Monday, May 02, 2011

IQ and Law Scoffing

Not sure about this study, by my good friend John Nye. Summary from WSJ:

George Mason University economists Garett Jones and J.V.C. Nye set out to solve a riddle: What makes someone likely to obey the law in situations where there’s no chance for punishment? Before 2003, diplomats enjoyed just this type of impunity when parking on city streets. Hundreds of United Nations representatives and foreign consulate officials in New York were free to ignore parking tickets issued by police without fear that their vehicles would be impounded.

A federal law took effect in 2003 giving local authorities the power to pull diplomatic plates from cars with too many unpaid tickets, introducing the first real consequence. Unpaid tickets plummeted as a result. But even in the freewheeling era of diplomatic immunity, not every nation’s diplomats ignored parking tickets just because they could. As the economists note:

Delegations differed widely in their scofflaw tendencies: The median diplomat averaged 8 unpaid tickets per year, the standard deviation was 33 tickets per year, and the maximum was 250 per year (from the Kuwaiti delegation).

The study itself...

Would have thought that "IQ" would be standing in for a national culture of rule of law, and voluntary cooperation. In other words, market systems.

So my hypothesis is that countries with highly developed market systems would be those that have fewer parking tickets. The "IQ" correlation is spurious.



Tom said...

There's a fundamental flaw in the premise of the study. What is "the law"? Is it (a) any and all statutes or (b) long established social convention? Statutes are frequently arbitrary and capricious - the whim of some legislator.

I have first hand knowledge of people who are very respectful of (b), while sneering at (a).

Anonymous said...

Didn't Fisman and Miguel basically do this study in 2007? Except chalking it up to cultures of corruption rather than IQ?

Garett Jones said...

@Mungowitz: The hypothesis John and I have is that high national average IQ helps *create* "a national culture of rule of law, and voluntary cooperation."

My 2008 paper, "Are Smarter Groups More Cooperative," was the first to find that high group IQ predicts voluntary cooperation among strangers. Other experimental work since then reinforces that claim.

Since life, especially political life, contains many prisoner's dilemmas, I think this helps explain why countries that currently have high average IQs are typically richer.

@Anonymous: Yes, as we note repeatedly in the paper, we're using Fisman and Miguel's data, and we're building on their work. But they never controlled for human capital measures. We show that national IQ predicts their corruption measure, and has additional explanatory power on its own. We run a variety of multivariate specifications.

And we also show that years of education does great as a predictor of tickets--vastly better than Fisman/Miguel's corruption measure.

Hence our title: "Human capital in the creation of social capital," an inversion of the title of a classic sociology paper.

Anonymous said...

Other studies show prisoners have lower IQs on average than the general public, so IQ probably does play a part.