MM Lee has been spreading his 'hard truths' with much enthusiasm in the past few weeks. He has been sharing his ideas a lot in public and sometimes too frankly. This week he offended many Muslims by asking them to be 'less strict'. I won't go into too much into that I believe it was careless 'politically incorrect' remark on his part[Link]. He is not helping his party (and his son) by taking center stage and going around reminding of everyone the 'hard truths'. It makes it look like the PAP leadership is still taking directions from him and very often the 'hard truths' look like dogmatic beliefs - he provided little evidence or logic to demonstrate these truths in his interviews.
"People get educated, the bright ones rise, they marry equally well-educated spouses. The result is their children are smarter than those who are gardeners. Not that all the children of gardeners are duds. Occasionally 2 grey horses produce a white horse but very few . If you have 2 white horses, the chances are you breed white horses. It's seldom spoken publicly because those who are NOT white horses say, "You're degrading me". But its a fact of life. You get a good mare, you don't want a dud stallion to breed with your good mare. You get a poor foal.
Your mental capacity and your EQ and the rest of you, 70 to 80% is genetic. "
- MM Lee, Hard Truths interview.
I will explain in the subsequent paras why he is incorrect and his attempts to socially engineer our society has led to harmful outcomes and finally the far better way to get performance from a group of people.
Human intelligence is far more complex compared with a simpler human traits such as height. It is known as a polygenic trait resulting from a combination of genes mixed randomly during reproduction. MM Lee talk about genetics being 70-80% - if that is really the case, the 'nature vs nuture' debate which has gone on for the past 100 years would have been easily settled. Researchers studying population groups that have split up e.g. Africans in Africa and Blacks in America found that nutrition plays a much bigger role than genetics. Breast feeding can result in a average improvement of 7 IQ points for parents with a particular gene[Link] which may be the difference between the mean of a more intelligent race vs a less intelligent race. Suppose you get nutrition and environment out of the way and give every single child the best possible environment and the best possible nutrition - then the main factor would be genetic inheritance. The best research tells us when you do that, the parents account for 50% of the variation....the other 50% is probably random[Link]. It never goes up to the 70-80% MM Lee talks about. The implications is if you give all children the same start and equalise their environment make sure they get good nutrition, more top students will come from parents from the bottom 80% than the top 20%. In Singapore, the start for the poorest students is no preschool or $10 preschool [Link] while the richest parent send their children to $20K pre-school.
4 decades of clinging to this MM Lee's hard truth has led to a self-fulfilling downward spiral in terms of expanding inequality among the people:
1. MM Lee believes intelligence is largely due to genetic inheritance.
2. Because of this so called 'hard truth'. Policies designed to discourage poor and less educated from having more children. These measures including avoiding giving support to the poor when they have children to discourage them. This create a disadvantage and failure to potentiate the abilities of poor children - good nutrition and high quality early education.
3. Policy makers then look at the statistics that find children from educated parents do much better than students from poorer background. Then they wrongly conclude that MM Lee's 'hard truth' is true so better have more of the same type of policies to discourage the poor from reproducing by not supporting them when they have children.
We are losing talents and expanding the inequality in our society on this fallacy MM Lee calls a "hard truth". His attempts to socially engineer our society in the 1960-1970s by asking poorer citizens to delay marriage and have fewer children has led to the severe problems we have today which the PAP now tries to fix by massive immigration. His policies to give minimal help to the poor to discourage them from reproducing affects the children of poor families and creating a underclass. Today, a large part of the incentive for having children is given out as tax rebates than can only be used by parents with high income - it is designed so that nothing goes to poor parents who need the most help to realise the talents of their children. Baby bonus? Poor parents just don't have the extra funds to set aside the money for baby bonus accounts.
Let me ask you where we are today with 40 years of eugenics-based policies? The results are disastrous! The govt now wants to massively import 'talents' ....talent that could have emerge from our own people if not for years of bad policies and one man's desire to socially engineer the population. What the engineering accomplished was the expansion of inequality in our society - the highest in the developed world and a society now badly stratified.
Trying to engineer a better society by selective breeding has gotten us nowhere except to make us reliant on foreign sources of talent. There is a way to get performance and energise a a society that is far better and effective than trying to raise their IQ points by selective breeding. Just look at those 82 men and women, MM Lee himself selected from the best of his elites - not one can come out with a good argument for minimum wage, can't improve the deteriorating quality of life here, can't get elected except by linking votes to upgrading + silencing opponets...can't think of ways to make economic progress except by importing labor and making Singaporeans cheaper, better and faster...can't break out of the groupthink - MM Lee boxed them in with his 'hard truths' creating duds out of men who perhaps have some intelligence. The only way for the duds to be in control is to have sheep below them - denied of information, feed with propaganda. See what shackles our society is not the lack of people with inborn intelligence but an elitist top down semi-authoritarian govt. Elitism as a belief that a select group to which resources and decision making is disproportionately allocated will eventually de-energise the rest of the populace who don't participate, have no stake and ownership of ideas. They are fed propaganda instead of information ...think N. Korea vs S. Korea. One is an elitist regime, the other is a full blown democracy ...same people, different system of government...big difference in outcomes. Instead of socially engineering the people, much more is to gain by making progress in the political system. When there is freedom among the people to express themselves, when they have access to information because the press is free and the govt is fully transparent we can accomplish far more than trying to breed our way to accomplishment or importing "talents" to improve our 'genetic stock' and create an intellectual class - give everyone the freedom to think, participate and speak up....empower the people with information and tap on a diversity of opinion. An open society will ultimately triumph over an elitist semi-authoritarian system of govt.
The more extracts of MM Lee's 'hard truths' I read about, the more convinced that our govt's inability to solve problems is due to these 'hard truths'. They are hard only because one man refuses to accept the views of others and there is little flexibility to do anything different and make further progress. Other countries have since made political progress towards democracy while we are still locked down the the 'hard truths' of one man - many of these truths can be taken apart if we apply logic and the best scientific evidence available.