December 21, 2008

Malcolm in a Muddle

Here's my review of Malcolm Gladwell's new bestseller, Outliers: The Story of Success.

Here's an excerpt from my 3700 word review:

Malcolm never misses an opportunity to miss the point. For example, consider the self-evident stupidity of Gladwell’s title, Outliers: The Story of Success. His book attempts to offer a General Theory of Success in America—why, on the whole, Jews and Asians are well educated and well-compensated while blacks and Mexicans aren’t—through anecdotes about a small number of anomalous "outliers."

Gladwell chose the word "outliers" for his title because it sounded scientific. He’s vaguely aware that statistical analysts are much concerned with the outliers in their datasets, so it sounds cool to write a book about why people like Bill Gates and the Beatles are successful and call it Outliers.

Of course, the reason statisticians think about outliers a lot is because, to quote Wikipedia, "Statistics derived from data sets that include outliers may be misleading."

For example, say you are a market researcher doing a random survey of consumers for a mutual fund company to determine the average net worth of Americans by different levels of education. You tote up your results and see that the mean wealth of your 100 college dropouts is $500,050,000.

"That’s weird," you say.

You then look at the individual surveys and see that one respondent claimed to have a fortune of fifty billion dollars.

Is he lying? Is he crazy? Or is he Bill Gates? You don’t know. All you know is that he’s an outlier and therefore you aren’t going to use him in your data set. Otherwise, your innumerate pointy-haired boss in the marketing department (who, by the way, loves Malcolm Gladwell) might take your findings as justifying a huge ad campaign aimed at the evidently vastly wealthy dropout market.

In contrast, Gladwell devotes 18 pages to Gates, without noticing that Gates is a perfect example of the kind of data point that the very concept of "outliers" tells you to be suspicious of.

But notice how Gladwell’s mistakes err in a direction favorable to his bank account. People will pay to read about the richest man in the world in the hopes that they’ll pick up some tips from him. So Gladwell makes up a theory about why Gates is so rich (he got to practice computer programming on an early timesharing terminal at his expensive prep school), just as he devotes eight pages to his theory of why the Beatles were so successful (they played live a lot in Hamburg in 1960-1962).

As usual with Gladwell, he manages to choose examples that undermine his own theory, even when his basic idea is fairly sensible. Yes, as Gladwell stresses, putting in ten thousand hours of practice is helpful at becoming really good at a trade, so it’s helpful to come from a privileged background where you can get in a lot of practice at a young age.

Nevertheless, while the Beatles got lots of practice at playing live in Hamburg, they aren’t the most famous rock group because they were an exceptionally great live band. In fact, they gave up playing live in 1967 and nobody much noticed.

Instead, they were the greatest songwriting and studio band.

Similarly, Bill Gates didn’t become the richest man in America by being a great programmer. In reality, he bought his strategically pivotal Disk Operating System from a Seattle programmer named Tim Paterson and then licensed it to IBM. No, Gates got rich by being a great monopolist—which is a more difficult career to practice far ahead of time.

Gladwell, the unofficial Minister of Propaganda for Multi-Culti Capitalism, seldom says anything negative about capitalists. For example, if you are looking for the deep roots of Gates’s unerring cunning at acquiring a monopoly at such a young age, it’s perhaps interesting that Gates’s father was a defense attorney for firms accused of antitrust violations. Unsurprisingly, Gladwell never notices that.

Indeed, Gladwell’s climactic depiction of the more just society he envisions is quite terrifying. In the grand summation of his book’s argument, he writes:

"We look at the young Bill Gates and marvel that our world allowed that thirteen-year-old to become a fabulously successful entrepreneur. But that’s the wrong lesson. Our world only allowed one thirteen-year-old unlimited access to a time-sharing terminal in 1968. If a million teenagers had been given the same opportunity, how many more Microsofts would we have today?" [p. 268]

Let a million monopolies bloom!

The great thing about Gladwell is that he’s so lacking in critical thinking skills that he just blurts out the underlying assumptions of today’s conventional wisdom, stating its stupidities in their Platonic form. To Gladwell, the long, laborious, and expensive development of the computer isn’t a great accomplishment of Western civilization for which posterity should be grateful. No, it’s a civil rights issue. See, back in 1968, "our world" hadn’t "allowed" enough teenagers—especially not enough black and Mexican ones, to use state-of-the-art time-sharing computers.

Just think—if our world had allowed a million teenagers to be given the same opportunity of unlimited access to a time-sharing terminal in 1868, we could have a billion Microsofts today!

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

74 comments:

Anonymous said...

"confirms his position as this era’s most representative nonfiction write"

Typo, that should be "writer".

Jim Bowery said...

With Sailer's pit-bull grasp of the idiocy of corporate fashionthink one wonders why he doesn't put more effort into reporting the causes of the abject intellectual bankruptcy that is a necessary foundation of the imminent national, if not global, bankruptcy.

Or would that violate taboos that even "Charles Murray" fears to breach?

Anonymous said...

To Gladwell, the long, laborious, and expensive development of the computer isn’t a great accomplishment of Western civilization for which posterity should be grateful. No, it’s a civil rights issue.

Similar ideas abound in the wider world. Oil in Venezuela belongs to the people (of color naturally) who live on top of it. That they didnt know it was there, had no use for it, had no way of extracting it is not important, its theirs. The same goes for South African gold and so on.

And thats fine after all, no-one could really argue with that but then it turns out that...

Things that are the product of Europeans; the internet, telephone system, broadcast media etc. Those are for everybody, its all about access, a bit like clean air or water. If nasty whitey thinks he's going to keep that bounty all to himself, he's got to be taught otherwise. Access to these resources must be subsidized or even given away.

So, come on, lets be fair, where is my bar of subsidized gold, or a few barrels of oil?

Anonymous said...

"the female farming cultures of tropical Africa, which demand mostly just hoeing by women, with very little labor from men. By Gladwell’s logic, that might explain a lot about African-American culture..."

Steve, I agree that "hoeing" by women explains a lot about African-American culture...
But what does that have to do with farming?
;)

Anonymous said...

This is shooting fish in a barrel, but you do turn those fish into chum.

I particularly like the highlighting of the un-PC implications of Gladwell's ad hoc explanations of particular groups when they are generalized to others.

It's sad that the system rewards hackery like Gladwell's to such an extent, but at least you can take comfort in your wide-ranging Unspeakable Influence on the MSM.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see Gladwell challenged face-to-face on African farming practices and their cultural legacy.

Anonymous said...

All you know is that he's an outlier and therefore you aren't going to use him in your data set.

Statisticians cringe when they hear something like this. People who misuse statistics -- scientists, economists, market researchers, basically everyone except statisticians -- love to throw out "misleading" outliers. A basic principle of statistics is that you never throw out valid data. If you get an outlier then you check it extra carefully, but if it turns out to be valid, as it is in this example, then you keep it in, no matter how "misleading" it is.

Of course income distribution is the classic textbook example of when not to use the mean as an average in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve,

Great piece.

And you're right. It's time to stop the PC madness.

PS La Griffe has a new blog up.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to note that Chinese airlines are really dangerous. For Accidents per 100 billion passenger-km 1984-1986, Chinese operators were 3x more dangerous than Europeans and 7X more dangerous than North Americans. Within the past 2 decades, Chinese airlines have also registered quite a few more fatalities than Indian airlines. The most dangerous regions, however, are Africa and Latin America.

Anonymous said...

In the telling them what they want to hear vein, Gladwell tells Brian Lamb on CSpan an uplifting story about why immigrants, far from failing to assimilate, love their chosen country even more than the native-borns because the immigrants chose to live there, just as he loves Canada with a special ardor because his family chose to live there. Then Lamb asks him a) if he has acquired American citizenship and b) if he still lives in Canada. Busted.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Steve, that was informative.

The Airline analogy was of course nonsense since any European who flies to Africa makes sure the pilots are Europeans, white South Africans or OZ. The pilots on Emirates are mostly white South Africans (pushed out of South African Airlines (SAA) and the South African Air Force by AA policies), OZ, Brit or American. Every time we ex- South Africans talk about that we just grin because we all know what it means.

I have never flown with SAA again since 1994 because I cannot be sure whether an AA pilot is flying or not. The pilot thing even hit the airwaves in Germany when a landing Lufthansa plane almost pranged during windy conditions in Hamburg. The reason: an AA chick co-pilot was at the lever. After the wing tipped the runway on approach, the male pilot took over, restarted and landed safely. The media, which praised the quick reaction of the pilot, caught onto this but it was immediately muzzled by the PC MSM system and political parties. Since then there has been a complete hush-hush but I'm sure internally some rearrangements have been made since a Lufthansa prang within Germany would be a disaster for the airline and may force some people to be honest.

From a take on Gladwell I read earlier it seems he too has issues with his mixed heritage, much like Obama. Wouldn’t this be the main motivator for him to discount genes? After all, there is nothing he can do about it any more.

Anonymous said...

If Hamburg was such a good nursery then why wasn't Ringo a better drummer?
Lennon was once told that he wasn't the best drummer in the world.
Came the reply: "He isn't even the best drummer in the Beatles"
Barry Wood

Anonymous said...

Why can't Malcolm Gladwell recognise the blindingly obvious - that rice cannot be cultivated in a nortern or central european climate because the palnt cannot withstand the cold weather? (in fact most plants can't be grown in north or central Europe).
Actually, I believe that rice cultivation has some success in the Po valley of Italy, but I beieve this was a late introduction.
Anyway,Steve, you've done a great job in exposing the intellectual vacuity of this second-rate but overrated man.If he knew the first thing about agriculture or the traditional culture of Europeans, then he would realise that traditionally ie before the advent of artificial fertilizers and farm machinery, most of the crops grown by Europeans equired a great amount of care and attention to detail if disaster was not to strike - has he no idea of the rotation of crops that was practised in Europe to fix nitrogen into the soil? or the very careful preparation of the land that is needed to sow wheat ie the land must be laboriously ploughed (by oxen or horse), then a harrow must be pulled over it, or how the fields must be protected from birds and weeded? or the great labor that was required in scything the wheat, thrashing with flails and then winnowing it, and finally the wheat must be ground by a miller - using technology in either a water-mill or a wind-mill?, and thence to the baker's before it's of any use to anyone.

Anonymous said...

He's bad, but Tom Friedman is still much worse.

Anonymous said...

I agree with commenter Jim Bowery. Charles Murray steers clear of mentioning WHY his completely sensible explanations of how things work are considered crimethink. Who made them into crimethink, for what purpose?

Steve is more courageous about this than Murray, but doesn't go all the way either.

Of course I should point out that both Steve and Charles Murray are vastly more courageous about this than I am or ever will be. They've put their real names behind some very unpopular but valid ideas. I'm sure that their professional lives have been negatively affected by this.

I didn't say what I said above as a reproach. Obviously, one doesn't have a moral right to reproach people for not doing something one is afraid to do himself. It's just an observation.

By the way, I thought that the funniest thing in the review was the bit about Gladwell claiming that pre-modern Europe was more despotic than pre-modern China. I'm a history nerd, so this really hit a nerve.

If any overarching theme stands out in the history of Europe, you'd think it would be individualism. The equivalent theme for the Far East would be centralization, i.e. top-down control. These are two radically different ways to order a civilized society, two ways to be civilized. In the historical record the individualistic civilization tended to come up with more scientific and technological achievements, but the centrally-controlled civilization tended to make the lives of its carriers safer, more predictable, ultimately more comfortable. As we sit here now, the individualistic civilization is, sadly, dying, while the centralized one seems to have a future.

Did this have to happen this way? Maybe not. We may have too few data points to be sure. But God, is that an interesting question. Perhaps this is a candidate for the biggest historical question of all.

But this Gladwell fellow put it all on its head by claiming that it's the individualistic civilization that's been controlling. And that the controlling one was individualistic? It made me chuckle.

I guess his thinking process went something like this: 1) despotism = bad 2) white people = bad 3) white people = despotism? Yay, new chapter for my book!

Anonymous said...

I think Korean Air had another problem besides being nurtured in an authoritarian culture. Like Taiwan, South Korea must guard against some very powerful and nasty neighbors. This means it has to fund a first-world air force in what is basically a small, commercially oriented economy. So the Koreans and Taiwan retained many air force pilots in reserve status, arranging for them to have day jobs as pilots or in other positions in the state-owned airlines, Korean Air and China Airlines. This meant that the senior pilots had a degree of job security in their airline jobs that made them less subject to the rigorous discipline, correction and occasional grounding that commercial airlines use to keep their flying as safe as possible. I believe both the Koreans and Taiwanese have been remedying this problem.

International travelers to Africa and other third-world regions are often traveling on business for international corporations or organizations like the United Nations. These organizations have travel departments that stay closely in touch with safety experts on the local air service, for example the insurance companies that are liable for accidents. Private travelers can protect themselves by only booking local travel through the major global carriers, like British Airways and KLM, that have partnerships with local airlines that they trust and, to a degree, control. Or they can visit the International Air Transportation's website and check out the International Operational Safety Audit page, which shows local airlines that have passed at least a short safety inspection. There are decently run airlines in Africa, but they are not always easy for people unfamiliar with the region to spot. As twit noted, the best African airlines make extensive use of ex-pat pilots, maintenance managers and operations managers. SAA may not be what it used to be, but it is still much better than most of the rest.

Final tip: Do not fly African airlines that operate Russian equipment. Or is that too obvious?

Anonymous said...

"The peasants of Europe worked essentially as low-paid slaves of an aristocratic landlord, with little control over their own destinies. Growing rice is too complicated and intricate for a system that requires farmers to be coerced and bullied into going out into the fields each morning."

Yes, indeed. The Dan Brown approach to history.

Anonymous said...

"Malcolm apparently believes that European aristocrats would, in the manner of Parris Island drill sergeants, wake up their tenants each morning and force them out of their beds! "

This may seem funny to you, but exactly that was the system east of Elbe after XV century. Read about the "second serfdom", and you will see what I mean.

http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~atpc/heritage/history/h-life/peasant.html


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serfdom

Of course, this only applied to their work on the manor lord's fields. They also worked for themselves - and there they needed no encouragment.

Incidentally, in Poland the official responsible for "motivating" peasants was called "ekonom", which would be "economist" in English.

Anonymous said...

What is the word for highly-educated intellectuals who pretend to like and admire the Beatles?

praeloquor said...

I think outliers are the hope of the Malcom Gladwell types. After crafting senseless policy you need fantastically lucrative and unexpected new developements like Microsoft to get you out of the hole. From the excerpts it seems that this book is written to prop up the hopes of policy makers that believe that diversity automatically means economic strength.
Essentially it is the hope that statistics indeed don't matter and can be ignored because of outliers.
I wouldn't bet on it.

Anonymous said...

Excellent review. The Gladwells of the world are so tiring. His book looks fraudulent, even before you pick it up. But people need hope. Who wants to recognize that their kid has no chance? I'd note that things are beginning to change on the Jewish genius front. Norman Cantor, a widely read if eccentric lay historian, wrote a wide-ranging book on Jews one of whose central premises is that Jews are intellectually racially superior. Of course, Jewish history can't be written without taking that into account, and that's increasingly obvious.

Anonymous said...

Similar ideas abound in the wider world. Oil in Venezuela belongs to the people (of color naturally) who live on top of it. That they didnt know it was there, had no use for it, had no way of extracting it is not important, its theirs. The same goes for South African gold and so on.

A point so good I've used it myself upon occasion with regards to the De Beers company's remarkable role in reinventing the diamond.

Anonymous said...

"Things that are the product of Europeans; the internet, telephone system, broadcast media etc. Those are for everybody, its all about access, a bit like clean air or water..."

well, lets face it. These "things" you name, and to which modern technology owes its existence, are vast systems of invention, not natural resources or material wealth you numerate. Possesion is 9/10ths of the law (a western law.) The people sitting on oil or whatever should be compensated just as surely as you would expect to be compensated should oil (or whatever) be found in your backyard. It was not your ingenuity that sought it out or put it there, but still...would you want smarter entrepreneurs coming in and taking it?
That being said, I too have often thought of all the world owes "western civilization." A white person is supposed to feel guilty about lynch mobs 80 years ago, yet cannot take credit for the humanitarian activities of the Quakers, for example, or the inventions of Ford and Edison. They can't site the obvious and traceable achievements without kowtowing to invention fantasies of "minorities" so they don't feel stupid and intellectually passive.
Something's wrong with this picture and I got it years ago. I recall Tony Brown, on his Journal, going on about the nefarious minds (white of course) that invented the atomic bomb. Now I just knew that if some black person could be touted as having invented the Bomb, Tony'd be bragging about it. (Somewhere, somehow, I am sure some black person is being thus touted.)And if whites as a whole are guilty of the atomic bomb then the whole race can also take pride in just about everything that defines modern civilization including the smart clothes and the tv on which he was broadcasting his program and the car that took him to work.
I suspect he thought of this himself sooner or later as he doesn't talk in this vein anymore to my knowledge.

Statsquatch said...

I second Plenoi Almoni's comment that "Outlier" is an outdated statistical concept. What you are interested in is "influence". That is, how much a statistic or your inference can be altered by a single data point. So if you make a decision based on mean income then Bill Gates is influential and affects your inference but if you use median income he is not. Gladwell teaches us that ignoring HBD while trying to do social science is the equivalent of using the mean instead of the median to make inference about income. Maybe Steve’s interest in Gladwell does teach us something.

MensaRefugee said...

Similar ideas abound in the wider world. Oil in Venezuela belongs to the people (of color naturally) who live on top of it. That they didnt know it was there, had no use for it, had no way of extracting it is not important, its theirs. The same goes for South African gold and so on.
==================================

Cute thing is those africans didnt even live there, and mostly didnt exist before idiot whites let them in for free (compassion, laziness or labour?)

Anonymous said...

Ploni above is right, you don't "throw out" outliers. Also, as he points out, income is log-normally (as opposed to normally) distributed, meaning that a hugely disproportionate chunk of earned income is in fact accounted for by a few "outliers" at the far right end of the income distribution. These people have huge power and influence and it is in fact important to think about the sources of their wealth. The most important point there isn't any junk about access to computer terminals, it's that such huge fortunes are the product of luck and a lot of collective effort over a long period of time (as opposed to just the effort of the person amassing the fortune).

Anonymous said...

You tote up your results and see that the mean wealth of your 100 college dropouts is $500,050,000.

You tote up your results and see that the mean wealth of your 100 college dropouts is $500,050,000.

"That’s weird," you say.

...

All you know is that he’s an outlier and therefore you aren’t going to use him in your data set.


Steve, you of all people must know this--you don't throw out the OUTLIER, you throw out the MEAN as a representation of the group and use the Median instead. Do that and the pointy-head boss wouldn't reach the wrong conclusion.

RE Gladwell, I've always thought that you're assessment of Obama as an engaging prose stylist, quite apart from the content of his writing, applies equally as well to Gladwell. His books and articles generally tell a good story, regardless of the merits of his conclusions.

Anonymous said...

Being a WASP I have begun to become aware that many of the inventions created by my culture are now becomming "discoveries". The idea somehow being that white people just got there first and that they only did so because they were racist and evil. Harvard, Yale, and Duke are part of my culture (I did not go to any of them). They are now "Multiculturial" and diverse. I could go on and on.

Anonymous said...

The 'big idea' of Steve Sailer and why I read him - he illustrates how ideology blinds people like Gladwell. I suspect, like in the old soviet union, many know the truth but realize that if the house of cards came down, they would come down with it.

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain, Steve.

Truth said...

"Being a WASP I have begun to become aware that many of the inventions created by my culture"

These things weren't created by 'your culture' they were created by a guy a who looked extremely vaguely, like you. I don't see why white people are so quick to take credit for things they had nothing to do with. I never claimed to be the world's fastes man, I'm actually only 23rd. The world's fastest man looks vaguely like me, but I do not take credit for Mr. Bolt's achievement. If what you were doing was reasonable, there wouldn't be any patent office, all whites would simply share the credit and the money for every invention.

Three peices of advice:

1) Grow up.

2) Stop coat-tailing

3) Accomplish something you can legitimately take credit for.

Steve Sailer said...

Mean v. median.

The median is superior in a lot of situations, but not for the specified example of a mutual fund company, where a lot of the business opportunity is found among the right tail, the people with $10 million net worths and the like. The problem comes when somebody fills in $50 billion. He's most likely just screwing around with you.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant!

Anonymous said...

I don't see why white people are so quick to take credit for things they had nothing to do with.

Unlike guys like "Truth", who love to claim such tripe as: "The Egyptians were really black"; "The Greeks stole their knowledge from the Egyptians"; "The Egyptians flew over the pyramids in their "gliders"; Leonard Jeffries is a historian.

Three pieces of advice:

1) Grow up. - Stop pretending you're making a "difference" in life by posting on blogs. You're not brilliant, and you're not "speaking TRUTH to power".

2) Get a life - There's better things in life to do other then fulfilling some childish psychological need by engaging in internet semantics. Turn the computer off, turn off the TV, stop playing video games, turn off the CD player, read a book.

3) No one cares what you have to say - your comments belong in the dustbin of history.

Anonymous said...

Attributing the Beatles' success to long shifts in Hamburg bars doesn't account for all the other British bands who also played those same bars ... and promptly fell into obscurity. There is nothing in the Beatles' story to suggest a work ethic superior to any number of other less successful bands. What there is, is simply native -- probably inherited -- musical aptitude combined with the caprice of blind random chance, mostly centered on timing and geographical proximity: Lennon and McCartney (both had fathers who were musicians of some order) being born and raised at approximately the same time and close enough to one another to meet at a local church function. Then forming a band that happened by an equally long-shot chance to perform at a club within 200 yards of an appliance and record store run by a more disciplined, image-savvy young man who was bored and desperately seeking a creative outlet for his suppressed interest in show business and management (Brian Epstein.) Throw a monkey wrench into any one of those happenstances and, with or without the Hamburg boot camp, Ed Sullivan's February 9, 1964 show would be remembered mainly for the Broadway standards crooned that night by Gordon & Sheila MacRae.

Anonymous said...

The Columbia airlines argument (the deputy pilot failed to inform air traffic control of an emergency, leading to a crash) falls apart. If Columbia is a high deference culture, and the copilot is overly deferential to the captain, then why did he repeatedly disobey his captain's orders and fail to inform ATC? If he were deferential, he would have followed the captain's orders.

Steve Sailer said...

Yes, one member of the Beatles was meritocratically chosen: Ringo, because he was the best professional drummer in Liverpool. The other three came together through through luck.

By himself, with luck, I could imagine John Lennon putting together a band as good as, say, Creedence Clearwater (a group notorious for one star and three bar band quality guys). By himself, with every break, Paul McCartney might be Jeff Lynn of Electric Light Orchestra. With lots of luck, Harrison might be a studio guitarist with a fine reputation among insiders as a guy who could come up with something interesting to improve a pop tune.

Anonymous said...

I don't see why white people are so quick to take credit for things they had nothing to do with.

You're right as usual, Truth. Do whites really believe their ancestors accomplished things that future generations of whites might take pride in?

Anonymous said...

Truth, are you lecturing to those whiney AA enforcers/recipients?

albertosaurus said...

Usually I like to be among the first to post a comment to a Steve Sailer column, lest it be overlooked deep in the list. In this case however I posted my denunciation of Malcom Gladwell three or four days before this column was ever published. Does that make me an outlier?

I thought Steve was recommending this book when he first mentioned it a week or more ago. I immediately bought it and read it. Much to my amazement Gladwell had written a whole book of rot.

Deep festering rot.

Last week I wrote my reaction to Gladwell's explanations about Mozart. I'd continue but Gladwell's idea is just too silly to repeat again.

Truth said...

Every god-damn freakin' chance I get!

Anonymous said...

Possesion is 9/10ths of the law (a western law.) The people sitting on oil or whatever should be compensated just as surely as you would expect to be compensated should oil (or whatever) be found in your backyard.

Wrong. They don't possess the "oil or whatever".

And the reason we expect to be compensated should oil (or whatever) be found in our backyards is that we have worked that arrangement out among ourselves.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with Steve about the Beatles needing each other to succeed spectacularly. I think their best songs were largely individual efforts. Lennon's input into Yesterday, Let It Be, Penny Lane, Fool on the Hill, etc. was either non-existent or negligeable. Same with McCartney's input into In My Life, Strawberry Fields, I Am the Walrus, etc.

Well, they were more collaborative early on and more individualistic during the band's later years. But I like the later songs more than I like the earlier ones.

I'm thinking that the reason why their creative output declined once they split was that they'd gotten older, not that they were missing each other's contributions. Both fluid intelligence and energy decline with age.

Anonymous said...

Well, It's good to see you addressing the causation and motive force of political correctness, at long last. I have previously taken this issue up with you here in your comments and in unpublished emails to vdare. I would like to think that perhaps I had some influence on your addressing of this issue.

I speak here of your argument in this column on Gladwell that the reason that he ignores politically incorrect aspects of reality is because to fail to ignore them would kill his chances at raking in speaking fees paid by corporations. And that, further, if corporations did pay speaking fees for speakers who espoused politically incorrect views on race, that would be prima facie evidence in an discrimination lawsuit. Well, take it from somene who has studied employment law--it is NOT prima facie evidence in such lawsuits. That sort of evidence can only come from interactions in the workplace. However, it could very well be used in a persuasive fashion, anyway. But not to build a prima facie case.


So, to summarize your argument, you are saying that, essentially, the major reason for political correctness is that the opinion makers in the media adhere to political correctness because potential discrimination lawsuits force those who would pay lucrative speaker fees to ostracize politically incorrect opinion makers? Am I stating your argument correctly?

OK, it's not a bad argument. But I think there is a lot more to WHY political correctness exists.

This IS however an extremely fertile area for further research and discussion on your part, and I hope you do more in this area in the future. The WHY of how the current politically correct thought regime came to be--that is where the interesting stuff is, in my opinion.

I of course have my own ideas. I see the universe as a deterministic place, where every outcome is determined by causative forces. PC was caused by forces, and explaining those forces is a good place for a writer to be.
For starters, I recommend Dr Roelofs book FOUNDATIONS AND PUBLIC POLICY: THE MASK OF PLURALISM.

And a lot can be deduced from the school of thought espoused in Madison's letter to Jefferson, in which he stated that the USA ought to be run in accordance with the "divide et impera" principal. The fact that this principal, which is basically the foundation of the COnstitution, has been shoved down the memory hole ought to tell us a lot.

However, I have to say that your idea here is certainly a factor. But how can it explain the instinctive, gut reactions of white collar whites to politically incorrect thoughts? These are not calculated actions; they are instinctive actions. Gladwell likewise avoids certain areas INSTINCTIVELY. Your argument is that it is calculated. THat is wrong. When you start to deal with this fact, you are really starting to get into the meat of the issue.

-cryofan

Anonymous said...

What is the word for highly-educated intellectuals who pretend to like and admire the Beatles?

Douchebags.

Anonymous said...

Even the goy can invent things - I forget where I read that meant-to-be disparaging quote, but it's true.

All of your fantastic inventions have done what, exactly, for you? Wiping out millions of your ancestors, weakening the remainder, destroying any possibilities of strong offspring - this is what I see. It's like when Nietzsche said that the glory of the Renaissance had all been in vain because of the dismal, bourgeois present he lived in, so it is now. It must be pointed out that we're not exactly sitting on top of the heap, able to pat ourselves on the back like some self-congratulatory mnuez. We are not in any position to gloat - we're pecking on keyboards while outside, in the real world, we are passing into oblivion. Sumerians made some great things too, until their enemies got a hold of those things and obliterated them.

You learned to fly through the air so that you could firebomb your own cities. You learned to farm more proficiently than anyone in the world so that you could increase the population of the world and flood your homelands with the excess. You invented mediums that conquered time and space so that the majority of your people could become idiots.

What's happened is that your genius - and it is genius - has been captured and harnessed and used against you. Until you've figured a way out of this mess, Troof is right, everything's just empty boasting.

Anonymous said...

Great article, as always.

The fact that the Beatles practiced a lot may have been a necessary condition for their success, but it can hardly be a sufficient condition.

Many kids practice far more than any of the Beatles ever did, and those kids will never be able to produce anything like "Rubber Soul" or "Abbey Road."

The Beatles didn't seem to have very high verbal intelligences, with the possible exception of Lennon. So I don't know whether intelligence had much influence on their success.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

Do you ever think you could make your writing more palatable to the masses by borrowing a trick from Diamond? Over and over in "Guns, Germs, and Steel", he'll say something a little un-PC, and then he'll say "You'll note that what I just said was not racist. Now, if I'd said X, that would have been racist. But I didn't say X, I said Y."

This trick is a bit clunky, but it reassures your audience while making your point absolutely clear. Plus it lets you set a definition for "racism" - a term that is surprisingly nebulously defined for the importance people place on it.

Anonymous said...

Jim -- I am not Steve, but I will attempt to answer why the intellectual bankruptcy.

It's all about demographics, and the role of women.

The West has always depended on strong, independent women, who would be relatively faithful, had some amount of free choice in a husband, could be relied upon to act wisely in a husband's absence, and so on. This dates back as far as the Homeric Epic of the Odyssey, around 1000 BC or so. This is a deep, cultural pattern.

What has changed is that the pill, the condom, and rising incomes and status and social power of women all around the globe have radically shifted women's power, concerns, and goals. It's hit the West first and hardest, but other regions have undergone this huge shift too.

Single motherhood, drastically reduced fertility, delayed or non-existent marriage, radical increase in sex partners, all characterize the huge shifts in female behavior. It varies across the globe, Yemen has a TFR of 8, while Iran only 1.7, but it exists in every relatively well off, higher income people.

Women, and particularly single women, are ground zero for PC and Multiculturalism. Which are in themselves just status games. Yes they are intellectually bankrupt, but women dislike in the main abstract thinking and prefer to express emotion. The emotional appeal of PC and Multiculturalism and the role of women as the demographic balance of power explains a lot in our social unwillingness to think rigorously about certain aspects of human existence.

When single women expect to be single for most of their lives, their social network of female friends forms the most dominant concern in their lives. As choosers of men, they can enforce social orthodoxy, and do. Marketers cater to them seeing women as the preferred spenders, particularly since they spend far more than men do (excepting when men try to impress women).

This explains the correlation between rising female income and social freedom, coupled with the Sexual Revolution enabled by the Pill and Condom, and the rise of PC and Multiculturalism.

It also explains why any attempt to overturn it is futile -- women and in particular single women who are the shock troops of PC and Multiculturalism will defenestrate anyone who gets in their way. They will even do so to their own: Geraldine Ferraro, because the cause of PC/Multiculturalism (which is just a Status Game) is more important to women than their own representative.

Single Women voted Obama 70-29. That pretty much encapsulates WHY the intellectual bankruptcy. And WHY it will never be overturned, unless women themselves radically change. Which is not going to happen.

BTW, few other groups hate most White men than Single White Women. Get hit on by lots of "herb" type average-ordinary guys every day, every moment you are out in public and the desire to replace them with the "exotic" and more "masculine" and dominating is easily understood. Even single mothers with sons who are White are not immune to this, until they age out of the mating game and men's attention.

If you want to understand the demonization of the "Average White Guy" in commercials (doofus idiot patronized by women and non-Whites) and TV and movies, excepting the Alpha Male, here's why.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to have to correct the Ministry of Pride on this one.

Bill Gates is rich because of a concept known as "old money." After the first offer of IBM to an outside contractor fell through because the bidding team did not dress well enough to continue the meeting, the found Bill Gates through his mother "who is old money" to use the phrase.

Bill Gates is a pimp for old money but his indoctrination program is impressive and my sister reported that Microsofties are good volley ball players but not the best in the area.

One day all the jokes about the 800 lb gorilla went away because Bill Gates was hit in the face with a whipped cream pie from a performance artist back when the war crack wasn't so down. Loki is the low-key joker card.

-person

Anonymous said...

Many kids practice far more than any of the Beatles ever did, and those kids will never be able to produce anything like "Rubber Soul" or "Abbey Road."

Interestingly, Rubber Soul was recorded in just a few week's time in order to meet the deadline they were facing (for Christmas 1965). They had to come up with a few songs from scratch for that one. They also didn't have time to practice for their live shows after 1962 or so and only played for 20 to 30 minutes a night. John Lennon was so lazy that he didn't even bother to memorize all the lyrics and often just mumbled something random to the microphone. Fair enough, because they couldn't hear themselves anyway.

The Beatles didn't seem to have very high verbal intelligences, with the possible exception of Lennon. So I don't know whether intelligence had much influence on their success.

Lennon was clearly the most intelligent, with Harrison, a bus driver's son, coming second. But McCartney was the most talented musically. Lennon's melodies tend to be pentatonic and his chords are sometimes rudimentary.

Anonymous said...

"Wrong. They don't possess the "oil or whatever".

And the reason we expect to be compensated should oil (or whatever) be found in our backyards is that we have worked that arrangement out among ourselves."
Mr. Tillman, I am quite sure that if some rare herb used in Chinese medicine were found on your land and a bunch of Chinamen came to extract them, you'd damn well want compensation whether they'd worked anything out or not.
What kind of rationalization of rip-offrey is that? They are trying to "work something out" too. Taking resources ruthlessly is what got us in this mess. Sooner or later people with consciences speak up.

I don't normally read this blog to be an apologist for "people of color", aka, third worlders. There are enough suicidal loonies in the Camp of the Saints doing that. However, justice is not served by assuming we are always right.
Poor countries have their systems of ownership and governance. If they have been living on the land for generations, then they should have a say in what is done with it. The same reason we Americans should have a say in who gets to come here and use our tax money. We feel outraged because illegal aliens are using our tax money and squatting on our property.

Anonymous said...

"These things weren't created by 'your culture' they were created by a guy a who looked extremely vaguely, like you. "

Seems to have struck a nerve? Same here.
A black person (you have identified yourself as such) has some kind of nerve saying that. While you may not personally by guilty of this, blacks commonly and relentlessly blame whites for things done by people who not only look "vaguely like them" but have been dead for hundreds of years.
I will never forget the black man who came in the store and started on about how you whites "should have thought of that two hundred years ago..." I can't recall the subject about which we should have thought, but his words were obviously referring to whites dragging blacks into slavery.
The whole scene was damn disgusting. So, Mr. "Truth"--we whites have been blamed and baited by blacks, browns, yellows, etc., for all kinds of bad things we haven't done. And somehow never been complimented for all the good whites did. Yes--whites did. If we are going to continue to be paying for bad things our ancestors did, ala Affirmative Action and a helplessness in the face of non-white illegals, then we CAN take credit for all the inventions. England and Scotland, two of the main producers of genius, are small countries after all. Their white populations actually are pretty related relatively speaking. Go back three generations in any county and you'll find most people are cousins.

Truth said...

"All of your fantastic inventions have done what, exactly, for you? Wiping out millions of your ancestors, weakening the remainder, destroying any possibilities of strong offspring...You learned to fly through the air so that you could firebomb your own cities. You learned to farm more proficiently than anyone in the world so that you could increase the population of the world and flood your homelands with the excess. You invented mediums that conquered time and space so that the majority of your people could become idiots."

Yeah but you've got to admit, the IPod is WAY-cool!

Anonymous said...

The Beatles drummer during the Hamburg sojourn was Pete Best, replaced by Ringo at the insistence of Lennon & McCartney.

They were said to be jealous of Best's popularity with the girls.

Probably one of the few occasions when being outstandingly good looking was a disadvantage.

Barry Wood

Anonymous said...

I guess his thinking process went something like this: 1) despotism = bad 2) white people = bad 3) white people = despotism? Yay, new chapter for my book!

That had to hurt.

Anonymous said...

I don't see why white people are so quick to take credit for things they had nothing to do with.

I'll explain it to you. We're told from the cradle, in mostly subtle ways, that we suck and are responsible for your failure. So, some of us feel a duty to show that we don't suck, that in fact we rock, and that you're responsible for your own failures.

Allan said...

"Our world only allowed one thirteen-year-old unlimited access to a time-sharing terminal in 1968. If a million teenagers had been given the same opportunity, how many more Microsofts would we have today?"

As a teen-ager I had unlimited access to a mainframe computer in 1960, but as of yet, I have a long way to go to acquiring even my first million. I wonder how Malcolm would explain that?

Anonymous said...

I disagree with Steve about the Beatles needing each other to succeed spectacularly. I think their best songs were largely individual efforts. -- anonymous

Then why were their "individual" efforts first-rate in the '60s and third-rate in the '70s? Fact is, J & P wrote not so much under the influence of each other, than under the eye of the other. And both had to face George Martin. They had to put their best stuff forward.

On the other hand, Linda and Yoko were great wives, and thus worse than useless as musical critics. Which is what they needed most.

By himself, with every break, Paul McCartney might be Jeff Lynn of Electric Light Orchestra.-- Steve Sailer

Um, Jeff Lynne isn't even the Jeff Lynne of ELO. ELO grew out of Birmingham's The Move, led by Roy Wood, who left after the first ELO album. In a healthier environment, like Tin Pan Alley/Broadway/Hollywood, Wood would have been recognized as the talent to encourage.

One reason Beatles' songs are better is that they had better models. Everyone, them included, listened to Chuck Berry. Only John & Paul were modeling work on Rodgers & Hammerstein and Goffin & King. Note that the Beatles favored songs with bridges, rather than the weaker "chorus" form others used.

There is nothing in the Beatles' story to suggest a work ethic superior to any number of other less successful bands. --Stephen T.

Except that one of them, Lennon I think, was quoted as saying they succeeded because they were the hardest-working band around. (Of course, he could have been wrong...)

Lennon was clearly the most intelligent, with Harrison, a bus driver's son, coming second. But McCartney was the most talented musically. -- Almost Anonymous

Lots of beliefs are topsy-turvy about this band, and this is one. It was a Lennon tune, "Not a Second Time", which first caught the ear of classical critics. McCartney, the musichaller, was quite facile with words himself. He also pioneered some of the things Lennon is more famous for-- appearing nude ("Help"); marginal blasphemy ("Lady Madonna"); varying levels of smut ("finger pie", "Why Don't We Do It In the Road", "body gun"); politics ("Give Ireland Back to the Irish", banned on BBC).

The early Beatles were vastly more interesting than the pretentious later ones.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe no one's addressed the elephant in the room, or perhaps more appropriately the dog that didn't bark... where are the NAM outliers!?!

Would it be too snarky to ask if there is a chapter on Booker T. Washington?

Anonymous said...

Well ruined that joke... I meant to say "George Washington Carver."

:-) Well, at least I can keep Iraq and Iran straight.

Anonymous said...

Normally I have a lot of respect for Colby Cosh, but this statement from the link in Steve's piece made me laugh:

What the younger ones don't understand is how the Beatles united America and Britain culturally--how foreign Britain was to Americans, and how unaware they were of it as anything but an invisible national paterfamilias, before the Beatles hit. It's not too much to state that the "Anglosphere", in large measure, was established on a particular night in February 1964.

Only a rocker who thought Chuck Berry was Adam could say such a thing. Hasn't he heard of Cary Grant, Stan Laurel, Charlie Chaplin, Edmund Gwenn, Alfred Hitchcock, Noel Coward, Laurence Olivier, James Mason, Audrey Hepburn, Julie Andrews, Anthony Newley, Arthur Treacher, George Orwell, Kingsley Amis, Nevil Shute, Ian Fleming, various James Bonds and innumerable other British icons in the years before the "British Invasion"?

Truth said...

"So, some of us feel a duty to show that we don't suck, that in fact we rock"

Great, then invent something, achieve a world record or save some kids from a burning house. 100 million black men inventing electricity gets a little old.

"Would it be too snarky to ask if there is a chapter on Booker T. Washington?"

Little hint; when being 'snarky' try to get the sarcasm right.

Anonymous said...

Truth: I don't see why white people are so quick to take credit for things they had nothing to do with.

Svigor: I'll explain it to you. We're told from the cradle, in mostly subtle ways, that we suck and are responsible for your failure. So, some of us feel a duty to show that we don't suck, that in fact we rock, and that you're responsible for your own failures.

Made my effing day. Have a great Christmas, Steve-o.

--Senor Doug

Jim Bowery said...

testing99 wrote: What has changed is that the pill, the condom, and rising incomes and status and social power of women all around the globe have radically shifted women's power, concerns, and goals. It's hit the West first and hardest, but other regions have undergone this huge shift too.

Yes, it's called "the demographic transition". However, it hits some demographies harder than others even within ethnicities. For example, although Mormons are undergoing the demographic transition, their indoctrination in the role of the family headed by the husband as moral authority in the home has succeeded to a surprising extent though not as surprising as the Hasid/Orthodox Jewish communities of Kiryas Joel an Monsey.

I think a lot closer attention must be paid to memes as extended phenotypes of genes.

BTW, few other groups hate most White men than Single White Women. Get hit on by lots of "herb" type average-ordinary guys every day, every moment you are out in public and the desire to replace them with the "exotic" and more "masculine" and dominating is easily understood. Even single mothers with sons who are White are not immune to this, until they age out of the mating game and men's attention.

I started thinking along these lines sometime in the mid 1970s when I noticed the tendency for couples using birth control to break up shortly after 9 months of sex -- usually with the female initiating it. My thought at that time was that a female's neurophysiology would be much more attuned to the onset of pregnancy -- hence the absence of pregnancy. Since then I've noticed some other phenomena -- particularly applicable to northern Europeans -- which I believe goes back to the tendency of sexual species to have males engage in single combat during reproductive behavior: When governments overlay the human ecology and defend the entry of outsider males, it is profoundly disruptive to mating due to the fact that the local males appear, to the females' neurophysiology, to be cowards -- hence worthy of contempt. I'm skeptical of extent you can lay the blame for the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at the feet of birth control.

Anonymous said...

Allan said

As a teen-ager I had unlimited access to a mainframe computer in 1960, but as of yet, I have a long way to go to acquiring even my first million. I wonder how Malcolm would explain that?

You are a normal data point, not an outlier.

Anonymous said...

Reg C├Žsar said

Only a rocker who thought Chuck Berry was Adam could say such a thing.

Cash's type of ignorant quasi-messianic self-centeredness on this issue is regularly taken as typical of "Baby Boomers," the type of people who read Newsweek and Time to find out all about themselves.

But not everyone born during the "Baby Boom" (1946-1954) is like that, not by a long shot. The small number of people considered quintessential "Baby Boomers" - the fountainheads of "Baby Boomism" - are marked off from the general run of their contemporaries. We could call them "the Arrogants" or "the Odious" (using The Onion's term) as against "the Normals"; but is there a firmer classification than this?

(By the way, when will Cosh change his banner? Is it possible he believes he's uniquely beautiful, too?)

Anonymous said...

"These things weren't created by 'your culture' they were created by a guy a who looked extremely vaguely, like you. I don't see why white people are so quick to take credit for things they had nothing to do with."

Why are black people so quick to blame white people for things they had nothing to do with?

Anonymous said...

By the way, there is a good pragmatic reason to observe that most important inventions have come from European minds.

White people represent the best hope for all of humanity to improve everyone's standard of living; quality of life; and to reach for the stars.

If you are concerned about the future of humanity, then no matter what color you are, your focus should be to preserve and protect white people. As opposed to enviously trying to bring whitey down.

Perhaps the child who will develop artificial intelligence; a cure for cancer; or a nuclear rocket engine is being born right now. If so, that child is almost certainly from Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa.

Anonymous said...

Sailer = Defender of Truth

Gladwell = Plastic People

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFcmJoNed9M&feature=related

Anonymous said...

Gladwell is a lightweight, feel-good pop science writer. He sells lots of books to people who don't really read but like to have the occasional book on the table to quote from to make them look smart and plugged in to the newest thinking. In short, he's totally uninteresting.

John Seiler said...

Great takedown of Gladwell. But a couple of things on Gates. He was one of the greatest programmers of all time. Gates wrote most of the firmware code for the TRS-80, the best early laptop. (See the Wikipedia article on the TRS-80.) And Microsoft never was a "monopoly." Windows took off because IBM stupidly, as Jerry Pournelle described it from seeing it first-hand, dissed Gates over their common PS/2 development. Gates then developed Windows on his own. Alternative operating systems always were available, including PS/2, Unix, Macintosh's. Finally, the 1998 Clinton anti-trust attack on Microsoft severely wounded the company; its stock has dropped since then, even before the recent market crash and taking into account inflation. Like anti-trust actions against IBM and GM, the government stupidly has wounded the most successful American companies.

John Seiler said...

I've been thinking all day about the comments on the Beatles. First, they really were a great live band, not just great in the studio. Their early hit records just duplicated their live act. Second, Stephen T. has a great general analysis. Third, I think Steve Sailer underestimates Lennon. I can't stand his politics, etc. But listen to the chord changes on the songs on which he was the top writer, from 1962 to 1980, and you'll hear a talent rare not just in rock, but in any music -- far greater than John Fogerty, who was, and still is, a decent songster. Fourth, Ringo was a great drummer, an essential part of the Beatles' "chemistry." When he left because he couldn't stand the Paul-John-George fighting while the White Album was being recorded, the other 3 tried recording with Paul on drums. It didn't come out well. They realized they needed Ringo and called him back. He wasn't Keith Moon, but then the Beatles didn't need a Moon, they needed a Ringo. In sum, the Beatles were not "outliers," but something unique that comes along now an then, like Babe Ruth, and we should just enjoy -- which for us analytical types also means trying to figure them out.

John Seiler said...

Like a Beatles song, I can't get out of my head the topic of the Beatles as a live band. Actually, they may have been the BEST live band, ever. I never saw them live. But when I was 9 I went to see "A Hard Day's Night" when it came out, and the girls screamed through the whole movie.
Look at this YouTube from 1963, before they came to the US, watch the girls screaming, and tell me they weren't a great live band. The first is what I think is their best song, the essence of their early songwriting, appearance, "yeah, yeah, yeah," and "sound" -- "She Loves You." The second song they didn't even write, "Twist and Shout," but girls go even crazier for them and the "sound."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3pQhwHnNMY&NR=1