Book Notes: Charles Murray’s Facing Reality

Attorney General Merrick Garland recently declared that the greatest danger to this country is posed by white supremacists.

Guess who’s in complete agreement? Charles Murray, the needlessly controversial author of Bell Curve and now a new book titled Facing Reality: Two Truths about Race in America.

Murray’s argument begins from a premise that, in my view, is undeniable. If there are no real differences between races, if race is “a construct,” then it has to follow that any racial differences in outcomes are caused by racism. [You can make an identical argument for biological sex, of course.] What else could it possibly be? Obviously, any normal person wants to put an end to all this racism. The next logical step in the argument is that we should put every effort into battling this racism until it disappears or greatly diminishes. We’ll know that we’ve been successful when the outcomes stop being different. For instance, the proportion of people of different races in each highly paid profession becomes equal to the percentage of this racial group in the country. In simple terms, top-level programmers should be 18% Hispanic and 14% black instead of overwhelmingly Asian and white (with a narrow ethnic origin among the whites.) And the percentage of arrests (or complaints) for violent crime in large cities should reflect the race percentages in the population.

This is never going to happen. Murray explains why it’s not going to happen at length. The government will go to greater and greater extremes to bring about equity (aka equal outcomes.) It will keep failing (as it has for decades). These efforts, says Murray, will upset – and have already started upsetting – the white majority in this country where we are now practically on the verge of genociding the non-white populations.

I, understandably, don’t share Merrick Garland’s and Charles Murray’s preoccupations about a looming rise in “white supremacy.” Murray is convinced that the current insanity about the “racial reckoning” and “systemic racism” is being imposed by black people on unwilling whites. But that’s not true. It’s a fully white-people project that has coopted a few black people. It’s an economic issue where upper-class whites use blacks as an excuse to destroy the social safety net for everybody, lumpenize the middle class, and destroy the Asian competition.

Murray says from the start that his intended audience are Biden voters. He believes he can convince Biden voters to join forces with center-right people like himself (Murray is a libertarian and a never-Trumper) in opposing the excesses of the extreme left. Again, I disagree. I think that the extreme left consists of poor, deluded people who are being used and discarded as so much trash. Just look at how the poor leftists were treated in the last two presidential elections.

Murray’s recipe for avoiding a civil war in the US is that both Democrats and Republicans should repudiate extremists on their respective sides. To me, this sounds childish. Extremists exist but they didn’t destroy 30% of small businesses in America. They didn’t export manufacturing overseas. They didn’t create the opioid epidemic. They didn’t lock us all down for no reason. Extremists didn’t effectuate the largest transfer of capital in decades using a pandemic as an excuse. Extremists – much as I detest them – did not impose austerity or buy up all real estate in your neighborhood to price you out of homeownership.

I share Murray’s belief that we should treat each other as individuals and not members of groups. I agree with him that there is racism but not systemic racism in this country. But he’s a numbers guy, not a social sciences guy. His graphs and tables seem solid. I have no expertise that would allow me to argue with them. I believe that people should definitely argue and contest his findings. I think I can glimpse holes in some of his data but, again, it’s not my area of knowledge. There’s nothing scandalous in any of it. But Murray’s argument about what to do next doesn’t look deep to me.

Cognitive Ability

Nothing is more American than the belief that with enough hard work and perseverance you can achieve anything you want and be anybody you wish. It’s beautiful when taken metaphorically but many people take this idea literally, and that’s where trouble begins.

We are massively constrained by our physical, biological reality that prevents us from doing anything we might want. American culture is perennially waging a war on the limitations of human bodies, leading to extremes such as denying that men can’t give birth and women can’t produce sperm. It all looks quite comical to people from cultures that don’t have the same obsession with transcending the body.

I’ve tried to understand why the simple fact of difference in cognitive ability between individuals and groups elicits such an emotional response in the US but I still don’t get it. I conducted a mental experiment and imagined that a study came out proving definitively that Russians have a significantly higher mean IQ than Ukrainians. Let’s say, two standard deviations higher, which is 30 points. This is a huge difference. And the scenario is not in the least impossible, given that Russians have Finnish genes that produce significantly higher IQs than the Ukrainian mix of genes.

Would I get upset and try to deny not only the findings but the very existence of cognitive ability as a physiological reality that you can’t change through an effort of willpower any more than you can change your height?

No, I wouldn’t. It’s just a physiological fact. Russians are often light-haired. Ukrainians are often black-haired. (Not me, obviously, but you should see my raven-haired Ukrainian mother). So what? There’s no moral value attached to the physiology unless you decide that there should be.

Yes, cognitive ability has been used historically for evil, racist purposes. But so have foot sizes. Female foot binding is an example of that. Do we now deny the existence of biological, inborn, and immutable differences in foot sizes? Or that men on average have larger foot sizes than women on average? OK, things being crazy as they are, maybe some idiots do. But it’s not a widespread delusion.

I’m well-aware of the limitations of my cognitive ability. I strongly believe that accepting that there are some things you can’t do intellectually no matter how hard you try is very liberating. People buy into this ridiculous lie that anybody’s cognitive ability can be developed to any level and then they feel horrible when it doesn’t work out this way. They try and try, blaming themselves, when it’s a simple physiological thing.

The Real Story

The mayor of Moscow says he was vaccinated for COVID in May of 2020. This is one of many reports confirming the extremely early start of COVID vaccination in Russia. The connections between the Wuhan Institute of Virology and its dear colleagues in Novosibirsk need to be explored. It’s a much more important story than the profoundly silly one about the FBI organizing January 6 through entrapment. Not surprisingly, the entrapment story is being pushed by Darren Beattie, one of the biggest Putin shills in the US.