Nature, Nurture, and Inequality

I almost always agree with John Derbyshire, and this post by him is no exception. But he does err in the course of the aforementioned post when he says:

The Left, which I am using to mean approximately people who want a more egalitarian society [a generous characterization], believe that the causes of human inequality are external to the individual human being. If you fix the external causes, then you get a more equal society. The Right, who are more tolerant of inequality, believe that components of human nature are innate. Customary and traditional social arrangements that are not obviously harmful shouldn’t be disturbed for projects of human improvement that are likely to prove futile.

Both sides have a case. The Left does have a case. Human nature has somewhat improved. Rigid hereditary social hierarchies of the kind that a conservative over 200 years ago would have fought to the death for, proved to be not as necessary as they thought. Most human beings in most places no longer enslave, eat, or publicly torture each other. So human nature does improve. Many of you have probably read Stephen Pinker’s recent book about the long term decline of violence. We’re kinder and gentler than our remote ancestors.

Pinker’s book is hogwash. I won’t repeat all of the reasons for saying that. Just go here and see for yourself. See also this excellent article by William Kirkpatrick.

Derbyshire soon gets back on track:

But the Right also has a case. And much of the strength of that case comes from the last few decades of research in the human sciences.

Individual personality seems to resemble what physicists call “shape memory alloys.” These are metal alloys that you can construct that remember their shape—you can take a bar of this stuff and bend it into a knot, and when you heat it up, it unbends itself and remembers its original shape. Human nature seems to be much like that. You can push people in certain directions during childhood and adolescence, but the finished adult human being seems to follow the Judith Rich Harris model: 50% heredity and the rest environmental.

I am sure that some of you know that last month [October 2014] was the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray‘s book, The Bell Curve. There have been a number of commemorative articles on human science websites. The grand metaphysician of the Human Biodiversity movement, Steve Sailer, published what I thought, was a very witty comment about it. He said that there had been a complete change in our understanding of, for example, educational attainment. Statistically, 20 years ago there was definitely a hierarchy of educational attainment. At the top you had Orientals, below them you had Caucasians, below them you had Chicanos, and below them you had Blacks on average statistical attainment. Now things are completely different. Now there is a new hierarchy. At the top you have Asians, second you have Whites, third you have Hispanics, and fourth you have African Americans.

So, bottom line there, not much has changed. Where the Left favors a belief in high levels of malleability, reality does not seem to agree.

But reality, as usual, eludes the left. Consider for example The Economist, which is a useful tool of the left. Here is Dr. James Thompson on the case:

There is much innocent fun to be gained from The Economist’s coy avoidance of the genetics of intelligence. They are mired in Blank-Slatism, but are cautiously tip-toeing towards admitting a few things, only to then back away again, thus taking them back to where they came from. This is not all bad: by conceding the importance of intelligence and then immediately saying it is driven by wealth they keep the Faith, whatever it is, but hint that they know more than they will let on in public….

…[I]n The Economist’s view brighter people marrying brighter people is not seen as a positive development, but a practice which “increases inequality”. Of course, duller people marrying duller people also increased inequality. In fact, couples assort themselves on intelligence more than anything else: ….

In a related article they spell out their concerns: An hereditary meritocracy: The children of the rich and powerful are increasingly well suited to earning wealth and power themselves. That’s a problem….

[T]he problem seems to be that they deserve to get ahead, the bounders! …

None of The Economist’s articles or the papers they quote make it clear that intelligence must be considered a driving force in economic life and, consequently, in earnings, social status and resultant wealth. Curious, isn’t it, that a magazine written by the smart fraction for the smart fraction cannot bear to mention the smart fraction in a positive light? Perhaps they fear they will be cursed by the deity, or slaughtered by the baying mob. Noblesse oblige.

[The quotations are from “The Economist Takes a Half Step Forwards,” Psychological Comments, January 23, 2015. Thompson refers to three articles in The Economist: “America’s New Aristocracy,” “Getting ‘Em Young,” and “An Hereditary Meritocracy,” all dated January 24, 2015.]

In the left’s demented view, it would be better if the human race were populated by seven billion equally stupid (and equally unattractive) persons, all scrambling for survival, than to allow the brightest to intermarry and produce a relative handful of intelligent producers whose efforts enrich the lives of the billions (or a large fraction of them). Heaven forbid that the relative handful should thus be rewarded with more than a “fair share” of the riches that they create.

I am certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the “smart fraction” would not want to live in a world where its superior intelligence glibness went unrewarded.

*     *     *

Related posts:
Academic Bias
Intellectuals and Capitalism
“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review
The Left’s Agenda
The Left and Its Delusions
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
Are You in the Bubble?
The Fallacy of Human Progress
The Culture War
Income Inequality and Economic Growth
A Case for Redistribution, Not Made
Greed, Conscience, and Big Government
Ruminations on the Left in America
McCloskey on Piketty
The Rahn Curve Revisited


IQ, Political Correctness, and America’s Present Condition

This is a wandering post, in which I use a recent controversy about IQ to make some observations about political correctness, which leads to a tale of leftist subversion and America’s descent into statism.

Since my last post about IQ, more than a year ago, the biggest kerfuffle on the IQ front arose when Jason Richwine was chased from his job at Heritage Foundation. The proximate cause of Richwine’s departure from Heritage was the usual kind of witch hunt that accompanies the discovery of anything coming from a conservative source that might offend political correctness. Richwine was “guilty” of having penned a dissertation that contains unremarkable statements about ethnic differences in average IQ, including the IQ difference between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites.

These are excerpts of John Derbyshire’s narration of l’affaire Richwine as it unfolded:

… Following the release of a report by the Heritage Foundation arguing that the Rubio-Schumer immigration bill will cost the nation $6.3 trillion, the Slave Power set their dwarf miners to digging.

They soon found gold. One of the co-authors of the study is twentysomething Jason Richwine, a Heritage analyst. Not just an analyst, but a quantitative analyst: “Heritage’s senior policy analyst in empirical studies.” …

After a few days’ digging the Nibelungs turned up Richwine’s Ph.D. thesis from Harvard University, title: “IQ and Immigration Policy.” The mother lode! (You can download it from here.)

The Washington Post ran a gleeful story on the find under the headline “Heritage study co-author opposed letting in immigrants with low IQs.” [By Dylan Matthews, May 8, 2013]. They note that:

Richwine’s dissertation asserts that there are deep-set differentials in intelligence between races.

Eek! A witch! …

Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, on secondment from Conservatism, Inc. to offer some pretense of “balance” at the Post, hastened to join the lynch mob. “It undermines the cause of all immigration opponents to have their prized work authored by such a character,” she wrote, reading Richwine out of respectable society….

She then brings in Jennifer S. Korn for a quote. Ms. Korn was Secretary for Hispandering in the George W. Bush White House….

What does Ms. Korn have to tell us?

Richwine’s comments are bigoted and ignorant. America is a nation of immigrants; to impugn the intelligence of immigrants is to offend each and every American and the foundation of our country….

Even if you take Ms. Korn’s usage of “impugn” to mean Richwine has stated that immigrants have lower mean IQ than natives, she is wrong. Table 2.2 in the thesis (p. 30) gives an average estimated mean IQ of 105.5 for immigrants from Northeast Asia….

And so another “anti-racist” witch hunt commences….

The forces of orthodoxy have identified a heretic. They’re marching on his hut with pitchforks and flaming brands. The cry echoes around the internet: “Burn the witch!” … (“‘Burn the Witch’: Heritage Foundation Scuttles Away from Jason Richwine–and the Cold, Hard Facts,”, May 9, 2013)

The impetus for politically correct witch-hunting comes from the left, of course. This is unsurprising because leftists, on average, are dumber than conservatives and libertarians. (See this and this, for example.) Which would explain their haste to take offense when the subject of IQ is raised.

But facts are facts, and Richwine summarizes them neatly in a recent (post-Heritage) essay; for example:

The American Psychological Association (APA) tried to set the record straight in 1996 with a report written by a committee of experts. Among the specific conclusions drawn by the APA were that IQ tests reliably measure a real human trait, that ethnic differences in average IQ exist, that good tests of IQ are not culturally biased against minority groups, and that IQ is a product of both genetic inheritance and early childhood environment. Another report signed by 52 experts, entitled “Mainstream Science on Intelligence,” stated similar facts and was printed in the Wall Street Journal. (“Why Can’t We Talk about IQ?,” Politico, August 9, 2013)

Richwine continues:

[W]hen Larry Summers, then the president of Harvard University, speculated in 2005 that women might be naturally less gifted in math and science, the intense backlash contributed to his ouster.Two years later, when famed scientist James Watson noted the low average IQ scores of sub-Saharan Africans, he was forced to resign from his lab, taking his Nobel Prize with him.

When a Harvard law student was discovered in 2010 to have suggested in a private email that the black-white IQ gap might have a genetic component, the dean publicly condemned her amid a campus-wide outcry. Only profuse apologies seem to have saved her career.

In none of these cases did an appeal to science tamp down the controversy or help to prevent future ones. My own time in the media crosshairs would be no different.

So what did I write that created such a fuss? In brief, my dissertation shows that recent immigrants score lower than U.S.-born whites on a variety of cognitive tests. Using statistical analysis, it suggests that the test-score differential is due primarily to a real cognitive deficit rather than to culture or language bias. It analyzes how that deficit could affect socioeconomic assimilation, and concludes by exploring how IQ selection might be incorporated, as one factor among many, into immigration policy.

Because a large number of recent immigrants are from Latin America, I reviewed the literature showing that Hispanic IQ scores fall between white and black scores in the United States. This fact isn’t controversial among experts, but citing it seems to have fueled much of the media backlash.

Derbyshire follows up:

Jason, who can hardly be more than thirty, has not yet grasped an important thing about humanity at large: that most of our thinking is magical, superstitious, religious, social, and egotistical. Very little of it is empirical. I myself am as stone-cold an empiricist as you’ll meet in a month of Sundays; yet every day when I walk my dog there is a certain tree I have to pat as we pass it. (It’s on the wrong side of the road. The family joke is that I shall one day be hit by a truck while crossing the road to pat my lucky tree.)

Hence Jason’s puzzlement that 25 years after Snyderman and Rothman, 19 years after The Bell Curve and the follow-up “Mainstream Science on Intelligence” declaration, the public discourse even in quality outlets is dominated by innumerate journo-school graduates parroting half-remembered half-truths from Stephen Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man, the greatest work of Cultural Marxist propaganda yet produced.

That’s how we are. That’s the shape of human nature. Alan Cromer explained it in his 1993 book Uncommon Sense: The Heretical Nature of Science. Not many people can think empirically much of the time. At the aggregate level, where the lowest common denominator takes over and social acceptance is at the front of everyone’s mind, empiricism doesn’t stand a chance unless it delivers some useful technology.

Nor is it quite the case that “emotion trumps reason.” What mostly trumps reason is the yearning for respectability, leading us to conform to ambient dogmas—in the present-day West, the dogmas of Cultural Marxism, which waft around us like a noxious vapor….

This is how we are: jumbles of superstition, emotion, self-deception, and social conformism, with reason and science trotting along behind trying to keep up.

Science insists that there is an external world beyond our emotions and wish-fulfillment fantasies. It claims that we can find out true facts about that world, including facts with no immediate technological application. The human sciences insist even more audaciously that we ourselves are part of that world and can be described as dispassionately as stars, rocks, and microbes. Perhaps one day it will be socially acceptable to believe this. (“Why We Can’t Talk about IQ,” Taki’s Magazine, August 15, 2013)

Much has been made of the “bland” 1950s and the supposed pressure to conform to the Ozzie and Harriett way of life. Though i was never clear about the preferred alternative. On the evidence of the past 50 years, it seems to have been a potent mix of blue language, promiscuous sex, sodomy, broken families, drugs, violence, and ear-blasting “music.”

The true forces of conformity had begun their work many years before Ricky Nelson was a gleam in his father’s eye. There was, of course, the Progressive Era of the late 1800s and early 1900s, from which America was beginning to recover by the late 1920s.. But then came the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the establishment in America of a fifth column dedicated to the suppression of liberty:

As recounted in [KGB: The Inside Story by KGB Colonel Oleg Gordievsky and Cambridge intelligence expert Christopher Andrew]  … Harry Hopkins — FDR’s confidant, advisor, and policy czar, who actually resided in the White House during World War II — was the Big Enchilada among American agents of influence working for the USSR. Gordievsky recounts attending a lecture early in his career by Iskhak Akhmerov, the KGB’s top “illegal” spy in the U.S. during the 1940s (In espionage parlance, “illegals” do not have legal cover if caught). According to Gordievsky, Akhmerov spoke for a long period about Hopkins, calling him the top Soviet asset in the US. Yet, Gordievsky and Andrew tiptoe around this allegation by representing that Hopkins was a naïve devotee who only courted Stalin to ensure victory over Hitler’s Germany.

Although I know Andrew well, and have met Gordievsky twice, I now doubt their characterization of Hopkins…. It does not ring true that Hopkins was an innocent dupe dedicated solely to defeating the Nazis. Hopkins comes over in history as crafty, secretive and no one’s fool, hardly the personality traits of a naïve fellow traveler. And his fingerprints are on the large majority of pro-Soviet policies implemented by the Roosevelt administration. [Diana] West [author of American Betrayal: Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character] deserves respect for cutting through the dross that obscures the evidence about Hopkins, and for screaming from the rooftops that the U.S. was the victim of a successful Soviet intelligence operation….

West mines Venona, the testimony of “Red spy queen” Elizabeth Bentley — who confessed her work for the communist underground to the FBI in 1945 — and the book Blacklisted by History by M. Stanton Evans, a re-examination of the McCarthy era using Venona and hundreds of other recently declassified documents from the FBI, CIA, and other agencies. And West lambastes the Truman administration for not revealing data from Venona that would have exonerated McCarthy and informed the nation that Soviet agents had indeed infiltrated key departments of the FDR administration….

The Rosenbergs, Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, Laurence Duggan, and 397 more American agents have been confirmed and verified as Soviet agents. West claims Harry Hopkins has been outed too in Venona, but Radosh and other scholars say this identification is bogus. But the Soviets also ran important agents of influence with great attention to the security of their identities. In essence, whether or not Hopkins is ever identified in Venona, he remains, as the cops say, a person of interest. (Bernie Reeves, “Reds under the Beds: Diana West Can’t Sleep,” American Thinker, August 10, 2013)

Influence flows downhill. What happened in Washington was repeated in many a city and State because the New Deal had made leftism respectable. By the end of World War II, which made nationalization the norm, the “mainstream” had shifted far to the left of where it had flowed before the Great Depression.

Influence also flows laterally. The growing respectability of leftism emboldened and empowered those institutions that naturally lean left: the media, academia, and the arts and letters. And so they went forth into the wilderness, amplifying the gospel according to Marx.

The most insidious influence has been the indoctrination of students — from pre-Kindergarten to graduate school — in the language and ideals of leftism: world government (i.e., anit-Americanism); redistributionism (as long as it hits only the “rich,” of course); favoritism for “minorities” (i.e., everyone but straight, white males); cultural diversity (any kind of crap in the arts, music, and literature, as long as it wasn’t produced by dead, white mailes); moral relativism (e.g., anti-feminism is bad, unless it’s practiced by Muslims). All of that, and much more, is the stuff of political correctness, which is an especially corrosive manifestation of social conformism, as Jason Richwine learned the hard way.

And then came the “pod people.” These are the masses of “ordinary people” who may have been deaf or impervious to indoctrination by teachers and professors, but who in vast numbers were (and continue to be) seduced by into collaboration with the left by years and decades of post-educational exposure to leftist cant. Seduced by slanted opinionators — usually disguised as reporters. Seduced by novelists, screenwriters, playwrights, and other denizens of the world of arts and letters. Seduced by politicians (even “conservative” ones) trading “free lunches” and “local jobs” for votes.

It is more than a small wonder that there is such a sizable remnant of true conservatives and non-leftish libertarians (unlike this leftish one). But we are vastly outnumbered by staunch leftists, wishy-washy “moderates,” and “conservatives” whose first instinct is to defend sacred cows (Social Security and Medicare, for example) instead of defending liberty.

I will have more to say, in future posts, about the subversion of “Old America.” For now, I end with this observation from an earlier post:
If America was ever close to being a nation united and free, it has drifted far from that condition — arguably, almost as far as it  had by 1861. And America’s condition will only worsen unless leaders emerge who will set the nation (or a large, independent portion of it) back on course. Barring the emergence of such leaders, America will continue to slide into baseness, divisiveness, and servitude.

*     *     *

Related posts:
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy
Affirmative Action, One More Time
A Contrarian View of Segregation
After the Bell Curve
A Footnote . . .
Schelling and Segregation
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy, Revisited
“Family Values,” Liberty, and the State
Is There Such a Thing as Society
Intellectuals and Capitalism
A New, New Constitution
Secession Redux
A New Cold War or Secession?
The Real Constitution and Civil Disobedience
A Declaration of Independence
First Principles
The Shape of Things to Come
The Near-Victory of Communism
The Constitution: Original Meaning, Corruption, and Restoration
“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review
Intelligence, Personality, Politics, and Happiness
The Left’s Agenda
The Left and Its Delusions
Intelligence as a Dirty Word
Crimes against Humanity
Abortion and Logic
The Myth That Same-Sex “Marriage” Causes No Harm
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
Are You in the Bubble?
Abortion, Doublethink, and Left-Wing Blather
Reclaiming Liberty throughout the Land
Race and Reason: The Victims of Affirmative Action
Abortion, “Gay Rights,” and Liberty
Race and Reason: The Achievement Gap–Causes and Implications
Dan Quayle Was (Almost) Right
Tolerance on the Left
The Eclipse of “Old America”
Genetic Kinship and Society
Government in Macroeconomic Perspective
Keynesianism: Upside-Down Economics in the Collectivist Cause
Secession for All Seasons
Liberty and Society
Liberty as a Social Construct: Moral Relativism?
A Contrarian View of Universal Suffrage
Well-Founded Pessimism
America: Past, Present, and Future
Defending Liberty against (Pseudo) Libertarians
“Conversing” about Race
The Fallacy of Human Progress
Political Correctness vs. Civility

“Conversing” about Race


The “conversation” about race so devoutly wished by Barack Obama, Eric Holder, and their ilk (of all colors) doesn’t seem to be on the track that they have in mind. That track, as some have noted, is for Obama, Holder, et al. to tell us white folks how to think about black folks, and thenceforth to think and act accordingly.

It seems that it has become acceptable for commentators outside what are known as “racialist” circles to acknowledge openly certain facts of life that are strongly tied to race. Thus, on July 20, we have Ron Unz declaring that

if we examine the official FBI arrest statistics, we find that these seem to support the most straightforward interpretation of our racial crime correlations.  For example, blacks in America were over six times as likely to be arrested for homicide in 2011 as non-blacks and over eight times as likely to be arrested for robbery; the factors for previous years were usually in a similar range.  The accuracy of this racial pattern of arrests is generally confirmed by the corresponding racial pattern of victim-identification statements, also aggregated by the FBI.

This declaration of facts is especially noteworthy, coming from Unz, who is a firm disbeliever in the proposition that intelligence has a strong genetic component. (I have addressed Unz’s treatise at length — and negatively — in this post.)

Then, along came Victor Davis Hanson on July 25, writing at National Review Online — the organ whose editor had fired John Derbyshire for his infelicitous comments about race (in another venue). Among other tidbits about young black males and crime, Hanson offered this:

I suspect — and statistics would again support such supposition — that [Attorney General Eric ]Holder privately is more worried that his son is in greater danger of being attacked by other black youths than by either the police or a nation of white-Hispanic George Zimmermans on the loose.

Will Hanson go the way of Derbyshire and be fired by NRO? It seems unlikely. Hanson is far more temperate than Derbyshire, as Derbyshire gladly demonstrates in his commentary on Hanson’s column; for example:

The race issue in America is a tadpole, with black/nonblack the mighty head and everything else an inconsequential tail.

In per capita intensity of feeling, black hatred of nonblacks is about an 8 out of 10, nonblack dislike of blacks about a 3 or 4, and any other antagonism you care to name—Hispanic hostility to East Asians, Hmong feelings about Native Americans, whatever—well down below 1.

And in the sheer amount of sturm und drang generated, the conflict is, as I keep telling you, really just between two big blocs of white people who loathe each other, the liberal bloc recruiting nonwhites as not-much-trusted support troops—a Cold Civil War.  As Prof. Hanson said, the liberal bloc personally avoids the great mass of blacks as much as they can—except when a latrine trench needs digging.

That’s more like it. And there’s a lot more where that came from. (UPDATE: Derbyshire’s followup, in which he tackles Hanson’s distortions of his views, is here.)

Well, I can be as inflammatory as Mr. Derbyshire, and so I will quote a recent bit of advice about how to be stupid:

… Intelligence is largely potential and theoretical, but stupidity is practical….

The key ingredient in applied stupidity is lack of effort….

Teachers often blame poor educational performance on the home lives of their students, insisting that lack of parental involvement deprives the children of motivation, and keeps good study habits from taking root….

Stupid behavior correlates fairly well with childish behavior, because let’s face it, kids do a lot of silly things.  This is to be expected – they’re children, after all.  They have limited experience, they have trouble staying focused, and they can’t control their impulses.  An adult who displays these traits on a constant basis will reliably behave stupidly.  Acting in a mature manner – seeking information, staying focused, delaying immediate gratification, and remaining patient – is therefore a good strategy for avoiding stupidity.  Courteous behavior, the hallmark of adult communication, is a combination of these behaviors.  The acolyte of stupidity should therefore be short-tempered, rude, impatient, and hostile at all times.

Anyone can make mistakes, but consistency is the difference between error and folly.  Smart people make mistakes and learn from them.  Stupid people make the same mistakes over and over again.  That’s not necessarily because they can’t learn from their mistakes.  Sometimes they refuse to learn…..

Apathy is another sinkhole for energy.  Apathetic people don’t care, so they don’t try.  The result is functionally equivalent to stupidity.  A mind pumped full of despair, and convinced the world is hopelessly stacked against it, loses the enthusiasm necessary to process information and make good decisions.

The inability to express yourself clearly may lead others to conclude you are stupid.  This could be viewed as yet another manifestation of apathy and carelessness.  The basic rules of grammar and syntax are durable, fairly straightforward, and taught repeatedly to children during every year of their primary education.  Someone who doesn’t make the effort to express themselves using those basic rules of clear speech, knowing that listeners expect them to be followed, is either being lazy or arrogant, which for the purposes of stupidity engineering have similar practical results….

Most people have the neural capacity to conduct themselves in a reasonably intelligent and expressive manner, so if you want to be stupid, the key technique is to avoid putting any effort into thinking.  Tell yourself that you shouldn’t have to try hard, or that the rest of the world should accommodate your indolence.  Insist that it’s unfair to expect patience or diligence from you. Share your raw emotional reactions with the world around you, in the most crudely impassioned manner possible…. Rely on aggression instead of co-operation, demands instead of persuasion, and nihilism over optimism.  Focus on what you deserve, not what you have earned.  Accept responsibility for nothing, because that’s the first step in learning from your mistakes, and you can’t afford a single step in that direction, if you wish to remain stupid.

There’s plenty of such stupidity to go around, but too much of it seems to find its way into black communities. Thomas Sowell would say that this is mainly due to what he calls “black redneck” culture — a position that I have addressed by saying:

If “black redneck” culture is the cause of the inter-racial gap in IQ, and if blacks choose to perpetuate the “black redneck” culture, then the perpetuation of the IQ gap might as well be genetic. For, it will be the result of blacks’ self-imposed servitude to the forces of ignorance.

That is the kind of “conversation” about race which Obama, Holder, and their ilk ought to initiate. Bill Cosby tried, and for his pains has been vilified, and his message has been ignored by spineless, race-baiting politicians — black and “liberal” white, alike.

UPDATE — Related reading: Bill Vallicella, “Cleveland Heights Coventry Art Fair Canceled Again,” Maverick Philosopher, August 4, 2013

Related posts:
Putting Hate Crimes in Perspective
The Cost of Affirmative Action
The Face of America
Race and Acceptance
Affirmative Action: A Modest Proposal
Race, Intelligence, and Affirmative Action
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy
Affirmative Action, One More Time
A Contrarian View of Segregation
Much Food for Thought
A Law Professor to Admire
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
After the Bell Curve
A Footnote . . .
Schelling and Segregation
A Black Bigot Speaks
More Anti-Black Bigotry from the Left
Societal Suicide
A “Taste” for Segregation
Black Terrorists and “White Flight”
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy, Revisited

It’s the Little Things That Count
A Footnote to a Footnote
Let Me Be Perfectly Clear…
Racism among the Deracinated
Crime, Explained
Lock ‘Em Up
Conspicuous Consumption and Race
I Want My Country Back
A Declaration and Defense of My Prejudices about Governance (item 3)
Legislating Morality
Legislating Morality (II)
Obama’s Latest Act of Racism
Free Will, Crime, and Punishment
Race and Reason: The Derbyshire Debacle
Race and Reason: The Victims of Affirmative Action
Not-So-Random Thoughts (III) (second item)
Race and Reason: The Achievement Gap — Causes and Implications
The Hidden Tragedy of the Assassination of Lincoln
Left-Libertarians, Obama, and the Zimmerman Case

Race and Reason: The Derbyshire Debacle

Race is one of the several badges of identity that have been recognized by leftists in their generally successful quest to obtain unmerited privileges for the bearers of those badges. Leftists will have no truck with freedom of association, property rights, or actual merit. No, their clientele must be given special dispensations, even if doing so means that others are penalized for the “sin” of not being on the left’s list of preferred identity groups.

This post is about a particular identity group: blacks. Specifically, it is about the specter that haunts every discussion of blacks: racism.

Since I began blogging at Politics & Prosperity in February 2009, I have not written much about the “race issue.” (My post about the Trayvon Martin case was about Obama’s race-baiting, not about race per se.) It is time to end this blog’s avoidance of the race issue, especially in light of Fisher v. University of Texas, a case that will be heard later this year by the U.S. Supreme Court.

It is not that I expect to influence the outcome of Fisher v. UT. Nor do I expect to influence the views of the smug, self-deluding, racist leftists who dominate UT and the political life of Austin. But as a taxpayer, I am an unwilling supporter of the racist admission policy of the University of Texas. Therefore, I can no longer stifle my disdain for that policy. If nothing else, perhaps fate (and Google) will send an errant leftist in this direction, so that he or she may be offended by what I have to say.

I wrote a lot about the race issue and its evil spawn, affirmative action, at my old blog, which I maintained from 2004 to 2008. I am not sure why I stopped writing about race when I created Politics & Prosperity soon after the inauguration of Barack Obama. Perhaps, subconsciously, I did not want my criticisms of Obama’s leftist predilections and policies to be tainted by the suggestion that I disdain him for his racial identity (which is black, despite his mixed parentage). In fact, Obama’s policies are loathsome on their own merits. The man is nothing more than a tan version of Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, LBJ, and FDR — all of whom I disrespect deeply. My loathing for leftists is color-blind.

Anyway, here is Politics & Prosperity‘s initial foray into the issue of race, or — more precisely — racism.

*   *   *

I do not mean by racism the view that there are races and that they differ by virtue of genetic and cultural heredity. That proposition, despite much evidence in its favor, is widely thought to be a racist one. But it is not.

Racism is undiscriminating distrust, suspicion, scorn, or hatred directed toward a racial group and its members, just because the racial group is identifiably different than the racial group with which the distrustful, suspicious, scornful, or hate-filled person — the racist — identifies. Racism knows no bounds; it is found in blacks, whites, Asians, aboriginals of all kinds, and in sub-groups of each.

Racism is an extreme form of in-group allegiance, that is, identification of oneself with a group because that identification satisfies prudential and/or emotional needs. A desire for mutual defense is a valid prudential need. Who better to turn to for defense against predators than one’s kin, neighbors, community, and network of communities linked by a common heritage? Predators may be found in each of those groups, but such groups (unless controlled by predators) can be counted on to resist predation, both internal and from without. Nor is defense against predators the only prudential need that can be satisfied by in-group allegiance; there is also, for example, mutual aid in times of natural disaster.

In-group allegiance, when rewarded by such benefits as mutual defense and mutual aid, can satisfy an emotional need for belonging, which sometimes manifests itself as patriotism. But patriotism, like racial identity, has negative consequences when it blinds its adherents to the virtues of individuals outside the in-group. The result is self-defeating insularity, which finds expression in policies that are harmful to many members of the in-group (e.g., protectionism, bans on social and economic fraternization with blacks). Racism, in other words, is a virulent kind of in-group allegiance that satisfies an emotional need while causing harm — even to its practitioners. It is akin to (though far more serious than) the kind of hooliganism that results from cultish attachments to sports teams, as in the case of European football.

Thus blinded to the virtues of individuals outside his in-group, a racist condemn all members of a despised out-group. A racist may praise the accomplishments of some members of a despised group (athletes are particular favorites), while attributing those accomplishments to racial traits or otherwise belittling the individuals whose accomplishments are noteworthy. A racist may justify his racism by citing evidence of racial differences (e.g., the lower average intelligence of blacks, compared to whites). But the racism (usually) precedes the evidence, which a racist will cite in support of his racism.

It is not racist to recognize the fact of inter-racial differences, on average, as long as one evaluates and treats individuals as individuals and recognizes that group averages do not obliterate individual differences.

It is not racist to recognize the risks of venturing into the “territory” of a racial group other than one’s own. But that recognition is racist if it is not matched by equal caution about venturing into the “territory” of certain sub-cultures of one’s own racial group. Specifically, a middle-class white person foolishly ventures into an area known as a redoubt for black gangbangers. But the same middle-class white wears racial blinders if he insouciantly ventures into Deliverance country.

Having said all of that, I admit the difficulty of telling racism apart from realism.

An excellent case in point is John Derbyshire‘s column of April 5, “The Talk: Nonblack Version,” which appeared in Taki’s Magazine. Derbyshire, for the sins of realism and candor, was immediately fired from his long-standing gig as a columnist for National Review, a creature of William F. Buckley Jr. which proclaims itself “America’s most widely read and influential magazine and website for Republican/conservative news, commentary and opinion.” Derbyshire’s offense, according to Rich Lowry, editor of NR, was to

lurch[] from the politically incorrect to the nasty and indefensible. We never would have published [“The Talk: Nonblack Version”], but the main reason that people noticed it is that it is by a National Review writer. Derb is effectively using our name to get more oxygen for views with which we’d never associate ourselves otherwise. So there has to be a parting of the ways. Derb has long danced around the line on these issues, but this column is so outlandish it constitutes a kind of letter of resignation.

(Three days after firing Derbyshire, NR fired another columnist, Robert Weissberg, for participating “in an American Renaissance conference where he delivered a noxious talk about the future of white nationalism.” I may address that case in a future post.)

Was Derbyshire’s piece “nasty and indefensible,” or simply too realistic for NR, which — as a conservative outlet — is always a prime candidate for the “racist” label that leftists like to stick on their opponents. (I often, and quite properly, refer to leftists as racists because they condescend to blacks and pursue policies that favor blacks simply for being black.)

Here are excerpts of Derbyshire’s article:

There is much talk about “the talk.”

“Sean O’Reilly was 16 when his mother gave him the talk that most black parents give their teenage sons,” Denisa R. Superville of the Hackensack (NJ) Record tells us. Meanwhile, down in Atlanta: “Her sons were 12 and 8 when Marlyn Tillman realized it was time for her to have the talk,” Gracie Bonds Staples writes in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Leonard Greene talks about the talk in the New York Post. Someone bylined as KJ Dell’Antonia talks about the talk in The New York Times. Darryl Owens talks about the talk in the Orlando Sentinel.

Yes, talk about the talk is all over.

There is a talk that nonblack Americans have with their kids, too. My own kids, now 19 and 16, have had it in bits and pieces as subtopics have arisen. If I were to assemble it into a single talk, it would look something like the following.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

(1) Among your fellow citizens are forty million who identify as black, and whom I shall refer to as black….

(2) American blacks are descended from West African populations, with some white and aboriginal-American admixture….

(3) Your own ancestry is mixed north-European and northeast-Asian, but blacks will take you to be white.

(4) The default principle in everyday personal encounters is, that as a fellow citizen, with the same rights and obligations as yourself, any individual black is entitled to the same courtesies you would extend to a nonblack citizen….

(5) As with any population of such a size, there is great variation among blacks in every human trait (except, obviously, the trait of identifying oneself as black)….

(6) As you go through life, however, you will experience an ever larger number of encounters with black Americans. Assuming your encounters are random—for example, not restricted only to black convicted murderers or to black investment bankers—the Law of Large Numbers will inevitably kick in. You will observe that the means—the averages—of many traits are very different for black and white Americans, as has been confirmed by methodical inquiries in the human sciences.

(7) Of most importance to your personal safety are the very different means for antisocial behavior, which you will see reflected in, for instance, school disciplinary measures, political corruption, and criminal convictions.

(8) These differences are magnified by the hostility many blacks feel toward whites. Thus, while black-on-black behavior is more antisocial in the average than is white-on-white behavior, average black-on-white behavior is a degree more antisocial yet.

(9) A small cohort of blacks—in my experience, around five percent—is ferociously hostile to whites and will go to great lengths to inconvenience or harm us. A much larger cohort of blacks—around half—will go along passively if the five percent take leadership in some event….

(10) Thus, while always attentive to the particular qualities of individuals, on the many occasions where you have nothing to guide you but knowledge of those mean differences, use statistical common sense:

(10a) Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.

(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.

(10c) If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks on that date (neglect of that one got me the closest I have ever gotten to death by gunshot).

(10d) Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks.

(10e) If you are at some public event at which the number of blacks suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible.

(10f) Do not settle in a district or municipality run by black politicians.

(10g) Before voting for a black politician, scrutinize his/her character much more carefully than you would a white.

(10h) Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway.

(10i) If accosted by a strange black in the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving.

(11) The mean intelligence of blacks is much lower than for whites….

(12) There is a magnifying effect here, too, caused by affirmative action. In a pure meritocracy there would be very low proportions of blacks in cognitively demanding jobs. Because of affirmative action, the proportions are higher. In government work, they are very high. Thus, in those encounters with strangers that involve cognitive engagement, ceteris paribus the black stranger will be less intelligent than the white. In such encounters, therefore—for example, at a government office—you will, on average, be dealt with more competently by a white than by a black. If that hostility-based magnifying effect (paragraph 8) is also in play, you will be dealt with more politely, too. “The DMV lady“ is a statistical truth, not a myth.

(13) In that pool of forty million, there are nonetheless many intelligent and well-socialized blacks [ISWBs]…. You should consciously seek opportunities to make friends with IWSBs. In addition to the ordinary pleasures of friendship, you will gain an amulet against potentially career-destroying accusations of prejudice.

(14) Be aware, however, that there is an issue of supply and demand here….

(15) Unfortunately the demand is greater than the supply, so IWSBs are something of a luxury good, like antique furniture or corporate jets: boasted of by upper-class whites and wealthy organizations, coveted by the less prosperous. To be an IWSB in present-day US society is a height of felicity rarely before attained by any group of human beings in history. Try to curb your envy: it will be taken as prejudice (see paragraph 13).

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

You don’t have to follow my version of the talk point for point; but if you are white or Asian and have kids, you owe it to them to give them some version of the talk. It will save them a lot of time and trouble spent figuring things out for themselves. It may save their lives.

Derbyshire’s “talk” (hereafter DT) should be judged on two criteria: appropriateness and accuracy. If it is accurate, it is appropriate. Parents have a duty to educate their children in the facts of life, sexual and otherwise. To neglect that duty is to leave them open to harms that they are better able to avoid with foreknowledge and forewarning. DT (if accurate) can be called inappropriate only by persons who put political correctness above the well-being of children. To take a non-racial example, parents who fail to teach their children of the health risks of male homosexuality, and who condone homosexual experimentation by male adolescents because “there’s nothing wrong with that,” are endangering the lives of those adolescents through their politically correct passivity.

Is DT accurate? Derbyshire assiduously documents almost all of his points, in the links reproduced above and in others that are in elided passages. One weak point is (9), where Derbyshire lapses into generalizations about the percentage of blacks who are openly hostile to whites (about five percent) and the fraction of blacks (about half) who will follow the lead of hostile blacks. But these lapses do not negate the advice that follows. It is incontrovertible that some blacks have and will harm whites, and it is a staple of human nature that the “masses” (of any color) will flee from, ignore, or acquiesce in acts of savagery. (The heroism of some passengers on United 93 is nothing compared with, say, the silent acceptance of the Holocaust by masses of Germans — to offer but one case in point.) But Derbyshire’s guesses about proportions do not vitiate the points that follow: (10a)-(10i).

I find (14) and (15) to be strained, but generally accurate. However, no one is in a position to assert, as Derbyshire does in (15), that

[t]o be an IWSB in present-day US society is a height of felicity rarely before attained by any group of human beings in history.

This is pure hyperbole. Neither Derbyshire nor any other observer is in a position to judge the “felicity” of IWSBs, individually or as a group. (Group felicity is an empty construct, in any case, because one cannot sum individual states of well-being to attain a collective measure of well-being.) The assertion is also condescending, and thus suggestive of a racist attitude toward blacks.

My few objections aside, DT is accurate (on the whole) and therefore appropriate. The powers-that-be at NR are guilty of bowing to the false gods of political correctness.

I do not mean to say that Derbyshire is not a racist. He may well be one. But a racist, like a stopped clock, can sometimes be right about racial issues, just as a poor marksman can sometimes hit a bulls-eye if he expends a lot of ammunition.

This brings me to Derbyshire’s next column at Taki’s Magazine, “Talking Back,” which addresses some of the blogospheric commentary about DT. Near the end of “Talking Back,” Derbyshire offers the following:

Lefty commenters waxed large on my piece as promoting eugenics, arguing for genetic inferiority, and so on.

Now, I do have opinions about eugenics. I support, for example, the eugenic requirements in the marriage laws of my state (see under “Familial Restrictions” here)

Similarly, I have opinions about the notion of genetic success (as I prefer to frame the issue). In the long biological view, the only criterion is survival… [T]he premise of the movie Idiocracy is that coarse, dumb people will inherit the Earth by out-breeding refined, smart people. If that happens (and I wouldn’t be surprised) then from a biological perspective, which is actually my own perspective as a stone-cold empiricist, the coarse, dumb people will have proven “superior” to the refined, smart ones. Personally I prefer the latter type, but Ma Nature doesn’t care what I prefer.

Sure, I have opinions; sure, I’m willing to discuss these topics. There was nothing of them in my piece, though. I just stated facts, based on statistics gathered over decades, by both private and government agencies, accumulated and checked beyond the range of dispute. Those facts might have any of several causes, with corresponding remedies. They might be “cultural”: Perhaps a nationwide ban on rap music and malt liquor might change them. They might be biomedical, fixable by some not-yet-discovered pharmacological wonder we could put in the water supply such as fluoride. They might be manipulated by extraterrestrial powers lurking in the fogs of Jupiter, beaming malign rays at us. I didn’t speculate. I framed no hypotheses. Just the facts….

Were there any reasoned non-hostile critiques I thought were good?

Even there, I only looked at three or four, at the urging of friends. Of those, the best was Noah Millman‘s. It deserves a formal, collegial rebuttal, but I’m so far behind with absolutely everything, I daren’t think about it. I haven’t done my damn TAXES yet. Sorry, Noah. In any case, most of the points I’d make are already there in the comment thread to Noah’s piece.

It is going somewhat too far to say that DT recites “just the facts.” But it is heavily fact-based and accurate in its thrust. It is a big improvement on touchy-feely political correctness, which substitutes hopes for facts.

What about Millman’s column, “A Quick Word on the Derb,” at The American Conservative? For one thing, Millman says that Derbyshire’s injunctions (10a)-(10i) are

bad advice. To be a good application of statistical common sense, it’s not enough to know that, for example, crime rates (on average) are higher in majority-black neighborhoods. You’d need to know that the disparity was large enough, and the variance around the average small enough, so that following such a rule would actually be a decent heuristic; not to mention that there were no more finely-grained heuristics available and that the cost of applying such a sweeping heuristic in terms of the loss of experience of life and its manifold pleasures was not prohibitive.

Because here’s the thing. Granting that nobody has an obligation to be politically correct in their behavior, and granting (for the sake of argument) all of Derbyshire’s premises, what he’s still saying is that the risks are so great that it’s better simply to wall oneself off from African-Americans to the greatest degree possible. But he hasn’t actually measured the risks in absolute terms, only in relative terms: would this action reduce risk; if yes, then follow it. I wonder: does he take a similar attitude toward other risks? Toward, to take a few examples, eating raw food, bicycling without a helmet, traveling alone to a foreign country, or writing whatever one wishes for a publication like Taki’s Magazine?…

The “race realists” like to say that they are the ones who are curious about the world, and the “politically correct” types are the ones who prefer to ignore ugly reality. But the advice Derbyshire gives to his children encourages them not to be too curious about the world around them, for fear of getting hurt. And, as a general rule, that’s terrible advice for kids – and not the advice that Derbyshire has followed in his own life.

Twaddle. Derbyshire’s advice is cautionary — it is of a kind with warning one’s children about the dangers of street-racing and para-sailing. They may do such things anyway, but they may do so after taking duly precautionary measures.

Moreover, Millman’s proffered alternative is fatuous:

To be a good application of statistical common sense, it’s not enough to know that, for example, crime rates (on average) are higher in majority-black neighborhoods. You’d need to know that the disparity was large enough, and the variance around the average small enough, so that following such a rule would actually be a decent heuristic; not to mention that there were no more finely-grained heuristics available and that the cost of applying such a sweeping heuristic in terms of the loss of experience of life and its manifold pleasures was not prohibitive.

And where does one obtain these fine-grained statistics and heuristics? And on short notice? And what is the “loss of experience of life” next to the very real possibility of a dire outcome, including loss of life itself?

Millman goes on:

The “race realists” like to say that they are the ones who are curious about the world, and the “politically correct” types are the ones who prefer to ignore ugly reality. But the advice Derbyshire gives to his children encourages them not to be too curious about the world around them, for fear of getting hurt. And, as a general rule, that’s terrible advice for kids – and not the advice that Derbyshire has followed in his own life.

I have no idea about “the advice that Derbyshire has followed in his own life,” nor do I know how Millman knows what that might be. But it is evident that Derbyshire has not been killed by a black thug or black mob. Further, I cannot imagine that Derbyshire’s advice stifles his children’s curiosity, though it may help to channel that curiosity away from situations and events that are best avoided by any sensible person. There is plenty to be curious about in this world; most of it is far more interesting than wandering into strange neighborhoods and mingling in crowds of strangers.


Which brings us to the supposed point of the column. That point, I take it, is to argue that just as African-American parents have to brief their sons on how to keep themselves from ending up like Trayvon Martin, white parents have to brief their sons on how to keep themselves safe from personal violence at the hands of African-Americans. But there’s a profound lack of parallelism between the two conversations. “The Talk” is about how you are perceived by others, and how to comport yourself so as to counteract that perception. Derbyshire’s talk is about how you should perceive others. There’s no analogy. They have nothing to do with each other.

The “talks” have everything to do with each other: They are about how to avoid harm.

In sum, I am unpersuaded by Millman’s commentary. Derbyshire’s children — and other non-black children — should follow Derbyshire’s advice, just as black children should heed “the talk.”

Whether Derbyshire is a racist or a realist matters not. On the whole, he is right.

*   *   *

I will address affirmative action and other policy fiascoes in future posts.