Smart and IQ and Doing Things Which Create Real Change in Other People’s Lives; A Short Rant, Some Thoughts, Some Links

A short rant: For the person who thinks they have the solution to all the problems in the world, their solution will be for everyone to act the same as the person who thinks they have the solutions.

This person’s own strongest and best qualities, as determined from their own perspective, will be the qualities which they will insist should be strongest and best — and most celebrated and most sought after — in everyone else.

These people are more often wrong, and more often wrong in multiple ways, than they are right.

The other day a relative asked me if I’d read the same blog post they had read about IQ.

I’m not saying which blog was being discussed as it’s not relevant to this discussion. It’s a blog that some people like, some hate, and the vast majority don’t know or care that it exists and their lives are not poorer for this.

In other words, just like the vast majority of more-popular-than-average blogs out there. It’s a blog with which my relative agrees sometimes, but not all the time, and maybe not even most of the time.

The blog post being described to me was about something or other to do with IQ and how people with higher IQs were better at some sort of (really quite useful) problem-solving or pattern-identifying or argument-making ability than people who didn’t have higher IQs.

I didn’t try to retain much information of what I was told about this blog post because I have heard many variations of this many times in the past.

I replied that while I had not read the blog post in question, I had previously read other posts on that same blog. One of the posts I read, the blogger being discussed said they had met Thomas Sowell and were certain they were quite a bit more intelligent on Sowell on the IQ scale.

For those readers of this blog who aren’t familiar with Thomas Sowell, his website is and he just published his final farewell column on December 28, 2016 ( after 39 years of writing opinion columns. He’s also written numerous books.

That Sowell had published his last column and was retiring from writing was noted on quite a few websites. Most of what I saw written expressed regret that he was retiring as many had considered him an inspiration.

He definitely inspired me. I read The Vision of the Anointed back in my mid 20s, and it was one of many things that helped me avoid being the unforgiving impatient doctrinaire utopian I easily could have become. His book The Einstein Syndrome moved me so much that I sent him a thank you email, even though it was years after the book had been published.

When Mr. I’m-smarter-than-Thomas-Sowell finishes his writing career and announces his last post, will he leave as much an effect as Sowell?

I honestly don’t know. I can say both writers are far more well known as writers and as people than I am.

So why am I writing this?

I used to work as an engineer, and as an engineer I was around lots of people who had lots of pieces of paper officially certifying them as being smart. Some of them were quite smart.

Many of them were smart about certain specific topics, and then would try to argue that their smartness about those specific topics translated to smartness about everything.

My job was to deal with things that many people considered to be not-smart: regulations written years ago about how products were to be tested and built, written by people who didn’t know what we’d be trying to make today, applying those regulations to products jammed into a particular set of rules by people who had to find somewhere to put the product and that was the place in the regulatory universe it fit least badly.

But meeting those regulations was part of what made us able to sell those products, and selling those products was what kept the company in business and us employees paid to work there.

I learned not to worry about whether my place in the world was “smart” or not, or “higher IQ” or not, but whether I was doing the job I needed to do so everyone else could do their jobs.

In my own life, I’ve had a few people tell me I inspired them. I have at least one friend who said being friends with me changed his life and likely saved his life. This is probably true — that friend was on a path that likely would have led to a lot of tragedy when I met him; realizing that he was looking to me as an example and my own decision to try to be as good an example as I could be for him, as well as his friendship and the fun times we had together and his faith in me, all changed my life for the better. In an occurrence that is baffling, surprising, flattering and a little bit frightening when it happens, I’ve had a couple friends tell me they consider my presence in their life a gift from God.

For all the reasons people have said those things to to me, it’s not been because I have high reading comprehension, am really good at math, or anything else that has gotten me pieces of paper saying how smart I am.

I would consider myself least skilled, least naturally talented, and weakest in dealing with people. Much of the time, I have no idea what to do with other people except try my best, try to treat them as I would wish to be treated, and try as much as I can stand to say what I mean and mean what I say. I don’t even feel particularly smart or high-IQ writing down those rules. I found through bitter and painful experience that if I try to live by those rules, less things go wrong and when they do go wrong I spend less time beating myself up over what-ifs and coulda-shoulda-wouldas.

There’s a whole other post I might write about what “smart” does and doesn’t do, both for the “smart” person and for those interacting with them.

But my point in this post was to say it matters far more what you do with what you have, than how what you have measures up against other people’s definition of “IQ” or “smart”.


Coincidentally, I see a column on the Mises Institute by Matthew McCaffrey making the same point about college educations being used as official indicators of “smart” or “knowledgeable” or “qualified to give their opinion” or “someone the public should be listening to” (

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