Quotes from "We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism"
Posted on 12-Jan-2014. Updated on 13-Jan-2014.
Topics: Decline of the United States
With his sardonic humor and use of inconvenient facts John Derbyshire makes the compelling case that the United States (and Western Civilization in general) is doomed. Amazon link. We Are Doomed Blog.
Can we all get along?
“People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?” Thus Rodney King, responding to the Los Angeles riots of April 1992.
What’s the answer to Rodney King’s question? Can we all get along? Different opinions are possible, but the pessimistic answer is plainly “No.” That is also, I believe, the correct answer. In this chapter I’ll try to justify that belief.
Issues of race and ethnicity have been central to U.S. history. One of them helped bring about our bloodiest war. When we talk among ourselves about routine social topics—education, crime, “the culture”—they are never far from the front of our minds. We tend to default to thinking about these things in the traditional terms of black and white, but the last forty years have changed the old patterns. Massive immigration from our south has given the United States a self-consciously “Hispanic”—mainly indigenous-American or mestizo (mixed-race)—subpopulation, now actually bigger than the black one. East Asians, South Asians, Middle Easterners, and Polynesians have added to the mix. And the present-day cult of Diversity of course encompasses much more than race and ethnicity. Feminists, Muslims, homosexuals, the disabled, the obese, and a host of lesser identities also clamor for the attentions of the diversity managers.
I’m going to concentrate on the ethnic issue. If we are, as I claim, doomed, it won’t be because women have asked for equal pay, or the wheelchair-bound for access ramps, or homosexuals for legal recognition of their unions.
I believe it is possible, though, that the United States might cease to exist as a nation-state because of ethnic conflicts. I think, in fact, this is more likely than not.
Will the United States survive until 2022?
Back in 1969, Soviet dissident Andrei Amalrik wrote an essay with the title “Will the Soviet Union Survive Until 1984?” Some of Amalrik’s predictions—notably a Soviet war with China—didn’t pan out, but he was wrong by only seven years in his main thesis, and that is pretty darn good as political prognostications go. The U.S. government with all its expensive agencies, including the CIA, didn’t do half as well. They overestimated Soviet economic strength to the very end, in some cases by a factor of ten times.
In 2007, having just finished reading Samuel Huntington’s book Who Are We?, which is a gloomy look at the consequences of massive Hispanic immigration, I attempted to apply Amalrik’s method to the United States in a column titled “Will the United States Survive Until 2022?” (Looking forward to fifteen years from 2007, as Amalrik had from 1969.) After discussing the possibilities for political, social, economic, cultural, intellectual, demographic, military, and spiritual failure, I ended with Huntington’s remark that “a nation is a fragile thing,” and with the following longer quote from his book:
"The [American philosophical-Constitutional] Creed is unlikely to retain its salience if Americans abandon the Anglo-Protestant culture in which it has been rooted. A multicultural America will, in time, become a multicreedal America, with groups with different cultures espousing distinctive political values and principles rooted in their particular cultures."
I think that’s right. Diversity could doom us.
That is of course the opposite of what all right-thinking Americans are encouraged to believe. Diversity is our strength!—so our politicians and educators tell us. A Google search on that phrase yielded 17,700 hits. Searching on “strength in diversity” got 33,800; “benefits of diversity,” a very impressive 285,000. Happy talk, happy talk; but what does the evidence say?
E Pluribus Unum:
In September 2006, political scientist Robert Putnam was awarded the Johan Skytte Prize, one of the most prestigious in his field. The prize is awarded in Uppsala, Sweden, by a Scandinavian scholarly association. (Skytte was a seventeenth-century Swedish grandee.)
As usual with such events in the academic world, Putnam presented a research paper to commemorate the event. The paper is titled “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century,” and can easily be found on the Internet. I’ll refer to it in what follows as “the Uppsala paper.”
That paper has a very curious structure. After a brief introduction (two pages), there are three main sections, headed as follows:
- The Prospects and Benefits of Immigration and Ethnic Diversity (three pages)
- Immigration and Diversity Foster Social Isolation (nineteen pages)
- Becoming Comfortable with Diversity (seven pages)
I’ve had some mild amusement here at my desk trying to think up imaginary research papers similarly structured. One for publication in a health journal, perhaps, with three sections titled:
-Health benefits of drinking green tea - Green tea causes intestinal cancer - Making the switch to green tea
Social science research in our universities cries out for a modern Jonathan Swift to lampoon its absurdities.
Putnam, who is a professor at Harvard University, is best known for his work on the concept of social capital. The argument behind this concept is that a society is better off and more stable if it has many social networks—civic groups, friendly societies, PTAs, church groups, amateur sports clubs, common-interest associations, car pools, and ordinary one-to-one friendships. The aggregate of these social networks forms a society’s social capital. As Putnam says in the Uppsala paper: “Like tools (physical capital) and training (human capital), social networks have value.”
In the year 2000, Putnam set himself the task of finding out whether, and how much, all this diversity contributed to the loss of social capital he had recorded in Bowling Alone. He undertook a major study, involving thirty thousand Americans in forty-one locations, to see if he could find a relationship between increased diversity and loss of social capital. The locations varied from the very diverse (San Francisco, which was 30–40 percent white) to the hardly-at-all diverse (a South Dakota county that was 95 percent white, and where Putnam observes drily that “celebrating‘diversity’ means inviting a few Norwegians to the annual Swedish picnic”).
The results of the study are quite conclusive, and are summarized in the Uppsala paper. Diversity correlates negatively with social capital. The more you have of the one, the less you have of the other. The study showed clearly that “out-group trust”—how much you trust people who are different from yourself—is lower in places with lots of diversity. More surprising, “in-group trust”—the degree to which you trust people like yourself—is depressed by the same amount (around 50 percent) when your neighborhood is diverse.
Diversity seems to affect every kind of social connection. In places with more ethnic diversity, people have fewer friends, watch more TV, are less inclined to vote, trust local government less, and rate their personal happiness lower. As a conscientious social scientist, Putnam of course controlled for income, home ownership, crime rates, and so on. Same results.
The ideal of diversity:
The ideal of diversity is that once individuals of diverse backgrounds are brought together, a transformation will take place in people’s attitudes—primarily within the members of the formerly exclusive group, who will discover the richness of the newcomers’ cultural backgrounds. Diversity will breed tolerance and respect, and, because it increases the pool of skills, will enhance the effectiveness of work groups and contribute to economic prosperity. In the more extended flights of the diversiphile’s imagination, diversity creates good will and social betterment in every direction. The African-American manager, the gay white secretary and the Latino consultant learn from each other’s distinctive cultural experience and become better workers, better citizens, better persons.
Different populations, of different races, customs, religions, and preferences, can be mixed together in any numbers or proportions at all, with harmonious result. Not only will the result be harmonious, it will be beneficial to all the people thus mixed. They will be better and happier than if they had been left to stagnate in dull homogeneity.
The diversity industry:
Thus Diversity monitors are needed everywhere in society. Every large company or institution must have a vice president for diversity—if not, as is increasingly the case, a chief diversity officer. (The CDO at Washington State University has an annual budget of $3 million and a full-time staff of fifty-five.)
It follows that Diversity, as well as being healthful and morally uplifting, is a great source of employment. In the United States today, hundreds of thousands of people are employed in the Diversity industry—teaching, propagandizing, monitoring, lawyering. Diversity is a major sector of the national economy.
The money is good. Michelle Obama, when she was vice president for community relations—which is to say, Diversity enforcer—at the University of Chicago Medical Center, had an annual salary of $316,962. That’s more than most doctors earn after three years in practice. The average base salary for ob-gyns, for example, is listed as $248,294 on the PhysiciansSearch website. But hey, how can delivering babies compare in importance with Diversity?
Diversity, Inc. is a monthly magazine devoted to diversity in the corporate world, nationally distributed and packed with upmarket advertising. Each year the magazine publishes a list of the top fifty companies in the United States for diversity. (Ranked one, two, and three on the 2007 list were Bank of America, Pepsi, and AT&T.)
A mass delusion:
The cult of Diversity is so powerful and so attractive, it has corroded even first-rate minds like Robert Putnam’s, not to mention the minds of all too many conservatives. And yet it is demonstrably—easily demonstrably—false.
I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that there has never been an ideology so heartily and jealously embraced by all the main institutions of a society, that was at the same time so obviously at odds with the evidence of our senses. It is as if the entire Western world had committed itself to the belief that human beings can fly by flapping their arms.
The "challenges" of diversity:
Professor Putnam tells us in his Uppsala paper that “this article is but a prolegomenon to a larger project on how to manage the challenge that immigration and diversity pose to social capital and solidarity.”
Oh, so it’s a challenge. Well, there’s no avoiding the challenge of diversity. It’s been with us from the start (next section). It is, though, hard to see why a sane people would be so intent on making the challenge bigger. As Putnam says, mass Third World immigration has added enormously to our diversity, so that today’s challenge is hugely bigger than the one we faced forty years ago, which mainly involved bringing African Americans and Native Americans fully into the national life. Why would a nation strive to increase the challenge it faces?
It seems to me that the human world presents enough challenges, without our needing to concoct more, or multiply the ones we have. Resource depletion, climate instability, economic stagnation, demography, and international terrorism all seem likely to present us with severe challenges in the years to come. Why should the United States add more challenges to the menu? What happened to the old adage about not troubling Trouble until Trouble troubles you? Why are we putting ourselves through this ever-swelling diversity challenge?
Segregation was outlawed and true equality under the law for African Americans established. Hopes at the time were high. I am old enough to remember having shared them in my high school and college years, though vicariously, from a different part of the Anglosphere. All thoughtful white people supposed that with legal segregation eliminated and race prejudice shamed out of existence, functional equality between black and white in the United States would soon follow.
Some eminent participants in the revolution put a date on their hope. Thurgood Marshall, who argued for the plaintiffs in the classic desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954, said it would take five years to attain full school integration nationwide. Others were less optimistic. Arnold Rose, coauthor with Swedish sociologist Gunnar Myrdal of the tremendously influential 1944 book An American Dilemma, offered the opinion in 1962 that black-white friction would be inconsequential—“in the minor order of Catholic-Protestant prejudice”—by 1992. Which was, as if in willful mockery of Rose’s prediction, the year of the Rodney King riots.
The single major factor determining house prices in the suburbs, we quickly discovered, was proximity to a good school; and “good school” was universally understood—by friends, colleagues, and Realtors (though the Realtors speak in careful code for fear of undercover Diversity cops)—to mean “school with not too many black students.” Nowadays the meaning has changed slightly, to “not too many black and Hispanic students;” but Hispanics were not a big factor on Long Island in 1992.
We ended up buying a house in Huntington, where the mean price of a detached house in 2007 was $777,772 according to the City-Data.com website. The racial breakdown for Huntington shows NAMs (“Non-Asian Minorities,” which means African Americans plus Hispanics) at 5.7 percent. In the tonier village of Cold Spring Harbor next door, which my wife and I liked the look of but could not afford, the mean house price is up at $1,089,622; NAMs are 2.0 percent. A few miles away in Hempstead, median house price is a measly $345,655 while NAMs are 84.3 percent. Am I telling you something you don’t know?
The Upper West Side is a tony area, with condo apartments selling at around a million bucks each. The inhabitants are media, cultural, and academic types—high IQ, well-educated, prosperous, and liberal as all get-out, New York Times readers to a man and a woman. Well, New York City’s Department of Education wanted to make some adjustments to school district boundaries in Manhattan. However, a lot of these people bought those million-dollar condos so that their kids could attend P.S. 199 on West Seventieth Street. It’s a really good elementary school with great test results. If the proposed rezoning were to go through, their kids would have to attend P.S. 191 at West Sixty-first Street and Amsterdam Avenue. That’s a lousy school with dismal test results.
Naturally these liberal, progressive, Obama-voting parents were furious. But what exactly was it about P.S. 191 that made it compare so poorly with P.S. 199 in these parents’ eyes? Why did they think it’s a bad school? Why didn’t they want their kids to go there? What, actually, is the definition of the term “bad school”? What makes a bad school bad? Not to keep you in suspense, gentle reader, but I looked up the student stats for the two schools on the GreatSchools.net website at the time. For P.S. 199, the good school those parents shelled out a million bucks for: Ice People 80 percent, Sun People 19 percent. For the school our progressive, postracial, liberal citizens angrily did not want their kids to go to: Ice People 12 percent, Sun People 88 percent.
Sun People and Ice People:
This illustrates the emerging demographic split in the United States: whites and East Asians on one side, African Americans and Hispanics on the other. African Americans and Hispanics—NAMs—“travel together” when you scrutinize U.S. demographics. East Asians, with some fringe exceptions like the Hmong, “travel” with whites.
I haven’t so far seen any term as snappy as “NAMs” for whites-plus-East-Asians. I’ve tried to float the term “Arctics,” which seems sound to me on paleoanthropological grounds, but my coinage hasn’t met with any acceptance. Looking around for an alternative, I think I’ve found what I need.
Leonard Jeffries, professor of black studies at City College, New York, has suggested the terms “Ice People” for whites and East Asians, “Sun People” for blacks and Hispanics. This is just the ticket. For the purposes of this book, and by way of tribute to a distinguished local scholar, I shall henceforth follow this usage.
Ethnic nationalism and peace:
The topic was taken up again more recently in a striking essay by historian Jerry Z. Muller in the March/April 2008 issue of Foreign Affairs. The essay is titled “Us and Them: The Enduring Power of Ethnic Nationalism.” After noting the discomfort that Americans feel toward ethnic nationalism, Muller states bluntly that a peaceful system of neighboring nations is usually the result of violent ethnic separation (think of modern Europe). Where that separation hasn’t taken place, politics is liable to be crude and vicious (Kenya, Lebanon, post-Tito Yugoslavia, etc.).
Muller’s paper is very audacious in the United States of today, under the reigning Diversity ideology. For example: “Liberal democracy and ethnic homogeneity are not only compatible; they can be complementary.” It is a short step from there—though a step Muller does not take—to the thought that ethnic homogeneity may be necessary for a stable, modern, liberal democracy.
Why, after all (Muller asks), has Europe been so harmonious since World War II? Cowed by the horrors of the war? Then why was the place so sensationally unharmonious after World War I, whose horrors were surely instructive enough? The harmony, Muller tells us, was a result of ethnic disaggregation, “which removed some of the greatest sources of conflict both within and between countries.”
The future of diversity:
At the end of their 2004 book Race: The Reality of Human Differences, Vincent Sarich and Frank Miele offer three possible scenarios for the near future of ethnic diversity. They take it as a given that differences in custom, aptitude, and talents among ethnic groups are likely to remain as intractable as they have shown themselves to be this past forty years—not an unreasonable assumption, given the great efforts we have invested in erasing those differences, with such meager results.
Here are Sarich and Miele’s three scenarios:
Meritocracy in the Global Marketplace. Let the group-difference chips fall where they may, and try to manage resentment toward high-performance groups.
Affirmative Action, Race Norming, and Quotas. State-enforced leveling down “at the expense of individual freedom and, ultimately, the total level of accomplishment.”
Rising Resegregation and the Emergence of Ethnopolitics. Polarization and separation, with more danger, both domestic and international, from groups who see themselves as “victimized and shut out by the global marketplace.”
At some point we shall be forced to face the fact that the Diversity Theorem is false, and the answer to Rodney King’s question is “No.” Whether, past that point, we can maintain ourselves as one nation under one set of laws, is an open question. If conservatives had had the sense—and the moral courage—to throw up some effective resistance against this woolly-headed idiocy at its outset, we might have headed off a demographic disaster.
On Head Start:
That landmark Great Society educational program, launched in 1965, is still going strong. The name of the program is still a magic charm among liberals. Their faces light up with virtuous certitude as they utter it—Head Start!—and the effect of the charm, they seem to imagine, is to silence their opponent. You can’t POSSIBLY be against Head Start!
You should be. The Thernstroms reported that twenty million children had passed through it by 2003, at a cost to the federal taxpayer of $60 billion. They go on to report that while there is some slight, disputable evidence of marginal benefits for white children from Head Start, “it does not seem to have improved the educational achievement of African-American children in any substantial way.” Whether it has done anything for Hispanic children is not known.
Bringing good teachers to bad schools:
As the Thernstroms point out, a lot of these prescriptions for school reform assume an unlimited supply of “saints and masochists”—teachers like those in the KIPP schools, who, Mr. Tough tells us, work fifteen to sixteen hours a day. I am sure there are some people who enter the teaching profession with the desire to crunch their way daily across the crack-vial-littered streets of crime-wrecked inner-city neighborhoods in order to put in fifteen-hour working days, but I doubt there are many.
Doesn't spending more money help close the achievement gap?
The optimists’ faith that spending oodles of money will solve any problem is quite touching. In the case of education, though, the spend-more-money theory has actually been tested to destruction in several places. In No Excuses, the Thernstroms cover two of these tests in detail: in Kansas City, Missouri, and Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In 1977, when the story begins, Kansas City’s schools were in simply terrible shape. The city, like most others of its size (population 460,000), had experienced white flight from the 1950s on, and the school district even more so, with even whites residing in the city pulling their kids out of the public schools. By 1977 enrollment was 36,000, three-quarters of them racial minorities (which at that point meant mostly African Americans). The voters had not approved a tax increase for the district since 1969. In 1977 litigation commenced, members of the school board, district parents, and some token children suing the state and some federal agencies on the grounds that they had permitted racial segregation. Federal judge Russell Clark, a Jimmy Carter appointee, got the case.
After eight years of litigation, Clark gave the plaintiffs everything they wanted, and then some. He in fact ordered them to “dream”—to draw up a money-no-object plan for the Kansas City school system.
Dreaming is no problem for educationists. The plaintiffs—education activists and their lawyers—duly dreamt, with an initial price tag of $250 million for their dreams. This was twice the district’s normal annual budget.
It proved to be only a start, however. Over the next twelve years the district spent more than $2 billion, most of it from the state of Missouri, the balance from increased local property taxes. Fifteen new schools were built and fifty-four others renovated.
The whole project was a comprehensive failure. After twelve years, test scores in reading and math had declined, dropout rates had increased, and the system was as segregated as ever, in spite of heroic efforts to lure white students back into the system.
Kansas City did all the things that educators had always said needed to be done to increase student achievement—it reduced class size, decreased teacher workload, increased teacher pay, and dramatically expanded spending per pupil—but none of it worked.
With some honorable exceptions like the Thernstroms, who, as I have said, give the Kansas City experiment a page and a half in their book, this dismal story has mainly been flushed down the memory hole by education theorists. They would rather not mention it. A decade after the whole thing collapsed in grisly and obvious failure, politicians and edbiz bureaucrats are still routinely calling for more money to be spent on schools as a way to improve student achievement.
Education theorists are great forgetters, and were even before Judge Clark came along. The first of the big modern government-sponsored papers on school reform, James Coleman’s 1966 report titled “Equality of Educational Opportunity” (but almost always referred to as “the Coleman Report”) surveyed 645,000 students in over three thousand schools nationwide. Coleman found almost no relationship between school quality—spending, newness of facilities, teacher credentials—and student achievement.
Blaming the parents:
The spending of more money isn’t the only prescription on offer from education theorists. Parents, they tell us, should work harder at parenting. If there is a difference between left-liberals and smiley-face conservatives on education, it’s that liberals lean harder on the spend-more-money solution, while conservatives are keener on be-better-parents. While a society with more good parents is surely a better place than a society with fewer, the parenting issue, too, is poisoned by optimism.
Paul Tough, in the New York Times article I discussed above, covers some of the research on parenting. However, all the research he cites is premised on the notion that parents can mold their children in different ways by treating them differently. Parents do this and the kids turn out like this; if the parents had done that, then the kids would have turned out like that.
He does not cite any of the research showing that aside from very extreme approaches—e.g., locking a child in a broom closet for the first four years of its life and feeding it cat food from cans—parenting style makes very little difference to life outcomes. (Though parental decisions about, for example, where to live, may make a great deal of difference indirectly, influencing what kind of peer group the child ends up among.)
Parents behave aggressively toward children: The children grow up aggressive. See!—the parents’ aggression caused that outcome! Well, not necessarily. What about child-to-parent effects—innately difficult kids driving their parents to aggressive distraction? What about genes? The kids have a mix of their parents’ genes, and most features of human personality—including aggressiveness—are partly heritable.
None of that for Mr. Tough. Genes? What are you, some kind of Klansman or Nazi? No, no, no, the kids are little blank slates for teachers, parents, and politicians to work their magic on. These undesirable outcomes—these mysterious test-score gaps, these dropping-outs and delinquencies—arise only because we are chanting the wrong spells!
The ideology of the education business:
If you read much edbiz theorizing, you find yourself wondering how a single field of human inquiry can contain so much error and folly. One answer is that educationalists willfully—ideologically, in fact—ignore the understanding of human nature that the modern human sciences are gradually attaining, and cling doggedly to long-exploded theories about how human beings develop from infancy to adulthood. From false premises they proceed to false conclusions.
The whole culture of professional educators is addled with chicanery, corruption, rent-seeking, time-serving, and lies. What I have given above is the merest glimpse. Reading through the literature of present-day edbiz, every time you think you’ve found an argument, assertion, or proposal than which nothing could possibly be dumber, something dumber soon shows up.
What we know:
A lot of what we’ve learned is still provisional and debatable. Some has crashed up against national or cultural prejudices. The broad picture of human-nature understanding in the United States today is a chaotic mix of long-standing, deeply rooted preoccupations, remnants of nineteenth- and twentieth-century pseudoscience fads, sentimental romanticizing, wishful thinking, guilt, fear, shame, and proper, nailed-down results from rigorous scientific inquiry.
There are three theories of human nature enjoying widespread support at present. For convenience, I’ll tag each one of them with a single adjective.
Religious. Our species Homo sapiens is the special creation of God, either as a one-off miracle or by God-guided evolution. Human nature is a mix of attributes, some natural ones arising from plain biology, some supernatural ones inserted by God. We are the Chosen Species.
The God-given attributes are unique to our species. They are the same in all human populations, forming the foundation of our essential equality. Their existence is independent of our biological nature, even to the degree that they can continue to exist after our deaths. Being nonbiological, they don’t evolve, even if other features of the living world do, so that our evolution, if it ever took place, ended (except perhaps for some incidental biological features) when God decreed we have these supernatural attributes. These God-given attributes include the moral sense, which accesses transcendent truths—i.e., truths that do not dwell in the world of matter. God rules!
Cultural. Our species arose, like all other species, from the ordinary processes of evolution. However, these processes ceased in the early history of the species, leaving us with a human nature uniform across all populations and unchanging over time, forming the foundation of our essential equality.
This human nature has very little innate structure and is extremely plastic. By placing it in a suitable environment, or applying suitable pressures, the mind (and therefore the behavior, which issues from the mind) can be shaped in any way at all.
“Human nature” does not really exist independent of the environment an individual happens to be in, especially that part of the environment made up of other human beings—“the culture.” Moral standards are arbitrary, and are taken in by the individual from the culture. Culture rules!
Biological. Our species arose, like all other species, from the ordinary processes of evolution, which have continued to the present day. Human nature is a collection of characteristics all susceptible to biological explanation.
Some characteristics of a person’s nature can be shaped to some degree by “cultural” (i.e., social or environmental) forces; some cannot. Human beings are a part of the living world, and nothing more. Our equality consists in being members of a single species; though our species, like any other with very wide distribution, exhibits regional differences.
The characteristics of an individual human being are tem-plated in his genome. They may be somewhat modified by womb events or life experiences; or they may need to be “instantiated” by postpartum environment. (An individual’s genome may, for example, predispose him to be eloquent or tongue-tied when using language; but which language he uses will depend on his childhood environment.)
The repertoire of human behaviors, and of ideas, including moral ideas, about behavior, are innate, the result of evolutionary processes acting on our social lives across many generations. Biology rules!
Broadly speaking, the religious view is most popular among ordinary citizens, the biological view is held by most actual researchers in the human sciences, and the cultural view is dominant—well-nigh exclusive, in fact—among our nonscientific elites and educators.
Our country’s high public discourse—politicians’ speeches, corporate mission statements, newspaper editorials, and the like—is a bizarre mix of Religionism and Culturism, with Biologism completely taboo. Former president George W. Bush, for example, is a pious Christian, and therefore a Religionist. However, when he was not invoking God’s blessings in his presidential speeches, he was enthusiastically pushing grandiose Culturist projects: the No Child Left Behind Act, democratization in the Middle East, relaxed credit standards for house purchases (apparently on the principle that becoming a home owner will transform a feckless proletarian into a sober bourgeois, and thence a Republican voter).
Pull two adult human beings at random from the population and measure what we can measure about their minds and behavior. Their measurements differ. Why do they differ? A Freudian would say: “Because their parents treated them differently when they were infants.” A Marxist would say: “Because of their different class backgrounds.” A modern Culturist would say: “Because of the overall environment—familial, social, and material—in which they grew up.”
The actual answer is: About half the difference between them has biological causes—either straightforwardly genetic or “womb events” that irreversibly affect the developing fetus. The other half is indeed “cultural,” though not much of it has to do with parenting styles. The biggest contribution seems to come from childhood peer groups. (I have a British accent; my wife has a Chinese accent; our kids speak ordinary American English with no accent …)
For the Culturists (i.e., for nurture), the most brilliant strategist was paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould. A Chomsky leftist in his politics—though not, he always insisted, a Marxist—Gould was a skillful but unscrupulous propagandist. His 1981 book The Mismeasure of Man is to this day the best-known counterblast against Biologism in the cognitive sciences. This subtle and clever book managed to plant many false ideas that remain widely current today, e.g., that psychologist H. H. Goddard found early-twentieth-century Jewish immigrants to the United States to be of low average intelligence. (Goddard found no such thing.)
Stephen Jay Gould’s leftism is worth a note here. Culturism is state dogma in the Western world, and to that degree is apolitical. All right-thinking people are supposed to subscribe to it, whatever party they vote for. It has particular appeal to the egalitarian Left, for obvious reasons, and the loudest propagandists for Culturism are on the Left. E. O. Wilson pointed this out in his book On Human Nature:
"The strongest opposition to the scientific study of human nature has come from a small number of Marxist biologists and anthropologists … They believe that nothing exists in the untrained human mind that cannot be readily channeled to the purposes of the revolutionary socialist state. When faced with the evidence of greater structure, their response has been to declare human nature off limits to further scientific investigation. "
One way to scandalize a Culturist biologist of the left-wing Stephen Jay Gould type is to call him a “Left Creationist.” Traditional Scopes-monkey-trial Right Creationists are those Religionists who insist that the living world, and all its great variety, could not have come about without miraculous intervention by God. The highbrow Culturists who dominate our intellectual scene regard these Right Creationists as ignorant straw-chewing hicks, so that to label someone a Creationist is a grave insult in highbrow Culturist circles.
Culturists, while scoffing at God, insist that the ordinary rules of biological evolution ceased to apply to Homo sapiens when our species emerged from Africa to populate the rest of the world, around fifty thousand or sixty thousand years ago.
Talking about immigration:
Immigration is a difficult topic to discuss, though. The reason it is so difficult is that it has, more I think than any other aspect of U.S. policy, been moralized, in fact hyper-moralized. I have covered some of this ground in Chapter 2. The complicity of cheerily optimistic conservatives in that hypermoralizing is perhaps their greatest sin against good sense and proper conservative skepticism.
The high level of immigration:
By way of contrast, the Department of Homeland Security reports 1,052,415 immigrants given permanent residence in fiscal year 2007. In 1960 less than 6 percent of the U.S. population was foreign born, with the leading birth countries being Italy, Germany, Canada, and Britain. Today the foreign-born are nudging 13 percent, and the leading birth countries are Mexico (way out ahead), China, the Philippines, and India.
Current U.S. policy mostly allows each intake of immigrants to select the following intake. Of that 1,052,415 for fiscal 2007 mentioned above, two-thirds—689,820—were sponsored by family members already settled here. This discriminates rather severely against foreigners, however worthy or talented, who don’t currently have family members settled in the United States. Our government’s very lackadaisical approach to immigration law enforcement in recent decades has also discriminated massively against foreigners who are scrupulously respectful of other people’s laws.
Immigration’s no problem, say the happy faces, because we will absorb and assimilate them. We did it before, didn’t we?
Well, yes, we did, when we were an empty nation with plenty of room, and no welfare state, and innumerable low-level manual jobs, and when the great immigrant flows were of European Christians and Jews not very different in their outlook, allegiances, and ancestry from our settled population, and with the commitment of a great ocean between their old homes and their new ones. That was then, this is now.
Kumbaya conservatives breezily assure us that all is well; that the current great wave of immigrants are “good-hearted people” (George W. Bush) who will assimilate just as the 1890–1920 Great Wave did.
That this is not happening jumps out at you from the figures, if you bother to look at them. This is most notably so with Hispanics, as political scientist Samuel Huntington documented at length in Who Are We? U.S.-born Hispanics of the third and higher generations, for example, drop out of high school at twice the rate of white Americans. The illegitimacy rate for children born to Hispanic mothers passed 50 percent in 2007, heading upward—double the white rate; of Hispanic men aged 25–29, 3.9 percent are in prison or jail, versus 1.7 percent of non-Hispanic whites (and 11.9 percent of blacks); etc., etc.
The refugee racket:
The only area of immigration policy where goodness does have something to do with it, is the resettlement of refugees. The United States is extraordinarily generous toward refugees. In 2006, the last year for which I can find numbers published by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, we took 41,300 refugees for settlement.
We might be wise to take a break from contemplating our own goodness to peer a little more closely at the refugees we are taking in. The whole system is addled with fraud. Also from the CIS:
"Spend enough time talking to people in the refugee resettlement business and you will hear the story, by all accounts true, about a surprise encounter the Kenyan ambassador to the United States had one day in Washington, D.C. While making their way through a D.C. airport, the ambassador and his nephew spotted a group of students from the nephew’s elite school in Nairobi. It turned out the privileged youths had managed to pass themselves off as “Somali refugees” and were on their way to new homes and a new life in Minnesota."
Even when the person resettled is a genuine refugee, the following “chain migration” is full of chicanery.
Once settled in the United States, a refugee is entitled to apply for permission to bring a spouse, minor children, parents, and siblings. This is “chain migration.” In mid-2008 the State Department actually had to suspend this aspect of its refugee program for Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Guinea, and Ghana, after DNA testing revealed widespread fraud. Unrelated Africans were posing as family members to gain entry. At the time of writing, the whole family reunification program for African refugees is in a state of limbo.
The supply of openhandedness in fact generates demand. A 2006 report by David Martin, former general counsel of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, makes it clear that once some displaced group is designated for resettlement to the United States, the size of the group at once begins to increase rapidly. People with comfortable and peaceful lives will actually uproot themselves and move to a refugee camp, if they believe that will increase their chances of resettlement to the United States.
Immigration and diversity:
Robert Putnam’s Uppsala paper, which I covered in Chapter 2, has much to say about immigration as a prime source of modern diversity, which of course it is. What does Putnam tell us about immigration policy?
That Uppsala paper is, as I showed, a kind of truth sandwich, made with happy-talk bread. The happy talk—presumably the component that Professor Putnam labored over in such psychic anguish for six years—is flimsy stuff, looking even flimsier in proximity to the real social-science meat in the middle. Putnam is a rigorous researcher, and did his work well. The filling of the sandwich is good nutritious stuff. The bread, however … Well, here’s an excerpt from the top slice of bread:
"Immigrants have accounted for three to four times as many of America’s Nobel Laureates, National Academy of Science members, Academy Award film directors and winners of Kennedy Center awards in the performing arts as native-born Americans."
Just checking the handy Wikipedia list of Nobel Prize winners by citizenship and nation of origin (and ignoring the Peace Prize, which is merely political), I see that of the seventeen American winners listed for the years 2005–7, four are indeed immigrants. They came from Russia, Italy, England, and Germany. Of the thirteen U.S.-born awardees, three are from immigrant-Jewish families, one from an immigrant-Portuguese family, the others of older Anglo- or German-American stock.
The seventeen names are: Hurwicz, Maskin, Myerson, Capecchi, Smithies, Kornberg, Mather, Phelps, Smoot, Fire, Mello, Aumann, Grubbs, Schrock, Schelling, Hall, and Glauber. You have to read down through fifty-three names before you get to the first American of other than European origins: Egypt-born Ahmed Zewail (Chemistry, 1999), followed by China-born Daniel Tsui (Physics, 1998).
Without exploring Putnam’s other categories, the Nobel Prize list does indeed make some kind of case for immigration … from Europe, with strong preference to be given to Jewish immigrants. There may be a case for immigration from Somalia, Iraq, and the Dominican Republic, but the Nobel Prize list doesn’t make it. In fact, it rather argues against it.
Similarly with a Duke University study, “America’s New Immigrant Entrepreneurs” (2007), which counted up the patent applications filed by immigrant noncitizens in the years 1998–2006, breaking them out by the applicant’s country of citizenship. The top twenty contributing countries filed over sixty thousand applications altogether.
That sure is an impressive number, and immigration enthusiasts will chortle over it as evidence for the revitalizing power of immigration. Perhaps it is; but what are those top twenty countries? Since you ask, they are, in order: China (including Taiwan), India, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, Korea, Japan, Australia, Italy, Israel, Netherlands, Swizerland, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ireland, Greece, Iran.
I dunno, there’s something about that list that’s hard to square with the realities of recent mass immigration. Can’t quite put my finger on it …
The gap in political attitudes between men and women:
The “gender gap” in political attitudes has been remarked on since at least 391 B.C. That was the year Aristophanes staged his play The Assemblywomen (Ecclesiazusae). In the play the women of Athens. disguised as men, take over the assembly and vote themselves into power. Once in charge, they institute a program of pure socialism.
"Everyone is to have an equal share in everything and live on that; we won’t have one man rich while another lives in penury, one man farming hundreds of acres while another hasn’t got enough land to get buried in … No one will be motivated by need: everybody will have everything … the children will regard all older men as fathers…." —from Alan Sommerstein’s translation for Penguin Classics
Aristophanes’ intent was ribald comedy. The wrinkled old hags of the city are soon demanding equal sexual access to the handsome young men, a thing that even a modern American liberal—a male one, at any rate—might regard as taking the doctrine of universal entitlement a bit too far. The playwright grasped the essential point, though: Women incline to socialism much more naturally than do men.
No men need apply:
The signs are everywhere. In postindustrial society, men just don’t do very well. As everyone knows, we don’t live as long as the other sex. (Or “gender,” as we are supposed to say nowadays. Well, the hell with that.) A woman aged twenty can expect to live 4.9 years longer than a man; at age sixty the gap is still 2.2 years. I note in passing P. J. O’Rourke’s comment on this: “Women live longer than us. That’s our revenge.”
When men do have jobs, those jobs are less secure than women’s. As the great recession of early 2009 got seriously under way, the New York Times reported that “a full 82 percent of the job losses have befallen men, who are heavily represented in distressed industries like manufacturing and construction. Women tend to be employed in areas like education and health care, which are less sensitive to economic ups and downs.”
The National Center for Education Statistics tells us that “since 1984, the number of females in graduate schools has exceeded the number of males. Between 1995 and 2005, the number of male full-time graduate students increased by 27 percent, compared to a 65 percent increase for female graduate students.” The education business is, in fact, being colonized by women at all levels, including the administrative: In late 2008, four of the eight Ivy League colleges had female presidents.
The modern workplace has also been demasculinized. I spent many years working in the offices of big corporations, among the vast clerical middle class of the Information Age. It has often struck me how much more suitable this work is for women than for men—how, in fact, men seem rather out of place among the “tubes and cubes” of the modern office. No masculine values are visible here. The mildness of manners, the endless tiny courtesies, the yielding and compromising, the cheery assertions of delivery-room stoicism (“Hangin’ in there!”) that are necessary to get this kind of work done, leave little outlet for masculine forcefulness.
The more boisterous manifestations of masculinity—physical courage, danger-seeking, the honor principle, belligerence, chivalry, endurance, small-group loyalty—that were once accessible to all men, in episodes of war or exploration if not in everyday life, have now been pushed out to the extremes of our society—to small minorities of, at one extreme, super-rich sports and entertainment stars, and at the other, underclass desperadoes.