November 23, 2022
What if I’m right about how the world works? What policies would that imply?
My basic insight is that the world actually is pretty much what it looks like, loath as we may be to admit it.
When it comes to human behavior, there mostly aren’t systematic differences between what your lying eyes tell you and what The Science says. There’s a continuum between anecdote, anecdata, and data.
If there’s a strong statistical pattern in the numbers, you should be able to come up with vivid real-life examples of it. And if you can think of several examples suggesting a pattern, you might well be able to find large-scale data for it.
My main one weird trick for coming up with enough insights to make a living as an unfashionable pundit for 22 years has been to assume that private life facts and public life facts are one and the same. Most pundits assume public controversies, such as BLM, are of a higher realm than daily life, so that what they notice about “safe neighborhoods” and “good schools” when they are making real estate decisions for themselves couldn’t possibly have any relevance to the great issues of the day they discuss in the media.
In truth, you don’t need gnostic dogmas like “systemic racism” to explain why, say, blacks on average are relatively better at playing cornerback in the NFL than center. Biological and cultural differences explain these and countless other patterns.
That all truths are connected to all other truths helps explain why my columns often seem to end somewhat abruptly and arbitrarily: I don’t seem to reach the natural end of a topic because, from my perspective, there is no end, just an endless network of cause and effect. So, instead, I tend to knock off around dawn when it’s time to go to bed.
On the other hand, despite the success my methods have demonstrated over the years at explicating some of the major public affairs conundrums of this century, the answers I come up with are widely considered unmentionable.
The usual responses I’m given by my critics are either:
—My findings are rejected by all experts as completely untrue, or
—Everybody already knows what you are saying is true, they just don’t want to talk about it.
Among those who assert the latter, I am told that we shouldn’t mention the truth because either:
—The facts have no possible policy implications, or
—The facts have overwhelmingly horrible policy implications, such as the logical necessity of reimposing slavery or instituting genocide.
The former strikes me as obtuse and the latter as insane and/or evil.
When I try to think through the policy implications that would flow from honest public discussion of American realities rather than the current reliance on ignorance, lies, and wishful thinking, it seems to me that it could be useful if more people knew more about what they are discussing.
Knowing the facts doesn’t prove one set of values is better than another—that’s what politics is for deciding—but it can help you avoid making things worse than they have to be.
For example, consider affirmative action.
When surveyed, thumping majorities of the public incoherently endorse contradictory policies. In a recent Washington Post poll, American voted 63–36 in favor of:
Q: Would you support or oppose the Supreme Court banning colleges and universities from considering a student’s race and ethnicity when making decisions about student admissions?
But then the same respondents turned around and went 64–36 for:
Q: In general, do you think programs designed to increase the racial diversity of students on college campuses are a good thing or a bad thing?
It’s hard to be sure what people are imagining about affirmative action. Most likely, they are largely ignorant of how large the racial gaps are at the high end and how hard colleges have been toiling to squeeze in more underqualified blacks for the past half century, with little success other than by simply putting a massive thumb on the scale for blacks.
Even the last really important Supreme Court decision on affirmative action, Sandra Day O’Connor’s controlling opinion in the 2003 Grutter case, blithely assumed that racial gaps would become too trivial to worry about anymore by 2028:
It has been 25 years since Justice Powell first approved the use of race to further an interest in student body diversity in the context of public higher education. Since that time, the number of minority applicants with high grades and test scores has indeed increased…. We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.
Today, 19 of those 25 years have elapsed, and Justice O’Connor’s hoped-for happy ending is more chimerical than ever.
In particular, almost nobody is aware of how the extraordinary rise in college admission test scores among Asians in this century has worsened the chances of blacks to be admitted under a color-blind system. While whites are seven times more likely than blacks to score 1400 (out of 1600) or higher on the SAT, Asians are 24 times more likely.
You aren’t supposed to talk about these realities, so virtually nobody knows about them other than college presidents, who all appear to support quotas. I like to joke that just as in the old Nicolas Cage movie in which the president of the United States gets a key to the President’s Book of Secrets that divulges what really happened in the Kennedy assassination, there’s a Harvard President’s Book of Secrets that turns out to be a dog-eared copy of The Bell Curve.
If more people knew the facts, what could be done?
One possibility is that the SAT and ACT have broken down under the extreme test prepping paid for by so many Tiger Mothers, but that they could be fixed. Unfortunately, we are far more likely in the current climate to ban the tests as racist than seriously investigate how to improve them under the Asian onslaught.
Other reforms could be undertaken. For example, Asians are disproportionately exploiting the custom of giving one extra point of grade point average to students taking Advanced Placement classes. A study of University of California students found that a half-point boost generates more accurate predictions of student performance.
More broadly, we should reconsider the quantity of legal immigration in light of how much harder it is making it for African-Americans to earn elite status for themselves without race preferences. American blacks had a hard enough time competing with American whites. Putting them up against ever more of the cleverest and most ambitious of 4 billion Asians is a massacre.
To the extent that we decide we need preferences to admit enough blacks to elite colleges, we should use strict racial quotas that let in only the best of each race rather than the current trend toward wrecking the admissions system to make evidence for race preferences fuzzier.
And there’s no need for everybody to continue to pretend ever since the 1978 Bakke decision that exalted “diversity” as the excuse for violating the 14th Amendment’s requirement of equal protection of the laws that affirmative action makes colleges more intellectually stimulating when obviously the opposite has proven true. Quotas have helped make colleges minefields of cancel culture by bringing onto campus insecure and resentful masses of racially preferred students out to punish anyone who alludes to the race gaps that are American society’s central fact. Instead, underqualified preference beneficiaries should be told to be thankful for their privilege.
Similarly, American institutions currently waste huge amounts of effort interrogating themselves for racism whenever they notice that their objective systems find that blacks behave worse on the whole than other races. For example, New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services is currently torturing itself to find the source of the racism that must be behind why “Black families are seven times as likely as white families to be accused of child maltreatment,” according to a breathless New York Times article.
But if you read deep enough into the investigation about racism at this office, you find:
Most A.C.S. caseworkers are Black, as is most leadership in the agency’s Division of Child Protection, the agency said.
A New York Times analysis of 83 child homicides from 2016 to 2022 found that Black children in the city were killed by family members at about seven times the rate for white and Asian children and three times the rate for Hispanic children.
So what’s the worst that can happen when the Child Protection agency guts itself over its own charges of racial inequity?
I mean, besides more murdered children?