April 4, 2011

You can't get much richer and whiter than Matt Ridley

Matt Ridley, author of The Red Queen, is a distinguished science journalist in the Anglo-Darwinian tradition of Richard Dawkins. He's a good example of the trend toward the name "Matthew" being what "Steven/Stephen" was for the previous generation.

But, Matt Ridley also has another identity besides science writer with a Oxford Ph.D. in zoology that I've been looking for an excuse to point out, so I'll grab this one. I'm not particularly interested in the policy controversy below, I'm just using it as a launching pad for some fun details.

Statistics professor Andrew Gelman blogs in "Irritating Pseudo-Populism" that he is annoyed by Ridley's assertion in a WSJ op-ed "Free-market solutions for overweight Americans," that:
Education vouchers, they point out, are generally disliked by rich whites as being bad for poor blacks--and generally liked by poor blacks.

Gelman replies: 
First, I'm sick and tired of all the rich-white bashing. I mean, what's the deal? Matt Ridley is a rich white, I'm a rich white, so are lots and lots of the readers of the Wall Street Journal. If you got a problem with rich whites, maybe you should start writing for a publication associated with a different income stratum and a different ethnic group.

A good point in general. And in this specific case, it's worth noting that very, very few people are quite  as white and rich as Matthew White Ridley VIII, the future Fifth Viscount Ridley. He lives in the family pile of Blagdon Hall on an 8,500 acre estate in Northumberland (see above). Here's a picture of his elderly father, Matthew White Ridley VII, fourth Viscount Ridley and former Lord Steward of the Household. (The journalist's grandfather on his mother's side was the 11th Earl of Scarbrough.) The Blagdon Estate's website says:
The Families of Ridley and White 
Blagdon has been home to the same family since 1700. The first three generations of owners were all named Matthew White. The next nine generations of owners have all been named Matthew White Ridley. For more than 300 years Blagdon has been owned by somebody called Matthew.

In general, the Darwinian tradition has tended to be pushed forward by country boys who grew up around nature. Wealthy country gentlemen like Darwin, Galton, and Ridley may sound like P.G. Wodehouse's parody of the type, Gussie Fink-Nottle, newt fancier from deepest Lincolnshire, but science owes them a lot. 

38 comments:

anony-mouse said...

Do I get to be the first one to write: No wonder he's 'The Rational Optimist'?

Anonymous said...

the general trend here is "let's take away people's money via taxes and then let them get some of it back, as long as they spend on what government wants them to spend and only at establishments government approves of". Nothing could go wrong with such an approach, could it?

And what do rich and white have to do with anything? Totalitarianism affects all whites, regardless of whether they are rich or poor.

Big Bill said...

Look, Gelman knows who Matt is talking about. The Matts of this world are rich enough and white enough and privileged enough and Anglo-Saxon enough and secure enough that they can talk about "rich whites" and the Gelmans feel the sting.

"Rich whites" in Mattspeak means something more like "status-conscious, Johnny-come-lately social-climbers" and that is a bit too close for comfort.

Anonymous said...

"Ridley was educated at Eton College from 1970-1975 and then went on to Magdalen College of the University of Oxford and completed a Bachelor of Arts with first class honours in zoology and then a Doctor of Philosophy in zoology in 1983."

Wow... I'm tempted to imagine him as one of Bertie Wooster's nerdier friends.

Anonymous said...

Here's what Ridley said:

Drawing a direct analogy with the effect of vouchers in the education system, Messrs. Seeman and Luciani suggest "healthy-living vouchers" that could be redeemed from different (certified) places—gyms, diet classes, vegetable sellers and more. Education vouchers, they point out, are generally disliked by rich whites as being bad for poor blacks—and generally liked by poor blacks. A bottom-up solution empowers people better than top-down government fiat.

So he's quoting Messrs. Seeman and Luciani. Whack them if you disagree with them.

As for the point made, it's true: rich whites generally dislike school vouchers, which allow blacks to get into good white schools. And blacks generally like them for the same reason.


If you got a problem with rich whites, maybe you should start writing for a publication associated with a different income stratum and a different ethnic group.

So he's saying that those who write for the WSJ have an obligation to tell rich white people what they want to hear? I think that already happens, and it's why the country-club set are unaware that their beloved illegal immigrants are destroying the country. The more reality which intrudes on the sheltered world of WSJ readers, the better.

Hail said...

Mr. Ridley wrote:
Education vouchers...are generally disliked by rich whites as being bad for poor blacks--and generally liked by poor blacks.

In my experience, it is not true that Blacks support vouchers. I have heard regular Blacks attack vouchers in public forums. (Not Sowell or other "Uncle Toms", nor anything in the Welfare-Queen Archtype vicinity. I mean the average reasonably-politically-informed Black). They support public schools in principle, and argue that the more the voucher "escape-hatch" is used, the worse the general public schools will be. Which is true.

Anonymous said...

I think Matt should let some of the immigrants move into that big house with him,especially if he is for all the immigration into the UK. Although, I don't know if he is or not. I would bet he is.

tanabear said...

I wonder why Matt couldn't have written "rich white liberals"?

Anonymous said...

As someone who has avoided homes for condos despite decent finances, "8,500 acres" sound like a punishment to me, like a hard labor sentencing.

Hopefully Anonymous
http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com

Steve Sailer said...

"Wow... I'm tempted to imagine him as one of Bertie Wooster's nerdier friends."

Gussie Fink-Nottle, newt fancier.

From Wikipedia:

"Gussie Fink-Nottle met Bertie Wooster at Malvern House Preparatory School, where they were schoolmates; growing up, he took up residence in a remote part of Lincolnshire to pursue his beloved newt studies."

In contrast, Sheldon Adelson is a Newt fancier.

Anonymous said...

You're on a roll steve, I sense a panhandling drive comming up

Anonymous said...

Hey, Matt does write some EXCELLENT books. There are plenty of good targets out there. Ridley isn't one of them.

travis said...

Here's my favorite sentence from Ridley's article: "If economic growth continues to spread, as it has over the past two centuries, most people will be ultra-rich by today's standards within two generations, and slim figures will also spread."

He's a true believer in Progress, all right. Guess who else is committed to Progress?

Anonymous said...

That is a nice place, gotta admit.

I did like The Red Queen, (as I recall, its been a while). It was quite readable, entertaining.

Anonymous said...

Off topic but you can't get much richer or whiter than Marin county. So a follow up to Steve's Marin blog topic a while back:

http://www.marinij.com/marinnews/ci_17752936

Report targets Marin's NIMBY culture
By Nels Johnson
Marin Independent Journal
Posted: 04/02/2011 05:49:00 PM PDT


Marin County must welcome more minority, low-income and disabled residents by easing zoning restrictions, allowing low-income apartments in suburban neighborhoods, boosting public transit to accommodate multifamily development and making related moves to eliminate housing discrimination, according to a new report.



The comments are amusing, especially from the "normally" liberal. New definition of a conservative: "A liberal who has section 8 housing next door"

Anonymous said...

Sheesh, what a dump!

Whiskey said...

Matt Ridley's nice digs will go fast. Someone has to help pay for all those Muslim and African and Caribbean immigrants Tony Blair/Gordon Brown took in, and continue to flood in under Cameron. Just like Henry VIII found a nifty solution, get solvent and divorced by breaking with Rome and seizing and auctioning off Church lands, the same will occur to those funding social welfare to the immigrant hordes in the UK.

Tom Merle said...

Here are two presentations by Ridley, one in conversational form. Very worthwhile viewing.

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/matt_ridley_when_ideas_have_sex.html

http://fora.tv/2010/11/18/Uncommon_Knowledge_Matt_Ridley

Anonymous said...

How is it that so many commenters here are on a first name basis with the esteemed Mr. Ridley?

dearieme said...

What have the "Wealthy country gentlemen" ever done for us?

Pat Shuff said...

an anon sez--

The more reality which intrudes on the sheltered world of WSJ readers, the better.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

??

Subscriber of the WSJ for a few decades, it was a better paper before the Murdoch takeover.

General financial illiteracy is the tie that binds the S&L debacle, the LatAm debt crisis, the Asian contagion, the more recent excitement, the swampy backwaters that is local municipal finance, the pervasive household finance mismanagement regarding home and car loans reflected at the local, state and national levels. People are as funny about money as they are about intelligence for precisely the same reason.

Any major urban newspaper business section is a journalistic ghetto.
Readership cannot be induced under pain of death to peruse mind numbing, eye glazing financialese much to the benefit of the financial services industry which employ the resultant assymetric information warfare to advantage, purchasing the political means for greater advantage at the nexus of money and power.

Shadow banking, CDOs squared, the Enron exclusion etc would only be known and understood beforehand by readers of the WSJ, Financial Times, maybe the Economist because the dedicated financial press is the only place finance is covered in a detailed way, down to the devils in the details where all weighty matters hinge.

To rephrase, the more reality that intrudes upon the sheltered world of non-financial press readers, the better. Financial illiteracy is this country's, like most others, most toxic asset.

I think Goldman Sachs revenue alone exceeds some 100 lesser countries entire individual GDP.
One would think that matters somehow, in the larger scheme of things, or that the financial sector, having grown larger than, say energy or manufacturing, would result in facts on the landscape, economic structures, like vast numbers of foreclosed homes or empty condo towers.

Some would have it that banking and finance is equal to or greater than politics (which sucks all the oxygen out of the room) in the shapings of history and all things past spilling into the present despite being given short shrift by historians who, similarly financially illiterate, don't know the questions to ask, how to ask them, never seek and read the material and if encountered by chance cannot read with understanding.

Saddened by what was never learned and never will be learned thus endlessly repeated by, say, the S&L debacle, and irrevocably joined at the hip in myriad ways...the tax code, the gas pump, the insurance system etc etc etc...to the unthinking and irresponsible...over time, a very long long time one comes to prefer it that way in acceptance.

Graham Asher said...

Living in the same house since 1700 is rather nouveau, don't you think? The other night on the Country House Rescue TV programme there was a family who have lived in the same house (albeit somewhat altered over the years) since 1058.

Anonymous said...

Something you don't here much about Matt Ridley was that he was the boss of Britain's 'Northern Rock' bank, the bank that took an almighty bust-up back in 2007, an event that prefigured and prestaged America's subprime trainwreck.

Spud said...

Would that be Matt Ridley the free marketeer and former non-executive chairman of the Northern Rock bank, which had to bailed out of trouble by British taxpayers?

DavidB said...

Just for reference, Steve, you should know that in the UK Matt Ridley has some rather more embarrassing connections to live down. Until a few years ago he was the Chairman of the Northern Rock Bank, which rapidly expanded its lending to high risk mortgage customers, and collapsed in the sub-prime crisis. It was then propped up by the taxpayer. Riddley was not primarily responsible for the management of the bank, but as Chairman of a bank one of his responsibilities would be to exercise prudence and financial caution. 'Optimist', yes, 'rational' - it's debatable.

Kylie said...

"How is it that so many commenters here are on a first name basis with the esteemed Mr. Ridley?"

The American commenters are merely responding in kind to the familiarity which prompted Mr. Ridley to proffer his opinions in an American publication for the problem of obesity in America.

As for the rest, they're just exhibiting bad manners.

Hail said...

RE Tom Merle,

Nice links to Ridley talks. He is clearly very smart.

Any PC talking-points can be forgiven as he is in the public light. It's easy for us to snipe from the anonymity of Steve Sailer comment sections.

Bantam said...

"You can't get much richer and whiter than Matt Ridley"

Well, what about these guys?

Anonymous said...

I had some friends who were pretty rich - they had houses on five continents for example. One day the wife mentioned casually that her husband had lost $10M earlier that week. Everyone gave her their colodolences but she sniffed "If you can't afford it you shouldn't play". She constantly complained about another mutual friend - Gordon Getty. He was just too wealthy the multi millionaire said of the billionaire.

The point is by world and historical standards all white Americans are rich. Illegal aliens are very aware of this fact.

Albertosaurus

Tim of Angle said...

More accurately, as the heir apparent, he ought to be referred to by his father's secondary tile as "Lord Wensleydale".

ben tillman said...

Wow -- I had no idea. I spoke with him for a while before he spoke at the Dallas Hispanic Center.

He was polite and very tall, but I don't think he would have caught Hyancinth Bucket's attention as a nobleman.

elvisd said...

This man calls himself "The Country Scientist", to name an American candidate for Steve's newly-proposed genre. If you've gone through the section of the Radio Shack that has the circuit parts, you've seen his hobby guides. Very nice man, who corresponds personally if you have a question about one of his designs. He also helped design the early Altair PC that Microsoft got a bit of inspiration from.

http://www.forrestmims.org/

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's a beautiful house.

Nobody - and I mean NOBODY - does country estates like the Brits.

Mr. Darcy would have been proud...

Kylie said...

"Any PC talking-points can be forgiven as he is in the public light."

Why? As I understand it, he's in the public eye by choice, not from necessity. He has f*** y*** money and doesn't need to placate anyone by indulging in PC talking-points. If he chooses to do so anyway, then oh well. When you climb up on a soapbox, you make a better target.

"It's easy for us to snipe from the anonymity of Steve Sailer comment sections."

Yes, just as easy as it is for him to promote policy changes in America that will never directly affect him from the comfort and safety of his family home across the pond.

Svigor said...

Nobody - and I mean NOBODY - does country estates like the Brits.

I thought the French (specifically, the Loire Valley, IIRC) had that sewn up? Or are we talking quantity?

Anonymous said...

Add John Maynard Smith to the list.

Anonymous said...

I thought the French (specifically, the Loire Valley, IIRC) had that sewn up? Or are we talking quantity?

No, we're talking simple, plain, understated horticultural & architectural elegance.

Nothing loud, nothing gaudy, nothing out-of-place, just everything perfect.

Kylie said...

"...we're talking simple, plain, understated horticultural & architectural elegance.

Nothing loud, nothing gaudy, nothing out-of-place, just everything perfect."


Oh. You mean like this:

Nothing Loud, Nothing Gaudy.

Well then, why didn't you just say so?