You may be reading this because you are a subscriber to this blog and have received an email notice. Although our postings here are certainly informative and worthwhile, much of the SDUSA chatter takes place on a Yahoo group also named Socialist_Currents. Look for our torch logo if you are interested in joining the conversation.
The conversation this past week has been about Kshama Sawant. Ms. Sawant is a member of the Socialist Alternative Party; she is a software engineer who immigrated from India. She was recently elected to the Seattle City Council. What are we to glean from the fact that voters in a major American city have elected not just a Socialist, but indeed a Trotskyist, to City Council? Opinions within our ranks vary from “it’s time to embrace the S word instead of running from it”, to “the rise of a Socialist Labor third party is on the horizon”, to “our current course remains the correct course”.
Without a doubt, the political winds are changing. Polling in the past 5 years has demonstrated that young people have realized that they are pretty well screwed economically for the next 20 years or so. Which in fact means that they’re pretty well screwed for the duration. Pensions? That something your grandfather had. Paid vacation and sick days? That’s something your parents had. Hopes of upwards mobility? Forget about it. Safety net? Yeh, that’s called living in your parents’ basement. And it doesn’t matter whether these young people are Republicans or Democrats. They all know the situation they’re in.
It would be easy enough for us to blame Republicans, but the fact is the Democrats have been complicit. The Clinton strategy was to move the DP toward the right and capture the center. That’s where most of the voters are. This would supposedly ensure that the DP would hold power in Washington for decades. Give Wall Street whatever they want, and give the voters a liberal agenda on social issues. While 9/11 derailed that plan, the new millennium has proven both the conservative and liberal agendas to be failures. The under-30 crowd is not happy with where the “limousine liberals” have taken them.
The electoral implications of this shift were described in an excellent essay by Peter Beinart in September (before Sawant’s election) in The Rise of the New New Left
And just this weekend by Zach Goldfarb in the Washington Post in More Liberal, Populist Movement
Beinart’s piece was more on target because it focused on the economic issues and particularly on Elizabeth Warren’s attack on Wall Street. While Goldfarb also points to Warren, he errs by confusing liberalism and leftism. This has always been a common error, but not one that a political journalist should make. Both writers refrain from labeling anti-Wall Street positions as socialist, instead using the terms populist and liberal. Clearly there is still reticence to using the S word.
What lessons should SDUSA be taking away from this? It is our clearly stated strategy that we mainly work within the Democratic Party to push our economic and civil liberties agendas. We have no interest in splitting the left vote when it comes to electing a president; after all, the president nominates Supreme Court justices and we have seen the criticality of that power. However, there are many other election battles other than the presidency. There are congressional elections, state office elections, and municipal elections. During the past 20 years the Left has lost many battles in Congress over Social Security, unfair trade agreements, and wars. In our states we have seen union busting from our governors and state legislatures. We have seen voting rights jeopardized in over a dozen states. There is entirely too much focus on the presidential election. The presidential election makes good press in Washington, but it’s in the legislatures where laws are passed and budgets are approved. Therefore, does it make sense for us to “trickle down” our election strategy to state-wide elections? Absolutely. In state-wide elections it is still very difficult to run a third party candidate. In my home state of Pennsylvania, election laws are so rigged against third parties that it is practically impossible. In places like PA it is still necessary for us to maintain the strategy of working inside the DP and pulling it to the left as best we can. If there is truly a socialist or social democratic groundswell, then we should be able to nominate and elect leftist candidates inside the DP. If they have the votes there is no reason for them to run away from the term socialist. And it’s the same is for municipal elections. While small parties can have isolated victories like Kshama Sawant had in Seattle, that’s not a successful strategy for most of us. I do not expect SDUSA to change its strategy of running Social Democratic candidates within the Democratic Party.
While I support the SD electoral policy, I admit that my vision is skewed because I live in Pennsylvania. As noted above, PA is a party machine state. In PA, only 12% of the voters are registered Independent. These voters do not participate in the Republican or Democratic primaries. They can not therefore help pull the Democratic Party to the left in the primaries. In theory, the Independent voters could field a leftist candidate who could knock off a neo-lib Democrat in the general election— except that there aren’t enough Independents to pull that off. Yet. This was not the case for Sawant. In Washington, 40% of the voters are Independent and not tied to a party. This might indicate that our electoral strategies should vary from state to state. We should carefully monitor the rise of the Independent voter. But again I come back to the basic premise of our strategy: run as a Social Democrat where you can; run as a Democrat where you must. Still sound philosophy. Your thoughtful comments are always appreciated.
President of the Hungarian Social Democratic Party (MSZDP), Andor Schmuck, visited New York earlier this month. The main purpose of his visit was to speak at the UN, where he chairs the Working Group on Aging. He was accompanied by György “Georges” Suha, Secretary General of the party. In addition to official business they took time to visit the 9/11 memorial and museum, and they took time out to meet with our Co-Chair Craig Miller.
The Hungarian SD is a small party with ties back to the anti-Communist Social Democrats who were prominent after WWII. Their website features a picture of Willy Brandt which should give any European social democratic party instant credibility. While they hold seats in various regions of Hungary, including industrial parts of Budapest, the party has consistently received less than the 5% minimum vote to gain seats in Parliament. Like the situation in the US, faction fighting within competing left parties has hurt them badly during the past 20 years. And audit reports have demonstrated the party has been mismanaged from inside, in violation of legal requirements. Schmuck and Suha have taken on the task of trying the rebuild the party. One of the goals in coming to NY was to meet with expat Hungarians who have the right to vote in Hungarian elections. Schmuck believes the MSZDP message will resonate with these voters. Schmuck is popular with senior citizens back home due to his long standing support for pensions. By demonstrating a real constituency— both home and abroad, getting their organization back in legal order, and obtaining recognition from other European social democrats, Schmuck and Suha believe they can bring life back to the Hungarian SD. Their mission is important, even critical, as right wing nationalist groups gain popularity in Hungary. These parties are often racist and anti-Semitic, and any efforts to push back against the right wing extremists deserve our support.
The US visit was covered in a number of Hungarian periodicals including this article in the Hungarian political blog, kormanyvaltas. (if you open this link in Chrome it should automatically ask you if you want to translate to English). The article references the meeting between Hungarian SD leaders and SDUSA.
The laziest pundits in this country would have us believe that there are two types of crime: crime and black crime. Odious media outlets’ coverage of the recent “knockout” phenomenon is evidence of this faulty distinction’s widespread promulgation.
Reporters have started covering the national string of random “knockout” attacks perpetrated against unsuspecting pedestrians. The quick and brutal attacks conclude with the offending bands of young rapscallions scurrying and laughing away. Any decent human being who sees video footage of these onslaughts is immediately appalled.
But Michael Savage and Bill O’Reilly and Bernard Goldberg and Colin Flaherty and Thomas Sowell and American Thinker, here and here, and Richard Swier and a whole host of others insist that denouncing these crimes as “crimes” is insufficient. These black crimes committed against white people apparently require a special type of repudiation.
What’s the difference between a crime and a black crime? Simple. A crime reflects a moral failing of the individual who commits it, whereas a black crime (necessarily committed by a black person) reveals a moral failing of the entire black community.
Mainstream acceptance of this distinction means that more than 49,936 individual white people can commit murder between 2000 and 2010 in the United States without so much as a peep from pundits about “diabolical pathologies” in the white community. It means that white people, who are “almost six times more likely to be killed by another White person than by a Black person,” never hear about an “intra-racial” war being waged within the white community. It means that the Sandy Hook and Columbine and Aurora shooters are called “troubled kids” and not “troubled white kids,” that there isn’t a proselytization of the white community whenever a stupid person with white skin stabs someone vindictively, and that we mustn’t abide lectures about the white family’s “deterioration” every stinkin’ time some Timothy McVeigh-look-a-like decides to shoot up a public area.
Conversely, when a black crime is committed, Bill O’Reilly takes the opportunity to enumerate for black people all of the things they’re doing wrong. He contends that the “knockout” phenomenon “goes back to an alienation of young black men in this country for a number of reasons, but primarily they’re angry that they didn’t have a family and their father abandoned them” and that “they’re sold a bill of goods by the civil rights people—that white society is at fault—that because you’re unhappy, it’s the whites doing it to you.” Never mind that no more than 0.017% of black children in fatherless homes have participated in one of these knockout sessions and that only about 0.7% of African-Americans violently attack a white person each year. For some reason, pundits still warn us that “this thing could really get out of control” and that folks pushing for racial equality are actually provoking feral black-on-white hatred.
Because some Americans still haven’t connected the dots, I will, in the simplest of terms, explain what these gross media distortions demonstrate: these “journalists” have a political agenda. Nothing that they’re saying about the “knockout” phenomenon is an outright lie, but it certainly isn’t the whole truth. When a pundit like O’Reilly, with 2,831,000 viewers, spends more than 5 minutes on his show reviling “young black Americans” for “committing senseless crimes” against white people—without iterating how aberrant and antithetical such attacks are to the sensibilities of most black folks, without mentioning that less than 0.3% of white people are violently victimized by blacks every year, without stating that fewer than 1 in 250,000 white people is killed by a black person annually, without discussing the anti-crime initiatives of so-called “race-baiting” civil rights activists—he is pushing a paranoid racial agenda. No question.
To his credit, Bernard Goldberg recently told O’Reilly, “most black kids aren’t doing this,” but went on to say that “a disproportionate number are either doing that or are walking into stores and hauling entire racks of clothing out onto the street.” Goldberg loves to argue that if white people were committing the crimes that black people commit so frequently, “there would be an outcry among the media.” The fact that not every news outlet has picked up on this story indicates, in Goldberg’s view, that the mainstream media are antagonistic towards white people.
Does such a widespread anti-white bias really exist though? If it did, then every arrest of a young white male drunk driver would spark a national discussion about how “young white Americans” are being neglected by their parents and brainwashed by their leaders to disrespect the laws of our land. Such claims would be corroborated with real statistics proving that white adolescents are more likely to drive drunk than their black counterparts. For good measure, some pundits would probably mention the fact that “white students are more than twice as likely as non-white students to use illicit drugs including marijuana and ecstasy,” and for that reason, are in dire need of “better role models.”
We can start talking about a media bias against whites once major news outlets make a habit out of dissecting “white crime” in this fashion. Until then, let’s not lose sight of the real bias that abounds.
Some people believe that it is “wrong”—in fact, “theft”—for the government to tax an estate passed down from one generation to the next. The “death tax” takes away the hard-earned bucks that “mama bear” and “papa bear” earned through the sweat of their brow and intended for their children to have. As one editorial put it, “People should not be punished because they work hard, become successful and want to pass on the fruits of their labor, or even their ancestors’ labor, to their children.”
It’s a sentiment that we can all appreciate: let people enjoy the fruits of their parents’ labor and their ancestors’ labor. In fact, it’s a point that other folks were making for decades before the modern “estate tax” debate even emerged. While “free market economists” were still railing against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for its “violations of economic privacy,” civil rights activists were demanding that the impoverished descendants of slaves be compensated for centuries of their ancestors’ unpaid forced labor. The logic is impeccable: if we operate under the assumption that we are all entitled to the wealth for which our ancestors worked, then we must compensate people for every penny withheld from their enslaved and brutalized ancestors.
Of course, because slave owners didn’t keep time sheets or file withholding taxes, it is difficult to determine precisely how much money slaves’ descendants are owed. However, one estimate settles on an accumulated debt of “$97 trillion, based on 222,505,049 hours of forced labor between 1619 and 1865, ‘compounded at 6% interest through 1993.’ ”
Here, we are talking about a multi-trillion dollar debt owed to African-American descendants of slaves, true “theft” of family wealth in the strictest sense of the word, but interestingly, we never hear the “let my family keep what it earns” crowd call for the restitution of trillions of dollars to slave-descended African-Americans. These activists seem only concerned with protecting wealth that may actually have roots in racist institutions and corporations. Some of these ideologues are my dear (and wealthy) friends, insistent that they are “part” of their parents’ and grandparents’ acquisition and maintenance of wealth, and that they thus deserve to keep everything for which their antecedents worked so hard.
Out of respect for them and their view, I offer them a choice.
If we declare, uniformly, that everyone deserves everything for which their ancestors labored, then we must not only allow Bill Gates to pass down all of his wealth to his descendants, but we must fully compensate the descendants of slaves whose wealth was stolen from them. Corporations with a role in slavery, like JP Morgan and Wachovia, will have to pitch in millions of dollars for this project. The US government, which itself used slave labor to construct the Capitol, White House, and other government buildings, will be liable for billions more. We will even have to hunt down the African tribes that kidnapped people and sold them off to the European colonists. It will undoubtedly be a bureaucratic nightmare, replete with tedious discussion of who owes what, and will not ultimately remedy the indelible psychological and emotional trauma that slavery imposed on generations, but it will, nonetheless, be a move in the right direction.
Once the reparations for slavery are handed out, we will only be getting started, for we will then have to repay people for the opportunities their ancestors were denied under our post-slavery system of apartheid. We could start by paying people for the economic harms afflicted by the Black Codes, a legal doctrine that systematically re-enslaved southern African-Americans through the enforcement of shoddy laws against loosely defined acts like “vagrancy.” We will be obligated to pay off the descendants of tens of thousands of African-American WWII veterans who were unfairly denied bank loans and saw their claims for GI Bill benefits denied by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, at a time when the white middle-class was soaring to prosperity. The progeny of the thousands of African-Americans who were barred from college because of their skin color will also have to receive reparations for their ancestors’ lost wealth. It will be hard, if not impossible, to assign a dollar value to all of these grievances, but it will be better than no redress at all.
The anti-“death tax” crowd might protest that no living American was either enslaved or owned slaves. That’s true, but coming from them, the point is plainly irrelevant. If we’re not willing to hold people financially accountable for the wrongs from which their ancestors benefitted, then why should we reward those same people with the money their ancestors made? In apportioning wealth, the two propositions must go hand-in-hand—we either consider the economic activity of people’s ancestors, or we don’t.
If we determine that people should be held accountable for the means by which their ancestors made money, it doesn’t mean that we’re calling white folks “guilty,” as some commentators might suggest. If I steal a thousands dollars from you and give it to my child as a birthday present, my child isn’t “guilty,” but he still is not absolved of his responsibility to give you the money back. For centuries, skin color unfairly conferred upon white people a set of economic opportunities that produced inheritable and still-existent wealth, meaning that the injustice must today be rectified.
If we mended this injustice through the means described above, then every dollar would be inherited, but so would every outstanding debt. Even though I would not principally object to this arrangement, I suspect that it would not go over so well with the “spend less, tax less” crowd, which, thus far, has not endorsed the direct payment of reparations to oppressed peoples.
So, instead of doling out cash to slaves’ descendants, “calling it even,” and then letting laissez-faire capitalism unravel as it will, we could instead provide more indirect reparations to all disadvantaged people, of all colors, by making long-term societal investments in social welfare programs that keep people afloat. Providing all people access to affordable healthcare, education, and housing will give them the tools for self-actualization that their ancestors may have been denied. Under such a system, no individual slave’s descendant would have a direct economic claim against a party that profited off of slavery, but the economy would be structured to maximize the resiliency of all communities, including those that were, for generations, unfairly disadvantaged. And yes, this would require an understanding from wealthy Americans that they, like the descendants of oppressed people, will not receive a literal check, paid in full, from the order of their ancestors.
The choice is ours. But if we are to maintain any semblance of economic justice in our country, these are the two defensible options.
This article was originally posted at goodmenproject.com.
There will likely come a point in the next couple centuries when our technology surpasses the limits of our current doctrine of “technological ethics.” At this juncture, we will be capable of fundamentally altering the quality of human life, not just with newly advanced medicine, but also with unprecedented prenatal modifications to the human genome. Once we are all able to select certain traits—gender, eye color, hair texture, height—in our future offspring, we will have to decide whether, and how, to make use of this radically new opportunity, both in individual and social terms.
When we discuss whether there is value in allowing parents, en masse, to opt for certain characteristics in their future children, we will inevitably debate the social utility of the traits in question. We will discuss whether there’s a universal benefit to creating a society distinctively taller, more blue-eyed, and more straight-haired than its predecessors. Discussions surrounding the possibility of parents engendering more boys than girls, or vice versa, will intensify.
But perhaps the fieriest debate will relate to the manipulation of human intelligence, one of the most nebulous and historically controversial “traits” of the bunch, and the ramifications of everyone checking the “high IQ” box when they go “design” their babies. Some will suggest, as many people do today, that eradicating many social ills is as simple as selecting against “low intelligence.” Others will view the use of this technological development as “tampering with God” and a seedbed for dangerous eugenic discrimination.
Though the need for this discourse may seem far off, the discussion has, in some manifestation, always existed and is simply evolving. Although our great-grandparents weren’t familiar with in vitro fertilization, they were engrossed in discussions of sterilization and the deliberate “weeding out” of “the feeble-minded.” Handing down the 1927 majority decision in Buck v. Bell, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. argued, “it is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.” Such language could very easily fit the opinion of a future Supreme Court justice ruling on the constitutionality of compulsory prenatal modifications to human intelligence.
Even if we are not all around to participate in this debate, its participants will likely study our works to determine the historical implications of IQ and the results of various societal approaches to intelligence. Commendably, some scholars, like Harvard’s Michael Sandel, have already weighed in on the ethics of future biotechnology, but we need not go that far to make our mark in this debate; if we simply discuss the utility of eternal human traits, we can provide our descendants with some framework for thinking about genetic manipulation.
IQ, as a simple measurement of a universal human attribute, like height or weight, is not inherently immoral. But in trying to reduce so much of human behavior and ability to a single score, its votaries have spawned a cultish field of thought that would actually be risible if it weren’t so influential. It has been used inappropriately to explain away disparate social outcomes as the stuff of “biological inevitability,” and to justify societal disregard for egregiously unfair social conditions that produce failure. Specifically, it has been exploited to paint a portrait of an immutable “criminal underclass” of stupid people, to make the case that adjustments to the social order (short of breeding “highly gifted” humans) can do very little to reduce crime. To abate the influence of these “IQ reductionists” in future discussions of reprogenetic technologies, it is crucial that we now debunk the long-accepted falsifications and fabrications about IQ and crime, if for no other reason than to steer society away from investing in the prenatal selection of high IQ to deal with criminal behavior.
When we explore the role that germinal choice technology should play in the proliferation of intelligence, books like “The Bell Curve” will be used to support the view that the distribution of criminal IQ scores “differs from that of the population at large” and that “the relationship of IQ to criminality is especially pronounced in the small fraction of the population… who constitute the chronic criminals that account for a disproportionate amount of crime.” In every generation in which this view is propagated, its take-aways are roughly reducible to these few key ideas:
(1) low IQ groups have a greater propensity to commit crime (which is revealed by the disproportionate number of low IQ prisoners)
(2) low IQ groups are more likely to victimize high IQ groups than vice versa (for example, Aryan Germans slaughtering Ashkenazi Jews, as Steve Farron details in “The Affirmative Action Hoax”)
(3) high IQ people are more pro-social
The first argument’s propagators, like psychologist J. Philippe Rushton, cognizant of the black-white IQ disparity, often conclude that there is an unalterable African-American predisposition to commit crime, and thus examine African-American behavior in order to elucidate the tendencies of “lower IQ groups.” Because there indeed exists a persistent racial gap in IQ scores, it is fine for us to also use “Whites” and “African-Americans” for purposes of comparing the criminal behavior of a high IQ group to a lower-than-average one. (Of course, our use of this comparison does not presuppose that group IQ is permanent or that “race” is even a valid biological category, but rather that, right now, two indefinite groups produce disparate test scores.)
Claims that Blacks, as a lower IQ group, “are more prone than Whites to commit crime” are over-simplifications at best, and dangerously false at worst. Claimants usually discuss crime in a non-nuanced way, without regard for its different types and for the crimes that prison statistics fail to reflect. With respect to the first of these two shortcomings, IQ reductionists ignore the disproportionate rates at which white males engage in certain criminal behaviors, like drunk driving. Whereas 12.7 percent of white male high school students have driven drunk, only 8.7 percent of their black male counterparts have done the same. The black-white disparity in teenaged drunk driving persists when girls enter the equation, and when Latinos are included, Whites still offend the most. A surprising result, to say the least, for a group presumed to be “more intelligent.”
It might be easier to attribute white transgressions to the lower end of the white IQ bell curve were it not for consistent racial disparities in illegal drug use among smarter-than-average college students. “White students are likelier to use and abuse all forms of drugs than are minority students,” finds Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, and, specifically, “White students are more than twice as likely as non-white students to use illicit drugs including marijuana and Ecstasy.” Furthermore, irrespective of race, “‘very bright’ individuals (with IQs above 125) are roughly three-tenths of a standard deviation more likely to consume psychoactive drugs than ‘very dull’ individuals.” One must wonder why, in these instances, high IQ doesn’t keep the gifted few from acting self-destructively and, indeed, criminally.
Perhaps IQ reductionists are more concerned about maliciously violent offenses, and, for this reason, rely on statistics that reveal disproportionate rates of violent crime among racial minorities. If so, they bring us to their second key idea, that low IQ groups violently victimize high IQ groups more than the intelligent victimize “the dull.” People stuck on this strange point like to evoke comparisons between the rates of black-on-white crime and white-on-black crime, and, when trying cleverly to distance themselves from mere white supremacist hysteria and unvarnished Nazism, condemn the Holocaust perpetrated by the “fairly intelligent” Aryans against the “extremely intelligent” Jews. Interestingly, they never interpret the ethnic cleansing of the American Indians or the enslavement of African-Americans as an act perpetrated by a less-intelligent, violence-obsessed racial group against an intellectually and ethically superior group.
The claim that the “less intelligent” more frequently attack the intelligent is not a scientific claim, but a rhetorical ploy. Powerful elites have always differentiated between communities, labeling some “savage” and some “refined,” some “unintelligent” and some “intelligent,” in order to justify oppression of the out-groups. The historical promulgation of “intelligence” as a definitive and objective concept was not primarily undertaken out of reverence for intellectual values, but instead to justify subjugation of ethnic minorities, the disabled, and economically disadvantaged people. Of course, it is true that low IQ people have also antagonized (and continue to antagonize) the intelligent, that air-headed bullies pick on “nerds,” that cognitively impaired gunmen shoot intelligent pedestrians, and that the “average” person may regularly shout slurs at the “genius” of whom he is jealous. But it remains the case that there have been no systematic efforts among “unintelligent” people, organizing on that basis, to brutalize, enslave, or eradicate those with higher IQs.
Those of us who make these arguments are accustomed to being pulled over and asked, effectively, “You talk a nice talk, but you don’t really believe that intelligence is purely subjective, that there are no hierarchies in ability, that everyone’s equally good at everything, and that high IQ makes people evil, do you?” Of course, the answer, on all fronts, is no—mathematical ability is a better measure of intellect than, say, blinking ability; Albert Einstein was a more gifted physicist than most; Duke Ellington was one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time; and there’s no reason to think that high IQ makes people evil. Although we believe that science demands a more inclusive view of intelligence, we never deny the existence of human differences, or that certain skills are more valuable than others.
We instead reject the socially constructed systems of oppression, built around certain aptitudes, which disadvantage a lot of the population so that a powerful minority can thrive. We do not contest that some people score higher than others on IQ tests, but take issue with the way those scores are used to allow “gifted people” disproportionate access to resources in society, to excuse the way those deemed “intelligent” have perpetuated systems of racial, socioeconomic, able-bodied, and gender domination over the “dull.” Even though high IQ doesn’t itself make people evil, there’s ample reason to believe that it doesn’t very well stop its possessors from becoming evil for other reasons.
If it were the case that “the dull” victimize “the bright,” then Native-Americans would have ethnically cleansed the higher-IQ European colonizers. As we know, the opposite occurred; not only did the white colonists expel the Natives from their land, they used the latter’s unsophistication and “savagery” as a basis for doing so. There were not at that point modern IQ tests, but it’s fair to assume that the Cherokee who lost their lives during the Trail of Tears were, by European standards, less “intelligent” than the white men who introduced the Indian Removal Act, forced Native American children into boarding schools replete with sexual abuse perpetrated by “bright” teachers, and sterilized thousands of Native American women to prevent the production of “dysgenic” offspring.
And, if history were backwards, it would have been “mentally retarded” justices on the US Supreme Court declaring it constitutional to restrict the movement of and forcibly sterilize those with above-average IQs. But, once again, the reality is at odds with the IQ propagandists’ narrative, as an eight-justice majority of highly “intelligent” justices alternatively ruled it proper in Buck v. Bell to lock up cognitively disabled women, against their will, and prevent them from reproducing. By the end of the 1970s, structural violence waged against the “feebleminded” had impinged the autonomy of over 66,000 Americans who were involuntarily sterilized.
Let us too look at Tasmania, where higher-IQ “Europeans on horse-back hunted native peoples for sport,” or South Africa, where hundreds of innocent native Africans under apartheid were murdered by higher-IQ, European-descended Afrikaners during the Soweto Uprising, or the Jim Crow South, where the lynchings of innocent black men were recreational spectacles for the “intelligent” white population.
Let us also dissect the flaunted “counterexample” of Nazi Germany, a case that, at first glance, may seem to fit the mold of “low IQ criminality against the gifted,” but that, upon deeper examination, only provides further evidence of the “gifted” oppressing the “dull.” If it were actually the case that the Nazis were trying to uplift the “cognitively disadvantaged” in a rebellion against high IQ, then why did they initiate Action T4 to euthanize some 275,000 physically and cognitively disabled people, many of whom had Down syndrome? Some Nazis did actually inveigh against IQ tests, but that’s only because high IQ was associated with Jewry, a population that was already being demonized for its religious differentness, its imaginary “role” in Germany’s loss in WWI, and for cruel medieval myths about money-laundering, blood libel, and the murder of Jesus Christ that never lost their hold.
IQ reductionism often evokes consideration of parties in the Israeli-Arab conflict as well. On this front, reductionists try to portray the conflict as a simple litany of offenses perpetrated by the less intelligent, envious Natives against the Jews. This is, in fact, the basis of a rather common narrative in some Zionist circles. The Shiloh Institute’s Rabbi David Bar-Hayim contends that the Jews, “with their labor and intellect, strived and succeeded where Moslems had only failed,” and thus concludes that the Moslems in Palestine, mad with resentment, are prone to take “an explosive vest, catch a bus, and blow up some Jews.” Once again, we find an overly simplistic explanation for an intractably complex social problem.
Although Israeli Jews have long faced invidious anti-Semitism from extremist Palestinian factions, there is too an ignominious and well-established history of Zionist-inspired violence against the purportedly “primitive, stupid” Arabs. For example, during the 1948 Nahshon Operation, the Lehi and Etzel entered Deir Yassin to slaughter upwards of 100 Arab civilians, including children, with presumably lower IQs than the Jews who murdered them. Frightening many nearby Arabs, the attack helped precipitate the 1948 Palestinian Exodus, which was itself replete with violent dispossession at the behest of Haganah members, who, as mostly Ashkenazi Jews, would have scored substantially higher than average on IQ tests. Again, this history does not preclude the existence (or sheer depravity) of Palestinian suicide missions, but nonetheless undercuts the fabricated association between super-high IQ and non-criminality.
The last of the IQ reductionists’ premises maintains the riff about low IQ thugs, but takes us one further: smart people are not only less likely to commit crime, but are also more likely, because of their neurological composition, to do good things for the world. They’re natural “anti-criminals,” and should perhaps, by that token, be favored once it comes time to design children.
Even though high IQ people have undoubtedly done a lot of good, there’s no reason to think that people’s IQs cause them to be moral or immoral. As a telling example, a young Martin Luther King Jr. turned up below average results on the GRE verbal section; had his morality correlated with his test score, he would have been something of an apathetic jerk. The general body of African-American students, whose average test scores fall below the white average, are also “more likely than white students to report working on various social projects with church groups, helping disadvantaged families, working with homeless people, or helping illiterate adults learn to read or write.” In that vein, it has been shown that wealthy white students, with high average test scores, are more inclined to affirm the permissibility of cheating on academic tests. (It’s unfortunate that, instead of decrying the corrosive culture of standardized testing itself, these students cheat their way to the top of our current system’s morally dubious academic hierarchy.)
What the future holds is never determinable, but if the past is any indication, there will forever exist groups, perhaps powerful ones, that will advocate “rectifying” social ills by manipulating humanity’s genetic composition. In the era of rapidly evolving prenatal care, these factions will almost invariably promise that which is manifestly impossible, as American eugenicists before them did: the creation of a higher moral order of “highly efficient people” predicated on the genetic eradication of “the feeble-minded.” The creation of this sort of “higher” moral order would itself be immoral, and would therefore fail from its inception. Cruelty and rule-breaking emerge from a wide variety of influential social sources, and may humans forever remember that the flexible thing called “IQ” simply isn’t one of them.