August 27, 2005

Krauthammer's Digit Span

Repeating digits backward: Common subtests on oral IQ tests include having test-takers repeat a string of digits forwards and backwards. The latter requires more mental musculature and is much better correlated with IQ. Charles Murray reports in a footnote to his new Commentary article "The Inequality Taboo:"

The average adult gets a digits-backward score of 5 (Jensen 1998: 263). You may compare your own score with the highest I have observed, 13 and 12, achieved respectively by José Zalaquett, former chairman of Amnesty International, and the political analyst Charles Krauthammer. Zalaquett’s score might have been higher if he had not been in a car weaving through traffic at 70 miles per hour on the New Jersey Turnpike. Krauthammer’s score might have been higher if he hadn’t been driving.

Krauthammer is a paraplegic, so presumably he was operating the gas and brake pedals with one hand while steering with the other while taking the test orally.

Considering all the cleverness Krauthammer devoted to getting America stuck in Iraq, I'm reminded of something Maxwell Smart said after triumphing over a supervillain: "If only he had used his genius for niceness instead of evil."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 26, 2005

Charles Murray's "The Inequality Taboo"

Charles Murray's "The Inequality Taboo" is now up on the Commentary Magazine website. I am writing about it for late Sunday's column.

Andrew Sullivan writes:

CHARLES ON LARRY: A must-read from Charles Murray. One of my proudest moments in journalism was publishing an expanded extract of a chapter from "The Bell Curve" in the New Republic before anyone else dared touch it. I published it along with multiple critiques (hey, I believed magazines were supposed to open rather than close debates) - but the book held up, and still holds up as one of the most insightful and careful of the last decade. The fact of human inequality and the subtle and complex differences between various manifestations of being human - gay, straight, male, female, black, Asian - is a subject worth exploring, period. Liberalism's commitment to political and moral equality for all citizens and human beings is not and should not be threatened by empirical research into human difference and varied inequality. And the fact that so many liberals are determined instead to prevent and stigmatize free research and debate on this subject is evidence ... well, that they have ceased to be liberals in the classic sense. I'm still proud to claim that label - classical liberal. And I'm proud of those with the courage to speak truth to power, as Murray and Herrnstein so painstakingly did. Pity Summers hasn't been able to match their courage. But recalling the tidal wave of intolerance, scorn and ignorance that hit me at the time, I understand why.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Paul Krugman punts on the I-Word again

Paul Krugman punts on the I-Word again: Many despise Paul Krugman, the famous economist-turned-NYT-op-edster, for his fanatical hatred of George W. Bush, but I feel that it's generally useful for America if the President, with all his powers to mold opinion, is relentlessly confronted by an individual as smart and hostile as Krugman. I certainly wouldn't want every pundit to imitate Krugman, but his intense specialization in figuring out every possible way Bush has blundered plays a valuable role in the media food chain.

Yet, there's one set of people that Krugman hates even more than Bush, and that's us immigration realists. So, we've recently been treated to the bizarre sight of Krugman intentionally pulling his punches against Bush on Krugman's own topic of expertise, the economy, because Krugman refuses to mention the I Word: Immigration. In "Summer of Our Discontent," Krugman writes:

For the last few months there has been a running debate about the U.S. economy, more or less like this:

American families: "We're not doing very well."

Washington officials: "You're wrong - you're doing great. Here, look at these statistics!"

The administration and some political commentators seem genuinely puzzled by polls showing that Americans are unhappy about the economy. After all, they point out, numbers like the growth rate of G.D.P. look pretty good. So why aren't people cheering?

Some blame the negative halo effect of the Iraq debacle. Others complain that the news media aren't properly reporting good economic news. But when your numbers tell you that people should be feeling good, but they aren't, that means you're looking at the wrong numbers.

So far, so good. Now, you'd think that at this point Krugman would bring out the Big Gun in punching a hole in Bush spin about economic growth: the fact that, as Edwin S. Rubenstein has relentlessly documented for years at jobs, indeed, are not going to "American families." Instead, they are going to immigrants, especially illegal immigrants. Rubenstein wrote:

As usual, the government makes no serious effort to measure immigration’s impact. Hispanic employment is the best proxy we have for the month to month increases in the immigrant workforce, since about 40 percent of all Hispanic workers—and an even larger share of new Hispanic workers—are immigrants...

Since the start of the Bush Administration (January 2001), Hispanic employment has risen by 2.585 million, or 16.0 percent. Non-Hispanic employment is up by 1.720 million, or 1.41 percent.

But, for anybody familiar with Krugman's prejudices against immigration skeptics, it's no surprise that he instead lets his latest column dribble off into anti-climax. He'd rather let the Bush Administration off the hook than admit that immigration realists have a point.

For an example of Krugman's smug anti-rationality on immigration, here's one of his columns "My Beautiful Mansionette" from 2001. It's a follow-up to an earlier column complaining about suburban sprawl:

You see, a few columns back I wrote a piece about urban sprawl and its attendant traffic congestion, which is becoming a very serious issue — a lot more important to the lives of most people than the dollar or two per day they might eventually get from George W. Bush's tax cut. And a surprising number of the letters I received in response insisted, vehemently, that the real culprit behind urban sprawl was population growth, and that therefore it was all because of immigration.

A quick search of the Internet reveals that my correspondents are not isolated individuals; they are part of a still small but growing movement. On casual observation I would say that the anti-immigration movement today is where the anti-globalization movement was a couple of years before Seattle: not yet large enough to be a political force to be reckoned with, but quite possibly on its way to achieving critical mass. And complaints about the alleged linkage between immigration and urban sprawl is a popular theme.

Like so much of what the anti- globalization activists say, these complaints are mostly but not entirely off base. The grain of truth in the argument is that other things being the same, a growing population means more houses, more cars and hence more sprawl. But population growth is only a secondary contributing factor to a disastrous pattern of land use driven by skewed incentives that encourage people to spread out in a low-density sprawl that in turn forces them to spend more and more of their time in cars. What's really impressive to me is the way that medium-size metropolitan areas, like Atlanta or Houston, have managed to mismanage their development so completely that they have worse traffic congestion than metropolitan New York, which has five times their population. (I know, I know, I sound like the kind of person Dick Cheney loves to hate. But as it happens I do own an S.U.V.)

In reality, the best study of sprawl found that:

Our calculations show that about half the loss of rural land in recent decades is attributable to increases in the U.S. population, while changes in land use account for the other half. New immigration and births to immigrants now account for more than three-fourths of U.S. population growth. Therefore, population growth and the immigration policies that drive it must be an integral focus of efforts to preserve rural land. [Roy Beck, Leon Kolankiewicz, and Steven A. Camarota, Center for Immigration Studies, 2003]

But that actually underestimates the impact of immigration, since immigration-driven white flight is often the impetus for people trading up from an 1800 square foot house on a fifth of an acre in an inner suburb whose public schools are becoming overwhelmed by Hispanic immigrants to a 3600 square foot house on half an acre in a distant, mostly white exurb with "good" public schools [i.e., schools full of good students]. Without immigration-driven demographic change in their old neighborhoods, lots of people wouldn't have gone through the stress of moving to the exurbs. But, once they do decide to move, then they feel they might as well go for the contemporary style of a huge house. (Big houses on big lots in new exurban offer a secondary, more subtle economic benefit in that they are so expensive that they make it unlikely that poor people will ever take over the neighborhood and drive down home prices.]

Krugman rolled on:

So why the vehemence? Psychoanalyzing a political movement guarantees a fresh wave of hate mail, but my best guess is that the passion of my correspondents is ultimately fueled by cultural unease. The changes one sees in central New Jersey are the same as what one sees everywhere in this country: farms and traditional towns submerged by a rising tide of malls, highways and McMansions. And since some of the faces behind the wheel or the fake Palladian window are brown, it's all too natural to blame them for the trend.

Obviously I don't feel the same way; I am one of those people who feel that immigration is a good thing — most of all for the immigrants, but good for America too. To some extent this position rests on mundane economic arguments. Foreign-born talent has been crucial in this country's technology boom, and plays a large role in many less glamorous industries too. (For some reason all the gas stations around here seem to be run by Sikhs.) And one can make a good case that demography — the perils of a low birth rate — is a key factor in the economic malaise of Japan and some European countries; America's openness to immigration is one of the things protecting us from that fate.

The total fertility per native-born American women is up around 1.9 babies, and without the stresses on Affordable Family Formation exacerbated by immigration, such as high housing prices and the need for expensive private schooling, might well be over the 2.1 replacement level. So, native-born Americans are hardly facing a fertility crisis that requires mass replacement of the current population with an imported one.

And I have my own cultural prejudices. Isn't the immigrant experience part of what this country is all about? Without immigrant families climbing the social ladder, what would become of the American dream?

This is sentimental cant of the kind that economists routinely scoff at, except when it comes to immigration.

But never mind the rational arguments.

Huh? What rational arguments?

Over the horizon new and possibly quite nasty political storms are brewing. If you think people get angry and irrational when arguing about taxes, wait till you see them argue about immigration.

Oh, see, according to Krugman, anything he says about immigration is, by definition, rational, while anything the immigration realists says is, a priori, irrational.

Amusingly, the extremely low interest rates that are propping up the economy today are causing a boom in home construction in the exurbs (i.e., creating more of the exurban sprawl that Krugman derides). While the home construction boom is doing nothing to help us compete better economically with the Chinese, it is sucking in more illegal immigrants to work in construction. In turn, the rapidly rising populations of unassimilated Hispanic immigrants is triggering more white flight out to the exurbs and raising demand for new McMansions.

You might think that this process would interest economist Krugman, but you'd be wrong. Since 2001, Krugman has barely mentioned immigration at all, despite writing 100 columns per year for the New York Times. The problem he faces is that he and his bete noire George W. Bush hold almost identical, visceral, non-rational views on the goodness of immigration, so Krugman is just not going to mention the entire subject.

You might think this merely reflects Krugman's personal idiosyncrasies, yet it's also representative of how almost the entire economics profession in the U.S. has been AWOL on this enormous issue, one with obvious and profound economic implications. Economists have largely ignored immigration in recent years, and when they do discuss it, often spew self-evident nonsense that they would flunk an Econ 101 student for writing on a test on any other subject. In his recent column "Immigration Taboos," Thomas Sowell had to remind his fellow economists that the Law of Supply and Demand applies to the effect of immigrants on wages, just as it applies to everything else in economics.

Immigration has joined the long list of subjects on which it is taboo to talk sense in plain English. At the heart of much confusion about immigration is the notion that we "need" immigrants -- legal or illegal -- to do work that Americans won't do.

What we "need" depends on what it costs and what we are willing to pay...

Leaving prices out of the picture is probably the source of more fallacies in economics than any other single misconception. At current wages for low-level jobs and current levels of welfare, there are indeed many jobs that Americans will not take.

The fact that immigrants -- and especially illegal immigrants -- will take those jobs is the very reason the wage levels will not rise enough to attract Americans.

This is not rocket science. It is elementary supply and demand. Yet we continue to hear about the "need" for immigrants to do jobs that Americans will not do -- even though these are all jobs that Americans have done for generations before mass illegal immigration became a way of life.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

1491 by Charles C. Mann

In the Los Angeles Times, Jim Rossi reviews the new book claiming that the Americas were hugely populated before Columbus arrived with Afro-Eurasian diseases:

THINK back to high school history class: Remember the part about buffalo in the New World? It probably went something like this: When Europeans began settling the interior of North America in the 17th century, they encountered pristine forests and a vast prairie crowded with millions of the giant horned mammals along with countless other animals and birds. Over the next three centuries, desperate colonists, industrious frontiersmen and heedless sportsmen upset the natural balance, hunting the bison to the brink of extinction.

But like much of what we learned in school, that's not the whole story, Charles C. Mann tells us in his book "1491." "The Americas seen by the first colonists were teeming with game … [but] the continents had not been that way for long," Mann writes.

Many archeologists and anthropologists now believe, Mann says, that more people inhabited the Americas than lived in Europe at the time Christopher Columbus reached the New World in 1492...

Hepatitis, measles, cholera and smallpox preceded colonists into the interior of the New World, as native traders and messengers inadvertently transmitted a holocaust back to their homelands.

Genetically speaking, American Indians are believed to be descendants of relatively small groups that arrived from Asia, probably more than 20,000 years ago. They were less genetically diverse and suffered from fewer infectious diseases than Europeans. The conquistadors had immunities to Old World infectious diseases, but not to New World germs, such as syphilis; still, many more Europeans survived the encounter than did Indians.

These first explorers saw a continent in convulsive change. "Hernando De Soto's expedition staggered through the Southeast for four years in the early sixteenth century and saw hordes of people" lining the Mississippi River, Mann writes. A century later, Sieur Robert Cavelier de La Salle canoed down the same stretch of river and found "solitude unrelieved by the faintest trace of man," according to 19th century historian Francis Parkman. De Soto didn't see buffalo, but La Salle found them everywhere, filling the ecological void left by the missing people. "That's one reason whites think of Indians as nomadic hunters," UCLA anthropologist Russell Thornton tells Mann. "Everything else — all the heavily populated urbanized societies — was wiped out."

Mann makes the important point that Indians used techniques such as setting brush fires to revamp the landscape to their own specifications.

I'm skeptical, though, about just how many people ever lived in North America north of Mexico before Columbus. Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru feature Indian ruins of colossal scale, which are almost wholly lacking in the larger expanse of the U.S. Sure, there are the cliffdwellers of the Southwest and there are a bunch of dirt mounds in the Midwest, but many of the cultures that created the interesting bits of ruins in the U.S. collapsed before Columbus. For example, Cahokia near St. Louis had 15,000 to 20,000 inhabitants at one point, but was gone by 1300. I suspect that North American Indians lacked the agricultural technology to support large populations without eventual ecological collapse. Where are the Indian cities in the U.S. that collapsed after 1492?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Ross Douthat on my "Hollywood's Skin Deep Leftism" essay

Ross Douthat on my "Hollywood's Skin Deep Leftism" essay: On his American Scene blog, Ross responds:

Hollywood has two tracks: their big-money movies, which are calculated to be as politically inoffensive as possible, and their Oscar-bait movies, which are pitched to a narrower, more elite and more liberal audience, and thus are free to express the values of the community that produces them.

Consider the last year's slate of movies. On the first track, you have the high-grossing crowd pleasers, which are largely apolitical. Some slant right (The Incredibles, for instance, with its pro-family, pro-competition message) and some left (Shrek 2, with its snide and occasionally lewd deconstruction of fairy tales), but never in particularly polarizing ways. Sure, sometimes blockbusters come swaddled in liberal pieties - i.e., the soft-headed environmentalism of The Day After Tomorrow. But for the most part, the bigger movies are determinedly centrist, balancing Red and Blue sensibilities and rarely lapsing into preachiness, or politics of any kind. (The Wedding Crashers and The 40-Year-Old Virgin are perfect examples of this difference-splitting, swaddling Austenesque marriage plots in wacky sexual permissiveness - a combination that corresponds pretty well to the mainstream American attitude toward sex and romance.)

But then there are the prestige movies - with their low budgets, artful cinematography, art-house runs and dreams of Oscar glory. It's this Hollywood track - movies for "our kind of people," they might say if they were being honest about it - that produces films like last year's Kinsey and Million Dollar Baby, and that gave us American Beauty and The Cider House Rules, Chocolat and The People vs. Larry Flynt, Quills and The Crying Game, Traffic and The Quiet American and . . . well, you get the idea. Not all of these are bad movies by any stretch, but they all reflect, and promote, the particular kind of liberalism shared by most Hollywood actors, writers, producers, and movie moguls. And they have no conservative counterparts.

Right. The fact that "Chocolat" (which was the Weinstein Brothers' very long condemnation of the Catholic Church for encouraging the faithful to give up chocolate for Lent, I kid you not) got a Best Picture nomination while "The Passion of the Christ," which Quentin Tarantino said was as impressive a piece of visual storytelling as anything since the talkies came in, well, that pretty much proves Ross's point.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 25, 2005

The Niger famine and the African Penguin Pop shortage

I've been writing for a long time about one of the main reasons why Africa is like it is: the lack of Penguin Pops (as in the ultra-high paternal investment Emperor penguin dads featured in the "March of the Penguins" documentary). Now, the BBC reports:

Niger women 'banned from grain stores'
By Martin Plaut, BBC Africa analyst

Polygamy is common in Niger - and men control the food

The UN, aid agencies and the government of Niger have all been blamed for their slow response to aid some 2.5m people in the country who are facing severe food shortages.

But the story may be more complex, as evidence is now emerging that some problems spring from the country's social structures.

Journalists who have visited Niger are reporting finding a strange phenomenon: villages in which women and children are going hungry, while there is still food in their households.

Kim Sengupta of the UK's Independent newspaper found that men had left their families, locking the grain store, while they were away. "They've gone away to look for work or look for money and sometimes across the border in Nigeria. And you have this strange situation where there were women in the villages with stocks of sorghum and millet with hungry children, but no access to the food," he says. There are reports that women are not even allowed to look in the family grain store - that it is taboo.

There is widespread polygamy in Niger, and with men taking more than one wife, each woman is given a small plot to support herself and her own children.

"There is a tradition that women are more or less supposed to cater for themselves and their children with the produce that they manage to get out of the tiny plots they are given when they are married," says Moira Eknes of Care aid agency, who has just returned from Niger. "They also have to work on the larger family fields but the production from these large fields they have no control over and no access to," she says.

If only the men control the family reserve, individual women and their children can be left to fend for themselves. This may be a way of keeping back stocks of food until the worst times: the hungry season when the next harvest is being planted, but there is nothing yet on the table.

And men may be calculating - correctly - that if they don't provide for their families, aid agencies will step in to fill the gap

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The Real Story of the Scopes Monkey Trial

Christopher Hitchens writes in Slate:

This moment was not to be staged in America for several more decades, but the courtroom battle between Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan in Dayton, Tenn., did eventually come. And old man Bryan blew himself out of the water by repeating Bishop Ussher's claims. We have an excellent firsthand account of this from H.L. Mencken, and at least two movie versions of Inherit the Wind, which give a fair summary of the dispute between "Rock of Ages and age of rocks," as Bryan so happily phrased it.

C'mon, Hitch, I realize you are under contract to churn out copy so fast for so many outlets that you don't have time to do anything other than regurgitate conventional wisdom in service of your obsessive prejudices, but this is a ridiculous summation of what actually happened.

As history, Stanley Kramer's corny "message" film "Inherit the Wind" is a joke.

What's most important to understand is that Bryan was highly concerned about the popular misuses of Darwinism, such as Social Darwinism and eugenics, especially by self-proclaimed Nietzscheites like Darrow, Mencken and Leopold & Loeb. Bryan was deeply worried about the spread of vulgarized Nietzscheism, with its Darwinian gloss, especially in the German-speaking world. See the chapter "Neroism Is In the Air" in Barbara Tuchman's "The Proud Tower" for the alarming impact of popularized Nietzscheism on German culture in the years leading up to WWI. Bryan wasn't anti-German -- he'd resigned as Secretary of State because he saw that Wilson was leading up to war with Germany -- but he was disturbed that the German military had issued condensed booklets of Nietzsche excerpts to inspire the troops.

In America, Nietzscheist Superman-worship had inspired Leopold and Loeb to commit a thrill-kill murder to prove their superiority. Darrow had gotten Leopold and Loeb off from hanging the previous year with some absurdly deterministic arguments, including pointing out that L&L hadn't asked to be born into luxury, the poor darlings! Mencken, who was a German chauvinist and whose first book was about Nietzsche, was Nietzsche's biggest promoter in the America.

All this, of course, is unfair to Nietzsche, as well, who would have been appalled by the misuse of his philosophy. But that's no reason to ignore the fact that the Scopes monkey trial was about far more than pure science.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 23, 2005

"Hollywood's Skin Deep Leftism"

"Hollywood's Skin Deep Leftism" -- My cover story from the June 11th American Conservative (subscribe here) is finally online. An excerpt:

The Federal Election Commission's online database of political donors amusingly confirms that the movie industry is as one-sidedly Democratic as the stereotypes claim.

Oscar-winning actors and directors give about 40 times as much to Democrats as Republicans. Hollywood's Republican donors turn out to be mostly aged actors to whom the threat "You'll never work in this town again" long ago lost its terror. Over the last decade, stalwart Republican campaign contributors have included Jane Russell, who starred in Howard Hughes' 1943 Western "The Outlaw;" Yvette Mimieux, who played Weena the Eloi in the 1960 "Time Machine;" and sword-and-sandal star Victor Mature, who got so mature he's now dead.

(Yet, almost all elected actors, such as Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger, have been in the GOP, which suggests voters appreciate that just being a Republican in Hollywood demonstrates strength of character.)

The right wing of the chorus of the perpetually indignant have repeatedly gone on the warpath against Hollywood for political crimes real and imagined, excoriating actress Maggie Gyllenhaal ("Secretary") for her brief criticism of American foreign policy, and denouncing George Lucas for perhaps alluding unadmiringly to George W. Bush in "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith." (I'd go over this crushingly boring brouhaha with you, but I'm all Sithed-out.)

Yet, the actual relationship between Hollywood and politics turns out to be convoluted and often surprising. Hollywood wasn't always so ideologically homogenous. Consider one of the best films of the industry's best year, 1939: "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Its leading man Jimmy Stewart, director Frank Capra, and studio head Harry Cohn were all Republicans, while its screenwriter Sidney Buchman was a card-carrying Stalinist. Today, though, acceptable views run the gamut all the way from Eleanor Roosevelt Democrats like Barbra Streisand on the left to Harry Truman Democrats like Tom Hanks (who named a son "Truman") on the right...

In the wake of Mel Gibson's vast profits from "The Passion of the Christ," the movie industry finally senses that it's out of touch with much of its potential audience. Yet, it can hardly be relied upon to figure out what it is doing wrong. If conservative want to watch conservative movies, we'll have to make them ourselves.

Yet, too much of what passes for "conservatism" during the Bush era is stridently prosaic, dogmatic, and anti-artistic. The "primarily political people" (as culture blogger Michael Blowhard calls them) who now dominate the public voice of the Right deplore the imagination and empathy required to make good films.

Indeed, the movies are far less obsessed with politics than the rightwing media is, in part due to the years it takes modern free agent Hollywood to put deals together. If Hanks would suggest to Steven Spielberg, who has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Democrats, that they undermine the Republican campaign against the filibuster by remaking "Mr. Smith," which famously climaxes with the haggard Jefferson Smith trying to keep speaking against a corrupt bill, by the time they got their movie finished, the Democrats might have regained control of the Senate and be busy quashing Republican filibusters.

To those of us who care about more than partisan politics, however, the Hollywood of 2005 in some ways confirms historian Robert Conquest's First Law: "Everyone is conservative about what he knows best." The mainstream audience restrains Hollywood's leftist affectations, and the vicissitudes of making movies teach filmmakers hard-headed lessons in how the world actually works, making the actual politics in the movies closer to Tom Hanks's than Michael Moore's.

Contemporary Hollywood movies approve of manly men and womanly women, guns, violence in self-defense, anti-drug laws, true love, marriage, big weddings, big houses, and moms and dads spending time with their kids. The worst sin is parental adultery, because Hollywood's target audience of teens dreads anything that could break up their homes. And no film's heroine ever has an abortion.

Many of the rightwing attacks on Hollywood stem from it not toeing the pseudo-conservative line of worshipping some of the less conservative forces in history, such as war, laissez-faire, and George W. Bush.

Movies such as Oliver Stone's "Platoon," Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan," and Mel Gibson's "We Were Soldiers" have done America a service by taking war films to a new level of bloody realism. While neoconservative jingoes have worried that revealing the effects of combat too honestly will induce second thoughts about World War IV, veterans have typically been pleased that moviegoers can now get a better sense of the sacrifices they made in the service of their country. Nor is it Hollywood's fault that the Bush Administration didn't learn anything about the dangers of occupying a Muslim country from "Black Hawk Down," the minutely detailed 2001 depiction of our Special Forces' desperate battle in Somalia.

As lavishly paid members of the private sector, filmmakers admire public sector workers, such as soldiers, cops, and firemen, who risk their lives for the kind of annual pay that a Beverly Hills matron might spend on feng shui consultations. For example, Hanks passed up tens of millions in movie salaries to produce patriotic miniseries about the G.I.'s of WWII and the astronauts and engineers of the Space Race.

There are few conservatives in Hollywood, but at least there aren't many neoconservatives either. When the GOP wanted to feature a movie star at the 2004 convention in New York, the best they could come up with was Ron Silver, who once played, uh … c'mon, Google … Alan Dershowitz in "Reversal of Fortune."

And if movies tend to be skeptical that unbridled capitalism automatically produces the utopia foreseen by U. of Chicago economists, well, filmmakers have all had some first-hand experience with just how far human beings will go to get rich. In Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life," George Bailey rages at the subterfuges of the banker, Mr. Potter, not because Capra was a pinko, but because the director had similarly raged at his own boss Harry Cohn's nefariousness.

Cinema, a medium of the visible, is innately ill-suited for explaining the wonders of the invisible hand. But the movie's basic message about business -- that the magic of the market is no substitute for individuals making moral choices -- isn't necessarily anti-conservative. Capitalism is a terrific system, but it doesn't absolve capitalists from the need for ethics.

Nor is it anti-conservative for film people to believe that they should occasionally make a quality film that might not be as profitable as most of the drek they churn out. If the market was the measure of all things, three studios wouldn't have gotten together and invested close to $200 million in "Master and Commander," 2003's splendid, but not terribly lucrative, realization of Patrick O'Brian's superb (and deeply conservative) seafaring novels.

As the deplorable quality of 2005 releases underscores, this resistance to pure profit-maximizing behavior is disappearing in Hollywood, but if conservatism means more than just the worship of the free market, that's not a good thing. [More]

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

A license to print money

John Tierney has bet an investment banker who claims oil will cost an average of $200 per barrel in 2010 (in 2005 dollars), or triple the current price, $5,000 that it will cost less. I don't know anything about the oil business, but I imagine Colby Cosh could tell us just how much oil Alberta, Canada could supply at any given three digit price from its nearly unlimited expanse of oil sands.

How come Tierney finds these suckers and I don't? I tried to bet Michael Barone $1,000 last year that Hispanic turnout would be closer to my estimate of 6.1% of the total vote than his 9% speculation (according to the Census Bureau, it was 6.0%), but Barone prudently shied away.

One point of clarification in Tierney's piece. He writes:

After collecting his winnings [from ecologist Paul Ehrlich], Julian [Simon] expanded his challenge, offering to bet anyone on any other resource price or measure of human welfare. Julian, who died in 1998, never managed to persuade Mr. Ehrlich or other prominent doomsayers to take his bets again.

Actually, Ehrlich offered Simon a detailed 15 issue bet in 1995 that Simon didn't accept before his death a few years later. Ehrlich is kind of a bozo, who became famous mostly because he has this incredibly impressive speaking voice (Johnny Carson had him on the Tonight Show dozens of times). Still, Ehrlich learned a lot from his previous loss, and thus stuck to problems where the market economy doesn't work well at solving problems, such as fish harvests. Beef harvests don't go down because every cow is owned by somebody, but nobody owns the ocean's fish, so they have been badly overfished in a standard tragedy of the commons problem.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Why women bloggers have been a bust

Awhile back, the topic du jour was how come so few women bloggers have become hits in the marketplace. It's kind of hard to blame the Old Boys Network, when blogging didn't exist until very recently. I suggested then that one obvious reason is that most women are too concerned about their own lives and those of the people they care about to bother broadcasting their opinions on events of only marginal relationship to themselves to the world.

An even more more impolite corollary to that is that women tend to be more emotional than men, so a disembodied text-only medium that puts a high emphasis on rationality is not one in which women will tend to equal men in performance.

Apparently trying to prove my point about women writers caring more about emotion than reason,'s legal correspondent Dahlia Lithwick has published "John Roberts' Woman Problem," a denunciation of the Supreme Court nominee's scattered witticisms at the expense of feminism and feminist sacred cows like "comparable worth" that have been found in his voluminous memos from the 1980s. In a classic example of why women tend to be lousier at opinion journalism than men, she writes:

"A patently bad defense, however, offered by one of Roberts' staunchest supporters, Prof. Douglas Kmiec, is that most of the proposed policies Roberts disparaged eventually "were largely rejected as unwise by policymakers." So what? The issue isn't the policies themselves but the tone. Carrie Lukas of the Independent Women's Forum similarly believes that proving these policies were dumb is enough to turn Roberts [into] a sensitive new-age guy. I'm not buying."

Let me repeat that:

" So what? The issue isn't the policies themselves but the tone."

I guess it's just the testosterone talking in me, but I'd rather have a Supreme Court justice who was right than one who was wrong but possessed sensitive tone. I like a man who calls dumb ideas dumb.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 22, 2005

Charles Murray's "The Inequality Taboo"

Message from Charles Murray:

Just a heads up that the September Commentary, mailing imminently, has an article by me entitled "The Inequality Taboo." An annotated web version will go up at and by this Friday.

Here's the first 5% of this major essay:

The Inequality Taboo
Charles Murray

When the late Richard Herrnstein and I published The Bell Curve eleven years ago, the furor over its discussion of ethnic differences in IQ was so intense that most people who have not read the book still think it was about race. Since then, I have deliberately not published anything about group differences in IQ, mostly to give the real topic of The Bell Curve—the role of intelligence in reshaping America’s class structure—a chance to surface.

The Lawrence Summers affair last January made me rethink my silence. The president of Harvard University offered a few mild, speculative, off-the-record remarks about innate differences between men and women in their aptitude for high-level science and mathematics, and was treated by Harvard’s faculty as if he were a crank.

The typical news story portrayed the idea of innate sex differences as a renegade position that reputable scholars rejected. It was depressingly familiar. In the autumn of 1994, I had watched with dismay as The Bell Curve’s scientifically unremarkable statements about black IQ were successfully labeled as racist pseudoscience.

At the opening of 2005, I watched as some scientifically unremarkable statements about male-female differences were successfully labeled as sexist pseudoscience. The Orwellian disinformation about innate group differences is not wholly the media’s fault. Many academics who are familiar with the state of knowledge are afraid to go on the record. Talking publicly can dry up research funding for senior professors and can cost assistant professors their jobs. But while the public’s misconception is understandable, it is also getting in the way of clear thinking about American social policy.

Good social policy can be based on premises that have nothing to do with scientific truth. The premise that is supposed to undergird all of our social policy, the founders’ assertion of an unalienable right to liberty, is not a falsifiable hypothesis. But specific policies based on premises that conflict with scientific truths about human beings tend not to work. Often they do harm.

One such premise is that the distribution of innate abilities and propensities is the same across different groups. The statistical tests for uncovering job discrimination assume that men are not innately different from women, blacks from whites, older people from younger people, homosexuals from heterosexuals, Latinos from Anglos, in ways that can legitimately affect employment decisions. Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 assumes that women are no different from men in their attraction to sports. Affirmative action in all its forms assumes there are no innate differences between any of the groups it seeks to help and everyone else. The assumption of no innate differences among groups suffuses American social policy. That assumption is wrong.

When the outcomes that these policies are supposed to produce fail to occur, with one group falling short, the fault for the discrepancy has been assigned to society. It continues to be assumed that better programs, better regulations, or the right court decisions can make the differences go away. That assumption is also wrong.

Hence this essay. Most of the following discussion describes reasons for believing that some group differences are intractable. I shift from “innate” to “intractable” to acknowledge how complex is the interaction of genes, their expression in behavior, and the environment. “Intractable” means that, whatever the precise partitioning of causation may be (we seldom know), policy interventions can only tweak the difference at the margins.

I will focus on two sorts of differences: between men and women and between blacks and whites.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

One Cheer for Michael Moore

With "My Big Freezing Penguin Wedding" (a.k.a., "March of the Penguins") now at $49 million in domestic box office and showing virtually no drop-off from week to week, it's time to salute Michael Moore for demonstrating that documentaries could be mass market phenomena. Much like Rush Limbaugh, Moore took a moribund media form and showed it could make big money. All three of Moore's documentaries broke the record for highest grossing box office. (For Moore's less admirable side, see my review of his "Fahrenheit 9/11.")

By the way, the producers of "March of the Penguin" must be blessing their lucky stars that Smell-o-Vision didn't catch on in movie theatres when it was introduced in the Fifties. If you've ever been in the Penguin House at the zoo, you'll know what I'm talking about.

Anyway, go see "March of the Penguins." It's terrific.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

My new column

"Good News: American Media Waking Up To Immigration." Here's an excerpt:

An article by Marc Cooper in the August 12th LA Weekly called Sour Grapes| California’s farm workers’ endless struggle 40 years later shows vividly the impact of an unlimited supply of illegal aliens upon California farm workers. Cooper writes:

"There’s a prevailing popular assumption that superexploitation of the state’s farm workers is a closed chapter in some deep, dark past… But exactly 40 years after Chavez’s UFW exploded into the national consciousness by leading the great 1965 Delano grape workers’ strike and forced America to recognize the plight of those who put our food on the table, nothing could be further from the truth. The golden years of California farm workers lasted barely a decade and then sharply began to fade… Wages among California’s 700,000 farm workers, 96 percent of whom are Mexican or Central American, more than half of whom are undocumented, are at best stagnant, and by most reckonings are in decline.

"With almost all workers stuck at the minimum wage of $6.75 an hour, it’s rare to find a farm worker whose annual income breaks $10,000 a year.’Twenty-five years ago, a worker made 12, 13, 14 cents for a bin of oranges,' says economist Rick Mines, until recently research director at the Davis-based California Institute for Rural Studies. 'Today that same bin pays maybe 15 or 16 cents—in spite of 250 percent inflation.' Virtually no workers have health insurance or paid vacations. The cyclical nature of the crops throws most out of work for two or more months per year."

Why do California growers constantly need to recruit more illegal aliens from south of the border? They aren't putting more land under cultivation. In fact, more of the Central Valley is paved over each year to accommodate the booming population.

The answer is twofold. Because wages are so low, there's little need to mechanize farm work in California. And because the state's farm work jobs are so poorly paid for the brutal conditions (three workers died of heat stroke this summer), nobody makes a career out of it if they can. So, the growers constantly suck in to this country more (and ever less educated) illegal aliens. Cooper notes:

"In a pattern that one academic calls “ethnic replacement,” succeeding waves of ever poorer, more marginal Mexicans, many of them from indigenous communities where Spanish is a foreign language, increasingly constitute the field labor force. The downward-spiraling Mexican economy feverishly churns those waves to the degree that, at any moment, as many as 20 percent of California’s agricultural workers have been in the U.S. for less than a year."

The neocon open border cheerleaders contend that these newcomers will "assimilate" into American culture. Real Soon Now. Yet, these Mixtec-speaking Indians who increasingly make up California's farm workers haven't even assimilated into Hispanic culture in the 484 years since the Spaniards conquered Mexico.

A reader writes:

I remember watching a documentary on PBS ten years or so ago about Cesar Chavez. This woman, I forget who she was, said basically Chavez died of a broken heart. That he saw his life's work unravel before his eyes and lost the will to live.

That's what she said anyway. I don't know what the coroner said.

Another reader writes:

Amazing. That Marc Cooper piece in the LA Weekly that you linked in your VDARE article includes statements near the end such as

"UFW leader Rodriguez also reversed the union’s anachronistic position on immigration [got rid of Chavez's anti-immigration stance]"


"And, with some luck, if comprehensive immigration reform now being considered is enacted and significant numbers of agricultural workers are legalized, the balance of forces on the ground might shift. Some observers argue that the UFW’s most significant role at present is, precisely, to continue its lobbying for immigration reform."

Cooper publishes similar nitwittery in The Nation. And since he's on the staff at USC --- so I can probably get his email address --- I've been thinking for awhile of emailing him this basic question: "Why should we permit any immigration at all?"

Do you think he'll grasp the concept?


Lots of people hold views on immigration simply as fashion statements: "I'm a nice person. I'm not a nasty person like those horrible racists." [Like Cesar Chavez?]

Something else I'm struck by is that the coalition of left wing and right wing interests and ideologues who back amnesty and guest workers programs must assume they are putting one over on those idiots who belong to their coalition for the opposite reasons. Cooper favors legalization because he believes that will force the growers to pay more to their workers. The growers favor legalization because they believe it will let them pay even less to their workers. Somebody has got to be wrong here. (Of course, don't rule out the possibility that the interested parties will dream up a "solution" that sticks you and me with the costs.)

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer