How to Help the Left Half of the Bell Curve

by Steve Sailer, July to September 2000

(Originally a five-part series, now collected on one web page)


Steve Sailer Archive

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

July 15, 2000

"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 [eventually five, all amalgamated on this web page] 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 download it for free, click here). 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: Roughly 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!


Part II: How the Other Half Lives

By Steve Sailer

July 18, 2000

Why do half our kids score lower on tests than the other half?

The Democrats blame test bias or underfunded schools or racism. The Republicans point to teachers' unions or gangsta rap or parents who don't help their kids with their homework. Everybody seems to think the problem of kids who perform poorly on tests will be solved by giving them even more tests.

Nobody is willing to publicly admit that a whole lot of young people just didn't draw winning hands in the genetic lottery for intelligence. To state this fact is considered insensitive and, horrors, bad for self-esteem. Maybe, but to ignore it is to acquiesce in the IQ elite setting policies that are starkly self-interested and uncharitable.

Several developments in recent decades threaten to undermine America's traditional knack for incorporating the great majority of citizens into the middle class. First, the relative economic value of a strong brain has risen dramatically compared to that of a strong back. Modern computers and telecommunications turbocharge the productive capacity of the intelligent. For example, Charles Murray pointed out in a follow-up to The Bell Curve, "In constant dollars, an engineer earned about $30,000 in 1952 compared with $20,000 for a manufacturing worker, which was not much different from the ratio at the beginning of the century. By 1988, the engineer earned almost $75,000 compared with $22,000 for the manufacturing worker." [Income Inequality and IQ, Charles Murray, August 1997]

Second, we've discovered that equality of opportunity can do surprisingly little to insure equality of result. One of the best methods for disentangling the effects of nature and nurture is to look at differences among children raised in the same household. I pointed out in my recent VDARE columns on the frustrations that feminist celebrities like Jodie Foster and Melissa Etheridge are likely to encounter when their designer babies don't live up to their hand-picked sperm donor dad's accomplishments.

Why not? The genes a child is dealt at conception don't come solely from those visible in his parents. Instead, they are randomly drawn from his entire family tree (weighted by closeness of relationship). Thus, as U. of Texas psychologist John Loehlin recently wrote to me: "The IQ difference between siblings is only about 30% smaller (on average) than that between any two randomly chosen people."

U. of Delaware psychometrician Linda S. Gottfredson noted in Society: "Those sibling differences [in IQ] are due mostly to the genetic differences among siblings, because their genotypes correlate only 0.5 on average... [The exceptions are identical twins. Their IQ's are much more similar because their genomes are the same.] Large IQ differences among siblings in turn produce large differences among them in school achievement and life outcomes. Those differences, in fact, are almost as large as those found between strangers whose IQs differ to the same degree."

Charles Murray recently quantified this in an ingenious study of pairs of American siblings raised together in non-poor homes. Murray described his findings in the Sunday Times of London in 1997:

"Each pair consists of one sibling with an IQ in the normal range of 90-110, a range that includes 50% of the population. I will call this group the normals. The second sibling in each pair had an IQ either higher than 110, putting him in the top quartile of intelligence (the brights) or lower than 90, putting him in the bottom quartile (the dulls). These constraints produced a sample of 710 pairs. How much difference did IQ make? Earned income is a good place to begin. In 1993, when we took our most recent look at them, members of the sample were aged 28-36. That year, the bright siblings earned almost double the average of the dull: £22,400 compared to £11,800. The normals were in the middle, averaging £16,800." [IQ Will Put You In Your Place, Charles Murray, Sunday Times, UK, Day 25, 1997]

By the way, these earnings gaps are likely to widen with age, as the blue-collar workers' bodies wear out and therefore their incomes stagnate or fall.

Within families, parents do a better job of equalizing children's environments than any government less tyrannical than the Khmer Rouge could accomplish. Yet, even with the same upbringing, IQ differences are both substantial and play a huge role in the kids' prosperity as adults.

The plight of the left half of the Bell Curve is hardly restricted to ghetto blacks. It can afflict any family. Could your children end up with the fuzzy end of the IQ lollipop? Let's work the numbers assuming that that you and your spouse are both solidly ensconced in Murray's brights. Let's say you each have an IQ of 119, which puts you each at the 90th percentile. Well, due to regression toward the mean, the chance that your child will join you in the brights is less than fifty-fifty. In fact, more than one fourth of your children would be expected to inherit only double digit IQ's. A sobering 9% of your offspring are forecasted to end up among Murray's dulls with IQ's in the 80's or worse.

And unless your children marry smarter people than themselves, you can expect that fairly close to half of your grandchildren will have below average IQ's. (Of course, if you and your spouse both come from ethnic groups or family trees with an average IQ well above normal, the mean toward which your kids will regress will be higher.)

Of course, marrying a smart spouse is still the best, if not the only, way of smartening up your offspring. The edge you get, while not decisive in individual cases, would still be very well worth playing at the roulette wheel.

But I hope the exercise of contemplating our possible progeny can engender a little of the empathetic identification with the left half of the Bell Curve that is sorely lacking among the IQ overclass today. But whether their problems strike close to home for you or not, please do keep in mind that half of our fellow American citizens belong to this group today. Half of all Americans always will. Including, probably, some of your children or grandchildren.

How can we best help those who didn't roll sevens in the genetic crapshoot? That's what I'll consider in my next column.


Part III: IQ and the Class Struggle

By Steve Sailer

August 22, 2000

Steve Sailer writes: At long, long last, I'm back with the last three sections of my survey of the moral and policy implications of the latest research on human intelligence. I've tried hard to make this easier to read than it has been for me to write. Writing about IQ differences has always proven time-consuming, because the ramifications are endless.

Further, I'm writing something that as far as I know no one has ever attempted before. When The Bell Curve hit the bestseller lists, a handful of the more perceptive reviewers mentioned that the highly heritable nature of IQ does not logically absolve people who were born acute of some responsibility for the fate of people born obtuse. Yet few have pursued this line of argument until now.

Two articles posted on (August 9, 2000) nicely illustrated the hopelessly contradictory conventional wisdom about IQ. The first routinely denounced IQ tests, claiming they tried to measure the meaningless. The second routinely denounced Texas (and of course its Governor) for executing a confessed murderer-rapist named Oliver Cruz. Why? Because he once scored 64 on one of those "meaningless" IQ tests!

This shamelessness is rampant in the mainstream media. The New York Times' editorialists are perfectly capable of excoriating the very concept of intelligence one week - and then thundering the next week that lead paint can lower children's IQs by five points.

And yet it's rapidly reaching the end of its rope, as genetic investigators push ahead. On August 8th, the BBC reported:

"U.S. researchers believe they have identified the parts of the human genome involved in developing a person's intelligence. This means scientists could soon test the potential intelligence of newborn babies... The researchers, working for the US National Institutes of Health, analyzed the DNA of 200 of the brightest kids in America and compared them with the genetic material from ordinary children. The results are due out next year, but the BBC Newsnight program has learned that key differences have been found. In other words, the scientists are homing in on the genes for genius. The team believes more than one gene is involved - and that these genes can make a big difference to a person's intelligence. The research was led by Professor Robert Plomin. 

This news report should come as no surprise. Dr. Plomin has been hard at work on finding the various genes that influence intelligence for years. More fundamentally, that there are variable genes that impact intelligence should be obvious to anyone with more than one child. Something besides upbringing makes siblings turn out so different. Indeed, Thomas Bouchard's famous Minnesota Twins study settled the question once and for all in 1990 by confirming earlier studies showing that identical twins raised in separate families are more similar than fraternal twins raised side-by-side.

But when Plomin (or somebody else) starts isolating the exact genes that cause differences in intelligence, the end will be very near for the Age of Denial.

What then? The American experiment rests in part upon the idea "that all men are created equal," in "that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Since WWII, however, any emphasis on the spiritual, moral, and legal equality of humans has been shoved aside by the highly risky assertion that we're all empirically equal. This presumption has served many clever people well. Sneering at The Bell Curve enables you to ignore just how lucky you were to have been born out on the right tail of the bell curve.

Since factual equality has become the new public shibboleth (not that anybody believes it in private), the professional leaders of organized pressure groups can blame racism, sexism, ableism, etc. for their groups' failure to achieve economic equality. Since everybody assumes equal opportunity guarantees equal results, activists can logically demand affirmative action jobs for people such as, well, such as themselves.

Likewise, the public assumption that all men are created empirically equal allows the business elites to assuage their consciences - on those rare instances when they actually think about the struggles of blue-collar workers. The assumption lets Stanford MBAs blame growing economic inequality on the laziness of the lower orders, although the scientifically accurate response would be "There but for the grace of God go I."

But the death of the empirical equality fantasy logically impels us toward thinking hard about our moral obligations to those less fortunate in the genetic lottery.

We can start by asking: Whatever happened to the Class Struggle? It's not as if earning a decent living suddenly stopped being a struggle for working class families. "Holding buying power constant, the average hourly earnings of production and non-supervisory workers in the U.S. economy fell 9 percent from $14.09 in 1973, to $12.77 in 1998." And their net worth has plummeted relative to white-collar workers with stock options and big portfolios.

But the attention paid to this once-dominant topic has dwindled almost completely. Why? They say, "History is written by victors." What they don't tell you is that "Journalism is written by the high scorers on the SAT-Verbal." (As are screenplays, political oratory, and TV commercials.) In our increasingly stratified society, the reality of life on the left half of the IQ bell curve is more and more invisible to the media elite.

A big problem for modern class warriors like Pat Buchanan on the right or Jim Hightower on the left is that over the years the number of blue collar workers with the verbal talent needed to articulate their class interests has plummeted. Where'd the smart ones go? To college and then into white-collar jobs. In the past, unions and other working class institutions had leaders and spokesmen who were both highly intelligent and authentically representative of the rank and file (i.e., not you, John Sweeney of the AFL-CIO).

In previous eras, many routes to success didn't go through college. These days, though, only supersmart technogeeks like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Michael Dell believe they can afford to blow off college in favor of work. At present, two-thirds of high school girls give college a try.

Far fewer graduate, of course, since probably no more than half of that horde have the native wit to get much out of a genuine higher education. But while they dither around before dropping out, they are providing plenty of campus jobs for professors, counselors, diversity sensitivity consultants, and the like. Today, even among siblings brought up in the same household, a kid in the top quartile of the population intellectually is 28 times more likely to obtain a college degree than his or her brother or sister in the bottom quartile. Charles Murray's clever study of 710 pairs of siblings raised together found that "while 56% of the bright [the top quartile with IQs over 110] obtained university degrees, this was achieved by only 21% of the normals [the middle half with IQs from 90 to 110] and a minuscule 2% of the dulls [the bottom quartile with IQ under 90]."

Universities feverishly obfuscate the true nature of the Educational-Testing Complex. But while almost all of America's colleges indulge in orgies of political correctness, barely any forego the utterly anti-egalitarian SAT or ACT standardized entrance exam. That's because nobody evaluates colleges on how well they actually educate their undergraduates. You'll notice that no college gives its seniors "exit exams" to measure how much they've learned since their "entrance exams." Today, an American college's prestige depends not upon the value it adds, but upon the SAT scores its students achieved ... while they were in high school!

Why do parents spend $130,000 to send their heirs to elite private colleges? Assume Junior will not study science or engineering (in which fields, I must admit, highly valuable instruction still takes place). Then the main purpose of getting him into a college with a high average SAT score is not to educate him but to mark him as a lifetime member of the IQ Overclass. Corporate recruiters, largely banned from using IQ tests themselves since the Supreme Court's 1972 Griggs decision, use a college's average SAT score as a proxy for a job applicant's IQ. A second purpose: to nudge kids toward marrying somebody with a high score, who thus has a major earning potential.

Hence the decline in class conflict - and the rise in ethnic conflict. Ditch diggers, for instance, no longer have any articulate spokesmen. In fact, each year, due to assortative mating (e.g., Yale students are more likely to marry other Yale students than to marry chicken-pluckers), there are a few less high-IQ young people born into blue-collar families. By contrast, every racial group has at least some verbally facile intellectualoids to fill the role of Aggrieved Professional Ethnic.

This growing IQ gap causes all sorts of problems for an extremely high IQ intellectual like Buchanan. His motto seems to be "I'd rather be Provocative than President." He enjoys coming up with new ideas rather than repeating the same handful of old chestnuts over and over again, as professional politicians must. This makes his ability to connect with his target audience distinctly erratic. For example, he launched his current Presidential bid with the curious stratagem of publishing a book deriding American involvement in WWII. While an interesting historical argument, it was not a move focus-tested for its appeal to highly patriotic folk.

But the role Buchanan is trying to fill may eventually be assumed by somebody more naturally suited to it. Successful football coaches are very good at boiling down the complex game plans invented by their high-IQ offensive coordinators and pounding them into the skulls of guys with necks wider than their heads. Former U. of Colorado coach Bill McCartney has had an enormous impact by founding Promise Keepers. These skills could well prove useful in politics.

In my next article, I'll review alternative strategies for helping the left half of the Bell Curve help themselves.


Part IV: Helping the Left Half of the Bell Curve - the Not So Hot Ideas

By Steve Sailer

August 27, 2000

What policies would most aid the left half of the Bell Curve? The essential requirement: policies must help people with double-digit IQs help themselves. In this article, I'll consider ideas ranging from bad to only marginally useful. In the next, I'll consider the more promising alternatives.

Welfare? It's not exactly front-page news anymore: welfare for single mothers has proven morally disastrous for them. But why did the two interrelated Big Ideas imported from Sweden in the Sixties - (1) generous welfare for unmarried mothers; (2) no social disapproval of childbirth outside marriage -- turn out to be Bad Ideas?

Because people on the left half of the Bell Curve tend to be below-average at prudent long-term decisions. When American intellectuals imported these concepts from the Swedes, they expected Americans to act like Swedes. That was like expecting Jimi Hendrix to sound like ABBA.

The damage done to Swedes by these ideas has been glacially slow. It takes generations of welfare to undermine the remarkable Swedish work ethic. Same with sex: if you make marriage unfashionable, Swedes will still form long-term relationships and act like they're married. They tend to be too shy to be comfortable with practicing promiscuity and too responsible to walk away from their out-of-wedlock offspring. According to Francis Fukuyama, even now 90% of Swedish illegitimate babies are born to co-habitating couples, compared to only 25% in the U.S.

Not surprisingly, in the U.S. the tide has finally turned against high welfare payments to single mothers. More sophisticated redistribution schemes like the Earned Income Tax Credit do less moral damage, but have distinct limits. They do nothing for those who can't find jobs. And they can impose a sizable marginal disincentive that would keep low-wage workers from looking for higher paying jobs.

Racial quotas? -- Whites and Asians are almost twice as numerous on the right side of the Bell Curve as blacks and Hispanics. So racial preferences divide the working class rather than deal with its difficulties. Nor do the lower earnings of blacks stem significantly from irrational discrimination. Blacks earn an average of 98% as much as whites with equal IQs. No, their problem is that their IQs tend not to be equal. The median African-American's IQ is only equal to that of a white at the 16th percentile.

 But quotas are a near-inevitable political response to the reality of racial differences. They are at least a semi-serious response to a deeply serious situation. In contrast, the standard conservative debating ploy of blustering, "If you support quotas, then you're really saying blacks aren't equal to whites" is just a slick soundbite. It's not a morally serious response to the reality that, on average, blacks are not equal to whites in the ability to make money.

Sure, African Americans could do better if they got their act together. (In fact, they are doing better than in 1990, during their self-inflicted crack epidemic.) Still, the evidence is overwhelming: as a group, the blacks are no more likely to reach economic equality with whites than whites are likely to reach athletic equality with blacks.

This somber fact poses severe moral and practical challenges for America. And for any state comprised of racial groups with unequal productive capacities - witness a coup in Fiji, pogroms in Indonesia, corruption in Malaysia, genocide in Germany.

Many establishment conservatives see unskilled mestizo immigrants as our New, Improved Poor People. The Old, Unimproved Poor People: native-born blacks. But this only makes sense if we could somehow exchange blacks for Hispanic immigrants. Without deporting blacks, immigration will only create a second undercompetitive, and thus resentful, racial group.

Mestizo Hispanics tend to suffer (somewhat) less severe problems than African Americans - but their potential numbers are larger. For example, Fox Butterfield reported in The New York Times (August 10th) that Hispanics are 1/3rd as likely to go to jail as blacks (Whites? Merely 1/10th). But by the end of the century, Hispanics may be three times as numerous as blacks. We'll enjoy equally large groups of black and Hispanic jailbirds. Quite a legacy to leave our great-grandchildren.

The essential fact about African Americans is that they are Americans. They did not ask to come here. At minimum, our nation's obligation to them is to not worsen their plight by importing competitors that are slightly more competent.

Republicans point to newly-arrived immigrants outcompeting native blacks as proof that blacks shouldn't blame us for their problems. Okay, fine. It's not our fault. But, in what system of ethics is it the average black's fault that his IQ, which is mostly determined genetically, is 85? Is he to blame for failing to choose his parents wisely?

Class Quotas? -- Many in the political center now want to reform affirmative action. Replace race with class background, they argue. Under these schemes, you could simultaneously drink yourself out of the middle class and your kid into Harvard!

But, as The Bell Curve made clear by looking at a huge sample of whites, class background is a much weaker predictor of what a person will earn when he grows up than his IQ. Class-based quotas simply miss the point about what causes economic inequality. Today, the U.S. probably does a better job of helping high IQ individuals from all segments of society move up the ladder than any country in history. So analysts find huge economic inequality not just within pairs of strangers coming from the same class, but also within pairs of siblings coming from the same home. Charles Murray's study of 710 pairs of siblings found that those with IQ's below 90 average only half the income of their brothers and sisters with IQ's above 110.

IQ Quotas? -- No, if you want to focus affirmative action on those who really need it, you'd have to create IQ quotas - the reductio ad absurdum of affirmative action. Nobody wants their hospital to turn down smart surgeons and hire more stupid ones. (Of course, discriminating against the cognitively competent in favor of the mentally mediocre is also in effect the essence of race and class quotas.)

Nor is it clear that quotas do their intended beneficiaries much good. Consider a young man with a strong body, nimble hands, and a decent work ethic. Let's also imagine that reading and writing aren't his strong suits. Would a quota that gives him an entry-level office job where he's supposed to read and write memos all day really offer him such a wonderful opportunity? Or are you just wasting his time by starting him off on what will prove to be an unsuitable career?

Unions? -- Private sector unions' effectiveness is heavily dependent upon a tight labor market. Cesar Chavez's success at winning higher wages and safer working conditions for stoop-laborers in the 1960s and 1970s was the result of government policies like President Eisenhower's Operation Wetback deportations that dramatically cut the number of Mexican migrant workers in the 1950s and 1960s. But after the floodgates opened up again, millions of Mexican immigrants undermined the United Farm Workers' power.

The AFL-CIO's leadership, which had been losing members for decades, has seized on a brilliant new strategy for benefiting themselves: Betray their traditional base of regular Joes in windbreakers in favor of government employees - and immigrants. Just like the big corporations, John Sweeney's AFL-CIO now wants to import a new, more malleable proletariat to replace the native working class that, ironically, it too finds unsatisfactory.

Sweeney intends to evade the laws of supply and demand that rule the private sector by playing the racial guilt card in the political sector. Since few white Americans apparently feel they owe any loyalty to fellow native-born Americans in unions (that would be the crime of "nativism"), Sweeney wants to bring in brown foreigners. He appears to believe that upper-middle class whites are more likely to favor laws mandating above-market pay for members of immigrant-dominated unions than for members of unions dominated by their fellow native-born Americans. This strategy has already enjoyed success in winning higher wages for the Mexican janitors of Los Angeles, who had earlier pushed native-born blacks out of the field.

Further, all these immigrants with fifth grade educations will need lots more unionized social workers to look after them.

Protectionism? -- As a free marketer I always assumed that protectionism was always a terrible idea. For example, I opposed the Reagan Administration's import quotas for the Japanese cars. Yet by encouraging the Japanese to open assembly plants in the U.S., that move worked out spectacularly better than I predicted. Japanese management showed that Americans workers could achieve much higher quality than American management had assumed.

So protectionism may work in practice more often than it works in theory. But still, it typically makes managements lazy by cutting their competition. Further, other nations can retaliate with higher tariffs. This could start a downward spiral in the world economy.

(Retaliation, by the way, is not a risk if we tighten our immigration policy. Few countries could possibly tighten their restrictions on immigrants from America any more than now. Mexico, China, India, all our major immigrant sources, believe that turnabout is not fair play. We opened our borders unilaterally, if selectively, without any attempt to ensure what in trade negotiations is called "reciprocity.")

Enough lousy ideas! The next column will list some good ones.


Part V: Finally! Some Good Ideas for Helping the Left Half of the Bell Curve 

By Steve Sailer

September 6, 2000

In this, the last installment on my series on how to help the left half of the Bell Curve, I finally get around to offering some promising ideas:

Cut Back on Unskilled Immigration -- This is the utterly obvious way to help the left half of America's Bell Curve.

Calls for open borders are occasionally heard in the libertarian and neoconservative fever swamps. But it's just ideological posturing. Border restrictions are plainly necessary to keep Los Angeles from turning into a real-life set from Blade Runner. We must have limits on the number of immigrants. So our immigration policy cannot benefit more than a few of the world's 5.7 billion foreigners. What we can do is help our fellow American citizens.

By providing more jobs and higher wages to the less-gifted American workers, immigration restriction would not only make their wallets thicker. Making it easier for a young man to support a wife and kids also inculcates the bourgeois virtues that government doles undermine. Work and marriage are the great civilizers of young men. But it's hard for Americans to afford a wife and family on the wages prevailing in Mexico.

Sure, this would worsen the upper middle class's Servant Problem. But American civilization will not crumble just because we would no longer have the Western world's lowest-paid pool guys.

The rest of the promising ideas are admittedly more speculative and arguable.

Reduce complexity and credentialism -- The U.S. military has elicited a high level of achievement from blacks and whites in the 85-100 IQ range. A major reason: the military demands its high-IQ officers search out what legal scholar Richard Epstein calls simple rules for a complex world. In dismal contrast, lawyers, regulators, consultants, academics, and others who profit from abstruseness increasingly dominate the rest of America.

National Health Insurance -- Like all software venture capitalists, Jim Woodhill searches obsessively for high IQ talent. And, like an increasing number of people who have gotten rich off brainy programmers, Woodhill has turned toward trying to help America's social problems.

When other Jedi Geeks such as Gates try their hand at philanthropy, they throw money at pre-meritocracy charities suffering from rapidly diminishing returns, such as college scholarships for favored minorities. For example, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates gave $1 billion for "Gates Scholars." Gates, who found college so enormously valuable that he dropped out after a few months, knew perfectly well that there already was too much financial aid chasing too few high IQ black students. But when the Justice Department is breathing down your neck is not the time to try something novel based on your highly realistic worldview. (Fat lot of good this politically-correct donation did him, though.)

In contrast, Woodhill focuses explicitly on helping the left half of the Bell Curve. His "vision is of a society that gives dignity to the work of the average, and, especially, below-average citizen, while at the same time makes life a Living Hell for those who currently have comfortable livings studying/tending social dysfunction while at the same time promoting more of it."

Woodhill argues, among many other interesting ideas, that the average citizen's nagging fear of losing his health insurance is the prime reason so many vote for politicians allied with the social service bureaucracies that have so damaged the morals of the poor. He says government-funded health insurance imposes none of the moral risks associated with welfare. Men quit their jobs because they can sponge off welfare mom girlfriends for food, shelter and cable TV. But no-one would tell his boss to take this job and shove it just because he knew that the government would give him a $150,000 bone marrow transplant - if, God forbid, he ever needed one.

I'll be the first to concede that the arguments over health care are extraordinarily complex. Nonetheless, we should keep in mind Woodhill's point: the "moral hazard" of national health insurance would be far less than of many other government programs.

Reduce regressive payroll taxes -- Since cutting payroll taxes on lower income workers would probably require income tax hikes on higher-income individuals, I hope this heresy doesn't get Peter Brimelow in trouble at Forbes! The federal payroll tax is 15.3% (divided between employee and employer), with most of it going for Social Security. This year, you don't pay any Social Security taxes on earnings over $76,200. This impacts low and middle-income wage earners proportionately more than the wealthy.

Is this a good thing? Reagan's cuts in marginal tax rates for the rich were essential to reviving a battered economy. But supply side economists failed badly by predicting that Clinton's tax hikes on the well-to-do would undermine prosperity. Apparently, when the "animal spirits" are roaring, as they have been since the 1994 Congressional election, the capitalist system is so productive that a little higher marginal tax rates on the rich don't hurt much.

Exploit Diversity of Talents -- Harvard's Howard Gardner has become hugely popular with the educational establishment by pooh-poohing IQ in favor of seven or eight "multiple intelligences." They believe Gardner's theory is inherently more egalitarian, more likely to reveal that all groups are the same, than the single-number IQ model behind The Bell Curve.

In fact, the opposite is true. Consider sex differences in intelligence. That males and females have the same average single-number IQ was first proposed by Cyril Burt in 1912, and was definitively demonstrated by Arthur Jensen in 1998; two scientists, ironically, who have been savagely attacked by egalitarians for their other findings. Of course, when you break down the overall IQ number into its multiple components, you find sex differences. Men tend to be better at visual-spatial skills (especially at mentally rotating 3d objects) and at mathematical reasoning. Women are generally superior at short-term memory, perceptual speed, and verbal fluency.

It's theoretically possible that social factors account for all of the 15 point advantage in single-number IQ that whites hold over blacks, or the smaller advantage that East Asians ["Orientals"] hold over whites. But it's extremely unlikely that all racial groups are identical on not just one, but all eight dimensions of multiple intelligence. That would be like expecting to flip a coin and have it end up on its edge eight times in a row.

While that's bad news for the ideologues of empirical egalitarianism, it's good news for moral egalitarians. Why? Because diversity of talents gives different groups different market niches to exploit.

For example, black basketball players tend to be able to not only jump higher than whites, but also outthink them during the flow of the game. As Thomas Sowell notes, "To be an outstanding basketball player means to out-think opponents consistently in these split-second decisions under stress." Beyond basketball, these black cerebral superiorities in "real time" responsiveness also contribute to black dominance in jazz, running with the football, rap, dance, trash talking, preaching, and oratory. Perhaps, blacks could better exploit these skills, along with their masculine charisma, in the corporate arena by focusing on jobs like salesman, motivational speaker, and headhunter. (See my "Great Black Hopes" for the full story.)

Master the Fundamentals -- The techniques used by less-naturally-gifted athletes like Pete Rose in baseball or Michael Chang in tennis offer clues for how less cognitively gifted workers can still succeed. Work harder than your more gifted rivals do. Master the fundamentals. Nail the easy stuff. (E.g., the only category in which whites are over-represented among NBA leaders is free throw shooting). Don't improvise: listen to your coach's wisdom. (E.g., the decline of traditional sexual morality has not lead to a high pregnancy rate among coldly logical Dutch teens. For African-American teens, though, the rise of do-it-yourself morality in the 1960's was a disaster.) Challenge yourself, but realistically. (E.g., I personally need to get in shape, but an affirmative action program for Sedentary-Americans that sets-aside for me an opening in Lennox Lewis' next heavyweight title bout might not be in my best interest. The same goes for quotas at elite colleges.)

Raise IQs -- Ever since the Coleman Report of 1965, the evidence has mounted that enriching students' environments does little toward raising their IQ's. Thus, attention has turned toward earlier and earlier interventions such as Head Start and playing Mozart for your nine-month-old. Head Start helps temporarily, but its effects mostly disappear within half-a-decade. And the much-hyped "Mozart Effect" experiment has never been replicated. (So, play your toddler "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider." He'll enjoy it a lot more than the "Symphony in G Minor.")

Nonetheless, the basic concept of focusing on the earliest possible time remains promising. Since IQ is mostly determined by biology, it makes the most since to focus on biological improvements. The single most promising program would be to encourage breastfeeding. The Associated Press reported on 9/22/99:

"The survey by University of Kentucky nutritionist James Anderson [which appeared in the October, 1999 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition] looked at 20 different studies comparing the brain development of infants who had been breast-fed with that of infants who had been given formula." Our study confirms that breast-feeding is accompanied by about a five-points higher IQ than in bottle-fed infants," Anderson said." -- Tim Whitmire, AP, 9/22/99.

The crucial question: does this five-point increase endure - or does it fade, like Head Start's advantage? If it were permanent, this would offer the single easiest way to narrow the black-white IQ gap. Only about 30% of African American children are breast-fed versus about like 60% of white children. Thus, raising black breastfeeding rates to the white level could theoretically increase black average IQ by 1.5 points, or 10% of the white-black IQ gap. This may not sound like much, but its effects on the right end of the black Bell Curve would be substantial. It would increase the number of blacks with IQs above 115 by around 20%.

This would dwarf any the benefits of the Gates Scholars program. And it would probably cost less. It's just a marketing problem. Bottle-feeding is prestigious among blacks for the same reason that Cadillacs are: black status symbols lag a few decades behind white fashions. It wouldn't take a huge push to make breast-feeding trendy among blacks.

If, say, the world's 2nd richest man, Larry Ellison of Oracle, is tired of rooting through Microsoft's garbage cans, here's a classier way to stick one in Bill Gates' eye. Ellison could pay for a definitive study of the long-term impact of breastfeeding. If it turns out as hoped, then he could finance a campaign to get new mothers to breastfeed.

In summary, it can be painful to speak honestly about such a sensitive topic as IQ. But only realism will allow us to do anything beneficial about it.


Steve Sailer [] is president of the Human Biodiversity Institute and an Adjunct Fellow of the Hudson Institute.

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