America and the Left Half of the Bell Curve

Peter Brimelow writes: The original draft of my huge 1992 National Review cover story "Time to Rethink Immigration" contained a discussion of IQ and immigration policy, alluding to Richard J. Herrnstein's and Charles Murray's book The Bell Curve, which I knew was in preparation. The reaction of my dear friend John O'Sullivan, NR's Editor in those happy days, was very instructive. Not only did he insist on cutting out the discussion, but he also hunted down every copy of the original draft in NR's office and had them destroyed. His argument was that any mention of IQ or heredity at all would result in the issue monopolizing all response to my article, plunging the rest of my very broad case against contemporary immigration policy irretrievably into the dark. No doubt he was right. But public debate on both immigration policy and the IQ issue has gone backwards since 1992, although the issues are more pressing than ever. VDARE is happy to provide Steve Sailer with a place to explore them.

Part I: IQ and Why We're Afraid to Talk About It

Part II: How the Other Half Lives

The last twenty years of immigration have thus brought about a redistribution of wealth in America, from less-skilled workers and toward employers. [Harvard economist George] Borjas estimates that one half of the relative fall in the wages of high school dropouts since the 1980s can be traced directly to mass immigration. At some point, this kind of wealth redistribution, from the less well off to the affluent, becomes malignant. In the 1950s and '60s, Americans with low reading and math scores could aspire to and achieve the American Dream of a middle class lifestyle. That is less realistic today. Americans today who do poorly in high school are increasingly condemned to a low-wage existence; and mass immigration is a major reason why.

This recent statement is one of the most unusual made by any American candidate for public office in many years. Almost all other politicians and pundits have become far more comfortable offering policy prescriptions for Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon—"where all the children are above average." In the real world, however, half the school kids are always going to be lower than the median.

Nor has any other candidate mentioned lately that this mathematical fact imposes upon the rest of us ethical obligations—not to use complex laws, like our immigration policies, to exploit our less acute fellow citizens for our own benefit.

Who is this foolhardy politician who talks like an updated version of Harry Truman? Of course, it's the one candidate with the unerring instinct for making himself unpopular: Pat Buchanan. (Click here for Buchanan's full speech and here for Peter Brimelow's response.).

Of all the forlorn causes Buchanan has backed, the welfare of Not-So-Sharp-Americans might be the most hopeless. America's growing IQ stratification, and the resulting class war that the clever are waging upon the clueless, is one of the great unmentionables. Nobody else in politics is even thinking about the inevitable conflict between the left half and the right half of the IQ Bell Curve. The notion that Americans with double digit IQ's have a moral right to leaders who defend them never seems even to occur to their countrymen with triple digit IQs.

This is the first of three columns on the moral, economic and political challenges posed by inequality in intelligence. This introductory essay will consider why we are never supposed to write about what we talk about constantly: how people differ in intelligence. The second column will quantify the large and growing disadvantage suffered by the non-bright in the modern economy. The third column will explain why immigration reform offers the most slamdunk certain way to make life better for our fellow citizens on the left side of the Bell Curve; and why any politician who tries to stand up for the less clever half of America faces enormous difficulties.

Why is there such an adamant taboo against hard-headed discussions of IQ? Richard J. Herrnstein's and Charles Murray's book The Bell Curve was the nonfiction publishing event of Nineties, with an amazing 400,000 copies of a statistics and graphs-crammed social science tome sold. But subsequent books on IQ have experienced endless difficulties merely becoming physically available to readers. New York publishers John Wiley first issued University of Edinburgh psychologist Chris Brand's lively book The g Factor, then actually snatched it back off store shelves. (To buy it, email Dr. Brand at ). And the dean of psychometricians, Berkeley's Arthur Jensen, who has published 400 scientific articles on intelligence, searched for years for a publisher for his magnum opus, also named The g Factor. He finally ended up at a house so obscure that not until six months after publication was his book available even from Amazon.

IQ is off-limits today because people who are verbally facile, such as journalists and academics, tend to assume that reality is largely constructed from words. Thus, if we would all just stop writing about unpleasant facts, they would disappear.

Unpleasant Fact # 1: Five out of six African-Americans have IQs below the white average. But not talking about this IQ difference has singularly failed to make it go away. The black-white gap has remained roughly one standard deviation for the last 80 years.

What the censorship has accomplished, however, is preventing the emergence of a more a nuanced and optimistic view of black-white differences. Although IQ is, by far, the single most effective measurement known to the social sciences for predicting human outcomes, it's hardly omniscient. Indeed, African-Americans tend to be better than whites at certain mental abilities that IQ tests are bad at gauging, such as the improvisatory creativity that makes them world-beaters in jazz, basketball, rap, running with the football, and preaching. (See "Great Black Hopes",  my 1996 article that introduced this novel perspective. Also check out "The Half Full glass"  for my more advanced 1998 review of Jensen's The g Factor.)

Unpleasant Fact #2: Far more subtle, although the Great and the Good ceaselessly sermonize us that racial conflicts are caused by the majority feeling superior to the minority, a quick global survey suggests the opposite. The doltish masses have frequently risen up against astute "middle-man minorities" that control trade.

Southeast Asians have repeatedly launched murderous pogroms against the Overseas Chinese who dominate their economies, such as in Indonesia in 1998. African-Americans burned down hundreds of Korean stores in South Central L.A. in 1992. Fijians, Ugandans, and Trinidadians have all tried to oppress the more clever Asian Indians in their midst. The Turks killed huge numbers of Armenians in 1915. And from 1933 to 1945 the Germans eliminated most European Jews, at a time when German Jews were the best-educated ethnic group in the world. (The Nazis banned IQ tests specifically because Jews outperformed gentile Germans.)

Thus the truly unmentionable Unpleasant Fact today is not that blacks have mean IQs well below the white average. It's that other groups have mean IQs well above it.

This censorship may be prudent. But it is crippling American intellectual discourse.

Unpleasant Fact #3: Honest talk about IQ would expose some deeply personal inconsistencies among our most influential thinkers. Although the typical white intellectual claims he wants to censor discussion of IQ to shield black self-esteem, his sometimes-berserk reactions reveal that he finds it a peril to his own. The typical white intellectual considers himself superior to ordinary white people for two contradictory reasons: a] he constantly proclaims belief in human equality, but they don't; b] he has a high IQ, but they don't.

Unpleasant Fact #4: Stifling discourse on intelligence differences allows the IQ upper class to quietly push its interests at the expense of the rest of society. Denouncing Arthur Jensen and Charles Murray proclaims your faith in empirical egalitarianism. Then you can ignore the irksome demands of moral egalitarianism.

Consider – the inordinate complexity of the tax system, law, government regulation. This allows a high IQ priesthood of lawyers, accountants and consultants to extract handsome sums from the average citizen in return for interpreting these inscrutable instructions.

the nonstop propagandizing that anyone who doesn't attend college is doomed. Yet there is very little evidence that college education adds much to earning power—other than by using the SAT to sort high school seniors into IQ strata for the convenience of corporations banned by civil rights law from giving IQ-type tests themselves.

the IQ overclass's promotion of do-it-yourself sexual morality. For a prudent, coolly logical individual, the wisdom of the ages can be rather redundant. But for people whose passions outrun their foresight, it was a godsend. Thus, in the 1960s when American intellectuals imported Swedish sexual morals, along with Swedish-style welfare for unmarried mothers, it had few ill effects in Minnesota (traditionally the highest IQ state). But it proved an instant disaster for African-Americans.

Above all, immigration. According to two separate methodologies employed by Herrnstein and Murray, the average IQ of recent immigrants and their children is somewhere around a mediocre 95. This is high enough to drive huge numbers of African-Americans (average IQ: 85) out of the legitimate workforce. And high enough to drive down the wages of white blue-collar workers. But not high enough to create competition for the jobs of media people and others with high Verbal SAT scores.

Our political discourse is dominated not by a concern for the needs of the American people as a whole, but by the self-interest and unexamined assumptions of the verbally facile.

Down with the Tyranny of the Glib!

[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website features his daily blog.]

July 15, 2000