November 3, 2006

Average IQ of enlisted men

Following the latest John Kerry brouhaha, a reader asked what the average IQ of U.S. military personnel is. From table 2.8 of the is Department of Defense document, I estimate that the average for new enlisted men in 1998 was about 105.

This would be in the 60th to 65th percentile compared to all the young people in America when the Armed Forces Qualification Test was normalized in 1980 on the National Longitudinal Study of Youth's sample of 13,000 people ages 15-23. (This is the same enormous study that provides the data in Section 2 of The Bell Curve.)

Female enlistees would be similar.

The Air Force has the highest AFQT test score enlistees, with the Navy slightly ahead of the Army and Marines for second place.

This 105 estimate would be representative of the years 1992 through about 2004, from the downsizing of the military after victory in the Cold War, when it virtually stopped taking enlistees with IQs below the 30th percentile, until the war in Iraq made recruiting more difficult over the last couple of years. Some of the branches of the military have recently increased the percentage of "Category IV" recruits (between 11th and 30th percentiles), but I doubt if the overall average has changed all that much.

Officers, of course, average higher than enlisted men, although I suspect that the IQ gap between officers and men is a little narrower now than in the past. (Another thing that has improved relations between the ranks is that military men drink a lot less now than in days gone by, partly due to the spread of evangelical Christianity, partly due to modern health consciouness. Officers and men are not allowed to drink in the same bars, so they spend more time together now.)

So, what is the average IQ of officers? I don't know much about today, but a military psychometrician told me that in the 1975-1985 period, the average SAT score (under the old, tougher scoring system) was 1001 in the Army, 1018 Marines, 1051 Air Force, and 1103 Navy. Under the "recentered" scoring system adopted in 1995, those would be: 1098 Army, 1113 Marines, 1132 Air Force, and 1198 Navy.

Converting SAT scores to IQs is a shaky process, but that would suggest about, oh, 113 to 121 for the average officer in the various services back in 1975-1985. (Don't take that as the final word.)

If you want to read all about officers' IQs, you can see my 2004 article comparing the IQs of Bush and Kerry based on how they did on officer qualification tests. (Bottomline: quite similar, with Bush doing a little better. That fits with their GPA during their overlapping careers at Yale where both were C+ students, with Bush's GPA a tiny bit higher. You might think that a country of 300 million could come up with two Presidential candidates who were, you know, B+ students, but I guess not ...)

The average for enlistees (male and female) in 1998 across all services would be about 107 for white enlistees, 102 for blacks, and 103 for Hispanics. (That shows the impressive patriotism of minorities who possess more options in life than the average. A little known fact is that the average black enlistee comes from a home with an income above the national average for blacks.)

In comparison, according to data kindly provided to me by Charles Murray, when the military renormalized the AFQT on a new nationally representative sample in 1997, white males averaged 102.7 and black males 88.4. The race gap was 1.5 points smaller among women. This 14.3 point race gap is down from the anomalously large 18.6 point gap seen in the 1980 normalization, which was due in part to some problems with the 1980 AFQT test methodology. It's also likely that the underlying white-black IQ gap has narrowed in recent decades. Flynn and Dickens recently argued for a large narrowing, while Jensen and Rushton argued in response for about a 2 point narrowing.

Here's something you won't read elsewhere.

It's widely assumed that American minority soldiers are suffering a disproportionate number of deaths in the current war. Yet, according to iCasualites, 74% of all American fatal casualties in the Iraq war have been suffered by non-Hispanic whites. In 2004, non-Hispanic whites only made up 67% of the total population, and, more relevantly, only 61% of the 25-year-olds, which might be about the representative age of the fatalities.

So, young whites are dying in Iraq at a per capita rate more than 80% higher than young minorities. If you are wondering about how I calculated that, it's:

(74% / 61%) / (26% / 39%)

What you definitely won't see elsewhere is an explanation of the most likely reason for this racial imbalance: IQ. To be allowed to enlist, you have to score 92 or higher on the military's IQ test, the Armed Forces Qualification Test (the same one used throughout The Bell Curve.) Since 1992, only 1% of new military enlistees have had IQs below the 30th percentile nationally.

This requirement disqualifies about half of all Hispanics and over 60% of all blacks from joining up, versus less than a quarter of all whites.

People such as Harvard Professor Robert D. "Bowling Alone" Putnam like to talk about how the rest of society can attain the friendly racial relations found in the U.S. military:

“I think we can do a lot to push change along more rapidly. The US military is one example. There was a lot of racial tension around the time of the Vietnam war. Now, polls show that US military personnel have many more friendships across ethnic lines than civilians. And that was deliberate. If officers were told they wouldn’t make colonel if they were seen to discriminate, they changed.”

Okay, but even if we followed Dr. Putnam's implicit advice and imposed martial law on America, we still wouldn't be able to follow what is the secret to the military's success: artificially eliminate the majority of the racial IQ gap by using an IQ-based admissions test.

It's crucial to remember that, until very recently due to Iraq, three out of ten American youths, and a higher proportion of minority youths, were ineligible for service in the military due to low IQs. This means that the benefits of military acculturation are unavailable to those who presumably need them the most. Last year I proposed an alternative to military service for kids who think they could benefit from military discipline but aren't smart enough to pass the AFQT.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

November 2, 2006

The Kerry-Bush Flap

I know I'm late to the party, but the controversy over Kerry's remarks about not studying and Iraq remind me again of how awful the candidates were in the 2004 Presidential election. Those two guys were the best America could come up with?

Apparently, the prepared text that Kerry was supposed to read said:

"Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you are intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush."

Okay, well, not bad, although a little strange coming from a guy who voted to let Bush get us stuck in Iraq. And who had a slightly lower GPA than Bush during their overlapping careers at Yale. And who did a little worse than Bush on their military officer qualification tests.

But, Kerry didn't read what his staff prepared for him. Kerry never reads his speeches the way they are written. Kerry always riffs and improvises on his text. Why? Because John F. Kerry is the most vain man in America. He knows he can make up something better off the top of his head than what his professional speechwriters labored over. Chris Suellentrop wrote in Slate in 2004:

Kerry's health-care speech Monday in Tampa was a classic of the form. The written text contained a little more than 2,500 words. By the time he was finished, Kerry had spoken nearly 5,300 words—not including his introductory remarks and thank-yous to local politicians—more than doubling the verbiage. Pity his speechwriters when you read the highlights below. It's not their fault.

Kerry's Script: Most of all, I will always level with the American people.

Actual Kerry: Most of all, my fellow Americans, I pledge to you that I will always level with the American people, because it's only by leveling and telling the truth that you build the legitimacy and gain the consent of the people who ultimately we are accountable to. I will level with the American people.

Kerry's Script: I will work with Republicans and Democrats on this health care plan, and we will pass it.

Actual Kerry: I will work with Republicans and Democrats across the aisle, openly, not with an ideological, driven, fixed, rigid concept, but much like Franklin Roosevelt said, I don't care whether a good idea is a Republican idea or a Democrat idea. I just care whether or not it's gonna work for Americans and help make our country stronger. And we will pass this bill. I'll tell you a little bit about it in a minute, and I'll tell you why we'll pass it, because it's different from anything we've ever done before, despite what the Republicans want to try to tell you. [More]

So, what came out of Kerry's mouth?

You know, education, if you make the most of it, and you study hard, and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.

Not surprisingly, the troops in Iraq didn't take well to this. As I've been pointing out for a long time, American enlisted personnel are pretty smart. From 1992-2004, virtually nobody was allowed to enlist who didn't have a high school diploma and who scored below the 30th percentile on the Armed Forces Qualification IQ test. Indeed, the typical enlistee had a 3 digit IQ, above average. They've been scraping a little closer to the bottom of the barrel recently, due to Iraq, but volunteers remain pretty strong. I don't think many in the media know this. You are supposed to say that IQ is a discredited concept, and the fact that the military is utterly devoted to IQ testing (and, in fact, most of the middle section of The Bell Curve came from data provided to Charles Murray by the U.S. military) is something you aren't supposed to think about.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The Internet and satellite television mean that "metaethnic frontiers" are everywhere

When new high-speed printing presses became available in the 1890s, the cost of a New York City newspaper fell from a nickel to a penny, vastly increasing readership. Press barons Pulitzer and Hearst, looking for some controversy to keep readers excited enough to keep plunking down their pennies day after day, seized upon Spain's brutal repression of the rebellion in its colony of Cuba.

Previously, Americans hadn't given a damn about the welfare of Cubans, seeing them as foreigners, and hadn't paid much attention to Spain, seeing it as colorful but over-the-hill European minor power. The urbane, well-informed readers who had previously paid a nickel for newspapers had realized that the world is a large place, with many instances of cruelty here and there. But the new readers of newspapers were horrified to discover that Bad Things Were Happening.

In effect, this media technology innovation allowed entrepreneurs to quickly (if briefly) redefine Cubans as Our Fellow New Worlders Suffering at the Hands of the Cruel and Corrupt Old World.

And soon we were at war with Spain.

To adapt biologist Peter Turchin's high-falutin' terminology, Pulitzer and Hearst were able to concoct a new "metaethnic frontier," one with Cubans and Americans on this side of it and Spaniards on the other.

Now, Turchin concentrates on how physical ethnic frontiers between traditional agrarian societies, such as between the Spaniards and the Moors or between North Vietnam and China, led to the creation of unified warrior states on the frontiers. (To withstand China's might, northern Vietnamese developed a bellicose sense of national unity, while southern Vietnamese, far from China, did not, as the U.S. discovered to its misfortune in the 1960s.)

In the pre-industrial world, since the dawn of agriculture, if your population was growing faster than your food output per acre, your calories per capita would decline, unless you conquered more acres. So, wars over lebensraum were common. Big states tended to coalesce near major ethnic borders since having a common enemy would cause people of only modest ethnic differences to overlook their dissimilarities in the interests of beating the much more different folks on the other side of the frontier.

Fortunately, in the industrial world, wars to add farm land don't make much sense. (Unfortunately, Hitler didn't get the memo.)

But in the modern world, an ethnic frontier can be created in newspaper readers' heads. (This could be done before modern media, too, most notably in the Crusades, but everybody recognizes the Crusades were extraordinary.)

And in the postmodern world of the Internet, Al-Jazeera, and FoxNews, it's hard to get the various ethnic frontiers out of your head.

The peculiarly agitated feel of this decade has a lot to do with the new information technologies. There have always been people doing things that would intensely annoy other people, but, mostly, those annoying people have been far off over the horizon and the potentially annoyed only heard about the terrible things they were up to in vague terms. But now bloggers like Little Green Footballs scan the world for us finding examples of the awfulness of people on the other side of the world. And now we can turn on the TV 24 hours per day and see those bastards doing the intolerable things they do ,and laughing at us while they do them.

And it drives us crazy.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

America and Israel:

A reader writes:

it seems to me both neocons (esp. Jewish neocons) and leftists (esp. Jewish leftists) put themselves in ridiculous positions by equating Israel and America.

Neocons think America should run around invading Arab countries because they think America is in the same position as Israel (i.e. surrounded by a billion implacably hostile Arabs). They like (maybe liked) Bush because they equated him with Sharon (well, today Netanyahu).

Leftists think Israel should appease Arabs because they think Israel is in the same position as America (i.e. Israel can AVOID being surrounded by a billion implacably hostile Arabs). So they think Israel should be as dovish as America, and loathed Sharon because they equated him with Bush.

The flaw in both views is, of course, that America is not Israel, and vice versa.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Diversity's next frontier

A big corporation recently hired several cannibals in the interest of cultural diversity.

"You are all part of our team now," said the HR rep during the welcoming briefing. "You get all the usual benefits and you can go to the cafeteria for something to eat, but please don't eat any of the employees."

The cannibals promised they would not. Four weeks later, their boss remarked, "You're all working very hard and I'm satisfied with you. However, one of our shipping clerks disappeared yesterday! Do any of you know what happened to him?"

The cannibals all shook their heads no.

After the boss left, the leader of the cannibals said to the others, "Which one of you idiots ate the shipping clerk?"

A hand rose hesitantly, to which the leader of the cannibals continued, "You fool --- for 4 weeks we've been eating managers and no one noticed anything. But Noooooo, you had to go and eat someone who actually does something!"

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Levitt is skeptical of the pornography-cuts-rape theory, too

On his Freakonomics blog, Steven D. Levitt writes:

Everybody and their brother is sending me links to Steven Landsburg’s most recent Slate column that reports on studies by economists that suggest internet porn reduces rape and the release of blockbuster violent movies reduces violence.

While the idea might strike non-economists as crazy, the theory makes sense. When you lower the price of a good that is a substitute for a second good, the quantity of the second good should fall. It is not obvious that internet porn and rape are substitutes (they may very well be the opposite, what economists call complements), but it is not impossible.

I have to confess that Halloween with four young kids (a fairy, a witch, batman, and Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz) has been a full time job for the last week. So I haven’t read the academic articles. The paper or porn and rape was actually written by my former student Todd Kendall, now at Clemson. It is not really fair (especially to your former student) to be skeptical without reading the paper, but I have to say I am skeptical of the empirical result. The kind of variation in the data that gives the result is that states that are quicker to adopt the internet saw bigger declines in rape. He then does a nice thing in the paper, going beyond just this one prediction to test other hypotheses, like do crimes other than rape fall with the internet (he says no) and does other sexual behavior change with the internet (he says yes). The concern is always, with this kind of approach, that there are other factors that might be driving both the adoption of the internet and the decline in rape. The challenge to those who want to refute Todd Kendall’s argument is to identify those variables. The challenge for Todd is to find other kinds of “natural experiments” that support his hypothesis.

The most obvious other natural experiment was the huge increase in pornography in late 1960s and early 1970s that coincided with a big increase in the rape rate.

It's just like how the abortion-cuts-crime theory was popular a priori in the 1970s and 1980s, but then faded out of discussion in the early 1990s when the first generation born after legalization of abortion went on a murder spree. Then, after the crime rate dropped in the mid and late 1990s, Levitt and Donohue revived the theory in 1999, and by then, most of the chattering classes couldn't remember why it had dropped out of favor earlier, so they found it immediately convincing. Similarly, nobody remembers today that four decades ago pornography and rape increased together, so this popular old a priori theory is ready for relaunch by a naive young professor into an intellectual world that doesn't remember much of anything.

The chattering class especially tries to forget everything it learned about crime, since that is so inextricably linked with race. Everybody is supposed to forget everything they know about crime and race from thinking about their own real estate decisions when it comes time to discuss public affairs. And remembering the race-rape connection is one of the worst thought crimes possible.

P.S. I just got a very nice email from Dr. Kendall saying that he hoped his study shed some new light on the topic, but he definitely didn't think his study should be the last word on the subject.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

November 1, 2006

Foundation of Empire

With Hari Seldon-like ambition, biologist Peter Turchin, in his book War and Peace and War, offers a theory for the rise and fall of empires in agrarian societies. He points out that large scale political power often emerges far out on the "meta-ethnic frontier." Having a common enemy unifies people.

Here's Turchin's version of his basic theory:

Ethnicity is the group use of any aspect of culture in order to create internal cohesion and differentiation from other groups. There is an imaginary boundary separating the members of the ethnic group from the rest of humanity. For example, Greeks drew a boundary between themselves and barbarians, non-Greek speakers. The ethnic boundary can use a variety of symbolic markers—language and dialect, religion and ritualistic behaviors, race, clothing, behavioral mannerisms, hair styles, ornaments, and tattoos. The important thing is not which markers are used, but the distinction between in-group and outgroup members, between Us and Them.

People usually have multiple ethnic identities nested within each other. An inhabitant of Dallas can be simultaneously a Texan, an American, and a participant in the Western Civilization. The broadest groupings of people that unite many nations are usually called civilizations, but I prefer to call such entities metaethnic communities (from the Greek meta—beyond and ethnos— ethnic group, nation). My definition includes not only usual civilizations—the Western, Islamic, or Sinic—but also such broad cultural groupings as the Celts or Turco-Mongolian steppe nomads. Typically, cultural difference is greatest between people belonging to different metaethnic communities; sometimes this gap is so extreme that people deny the very humanity of those who are on the other side of the metaethnic fault line.

Historical dynamics can be understood as a result of competition and conflict between groups, some of which dominate others. Domination, however, is made possible only because groups are integrated at the micro level by cooperation among their members. Within-group cooperation is the basis of intergroup conflict, including its extreme versions such as war and even genocide. Different groups are characterized by different degrees of cooperation among its members, and therefore different degree of cohesiveness or solidarity. Following the fourteenth century Arab thinker Ibn Khaldun, I call this property of groups asabiya. Asabiya is the capacity of a social group for concerted collective action. Asabiya is a dynamic quantity; it can increase or decrease with time.

Each empire has at its core an imperial nation (some empires had more than one imperial nation for a time, but this structure appears to be unstable). The ability of an empire to expand territory and to defend itself against external and internal enemies is determined largely by the characteristics of its imperial nation, especially its asabiya. Because only groups possessing high levels of asabiya can construct large empires, the question is how do they gain it, and why do they eventually lose it?

Groups with high asabiya arise on metaethnic frontiers. A metaethnic frontier is an area where an imperial boundary coincides with a fault line between two metaethnic communities. Metaethnic frontiers are places where between-group competition is very intense. Expansionist empires exert enormous military pressure on the peoples beyond their boundaries. But the frontier populations are also attracted to the imperial wealth, which they attempt to obtain by trading or raiding. Both the external threat and the prospect of gain are powerful integrative forces that nurture asabiya. In the pressure cooker of a metaethnic frontier poorly integrated groups crumble and disappear, while groups based on strong cooperation thrive and expand. In order to match the power of the old empire, a frontier group with high asabiya—an incipient imperial nation—needs to expand by incorporating other groups.

On a metaethnic frontier integration of ethnically similar groups on the same side of the fault line is made easier by the presence of a very different Other—the metaethnic community on the other side. The huge cultural gap across the frontier dwarfs the relatively minor differences between ethnic groups on the same side.

Is it true? Hard to say. The most famous empire of them all, the Roman, doesn't seem to fit all that well, but the Macedonian Empire of Alexander and the far western Ch'in (or Qin) state that ended the Warring States period and unified China under the first emperor do fit.

In his technical book, Historical Dynamics, Turchin attempts to quantify his theory. I haven't read either one, so I can't judge how well he has succeeded. His theoretical model seems appropriately relativistic, but that can make data hard to nail down quantitatively, since the theorist can be tempted to redefine history to fit his theory. The fairest test of a theory like this is if it works for a database assembled by somebody else for some other purpose.

Turchin is not the first to notice this tendency of empires to arise on the margins. This is sometimes known as the "marcher lord" theory. A "march" is a margin, a border land. The term "marcher lord" is the English version of what the Germans call a "margrave," and marcher lords are the tough guys who who rule out on the frontier, like the Tudors on the Welsh border in the 15th Century, keeping the outsiders out and often bullying their way to take over central power themselves.

Greg Cochran points out that the Marcher Lord dynamic worked on a huge scale to eventuate in the superpower confrontation of 1945-1991, with the U.S. and Russia as the marcher lords of Europe. That's because another advantage of being out at the fringe of an advanced culture's geographical expanse is that your enemies, being from technologically more backward areas, are weaker, so you can easily expand territorially at their expense. If you are, say, France, you are hemmed in by similarly tough countries like England, Germany, and Spain. But if you are the United States or Russia, you can conquer vast amounts of land owned by Indians or Siberians.

As an example of a country notoriously lacking in asabiya, Italians had a hard time getting themselves organized into a large powerful state over the last 1000 years because the ethnic variations within Italy were so minor and so "clinal" as they varied from south to north that people tended to organize around family and undermine larger polities through backstabbing each other. Lacking a frontier with a common enemy, they lacked incentives to unite, much to the dismay of Italian patriots like Machiavelli. (Italy was ultimately unified under the House of Savoy from the French border.)

Germany had somewhat similar problems getting organized, except out in Prussia in the far northeast, where Germans fought Slavs and Balts, and in Austria in the southeast, where Germans fought Magyars and Slavs. There, the Germans learned to subordinate their differences and cooperate with their fellow Germans to whomp their non-German neighbors. Eventually, the Prussians took over all of Germany, with mostly disastrous consequences for Germans and the whole world.

The U.S. has the decided advantage of being located with oceans to the east and west, so since the defeat of the Indians, we haven't had much of a march. Yet, in recent decades we've developed a cohesively unified group of influential intellectuals and apparatchiks who devote much of their energies to trying to persuade the rest of America, with much success, that Israel is America's march with the whole nefarious Arab or Muslim or whatever world. As Francis Fukuymama pointed out after Charles Krauthammer tried to smear him as an anti-Semite, the neocon worldview is one that has largely tried to apply lessons appropriate to tiny, frontier Israel to huge, continental America.

Of course, while a handful of neocons actually have been in the Israeli military, most of them are purely pretend marcher lords, sofa samurai. But, they possess much of the cohesion characteristic of the breed. As Mearsheimer and Walt have discovered, they all work together to ruin their enemies.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

October 31, 2006

WaPo: 58% of Iraqi marriages are between relatives

Here's a very good article I'd never seen before by Howard Schnieder from 2000 in the Washington Post: "Saudi Intermarriages Have Genetic Costs." Now that infectious diseases have declined radically in Saudi Arabia, the burden of genetic diseases is more visible, and Saudi leaders are worrying about what to do about it. However, cousin marriage is tied into the roots of the society, so it's a difficult problem.

(I am mildly sympathetic to the extreme reactionary cautiousness of the Saudi government. Since the oil price hike of 1973, their country is a like some high school dropout that hit it hugely rich by fluke, as in a lottery. The odds are pretty high that he'll end up dead in the john at age 42, like Elvis (and Elvis was a nice guy). The Saudis have been ridiculously rich for 33 years and yet they have avoided much in the way of heroin addictions, alcoholism, HIV, and other obvious traps for lottery winners. They haven't accomplished anything, of course, but not collapsing in a heap is some kind of accomplishment, I guess.)

Here's a table from the article on how common are "marriages between relatives" (no definition given, I'm guessing it means first or second cousins -- uncle-niece marriages are uncommon outside of Southern India).

JORDAN: 50.2%
IRAQ: 57.9%
KUWAIT: 54.3%
BAHRAIN: 39.4%
U.A.E.: 61.6%
EGYPT: 28.9%
Northern Province: 52.1%
North Western Province: 67.7%
South Western Province: 54.2%
Central Province: 60.8%
Eastern Province: 59.1%

Rub Al-Khali

The Saudi government study involved a survey of 3,212 families in five Saudi provinces in 1995.

SOURCE: Saudi Arabian government agencies

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

October 30, 2006

David Warsh on the NYT-Steven D. Levitt conflict of interest

Via Greg Mankiw, veteran economics reporter David Warsh reflects on why Freakonomics was such a huge bestseller. In passing, he notes the conflict of interest inherent in Levitt being both a public figure covered by the New York Times and a prized contributor to the NYT:

But the column that he and Dubner write regularly for the [NYT] magazine gives the duo a disproportionate voice. It probably also insulates them to some extent from the kind of arms-length coverage of economics itself to which the Times aspires.

Levitt's landmark study (with Yale's John J. Donohue III) of the link between abortion and crime-prevention has generated considerable criticism since it was first published in 2001 -- including bitter quarrels with colleagues and peers. In a balanced and ahead-of-the-curve story in the Times' now-defunct Arts and Idea section in April 2001, Columbia University journalism professor Alexander Stille described what was then the state of play. ("... [A]s other experts have had their first chance to scrutinize the research in detail, almost every aspect of the theory has been attacked, from its assumptions to its conclusion that abortion and crime are connected, not separate trends that happened to surface at the same time. Indeed, given all the influences on the crime rate -- including the economy, the availability of guns and drugs, and policing strategies -- some critics doubt whether it is ever possible to figure out the precise relationship between the two, let alone to assert that abortion might be responsible for a 50 percent drop in crime. 'My instinct was nothing in the social sciences accounts for 50 percent of anything,' said Ted Joyce, an economist who has examined Mr. Donohue and Mr. Levitt's data and is now about to publish his own counterstudy.") Since then, the controversy has only escalated. The Wall Street Journal and The Economist have reported on the most recent aspects of it, but in the eighteen months since Freakonomics appeared, the contretemps has yet to be covered in the Times. "Knowing what to measure and how to measure it makes a complicated world less so," assert Dubner and Levitt in their book. So who was right? Stille and core news report? Or the Sunday Magazine, which simply ignored the misgivings?

Because I've been complaining about these obvious conflicts of interest (Levitt and Dubner are also under contract to ABC as well, with similar results) for some time, with no response from the NYT Public Editor who is supposed to watch out for things like this, it's nice to see that a respected disinterested observer like Warsh doesn't think they are crazy.

As for why Freakonomics is so popular, keep in mind that I gave the rest of the book (other than the repeated abortion-cut-crime references) a fairly positive review in It is, overall, a pretty good book.

Of course, lots of pretty good books get published every month, so why was this particular one on the NYT bestseller list for a year and a half (other than the frequent hyping in the NYT)? Warsh is probably right in his article titled "CSI: Economics." People like detective stories and they like catching cheaters, so a bunch of quick stories about crime and cheating has a good chance of being popular.

Further, the detective story has a natural dynamic of adding new types of detectives using new types of tools ever since Sherlock Holmes proved the economic viability of the genre. For example, a century ago, G.K. Chesterton introduced his detective, Father Brown, who solved crime mysteries using Catholic theology. So, why not an economist-detective?

Beyond that, I think a great advantage Freakonomics enjoys is the attention-deficit-disorder randomness of its component stories. Levitt and Dubner try to contend that they are tied together by certain general principles, but they are so general that you can pick up the book on the airplane and put it down whenever you like without worrying that your are losing the thread of a cohesive overall argument, because there is really one.

It's a lot like Malcolm Gladwell's similar huge bestseller Blink, which has an overall theme -- snap judgments -- but is utterly incoherent in what it says about them. Judge Posner and I felt that the blatant contradictions within Blink were a detriment, yet, obviously, lots of readers disagreed. They don't want a cohesive true theory. They just want a bunch of anecdotes suitable for all occasions with which to impress their friends and win arguments. Because Blink contains stories about how it's right to follow your snap judgments, you can quote Gladwell when trying to talk other people into following your poorly thought out decisions. And because Blink also contains contradictory anecdotes as well about disasters caused by judging a book by its cover (but no theory for how to distinguish between good "thin-slicing" and bad), it's also useful as ammunition for arguing against other people's hasty decisions.

I suspect that I would be more popular if my writing was more random, disconnected and logically inconsistent That there is a general theory behind much of what I write -- roughly, that who your relatives are matters -- is disturbing to a lot of people. People want to make use of writing a la carte to support whatever they want to argue at the moment. That I'm trying to offer a more general approach that they use themselves to discover all sorts of connections in the human world is not what the market is looking for.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Economists Gone Wild!

In Slate, libertarian economist Steven E. Landsburg trumpets a popular new study called "Pornography, Rape, and the Internet" by Clemson economist Todd Kendall:

How the Web Prevents Rape
All that Internet porn reduces sex crimes. Really.
By Steven E. Landsburg

Does pornography breed rape? Do violent movies breed violent crime? Quite the opposite, it seems.

First, porn. What happens when more people view more of it? The rise of the Internet offers a gigantic natural experiment. Better yet, because Internet usage caught on at different times in different states, it offers 50 natural experiments.

The bottom line on these experiments is, "More Net access, less rape." A 10 percent increase in Net access yields about a 7.3 percent decrease in reported rapes. States that adopted the Internet quickly saw the biggest declines. And, according to Clemson professor Todd Kendall, the effects remain even after you control for all of the obvious confounding variables, such as alcohol consumption, police presence, poverty and unemployment rates, population density, and so forth.

OK, so we can at least tentatively conclude that Net access reduces rape. But that's a far cry from proving that porn access reduces rape. Maybe rape is down because the rapists are all indoors reading Slate or vandalizing Wikipedia. But professor Kendall points out that there is no similar effect of Internet access on homicide. It's hard to see how Wikipedia can deter rape without deterring other violent crimes at the same time. On the other hand, it's easy to imagine how porn might serve as a substitute for rape.

If not Wikipedia, then what? Maybe rape is down because former rapists have found their true loves on But professor Kendall points out that the effects are strongest among 15-year-old to 19-year-old perpetrators—the group least likely to use such dating services.

Moreover, professor Kendall argues that those teenagers are precisely the group that (presumably) relies most heavily on the Internet for access to porn. When you're living with your parents, it's a lot easier to close your browser in a hurry than to hide a stash of magazines. So, the auxiliary evidence is all consistent with the hypothesis that Net access reduces rape because Net access makes it easy to find porn.

I strongly suspect that teenage rapists mostly come from the sizable segment of the population that still didn't have Internet access in 2003.

Yet, there is a much larger issue here.

You'll recognize this theory as Son-of-Abortion-Cuts-Crime: take an old theory that a lot of people, for personal reasons, wish is true, mine through a ton of state-level data, and voila!

What bothers me is that economists don't seem to remember anything when it's time to do simple reality checks on their prize theory.. When Steven D. Levitt and John J. Donohue came up with their famous abortion-crime theory by comparing crime rates in 1985 and 1997, they totally forgot the crack wars that happened in between. When David Card showed that the Mariel Boatlift of Cuban refugees to Miami in 1980 did not cause Miami to have lower wages over the next half decade relative to four other cities, he totally forgot that the Miami economy during his study (1980-1985) was notoriously being chemically stimulated by billions in cocaine smuggling profits.

Worse, all the other economists who read and reviewed these famous studies never noticed what happened during their own lifetimes. I can't find any evidence on Google that anybody mentioned the impact of cocaine in Miami on Card's 1989 study until my VDARE article last summer.

On the other hand, maybe nobody remembers anything and I'm just picking on economists.

Kendall doesn't seem to recall that we ran a massive "natural experiment" in the increased availability of pornography from roughly 1965 to 1975, with the opposite results: the rape rate shot upwards. I was only a kid, but I remember the debate: A study from Sweden or Denmark or somewhere "proved" that legalizing pornography reduced rape. Unfortunately, when this was tried in America (by about 1973, every commercial street corner in suburban Los Angles featured a dozen newsracks for pornographic newspapers), once again Americans didn't behave like Scandinavians.

America's greatest social observer, Tom Wolfe, pointed out in an important mid-1970s article "The Boiler Room and the Computer" (collected in his amazing anthology Mauve Gloves & Madmen) that this more-pornography-equals-less-rape theory is based on a dubious 19th Century Freudian analogy between the libido and that symbol of the age, a steam engine. Without frequent release, pressure builds up and "Look out! She's gonna blow!"

A little introspection among male readers about their own teen years should induce skepticism. Only on the shortest time frame is the boiler room analogy true. On a day-to-day basis, it's more like a feedback loop.

Similarly, why are the sports pages filled with police blotter items about professional athletes, who are presumably not lacking in outlets, being arrested on sexual assault charges?

This doesn't mean that pornography causes rape either. I'm just saying that a better memory would induce more humility and skepticism among freakonomists.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Car-burnings are worse in France this year than last:

Audacious Epigone points out:

Media coverage of the French riots that 'erupted' last November dissipated as the number of vehicles set on fire fell from upwards of 1,400 per night. Prior to this conflagration, dozens of cars were being set ablaze on a nightly basis, and French police faced daily assault from Muslims in-country. So after the spike almost a year ago, the level of chaos fell back to the forty or so burning cars, right? Hardly:

The figures are stark. An average of 112 cars a day have been torched across France so far this year and there have been 15 attacks a day on police and emergency services. Nearly 3,000 police officers have been injured in clashes this year. Officers have been badly injured in four ambushes in the Paris outskirts since September. Some police talk of open war with youths who are bent on more than vandalism.

Western media sources are good at sensationalizing 'freak' occurences but not so good at putting less sensational happenings into proper perspective. Though last year's riots got the headlines, this year is on pace to be 16% more destructive than last, in spite of the high-profile chaos that transpired last year. But since there hasn't been an abrupt, sensational surge this year, a more violent year is getting less coverage regarding violence than a less violent year did.

We still don't even know what to call these punks. Are these Muslim riots or, among the many black Africans involved, are there substantial numbers of Christians or animists? In opinion polls, French Muslims appear much more French than British Muslims appear British. Streetfighting is an honored tradition in France, so are these just immigrants assimilating toward the most destructive French traditions? Or what?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

October 29, 2006

Stay the course!

Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly responds to the Education Department finally allowing single sex public schools:

It turns out, though, that my real fear is just the opposite: ... What if [single sex schooling] works? Does that mean we just give up on the whole idea of figuring out how to make co-ed education work? I can't be the only one who thinks that would be a bad idea, can I?

There are all sorts of problems of race, gender, class, religion, and so forth that can seemingly be ameliorated by simple segregation. But that just caves in to the problem, essentially declaring it unsolvable, rather than acknowledging it and continuing to search for solutions. I have a hard time believing that this does anybody any good in the long term.

In other words, Stay the course!

Social policy should never bow down to reality. If other people's lives have to be damaged for decade after decade so we can feel morally superior, so be it. It's a small price to pay for white liberal self-esteem.

For example, although black inmates are routinely raping white inmates in high security prisons, which causes whites to form racist prison gangs for self-defense, well, as the Supreme Court proclaimed in early 2005 before its recent upgrading with non-senile Justices, we still can't allow any compromise with the sacred cause of prison integration just because of little side effects like AIDS, the Aryan Brotherhood, and black vs. Mexican jail riots.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer