So often human talk is nothing but smoke and mirrors. I am the visual type. I need to see text, and I require time to digest words before I can come up with a valid analysis. On listening to this, I thought I could not trust my ears. Below see my transcription of the part of the speech that interests me here - from time mark 07:50 to the end, as well as some commentary.
Transcription from time mark 07:50 onward:
What did get us out of this Malthusian trap which characterises or characterised most of human history? And the answer that is frequently given, the standard answer also among libertarians, is: there must have been some institutional change that occurred around 1800.
And what is typically pointed out is: there must have been a better protection of private property rights that somehow occurred at that time. But no such change can be found in history. That is simply not true. Private property rights were also well protected hundreds of years before, and still we did not get out of the Malthusian trap. It is true that the protection of private property rights is a necessary condition for getting out of this trap, but it is certainly not sufficient.
Now what I hypothesise [...] is the variable of human intelligence.
During the Malthusian age, what we can observe is that those people who are economically successful and do survive are by and large the brighter people, and the brighter people have a larger number of offspring. And this is in particular true in northern regions on the globe, because northern regions represent a more challenging environment; and higher intelligence is so to speak something that is especially advantageous to have in more challenging environments; and it takes a long time in order to breed a more intelligent population that then makes it possible to make enough technological innovations to allow not only growth of the population but at the same time also an increase in per capita income off this growing population. And this breeding of a more highly intelligent population, especially in the north, with the gradient going to the south, is responsible for the Industrial Revolution that broke out around 1800. No institutional changes are responsible for this, but the gradual development of a more intelligent population due to the fact that the more intelligent people breed a larger number of offspring, and thereby gradually increase the average intelligence of the population. And I also point out that there is, of course, then also the possibility that this development can be reversed. It can be reversed if it happens that the less intelligent people do breed larger numbers of people, and the more intelligent people breed less and less. And that that is a danger you all know already.
A critique from the point of view of authors literate in history:
It is misleading to refer to the situation in eighteenth -and nineteenth-century Europe as representing initial conditions in development. By then the west was pervaded by the attitudes and institutions appropriate to an exchange economy and a technical age to a far greater extent than south Asia today. These attitudes and institutions had emerged gradually over a period of eight centuries.
[Raico quoting P.T. Bauer]
Bauer's critique thus draws attention to the need to study both the centuries of European history antedating the Industrial Revolution and "the interrelationships between social, political, and legal institutions" in that period (Ibid., 277). Here his assessment links up with an impressive body of scholarship that has emerged in recent years emphasizing precisely these points.
What added decisively to Europe's unique achievement was the relative lack of political constraint and the attendant pluralism of political and social forces, a charcteristic that is independent of climate - as China goes to prove, where weather conditions are comparable, while the state remained too strong to allow a civil society to emerge.
The system protecting the ownership and deployment of private property evolved in Europe by slow degrees — over at least "the eight centuries" mentioned by Bauer. Quite logically, therefore, the economic historians concerned with "how the West grew rich" have directed a great deal of their attention to the medieval period.
Carlo M. Cipolla asserts that "the origins of the Industrial Revolution go back to that profound change in ideas, social structures, and value systems that accompanied the rise of the urban communes in the eleventh and thirteenth centuries" (Cipolla 1981, 298).
For more on institutional change one may consult, for starters, Mokyr's The Institutional Origins of the Industrial Revolution, which gives an impression of the continuum of institutional change over the centuries as well as closer to the year 1800.
Let me now turn to the speaker's core proposition.
What he hypothesises is pretty much what the Nazis taught.
Nevertheless, I shall take the speaker seriously, just to show the extent of the scholarly failure so characteristic in all the work of this luminous figure of Anarcho-Capitalism.
If climate makes life tough to cope with, and thus supposedly promotes intelligence in the exposed population, why does this criterion of selection only hold true for the weather conditions in "the North"? Why should severe weather and environmental challenges outside Europe (such as posed by alpine, desert or jungle conditions) be less relevant to the development of human intelligence? Northern Europe is not the only place on earth blessed with comparatively inclement weather. Should not the Eskimos have pioneered capitalism? Why should South Africans braving severe weather conditions such as in Lesotho (where I was brought up) be less intelligent than the inhabitants of the mild wine growing areas of Germany (where I am living now)?
Also, what reasons do we have to take for granted that pleasant weather conditions of themselves are detrimental to the creative use and development of the human mind? In fact, there is evidence that human cultures thrive in warmer periods more than in colder, and there is obviously a reason why 95% of all land creatures live in the temperate zones.
What is the temperature at which the frog is boiled to death? Is Palermo not good enough for sufficient intelligence? How come the sun-drenched Greeks and Romans have been seminal and formative to northern civilisation?
What measure of intelligence does the speaker use? Where does he get the IQ data from?
How do you measure and compare the intelligence of people living in different ages?
There is simply no way to operationalise the intelligence hypothesis for lack of data and a uniform concept of intelligence. Even if intelligence did play a role, there are multifarious factors affecting its application and influence. How do you control for this. A person not using his intelligence much today can lead a better and more successful life than a highly intelligent stone age man.
It is awkward, yet typical of the speakers erratic "reasoning" (in all of his oeuvre) that an exponent of "human action" which assumes a uniform faculty of rationality in humans would insist on significant differences in intelligence to explain the ascent of capitalism. To what level of intelligence does "human action" apply? Does praxeology not capture the savages of the South?
Did no institutional development at all take place that had an effect on the Industrial Revolution? Or did it stop at some time from which point on it would no longer make an appreciable impact? If the latter, when and why did institutional impact evaporate or freeze?
An alternative explanation?
Finally, the speaker emphasises derogatively - what seems to him to be the fact - that certain other scholars in their mistaken theories do not manage to explain the escape from the Malthusian trap at around 1800. At this point, one eagerly expects him to do better. However, he has no explanation of his own at all. Neither does he offer a theory nor even a speck of evidence to support that, why and how the supreme intelligence of people in the North brought about the Industrial Revolution around 1800.
He just makes the claim, remaining completely silent on the manner in which the lesser intelligence of other peoples hindered them, while the superior intelligence of the Europeans enabled them to bring about the feat.
Why did euro-centered intelligence mature "around 1800" - of all times - to the point where it could not but launch the Industrial Revolution, apparently in a Big Bang of Eurekas?
So the Dutch sit around with all their incredible intelligence and suddenly overcome Malthus. How? What can intelligence per se, i.e. without the assistance of institutional and other boundary conditions, accomplish in the way of making people wealthier and live longer? What is inside the European-type intelligence that launches capitalism? Was capitalism preconceived, purposefully designed and implemented by the bright Northerners? Here we seem to have the footprints of the hyper-rationalism so staunchly held on to by anarcho-capitalists and praxeologists who ascribe miraculous powers to apriori knowledge supposedly hidden in the human mind.
What has happened to Dutch intelligence when the Hollanders subsequently screwed up on the good start? When and why did the harshness condition lose its power, and the Hong Kong Chinese started doing as well as the European races? How do I know that I am among the brighter folks, so that I should start siring 20 children to outnumber the thick?