Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Can too many brainy people be a dangerous thing?

The Economist

TEN YEARS ago Peter Turchin, a scientist at the University of Connecticut, made a startling prediction in Nature. “The next decade is likely to be a period of growing instability in the United States and western Europe,” he asserted, pointing in part to the “overproduction of young graduates with advanced degrees”. The subsequent surge in populism in Europe, the unexpected votes in 2016 for Brexit and then for President Donald Trump in America, and a wave of protests from the gilets jaunes to Black Lives Matter, has made Mr Turchin something of a celebrity in certain circles, and has piqued economists’ interest in the discipline of “cliodynamics”, which uses maths to model historical change. Mr Turchin’s emphasis on the “overproduction of elites” raises uncomfortable questions, but also offers useful policy lessons.

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