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From my review of Charles Murray’s Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 in The American Conservative:

In 1950 my wife’s uncle, the son of a West Side of Chicago ditch digger, won a scholarship to MIT. Back then it was unusual enough for anybody from Chicago to go all the way to Massachusetts for college that the local newspaper printed a picture of him boarding the train for Cambridge. By the 1960s, however, the spread of standardized testing had helped make it customary for elite universities to vacuum up larger and larger fractions of the country’s cognitive talent. The long-term implications of this momentous change are quantified in Charles Murray’s new book on the evolving American class system, Coming Apart.

The book pulls together strands of his thought going back three decades, a period during which Murray has been the model of a public intellectual. Striving to reconcile contrasting virtues, Murray has displayed a dazzling gift for sophisticated data analysis while remaining devoted to making his books as broadly comprehensible as possible. He’s a social-scientific elitist and a civic egalitarian; a libertarian and a communitarian; a truth-teller and a thinker of the utmost judiciousness. 

Not surprisingly, none of these strengths have made the co-author of The Bell Curve terribly popular, especially because in the 18 years since the publication of that infinitely denounced book about the growing stratification of America by intelligence not much has happened to prove it in error. In 2012, it looks like it’s Charles Murray’s world and we’re just living in it. 

Murray isn’t hated for being wrong but instead for authoritatively documenting the kinds of things that everybody uncomfortably senses are true. 

Read the whole thing there.
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Class 
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Jim Manzi in National Review and Megan McArdle in the Atlantic were struck by my nostalgic quote yesterday from Paul Krugman about his idyllic upbringing in a (pre-integration, pre-immigration, all-white) middle-class suburb.
Manzi writes:

My motivation in writing about political economy is, in some ways, much like Krugman’s. But rather than seeing that moment as primarily the product of policies like unionization, entitlements and high taxes, as is Krugman’s view, I believe that it was primarily the product of circumstance. We had just won a global war, and had limited competition; we had a huge wave of immigration, followed by a multi-decade pause; oil was incredibly cheap; a backlog of technical developments had yet to be exploited and scaled up, and so forth. We can’t go back there, at least not exactly.

Which of the above is not like the others because it’s an extremely explicit public policy choice?
Right, immigration policy! Three points for Gryffindor!
McArdle writes:

Their existence, in the way that Manzi and Krugman remember, was also completely dependent on other forms of inequality: of the ability to move away from social problems, which is harder now; of generations of women whose sole destiny was the kitchen.  This produced a world in which most homes were, from the point of view of kids, basically the same: all of them contained a mom who spent most of her time cleaning the place or feeding its occupants, and the size and contents were naturally limited to the amount of stuff that Mom was personally willing to care for.  It was a great world for kids.  But not everyone was so lucky.

In some ways, that might be backwards. When I was growing up in the San Fernando Valley in the 1960s, my mother did lots of volunteer work for charities because raising me, an only child of rational and agreeable temperament, didn’t take much of her time, especially after we got our first dryer (mid-1960s) and dishwasher (late 1960s). I entertained myself at the local park and library, and she didn’t need to chauffeur me to a whole bunch of high-end after-school resume-fillers so that I could get into college. Instead, UCLA was always wide open to me. Plus, traffic was lighter, so I rode my bike everywhere.

If she had lived in Tiger Mother era, I suspect my mother would have enthusiastically Tiger Mothered me. But it was the era of the Pussycat Mother, so she didn’t. For example, I played league baseball at the local park for seven seasons, from age 8 to 14. Neither of my parents ever attended a single one of my games, saying it would put too much pressure on me. Since I mostly struck out and dropped fly balls, that was A-OK with me. (Did I ever mention the time I got picked off first? With two outs in the bottom of the final inning with our team down by a run and the bases loaded? I didn’t? Good.)

Today, both parents are supposed to arrive 45 minutes before the baseball game. Otherwise, as we all know from watching Steven Spielberg’s Hook, your son’s life will be ruined.

Today, to afford a house in that same neighborhood, both parents very likely will have to work. And unless they can navigate the complex application processes to get into the small number of exclusive public school programs, people who live in that neighborhood will also pay to send their kids to private school (the number of Jewish private schools, both Orthodox and Reform, in the neighborhood has skyrocketed as Jews, who were ideologically committed back then to sending their kids to public schools have since either got religion or moved to Portland). And to get into UCLA, the kids will have to be chauffeured to intensive after-school tutoring and activities. So, today, mom will have to work 40 hours per week for pay and may still have more mom-jobs to do with the kids than my bridge-playing mother had a generation ago.

A win-win!

(Also, in terms of actually helping people in need of charitable work, we’ve had this huge swing over the last generation from the charitable work being done by middle-class middle-aged women to their adolescent children trying to look good on college applications. Which demographic do you think was more productive at actually helping people who need help?)

What I notice among wives whose husbands make, say, $400k or higher, is that many of them will quit their professional careers to chauffeur their kids to their packed schedules, especially to manage them on the track to a top college. I’ve dubbed this the Winner Class.

The really giant change over the last 45 years was in my wife’s dense neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago, Austin, where her father was a classical musician and union leader and her mother a teacher also raising four children. It was an urban idyll. When she was a first grader, she and her third grader sister walked a mile to school. After school, the huge number of kids in the neighborhood played together on the sidewalks until dark. Her father took the El to his job playing in the orchestra of the Chicago Lyric Opera or leading picketers against Opera management. (He played the most blue-collar of classical instruments, the tuba.) Up through 1966, it was a Matthew Yglesias dream of urbanism.

Suddenly, in 1967, things began changing. My inlaws, being dedicated liberal Democrats and union leaders, stuck it out through 1970. But when their kids got mugged on their street for the third time, they finally sold out, long after the other members of their local liberal group of homeowners had sold out, even though they had all promised each other to make this experiment in urban change work by never selling. They lost half their life savings, and didn’t have indoor plumbing for their first two years on the farm they bought 63 miles from the opera house. My father-in-law, although he later was elected to three three-year terms as the leader of the Chicago Federation of Musicians union, never voted Democrat again.

Today, as in parts of Detroit, grass grows wild over the spots where many of her neighborhood’s three-flats and apartment buildings once stood.

It must be the fault of Republicans!

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Class 
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Every so often, a nice moderate suggests getting rid of racial preferences and replacing them with class preferences. They usually make this suggestion in various states of naivete, but one of the most common is that they don’t understand that the main body of preferences isn’t college admissions but employment, and it’s less done by overt than by covert quotas motivated by fear of disparate impact discrimination lawsuits.
One reason why class has faded relative to race so dramatically as a subject of liberal concern since the days of Harry Truman is that there’s no money in it. You can’t file a disparate impact lawsuit over class discrimination because the government doesn’t count by class, it counts by race/ethnicity, by sex, and by age. The Soviet Union counted people by class, but the whole project seems pretty hopeless in the U.S. The Office of Management and Budget has rules for how to count by race, but not by class.

I realize that there are a lot of other reasons why liberals are so bored by class these days, but never underestimate the power of the government handing out money and prizes along some lines and not along other lines to determine what is a political obsession and what is not.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Affirmative Action, Class 
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Kevin Drum responds on Mother Jones to Democratic Sen. Jim Webb’s op-ed “Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege” questioning affirmative action:

Class/income-based affirmative action has long struck me as an alternative that ought to get more attention than it does. … Class-based program programs might, in the end, provide modestly less help for ethnic minorities than current policies — though well-designed ones might not. 

This is a common centrist misconception. It is widely assumed: There must be lots of black and Hispanic kids in the ‘hood with 1300 out of 1600 SAT scores who are losing out to Chad Buffington of Lake Forest’s tutor-aided 1400. I mean, there just have to be, right? So, All We Have To Do is institute class-based affirmative action and then we wouldn’t have to have race-based affirmative action and we would still get a whole bunch of pretty smart blacks and Hispanics, almost as many as we get now. Why didn’t anybody ever think of this before? After all, class is the reason that blacks and Hispanics average lower scores, right? It couldn’t be anything else, of course. Right?

But they have some advantages too. For one thing, they help poor people. That’s worthwhile all by itself. (Kahlenberg quotes William Benn Michael as noting acidly that currently the debate in higher education is mostly about what color skin the rich kids will have.) Beyond that, there’s another benefit: for all the good it does, there’s no question that race-based affirmative action has drawbacks as well. It makes employers suspicious of minority graduates, wondering if their degrees were really fairly earned. It provokes a backlash among working class whites. And it’s open to abuse on a number of fronts. Class-based programs don’t solve all these problems at a stroke, but they go a long way toward addressing them.

This isn’t normally a subject I write much about. I’ve done only modest reading about it, and my personal background — middle class white guy born and raised in Orange County — obviously doesn’t give me any valuable personal insight. But the status quo has done, and continues to do, a lot of damage to all sides. It’s probably a fantasy to think that there’s any progress to be made in our current fever swamp atmosphere, but a conservative concession on the reality of race as a continuing problem — think racial profiling, penal system injustices, health system disparities, etc. — combined with a liberal concession on emphasizing class much more than we have in the past, would almost certainly be a step forward.
How would living in Orange County, California on and off over the last half century not give you any valuable personal insight into this subject?
But the line I want to look into is Drum’s criticism of race-based quotes: “And it’s open to abuse on a number of fronts.” 
I’ve certainly pointed out abuses myself. For example, Henry Louis Gates and Lani Guinier have complained for years that an ever increasing number of black affirmative action slots at Harvard are going to people who aren’t descended from American slaves: people who have a white parent, and/or are descended from African or Caribbean elites. 
Of course, Barack Obama (Harvard Law, ’91) is the classic example of this. His racial identity was so ambiguous that he had to write a 150,000 autobiography talking himself into believing he was black enough to be a black politician.
You often hear: How can anybody say that race exists when all you have to do is look at Barack Obama to see that not everybody fits into a perfect little box?

On the other hand, if you think Obama’s race  is complicated, try to figure out what class Obama was from when he was applying to Occidental, Columbia, and Harvard.

- Barack Obama Jr.’s mother was on welfare for awhile.
+ His mother was working on her Ph.D.

- His mother got pregnant out of wedlock at 17.
+ His mother was accepted by the University of Chicago when she was 15.

- His father abandoned him when he was 2. 
+ His father abandoned him when he was 2 to obtain an advanced degree in economics from Harvard.

- He lived in a poor Third World country in a fairly poor neighborhood.

+ His Indonesian geologist stepfather was an oil company executive from a wealthy family and they quickly moved to an exclusive neighborhood in Jakarta.

- He came from a multiply broken family, abandoned by his father as an infant and twice by his mother, and had to live with his grandparents.
+ He lived with his grandparents on the tenth floor of highrise in a nice part of Honolulu with a fabulous view.

- He smoked a lot of dope in high school.
+ He smoked a lot of dope on the beach in Hawaii with his fellow students at the most prestigious prep school in the state.

- In college he hung out with Third Worlders.

+ They were rich Third Worlders, such as a son of a future prime minister of Pakistan.

- His maternal grandfather was a fairly unsuccessful salesman.
+ His maternal grandmother was a quite successful bank executive.

- His maternal grandfather was from a family with a shady reputation.
+ His maternal grandmother’s family was quite respectable and academic-oriented. One of his great aunts became a statistics professor and great-uncle became the #2 man at the U. of Chicago library.
- His mother had to do lowly clerical work in Indonesia. 
+ She did it at the powerful U.S. embassy in Jakarta, where she got to know diplomats and CIA men.
- His paternal grandfather had been a servant.
+ His paternal grandfather was a large landowner.
- His father was a drunk.
+ His father’s Master’s degree made him a legacy at Harvard.
- His father got fired a lot.
+ His father was, when sober, an oil company executive and government official.
- His father was politically and ethnically persecuted. 
+ His father was, when sober, the protege of the CIA’s main man to become President of Kenya, Tom Mboya.
- His father was the prime witness of his mentor’s assassination by President Kenyatta’s allies in 1969, and was hounded by the dominant Kikuyus after that.
- Well, that is a bummer.
I could go on and on. I know a lot about Obama, and I have no idea how to definitively categorize him as a young man by any usual ranking of class from low to high. (I might say he came from the Vaguely Academic Class, but I just made up that term.)
So, does class not exist?
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Affirmative Action, Class, Race 
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In traditional Western cultures, below the rank of aristocrats, romantic and sexual impulsiveness was a major threat to social standing. The punishment in terms of class standing for out-of-wedlock births was so harsh that the illegitimacy rate among women in England in 1200-1800 was stable at around 3-4%, even though women didn’t marry on average until age 24 to 26.

The sexual revolution of the 1960s, which hit home in the 1970s, disrupted this traditional system of social sanctions. You can see its power in the spread of the term “single mother,” which is now used as a self-description not only by mothers who have never been married, but also by divorced mothers, and even by widows with orphans! My wife knew a Korean lady with two young daughters whose husband had been killed in a car crash. Being old-fashioned, I assumed she would describe herself with that honorable term “widow.” But, being a newcomer to America, she had realized what I hadn’t noticed yet: “widow” was out of fashion, “single mother” was in.

And yet … the old logic that children need two parents to have the best chance to succeed in life still plays out even though we aren’t supposed to mention it. What I’ve noticed in socializing with financially successful families whose children are on the academic fast-track is that they follow the old rules implicitly. Divorce is relatively rare, illegitimacy even rarer, mothers who aren’t highly-paid executives are typically housewives, and so forth.

So, by removing social indoctrination of the masses, the post-Sexual Revolution system selects even more than the earlier system for social success by individuals who are intelligent and cold-blooded. In contrast, people of impulsive temperaments and less ability to foresee the consequences of giving into their impulses are now much more on their own with far less guidance from the culture.

Thus, the people in the upper reaches of society are increasingly of what you might call a Swedish or Swiss personality (or are Asian immigrants whose families never took seriously the 1960s).

But nobody is supposed to notice that publicly. So, the top level of our society continues to argue for the breaking down of old restrictions, whether on the idea that marriage is between a man and a woman or that their should be limits on debt and interest rates. After all, individualistic self-determination works fine for the upper middle class.

From this perspective, the 1960s cultural revolution look like an Elites Liberation movement, in which Unitarians, Congregationalists, Jews, Episcopalians, Christian Scientists, and similar products of centuries of bourgeois culture decided that they, personally, could get by without the old rules, which, indeed, many of them could. Moreover, they were tired of being expected to be role models of starchy behavior for the proles.

But the tenor of the times demanded that this Elites Lib movement be cloaked in egalitarian and civil rights rhetoric and policies (such as refocusing AFDC from Roosevelt’s aim of supporting widows to supporting single mothers, because we wouldn’t want to discriminate against blacks), with disastrous effects on people toward the bottom of society, especially blacks.

By the way, that reminds me that perhaps nothing I’ve ever written has outraged people more than my defense of America’s average African-Americans that I wrote during the Hurricane Katrina anarchy. I pointed out that the New Orleans blacks who were misbehaving so conspicuously on TV aren’t representative of the national black average:

Judging from their economic and educational statistics, New Orleans’ blacks are not even an above-average group of African-Americans, such as you find in Atlanta or Seattle, but more like Miami’s or Milwaukee’s. About half are below the poverty line. With the national black average IQ around 85, New Orleans’ mean black IQ would probably be in the lower 80s or upper 70s.

I argued that New Orleans’ African-Americans had long been notorious for worse behavior than the national black average, and that New Orleans’ libertine Latin / tourist trap morals are one cause:

The unofficial state motto is “Laissez les bons temps rouler” or “Let the good times roll.” Compare that to New Hampshire’s official motto of “Live free or die,” which display a rather different understanding of freedom. Louisiana’s reigning philosophy is freedom from responsibility.

It’s a general rule that the tastier the indigenous cuisine, the lousier the government. Its culture has provided America with jazz, A Street Car Named Desire, and the great American comic novel of the 20th Century, A Confederacy of Dunces. New Orleans is a nice place to visit. But you wouldn’t want to raise your kids there.

All this is now common parlance, more or less. What you won’t hear, except from me, is that “Let the good times roll” is an especially risky message for African-Americans. The plain fact is that they tend to possess poorer native judgment than members of better-educated groups. Thus they need stricter moral guidance from society.

The berserk denunciations this observation of mine elicited were partly the usual Pavlovian Emperor’s New Clothes response to examples of Blacks Behaving Badly. When the most prominent black professor in the country throws a two-year-old’s tantrum, the President of the United States insists upon a national conversation about white racism. When six black high school football stars batter a single unconscious white youth in Jena, then the future President of the United States denounces white racism.

As Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox said about Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes, the psychology of the story suddenly goes all wrong at the end. As you’ll recall, the two “weavers” contend that only intelligent people worthy of holding their jobs can see the new clothes. So, just because one little brat is saying “The emperor has no clothes,” the mob isn’t going to suddenly agree with the kid. They are instead going to get very angry at this obviously stupid child who, clearly, isn’t even worthy of holding his job of street urchin, unlike all of the respectable people who deserve their positions of authority, who are all smart enough to see that the Emperor is wearing a … uh … new, higher form of clothing.

>I suspect, however, that I had also sinned by tangentially calling into question one of the sacred myths of our age, repeated endlessly by PBS: that the 1960s cultural revolution was for the benefit of blacks, when, in truth, it was for the benefit of upper middle class whites, and was very much at the expense of people farther down the social scale.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Category: History • Tags: Class 
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With the Democratic governor of Illinois’ pick for the U.S. Senate getting much publicity, the Democratic governor of Colorado has made sure to appoint the most exquisitely genteel individual imaginable to the U.S. Senate: Denver school chief Michael Bennet, age 44, the former editor of the Yale Law Review. His brother Jim is the editor of the Atlantic Monthly and his father was head of National Public Radio and president of Wesleyan U.

After Michael Bennet got rich, he then decided, in the mode of the time (e.g., Bill Gates), to fix the public schools. After all, how hard could it be?

A couple of years ago, in an article Across Difficult Country summarizes here, The New Yorker profiled Bennet’s travails in trying to close a gang-infested Denver high school with terrible test scores, Manual. It turned out that the all-Mexican student body and their families kind of liked their terrible school, didn’t appreciate poor Bennet’s meddling, and, not being indoctrinated in the theology of the overclass, didn’t expect to do much better at a different school just because it had enjoyed higher test scores before they arrived.

Yet, much in the manner of Barack Obama’s unsuccessful chairmanship of the lavishly-funded Annenberg Chicago Challenge, Bennet has managed to fail upward.

Evidently, the point of being a public school reformer these days is to become known as a public school reformer, not to actually reform the public school. What matters is that you publicly proclaim that you believe the public schools can be fixed. Nobody actually expects you to be able to do anything with public school students, at least not enough to hold it against you when you fail, as the skyrocketing careers of Obama and Bennet demonstrate.

Connoisseurs of overclass social markers will enjoy his New York Times’ 1997 wedding announcement:

Susan Diane Daggett, a daughter of Patricia B. Palmer of Little Rock, Ark., and Jesse B. Daggett of Marianna, Ark., was married yesterday to Michael Farrand Bennet, a son of Douglas J. Bennet Jr. of Middletown, Conn., and Susanne K. Bennet of Washington. The Rev. Arnold W. Hearn, an Episcopal priest, performed the ceremony at Crystal Lake in Marianna.

The bride, 33, a lawyer, is to join the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, formerly the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, in Denver next month. Ms. Daggett, who is keeping her name, graduated magna cum laude from Mount Holyoke College, and she and the bridegroom received law degrees from Yale University.

Her mother is a painter and an instructor at the Arkansas Art Center’s Museum School in Little Rock. Her father is a partner in Daggett, VanDover, Donovan & Perry, a Little Rock law firm.

Mr. Bennet, 32, was until recently a counsel to the Deputy Attorney General of the United States. He graduated with honors from Wesleyan University.

His father is the president of Wesleyan; he was the Assistant Secretary of State for international organizations in 1993 and 1994 and the president of National Public Radio from 1983 until 1992. The bridegroom’s mother is an art historian specializing in Roman antiquities.

This is exactly the kind of background that lets you understand the minds of Manual High School students.

• Tags: Class, Education, Politics 
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NYT closing gap with American Conservative: In the New York Times Magazine, Erica Goode, science editor of the NYT, writes about Robert D. Putnam’s research on diversity and trust (which was the subject of my January 15, 2007 cover story “Fragmented Future” in AmCon):

Home Alone

For decades, students of American society have offered dueling theories about how encountering racial and ethnic diversity affects the way we live. One says that simple contact — being tossed into a stew of different cultures, values, languages and styles of dress — is likely to nourish tolerance and trust. Familiarity, in this view, trumps insularity. Others argue that just throwing people together is rarely enough to breed solidarity: when diversity increases, they assert, people tend to stick to their own groups and distrust those who are different from them.

But what if diversity had an even more complex and pervasive effect? What if, at least in the short term, living in a highly diverse city or town led residents to distrust pretty much everybody, even people who looked like them? What if it made people withdraw into themselves, form fewer close friendships, feel unhappy and powerless and stay home watching television in the evening instead of attending a neighborhood barbecue or joining a community project?

This is the unsettling picture that emerges from a huge nationwide telephone survey by the famed Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam and his colleagues. “Diversity seems to trigger not in-group/out-group division, but anomie or social isolation,” Putnam writes in the June issue of the journal Scandinavian Political Studies. “In colloquial language, people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down’ — that is, to pull in like a turtle.”

In highly diverse cities and towns like Los Angeles, Houston and Yakima, Wash., the survey found, the residents were about half as likely to trust people of other races as in homogenous places like Fremont, Mich., or rural South Dakota, where, Putnam noted, “diversity means inviting a few Norwegians to the annual Swedish picnic.”

Goode’s article reflects a lot of the usual class prejudices:

The public discourse on diversity runs at a high temperature. Told by one side, the narrative of how different ethnic and racial groups come together in schools, workplaces, churches and shopping centers can sound as if it was lifted from “Sesame Street.” Told by the other, it often carries the shrill tones of a recent caller to a radio talk show on immigration reform: “The school my kid goes to is 45 percent Mexican,” he said, “and I don’t see this as being a good thing for this country. Do we want to turn into a Latin American country?”

Obviously, anyone who would worry about this is the kind of radio talk show-listening racist loser who has to send his kid to a school that is 45 percent Mexican. The right sort of New York Times-reading person supports the minority outreach program at his child’s school whose long term goal is to double the Mexican enrollment … from two percent to four percent.

Diversity has clear benefits, [Putnam] says, among them economic growth and enhanced creativity — more top-flight scientists, more entrepreneurs, more artists.

As we can see from the way the 30 million Mexican-Americans have been sweeping the Nobel Prizes! Thank God lots of Mexicans have moved to New York City recently, or the place would have remained bereft of scientists, entrepreneurs, and artists, unlike vibrant creative communities like El Paso.

Aren’t social scientists supposed to understand that correlation is not proof of causation? Clearly, the illegal immigrants (as well as the artists) follow the wealth-creating scientists and entrepreneurs, not the other way around.

But the diversity finding was so surprising that Putnam said his first thought was that maybe something was wrong with the data. He and his research team spent five years testing other explanations. Maybe people in more diverse areas had less political clout and thus fewer amenities, like playgrounds and pothole-free streets, putting them in a misanthropic mood; or maybe diversity caused “hunkering down” only in people who were older or richer or white or female. But the effect did not go away. When colleagues who heard about the results protested, “I bet you haven’t thought about X” — a frequent occurrence, Putnam said — the researchers went back and looked at X.

The idea that it is diversity (the researchers used the census’s standard racial categories to define diversity) that drives social capital down has its critics. Among them is Steven Durlauf, an economist at the University of Wisconsin and a critic of Putnam’s past work, who said he thinks some other characteristic, as yet unidentified, explains the lowered trust and social withdrawal of people living in diverse areas. But without clear evidence to the contrary, Putnam says, he has to believe the conclusion is solid.

Many decades ago, I used to run into Steve Durlauf of Burbank H.S. all the time at high school speech and debate tournaments, where he would beat me like a drum. I wasn’t terribly good at forensics because I’m not that orally fluent, but even at what I was good at, Durlauf was much better. I don’t know if he was the most successful debater in Southern California of his era, but he’s the one who most deserved to be. He’s just a lot smarter than me. And he’s a nice guy, too.

So, why does Prof. Durlauf come out sounding kind of dim on this topic compared to me? Because political correctness lowers your effective IQ. Truths are connected to other truths, so if you are willing to follow the truth wherever it goes, you’ll make a lot more progress than if you put up big “Can’t Go There” signs in your own head.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Class, Diversity, Putnam 
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An anthropologist emails:

Steve Sailer has recently posted on isteve on trying to come up with a definition of class. Here are a few thoughts.

I don’t think we can get too far from the standard sociological notion that “class” has to do with inequalities in power, wealth and status in stratified societies, without completely changing the meaning of the word. But we can add the idea that class is not only a matter of social stratification, but involves assortative mating based on Power, Wealth, and Status. I take it this is what Steve is getting at. This would mean that a rich powerful celibate priesthood would not be a class.

Why bother? On reason is that over time classes may differentiate genetically if different genes help people get into different classes. This is part of the argument of The Bell Curve. The genetic consequences of a pure class society will be different from those of a caste or ethnically stratified society. In the former situation, only genes relating to class (or linked genes) will differ between classes, in the latter, where descent not assortative mating is driving things, all sorts of other genes may differ between strata.

Even without genetics, marriage practices can make a difference to class. The anthropologist Jack Goody has spent a lot of time looking at broad differences between African and Eurasian societies. He says that by and large, African societies, even when stratified, don’t form Eurasian style classes, because African polygyny means that high status groups incorporate low status females in large numbers. So you don’t, Goody claims, get the distinctions between “high cuisine” and “low cuisine,” and other high/low culture distinctions in traditional Africa as much as in traditional Eurasia, although the well-off of course get more of the good things in life than other folks.

I don’t have any well-worked definition to offer, but the basic idea seems to be that we have to take into account that people are more than just isolated monads floating around (as in a lot of classical economics) but have families and kin and (most of us hope) descendants, and our definitions of social aggregates ought to reflect this.

I had never thought about class (or its relative absence) in traditional African societies before. It’s one of those dog-that-didn’t-bark phenomena that are so hard to notice, but are often very illuminating when you finally realizing they are missing.

I have a book by Goody sitting around, but the prose style is awfully academic so I haven’t gotten very far.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Africa, Class, Polygamy 
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Without trying to come up with a technical, bulletproof definition of “class,” let me rephrase this vague but (I hope) helpful insight by saying that while “race” is about who your ancestors were, “class” is about who your descendents are likely to marry. Does that help?

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Class, Definitions, Race 
Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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