Compact Magazine vs ‘the Eugenicons’

It is too bad to see Compact Magazine, which originally intellectually positioned itself as an alternative to the mainstream, succumb mainstream labels such as ‘racism’ or ‘eugenics’ as substitutes for the debate of ideas . A recent article Against the Eugenicons, by Michael Lind, comes off as virtue signaling and a character attack against someone who expressed contrition for his earlier views.

Ahmari’s ‘beef’ with Hanania dates months before the latter’s cancellation, such as regarding unions:

Yes, Compact Magazine generally takes a pro-worker tone, but at this point it’s almost indistinguishable from the mainstream. Mr. Hanania is an old-school conservative in the sense of strongly opposing unions, which before the rise or centrality of Clinton/Reagan-era culture war issues, was the main dividing issue between the left and the right.

And regarding Obama:

Worth acknowledging, sure, but celebrating? I would be hard pressed to find any leftist who at this point, after years of drone-strikes, failure to end any of the wars, or any other broken promises, has anything positive to say about Obama.

But back to the aforementioned article, it’s not about defending racism or eugenics, which are words that are thrown about casually to denigrate one’s opponent without having to address the substance of the opposing argument. It’s that the HBD/biology-centric view of the world, imho, has the most explanatory power. Of all the explanations, biology seems to be the most useful or predictive both in terms of explaining social disparities and also maybe solving them, such as disparities of wealth, educational attainment, life expectancy, crime or physiological problems such as obesity.

There is too much variation within shared environments for nurture to be of much predictive value. Sure, it explains some of outcomes, but there is a lot more unexplained, and that is where biology comes into play. Consider how much variation of athletic ability or test scores there is within the same school or classroom even controlling for SES-status, such as math scores or reading scores. Over a half a century later of a ‘war on poverty’ and record education spending for ‘lagging schools’, and, still, racial education and wealth gaps are as wide and persistent as ever.

Thomas Sowell is mentioned six times in the article, as standing in opposition to the race or biology-centric worldviews of the likes of Steve Sailer, Murray, Rushton, etc.:

…conservatives who read Murray, Sailer, and Hanania. Meanwhile, many on the right revere Sowell for his free-market economics but seem to ignore his debunking of hereditarian theories. This can’t simply be because Sowell is black, while Murray and Sailer and Hanania are white (by the standards of the 2020s, if not of the 1920s).

As critics, including yours truly, demonstrated at the time, the authors relied on publications by figures like the late J. Philippe Rushton, originator of the brain-to-penis-ratio theory of intelligence, some of them sponsored by the eugenicist Pioneer Fund. Not just liberals and leftists, but also many conservatives and neoconservatives like Thomas Sowell and Nathan Glazer pointed out the flaws in the book.

The book is The Bell Curve, by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray. The deification of Sowell goes against the spirit of intellectual debate and inquiry, which is supposed to be about ideas, and less about the name recognition or lack thereof of whoever espouses them. He’s a public intellectual, not god, and thus is fallible. The invocation of his name does not a counterargument make. It’s possible also that he is wrong about this particular issue, and Murray is right, which I am more inclined to believe based on the preponderance of empirical evidence such as studies, even if Sowell is right about economics.

But there is a caveat regarding the black-white crime debate, in which I have changed my tune a bit. Yes, although African Americans are over-represented regarding violent crime and property crime, they are under-represented in complex crimes, such as fraud, which may have many victims over a long time period and major systemic risks, such as the collapse of FTX, which affected millions of customers and involved billions of dollars stolen, all perpetrated by a single individual (and with the help of accomplices Caroline Ellison, Gary Wang, Nishad Singh…yup quite the assortment of black-sounding names, huh) . Or the collapse of Enron, which again involved a lot of money and had many victims despite only a few major people involved. The crime stats generally do not make a distinction between the number of victims per perpetrator or the scale or complexity of the crime. A hacker whose crimes hurt thousands of people, such as stolen credit cards or IDs, is often counted as a single count of wire fraud or computer fraud, similar to a single count of battery in the case of violent crime.

But the concept of a eugenic-right is sorta incoherent anyway, or inaccurate. For some issues, the HBD-based explanation or interpretation is not always favored by the right. Consider the issue of obesity. The left is actually much more inclined to blame biology, such as ‘set point theory’ or the science of addicting food (similar to cigarettes being addicting), whereas conservatives or even centrists are inclined to blame laziness, lack of willpower, or fat acceptance (even though willpower and laziness are probably genetic, too). In fact, Richard Hanania, departing from HBD, took this view in his article on obesity, in which I disagreed and took the opposing pro-HBD view. Environmental factors can explain the multi-generational upward rise in the incidence of obesity, but still there is enormous individual variance that cannot be accounted for by environment. This huge variance (like why some men are only 150 lbs but others 350 lbs despite same height and same access to food) is way more than predicted by environment. The difference between shitty vs good genetics can explain why some people gain weight so easily, much like almost every other trait in life that is in some way mediated by genes, such as IQ, height, or physical attractiveness.

This leads to the question of what sort of society ‘we’ should have, or is optimal for human flourishing. I used to think I knew the answer, but it’s hard to say. A ‘mixed economy’ seems to be the optimal choice, at least going by empirical evidence of what appears to work for most countries, although this does not tell you who should rule or what type government. An ‘HBD centric’ government or ruling class taken to its logical or extreme conclusion would be a consanguineous nobility–that is, based entirely on bloodline or pedigree. It does not get any more biological than that. The irony is that such societies tend to be more left-wing economically (such as workers’ interests) and socially, such as the UK and Denmark (almost any monarchy in Europe), compared to the more meritocratic US.

Although social Darwinism is possibly an inevitable outcome of free markets–that is, smarter and more competent people getting ahead and making more money and having more success, it’s not necessarily beneficial or aligned with interests of ‘the racial right’, which is why such fears by the author are inconsistent or unfounded, because it would go against the very political interests of the people who hold these racial theories, anyway. A ruling class or government based on IQ would have a lot of Jews and Orientals on top, which is antithetical to the ideologies of the white nationalists the author deplores. A government based on credentials, which is also correlated with IQ, would be over-represented by ‘the left’, such as well-credentialed ‘experts’ like Anthony Fauci, as well as some neocons and neoliberals. As the Iraq War and the 2008 crisis showed, the problem with the meritocracy is either the wrong people get promoted, or there are unforeseen risks or circumstances that void the usefulness of said credentials, or such credentials correlate poorly or mixed with competence.