A lot of what we do here in the U.S. seems to be predicated on the idea that we are smarter than Russians. We are well on our way to a fully planned economy (see my pre-election posting on how this is apparently what voters from both major political parties want). The Russians, under the Soviet system, had trouble getting their planned economy to grow robustly. We are now scratching our heads wondering why our planned economy isn’t growing much beyond the population growth rate.
The Russians have had difficulty fighting Chechens, but we welcomed the Tsarnaev family into the U.S., confident that they would not present us with any difficulty. The Russian security services warned us about Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Instead of relying on their warning and simply deporting Mr. Tsarnaev (his asylum-seeking parents had already voluntarily returned to the country where they were supposedly being persecuted badly enough to warrant asylum, so he would have had a place to stay back in his original home country), we decided that our own security services would conduct their own investigation using American brains instead of Russian brains. (And the FBI’s American staff concluded that Mr. Tsarnaev was unlikely to be a threat.)
In our helicopter ground school foreigners with a general education often outperform Americans with a bachelor’s in a technical subject (see this April 2010 posting). I remember one middle-aged Russian woman who offered a great physics-based explanation for nearly every question posed. It turned out that she worked at a finance job here. I asked her where she had studied physics. She replied “In Russia. In high school.”
We did beat Russia in the Cold War, of course, but that was a different generation of Americans. What evidence do we have that today’s working-age Americans are smarter than today’s working-age Russians?