Brief Summary: Ordinary people know that there are racial differences in intelligence, but they also know that it is not reasonable to use these differences to justify racial discrimination. 'The Bell Curve' is an argument against the sanctioned discrimination of racial quotas and preferences.
PERHAPS because I'm congenitally optimistic, I think The Bell Curve's message is already widely understood, by the American people if not by the elite. Ordinary citizens know that some people are in significant ways more intelligent than others, that only a relative few are extremely bright or extremely dull, and that intelligence bunches up at the center. They know that intelligence is not randomly distributed among members of different identifiable racial and ethnic groups. These are lessons that are taught in everyday life, and you have to undergo a pretty sophisticated indoctrination and enlist in a tightly disciplined ideological army to believe otherwise.
Of course, most of our university and media elite have signed up for those forces. They have done so, I think, because they believe that ordinary people would take the admission that there are differences in average intelligence among the races as a license for racial discrimination. They evidently believe that many or most Americans long to return to the system of legally enforced racial segregation that prevailed in the American South until the mid 1960s. But that is nonsense. Ordinary people understand quite well what herrnstein and Murray, mindful of their elite audience, feel obliged to state explicitly: that differences in average intelligence among the races do not justify discrimination against or for individuals of those races. Ordinary people know--everyday experience makes it quite plain to them--that some blacks are extremely bright and some non-blacks are extremely dull. They know that it is not rational to discriminate by race.
The Bell Curve is not an argument ofr racial discrimination. It is an argument against racial discrimination, against the one form of racial discrimination that is sanctioned by university and media and government and corporate elites: racial preferences and quotas. It shows that the discipline of psychology supports the inference suggested by (to take a vivid example) the preponderance of people of Chinese descent in mathematics departments: that abilities are not randomly distributed among different ethnic and racial groups. (If we assumed they were, we would have to suppose that an old boys' club of Chinese was plotting to keep the rest of us out of those math departments.) The case for racial quotas is that in a fair society desirable positions would be randomly distributed among all identifiable groups. Herrnstein and Murray confirm the ordinary citizen's intuition that this is absurd.
More specifically, by showing strong relationships between intelligence as measured by IQ tests and behaviors ranging from job performance to a propensity to commit crimes or bear children outside marriage, The Bell Curve makes a powerful case that the disproportionately low number of blacks in top positions and the disproportionately low number of blacks in top positions and the disproportionately high number of blacks in prison (just under half our prisoners are black) do not result from racial discrimination. I hasten to add that, as a society and as individuals, we all have an obligation to remain alert to acts of individual unfairness, and we all have an obligation to do something about the continued existence of a criminal underclass, even though most of us are highly unlikely to be its individual victims. The Bell Curve does not deny, it affirms that nurture contributes importantly to intelligence; and just as we would have an obligation not to leave the Wild Boy of Aveyron in the woods, so we are obliged to do something (there is plenty of room to argue just what) to help those children fated to grow up in neighborhoods where the criminal underclass rules.
But it is quite another thing to say that statistical inequalities require racial preferences, radical social engineering, or economic redistribution, as the Left has long insisted. Will the elites get the message that The Bell Curve and the people are sending? Perhaps. The public response to the 1993 Clinton economic package made it clear the Democrats cannot raise taxes again. The response to the Clinton health-care plan made it plain that there is strong and enduring opposition to social engineering. And the 1994 election results prove that voters don't want more government.
Quotas remain a way of doing business for government and corporate elites and a way of asserting moral superiority for the university elite. But they are under attack in the courts, and anecdotal evidence suggests that elite institutions are quietly filling their minority places with high-scoring Asians rather than lower-scoring blacks. The Bell Curve argues to elites in their own language that the underpinnings of their regimes of racial preference are rotten. They are resisting the message and are not likely ever to admit it out loud. But it is possible that they will start behaving more the way sensible, ordinary people have been all along.
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