Romney’s intelligence

John Dempsey writes:

Over and over you have repeated how intelligent you think Romney is, but I can’t find where you’ve offered any evidence as to why you think this. If you have, can you point me to it?

LA replies:

My main evidence was speeches I saw him give in 2007 and 2008 on conservatism. They were extraordinarily intelligent and showed an unusual mind at work. Since we know he’s not really a conservative, it was as though he had applied himself to conservatism in order to understand it, and he both understood it and came up with original ways of expressing some of the ideas. It wasn’t clichés. It was a thinking mind at work.

I can’t say the campaign speech by Romney from last September that I watched on video today showed an extraordinary, or even an above mediocre, mind at work. And Kathlene M., who watched another Romney speech and provided an analysis of it in the same entry, had pretty much the same reaction as I did.

John Dempsey replies:

Yes, you wrote last September:

In 2007-08, he saw a market for a social-conservative Republican leader, and like a good business executive he diligently re-made himself as that and sold himself as that. The marketing effort ultimately failed, and so he abandoned it, and subsequently re-branded himself as a moderate economic conservative. When he does these flip-flops, it’s not that he is being dishonest exactly. Rather, the man has so little interiority (at least when it comes to his political beliefs) that such concepts as honesty and dishonesty don’t really apply to him. He lives in terms of externals: What is the political “market” demanding right now? What “business strategy” will work right now? Once he answers the question for himself, he reshapes himself accordingly, and then uses his formidable intelligence to try to explain away his ever accumulating contradictions.

That coincides with what you’re saying here. I suppose that it does demonstrate intelligence when someone can adapt in a situational manner. But on the other hand, I think it also expresses a spiritual void, not just the political one to which you’ve alluded. Intelligence without conviction. Thanks for your reply.

Paul T. writes:

I read somewhere the other day (perhaps in The Economist) that Romney was in the top five percent of his class at Harvard. Lord knows Harvard has a lot to answer for, but I imagine that it takes a fair whack of raw intelligence to score that high.

January 25

Dan Kurt writes:

A commenter wrote:

“Romney was in the top five percent of his class at Harvard. Lord knows Harvard has a lot to answer for, but I imagine that it takes a fair whack of raw intelligence to score that high.”

I didn’t attend Harvard but I spent eight years at an Ivy League University and got to know many, many Harvard Men—a Harvard Man was a Harvard undergraduate who got a degree. This was in the 1960s so it may have changed over the years but I doubt it.

Harvard is really a POST GRADUATE UNIVERSITY. That is where the real brains are located. That was true at my Ivy League University as well. The Harvard Men I knew spilled across the gamut of high IQs which I estimate from 115 to over 150. At my Ivy the really bright were mainly men who had attended and graduated from other undergraduate schools, did extraordinarily well there, smashed the GREs, Med Apts, LSATS, etc getting into the Ivys as Graduate level students. A case in point is a fraternity brother of mine who did not get into Harvard as an Undergraduate but ended up there as a graduate student and now has a Nobel Prize.

A really bright Harvard Man I knew, while I was in the Ivy League at the graduate level, obtained a rare A grade from the Nobelist George Wald while at Harvard as an undergrad. He could pass any test except an oral one it seemed but never amounted to much during his working career. Other Harvard Men that I knew were definitely at the low end of the bright range and they were all Harvard undergrad legacy admits. One was the son of an admiral of a nuclear carrier and the other the son of a prominent Manhattan surgeon. Both came from families with hosts of Harvard Men. Both had attended an Ivy League connected prep school. Currently Harvard admits not just bunches and bunches of legacy applicants but bunches and bunches of affirmative action applicants. I cannot believe that being in the top five percent of Harvard undergraduates is anywhere near an honor as would being in the top five percent of GRE results nation wide or being in the top five percent of any Graduate Level school at Harvard.

LA replies:

Why does Dan assume that Romney was a Harvard undergraduate? In fact, his undergraduate school was Brigham Young University, from which he was graduated with a B.A. in English. I’ll let the invaluable Wikipedia pick it up from there:

Romney still wanted to pursue a business path, but his father, by now serving in President Richard Nixon’s cabinet as U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, advised that a law degree would be valuable. Thus Romney became one of only fifteen students to enroll at the recently created joint Juris Doctor/Master of Business Administration four-year program coordinated between Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School. Fellow students considered Romney guilelessly optimistic, noting his strong work ethic along with a buttoned-down demeanor and appearance. He readily adapted to the business school’s pragmatic, data-driven case study method of teaching, excelled in classroom participation there, and led a study group whom he pushed to get all A’s. He had a different social experience than most of his classmates, since he lived in a Belmont, Massachusetts, house with Ann and two children; he was non-ideological and did not involve himself in the political or social issues of the day. He graduated in 1975 cum laude from the law school, in the top third of that class, and was named a Baker Scholar for graduating in the top five percent of his business school class.

That is an impressive achievement. He simultaneously attended the hardest and most prestigious business school in the country, and the most prestigious law school in the country, finished both in four years (the normal would be five years), and was in the upper third of his class in law school, and the top five percent of his class in business school.

Alan M. writes:

Intelligence in terms of IQ does not equal intelligence in terms of philosophy. To put it another way, a man can have an IQ of 150 and still be spiritually bereft.

Stephen Hawking is one example. I know many geniuses in the tech industry who say things that wouldn’t pass a basic course in philosophy or logic when it comes to any topic of greater significance than technology or business. At the same time, I know many people of average intelligence who know good and bad philosophy in their gut and live it.

At the risk of sounding New-Agey, one’s Spiritual Quotient (SQ) is not dependent on one’s IQ—and high IQ may even serve to reduce the chances of a person being humble enough to recognize his low SQ.

Romney seems to be a man of genuine good will but of low SQ and, therefore, subject to the prevailing winds of liberalism, despite his high IQ. A high SQ is a measure of one’s closeness to the true foundation of reality and being less able to be knocked off of that foundation.

LA replies:

But look at how he has lived his life: married 42 years, five sons all married, a tribe of grandchildren. Doesn’t that indicate high SQ?

Let’s put it this way: which indicates a higher SQ: the ability to reason well about philosophical and ethical matters, or the ability to produce a well-functioning “little platoon”—or, in Romney’s case, a little company?


What I am getting is the paradox that Mormons have strange, absurd, and even repellent beliefs, but they also have an ethos of living that produces well-functioning human beings.

Alan M. replies:

Good points :-)

Jim Kalb writes:

The Mormon culture makes Romney’s perhaps mediocre SQ much less of a disadvantage in personal life. A functional culture makes it possible for people without much IQ or SQ to live decently. They just do what people do and things go pretty well. That doesn’t mean you can ask Romney about social issues and get a sensible answer of course.

The culture doesn’t have to be high or refined, just functional. I’m told for example that Indian village caste culture is actually pretty good for insane people. It gives them a ready-made pattern to fall into that they’re mostly capable of following and that’s what they need.

The recent Charles Murray article that everybody’s talking about on the fate of non-elite whites shows what happens when a functional culture isn’t there. The non-elite people just do what comes naturally and what other people are doing, and they go into the ditch. In contrast, the go-getter careerists have a lot more success keeping it all together because they have advancement and social position for motivation and they’re good at deferring gratification, so they can get what they want.

As for the Mormons, it’s obvious Joseph Smith wasn’t completely stupid. He set up a system and a discipline that works practically.

LA replies:

Yes, Mormonism is sort of like Islam in that respect, isn’t it? The core beliefs are (fill in the negative adjective), but the religion seems to provide a way of life that “works”—is stable and fulfilling—for many people.

Dan K. replies to LA:
I presumed incorrectly that Romney being an “Eastern Liberal RINO” from Massachusetts went to Harvard as an undergraduate. [LA replies: Well, he grew up in Michigan, of course, where his father George Romney was a leading automobile industry executive and then governor.] The fact that he did so well at Harvard on the GRADUATE level shows that my thesis of brains at Harvard being chiefly in those who have been accepted into the Graduate system is probably correct.

By the way, I have met many brilliant individuals who are leftists and never question their beliefs. Their logic-tight minds never cease to astound me.

I must say that I have been turned off so much by what Romney did as governor of Massachusetts that I have not done any reading about him or his career.

January 26

Jim Kalb replies to LA:

It’s a lot like Islam—a provincial religious entrepreneur comes up with his own simplified and practical version of the tradition that culminated in Christianity. He produces his own holy book, founds his own people, and installs himself in a materially (and even sexually) advantageous position at their head. The system does work for people though.

Carol Iannone writes:

Gingrich could be photographed with his three wives and his daughters and their husbands and children. And we could put that photo next to the photo of the Romneys, above, and caption both with the caption, “How things have changed. Guess which one is the Mormon?”

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 24, 2012 07:26 PM | Send

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