Secular Right | Reality & Reason



Working Hard, Working Smart

Mark Krikorian and I have been singled (doubled?) out for a sneer from AEI’s Nick Schultz. Are our heads exploding (he wants to know) at the news that Mexicans lead the world in “total minutes worked, paid and unpaid, per day”?

Mark is very well able to speak for himself. My own reaction on seeing the OECD chart Nick displays was that Mexicans are getting dismally little bang for the industrious buck. After five hundred years of toiling away for 594 minutes a day they have nothing much to show but a mediocre economy propped up by oil revenues and expatriate remittances, dysfunctional politics, and wellnigh zero achievement in the cultural or
intellectual spheres.

A few minutes’ number-crunching confirms the impression. Remember how your Uncle Stan used to tell you that while working hard is good, working smart is better? OK, let’s create an Uncle Stan index. I’ll divide annual per capita GDP (from the CIA World Factbook) by the daily number of minutes worked to see how much annualized per capita GDP each minute generates. For Mexico I’m dividing $13,800 a head by 594 minutes, to get annualized $23.22 per person per minute worked in the day.

On the Uncle Stan Index (USI) Mexico ranks 27 out of 29 on the OECD list. That is to say, it’s one of the least efficient nations in the world at turning work into wealth.

Here’s the table. I’ve included a column for mean national IQ, these numbers taken from Tatu Vanhanen’s latest book. The last two columns correlate quite well:  r = 0.47.

Country USI         Mean National IQ
Norway 131 100
U.S.A. 96 98
Netherlands      90 100
Belgium 89 99
Australia 86 99
Denmark 83 98
Germany 81 99
Austria 79 100
Sweden 79 99
Finland 78 99
Ireland 78 92
Canada 77 99
France 74 98
U.K. 74 100
Italy 65 102
Japan 63 105
Korea 62 106
Spain 62 98
Slovenia 57 96
New Zealand 56 99
Portugal 44 95
Hungary 40 98
Poland 39 99
Estonia 37 99
Turkey 25 90
South Africa 24 72
Mexico 23 88
China 15 105
India 7 82

Now, see how unfair life is. Here’s me, a poor freelance drudge, doing all this math, while Nick Schultz has a nice cushy number at AEI where apparently he is required to do nothing but strike politically-correct moral poses. Nick doesn’t even bother to source his data: I had to Google for the spreadsheet link.

I guess Uncle Stan was right …

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  • Mark in Spokane · April 20, 2011 at 2:53 am

    According to the chart Mr. Derbyshire linked, Mexico has twice as many Noble prize winners as South Korea. Would Mr. Derbyshire characterize the South Koreans as lacking in culture?

  • Polichinello · April 21, 2011 at 3:22 am

    Nice try, Mark, but Derb was talking about productivity, not culture. A statistical blip (aided by the fact that Korea was an occupied imperial Japanese holding for almost half the time there was a Nobel Prize) doesn’t obscure the obvious difference in productivity between the two nations.

  • Mark in Spokane · April 21, 2011 at 6:48 am

    Direct quote from Mr. Derbyshire:

    “and wellnigh zero achievement in the cultural or
    intellectual spheres.”

    That language sure looks to me that he was talking about culture…


  • Author comment by Bradlaugh · April 21, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Short answer to Mark: Yes. Can you, or anybody, name a South Korean (let alone North Korean) novel, movie, play, theorem, principle, or concept? Quote a South Korean poem? They don’t seem very creative, and possibly — I’d want to crunch some more numbers — are punching below their weight in cultural and intellectual achievement, mean-IQ-wise.

    So what? I was taking Nick Schulz’s point to be: Here are Krikorian and Derbyshire arguing against mass immigration of Mexicans, when Mexicans are actually hard workers, and so an asset to the U.S.A.

    My point was that while Mexicans may be hard workers, they are exceptionally unproductive ones by OECD standards, and also low scorers in the cultural and intellectual spheres. That seems to be a point worth making.

    If South Koreans are also low scorers in those fields, maybe I’ll do a post about that. They are, on the data (GDP per capita $30K vs. Mex 14K) much more productive than Mexicans, though. On a national points system, that would make them better prospects for mass non-European immigration into the U.S.A., if that is a thing you favor.

    It is not a thing I myself favor; but if you favor it, think it through, with a proper attention to well-documented human group differences, and, if you are a conservative, a sensible conservative skepticism towards dramatic social changes, demographic or otherwise.

    Mass immigration from Mexico has been a huge negative for the U.S.A. — a disastrous policy. Or if you don’t think so, tell me what benefit the U.S.A. has gotten from it.

  • Polichinello · April 21, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    That language sure looks to me that he was talking about culture…

    As an afterthought. The staggering difference in productivity between the two countries overshadows whatever “gotcha” cred you may be able to glean from a statistical comparison that really isn’t a valid comparison given Korea’s 20th century history.

  • Polichinello · April 21, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    Can you, or anybody, name a South Korean (let alone North Korean) novel, movie, play, theorem, principle, or concept?

    There are three movies I can name off the top of my head: Natural City, Brotherhood of War, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring Again. Korea has begun exporting quite a number of films. Steve Sailer discussed this a while back.

  • Mark in Spokane · April 22, 2011 at 12:32 am

    Mr. Derbyshire,

    Thank you for clarifying your views. First off, I would agree with you about the problems with immigration into the United States. I myself favor a more restrictionist approach for the most part — I would like to see illegal immigration stopped as much as humanly possible, and I would like a more rational approach to legal immigration which emphasized the needs of the United States when it came to regulating how foreigners come to live inside our country. I am not an “open borders” libertarian by any means. I think that we have serious problems when it comes to immigration — and when it comes to diagnosing and solving those problems, I am not on the side of La Raza, I’m on the side of Pat Buchanan.

    Second, I appreciate Mexican culture (I studied Spanish and once long ago spoke it fairly well — alas with the passage of time I have become a functional English-only speaker!), and don’t feel a need to run down Mexican culture in order to defend our own. I think that it has its own treasures — poetry, religion, folk culture — that certainly aren’t our own, but which doesn’t reduce them to insignificance. Different? Yes. But that doesn’t mean inferior. Just different. Weaker in some ways, stronger in others. Different.


  • Roger H. · April 22, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Currently, my 300-level calculus/real analysis professor is Korean. A brilliant young lady with PhDs in differential geometry and mathematics education. But I don’t know that she’s contributed any theorems.

  • John · April 22, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    There is a wikipedia page entitled “Korean inventions and innovations”. Some interesting stuff. The only thing I recognized is taekwondo. The site also claims that A Korean invented movable type in the 1200s.



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