October 10, 2006

Robert D. Putnam solves all the problems caused by diversity

From another Financial Times article about Harvard political scientist Robert "Bowling Alone" Putnam's study on the correlation between ethnic diversity and lack of trust in American locations:

That is a depressing picture. But Prof Putnam, a liberal who sometimes seems to shrink from the impact of his own findings, insists there are ways of avoiding it.

To illustrate, he tells the story of his eight-year-old granddaughter, Miriam, whose father is Puerto Rican and who was brought up for the first few years of her life in Puerto Rico, then moved to an American school. She came home one day to ask her mother “what’s a Hispanic?” Told it was some one of Latin American origin, she asked, “am I a Hispanic?”

Prof Putnam says: “Miriam was learning how US society draws lines. Not for any sinister reasons, it just creates a category called Hispanic to describe people. But it’s a social construction, and it can be deconstructed.”

The Hispanic category was quietly invented by Nixon's OMB in 1973, but disinventing it would be vastly more difficult since large amounts of affirmative action goodies come with it, and thus the beneficiaries have financial incentives to smear as "racist" anybody who calls for ending it. Is Putnam calling for elimination of the Hispanic category and the end of preferences for ex-Hispanics? If he is, he's not doing it very loudly.

He points to the “melting pot” period of early 20th century America, a time when all kinds of people came to the US – Irish, Italians, Germans, Swedes, Jews. “The picture that they all, after a little friction, got on and that Jews taught the Irish how to dance the hora, was mainly wrong,” he says. “It was more like "Gangs of New York”. It changed very slowly, but it did change.

It changed mostly during the long period after the mid-1920s when mass immigration was cut off.

“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.”

So, to increase trust across ethnic lines, Putnam is calling for imposing martial law? That's flippant, but I'm tired of people pointing at the military and saying, "Look, everybody gets along there so everybody should get along outside the military," without ever examining exactly what the military does to achieve a reasonable level of racial harmony. I explored that question in some detail in a 1995 National Review article "Where the Races Relate," but I don't see anybody has learned anything from it over the last decade. And, in 1995, I missed the single most important tool the military uses: IQ tests to determine who is eligible for admission. By keeping out low IQ individuals, the military has closed much of the Bell Curve gap among the races.

Another anecdote: “From the 1920s onwards, almost all American humour was Jewish humour. And it was referred to as such. Now, you wouldn’t think of describing Woody Allen as a Jewish comedian. It’s just humour. It’s become American”.

Nobody thinks to describe Woody Allen as Jewish? Huh?

More subtly, it's incorrect to describe American comedy since the 1920s as "almost all" Jewish. While the Jewish influence is very large, Woody Allen's hero Bob Hope immigrated from England when he was four. The dominant comedians of late night television -- Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Jay Leno -- aren't Jewish.

Here's an English list of 50 top comedians to provide some date from a 3rd party view of the subject. The 18 Americans on the list (including English immigrants Hope, Charlie Chaplin, and Christopher Guest and Canadian immigrant Mike Myers) are made up of 10 gentiles and 8 Jews. (Chaplin, by the way, probably wasn't Jewish. He was likely Gypsy on his mother's side. Robin Williams is from a wealthy WASP family -- his father was a high-ranking auto company executive. Myers is English, not Jewish -- "Coffee Talk" is based on his mother-in-law, not his mother.) That proportion sounds about right, with Jews having a plurality but not a majority in American comedy.

In an oblique criticism of Jack Straw, leader of the House of Commons, who revealed last week he prefers Muslim women not to wear a full veil, Prof Putnam said: “What we shouldn’t do is to say that they [immigrants] should be more like us. We should construct a new us.”

More generally, it's annoying to me that the level of intellectual discourse about diversity remains so insipid. For over a decade, I've been writing about (A) How to ameliorate the problems caused by diversity and (B) How amelioration is costly, unpopular, and far from 100% effective, so we should not aggravate the problems with more mass immigration. Yet, as this issue becomes ever more pressing, the quality of discourse is declining, precisely because of the increasing political power of "the diverse" means that accurate discussions of the topic are punished.

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

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