August 10, 2007

Is there anything left to be said about Iraq?

A Google search finds that I've written, assuming my methodology is reasonable, 831 articles or postings with the word "Iraq" in them, going back to early 2001. (Here's my February 27, 2001 op-ed on why the elder George W. Bush was right not to occupy Baghdad ten years before in 1991.)

But I sure haven't written much about Iraq in 2007. It just seems too depressing and boring to rehash again. I'm not exactly sure why I feel this way. As you've no doubt noticed, I'm constantly tempted to use current event X as an excuse to dredge up my old response to past event Proto-X to show that I Figured It All Out Back In Two Thousand Ought Something But It Was Shamefully Ignored At The Time. This, by the way, can get in the way of coming up with new ideas, since it's easier to link to old ideas.

With Iraq, though, much of what I was saying in 2002 has become conventional wisdom, with the exception of exotic stuff like cousin marriage. And I didn't do that good of a job on Iraq, either -- Greg Cochran explained to me a half dozen times why Saddam couldn't afford to have a nuclear bomb program anymore, but I never publicized it. How could he be right and the U.S. government be wrong? My forecast of what would go wrong wasn't bad, but it was off -- I figured the U.S. would stand by the Sunnis and help them put down the Shi'ites, while the Kurds would cause big trouble for the Turks.

Anyway, since I don't have much left to say, what I'd like to do is invite your comments on Iraq.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

In 2006, the Long Predicted Tidal Wave of Angry Hispanic Voters Failed to Materialize Once Again

After the giant illegal alien marches in the spring of 2006, the mainstream media confidently predicted that Hispanics would turn out in vast numbers at the polls last November. Well, the Census Bureau's gold-standard estimate of the Hispanic share of the vote in the last election (based on its survey of 153,000 respondents) is now out, and the Latino fraction fell from 6.0% in 2004 to 5.8% in 2006.

As Peter Brimelow has been pointing out since 1997, simple arithmetic shows that the growth in Latino voters is bad for the GOP. (David Frum echoed Brimelow's point recently, and was called a Ku Klux Klanner for his troubles.)

As I've been pointing out since 2001, however, the widespread belief among Establishment Republicans like Karl Rove that the growth in the Latino vote is so rapid that they already constitute a decisive bloc whose views on illegal immigration can't be disobeyed is innumerate. There's still time when it remains politically feasible to do something about immigration.

For example, GOP pundit Michael Barone wrote that the Hispanic vote would reach 8 or 9 percent in the 2004 election. I publicly offered to bet him $1,000 that the Census survey of 50,000 households right after the voting would find a figure closer to 6.1%. The actual result was 6.0%, but Barone didn't take me up on my offer (which is too bad because I could use the money.)

The Hispanic share typically falls slightly from the more exciting Presidential election to the more ho-hum mid-term elections, because Hispanics aren't as dutiful voters. For instance, it dropped from 5.4% in 2000 to 5.3% in 2002. So, versus the last midterm election, the Hispanic share was up half a percentage point from 2002 to 2006. This continues the long-term trend of the Hispanic share growing 0.012 to 0.016 percentage points per year.

The Pew Hispanic Center points out that the Latino Demographic Tsunami isn't generating a similar Electoral Tsunami, as the graph shows. The Pew folks, who crunched the numbers off a Census Bureau data file, report:

" ... the growth of the Latino vote continued to lag well behind the growth of the Latino population. This widening gap is driven by two key demographic trends: a high percentage of the new Hispanics in the population are either too young to vote or ineligible because they are not citizens.

As a result, while Latinos represented nearly half the total population growth in the U.S. between 2002 and 2006, the Latino share among all new eligible voters was just 20%. By comparison, whites accounted for 24% of the population growth and 47% of all eligible new voters.

About 5.6 million Hispanics voted in the 2006 mid-term election, which historically draws far fewer voters than the quadrennial race for president. Latinos accounted for 5.8% of all votes cast, up from 5.3% in 2002. That increase was largely a function of demographic growth.

Latinos historically lag behind whites and blacks in registration (percent among all eligible voters) and voting (percent of registered voters who actually cast ballots). In 2006, the pro-immigration rallies held in many cities raised expectations that political participation among Latinos would also increase.

Census data shows a marginal increase in registration and participation rates among Latinos between 2002 and 2006. Whites, however, also experienced a slight gain, so Latinos did not close the considerable gap. About 54% of Latino eligible voters registered in 2006, up from 53% in 2002. About 60% of these registered voters said they actually voted in 2006, up from 58% in 2002.

By contrast, 71% of white eligible voters registered in 2006, two percentage points higher than in 2002. About 72% of these registered voters said they voted in last year's mid-term elections, one percentage point higher than in 2002. ...

Hispanics accounted for 5.8% of the votes cast in 2006, up from 5.3% vote in 2002. In absolute numbers, an additional 800,000 Hispanics cast ballots in the 2006 election compared with the 2002 election.

Whites accounted for 81% of the votes in 2006, unchanged from 2002. In absolute numbers, an additional 5.6 million whites cast ballots in the 2006 election compared with the 2002 election. Blacks accounted for 10% of the votes in 2006, down from about 11% in 2002. The black vote increased by 400,000 in 2006.

The 5.6 million votes cast by Hispanics in 2006 represented 13% of the total Hispanic population. The 9.9 million votes cast by black represented 27% of the black population and the 78 million votes cast by whites represented 39% of the white population. [More]

So, non-Hispanic white residents of America voted in 2006 at three times the rate of Hispanic residents.

Overall, whites cast almost 12 ballots for every ballot cast by a Hispanic.

If Washington insiders weren't so clueless about these numbers, they never would have tried to inflict their amnesty bill on us. But, because you aren't supposed to talk about things like this (remember when my first voting analysis article in VDARE in 2000 got me banned for life from Free Republic? Hey, is that website still in business? You never hear about it anymore ...), they were astonished when the citizenry overwhelmingly rose up and rejected the Kennedy-Bush-McCain bill.

Via Audacious Epigone.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 9, 2007

Competitive Moralism

From the Joy of Curmudgeonry:

"Competitive moralism, of which we see too much, is driven by something amoral and animalistic: it is the age-old struggle for supremacy, the competition of rivals, placed in more respectable terms. The struggle becomes absurd — not in its underlying aims which are ever natural — but in the ever greater distance between high claims and base motives, wherewith the only point is in outdoing one’s rivals in “goodness” whilst not actually caring a damn whether anything good will come of it. Intellectual life — that supposedly higher sphere and haven from beastly struggle — becomes diseased with it, even such that, in terrible and political times, there is a delirium of the senses, and a dulling of the faculties, except for the primitive and still acute instincts for success."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Boston Globe and Steven Durlauf on Putnam's diversity research

A few weeks ago I got a phone call from a fellow writing an article for the Boston Globe on Harvard political scientist Robert D. Putnam's research on ethnic diversity's impact on social capital, which I've been writing about, every now and then, since 2001 (here and here). But the journalist seemed at least as interested in asking about David Duke, of all people, as about Putnam's data, so it didn't seem like a very productive conversation. Anyway, here's his article:

The downside of diversity
A Harvard political scientist finds that diversity hurts civic life. What happens when a liberal scholar unearths an inconvenient truth?

By Michael Jonas | August 5, 2007

IT HAS BECOME increasingly popular to speak of racial and ethnic diversity as a civic strength. From multicultural festivals to pronouncements from political leaders, the message is the same: our differences make us stronger.

But a massive new study, based on detailed interviews of nearly 30,000 people across America, has concluded just the opposite. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam -- famous for "Bowling Alone," his 2000 book on declining civic engagement -- has found that the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings. The study, the largest ever on civic engagement in America, found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings.

"The extent of the effect is shocking," says Scott Page, a University of Michigan political scientist. ...

Meanwhile, by drawing a portrait of civic engagement in which more homogeneous communities seem much healthier, some of Putnam's worst fears about how his results could be used have been realized. A stream of conservative commentary has begun -- from places like the Manhattan Institute and "The American Conservative" -- highlighting the harm the study suggests will come from large-scale immigration. But Putnam says he's also received hundreds of complimentary emails laced with bigoted language. "It certainly is not pleasant when David Duke's website hails me as the guy who found out racism is good," he says.

This reminds me of when Mearsheimer and Walt's essay on "The Israel Lobby" came out and the neocon NY Sun immediately solicited an endorsement of it from David Duke, which then showed up in 56,000 of the first 177,000 references to it on Google.

So how to explain New York, London, Rio de Janiero, Los Angeles -- the great melting-pot cities that drive the world's creative and financial economies?

Rio drives the "world's creative and financial economies"? More than, say, Tokyo?

Diversity, it shows, makes us uncomfortable -- but discomfort, it turns out, isn't always a bad thing. Unease with differences helps explain why teams of engineers from different cultures may be ideally suited to solve a vexing problem. Culture clashes can produce a dynamic give-and-take, generating a solution that may have eluded a group of people with more similar backgrounds and approaches. ...

So that's why Toyota's engineers in Nagoya, Japan and Nokia's engineers in Espoo, Finland are so bad!

The image of civic lassitude dragging down more diverse communities is at odds with the vigor often associated with urban centers, where ethnic diversity is greatest.

This is another version of the theory that Richard Florida gets $35,000 a lecture for propounding, that the reason high tech centers like Silicon Valley are rich is because they attract a lot of gays, bohemians, artistes, and immigrants. That appears to get the causality backwards -- Dr. Florida's favorites are attracted to some high tech suburb by the wealth-generated by the pocket-protector nerds and the golf-playing salesguys, not the other way around.

It turns out there is a flip side to the discomfort diversity can cause. If ethnic diversity, at least in the short run, is a liability for social connectedness, a parallel line of emerging research suggests it can be a big asset when it comes to driving productivity and innovation. In high-skill workplace settings, says Scott Page, the University of Michigan political scientist, the different ways of thinking among people from different cultures can be a boon.

"Because they see the world and think about the world differently than you, that's challenging," says Page, author of "The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies." "But by hanging out with people different than you, you're likely to get more insights. Diverse teams tend to be more productive."

In other words, those in more diverse communities may do more bowling alone, but the creative tensions unleashed by those differences in the workplace may vault those same places to the cutting edge of the economy and of creative culture.

Look, there is a theoretical upside to having both object-oriented Western engineers and context-oriented East Asian engineers, but the friction costs imposed by diversity (e.g., language difficulties and culture differences) make that hard to achieve profitably in the real world. Anyway, that's not what Americans mean by "diversity." Here, the word means hiring more underperforming minorities (e.g., blacks and Latinos), which, not surprisingly, doesn't improve your organization's performance.

California has Silicon Valley, Hollywood and ten million Mexican-Americans, but there's almost no overlap. Although Mexicans are by far the biggest immigrant group, they don't even rank among the top 20 immigrant groups in the U.S. in terms of patents awarded.
Logically, Putnam should be drawing a distinction between selective elite immigration and massive unskilled immigration, but he's not.

What people often get mislead by when they claim that diversity improves performance is a simple selection effect: if you have a highly selective, big money organization, you are often going to end up with people from exotic places, but that doesn't mean that -- all else being equal -- diversity makes your organization work better. It just means that not all else is equal: world-class talent is found in several parts of the world (although not necessarily all parts of the world).

For example, consider the Top 10 Golfers in the World. For most of this decade, one member of that group has been a black-skinned, white-featured Indian from the Fiji Islands who used to be a club pro on Borneo (Vijay Singh). Now, that's pretty diverse! But it doesn't mean the Top 10 Golfers work together better (or worse) because they are diverse -- in fact, they don't work together at all. It's just a selection effect.

So, what happens is that people notice that a glamorous world-class organization like, say, the New York Yankees has a diverse set of outstanding employees from all over the world, so, therefore, the way to make, say, your Dunder-Mifflin regional paper products office in Scranton more successful is to increase its diversity.

Well, no, that doesn't follow, for reasons that are obvious if you are allowed to articulate them without calling the wrath of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission down on your head: your organization probably isn't world-class so it can't select world-class talent. If you are currently irrationally discriminating in hiring from the local market, then stop it: you can attract better talent by hiring meritocratically. But if you are already hiring meritocratically, then "seeking diversity" (i.e., hiring more blacks and Hispanics by lowering qualifications required for them) will only make your talent level worse.


The leading critic of Putnam's research from the left is U. of Wisconsin economist Steven Durlauf, who was the best debater and extemporaneous speaker in Southern California high school debate back in my day. (He was a year behind me, but quickly surpassed me.) He sent me this email, with permission to post it.

Dear Steve,

I happened to come across your blog comments on the Erica Goode article about Putnam's work. I realize this may be thin skinned on my part, but am writing to explain my views. The NYT article did not make any effort to communicate why I felt Putnam's claim that integrated neighborhoods can produce lowered trust/social capital (as expressed in the article they sent me) was questionable. And this is despite numerous complaints when I found out what was going to appear in the article-I did not see why anyone would care that I disagreed without knowing why. In any event, here is my argument:

The difficulty in moving from a correlation between individual attitudes and neighborhood ethnic diversity to a causal statement that neighborhood diversity affects individual attitudes is that one needs to appropriately control for the possibility that individuals located in different neighborhoods may systematically differ with respect to various characteristics that affect attitudes. Putnam fails to control for these potential differences in anything approaching a statistically adequate way. (His empirical analysis uses some control variables in running "trust" regressions, but these are not adequate for addressing this problem. In economics, the work of James Heckman pioneered the recognition that unobservable sources of self-selection are a first order issue in empirical work of this type. A classic example is the analysis of the effects of job training programs.)

Further, there is a logical basis for expecting this problem to arise. Neighborhood membership is the outcome of an individual's preferences, beliefs (about his future prospects, the neighborhood's development, etc.) and the constraints he faces (prices, borrowing capacity, etc.) Suppose that I observe two caucasian heads of household, with identical incomes such that one lives in an ethnically diverse neighborhood whereas the other lives in an ethnically homogeneous neighborhood. The former gives survey answers indicating less trust of others than the latter. Should I conclude that diversity has caused the lower trust that has been measured for the former, or is it reasonable to interpret the difference as reflecting that the person living in the diverse neighborhood is simply not comparable to the other person because they differ with respect to some other factors than those I have listed (i.e. are observable to the data analyst)?

In my opinion, it is easy to think of reasons why the latter is the case. For example, trust may be associated with contentment. If both individuals prefer to live in the homogeneous neighborhood, but the former has not been able to move to it for some reason (inability to borrow, competing claims on income, simply has yet to move!), it would not be a surprise that he is less trusting. I could imagine a similar scenario if one considers the role of beliefs about the future in affecting choices. Presumably, for example, I will spend more on a house if I am optimistic about my economic prospects than otherwise. The point is that if two individuals are comparable with respect to observable characteristics yet make different choices, one has to take a stand on why the choices differ. Putnam's analysis assumes the sources of the differences are unrelated to attitudes on trust and I do not find this assumption plausible.

Is this an unfair standard of evidence for Putnam's claim? I think it is a reasonable standard because (forgive my repeating myself) an individual's membership in a neighborbood is a choice and hence a function of the the collection of preferences, constraints, and beliefs that characterize him. In his article, Putnam dismisses this type of concern on the basis that one would have to believe that curmudgeons deliberately choose to live in more diverse communities. This dismissal does not address the constraint and belief aspects of neighborhood choice. His answer also confuses causality and correlation, the correlation of curmudgeonly attitudes with a taste for integration can occur for many reasons. The issue is not whether curmudgeons choose diverse neighborhoods because they are curmudgeons, but whether the set of preferences that produce low trust are correlated with diverse neighborhood choices. Putnam's argument presupposes some neat division in preferences that I think is psychologically implausible. As it happens, for me personally, I put high value on a diverse community but have little interest in personal relationships with my neighbors.

Let me jump in here with an example that I think illustrates Durlauf's point. My late mother moved from St. Paul, Minnesota to Los Angeles (which in 2000 came out as very distrustful in Putnam's study) during WWII, while her sister still lives in St. Paul. (Midwestern communities tend to rank higher in trust).

Perhaps there was a selection effect going on: maybe my aunt was happier with their neighbors in St. Paul than my mother was, or my aunt felt more connected to their neighbors than my my mother did, so that contributed to why one sister stayed "back East" and one left for LA. Aggregate that over millions of examples, and you might come up with a reason why white Angelenos are less neighborly than their relatives in the Midwest.

I also get the impression that LA was physically designed to be less neighborly than many older cities, even before it became all that ethnically diverse. For instance, most homes in LA have tall, solid fences around their backyards, while in some other built-up areas of the country, it's common to have no more than a low chain-link fence separating your backyard from your neighbor's. As a native Angeleno, this kind of lifestyle I saw in Chicago struck me as lacking in privacy, but there is a tradeoff between privacy and trust.

One reason for the big backyard fences in LA is to keep neighborhood kids from sneaking into your swimming pool and drowning. Most LA homes don't actually have pools, but the ones that do need to put up fences, and everybody else kind of wants to look like they might have a pool behind their fence.

Moreover, celebrities set the styles in LA, and big movie stars are, by necessity, very unneighborly. Streets in the Hollywood Hills typically are too narrow and winding to have sidewalks, so it's practically impossible to stroll down the street to visit your neighbors without risking being run over. You have to get in your car and drive, so why bother hanging out with your physical neighbors when you can just drive a little farther and visit somebody you already know? Stars like this kind of lifestyle because it keeps doofus fans from camping out their (nonexistent) sidewalks.

A lot of these celebrity styles infected the non-celebrity neighborhoods down in the flat lands, such as the annoying fashion in the plebeian San Fernando Valley for not having sidewalks.

Also, the Spanish-style of home architecture that has periodically been in fashion here in Southern California is unneighborly -- there's a rather blank facade on the street with an internal courtyard or some other private feature. Mexico is of course a classic a low-trust society.

All this raises chicken or egg questions about whether the physical layout of LA contributes to the unneighborliness of Angelenos or whether Angelenos chose the physical layout because of their orneriness, but in either case, it can raise the correlation between distrust and diversity when comparing LA to Minnesota.

Does this explain much about Putnam's results -- I don't know. It might for LA, but LA is far from the whole study of 40 communities.

Of course, this is all an argument as to why the evidence does not support the claim, not that the claim is wrong. I have only read one article on Putnam's new work (sent to me by the NYT as background for their interview) providing an overview of what he argues in the book, not the book manuscript itself. And to be clear, the specific claim that I understand to be original to Putnam in the new new work is that the presence of different ethnic groups makes a person less trusting of his own group as well as others. This is what I find hard to believe. The claim does not correspond to any social psychology studies of which I am aware (not that I am well read here), nor does it correspond to any social science theory which I find plausible, nor is the empirical evidence in Putnam's paper persuasive, as I have tried to argue. In contrast, there is no end of evidence on the ubiquitous potential for intergroup conflicts e.g. the Robbers' Cave experiment. Hence my presumption that Putnam's claim is incorrect and that the burden of proof is on the person making the claim.

Also, I don't think that that there is any reason why folks on the left should be put off if Putnam's claim about the effect of integration on attitudes is true. One reason is that the defense for many race-related policies (I am thinking of policies whose advocates regard them as promoting integration, and I would include affirmative action in this category) is based on ethical considerations for which the validity of Putnam's claim has little import as these considerations (if valid) trump side effects of the type Putnam suggests can occur.

In fact, one could read Putnam's findings as justifying government interventions of various types. If integrated communities induce a loss of social capital, this is an example of an externality. To push this further and in an empirical direction, ethnic conflicts in the US army in the 1970's led to various policies that are interventionist-see Charles Moskos and John Sibley Butler's All That We Can Be for an interesting discussion.

One interesting thing I learned from Moskos and Butler's book is how the Army uses IQ testing to nearly equalize the average IQs of white and black recruits -- which, of course, makes for social more equality among soldiers than is possible among citizens in general, where the ethnic IQ gaps constantly get in the way. The most obvious implication for civilian policy is to not let in so many low IQ illegal immigrants.

A related point: Putnam's writings tend to be utopian when it comes to public policy. And as it happens, I argued to the NYT writer that the suggestion that ethnic conflict can be resolved by benign government policies is dubious without careful attention to context and recognition of how little we really know about the determinants of race relations, trust attitudes, and the like. (Much of my own current research is on the question of how to choose policies when the policymaker knows relatively little about the determinants of the phenomenon that one wishes to affect.)

Anyways, enough venting. I hope this note finds you and your family well.

Best Wishes,

The most obvious response to uncertainty in policymaking would be ... prudence. For example, we don't know what the results of the current massive unskilled immigration will be, so it would seem reasonable to cut back on it: the potential upside is limited and potential downside is much larger, so why do it?

Instead, we constantly hear things like, "Well, yes, I suppose now that you mention it, that admitting millions of illegal aliens puts big stresses on education, but ... all we have to do is fix the public schools!"

Well, swell, except that we don't know how to fix the public schools, and even if we did, we aren't likely to do it.

Or fix our crumbling infrastructure, or fix our health insurance crisis, or fix our excessive carbon emissions, or fix a whole bunch of things that we aren't likely to fix. Cutting back on immigration won't be all that easy, but it's a lot more manageable many other problems that immigration puts additional strains upon.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 8, 2007

Barry Bonds' one sin that you don't hear about

Long before he started juicing in 1999, Bonds was widely despised for never sharing any of his baseball secrets with his teammate. His not unreasonable explanation was that many would soon stop being his teammates and start being his competitors. And Barry certainly had less to gain from exchanging tips with lesser baseball minds -- here's an article on how his pioneering armor-plating of his elbow against being hit by the pitch game him a big mechanical advantage. In the long run, Bonds will be understood as one of the games' most focused technical innovators. His father, Bobby Bonds, was a great physical talent but never quite fulfilled his potential. Barry carefully overcame all his father's flaws.

Strikingly, the one character flaw that Bonds is seldom denounced in the press for is for his racism. As I pointed out in 2006, the carefully documented book Game of Shadows explains the origin of his juicing: the adulation for the cheating McGwire who is white, was driving him crazy.

On that trip [to McGwire's St. Louis in May 1998] Bonds began making racial remarks about McGwire to Kimberly Bell [his girlfriend]. According to Bell he would repeat them throughout the summer, as McGwire and Sammy Sosa, the buff, fan-friendly Chicago Cubs slugger who also was hitting home runs at an amazing rate, became the talk of the nation.

"They're just letting him do it because he's a white boy," Bonds said of McGwire and his chase of Maris's record. The pursuit by Sosa, a Latin player from the Dominican Republic, was entertaining but doomed, Bonds declared. As a matter of policy, "they'll never let him win," he said.

As he sometimes did when he was in a particularly bleak mood, Bonds was channeling racial attitudes picked up from his father, the former Giants star Bobby Bonds, and his godfather, the great Willie Mays, both African-American ballplayers who had experienced virulent racism while starting their professional careers in the Jim Crow South. Barry Bonds himself had never seen anything remotely like that: He had grown up in an affluent white suburb of San Francisco, and his best boyhood friend, his first wife and his present girlfriend all were white. When Bonds railed about McGwire, he didn't articulate who "they" were, or how the supposed conspiracy to rig the home run record was being carried out. But his brooding anger was real enough, and it continued throughout a year in which he batted .303, hit 37 home runs, made the All-Star team for the eighth time and was otherwise almost completely ignored.

Compare the silence on Bonds' racism (despite how much the media hate him overall) to how, in the grand tradition of the Brezhnev Regime, Major League Baseball, to press adulation, bundled relief pitcher John Rocker off to a mental hospital for saying in 2000 about New York:

"It's the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the [Number] 7 train to the ballpark, looking like you're [riding through] Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It's depressing."

Saturday Night Live's Colin Quinn commented, "I hate Rocker, but I have to admit the guy has ridden the 7 train."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 7, 2007

Amazing fact of the day

"According to official statistics, Pakistan [population: 165 million] has produced only eight patents in the past 43 years."

Pervez Hoodbhoy,
chair of the department of physics at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, Pakistan

Physics Today

That's bad, really bad. Pakistanis in the US must come up with eight patents patents every, what, year? Month? Still, Pakistanis don't seem to to do that well in invention and high tech entrepreneurship in the U.S., ranking down around Mexican-Americans, but they sure do better than their cousins in Pakistan.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Bad timing

The New York Times brings Steven D. Levitt's Freakonomics blog on-board as an official NYT feature right at the moment we get to see Levitt's embarrassing "letter of clarification" in settlement of John Lott's defamation case against him!

Will the NYT ever report on this latest story involving their valuable asset? In 2005, the NYT, unlike the Wall Street Journal and The Economist, didn't report on Christopher Foote's and Christopher Goetz's discovery that their columnist's famous abortion-cut-crime theory was based on two errors Levitt had made.

So, probably not. As I wrote in the Washington Times in my review of Lott's anti-Levitt Freedomnomics: "Someone should write Celebrityonomics: Why Being Famous Beats Being Right."

As for defamation lawsuits, the Mahalanobis blog has some interesting reflections:

I have a lot of legal experience recently as a defendant, so in the Levitt vs Lott defamation spat, I found myself sympathetic to the defendant, Levitt. Levitt's admission that he said things to the effect that Lott was manipulating his results, and just plain dumb, I figured was his rightful opinion. Heck, if we are to make it illegal to have bad opinions, we would all be in jail. ... People have to learn to live with the fact that no one but Kim Jong-Il or Fidel Castro get 100% approval ratings. In sum, that someone thinks you are dumb or corrupt is so common it is hardly worth a legal remedy.

I had read the one sentence from Freakonomics that Lott found offensive, and was unmoved, as was the judge. But I just read the email that Levitt wrote to John McCall, where he asserts in a private e-mail that Lott's work published in a volume of the Journal of Law and Economics was a puff piece, bought and paid for by Lott or his puppet masters. As Levitt is a powerful person in economics (Editor of the highly respected Journal of Political Economy), whose opinion is therefore important to other people, with power comes responsibility. He is not a politician, so I think he should be free to say whatever he wants in public, no matter how mean or petty. To the extent he slanders or libels someone in public, its good advertising, because no one gets really mad when someone says 2+2=5, they get mad when you make good points.

But private correspondence is more problematic. If behind the scenes a powerful man is slandering someone, there's no accountability, it generates damages, and basically constitutes a conspiracy. This is especially so in this case because Levitt appears to have acted in bad faith, misstating known facts about things like whether something was refereed, ...

Another reminder that economists, like everyone else, are all too human. I hope Levitt takes this lesson to heart.

Personally, I might favor the law affording people a "one defamation margin of error:" if Levitt had more than once emailed somebody with this kind of thing, it would constitute a pattern. At present, however, all we know is that he did this once. (Another concern about suing over private emails is that a satirical statement not intended seriously might be taken literally, although that doesn't seem to apply here.)

Finally, to add some context, here's a paragraph from an earlier David Glenn article in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

"A participant in the conference told The Chronicle last year that Mr. Levitt's characterization of the issue as not peer-refereed was an exaggeration but not an outrageous untruth. Other participants, however, insisted that the issue was vigorously peer-reviewed. They said they had the impression that their work would have been rejected if they had not dealt with the reviewers' concerns."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Movie critics v. movie box-office

I've long felt that the individual film critic's job isn't really to give you a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on whether a movie is good or not. You'd be better off looking up on Rotten Tomatoes an aggregation of critics' ratings to even out the random perturbations.

Now, there are a tiny number of unjustly-overlooked movies that I've helped call to public attention -- "Idiocracy," of course, but also Stephen Fry's Evelyn Waugh adaptation "Bright Young Things" and bring back to the conversation John Huston's "Man Who Would Be King" during the Afghan War, but, in general, I'm too old to care whether I'm succeeding in imposing my personal tastes upon the world. (Which is good, because I'm not!)

Instead, I see my job in my movie reviews as adding value. Some critics do this by being amusingly snarky, but I'm more earnest. I go read the book, Google the history, think about the issues the movie brings up. For example, my review of the Oscar-winning "Capote" came to the same conclusion as everybody else's: Philip Seymour Hoffman is great! I don't have the skills to explain much about why Hoffman was great within 735 words (but not too many other critics do, either). I do think I made some contribution by reading Capote's In Cold Blood and pointing out that the film screenwriter's unthinking bias against capital punishment made the film unfair to Truman Capote and his small but influential place in literary history.

Anyway, I don't think it's very hard to give a reasonably accurate thumbs up or thumbs down on individual movies, and most critics aren't bad at that aspect of the job. As I wrote to The Audacious Epigone:

There is a fair amount of agreement between critics and the public on movies within various classes: e.g., that "Saving Private Ryan" was better than "Flags of Our Fathers," or that "Gladiator" was better than "Alexander." Movies tend to "work" or not work, rather like a good band within a musical genre is pretty clearly better than a bad band.

Fortunately, he took me up on this and crunched the numbers on the correlation between critics' ratings and box office dollars. In "Movie Critics and Movie Mavens," he reports:

Steve's comment is borne out for the most part--critics do well ... by genre, except for horror (which they despise) and romance (which, not surprisingly, they just don't seem to get). Criticism and cynicism are often mistakenly thought to be synonyms, and this provides some justification for that confusion, as these genres are the two most susceptible to it. In action and science fiction, they do very well (.55 and .59 r-values, respectively). The disdain for horror extends across the board, as it received the lowest average score of all of the genres considered. For drama and children's movies, they perform about as well as movies at large.

Drama films are most likely to be heavily politically or culturally ideological, which is probably why critics don't do so well in this serious genre. It's similarly a tough one for the general public, as the characters and the actions they take are often judged in many gradations, open to more interpretation than say, concluding that Scar is a bad dude.

Fat Knowledge, in wondering how the general public fared compared to the critics, pointed me to Yahoo, which constructs an average user score based on thousands of online ratings. The folks obliterate the critics. Rotten Tomatoes' critic scores, the most reliable relative to box office receipts of the different services looked at, correlate with revenue at .295 to the Yahoo users' .405.

While the critics do a little better by genre than by all movies in general, Yahoo users beat the critics in every genre, excepting action and science fiction, by slim margins. Romance is the most glaring. Critic scores and box office performance correlate at a meaningless .06 to users' .77. That blossoming could never happen in real life! But two cowboys... Horror was similarly divergent. Apparently stuffy critics cannot degrade themselves enough to review horror movies with any seriousness--they all belong in the garbage bin!

The genre-to-revenue relationships (r-values) for professional critics, Yahoo users:

Genre, Pros, Yahoos
Action: .55, .48
Comedy: .41, .58
Drama: .28, .38
Horror: .09, .61
Kids: .27, .79
Romance: .06, .77
Sci-Fi: .59, .55
Thriller: .31, .42

Simply put, if you want to know how a movie will do, ask the moviegoing public that will go to see it. Not only do the movie-maven plebeians do better than the putative experts at predicting actual box office performance, they're a lot more stable across the board, always providing at least a moderate amount of insight. Of course, uppity critics would hate to be amalgamated as a group, so unique are their individual opinions! Find a critic that you feel to be insightful, and his criticism becomes valuable.

The data, via Swivel, is available here.

One addition that could be made to his analysis would be to make it a multiple regression analysis and add in budget as independent variable. Critics tend to grade on the curve, demanding much more from a $100 million movie than a $1 million dollar movie. (Perhaps we assume that the marketing budget is proportional to the production budget, so we can help a small budget movie more than a big budget one.) For example, the tiny Irish musical for heterosexuals "Once" got huge ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, with 97% positive reviews. On an absolute scale, it's really not that good, but it's the "Citizen Kane" of $150,000 movies. And the public seems to agree: it's made $6.5 million domestically, which is a huge return on investment.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

Nerds and Object-Orientation

To me, one of the hallmarks of nerdishness is a cognitive tendency toward being "object-oriented," as opposed to seeing things in context. I consider object-orientation a masculine mental trait, in some ways the opposite of women's intuition, where a woman processes a variety of clues to come to a holistic insight, typically about social relationships.

I've also argued that East Asians tend to be more masculine-minded than white Americans on average, as shown by having higher SAT Math relative to SAT Verbal scores and being good engineers, and the like.

On the other hand, Robert Nisbett, who has researched East Asian thinking patterns, says they are less object-oriented than white Americans (with East Asian-Americans falling in between) and more context-oriented. Razib reported on GNXP in 2003:

I just read Richard Nisbett's The Geography of Thought. You can read a summary of the book here as a press release from the University of Michigan. The critiques that some of the readers over at Amazon make about the book are spot-on, Nisbett has a collection of studies that he bandies about, which reinforces stereotypes and preconceptions about "Asian thinking" vs. "Western thinking."

·The West is reductionist, the East is holistic

·The East is accepts contradiction, the West must be consistent

·The West focuses on the object, the East observers the context

...and so forth. This is a recapitulation of tried & true generalizations. But I think Nisbett does us a service by showing that psychological tests have indicated quite clearly that these trends are true.

In 1991's Sexual Personae, Camille Paglia also argued that object-orientation is a Western tendency, comparing the European knight in shining armor to the Japanese samurai's much more organic-looking armor.

Perhaps these different mental orientations explain why, say, American engineers are better at inventing big breakthroughs, while Japanese engineers are better at integrating all the pieces into smoothly working systems? At least, that's what the Japanese seem to believe...

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

The New Republic's soldier-diarist

The Scott Thomas Beauchamp brouhaha: There's no market for first novels these days, but there's a big market for memoirs, so a variety of autobiographical fiction manuscripts have been relabeled as autobiographies: most notoriously, "A Million Little Pieces," but also, perhaps more relevantly, "Jarhead," a first Gulf War novel that got sold to the public as autobiography and made into a based-on-a-true-story movie, even though it contains a lot of old Marine lore passed off as actually happening to the narrator. (Here's my American Conservative review of "Jarhead.")

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

On the Internet, nobody knows you're a white guy

Liberals bloggers and readers of Daily Kos have been getting together at an annual convention, and it turns out -- surprise, surprise -- that when you see them in person, this latest manifestation of civil society consists of a whole bunch of white males. From the Washington Post:

A Diversity of Opinion, if Not Opinionators
At the Yearly Kos Bloggers' Convention, a Sea of Middle-Aged White Males
By Jose Antonio Vargas

CHICAGO, Aug. 5 -- It's Sunday, day 4 of Yearly Kos, the major conference for progressive bloggers, and Gina Cooper, the confab's organizer-in-chief, surveys the ballroom of the massive McCormick Place Convention Center. A few hundred remaining conventioneers are having brunch, dining on eggs, bagels and sausage.

Seven of the eight Democratic presidential candidates have paid their respects this weekend, and some 200 members of the credentialed press have filed their stories. A mere curiosity just two years ago, the progressive blogosphere has gone mainstream. But Cooper sees a problem.

"It's mostly white. More male than female," says the former high school math and science teacher turned activist. "It's not very diverse."

There goes the open secret of the netroots, or those who make up the community of the Internet grass-roots movement.

For all the talk about the increasing influence of this growing group -- "We are a community . . . a movement . . . an institution," Cooper said in a speech Saturday night -- what gets scant attention is its demography. While the Huffington Post and Fire Dog Lake, both founded by women, are two of the most widely read blogs, the rock stars are mostly men, and many women bloggers complain of sexism and harassment in the blogosphere.

Walking around McCormick Place during the weekend, it became clear that only a handful of the 1,500 conventioneers -- bloggers, policy experts, party activists -- are African American, Latino or Asian. Of about 100 scheduled panels and workshops, less than a half-dozen dealt directly with women or minority issues. ...

Historically, the progressive movement has included a myriad of special-interest and single-issue groups, and the challenge has always been to find common ground. The same is true on the Internet, but with an added twist. The Internet, after all, is not a "push" medium like television, where information flows out, but a "pull" medium, where people are drawn in.

Build a liberal site such as Daily Kos, as the Persian Gulf War veteran and former Republican Markos "Kos" Moulitsas Zuniga did five years ago, and bloggers either join the discussion or not. For two years now, Moulitsas has lent his name to the conference. But on Saturday, Cooper announced that next year the event will be called "Netroots Nation."

Cooper is worried about generating more "inclusion," using the word no less than six times in 15 minutes. ...

It's hard to think of another movement that has affected politics in such a short period of time, and the blogging culture is an informal, friendly community that has no one leader or single issue -- except, perhaps, strong opposition to the war in Iraq. Last year's Blogads Reader Survey found that the median political blog reader is a 43-year-old male who has an annual family income of $80,000, and judging by the number of middle-aged men who attended one panel after the next here, it's hard to argue with that. ...

Stoller half-jokingly says that the netroots community is full of "white liberal men," then quickly points out that Moulitsas is part Latino. (The other half is Greek.)

A lot of the influential segments of American society are almost as white male-dominated as in 1960, especially those where affirmative action doesn't apply, such as at liberal netroots conferences or as CEOs of Fortune 500 firms, which are about 99% white.

Political blogging, for example, is overwhelmingly dominated by white males, plus the occasional upper-caste Indian. Writing Hollywood movies might be more white male dominated than in 1960 -- whites still make up 94% of big movie screenwriters, and the male to female ratio apppears to have increased as action became more important than dialogue.

In general, white males still tend to most of the interesting new things in the world.

So why are semi-elite non-quota organizations staying white male-dominated? Here are some hypotheses, focusing on the liberal netroots issue, but more widely applicable as well. Of course, they are, based on statistical generalizations. (I realize that thinking statistically is politically incorrect, but the universe works stochastically):

- Apparently, African-Americans have in recent decades tended to lose interest in fields that they can't dominate numerically and thus culturally: e.g., they've come to dominate the NBA and NFL, while losing interest in baseball. Blacks don't seem to want to be tokens anymore. For instance, from 1964-1986, five different black guys won a total of 23 PGA golf tournaments. In the last 20 years, however, only the 1/4th black Tiger Woods has won anything on the PGA.

Going to a netroots conference, for instance, probably strikes most black guys as something for particularly lame white nerds.

- Hispanics are vastly under-represented in most influential fields of civil society, perhaps for deep cultural reasons -- e.g., there's little civil society in Mexico.

What's particularly striking is the under-representation of Hispanics, who now make up 1-7th of the residents of the country, in just about any quasi-elite organization, other than legislatures where the Voting Rights Act mandates the creation of majority-minority districts, and other affirmative-action influenced entities.

That Matthew Yglesias is on the verge of being the best-known Spanish-surnamed pundit in the country is bizarrely ironic.

- East Asians are doing well, but tend to be a little less assertive and little less interested in politics and the like.

- Women just aren't that interested in broadcasting their opinions to the world. They love to tell you their opinions personally, but telling the world about how to reform telecom policy tends to strike them as a waste of time.

- So, that leaves the main exception, South Asians, who tend to be very well-educated, quite verbal, and quite interested in politics and public affairs.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 6, 2007

Greg Clark's A Farewell to Alms

From the New York Times:

In Dusty Archives, a Theory of Affluence

For thousands of years, most people on earth lived in abject poverty, first as hunters and gatherers, then as peasants or laborers. But with the Industrial Revolution, some societies traded this ancient poverty for amazing affluence.

Historians and economists have long struggled to understand how this transition occurred and why it took place only in some countries. A scholar who has spent the last 20 years scanning medieval English archives has now emerged with startling answers for both questions.

Gregory Clark, an economic historian at the University of California, Davis, believes that the Industrial Revolution — the surge in economic growth that occurred first in England around 1800 — occurred because of a change in the nature of the human population. The change was one in which people gradually developed the strange new behaviors required to make a modern economy work. The middle-class values of nonviolence, literacy, long working hours and a willingness to save emerged only recently in human history, Dr. Clark argues.

Because they grew more common in the centuries before 1800, whether by cultural transmission or evolutionary adaptation, the English population at last became productive enough to escape from poverty, followed quickly by other countries with the same long agrarian past.

Dr. Clark’s ideas have been circulating in articles and manuscripts for several years and are to be published as a book next month, “A Farewell to Alms” (Princeton University Press). Economic historians have high praise for his thesis, though many disagree with parts of it.

The basis of Dr. Clark’s work is his recovery of data from which he can reconstruct many features of the English economy from 1200 to 1800. From this data, he shows, far more clearly than has been possible before, that the economy was locked in a Malthusian trap _ — each time new technology increased the efficiency of production a little, the population grew, the extra mouths ate up the surplus, and average income fell back to its former level.

This income was pitifully low in terms of the amount of wheat it could buy. By 1790, the average person’s consumption in England was still just 2,322 calories a day, with the poor eating a mere 1,508. Living hunter-gatherer societies enjoy diets of 2,300 calories or more.

… The tendency of population to grow faster than the food supply, keeping most people at the edge of starvation, was described by Thomas Malthus in a 1798 book, “An Essay on the Principle of Population.” This Malthusian trap, Dr. Clark’s data show, governed the English economy from 1200 until the Industrial Revolution and has in his view probably constrained humankind throughout its existence. The only respite was during disasters like the Black Death, when population plummeted, and for several generations the survivors had more to eat. … Dr. Clark started to wonder whether natural selection had indeed changed the nature of the population in some way and, if so, whether this might be the missing explanation for the Industrial Revolution.

A way to test the idea, he realized, was through analysis of ancient wills, which might reveal a connection between wealth and the number of progeny. The wills did that, , but in quite the opposite direction to what he had expected.

Generation after generation, the rich had more surviving children than the poor, his research showed. That meant there must have been constant downward social mobility as the poor failed to reproduce themselves and the progeny of the rich took over their occupations. “The modern population of the English is largely descended from the economic upper classes of the Middle Ages,” he concluded.

As the progeny of the rich pervaded all levels of society, Dr. Clark considered, the behaviors that made for wealth could have spread with them. He has documented that several aspects of what might now be called middle-class values changed significantly from the days of hunter gatherer societies to 1800. Work hours increased, literacy and numeracy rose, and the level of interpersonal violence dropped.

Another significant change in behavior, Dr. Clark argues, was an increase in people’s preference for saving over instant consumption, which he sees reflected in the steady decline in interest rates from 1200 to 1800.

“Thrift, prudence, negotiation and hard work were becoming values for communities that previously had been spendthrift, impulsive, violent and leisure loving,” Dr. Clark writes.

Around 1790, a steady upward trend in production efficiency first emerges in the English economy. It was this significant acceleration in the rate of productivity growth that at last made possible England’s escape from the Malthusian trap and the emergence of the Industrial Revolution.

In the rest of Europe and East Asia, populations had also long been shaped by the Malthusian trap of their stable agrarian economies. Their workforces easily absorbed the new production technologies that appeared first in England.

It is puzzling that the Industrial Revolution did not occur first in the much larger populations of China or Japan. Dr. Clark has found data showing that their richer classes, the Samurai in Japan and the Qing dynasty in China, were surprisingly unfertile and so would have failed to generate the downward social mobility that spread production-oriented values in England.

Hmmhmmh, well the Japanese and Chinese seem to be awfully bourgeois anyway, so I'm not sure what Dr. Clark's point is here … My guess is that the Industrial Revolution took both the bourgeois virtues, which the Japanese had in spades, and a little of the old "stroke of zigzag lighting in the brain" that the Japanese have always claimed they don't have compared to the more creative Europeans.

After the Industrial Revolution, the gap in living standards between the richest and the poorest countries started to accelerate, from a wealth disparity of about 4 to 1 in 1800 to more than 50 to 1 today. Just as there is no agreed explanation for the Industrial Revolution, economists cannot account well for the divergence between rich and poor nations or they would have better remedies to offer.

Many commentators point to a failure of political and social institutions as the reason that poor countries remain poor. But the proposed medicine of institutional reform “has failed repeatedly to cure the patient,” Dr. Clark writes. He likens the “cult centers” of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to prescientific physicians who prescribed bloodletting for ailments they did not understand.

If the Industrial Revolution was caused by changes in people’s behavior, then populations that have not had time to adapt to the Malthusian constraints of agrarian economies will not be able to achieve the same production efficiencies, his thesis implies.

Dr. Clark says the middle-class values needed for productivity could have been transmitted either culturally or genetically. But in some passages, he seems to lean toward evolution as the explanation. “Through the long agrarian passage leading up to the Industrial Revolution, man was becoming biologically more adapted to the modern economic world,” he writes. And, “The triumph of capitalism in the modern world thus may lie as much in our genes as in ideology or rationality.”

What was being inherited, in his view, was not greater intelligence — being a hunter in a foraging society requires considerably greater skill than the repetitive actions of an agricultural laborer.

Okay, but, according to Clark, the people whose descendents survived in England weren't agricultural laborers so much as their bosses, the farmers who told the laborers what to do. And the English were among the most innovative farmers, with an agricultural productivity takeoff that preceded the Industrial Revolution and made it possible by freeing workers to leave the farm and take factory jobs.

Rather, it was “a repertoire of skills and dispositions that were very different from those of the pre-agrarian world.”

Reaction to Dr. Clark’s thesis from other economic historians seems largely favorable, although few agree with all of it, and many are skeptical of the most novel part, his suggestion that evolutionary change is a factor to be considered in history.

Historians used to accept changes in people’s behavior as an explanation for economic events, like Max Weber’s thesis linking the rise of capitalism with Protestantism. But most have now swung to the economists’ view that all people are alike and will respond in the same way to the same incentives. Hence they seek to explain events like the Industrial Revolution in terms of changes in institutions, not people.

Dr. Clark’s view is that institutions and incentives have been much the same all along and explain very little, which is why there is so little agreement on the causes of the Industrial Revolution. In saying the answer lies in people’s behavior, he is asking his fellow economic historians to revert to a type of explanation they had mostly abandoned and in addition is evoking an idea that historians seldom consider as an explanatory variable, that of evolution.

The decline in English interest rates, for example, could have been caused by the state’s providing better domestic security and enforcing property rights, Dr. Hoffman said, not by a change in people’s willingness to save, as Dr. Clark asserts. … [More]

Australian law prof Andrew Fraser offered a somewhat similar explanation for the English breakthrough a couple of years ago in an article that was censored by the Deakin Law Review. As I summarized in

Perhaps the most intriguing of Fraser's many themes: his paradox that the same high level of "trust" (to use Francis Fukuyama's term) extending beyond kin that has allowed the English-speaking peoples to build self-governing institutions that square the circle of reconciling individualism with cooperation also threatens to undermine the Anglosphere—by making us suckers for self-sacrificing ideologies that more clannish immigrants laugh at.

In most countries, in most eras, you needed to belong to an extended family "mafia" for protection. Upper-middle class individuals in English-speaking countries, at least when not watching The Sopranos, generally just don't get the importance of extended families in the rest of the world. Anglosphere intellectuals are especially oblivious, for emotional reasons—they tend to despise their relatives, who often aren't as smart as they are, but frequently make more money.

The English were perhaps the first to break out of this rut. Fraser notes:

"Over time, individualistic social structures encouraged the emergence in England of the common law of property and contract and, later still, the emergence of impersonal corporate forms of business enterprise, all requiring cooperation between strangers…"

Some of the cultural attributes that emerged in Northwestern Europe that made individualistic polities possible include, include, according to Fraser:

"Only a people such as the English, characterized by the ‘non-kinship based forms of reciprocity’ associated with Protestant Christianity, monogamy and companionate marriage, nuclear families, a marked de-emphasis on extended kinship relations, and a strong tendency towards individualism could possibly succeed in creating such a 'society of strangers.’"

Fraser speculates that these attributes have genetic roots. While that’s certainly possible scientifically, we're still a number of years away from being able to test that idea empirically.

But even if the roots of our civic societies were purely cultural in origin, as they may well be, these are not tendencies that immigrants can or will choose to adopt immediately—especially in our era, which glorifies multiculturalism and denigrates the host culture's traditional values.

Fraser argues:

"This exposes a fundamental paradox built into the free and open societies of the West: The only racial groups able to fit seamlessly into the society of strangers constituting a civic nation are those whose members can easily shed the deeply-ingrained ethnocentrism and xenophobia characterizing most non-European peoples."

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

August 5, 2007

My new column

I think this rather long column will help readers understand a little better why the "genealogical perspective" is so crucial for understanding human affairs:

Two Cheers For Pinker On Genealogy…But What About Race?
By Steve Sailer

Genealogy—the study of who a person's ancestors are—is viewed by American intellectuals as a quaint hobby of only individual interest. But it's actually one of the most under-explored paths to better understanding humanity.

So I was quite pleased to see the cover story in the August 6, 2007 issue of The New Republic, "The Genealogy Craze in America: Strangled by Roots" [Free registration required, or read it here.] by Steven Pinker, the Harvard psychologist and author of the outstanding 2002 bestseller The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature.

Pinker has become perhaps the pre-eminent spokesman for the human sciences. His next book, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window Into Human Nature, will be out in September.

I was especially happy because Pinker's article cogently articulates many of the ideas about the overlooked importance of kinship that he and I kicked around via email in the late 1990s, and which have provided the basis for many of my articles ever since. ...


My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer