Intersectionality of the Smart but Poor
While the broke genius archetype may be a meme, the topic of the intelligent yet poor is especially relevant to how we view issues of wealth, privilege, status, and societal incentive structures. A stereotypical demographic profile of the smart but poor, might be of a starving artist or NEET, especially the terminally online underemployed intellectual type. While the technical definition of NEET is not in employment or education, in a more colloquial sense, NEET often describes middle class failures rather than the lumpen proletariat, as the NEET phenomenon is a product of downward mobility among the middle class. Though someone who is smart but poor could also be from a prole background. However, those from working class backgrounds often have contempt for NEETs from middle to upper middle class backgrounds, who they might view as having privilege and more opportunities, but are just lazy and entitled. In turn, high IQ NEETs resent being treated the same as the lumpen proletariat. Even if it can be a cope, it is totally rational for those from the downwardly mobile middle class to feel some sense of entitlement to the class that they were born into, or at the very least still identify with that class. A lot of middle class NEETs may decide to be NEETs, if the alternative is joining the working poor.
I would estimate that the smart but poor demographic is disproportionately White, though obviously not exclusively. This demographic probably includes a decent amount of Asians, though Asians generally have more economic niches and are under more cultural pressure to succeed academically and economically. As for BIPOCs, there are a lot of specialized programs geared towards empowering gifted BIPOC, the talented 10th, such as scholarships and jobs programs. Besides discrimination against White males in hiring, there are logistical issues, as Whites are still a majority, and it is harder to provide economic security for the sheer numbers of intelligent Whites. Whites are also much more geographically dispersed, with the vast majority of America’s untapped cognitive talent, subsisting in middle to lower-middle class Whites in flyover country.
There is speculation about whether historical figures, such as Hitler, Karl Marx, or Nietzsche, were NEETs, which has become a 4chan tier meme. Certainly Ted Kaczynski epitomized the archetype of the genius who becomes disgruntled and at odds against society. The root of Communist uprisings were often broke intellectuals who resented that they could not achieve economic success under a mercantile system. Many great philosophers and artists are often unhappy with life, and that dissatisfaction and resentment can be channeled into great things but also into chaos. The archetype of the broke intellectual, or of the failed, dejected genius, who lashes out against society, has existed throughout history, but elite overproduction has made this archetype much more common.
As for contemporary politics, the smart but poor are overrepresented among dissidents, across the left-right spectrum, as a high IQ plus low economic status, practically entails being disaffected. This demographic was especially overrepresented among the Alt-Right, as well as among Bernie bros, and Andrew Yang’s campaign, which was stereotypically associated with high IQ NEETs. Even DSA, seems to be made up of a lot of failed strivers of the professional managerial class rather than the working class. Think the stereotype of a militant woke leftists as a Starbucks barista, who is working class in income, yet has a degree and lots of student loan debt, and comes from an upper middle class background. Despite the prevalence on the Alt-Right, the smart but poor demographic overall leans left, even taking into account the shift in high income voters leftwards. For instance research by Ohio State Professors, Herbert P. Kitschelt and Philipp Rehm, found that the left’s core support is now concentrated among high education but low income voters.
Even though the archetype of the resentful, neurotic, but intelligent nerd is well represented among leftists, for a lot of young White men who are smart but low status, being gaslit about their alleged privilege adds insult to injury, and explained the appeal of the Alt-Right. The left has traditional catered more to envy and resentment, but those traits also increasingly impact rightwing grievance politics. There are also parallels to the vilification of alienated young White men on the right to the absurd propaganda from neoliberal Clintonites, that Bernie Bros had White male privilege. However, the smart but poor demographic are probably underrepresented among conservatives, as Trump's biggest supporters were not high IQ NEETs but rather the "prole aristocracy." These are people who make decent money, but who didn't acquire it through becoming an “educated libtard,”such as an auto mechanic or electrician, who are financially secure but are otherwise working class in culture. Trump appealed to this demographic with his business background, bravado, and decorum of speaking from the gut. Conservatives generally value those with monetary wealth over those in the arts or “eggheads,” and this anti-intellectualism is a major weakness of the right. Despite its flaws, the Alt-Right was good in that it broke away from that dichotomy.
Research by Charles Murray and Richard J. Herrnstein on intelligence and wealth, found that IQ is especially valued in America’s knowledge-based economy. However, research by Alessandro Pluchino of the University of Catania in Italy, found that "The maximum success never coincides with the maximum talent, and vice-versa," and that “almost never the most talented people reach the highest peaks of success, being overtaken by mediocre but sensibly luckier individuals." The report also warns against a 'naive meritocracy' which often fails “to give honors and rewards to the most competent people." A scholarly paper by economist James Heckman, makes the point that “personality plays a much bigger role in separating those with high and low income, and “found financial success was correlated with conscientiousness, a personality trait marked by diligence, perseverance and self-discipline.”
While it is obvious that IQ correlates positively with economic success, there are other factors such as personality. Psychological traits associated with the smart but poor might include lower agreeability and conscientiousness, and higher introversion and neuroticism, though both very high and low neuroticism probably negatively correlate with success. The smart but poor demographic also disproportionately includes people on the autism spectrum, as well as those with ADHD. Even though a hyperactive mind is the trait of many genius, it could also hinder one from excelling in work or school. Outlier high IQ individuals often have trouble relating to others and live in their minds, which is exacerbated by these other psychological traits.
While dark triad types, who are high in Machiavellian and sociopathic traits, exist among the elite, this trope is probably exaggerated by dissident armchair psychologists. The more common archetype for success, is the pro-social extrovert. While a charismatic or over socialized midwit will have economic advantages over an autistic genius, society dishonestly downplays the importance of networking, popularity, and social skills to economic success. The shift in the corporate world to becoming more managerial also selects for conformity, which has also disproportionately benefited women, who are generally more conformist and pro-social than men. Managerialism disfavors those who don’t want to put up with the BS, but rather carve out their own path, which are often the traits of geniuses. Both secondary and higher education, especially the generalized liberal arts model, also selects for compliant box checkers. The grading system and university admissions demands that students do well in all fields, rather than hone one specialized skill. This lack of specialization disfavors savants and penalizes risk taking and experimentation, which is needed for innovation. Geniuses would be better off under an independent study model of education. For instance independent bloggers often produce material that is superior to credentialed, overpaid academics, and corporate journalists.
As for neurodiversity, the left generally opposes any distinctions between intelligent autists and the disabled. While Neurodiversity jobs programs exist, such as at Microsoft, overall neurodiversity programs have either been deprioritized in favor of diversity, or have been co-opted by wokeness. Cancel culture with woke HR, de facto purges neurodiversity from the corporate world, such as James Damore getting fired from Google. Writer, Razib Khan, made an interesting observation, that our society screws over autists in how it is now “simultaneously preaching hyperindividualism/do your own thing, while enforcing stricter and stricter de facto social norms on politeness and manners.” Overall, successful people are more likely to express mainstream views, and the mainstream is now woke.
Silicon Valley of the 90s was a golden age for high iq spergs to make it rich, which is no longer the case. While intelligent autists can become rich as innovators, rarely do they rise up the corporate ladder. There are also a lot of geniuses who might make 100k working some boring white collar job, yet their talents are wasted. Besides high IQ autists, there are those who thrive more in a wild west type environment, rather than a heavily regulated managerial system. For instance the kinds of guys who relocate to some less regulated third world nation and make a fortune. While this self-reliant archetype is very different from intelligent autists, who generally need patronage to succeed, both of these archetypes are suppressed under the current managerial system, filled with over credentialed midwits and ass kissing mediocracies. The reality is just that midwits are much more in common society, thus jobs, politics, and education caters to them, and outlier brilliant people only matter if they are rich.
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Policy solutions that could empower the intelligent but poor, include scraping bureaucracy, no strings attached UBI, independent studies programs in education, patronage for innovators, and specialization in education and the economy, to pair people up with a niche that they excel in. The blogger, Lion of the Blogosphere called for enclaves for the intelligent but poor, which is a great idea, that will likely never be implemented. Even private sector patronage, such as Thielbux, is very limited in scope and benefits a selective few. The left would likely oppose any kind of specialized programs geared at helping the smart but poor, such as a specialized jobs program for high IQ NEETs, because this would disproportionately help White men. A major reason that college degrees are mandatory for White collar jobs, is because IQ tests are illegal, though both the intelligent who are neurodivergent and from less privileged backgrounds, would be much better off with a cognitive testing model for employment and education. Even the US Postal Service used to select employees via IQ tests, which offered job security for the smart but poor, but was scraped, coinciding with Civil Rights. Not to mention scrapping gifted programs in public schools, which further screws over brilliant students whose parents cannot afford private education. There are serious questions about America’s worship of the Meritocracy, as far as whether the best people and concepts are rewarded, even if the current system is far from meritocratic. Certainly if one is high IQ and not a total slacker yet is poor, they are totally justified in having contempt for society and mainstream institutions.
While all societies have malcontents, the more intelligent people that are not utilized or given a role in society, the less legitimacy a system has. Devaluing credentialism and delegitimizing institutions is important, but is only effective if enough successful and high status people do so. The system has been effective at maintaining power and quelling dissent, which could explain why there has not been any efforts to placate the intelligent disaffected, by buying them off with funding or jobs. However, the massive wave of white collar layoffs, will likely exacerbate elite over production, and could increase discontent enough to cause trouble for the system.