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Moronland, an island as big as New York, population at least 2 million had little natural resources no fresh water and no oil.

The locals worship Koalemos and they have a very strict law which states that anyone (excluding foreigner and tourist) with IQ higher than 90 must be exiled, and the ruler wishes to build important infrastructures for the people to live comfortably.

I am wondering how can such a small place experience very little to no recession for at least 10 years? As long as the people are happy morons and continue to worship their god anything goes.

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    $\begingroup$ No fresh water? Forget positive GDP, how are your people even alive. Presence of fresh water is what usually made or broke human settlement on islands, and islands without fresh water could not sustain human populations on their own. People that did manage to survive did so by being clever, which this island's population...does not seem to be. $\endgroup$ Jan 14 at 4:13
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    $\begingroup$ For high GDP you don't need any resources (but some token good, even virtual one will do) and about two agents. And they just to have to sell the token to each other as frequently and at the highest price as possible. Relevant SMBC $\endgroup$
    – user28434
    Jan 14 at 13:37
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    $\begingroup$ I think you're vastly overestimating the importance of being smart. As long as they can manage agriculture and simple construction, why should they have a problem? The real danger for them is smart neighbors. As long as they don't have that problem, they'll be fine. $\endgroup$ Jan 14 at 13:56
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    $\begingroup$ There are plenty of islands in the arctic regions of Canada and Russia populated only by seals. It would be hard to argue that a seal has an IQ higher than 90. Hunters routinely visit these islands, kill off a bunch of seals, and sell their pelts, so they have a positive GDP. Seals can live comfortably on the beach, no infrastructure needed. Can't really say what their religious beliefs might be... $\endgroup$ Jan 14 at 14:22
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    $\begingroup$ @user6760 Did you know that moron used to be a technical term for humans with a specific IQ range, higher than idot or imbecile, and between 51 and 70. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moron_(psychology) $\endgroup$ Jan 14 at 16:49

15 Answers 15

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not going into the discussion on "does IQ really measure intelligence or not?"

Putting in practice the word of Koalemos is deemed the highest honor in their society, therefore those with the lowest IQ are the most worthy to administer the IQ test and applying the ban.

Since they are not exactly the sharpest minds around, they either mess up with the evaluation or expulsion process, meaning that also normal and smart people manage to stay.

Add to this that an IQ of 90 is more than enough to realize that when overshooting a certain score in a test means you are punished, sandbagging that test is better than acing it.

And since the economy thrives, everybody is happy with this.

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    $\begingroup$ In other words, it's a modern day banana republic. $\endgroup$ Jan 14 at 7:16
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    $\begingroup$ Banana republic? Forget about that - this is basically 80% of the entire management system of every country and corporation out there. $\endgroup$
    – T.Sar
    Jan 14 at 11:09
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    $\begingroup$ @TheSquare-CubeLaw: What definition of "banana republic" are you using here? Banana republics were (are) defined by political instability and oligarchy for the benefit of the small ruling class and international corporations. This appears to be a highly stable society (the morons are officially in charge, the smart people keep things running, everyone is happy), no one's exploited, and they make money from basically anything but exporting limited natural resources. "Banana republic" doesn't just mean "dumb government". $\endgroup$ Jan 14 at 12:00
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    $\begingroup$ The more interesting question would be how many smart people would even want to stay. Most smart people aren't exactly thrilled to be governed by morons, and morons that are proud to be morons are arguably even worse. Why live a charade when you could just move off this insane island? $\endgroup$
    – xLeitix
    Jan 14 at 16:26
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    $\begingroup$ @xLeitix you assume that most other places are "not governed by morons, with smart people keeping things running" $\endgroup$
    – fqq
    Jan 15 at 1:13
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Offshore tax haven. The people running the tax haven don't even need to live or work there, they can work via phone as outsourced workers. The company only needs to have stability, which an isolated cult can likely manage. They could also run the tax haven themselves... it's really not that hard, once you learn how. They even have little mom and pop tax havens in the US which larger corporations help people to set up.

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  • $\begingroup$ Exactly. We already have examples of this in real life. $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    Jan 14 at 15:16
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    $\begingroup$ @DrSheldon - What, tax-havens run entirely by morons? They wouldn't be in business five minutes. $\endgroup$ Jan 14 at 21:04
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    $\begingroup$ Oh crap, I shouldn't have said he was a customer. Oh crap, I shouldn't have said it was a secret. Oh crap! I certainly shouldn't have said it was illegal. $\endgroup$
    – Spadoop
    Jan 14 at 23:09
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Also not getting into IQ and ableism.

About 25% of people have IQ < 90. That's not exactly stupid. Just a bit slow at times. They'll be fine, same as anyone else.

In fact since accidents and other issues could preferentially kill people who are less able to look after themselves, you'll end up with a strong tendency to a near-maximal IQ in the permitted range (ie mostly near 90).

Last, this problem:

How exactly are they administering that test anyway?

I mean, it sounds ideal to me. A whole island of people I can outthink, out manipulate.... I could be king for life! All I have to do is fool them on the testing....which won't be hard as I'm smart and they aren't.

The resulting dynamics sound.... interesting. I wonder who else here is a genius but locals don't know it! Ooh, almost everyone!

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    $\begingroup$ True dummies get exiled for not knowing with answer is incorrect? :] $\endgroup$
    – PTwr
    Jan 14 at 10:37
  • $\begingroup$ That's most likely how their current king came into office. $\endgroup$
    – WooShell
    Jan 15 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ You 25% statement is incorrect. For the UPPER END, those near 90 it's true that in an everyday conversation with that person, you wouldn't even notice. But not all of those 25% come close to 90. About 2% of people have an IQ of 70 or less and the Stanford-Binet scale defines 67 or below as "mentally retarded". This doesn't invalidate the rest of your answer, just maybe sharpen that bit a little, maybe to "most of these people". $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Jan 16 at 9:19
  • $\begingroup$ The point being, that (even allowing for a minority who don't mix in public) as we walk our daily life in society, we broadly don't feel that 25% of humanity are clinically stupid (or worse) to the point of being individualky or collectively severely incompetent at managing their lives, even though 25% of humanity statistically has IQ < 90. Therefore a society made up of just that 25%, would probably not feel unduly stupid to mix with, or unduly incompetent at life management, either. $\endgroup$
    – Stilez
    Jan 16 at 16:29
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    $\begingroup$ "we broadly don't feel that 25% of humanity are clinically stupid (or worse) to the point of being individualky or collectively severely incompetent at managing their lives..." We don't? $\endgroup$
    – barbecue
    Jan 16 at 19:38
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Lets go opposite to L. Dutch answer, because why not and I am bored. We'll have to make bunch of assumptions and stretch some reality to make Moronland feasible.... But hey! In Multiverse it has to happen sooner or later!

  1. Lets ignore problems of IQ vs intelligence vs wisdom etc.
  2. Lets assume somehow your moron islanders can successfully exile anyone capable of reading with closed mouth. Because island is full of morons lets say Koalemos itself makes sure its favorite island of cute dummies stays that way. Or maybe there is good reason to get away from that island.
  3. Lets assume that somehow that island is capable of maintaining independence and stability. Somehow no one wants to invade or otherwise mess with it, who would want to deal with bunch of moronic fanatics on a barren rock anyway?
  4. Lets start early, because you have not specified era. Let's say morons got to their islands around 5000 BC, and for whatever reason they settled barren piece of rock instead of that green lush garden of Eden on horizon. Religion does not need to make sense.

Before GPD, you need food and water so...

  • Islands are blessed by winds. Lots of short rainfalls provide water. How much water? Just to sustain 2 million morons.
  • Islands are blessed by sea. Make it in center of breeding ground (waters?) of fishes dumb and populous enough to be caught by bunch of morons with basic tools.

Then you need to regulate population, because it does not take morons to breed more than they can feed...

  • Active volcanos. From time to time Great Cleansing Of Flames brings loyal believers into Koalemos blessed realm. Boom, splash, poof, sizzle. Barren, warm, island ready to repopulate.
  • Several sources of Culling Of Unfaithful. Storms, tsunamis, pestilence, angry meteorites, etc.

Okay, we reached somewhat stable stone-age volcanic archipelago full of overbreeding morons.

Now the GPD. Islanders do not "produce". They fish, they eat, they breed, they die. But mostly worship Koalemos. Only thing they export are non-morons, and only thing they have is population. They need external assistance, which means that Moronland income has to be based on dispensable income of nearby nations. For that you need trade, for which you need neighbors...

So lets establish their neighbors.

  • Bunch of non-volcanic islands with fresh water and greenery got inhabited by early exiled peps.
  • Exiles, feeling superior to morons, establish opposite culture. They crave intelligence and are despite being feed up with religion decided to go neutral rather than negative toward Koalemos. After all morons just wants to sit on their islands for whatever reason.
  • Neighbors, due to better brains and environment that won't wipe their progress each year, advance technologically. Farming, ships, some medicine etc.
  • Turns out intelligence is not as inheritable as they wished to believe. Most of their children turns out to be Morons well fit for Moronland. Lest say 1 Brainiac out of 100 crotchgobblins.
  • Brainiacs that want smart kid/servant/disciple/successor start to adopt new exiles, as they turn out to be superior source of offspring when compared to genetic roulette of fornications.
  • What to do with dumb kids? Give 'em crate of potatoes and exile back to Moronland! You get to stroke your ego/morals by "returning them to their people" instead of inventing gas chambers.
  • Now that you got to island where everyone is constantly fornicating because they got nothing better to do in-between volcano eruptions, and you need to wait for favorable winds anyway...

Fast forward few thousand years forward...

Moronland is effectively a fourth world country of religious fanatics with such high population... turnover... that despite low chance for smart kid they make up for it with quantity, of which exiled smart ones are primary export of Moronland.

Stability and independence, and containment, is guaranteed by coalition of nearby advanced nations that are too busy arguing about quark names and planet definition to engage in petty military conquest.

So the Morons breed and pray while their neighbors invest in infrastructure that improves crotchgobblin spawn rate while preserving pristine unsustainability of Moronland.

In meantime various groups use this neutral grounds for black market, sex holidays (aka STD import), testing new shampoo recipe on human subject, volcano bungee. Some might even pay premium for kid preorder of chosen characteristics.

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Location, location, location.

Your island is located out in the middle of the ocean, far from any continent. Think something like Midway Island. Planes and ships have trouble crossing the ocean in one shot, so your island has become a critical resupply point for trans-ocean voyages. Ships anchor in your port for shelter from storms, and you collect port usage fees. Your port and airfield provide fuel, food, and services to ocean-crossing vessels, and you collect a sizeable amount of taxes and fees from that. It doesn't even matter that your island doesn't have any resources to sell. Your country imports supplies from overseas and re-sells them. Since you're the only stopover point, companies from other countries are bending over backwards to get one of the limited import licenses for their goods. You'll end up with a steady flow of revenue from import license fees, sales taxes, and Disneyland-level markup on supplies. None of this requires any particular intellectual prowess. An IQ of 90 is plenty sufficient to construct a functional airfield and port. Levying taxes and fees is so simple, even a government can do it.

What about all those people passing through that have an IQ over 90? Your island isn't much of a destination, so very few of those foreigners actually stay on your island long enough to get tested. Many never even leave their ship or airplane and thus are never technically in your country. The few that stay long enough to get tested will indeed risk banishment, but that doesn't make much practical difference for them. They weren't planning on staying in the first place. Banishment would only mean that they would be denied entry if they returned in the future, but that requires your port authorities to be smart enough to enforce a complex system of identity verification and blacklists (the sort that modern governments still have trouble doing effectively). Ships that regularly stop at your island would likely hire several low-IQ crewmen to handle their on-shore business.

Similarly, your island will be the natural junction point for any trans-oceanic communication system (radio relay station, long-distance telephone cables, etc). You don't have to be smart enough to build such things. Foreign companies will build them, and you generate revenue by leasing the land to them, providing local labor for basic maintenance and security, providing utilities, and charging usage tariffs.

In a more belligerent world, your island could be between two opposing great powers. They're too far away to attack each other directly, but could successfully dispatch bombers from your airfield. An alliance between your country and one of the great powers would be enough aggression to trigger war. To prevent that, your island receives a steady stream of "foreign aid" money from one of the great powers on the condition that you refuse to enter an alliance with the other. Unbeknownst to them, the other great power is also doing the same thing.

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  • $\begingroup$ Love this solution!! $\endgroup$
    – Alan Dev
    Jan 14 at 21:30
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Guano

Their island is almost completely covered in bird sh*t. They build everything from it including their single storey dwellings.

Guano is their only export and seabirds and fish their only diet.

The demand for guano spurred the human colonization of remote bird islands in many parts of the world, resulting in some of the first examples of U.S. colonialism and the expansion of the British Empire. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guano

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately the OP said the island has no natural resources $\endgroup$
    – CSM
    Jan 14 at 20:57
  • $\begingroup$ @CSM Then they are subsistence farmers/hunters with no measurable GDP - certainly not a positive GDP as asked for. $\endgroup$ Jan 14 at 21:07
  • $\begingroup$ P.S. It doesn't say zero natural resources. $\endgroup$ Jan 14 at 21:10
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You're describing something like 19th century New York.

The Flynn effect is a well-known phenomenon that has resulted in a sustained an significant increase in IQ scores over time. The average IQ score is always fixed at 100, but when new test subjects take old tests, the average score is usually above 100. A study of British students between 1942 and 2009 found that the average IQ score had risen by 14 points. By modern standards, most populations in the early 20th century would have had an average IQ in the mid-80s. The trend has only been studied for about a century, but you might find even lower average IQs by going further back in time. My point is, societies throughout history have functioned perfectly well despite the fact that they would be considered low-IQ by today's standards. You might have some farther-reaching effects of eliminating the intellectual elite from a society, but historically, eliminating IQ>90 individuals from a society (by modern standards) would only affect a few percent of the population.

Basically, human history is full of cases studies of successful societies, the vast majority of which would have had below-average IQ by modern standards. It hasn't stopped us in the past.

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  • $\begingroup$ They didn't just reduce the average, though, they exiled everyone who was above average. $\endgroup$
    – user253751
    Jan 14 at 17:26
  • $\begingroup$ @user253751 Right, but the lower the average IQ, the fewer people an IQ threshold of 90 will filter out. If the average IQ in the unfiltered population is 90, a threshold of 90 would eliminate half the population. If the average IQ is only 75, you'd lose only 15% of the population (assuming the SD of IQ remains about 15 points). If the average IQ is only 60, a threshold of 90 would only eliminate 5% of people. By modern standards, this threshold will leave most of society unaffected. $\endgroup$ Jan 14 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ 1800s NYC might've had the few people with 110 IQ (today) in charge, for example, but Moronland cannot. $\endgroup$
    – user253751
    Jan 14 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ @user253751 Of course. The question becomes how much of an outsize effect the intellectual elite have on a society. Eliminating the top half of intelligence from a society would probably have detrimental effects, but I think society could do OK with a small subset of the highest-IQ individuals missing. Human society has persisted successfully for thousands of years, and if the Flynn effect can be extrapolated, it's possible we'd find a time when there actually was no one with IQ>90 by modern standards. $\endgroup$ Jan 14 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ @user253751 "they exiled everyone who was above average" Average for where? Average for the island? Average for the US? the whole world? It makes a difference. What test(s) are they using? $\endgroup$ Jan 14 at 18:57
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Outside nations pay to receive the intelligent exiles.

This is inspired by another answer that used the phrasing, "only thing they export are non-morons". Let's say this really is their export.

Outside nations are desirous of receiving highly-intelligent immigrants (compare to U.S. rules around "highly skilled immigrants"). Having identified such people, the outside nations might engage in bidding to receive such people (which could be analogous with job offers, depending on how you interpret that). If the island nation doesn't work with currency, then the payment could be in basic resources like food, water, construction materials, etc. (If outside nations don't bid on people in, e.g., the 90-110 IQ category, then maybe the people in IQ 110+ or so suffice to fund the country.)

This process would actually positively reinforce the "get rid of smart people" dogma -- it's not just a religion, it's also the nation's actual lifeline. And it would also bolster the validity of the testing, too -- scoring a high IQ gives a pathway to a better life in a welcoming, high-functioning society, so test-takers are incited to do as well as possible.

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Well, the answer is a bit hilarious.

Planned Economy

Moronland is a Marxist state with centralised planned economy. Business cycles are absent in this economy type, so no recession. (Actually, locals praise Marx and maybe his followers (like Lenin, Mao Zedong etc.), but the local language has neither rhotic consonants nor consonant clusters, so the name Karl Marx was adopted to local pronunciation and became Koalemos).

As for the smart people, they may either be smart enough to sandbag the tests by deliberately giving wrong answers (as in L. Dutch's answer) or even take control over the test-making and give the tests which are very easy to "pass" (i.e. ending up with a low score) for the smart people. However, those of them who want to leave the country do that readily by passing the test and obtaining a high score.

"Living has become better, comrades. Living has become happier." Joseph Stalin (1935).

P.S. About positive GDP. The GDP is always positive (or zero) by definition, since it's the value of all the final goods and services produced in the country. (Of course, you've probably meant positive GDP growth, which is by no means the same.)

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Lots of Gambling

All that matters for GDP is that money exchanges hands a lot. If the culture of this island includes the compulsion to bet on every little thing that might happen in a day- to the point where the average citizen makes upwards of 50 bets per day, you can multiply an otherwise unproductive GDP by a considerable factor.

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You have a bigger problem, without fresh water everyone on your island will die

This was originally a comment, but the comment received such positive reception that it might be a good idea to turn it into an answer. If Moronland has no fresh water you have a much bigger problem than maintaining a positive GDP. Without fresh water everyone on your island is going to die.

Fresh water is usually what made or broke island settlement throughout human history. Isolated island that did not have lakes or rivers were essentially uninhabitable and were passed over by most settlers, including the Polynesians. Part of the reason islands like the Galapagos never had permanent human habitation until relatively recently is because there was no fresh water that could support permanent human settlement. Even today islands without fresh water like the Galapagos or the Dry Tortugas have to be resupplied with water from external landmasses that have water.

The only way humans have ever managed to survive on an island without fresh water is by being very, very clever. And even then they were struggling on the edge of existence with a hand-to-mouth lifestyle, and only adopted these strategies of getting water because Easter Island used to have fresh water and now doesn't except for some hard-to-reach lakes. And given that your country is comprised entirely of idiots, it doesn't seem likely that the people of Moronland are going to be smart enough to do something like this, or else they'd do something really stupid like draw in so much fresh water that it causes saltwater intrusion and contaminates their water supply.

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The island's continental shelf is full of fossilfuellium, which is mined and exported. Since these are offshore platforms, immigrant workers there do not come under the IQ ban. And by keeping them on a short leash as non-citizens, they can keep the wages low and profits high. And since the mining is mostly controlled by foreign corporations, it is ruthlessly efficient and not mismanaged by lower cognitive capabilities of the citizens (nor by anything like pesky environmental issues or employee rights). Combined with an island cleptocracy elite (highly intelligent and sociopathic people who managed to cheat on the test, not that it is that difficult) lining their pockets "unofficially" with a small percentage of the profits, everyone is happy to keep the status quo (the leftovers are enough to pay for infrastructure, fresh water, healthcare and whatever hoi polloi require).

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I'm not quite sure if this answers the question you wanted to ask:

GDP can be measured as (the value of) things produced. If the people on the island produce anything at all, the GDP is positive. Presumably they do, if they eat. For example, gathering fruits for food is production.

Recession is the lack of GDP growth. If everything else stays the same, GDP grows if the number of islanders grows over time. For example by having more children than people dying or leaving the island, or by immigration. GDP growth per capita requires increase in productivity or more time spent working or more people working, but that's a different thing. Low IQ presumably indicates low productivity, but that can be compensated for in various ways, for example by imported technology (e.g. power tools vs. hand tools).

The chief can wish for whatever he wants, but the islanders must either produce the things needed for the infrastructure, or buy the things with stuff or services they can produce, or steal, or receive in donations. This does not require GDP growth, just that a sufficient portion of GDP is allocated for building infrastructure. In other words, you can have a recession and still build infrastructure.

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First off, an IQ score is relative to the rest of population. It is not very clear if in the OP scenario it is calculated relative to the island population (pre- or post-culled?) or the entire world. Depending on the specific recalibration procedures, the former can create an extreme pressure - only about a quarter of the tested will be below 90 if the calibration is done per batch of tested subjects. So the first observation is that birth rates have to be extremely high to even sustain the population.

The second observation is that IQ tests can be manipulated by the subjects downwards. The other replied that it would mean the smart ones would always pick the wrong answers while not so smart ones would be picking a more randomized mix of answers, thus resulting in an artificially higher scores and expulsion of the less smart people. That hinges on the assumption that the smart ones actually want to stay - but why would they? There are no unique resources and there is a tyrannical regime to deal with - so a smart move would be to answer the test faithfully and be "exiled".

To answer the actual question - GDP is an artificial metric and it can be just defined in any way to make the ruling elite look good (as it more or less happens everywhere). As the population gradually becomes ever less capable of critical thinking, the GDP can be just pulled out of ... a hat by the high priests of the official statistics.

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The island is a spiritual retreat for people with more money than sense. They pay inordinate amounts to sit overlooking the ocean, meditating about what the heck the purpose of their life is. Some of them even join the local religion, but only of course the ones who are stupid enough to believe in it. They will easily qualify for residency.

Of course the intelligent members of the ruling class are adept at faking a low IQ - it's easy enough to get answers wrong! Therefore they get to stay and exploit the 'dummies'.


P.S.

The newcomers also have to be dim enough to donate all their worldly wealth to the island's religion. This in itself proves their stupidity. There are plenty of precedents for this.

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