In the United Kingdom where the the wealthiest 20 percent of households still earn about 14 times more than the bottom 20 percent, the mayor of London yesterday praised income inequality and declared that a large percentage of the human race is simply too stupid to improve its financial well-being.
Boris Johnson delivered his remarks in a forum that seemed appropriate for their content, the annual “Margaret Thatcher Lecture” at the Centre For Policy Studies, a right-wing London think tank credited with formulating the ideology behind many of former Prime Minister Thatcher’s conservative policies.
Johnson, a leading figure in the U.K.’s Conservative Party (popularly known as the Tories), is believed to harbor ambitions to succeed his party’s leader, David Cameron, as Britain’s prime minister.
In his attention-getting speech, he called the wide disparity between the rich and the poor necessary as “a valuable spur to economic activity.” Efforts to promote upward social mobility are largely pointless, he said, because poor people are basically idiots.
“It is surely relevant to a conversation about equality that as many as 16 percent of our species have an IQ below 85,” Johnson (pictured) told his audience of elite U.K. business and political figures.
He then called for a show of hands among that audience of anyone with an IQ below 85, an attempted joke that was met with “muted laughter,” according to an account of the speech in the Guardian newspaper.
Adding that just two percent of “our species” have IQ scores over 130, Johnson told his listeners. “The harder you shake the pack the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top. I am afraid that violent economic centrifuge is operating on human beings who are already very far from equal in raw ability, if not spiritual worth.”
Johnson did not cite a source for his statistics on IQ scores, which are in any case considered a highly controversial way to evaluate intelligence.
In the speech, Johnson said that income inequality was a beneficial social force, because it produced the “spirit of envy” which he said causes people to strive to “keep up with the Joneses” thus encouraging economic activity.
The leader of Britan’s opposition Liberal Democratic Party, Nick Clegg, immediately condemned Johnson’s talk as “dispiriting,” describing the rising Tory star’s view that a person’s economic position is determined by IQ score as, “complete anathema to everything I have stood for in politics.”
Speaking on his weekly radio call-in show, Clegg said that Johnson’s remarks, “reveal a fairly unpleasant, careless elitism that suggests we should somehow give up on a whole swath of our fellow citizens. Our job in politics is surely not to simply say we are going to hive off one bunch of people and put them in one category and kind of basically say they are parked and that there is not much we can do about them."
The full, prepared text of Johnson’s controversial speech can be read online here.