ child who goes unnoticed by the teacher, and is never helped to perform at his or her peak.
In a globalised outsourcing world, where you no longer get monkeys when you pay peanuts, it is not how bright the population is, but how its innate intelligence is developed and encouraged by education.
That's a no brainer.