February 5, 2006

The Gladwell Beatdown

"Malcolm Gladwell Blinks Again:" In my new VDARE.com column, I consider Malcolm Gladwell's baffled and hurt response to my unkind review last year on VDARE.com of his humongous bestseller Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Gladwell, the tribune multiculti capitalism, had claimed that the reason car salesmen had been found to offer prices to women and blacks was because the dealers were the victims of instantaneous unconscious prejudices. I had quoted Judge Richard A. Posner, the distinguished leader of the Law and Economics school of thought, in scoffing at this. We both argued that car dealers were simply exploiting the lesser tendencies of women and blacks to drive a hard bargain to extract more profit from them.

Here's what Gladwell had to say on his website. I'll put Gladwell's remarks in italics:

"One of the most bizarre reactions that I received from reviewers of Blink is an absolute inability to accept the notion of unconscious prejudice. Here is an example from a fairly well known writer named Steve Sailer. Sailer, in turns, quotes from a very hostile review of Blink in The New Republic by Richard Posner." ...

Back in 2005, I explained what was really happening in the showrooms:

"Women dislike hurting other people's feelings more than men do, and car salesmen are very good at acting emotionally hurt when you try to lowball them. … Black men, for whatever complicated reasons, enjoy being seen as big spenders. And car salesmen are all too willing to help them spend big."

Malcolm, you could only sputter in shock and repeat yourself:

"It's hard to know just what to say in the face of arguments like this. … My interpretation is that the reason the car salesmen quote higher prices to otherwise identical black shoppers is because of unconscious discrimination. They don't realize what they are doing…"

That's naive to the point of hilarity. Some of these guys have been selling cars for as long as you have been alive. And, believe it or not, they pay close attention not just to what makes the most money for themselves but to what works for other salesmen as well.

Further, if the salesman's unconscious prejudice is costing the dealership money, his manager will make him highly conscious of it quickly, or the salesman will be out on the street.

You go on, working up an impressive display of righteous indignation:

"Sailer and Posner, by contrast, think that the discrimination is conscious and, what's more, that it's rational. The salesmen, in Posner's words, ‘ascribe the group's average characteristics to each member of the group, even though one knows that many members deviate from the average.’ And what is the ‘group's average characteristic’ in this case? That, as Sailer puts it, black men "enjoy being seen as big spenders." Am I wrong or is that an utterly ludicrous (not to mention offensive) statement? Where does this idea come from?"

Uh, from 10,000 rap videos? From the fact that the world's #1 market for cognac is Detroit, which is 80% black? The mouths of black stand-up comedians? Decades of marketing research? 100 years of car buying experience?

Malcolm, you go on:

"How is it possible that when it comes to buying things black men--magically--all take on the same personality?"

Uh, because they don't all take on the same personality. Go reread the line from Judge Posner that you yourself quoted above: we're talking about the "average"—a concept you may have heard of?

You say:

"… I refuse to believe that all of the car salesmen of Chicago are so stupid as to believe that by virtue of having a slightly darker skin color a human being becomes somehow predisposed towards higher prices."

But Malcolm, saying "I refuse to believe" when you have no evidence bespeaks desperation.

We're talking about an ethnic cultural trait. And the simple fact is that the urge to drive a hard bargain famously varies between ethnic groups. As Dave Barry notes in his new book Dave Barry's Money Secrets (Like: Why Is There a Giant Eyeball on the Dollar?):

"I'm the world's worst car buyer. I come from a long line of Presbyterians, who get their name from the Greek words pre, meaning 'people,' and sbyterian, meaning 'who always pay retail.' … My idea of an opening tactical salvo is to look at the car's sticker price and say to the salesperson, 'This looks like a good deal! Are you sure you're making enough profit on this?'"

As for your coup de grace"Sailer and Poser [sic] have a very low opinion of car salesmen”—you must be one of the few people in the country who claims not to have a low opinion of car salesmen. A 2005 Gallup poll asked 1002 adults nationwide to rate the honesty and ethical standards of 21 occupations. Nurses came in first, with 82% rating them high or very high. Last were telemarketers at 7%. Next to last were car salesmen at 8%.

[More, much more]

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

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