Improving Americans

Barnett, T.P.M. 2007. I like it! Numbre three on the list! Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog. May 24, 2007. Available online:

I like this idea a lot (whenever Tom Barnett and Tom Friedman are on the same page, good things happen):

Money quote:

I think any foreign student who gets a Ph.D. in our country — in any subject — should be offered citizenship.

Definitely add this one to the list, after civilians who work for the SysAdmin and those who join our armed forces.

I like it!

Besides the short term effects, the biggest effect of granting citizenship to Ph.D.s is long term: the improvement of the American Race.

Flag of the United States of America

Intelligence is highly heritable — something like 50% of variation in general intelligence is explained by genetics. While clearly countries in the Gap do not have social systems to give their citizens an equal chance, it’s also clearly that those who do make it to the United States and succeed in a doctoral program are both hard working and smart.

So having an immigration regime which focuses on attracting intellligent individuals has the lasting effect of increasing the intelligence of Americans generally. It allows the United States to continue her policy — taking the best, brightest, and hardest-working — from the rest of the world.

I like it!

21 thoughts on “Improving Americans”

  1. “I think any foreign student who gets a Ph.D. in our country — in any subject — should be offered citizenship.”

    One very serious problem. Once you make any metric a criterion for government largesse or legal benefit the metric is immediately degraded and attacked by those who want the benefit. The most obvious example is the current system where schools have to pass tests, so they spend all their time doing test prep instead of teaching subjects that have value. A similar Gresham's Law would happen with this proposal. Bogus Ph.D.s would proliferate very quickly, and the government would get heavily involved in regulating what is and is not a Ph.D. and the effect on education in the USA would be highly negative. It is something like what happened to college education during Vietnam, when people were allowed to get in and hang on in BA programs so they wouldn't get sent to VN to get their legs blown off.

    Think hard about system-corruption and unintended consequences.

    The basic idea is good — admit, smart, able, ambitious, educated people. The selection of criteria have to be handled differently.

  2. I agree completely.

    My original thought was to also require passing an IQ score with a certain score (one standard deviation higher than the American average?). The “PhD, any PhD” criterion is too lose, but it's pretty close to a correct standard.

  3. Lexington points out the problem with the PhD metric. The problem with the IQ test metric is that unbiased IQ tests will be impossible, especially if the target audience is global.

    Other metrics might include experience and job performance, or perhaps even a college applications-type process (standardized test –> written/creative product –> personal interview).

    Citizenship for foreigners who lay their life on the line for our country really should be a no-brainer.

  4. I think there are already one or two nationally recogonized bodies for certifying educational programs, the FEDS could just default to them and have heavy penalties for fraud (fine, civil asset forfeiture, loss of citizenship, imprisonment, deportation).

    It would be a better system then we have now…and the fraud rate would be less then the percent of undesirabl3es whop make it now I would guess.

  5. I accidentally unsubscribed to the thread, so I'm resubscribing.

    Incidentally, is there any way of subscribing to a thread without posting a comment?

  6. “Citizenship for foreigners who lay their life on the line for our country really should be a no-brainer.”

    Absolutely. Military service should be an unqualified basis for admission, barring discharge for a crime or something like that.

  7. Not all passable traits are genetic. Some, like tenacity, are passed through example and familial tales. America is mostly comprised of people who saw their situation at 'home' as constraining or not working and make the decision to come here; not with the expectation of being taken care of, but with the expectation of having a chance of making a go of things. What ever driving force (or to use Keynes words, 'animal spirits') that drives people to risk their lives to cross deserts to come here and do the hardest jobs for the least pay is something that I find good for the country. It is a story that has been played out throughout our history and it is a important part of our societal DNA. Perhaps it's a bit cynical because it relies on the difficulty of coming here (i.e. peoples' lives) as a filter, but it must be acknowledged.

  8. a517dogg,

    The US Army has had a literacy-free IQ test since World War I. Even then, an “unbiased” intelligence test isn't much of an issue, so long as the overall error is relatively low. That is, if the IQ test overrepresents smart Africans at the expense of smart Asians, or the reverse, it's fine as long as we get smart people overall.


    There are a couple major certification societies, but even then you have the problem of what counts as a valuable PhD. Certainly atomic engineering, say, is something we'd rather have over here than over there. But what about a PhD in an emerging field, such as Adean Clothweaving. Is it really valuable?

    Combining a PhD with an IQ test both emphasizes our absolute dominance in higher education while ensuring that we get a more intelligent population, both now and in our children's time.


    I agree with you and all others who argue that citizenship should be given for those who risk their lives for us. Of course.


    You're right that traits are caused by both experiences and genetics. Indeed, except in rare cases neither the experiences nor the genetics are enough by themselves to explain behavior. They interact.

    Immigrant countires like ours benefit from both the genetic and cultural selection that goes into determining who actually moves here.

    Excellent comments everyone!

  9. “There are a couple major certification societies, but even then you have the problem of what counts as a valuable PhD. Certainly atomic engineering, say, is something we'd rather have over here than over there. But what about a PhD in an emerging field, such as Adean Clothweaving. Is it really valuable?”

    Well do we want the technical skills of the PhD, or do we want the underlying intelligence that allowed the person to get a PhD in the first place? If it's the latter, then we shouldn't really care what field the PhD is in.

  10. Clearly even a raw increase in intelligence would help the country. If political reality forces limits, however…

    Technical skills are more valuable to the economy than merely academic skills. So if there are limits, we should focus on technical prowess.

    Separate and apart from this, the social sciences and humanities are Leftist ideological machines. Increasing the Left's firepower would be dangerous for all Americans.

  11. I would be okay if the eligible PHds were math, statistics, agricultural sciences, astronomy, physics, natural/life sciences, engineering, economics, medical, dental, any other health (PHD Nurse Practitioners, Pharmacists, Physical Therapists, Veterinarians), economics, and business. I am tempted to say okay for anthropology and psychology too.

  12. “Separate and apart from this, the social sciences and humanities are Leftist ideological machines. Increasing the Left's firepower would be dangerous for all Americans.”

    Sometimes it's difficult to tell on the internet if people are joking or not…

  13. PurpleSlog,

    I wonder if a list of fields could be generated through market means. Say, companies could sponsor eligibilie positions for some small but non-trivial amount (say, one thousand dollars). Large companies would benefit from the influx of workers in high-demand areas and could be expected to contribute, even if no employment agreement was attached.


    Regarding the Left, I am serious. They are the only well-educated, purposeful opponents of science in America (Creationists have numbers but not the intellectual credibility). Further, they have already degraded academia in areas they have overrun. And this leaves aside their political Marxism.

  14. You'd then get bogus companies created to sponsor relatives, etc.

    Dan, I'd love to see a post on why you think

    a) the Left opposes science, and

    b) the social sciences and humanities are Leftist ideological machines.

  15. a517dogg,

    On sponsorship, I was thinking of something less specific: if Microsoft truly believes that it's in her interest to increase the number of skilled software engineers generally, one might expect that MS would pay a million dollars to sponsor 100 such phds at $10,000 each (or whatever the numbers end of being). This would expand the pool of potential labor for the company… And if Andean Clothweaving can attract that sort of sponsorship, obviously its valuable to someone!

    (Of course, such a sponsorship system would only be needed if the phd + IQ test criteria was politically infeasible.)

    On leftists, Weekly Standard had a good article on “The Left University” a while ago [1]. I should write a post of my own. Suffice it to say, hearing one of my professors (a self-described atheist liberal democrat) complaining that he could not in good conscience recommend his field-of-study to non-tenured academics because of rampant political correctness was an eye-opener to the liberal v. left divide.


  16. Compromise: if someone gets a degree from an American university, then gets a job with an American employer, they get a green card.

  17. As a Democrat, I'd raise on this hand 'til the pot's full of gold.

    Around the world, the Republican party has earned a bad reputation for being opposed to science.

  18. Michael,

    Compromise is of course the likely outcome.

    The desire to improve the American population by increasing its average intelligence, over the long term, remains.


    The American Right and the Left both oppose science, and evolution in general. The Right for its supposed negation of God, and the Left for its supposed negation of equality. [1] Rightist opponents have grass-roots power, while the Leftists have intellectual credibility and control over much of academia.


    Thanks for the links!


  19. In addition to being the most probable, going by who actually can get employed after graduation has two virtues.

    One is that gaming the system becomes a lot harder. If employment is determined by tax documentation, you'd have to pay a lot more out to trick the system than if you just had to have a dummy company send in a piece of paper.

    Ideological selection is less likely to happen. A market approach would take the selection out of the hands of politicians altogether. Some ideologues would still be hired because they have needed skills, but few would be hired because of their beliefs; chances are there are citizens with the same beliefs, but better communications skills to hire instead. And dummy corporations to boost numbers of believers would be REALLY expensive, same as with individual gamers, above.

  20. Oh, and to get back to the original topic, why PhDs alone? We've all met really smart people who didn't have doctorates; some didn't want to go that far, some didn't have the money to go that far. I would say that if they get a college degree, at any level, in this country and then get a job, they should be allowed in.

  21. That is true; there needs to be a way to ensure that they're being hired for substantial jobs. Comparisons of tax income with known averages for a given degree and major could probably be calculated and automated. Similar comparisons could also be done between majors and known employers. Depending on the number of candidates who fail these two tests, audits could then be done of at least some of them.

  22. Michael,

    PhD + IQ test + employment?


    Certainly depends how long America's cheap labor strategy (centuries long and going!) lasts. Not long, if Eddie has his way [1], I think…

    It occurs to me, by the way, that an unintended side-effect of this regime, by biasing immigration toward measured general intelligence and academically-verified verbal ability, is that presumably immigration policy is tilted toward liberalism. Both general intelligence and political orientation are genetically inherited, and they tend to vary together. Of course, differential autoinfanticide through abortion presumably counterbalances this…


  23. Abortion doesn't counterbalance anything. Our extremely Catholic grandmother had 7 kids. The trend would suggest 49 grandkids. There are 13. It wasn't because of abortions, though that would have made little difference even if there had been dozens.

    For every stupid Democrat you can find I'll go to a truckstop and match you with a moron Republican. 🙂

  24. re: Dan's latest comments to Sam.
    That's why I was thinking of relaxing the degree requirement. Even using the market to weed out ideologues and second raters, PhD and IQ requirements still focus on a particular type of intelligence and a particular type of temperment. What about the person with the brains for a PhD, but not the money or the inclination? What about the person who may not be PhD material, but has inherited and developed other types of intelligence that are just as important to employers, and to society in general?

  25. My uncle used to teach physics at the School of Textiles, North Carolina State University (one of the undergrad students at the time was a redneck named John Edwards.) At the PhD level he had a large number of kids from the Pacific rim. Many of them are now fabulously rich – some because they went back home, which is where the US textile industry was heading. John Edwards is also fabulously rich.

    The kids had to have very high IQs to get into that cloth weaving school.

    Anyway, you have to have immigrants of varying intelligences. The USA still has plenty of jobs for hardworking C/D students.

  26. sonofsamphm1c,

    I was referring to the fact that disproportionately liberal immigrants let in by a phd program would have a negligible longtime effect, as liberal fertility is much lower than conservative fertility.

    I agree with you on multiple talents.


    Recall that the post started in reaction to Tom's idea that a phd be one automatic way of getting citizenship (allowing with service in the military). No need to narrow all immigration to this requirement, but it makes sense as a fast-track.

  27. Dan, I was thinking about your idea of screening out humanities types for political reasons (because they are too Leftist). Do you think that might set a precedent for further political screening for partisan reasons? i.e., accept more religious conservatives (I assume they'd trend Republican), or more Western Europeans (I assume they'd trend Democratic).

  28. a517dogg,

    Given how knowledge is improving, it may just be a matter of time until debates like that happen (at least, implicitly).

    The irony, of course, is that currently it's the conservatives who would love to maximize European/white immigration and liberals who have worked to minimize it.

    Then again, without Roe v Wade, America may have become as socially democratic as Germany, so life's full of ironies…

  29. “I was referring to the fact that disproportionately liberal immigrants let in by a phd program would have a negligible longtime effect, as liberal fertility is much lower than conservative fertility.”

    I know a study done in the US said this, but can you extrapolate that to the entire world? In the US, demographic/social factors play different in the Left/Right divide than in much of the rest of the world.

  30. Political orientation is genetically heritable — actual beliefs seem to be an interaction with orientation and the environment. Thus someone who is an absolutist (to use Hibbing's term for conservative orientation) in Guatemala may believe a,b, and c (whatever the absolutist agenda in Guatamala is), but his offspring is genetically likely to believe x,y, and z (whatever the absolutist agenda is in America) if the kid is raised in America. Same goes for contextualists (liberal orientation), of course.

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