A Specter is Haunting Genetics

Had my life gone a little differently, I might have been a molecular geneticist and hip-deep in what is now called bioinformatics. When I was twelve or thirteen or so I came to intellectual grips with the fact that I have congenital cerebral palsy; shortly thereafter I dove into the science of congenital defects, developmental biology, and from there into genetics. Eventually I taught myself a fair chunk of organic chemistry before becoming fascinated by linguistics and theoretical mathematics, and a few twists and turns from there got me into software engineering; but my interest in genetics and human developmental biology didn’t cease so much as become pushed into the background. I give this background to explain why I’ve been paying closer attention to genetics than most people do ever since.

In the wake of the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome, I’ve seen three or four forward-looking articles about the implications of cheap genomic analysis (most recently a quite good one in The Economist) all of which are are haunted by a common fear. It’s almost like they’re written to a template; glowing projections of accelerated drug discovery, personalized medicine, and deep insight into the nature of humanity, ended on a worried note about what we’ll find when we discover just how much of human variation is genetically rather than environmentally controlled. Sometimes the prognosticator can only bring himself to drop hints, but the braver ones come out and ask the question: what if it turns out that genetic differences among races are real and actually matter?

A specter is haunting genetics; the shadow of racialist slavery, eugenics, and Naziism. Western civilization since 1945, traumatized by the horror of the Holocaust, has elevated anti-racism into an unquestionable secular piety. Much good has been accomplished thereby, but like all pieties the worthy results have been accompanied by a great deal of willed repression, denial, and cant. Evidence that racial genetic differences do matter is not actually hard to find; Murray & Herrnstein’s The Bell Curve (1994) included a brave and excellent summation of the science on this point. Consequently, the bien-pensant reaction to that book was hysterical vilification, anathematization of heresy in full cry. Even at the time the lurking fear beneath the hysteria was easy to spot – that the authors might, after all, be right, and must be damned even more intensely because they might be.

Now, in 2010, cleared-eyed observers are imagining a near-term future scenario that looks like this: (1) we will shortly have genomic-sequence information on hundreds of thousands of human beings from all over the planet, enough to build a detailed map of human genetic variation and a science of behavioral genetics. (2) We will confirm that variant alleles correlate strongly with significant measures of human ability and character, beginning with IQ and quite possibly continuing to distribution of time preference, sociability, docility, and other important traits. (3) We will discover that these same alleles correlate significantly with traditional indicia of race.

In fact, given the state of our present knowledge, I judge all three of these outcomes are near certain. I have previously written about some of the evidence in Racism and Group Differences. The truth is out there; well known to psychometricians, population geneticists and anyone who cares to look, but surrounded by layers of denial. The cant has become thick enough to, for example, create an entire secondary mythology about IQ (e.g., that it’s a meaningless number or the tests for it are racially/culturally biased). It also damages our politics; many people, for example, avert their eyes from the danger posed by Islamism because they fear being tagged as racists. All this repression has been firmly held in place by the justified fear of truly hideous evils – from the color bar through compulsory sterilization of the ‘inferior’ clear up to the smoking chimneys at Treblinka and Dachau. But…if the repressed is about to inevitably return on us, how do we cope?

It’s not going to be easy. I saw this coming in the mid-1990s, and I’m expecting the readjustment to be among the most traumatic issues in 21st-century politics. The problem with repression, on both individual and cultural levels, is that when it breaks down it tends to produce explosions of poorly-controlled emotional energy; the release products are frequently ugly. It takes little imagination to visualize a future 15 or 20 years hence in which the results of behavioral genetics are seized on as effective propaganda by neo-Nazis and other racist demagogues, with the authority of science being bent towards truly appalling consequences.

I’m writing about this because I think a first step to coping is to stop discussing the evidence in code and and the stakes in hushed whispers. Continuing the repression will only make the blow-off uglier. Contrariwise, the sooner we end the denial, the sooner we’ll actually solve the problem.

And we can solve the problem; there’s never really been any mystery about how to do it. The simple, powerful truth that banishes racist prejudice is this: the individual is not the mass. Statistical distributions do not predict the traits of individuals. It’s OK to acknowledge that (for example) Ashkenazic Jews average significantly brighter than gentile whites, because the difference in the means of those bell curves tells us nothing about where any single Jew or gentile falls on them.

We can – we must, in fact – learn to judge individuals as individuals, not as members of racial or other ascriptive groups. This has always been the right thing to do; as knowledge about genetic group differences becomes more detailed and widespread, we will need to learn how to focus rigorously on individuals with the same discipline (and the same justified fear of failure) that we now apply to averting our eyes from genetic group differences.

Part of the reason this evolution won’t be easy is that so much of our politics has been distorted by racial grievance-mongering. It’s not only the obvious bad guys like neo-Nazis, Black separatists like Louis Farrakhan, and Bharatiya Janata who are invested in racialist categorization as a lever to power. The political Left has fallen into a lazy habit of screaming “racist!” at anyone who disagrees with them, won’t readily relinquish that rhetorical club, and have a lot invested in the present system of taboo, resentment, “disparate impact” legislation, and racial identity politics; expect them, too, to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Still, the right strategy is clear. Actual knowledge makes both prejudice and repression unsustainable. “Know thyself!” said the oracle, and behavioral genetics will allow – actually. force us – to know ourselves in ways we never have before. That way lies the pain of revelation, but also the path of redemption.

Also clear is at least one important tactic: objective testing. We already use this in athletics; if you can’t score the goal, run the mile, or leap the hurdle, you don’t make the team and your skin color is irrelevant. But today, employers and schools generally won’t use IQ tests or many other forms of psychometry out of fear of a discrimination lawsuit brought under a disparate-impact theory. This is exactly backwards; in fact, good psychometry, by allowing us to measure important traits in individuals, is exactly the way to make superficials like their skin color irrelevant.

Fifty to seventy-five years from now, I think our present “corrective” obsession with race will be seen for what it is – as a pernicious flip side of overt racism, an entrenchment of attitudes not made much less evil or silly merely because it’s a bit more subtle than what it replaced. Our great-grandchildren will consider racial special pleading every bit as ugly as racial prejudice, and wonder why we didn’t. Their historians will tell them we were traumatized for generations by the Holocaust and be right, but that fact will have lost much of its emotional impact through the passage of time. This wound, too, will heal.

210 thoughts on “A Specter is Haunting Genetics

  1. Good article. Well written.

    You are surely an optimist tho. I have difficulty imagining any good path out of the cesspool of econo-socio-political problems we’re drowning ourselves in.

  2. What do you believe the MTTBCR (mean time to being called racist) of this article is?

    It would illustrative if you make a later post with the hate email that this will generate.

  3. Good article, this needed to be said.

    I remember reading an article years ago about the Bell Curve stating that blacks score about 15% lower than whites on IQ tests. This is an embarrassing and politically incorrect response, with the answer, for some, being, stop giving IQ tests.

    It also makes me think of the assertion that being gay is genetic, despite the fact that no gene has been identified for it. This is a political assertion more than a scientific one. I suspect it is more of a choice than many people are willing to admit.

  4. Thanks for writing this, I love to see people encouraging judgement based solely on the individual. The only thing I’d add is judgement of individuals isn’t limited to inheirent abilities or limitations, but more impotantly on their character. Or in other words the sum of their choices.

    Thanks.

  5. Something we *all* know, but no one wants to admit publicly is that intelligence is not a determining factor for making your way in life. You’ll be much better off if you work hard, tuck your shirt in, and show up for work on time. Who would you rather have in charge in an emergency “dumb” cowboy Bush (or even “undisciplined” horn dog Clinton) or the “intelligent” Barack Obama?

  6. I don’t think the Holocaust is the main issue.

    All the empirical evidence points to the conclusion that individual existence is absurd.

    You, I and everyone we have ever known or will ever know will soon be dead, buried in the ground and forgotten. Only the group is potentially immortal, and can thus have any cosmic significance. If you insult my group, you have wounded me far more grievously than by anything you could say about me personally, because my group affiliation is the only thing about me that could possibly matter to anyone in 1000 years or so.

    The only way I, as an individual, could possibly matter is if my individual soul matters to God. If the immortality of my soul, or God’s concern for it, is a bunch of outmoded silly superstitious nonsense in our modern scientific age, then my group, its interests, its self perception, its feelings, is the only thing that could ever be worth living or dying for. And if science runs afoul of that, then so much the worse for science. What good is a truth which damns me and everything I could ever possibly care about?

    This isn’t really a political issue; it’s a religious one. And time will not change that.

  7. Darren, there’s a continuum between “entirely determined by genetics” and “entirely a matter of behavioral choice”. It’s entirely possible that sexual preference is controlled by factors out of the individual’s control, and yet still not be genetically determined. I do believe this is another case of the science not being allowed to examine the matter fully, because it gets tied up in the idea of “curing” homosexuality, and that carries a lot of baggage with it on both sides of the aisle.

    The real answer is to put and end to the politics of identity. Sadly, that’s not possible until we move, as Eric calls for, to thinking of people as individuals whose characteristics influence but don’t define who they are.

  8. Dean, what on earth are you talking about?

    Let me pose a simple question: When you talk about “group membership” and “group affiliation” and that only the “group” is immortal… What group, exactly, are you talking about?

    How do you slice any given population into groups? Along what lines? With what justification? You may have missed a certain development called “civil society” where individuals can have multiple, non-conflicting allegiances, further complicating the picture.

  9. @Dean :

    > All the empirical evidence points to the conclusion that individual existence is absurd.
    Not really. Empirical evidence do suggest that individual existence is impossible or, if you take procreation out of the equation, would be a pale shadow of what our existences are, because we are inherently social creatures.

    But this certainly does not imply that the individual does not matter, quite the contrary. Indeed empirical evidence suggest that isolated societies under a critical population thresold tend not to innovate or even to regress (in terms of science, arts, language and most if not all forms of human expression) and this probably applies to homogenous “groups” like the one you are talking about.

  10. Jay — you get to the idea of “nature” vs. “nuture”. It’s been going on for a long time. ;)

    Genes can only tell us so much. All they do is code for proteins and regulate how proteins are expressed a bit. Exactly which ones are activated is due to environment. So it *is* a combination. There are a lot of diseases that appear to be genetic but need a trigger of some kind from the environment to set them off. (An obvious one, though it’s from DNA inserted from a virus, is shingles. It just sits there after you get chicken pox, waiting for whatever it is that tells it to go off, and then it does.)

    But ESR is right. Statistics tells you nothing more than information about a group. It tells you nothing about an individual. I don’t care if studies show that the bell curve has more men in the high IQ side. (It also shows more on the low IQ side.) I’m just one woman. I could be smack in the middle of my curve, at the very top or the very bottom. It doesn’t bug me one bit. I happen to think I’m pretty far up there in the top 1%. Because I’m an individual.

    (ESR — my degree is in molecular bio, spent a year in grad school doing biophysics. I was going to be the one who wrote the program that predicted tertiary protein structure from the amino acid sequence. ;D Love the bioinformatics. Instead I ended up doing something else entirely…)

  11. esr wrote: “3) We will discover that these same alleles correlate significantly with traditional indicia of race … In fact, given the state of our present knowledge, I judge all three of these outcomes are near certain.

    Correlate? But so what? That’s much different than cause. Without causation, why would there be any change in policy or attitudes? We already know that blacks have been oppressed and therefore perform less well due to environmental factors. The solution is still to overcome that oppression until they perform as well as whites.

  12. @Dean:

    I don’t think the Holocaust is the main issue.

    It’s certainly an elephant in the room for what it represents.

    All the empirical evidence points to the conclusion that individual existence is absurd.

    You, I and everyone we have ever known or will ever know will soon be dead, buried in the ground and forgotten.

    Agreed.

    Only the group is potentially immortal, and can thus have any cosmic significance. If you insult my group, you have wounded me far more grievously than by anything you could say about me personally, because my group affiliation is the only thing about me that could possibly matter to anyone in 1000 years or so.

    I don’t think that’s (directly) the issue. Substitute “gene” for “group” and you might start to get somewhere. Throughout history, to the extent that some groups of people somewhere have somehow managed an equilibrium with their environment, those groups have always succumbed to groups not in equilibrium at that time. Sometimes, this results in wholesale removal of gene carriers from the population, but quite often it results in a mixing of genes, with male genes from the conqueror and female genes from the conquered, for the simple fact that the conquered must pay much more dearly for gene propagation, if that is allowed at all. This categorization of “them” vs. “us” is deeply rooted in biology. The successful genes are, by definition, those which have outcompeted others. It is not a coincidence or accident that the word for annihilating an entire population of humans is “genocide.”

    It has been said that we are all survivors — that is, we come from a long line of survivors, and we all have several in-built survival mechanisms. But, in this context, “survivor” just means “one who survived long enough to pass on some genetic material.”

    Class conflicts based on wealth, education, intelligence, or other real or imaginary proxy markers (such as religion) for genetic kinship are almost inevitable. Wealth is either acquired by force or threat of force, or by hard work and investment. Wealth and education are not short-term endeavors, and populations busy with these things put off propagating their genes until almost the last minute, and then a few generations later they realize they are surrounded by rapidly breeding “undesirables.”

    It’s a self-correcting problem, but most of the historical ways that it self-corrects, from massive ethnic cleansings to the French Revolution, are violent and ugly. Better ways have involved things like the taking of multiple mistresses and/or serial marriage by wealthy men, but the pill and “deadbeat dad” politics have probably put a crimp in this.

    “Evolutionary Game Theory” has been used to study this kind of dynamic in animal populations, but humans have better species-wide communication, group memory, and (sometimes) unrelated group cooperation than most animals, so I think much further research is needed in applying this sort of study to a kind of animal that sometimes wages war according to some “Geneva conventions” and sometimes wages total annihilation war which kills even the young females. Neither of these modes of warfare seem to fit the stock evolutionary game theory gene propagation equations, so obviously those equations need some adjustments for things like conflicts between two large groups, where both the mode of resolution and the actual resolution of the conflict affect the relationships between those groups and a larger community of groups.

  13. Substitute “culture” or (I hate to use the word) “meme” for “group” and we can start to have an interesting conversation. We’re animals, yes, but we’re not *just* animals.

  14. Do you consider the IQ test, as it is currently employed, to be an accurate enough psychometric of ability that in an ideal situation it and it alone should determine the opportunities offered individuals? Are there not cases of people with, though perhaps above average, less than genius IQ contributing to both science and math (understandably less so in mathematics) on a level that would justify their being allowed to do these disciples professionally? I am a mere undergrad senior math major, one that doubtlessly has less than genius IQ, and I would hate to be excluded from professional participation (that is, beyond teaching) due to some psychometric evaluation.

  15. I have a question that might get me in deep water. The human brain is a remarkable thing. It has the ability to make decisions based on extremely limited information. It does this via a pattern matching mechanism whereby we fill in the blanks by searching back in our experience to find similar situations and assuming that the missing parts are a repeat of before. This is both the genius and the fatal flaw in human cognition.

    However, this pattern matching scheme has another name: it is called prejudice. That is to say, we extrapolate information from limited, often vaguely related information. So, if I am walking down the street at night in a nasty part of town, and I see a group of young black men wearing what looks like gang paraphernalia, and behaving in a rowdy manner, my pattern matching system kicks in and matches it to a variety of dangerous situations both from my own experience and from second and third order sources (TV, friend reporting, social conditioning.) My fight or flight kicks in.

    Of course these particular young men might be the nicest people you could meet, but I have no idea. I don’t have enough information to judge, I can only use my prejudices. The decision could be life or death. Do I risk my life to feel good about my political correctness?

    This is a radical example. However, we do it all the time. Is it worth reading this article or blog post about something I don’t know much about? I might not be able to critique the argument itself, but I might use parametric data like the manner of presentation, or the logical flow of parts I do understand, then project that judgment on to the rest.

    To put it another way, prejudice is considered a pejorative, yet it is at the very core of our brains’ mode of operation. I agree with Eric’s point: a person is not his genetics, and certainly not the statistical average of the people with similar visible genetic features. Yet, practically speaking, how do you deal with the reality that your brain modality doesn’t match your desire for sophistication?

  16. >Yet, practically speaking, how do you deal with the reality that your brain modality doesn’t match your desire for sophistication?

    I did say it would require discipline, didn’t I?

    It’s completely rational to worry about “young black men wearing what looks like gang paraphernalia, and behaving in a rowdy manner”. It would be rational if they weren’t black. Heck, black people worry in the situation you describe. To call this case “racial prejudice” is to empty the word of meaning. Your threat model has a rational connection to reality.

    Now consider a situation where two young men show up for you to interview as a prospective employer, both with reasonable resumes and references, both appearing alert and self-disciplined. If your thought process is “I’ll hire the white guy because if I have to fire the black guy it’s an EEOC lawsuit waiting to happen”, that’s not racial prejudice either. There again, your risk model is well grounded in reality.

    On the other hand, if it’s “I’ll hire the white guy because black people are lazy and untrustworthy”, that is racial prejudice.

  17. > (3) We will discover that these same alleles correlate significantly with traditional indicia of race.

    This seems to be point I disagree with; in a lot of “traditional” works, sub-Saharan Africans and dark-skinned southeast Asians and Australian aboriginals are lumped into a single “black” category. A phylogenetic categorization does not really support that. In fact, if we defined race on sheer genetic variance and lines of descent, we’d probably end up with the categories “Pygmies”, “Non-Pygmy Sub-Saharan A, B, C, D & E” and “Everybody Else”.

    However, if you count by “important” adaptations to climate, you get something slightly more akin to a black-white distinction. This makes sense (the adaptations would be similar). But if you tried storming into a linguistics conference screaming “Chinese and Japanese are closely related! Look at the vocabulary!”, you’d soon be rightfully defenestrated.

    [ Interestingly, some fringe linguistic macrofamily hypotheses have linguistic groupings which strongly correlate with historical genetics. ]

  18. Jessica,

    Actually, the example you gave is far from radical. Reactions like that are what people used to call “street smarts.”

    And yes, people do it all the time. We have to. I don’t think we could remain functional by treating each new encounter as distinct and fresh, unladen by other information or past experience. The only way to avoid what people call “prejudice” is to not know or remember anything.

    Something that actually happened to me: I was standing in front of Trident Books one night in Boston, back in college in 1988, when a police car rolled up. Two cops jumped out and stepped in front of me. They asked me where I was going, if I had ID, all the usual things. It was pretty obvious they were fishing for something, so I point-blank asked what was going on.

    “We got a lady a few blocks down, very upset, says somebody in front of this place tried to grab under her dress. She didn’t get a look, just ran. So we’re checking it out,” answered Cop One as he looked me over.

    “And you think it was me,” I asked.

    “What are the odds it was him,” replied Cop Two as he hooked his thumb at the only other man standing nearby: an elderly, well-dressed black man. I started to say something and then stopped. Yeah, I thought, good point.

    Now, he might have been guilty as sin. The phrase “dirty old man” exists for a reason, after all. But really, from the cops’ point of view, who was the likelier culprit? A senior citizen in an expensive suit or a scruffy-looking (as I admit I was) twenty-something?

    Neither of us, as it turned out. The cops moved on to look elsewhere.

  19. # esr Says:
    > On the other hand, if it’s “I’ll hire the white guy
    > because black people are lazy and untrustworthy”,
    > that is racial prejudice.

    What is the difference between our two situations? In your situation, were it to play out in real life, you can gather a great deal more information about the two interviewees, but with the gang I had very little information. Prejudice is particularly necessary in low information scenarios.

    For example, a guy is playing pick up basketball. Their team is one player short, and two guys come up asking to play. Both look about the same height and physical build, and his buddies are yelling to him to get a move on. One guy is black, one guy is white. Is he a racist for choosing the black guy? The black guy might suck, but there is a commonly held belief that black people are better at basketball (and some genetic evidence that their muscular structure is a little different giving them, on average an advantage.)

    Again, my problem is that my brain is intrinsically prejudiced. Literally, pre-judging the situation, before there is sufficient information to make a fully informed choice.

  20. >Is he a racist for choosing the black guy?

    You’ve answered your own question. No. (For purposes of this scenario we have to assume that they’re both about the same height and in roughly equivalent physical condition.)

    You’re still using the word “prejudice” in a way that empties it of meaning and makes it more difficult to think clearly about these situations. Your brain wants to apply a model of the world that includes a bunch of conditional probabilities relating “X is black” to “X can jump”. Those are rationally justified, but the discipline enters with this question: why don’t you just say “Hey, you two! Show me a standing jump!”

  21. > Again, my problem is that my brain is intrinsically prejudiced. Literally, pre-judging the situation, before there is sufficient information to make a fully informed choice.

    Train yourself to invent ways to divine information about the situation quickly. In the basketball example, have a jump ball to figure out who should play, or spend a couple seconds passing the ball back and forth and observe how they handle the ball.

    If you’re really pressed for time and your goal is to avoid making a prejudiced decision, then flip a coin or have them do rock-paper-scissors or do odd-or-even. If you truly have no way of quickly getting more information, what difference does it make?

    Are you a racist for picking the black guy because of the stated prejudice? No. But you’re ignorant. Athleticism and good-basketball play aren’t that tightly coupled. Trust me.

  22. Ummmm- I’d just like to state that I hadn’t seen esr’s comment prior to submitting mine. If I had, I wouldn’t have bothered…

  23. esr Says:
    > You’re still using the word “prejudice” in a way that
    > empties it of meaning and makes it more difficult to
    > think clearly about these situations.

    You might be right, but I don’t think so. I am using “prejudice” as I mentioned, to mean pre-judge, with insufficient information. That is the word’s etymology. However, I grant you that it was morphed to mean “make unfounded assumptions for socially unacceptable reasons.” It is generally OK to assume that a woman will be interested in shoes, and a man interested in football. This, although a pre-judgement based on insifficient information, is considered a socially acceptable assumption.

    It seems that there are some judgments we are allowed to draw (“he can jump”) and some we are not allowed to draw (“he is lazy”). We can make the former but not the latter based on how we feel about the content of the judgment rather than the frequency of our experiencing people within the group exhibiting that behavior.

    I think an interesting question is this: what is the appropriate reaction of the person who is suffering the prejudice? After all, it is a lot easier to change yourself that it is to change the world.

    There seems to be two common reactions: one is demanding justice, and one is overcompensating. For example, there is a huge industry of grievance mongering amongst various groups who feel they are being put down. Jesse Jackson is the archetype, but there are many others. The alternative is to take the attitude of “screw you, I’ll show you.” I think in the past you have mentioned that you do that in regards to the biases people might have against you because of your cerebral palsy. Similarly, you see it a lot with women who feel they have to be better to be equal.

    I read a great study on this in Dan Aiely’s book “Predictable Irrationality”. In it he examined the effects of social memes which we would categorize prejudice on the person themselves. In the study he cited they took a group of Chinese women. There are two memes involved here, namely that women are bad at math, and that Chinese people are good at math. What happens when the two worlds collide? In the study he divided the women into two groups and gave them both the same math test. However, before the test they received a pre-test. The first group received a pre-test that focused on their Chinese-ness — asking about their family traditions and similar ideas, the second group the pre-test focused on their female-ness — asking about child rearing, beauty subjects and so forth. The first group did statistically significantly better. (Sorry for the handwavy description — refer to the book for details.)

    The significance is that a societal prejudice actually reflects on the thinking of the person themselves. Which is significant in a lot of important ways.

    BTW, your solution of asking for a standing jump is just part of the same process. The ability to do a standing jump is a tiny measure of your ability at basketball. Can you do a running jump under pressure? Can you pass? What is your physical endurance? Looking at one thing, which could well be quite unrelated to these other skills, is just another example of extrapolating from one measure onto many other, potentially unrelated measures.

  24. Gerry Says:
    > Train yourself to invent ways to divine information
    > about the situation quickly.

    Yes, exactly. That is what the brain does. Takes a minimum amount of information and decides quickly based on that. It does so by finding similar situations that match the pattern. This is prejudice, or, if you want to argue about my word, it is a pre-judgment based on insufficient information.

    > If you’re really pressed for time and your goal is to
    > avoid making a prejudiced decision,

    But isn’t my goal to make a good decision, irrespective of prejudice? Or is being politically correct more important than, in some cases, defending my own life, or winning a basketball game?

    > then flip a coin

    But lets say it is demonstrable that black men are better on average at basketball than white men. Lets say we rate skill level on a scale of 1-100, and black guys are on average 60 and white guys are on average 40. Then flipping a coin is not a good choice. The rational choice (accepting my assuptions) is to go with the black guy. On average, I will be more successful in life if I do that. How do I know the scores 60 and 40? I have them stored in my brain as a measure of my experience watching and playing basketball with white guys and black guys. (BTW, just to be clear how theoretical this is, my score on that rate would be significantly less than zero.)

    So Eric’s contention is that we should judge the individual not impose on him/her our prejudices based on the statistical average of certain readily measurable markers (skin color, sex, style of dress and so forth.) But what if we don’t have enough information to judge the individual? All we have are the measurable markers? Am I bad for using those markers when I have no other choice? Sure, make the case that I should find out more information about the individual, but that is not always possible, in fact, it is quite a common situation.

    I am not arguing that it is, but I think it is non trivial.

  25. I have no qualms with your definition of prejudice. Please read the word with your definition in mind as I proceed here.

    In your example, you are, on the one hand saying that there is not enough information to make a good decision. If this is truly the case- meaning you have no prejudices to guide you, no objective measures to guide your decision… nothing; then as I said, flip a coin. You have nothing better to go on anyway.

    Then on the other hand, you are stating that you have a personal analysis which leads you to believe that the black guy would be the better choice (nothing about him particularly though). So now, you do have more information. Yes it is based on prejudice. No, you are not racist for choosing based on that rationale. You’d be racist for choosing the black guy because you believe white people are a blight upon this Earth. Are you a bad person for using THIS information to make your choice? No, not in my book.

    Is it un-PC? I’ll be honest- I can’t answer. The term PC changes so frequently to suit whoever’s needs at a given moment that I’ll just cop to being unsuited to making the determination.

    If you have your prejudice as you describe, and are so concerned about appearances of being un-PC, or racist- then again, flip a coin. At that point, obviously making a good decision isn’t your goal. The goal is to avoid hurtful labels or accusations thereof. Thus, flip a coin- now no one can accuse you of bias.

    If your goal is to make the best decision, then I think the problem is equating playing-the-odds with “best decision.” Here’s the problem- you don’t have black GUYS standing in front of you. You have A black guy- which you know NOTHING about as an individual. Thus, the examples of coming up on the spot with a quick qualitative test to give you more information on which to make a good decision.

  26. >Am I bad for using those markers when I have no other choice?

    It depends on whether you have a justified belief about what they predict. You have justified grounds for believing that young men in gangsta threads are trouble, and that blacks can jump better than whites in similar condition. You don’t have justified grounds to believe that blacks are lazy and untrustworthy. The difference isn’t what society thinks about your model of conditional probabilities, it’s whether you formed your beliefs from evidence or something else (tribalism, hearsay, whatever).

    The problem you’re grappling with isn’t a problem with the world, but with your language – it’s map, not territory. You insist on using “prejudice” for both sane and unsane ways of belief formation and therefore confuse yourself. You appear to think I should be confused, too. I’m not. And it’s actually irrelevant which use of “prejudice” is socially dominant, because it’s just a label. a map feature, not part of the territory.

    (The preceding clarification has been brought to you by the shade of Alfred Korzybski and the discipline of General Semantics. Look it up…)

    >BTW, your solution of asking for a standing jump is just part of the same process.

    Fine, choose your own test. The underlying question is: do you let your model of group differences stop you from gathering data about the individuals in front of you? If so, there’s your “prejudice” – or, as a General Semantician would put it, your unsane formation of beliefs.

  27. “We will confirm that variant alleles correlate strongly with significant measures of human ability and character, beginning with IQ…”

    There is overwhelming evidence that genetic alleles cannot predict phenotypes by themselves. Yes, there have been a few success stories whereby disease phenotypes have been predicted by a few genetic markers, but the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming. This is a fundamental error in your reasoning.

  28. Correlation of a given allele to a given trait does not prove causation, this is true. However, given the vast bulk of correlations that we will obtain, some non-trivial percentage of those correlations will be causative.

    And that is enough. We don’t need to identify which ones. The mere fact that we can be certain that at least some of them are indeed causative, and are indeed connected to races, is enough to trigger the logic esr describes. “Correlation is not causation” isn’t enough to save you here, you would need “Correlation is never causation” and that’s just false, despite what certain sciencism memebots on the internet seem to think.

  29. # esr Says:
    > You don’t have justified grounds to believe that
    > blacks are lazy and untrustworthy.

    Since this is a minefield, let me change the subject from what I believe to what a hypothetical person Joe believes.

    But what if Joe does have the grounds to believe this? Lets say his experience with black people has been mostly lazy and untrustworthy. Lets say he accepts the portrayal of young black men as slackers, as is common in the media, lets say that he looks at, for example, unemployment rates, and rates of despondency amongst young black men, and find that they are quite significantly higher than white people. Lets say he looks at statistical productivity rates amongst black people and finds them significantly lower. Why might these (hypothetical) things be true?

    In a sense it doesn’t really matter. Joe’s assessment is that black guys score 60/100 on basketball, 40/100 on energetic engagement with work. Both are based on his realistic assessment of his experiences both direct and indirect. Is he still a racist if he chooses whitey for the job? He doesn’t have anything else to go on. Heck, Gerry suggests flipping a coin.

    Just to be clear, by no means am I claiming that black men are lazy, that is not my personal belief at all. However, the question is simply this: is it prejudice because the result is undesirable, even if the facts (subjective or objective) support the prejudice? Are we racists because, despite the significant supporting evidence, we believe that whitey can’t jump? Is it simply wrong to slice the data in this way lest we find something we don’t like? Is it wrong to collect the relative productivity of black men and white men?

    We could add the whole thing in there that you can’t be racist against white people because of the whole power to oppress thing. But that just complicates matters even further.

    > The difference isn’t what society thinks about
    > your model of conditional probabilities, it’s
    > whether you formed your beliefs from evidence
    > or something else (tribalism, hearsay, whatever).

    I don’t know about that. Lawrence Summers simply suggested considering the possible genetic causes of the lack of women in high levels of math and the girls were fainting like they were in a Victorian romance novel. Yet genetic differences favoring black men in sports are widely discussed in the most perfunctory of manner. So there seems to me to be certain classes of difference that we are allowed to discuss, and certain classes that, regardless of the facts, we are not allowed to discuss.

    However, you dismiss tribalism, hearsay “whatever”, as if they are always a bad source of information. They aren’t, always. Many of society’s memes are good and valuable. In fact, political correctness is exactly one of these memes, and I would agree that it is often a good meme. How many people who advocate egalitarianism do so on the basis of the evidence of their eyes or their internal reasoning? Not many. People form their conclusions based on that particular form of tribalism and hearsay, and we consider that good.

    > Fine, choose your own test.

    The point is that this is often not possible — often no test can be formulated in a timely or efficient manner. What should we do in such a low information environment? After all, it is quite a common thing to find ourselves in such a predicament.

  30. “Correlate? But so what? That’s much different than cause. Without causation, why would there be any change in policy or attitudes? We already know that blacks have been oppressed and therefore perform less well due to environmental factors. The solution is still to overcome that oppression until they perform as well as whites.”

    You can’t possibly be serious with this nonsense. “Correlation isn’t causation” yet we KNOW (?) that blacks perform less well due to oppression and former environmental factors? We KNOW this? Which study shows the causation? And why weren’t other groups like Ashkenazi Jews (who were certainly oppressed) similarly affected?

    If this “correlation isn’t causation” scrutiny were applied to every single study that influences public policy, we’d simply throw our hands up and defund all social science tomorrow. But of course it won’t be. So disingenuously using it as a cudgel to beat down un-PC science must stop.

  31. “…Given the vast bulk of correlations that we will obtain, some non-trivial percentage of those correlations will be causative.”

    You read what I wrote incorrectly. Notice the operative word in what I wrote is “predict”, not “cause”. Let me be more explicit for you: there is little correlative evidence that genetic markers can predict complicated phenotypes. “The larger the genome-wide studies became, the weaker genetic effects they could record with significant p values, but at the same time it became apparent that taken together, the implicated variants explained only a small fraction of the genetic component in the diseases under study.” [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20494128]

  32. >Both are based on his realistic assessment of his experiences both direct and indirect. Is he still a racist if he chooses whitey for the job?

    That depends. What did he do to measure up the two competing individuals involved? Did his thought processes stop with ascribing “white” and “black” identies to them? Is he paying attention to the reality in front of him, or to a tape loop playing in his head?

    >However, the question is simply this: is it prejudice because the result is undesirable, even if the facts (subjective or objective) support the prejudice? Are we racists because, despite the significant supporting evidence, we believe that whitey can’t jump?

    You’ve tangled up too many different issues in that way of putting the question for me to try to answer it as stated.

    >Lawrence Summers simply suggested considering the possible genetic causes of the lack of women in high levels of math and the girls were fainting like they were in a Victorian romance novel.

    This was the system of repression and denial operating, and tells us nothing about what should be.

    >The point is that this is often not possible — often no test can be formulated in a timely or efficient manner.

    To which I say, please stop trying to evade your duty and making excuses for unsane behavior. Any test, even an imperfect one, focuses your attention in the direction that is both pragmatically and ethically correct – on the individuals and the reality in front of you.

  33. I’ve got you by 10 years or so, Eric, after a fashion, at least. Too long for a detailed comment, the basic idea is to create a language or code that becomes our individual identification mechanism. See here for further.

  34. With heritability of various psychological traits as large as twin experiments indicate, and with recent-culture-driven genetic traits like lactase persistence as racially-related as they are, I think it’s a good bet that we’ll nail down significant psychological differences between racial groups. But considering that poorly-understood anomalies like the Flynn effect are as big as they are, and considering my usual uncertainty (across social science in general, and to a lesser extent across all biology) about how well we’re doing at measuring what we intend instead of measuring 85%-correlated (on a good day) proxies, I think there’s a lot of room for surprising differences between what we nail down and what people might currently guess. What falls out when we learn to optimize whatever environmental factors were involved in the Flynn effect? Probably something, but I dunno what. What do we learn as the geneticists and the psychology/neurology/AI people get better at teasing apart and modelling traits?

    A relatively likely semi-surprise outcome (biologically not so surprising, but could blindside some current stereotypes and political forebodings) is that the gains from micromanaging hybridization of genes that we have come to understand could be at least as large as the gains from simply having parents who display good traits associated with those genes.

    A representative surprise outcome would be that a lot of what we think of as intelligence depends sensitively on what are really attention traits, and that as we learn to isolate the attention traits we naturally learn to manipulate attention and concentration in ways that advantage people with some combinations of traits that used to be disadvantaged. I don’t think that’s a particularly likely surprise outcome — call it 3 percent likely. But I think there could be a fairly long tail of comparably nonnegligible surprise outcomes consistent with current knowledge, summing to tens of percent of probability.

    ESR seems to be focusing on the fundamental question of principles which’d be best in a long run equilibrium, allowing several generations with slow technological change. Such principles may be pretty much the same no matter what kinds of differences might be discovered. But I think it’s more likely that technological change will be fast enough that it’s not all that useful to try to extrapolate politics to more than half a generation or so. (And after that? One or more things change the ballgame completely. Maybe cheap strong AI, maybe cheap strong genetic engineering of big-brained mammals, maybe destabilizingly practical and powerful mind control, maybe something we can’t possibly anticipate today.) And the short-run politics might depend fairly strongly on whether differences are recognizably a version of old stereotypes.

    People seem to be bracing themselves for discoveries where the surprises are only about as large as the surprises about scientific nutrition, broadly consistent with a lot of old stereotypes, so that eating what greatgreatgrandmother did turned out to be not such a bad idea and a fair amount of the new scientific understanding merely explained why. It might indeed turn out that way. (I know that a lot of people hold that the idea is impossibly wrong, But they seem to be substantially the same clear-eyed geniuses who triplethink that men’s incarceration rate naturally reflects their higher inherent criminality, that women can be seen to be intrinsically better suited to win child custody for holistic reasons, and that only after meeting an impossibly high burden of proof could we ever conclude that men are intrinsically better than women at any task where performance can’t be reduced to measurable physical traits.) However, it could also turn out that the surprises are as large as the surprises about scientific public health, where one couldn’t extrapolate all that well from 1800 stereotypes to 1900 knowledge. Such an outcome seems likely to cause a somewhat different set of short-term political consequences.

  35. My question is the following: if eventually we have genetic data which accurately enough predicts all the important social outcomes, wouldn’t the likely eventual social consequence be not the kind of low-information, prejudicial decision-making that Jessica describes but rather the “Gattaca” scenario? In other words, there will be zero racism and an increasing reliance on individual genetic data? Perhaps will even use individual genetic data to see whether full potential is being realized at important steps in the developmental process?

  36. I don’t see how much changes, except that race will now be known to be real. Unless everyone gets a barcode on their heads with all their individual genetic properties (“I’m X smart and Y hardworking”), we’ll still have to judge a person by what we can see or know immediately, and, now with justification (or not, if it proves that way). I predict only ugliness – anything that ‘requires discipline’ won’t happen, at a large scale. Well I guess ‘fair’ treatment could be enforced as it is today but, there’ll be more resentment, because when people are asked to overcome themselves, instead of the racism being baseless and shameful, it’ll be justifiable. So people will be more assertive about it. Tch. Increased pockets of ugliness. Maybe ‘fairness’ standards for hiring / admission will ease. And from there? A little bit greater societal stratification maybe. More identification with the group as opposed to ‘America’, too.

    But then, robot nirvana may make things moot at some point if the future goes one way, communities of farmers and scavengers may self-segregate into a ‘natural’, tribal outcome, if it goes the other way :/

    Incidentally, William Saletan also goes for esr’s “Judging an individual by total genes ends the problem with racism” line (here, somewhere: http://www.slate.com/id/2178122). But I don’t think it does, because now race = ‘bag of genes’, but you’re still being judged by something you can’t help. And you’re part of a bunch of people who can’t help it, all together. It’s only a semantic tweak imo.

  37. >[William Saletan paraphrased as] “Judging an individual by total genes ends the problem with racism”

    That’s not my position, though. The evidence for judgment certainly shouldn’t end with genes; these are human beings we’re talking about, they have behaviors and can communicate.

  38. “But I don’t think it does, because now race = ‘bag of genes’, but you’re still being judged by something you can’t help.”

    But you’re always being judged by something you can’t help. I’m only 5-9 and slow and old, and despite my killer jumper the NBA won’t give me a shot. This is a rather banal observation. The issue is whether the bag of genes accurately corresponds to observable reality.

  39. “Stupid is as stupid does”. Genes provide an individual/a community with a potential; the real issue is how they manage to do put to use this potential in their specific environment. It’s a formula with three parameters: genes, nurture, environment. Where a simple and small set of skills is needed racial or other genetic or cultural prejudice may be a good predictor. However, where independent learning/adaptation are involved and where there are several ways to get the job done, genes and even cultural background can no longer be a good predictive tool. In extreme cases the Tortoise and the Hare fable can apply and genetically/culturally dumber individuals may prove themselves better at intellectual jobs because of greater motivation, dedication, experience.

    When the blow-off occurs, those who will recognize for what it is, i.e. a rule of thumb of limited use, will have a greater competitive advantage over others, as the drop in demand for member of certain groups will allow them to use capable members of those high-risk groups at lower prices.

  40. Correction: When the blow-off occurs, those who will recognize prejudice for what it is, i.e. a rule of thumb of limited use, will have a greater competitive advantage over others, as the drop in demand for member of certain groups will allow them to use capable members of those high-risk groups at lower prices.

  41. Also clear is at least one important tactic: objective testing. We already use this in athletics; if you can’t score the goal, run the mile, or leap the hurdle, you don’t make the team and your skin color is irrelevant. But today, employers and schools generally won’t use IQ tests or many other forms of psychometry out of fear of a discrimination lawsuit brought under a disparate-impact theory. This is exactly backwards; in fact, good psychometry, by allowing us to measure important traits in individuals, is exactly the way to make superficials like their skin color irrelevant.

    In your sports example, what’s used is what one hopes is a relevant part of the game, though see Moneyball for how hard it is to get even that much right.

    It seems to me that you’re suggesting something like measuring fast-twitch vs. slow-twitch muscles, which might be an even weaker surrogate for what you want to find out.

  42. esr said:

    That’s not my position, though. The evidence for judgment certainly shouldn’t end with genes; these are human beings we’re talking about, they have behaviors and can communicate.

    You’ve hit the nail right on the head here, with this statement. Individuals must be judged as individuals, and we should look at someone’s words and actions as a measure of their worthiness to society. People should be judged “by the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin,” as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said.

    However, the use of genetic markers will almost certainly result in a temptation for evidence of judgment to end with genes; see films like Gattaca and plenty of other science fiction stories, both films and novels. In fact, genetic markers are almost perfect as a basis of prejudice because they have the respectability of science of behind them.

    The problem is that as human beings, we have a tendency to use mental shortcuts. We apply labels to everything and judge those things by their labels. Corporations bank on this with the concept of “branding”; people are likely to base purchase decisions, for example, by pre-judging a product based on the name on the label. “Oh, look, that HDTV is made by Sony; it must be better than the other ones,” we often decide without any empirical evidence whatsoever. To the point that we’ll pay extra to get the TV with that positively-associated brand. (Doesn’t have to be Sony, it could be any brand.)

    As Jessica Boxer pointed out, we automatically make the assumption that the black guy will be better at basketball. That’s based on our own minds creating those mental shortcuts — we figure we don’t have to investigate any further, because we already “know” that the black guy will be better, just as we already “know” that Sony will produce a superior HDTV.

    Anything that produces a mental shortcut — a “label” — will work that way; whether it’s the amount of skin pigment a particular individual has or whether their genes show a predilection for higher intelligence.

  43. I haven’t seen any studies on how much people who believe in statistics overshoot in their estimates of actual people. Quite a lot, I should think.

    I’ll try to track it down if anyone’s interested, but I read a discussion (seemed to be based on experience, not ideology) where a number of people said that the most dangerous easily identified sort of people on the street was groups of well-off drunk white men.

    Not that you can prove anything from fiction, but there’s a bit in Heinlein’s Beyond This Horizon about the map not being the territory, and a person not being their DNA chart.

  44. The problem is the wide acceptance of “de facto ___ism”, which is proven by the statistical difference in hiring between two groups vs. their representation in the overall population, when the group being underhired is not the White, Heterosexual, Anglo-saxon, Male. In Jessica’s example of basketball, we see blacks who represent 1/7 of the US population but the overwhelming majority of NBA rosters, and no one calls it “de facto racism”. In divorce cases, we see women who represent half of the litigants “hired” by the courts to be custodial parents at even higher rates. Take one look at the contestants on Project Runway and compare the homosexual representation to the population at large. In elementary education, the rare man hired to be a teacher is under the constant suspicion that he must be a pedophile.

    The entire exercise is woven deeply into the fabric of leftist politics, which divides us into identity groups that traditionally underperform in the free market, which each demand their “fair share” when their members are underrepresented in any endeavor. This then teaches the members of those groups that they cannot succeed without the power they get from bloc-voting for the politicians who give them that power.

    ESR is uncharacteristically idealistic to suggest that any facts could be allowed to get in the way of the grievance mongers’ business plan.

  45. @Jessica Boxer

    I take it my “flip-a-coin” response is less that satisfying. To be clear, it was in response to the specific scenario you outlined.

    As to your larger question: Is a person racist for using personally observed, race based assessments of people to make a decision? I would say- it depends. Which I’m sure will satisfy you about as much as coin flipping.

    More generally, if the heuristic at hand is valid to the situation (black guys on average are better than white guys at basketball), then I would say no, it’s not a racist decision. But the details matter. Also, in my book, hatred is a large component of racism. A racist white person will never select the black guy to be on HIS team. So there’s another marker for you.

    Tying this back into esr’s original post, what you’re describing strikes me as part of the bloodletting. People who automatically apply the label “racist” to the situation you described will come to realize that it’s not. People such as yourself, who seem to be more muddled about what does/ does not constitute racism will find clarity (apologies in advance if you are not muddled but merely playing devil’s advocate). Ideally, the process will allow for conditions to arise where racism is truly marginalized and eliminated. How close we come to the ideal, I just don’t know.

  46. > We can – we must, in fact – learn to judge individuals as individuals, not as members of racial or other ascriptive groups.
    The problem is that this isn’t as clear-cut a distinction as you portray it to be. For instance, you allege that Asians have an average IQ one SD above the mean and that Blacks have an average IQ one SD below the mean. But this means a randomly selected Asian is smarter than a randomly selected Black person 92% of the time. If 92% is an acceptable standard of proof for you, following your logic would mean we are rational in discriminating between such individuals solely based on race.

    * Let’s assume that the standard deviation of these subpopulations is 15, equal the standard deviation of the human population. (If the within-group SD is less, the problem only gets worse, and I doubt that it is greater.) Let A and B be the IQs of randomly selected job applicants from the respective populations. Then the distribution of A – B has a mean of 30 and a standard deviation of root-of-2 * 15. Pull out your table of the standard normal distribution and you will find that A > B more than 92% of the time.

  47. @gerry:

    When hatred is a component of racism, the result can certainly be toxic and explosive. But, unfortunately, “racism” is yet another thing that is in the eye of the beholder. If someone can legitimately say “I didn’t get the job because I was black” or “I didn’t get picked for the basketball team because I was white” then, to them, it was racism. (As others have noticed, some politicians play on this and try to significantly enlarge and enhance the categories of slights which are classified as xxxx-ism.)

    But, hatred need not be present for race-based snap judgments to have corrosive effects on society. For example, where I live, standardized public tests consistently show that, on average, whites outperform blacks. It might be entirely rational for a hiring manager, when evaluating two high school graduates, to assume that the white one can add better and the black one can jump better. But if enough hiring managers make that rational decision, it can become a self-fulfilling prophesy — why should a black person excel in school if it won’t help him get a job later?

    As others have pointed out, this is one area where market mechanisms could help out. A company which had its own evaluation test could save big bucks on hiring the black candidate nobody else wants, if it weren’t for interference from that little thing called the minimum wage.

  48. > We can – we must, in fact – learn to judge individuals as individuals, not as members of racial or other ascriptive groups.

    “Must”? Balderdash.

    The fact that failure to do so will lead to suboptimal results isn’t forcing, as the multitude of currently stable suboptimal results demonstrates. It’s not like there’s a neighboring civilization which will out compete us if we get it wrong.

    Prediction – discovery of reliable gene indicators for any positive trait will lead to hardening of the race-based stuff.

    One of the downsides of decent technology is that it lets more society-level idiocy survive. In fact, the more productive a society, the more idiocy that it can tolerate.

  49. It’s not like there’s a neighboring civilization which will out compete us if we get it wrong.

    Perhaps the bigger threat is from within, not from without.

    Prediction – discovery of reliable gene indicators for any positive trait will lead to hardening of the race-based stuff.

    If enough whites start using race markers to seriously discriminate against blacks, perhaps a wildly charismatic black leader will arise who isn’t non-violent, and the internet will give him millions of reasonably well-connected, well-organized, angry followers who feel they have nothing to lose. The results won’t be pretty.

  50. I think there’s another reason for leftists to oppose IQ tests besides opposing racism. Standardized tests interfere with the ability to turn universities into conservative-free zones.

    A few decades ago, back when leftists really were the arrogant intellectuals they’ve been pretending to be ever since, they pushed through meritocratic reforms at the top universities. They were expecting that Ivy-League students would be as politically-uniform as Ivy-League faculties have become. It didn’t quite work that way. There were enough right-wing students admitted that the leftists started asking themselves “How did the enemy get in here?”

    They’ve been looking for a solution to the problem ever since.

  51. esr Says:
    > To which I say, please stop trying to evade
    > your duty and making excuses for unsane behavior.

    As ever, Eric, I salute your ability to cut to the chase. And here it is, this might be the fundamental difference I am seeing here. If two guys are applying to me for a job, or to join my basketball game, I don’t think I have any duty to them at all. They came to me, so when exactly did I agree to some level of obligation to them? On the contrary, I have an obligation to my company and my team. If I judge the cost of testing and making a determination to be higher than the cost of making a bad choice, then I can validly flip a coin, or go with my prejudices. That doesn’t seem “unsane” to me, it seems perfectly reasonable.

    Let me take a different example, where it isn’t mixed in with obligations to other people. Lets say I am in high school picking someone to go to the prom with. Two guys, both equally charming and handsome have asked me, one black, one white. I don’t know much more about them, but the prom is this Saturday, and I don’t have any other options. My experience is that black guys are better dancers, so I choose him (even though I have no idea whether this particular black guy is a good dancer.) Am I a racist? Do I have a “duty” to research the capabilities of both guys to make the determination? If so, duty to who?

    BTW, I don’t know if “unsane” was a typo for “insane”, but either way, it is a great word, that I plan to adopt.

  52. Morgan Greywolf Says:
    > The problem is that as human beings, we have a tendency to use mental shortcuts.

    See, I guess this is also cutting to the chase. I agree that humans have a tendency to use mental shortcuts, I don’t agree that it is a problem. On the contrary, it is an extremely powerful and effective heuristic that makes most of life possible so that we can actually get things done, rather than sinking into a death spiral of analysis paralysis. Imagine if we had to make every decision from first principles? Your subway sandwich would take so long to select that you would starve before you ate the first bite.

    Of course, like any heuristic, it sometimes goes wrong, sometimes spectacularly so. However, lets not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

  53. Gerry Says:
    > People such as yourself, who seem to be more
    > muddled about what does/ does not constitute
    > racism will find clarity

    I don’t know if I am muddled, though that is always a possibility. I guess what I would say about this is that the word “racism” has become so charged and its meaning so thoroughly hijacked in several different directions, that it doesn’t really mean much of anything. So I would contend that it is impossible to find clarity on something that is unclear, and “racism” is such a thing.

    There are social memes out there about people based on certain visible markers, including genetic ones, such as sex, race, and others that are perhaps less important. I’d say in our egalitarian society the significance of these memes has been greatly diminished, in fact we have strong counter memes that vilify those who subscribe to the old ways. Eric’s worry is that there will be evidence produced that the old memes had some scientific basis, and will re-emerge. So he is advocating basically “put away the memes and decide for yourself.” I agree that is good, I just don’t know that it is practical or realistic except in fairly narrow circumstances.

  54. > create an entire secondary mythology about IQ
    > (e.g., that it’s a meaningless number or the tests for it are racially/culturally biased

    Well, IQ does its job but trying to sanctify IQ as a perfect measure of intelligence would be pretty… unintelligent because it would forbid further improvement on the way we measure intelligence. In particular, IQ has a serious flaw because it doesn’t measure an extremely important part (if not the most important one!) of human intelligence: creativity and innovation “thinking things that nobody tough before”. I’m not only speaking about creative arts, but also about engineering, computing and any field you can think of. Of course the problem is, how could you measure it on a test? I think you can’t; the only way would be to look at achievements of a person past and his rate of success.

    As a disclaimer if somebody is thinking that I’am saying this out of remorse because I got a low IQ test, I’m at 140 (despite my English, which is not my first language) which would qualify me as “borderline genius” which I absolutely doesn’t consider myself to be.

  55. @JessicaBoxer:

    On the contrary, I’m not saying that heuristics aren’t useful at all and we should do without them completely; far from it. I’m simply saying that they are a fact of life and part of the human condition. We’re wired that way, and, unfortunately there’s not much we can do about it.

    We can’t possibly take the time to get to know every individual we come across in our daily lives. What we can do, however, is to understand our tendency to use heuristics and to understand that our heuristics aren’t always right.

    I’m not convinced that genetic testing is a good enough heuristic. I think environment plays a bigger role in the makeup of an individual than esr is willing to admit. As an example, take the opening paragraphs of this essay. Eric Raymond was driven by his circumstances to improve his knowledge in the areas of developmental biology, bioinformatics, genetics and organic chemistry. Psychological studies have shown that self-directed learning experiences in childhood and early adolescence can have a positive effect on intelligence. I’m not suggesting that genetics plays no role, I’m simply saying that I think that environment is at least as important as genetics.

    BTW–in case anyone wants to point out the adoption studies on intelligence, I’ll simply point out right now that many of those studies were inconclusive and the current consensus in the field is that in the “nature vs. nurture debate,” the question of whether nurture or nature is more important remains unclear . I’d be more interesting in seeing studies of identical twins that went to separate adoptive families, but I doubt we’ll ever see any of those.

  56. hey pushed through meritocratic reforms at the top universities. They were expecting that Ivy-League students would be as politically-uniform as Ivy-League faculties have become. It didn’t quite work that way.

    Do you have a source for this?

  57. >>Prediction – discovery of reliable gene indicators for any positive trait will lead to hardening of the race-based stuff.

    > If enough whites start using race markers to seriously discriminate against blacks, perhaps a wildly charismatic black leader will arise who isn’t non-violent, and the internet will give him millions of reasonably well-connected, well-organized, angry followers who feel they have nothing to lose. The results won’t be pretty.

    I was referring to the current race policies. You know, the quotas that we don’t call quotas.

    Those policies do not discriminate against blacks.

  58. # Andy Freeman Says:
    > The more productive a society, the more idiocy that it can tolerate.

    Great and concise statement. I propose it as Freeman’s First Law.

    I’d like to offer a corollary:

    “The more idiocy a society can tolerate, the more idiocy it will produce.”

    (This is due to the the fact that there is an almost infinite amount of idiocy available.) And my second corollary:

    “Due to this, all productive societies are self limiting, eventually collapsing under the weight of their own stupidity.”

  59. You can’t make that inference without applying l’Hôpital’s rule.

  60. I was referring to the current race policies. You know, the quotas that we don’t call quotas.

    Those policies do not discriminate against blacks.

    Ah, I see. Well, that could turn out even worse. Guarantee some jobs for blacks, let whites meritoriously compete for some other jobs, and then let the unemployed yet heavily armed redneck contingent realize that they’re not a big enough voting bloc to effectively alter policy at the ballot box.

  61. Jessica, there is a difference between the amount of idiocy a society can tolerate (without collapse) and how much it actually tolerates (which can exceed the first level only by bringing on that collapse). Your first corollary should be worded:

    The more idiocy a society tolerates, the more idiocy it produces.

    Then your second corollary becomes :

    Due to this, all productive societies that tolerate their maximum level of idiocy are self limiting, forever on the verge of collapse under the weight of their own stupidity.”

    The goal is to build a society that is productive, yet “intolerant” of stupidity. Such a society would allow individuals to do stupid things that hurt themselves, while refusing to tolerate stupidity that harms others, or to subsidize private stupidity at the expense of those who don’t engage in the stupid behavior. The trick is to resist the temptation to just a little stupidity, under the theory that the society “can afford” to do so. Freeman’s First Law tempts people toward your second corollary, and with it, your third.

  62. Jessica Boxer said:

    My experience is that black guys are better dancers, so I choose him (even though I have no idea whether this particular black guy is a good dancer.) Am I a racist?

    Not racist, but (taken as stated) most likely failing to reason deductively; how many black guys have you danced with? It is unlikely that you have sampled enough dancing partners to rule out bias. Inductive reasoning is no more valid than deciding truth by flipping a coin, and is a common source of racial biases. Many people think immigrants are more prone to crime than the average, when immigrants per-capita commit less crime than average (at least in Australia).

    Let’s suppose you somehow have deduced that the population of black males at your school is statistically more likely to be a good dancer (unlikely). It might be therefore profitable to choose a black partner over a white partner. So long as the weight of this factor is in keeping with the statistical evidence then I do not see any ethical dilemma. However, you are unlikely to find a situation in which there is no better test than racially-motivated prejudice. In your example, you could choose an alternate category of judgment, e.g. their standard of dress. Difference between races at task performance is absolutely marginal at best; it is vastly more likely that the observer is simply hung up on race than that two candidates are so identical that there is no fairer test for selection.

  63. Eric, your point is very real and important, and the discussion must be had, but your trust of genetic testing as related to race seems fairly naive. Race does not just embody genetics, it also embodies culture, and in some cases the treatment of people from different races is radically different to the point where it can involve such issues as who gets better nutrition/medical care.

    So imagine a white person with genetics that would ordinarily indicate average intelligence. However, the child is born into a family which has the money and knowledge to provide good early childhood nutrition, along with excellent medical care, and that family has a strong culture of education, such that the child is given educational toys, taken to museums and cultural events, read to daily, etc… Add in the good schools in his rich white neighborhood, and despite his “average” genes, the kid will come out looking fairly intelligent.

    For contrast imagine a black child with genetics that suggest excellent intelligence. However, the child has poor early childhood nutrition, poor medical care, and comes from a family with a poor culture of education… That kid might have some good street smarts, but will probably test as if he’s pretty dumb.

    Now give the two kids an IQ test. Sequence their genes. Compare genes with IQ test and get everything wrong, including your view of which genes actually result in intelligence. Now test an entire ghetto and an entire middle-class white neighborhood and you’ll still get everything wrong… Then factor in how a politically motivated tester might deliberately get everything wrong…

    Furthermore, ask yourself whether African Americans are the descendants of those who were dumb enough to get caught by slavers, while their smarter relatives escaped and stayed in the Old Country. (Interesting question, no?) Then ask yourself whether intelligence is the most important characteristic for surviving the Middle Passage (probably not) and how White slave-owners handled the issue of smart Black slaves… Oh, and don’t forget various forms of selection bias – if I were black I wouldn’t allow a white person to test my intelligence and sequence my genes – I may be dumb, but I’m not stupid, right? Now please explain where and how you get your test subjects…

    The whole thing is an enormous goddamn minefield. I suspect (at least in the US) that there is no testing methodology that can overcome these issues.

  64. @JessicaBoxer:

    (This is due to the the fact that there is an almost infinite amount of idiocy available.)

    “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the former.” — Albert Einstin

  65. @The Monster:

    The goal is to build a society that is productive, yet “intolerant” of stupidity. Such a society would allow individuals to do stupid things that hurt themselves, while refusing to tolerate stupidity that harms others, or to subsidize private stupidity at the expense of those who don’t engage in the stupid behavior.

    Which is why I still think we should enact a ban on all warning labels, thus allowing the stupid people to kill themselves off. I call this platform “Reverse Darwinianism.” If you’re stupid enough to use your hair dryer in the shower, then you deserve to die. We don’t want your genes in our pool, thank you very much.

  66. There is progress in distinguishing eugenics from genetics. I’ve read somewhere about a Jewish diaspora that was plagued by some genetic disease that was common among the population in New York, they began a campaign of recording the genomes of those people discretely and when a couple decide to have a child, they simply check the database to see if the child will inherit the disease. People have embraced this technology and in several decades that disease would be eliminated in their population.

  67. As someone who took the bioinformatics route, I think you over estimate the genetic effect on intelligence. Genetics probably exerts an upper bound on your possible achievement but the where you end up is your environment and genetics. Also useful genetic analysis (i.e. analysis that provides better data than family history) is probably years away. Current state of bioinformatics is matching SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphism) or other genetic differences to outcomes and see if there is any correlation. Correlation is not causation and there will no doubt be may incorrect assumptions and false starts with this analysis method. It is no doubt promising, but the 50 year timeline to useful genetic treatments and knowledge is very optimistic. I personally think genetics will re-focus the debate about intelligence back on the environment and parental roles in child rearing.

  68. Re: the phenomenon of refusing to address the truth value of claims, and instead simply shouting them down with accusations like “that’s racist”, Paul Graham wrote an interesting essay some years ago about moral “fashions:”

    http://paulgraham.com/say.html

    excerpt:
    ====================
    Have you ever seen an old photo of yourself and been embarrassed at the way you looked? Did we actually dress like that? We did. And we had no idea how silly we looked. It’s the nature of fashion to be invisible, in the same way the movement of the earth is invisible to all of us riding on it.

    What scares me is that there are moral fashions too. They’re just as arbitrary, and just as invisible to most people. But they’re much more dangerous. Fashion is mistaken for good design; moral fashion is mistaken for good. Dressing oddly gets you laughed at. Violating moral fashions can get you fired, ostracized, imprisoned, or even killed.
    ====================

    His last sentence rings true: it’s shocking how often people get fired or forced to resign for saying things that get labeled as racist/sexist, without any discussion of whether what they said is true or not. I discuss matters of race with my wife and with one friend who is uniquely open-minded, but I am loathe to bring such things up with other friends or coworkers.

  69. Well said, NoelPlum99 said the same thing on youtube, but I can’t find a link right now.

    The current rhetoric of “there’s no substantial difference between groups” is very fragile and just waiting for a real, objective difference to be found. This is much more robust.

  70. @Patrick Maupin

    My experience is that most rednecks do a pretty good job of finding work and providing for their families (sometimes in a very difficult market based on where they may choose to live). As a group they tend to be self-sufficient, competent at their work, and good problem-solvers. I’ve known quite a few “rednecks” who were top-performers in the IT industry (enough that I wouldn’t characterize those individuals as outliers). I don’t consider myself a redneck (though some of my co-workers might if they knew where I spent most of my formative years) but I am intimately familiar with the culture.

    I realize that my experience may be significantly different from your own.

  71. KellyN: You are correct. I AM a Red Neck (despite my best efforts to the contrary when I was kid :^). I’ve never had a problem finding work, I’ve always been very successful in the IT field (being referred to on more than one occasion as the “Alpha Geek”), and there’s plenty of us voting to make a difference, as long as there’s actually a difference in the candidates (which there wasn’t for the last Presidential election).

    And yes, I live a farm, have tractor, have enough guns to start WWIII and a willingness to exercise my rights under the Castle Doctrine in the great state of Texas.

    Oh, and I DO have a sign that says “Trespassers will be shot, survivors will be shot again.” I don’t want anybody saying they weren’t warned ;^).

  72. Jessica Boxer: Per example in your original post, I would argue that your “prejudice” is justifable simply because the COST of being wrong is exponentially higher than the COST of being right and running away.

    Perhaps somebody pointed that out and I missed it.. just been skimming this article’s comments.

  73. > Ah, I see. Well, that could turn out even worse. Guarantee some jobs for blacks, let whites meritoriously compete for some other jobs, and then let the unemployed yet heavily armed redneck contingent realize that they’re not a big enough voting bloc to effectively alter policy at the ballot box.

    (0) Other folks have pointed out that “unemployable redneck” is ignorant bigotry, but in a nice way.

    (1) Are you sure that “rednecks” aren’t a big enough voting block?

    (2) Who is going to shoot them if they decide to go to war? They dominate the US armed forces and are a huge fraction of most police forces (and fire departments FWIW).

  74. Andy Freeman>(2) Who is going to shoot them if they decide to go to war? They dominate the US armed forces and are a huge fraction of most police forces (and fire departments FWIW).

    We have infiltrated all levels of society, our evil plan for world domination is on track. Soon you will ALL watch NASCAR and drive 4-wheel drive pickup trucks with gun racks in the back window.

    MUhahahahaha!

  75. IMHO such things can only be understood and analyzed with a sufficient predictive power only if the groups to compare are based on historical selection, which has largely replaced natural selection when history has begun, and not on “traditional indica of races”. “Historical selection” is a term I coined and I don’t know how scientists call the same phenomenon. Simple example: since Pol Pot killed all Cambodians with eyeglasses, you can fully expect the future generations of Cambodians to have excellent eyesight and be not very keen on reading books, with all that that means.

    For example we should not really talk about “white people” as such, but talk about the descendants of aggressive conquerors, Germanic tribes incl. Vikings, Romans, Greeks, etc. and the descendants of “milder” white folks who somehow managed to survived despite all the historical selection (Gaels/Celtics, Basque, etc.).

    For example we should not talk about “black people” but separate them into blacks descended from slaves and blacks who did not descend from slaves, because, although I don’t know what genetic traits make it more likely for a man to be captured as a slave in a petty tribal war (which tribals wars were the main supply source of the Arab slave traders), I don’t even know if these traits fall into the customary favourable or unfavourable categories (i.e. I don’t know if exceptionally brave and self-sacrificing people are more likely to be captured in war or exceptionally stupid and cowardly ones), but whatever these traits are, these traits have been surely significant enough that historical selection must have created two distinct groups that have to be analysed distinctly.

    IMHO never trust any stastistics, that lumps the Irish together with the Swedes and calls them “white people” or one that lumps African-Americans together with the Ethiopians or the Masai and calls them “black people”.

    This is my point. The major differences will NOT be found among “traditional race indices” because of historical selection.

  76. Sorry I’m late to this post. Another excellent exposition on a taboo topic. This blog is like gymnastics for the mind.

    As to the topic at hand, the database of human genetic information is growing rapidly and with it will come new analysis and understanding of our specie’s cultural evolution (which is ongoing). The debates over race-based rhetoric are a sidebar to the science and will become irrelevant in the long run. We are on the verge of developing predictive models for human cultural evolution that stand a good chance of achieving high accuracy. We may even be able to validate these models by re-running the last few millennia of human development and tracing past generic markers to arrive at the present state of genetic and cultural variation. Standby for some remarkable, controversial, and anti-intuitive predictions.

  77. > We have infiltrated all levels of society, our evil plan for world domination is on track. Soon you will ALL watch NASCAR and drive 4-wheel drive pickup trucks with gun racks in the back window.

    For the most part, the rednecks whom I know are “live and let live” sorts (although they express it somewhat differently). To the extent that they care about whether other people like NASCAR, it’s a combination of “sure hope the posers go away soon” and “I’m just fine with them not knowing what they’re missing” attitudes.

    They hint at evangelism to scare the rubes though. That is until they get their fill of “we should all do it the same way”, in which case it’s “okay, my way it is then”.

    I’ll admit that noticing the transition is difficult. Hence my questions:

    (1) Are you sure that “rednecks” aren’t a big enough voting block?

    (2) Who is going to shoot them if they decide to go to war? They dominate the US armed forces and are a huge fraction of most police forces (and fire departments FWIW).

    Seriously – Do you really think that they’ll lose a class war if they decide to fight? What are you going to beat them with?

    http://ojar.com/view_14220.htm (song lyrics) gets the attitude right, but, as folks pointed out above, rednecks thrive in cities as well.

  78. On testing for creativity:

    jaunjux wrote:

    In particular, IQ has a serious flaw because it doesn’t measure an extremely important part (if not the most important one!) of human intelligence: creativity and innovation “thinking things that nobody tough before”. I’m not only speaking about creative arts, but also about engineering, computing and any field you can think of. Of course the problem is, how could you measure it on a test? I think you can’t; the only way would be to look at achievements of a person past and his rate of success.

    There are several tests that measure creativity in narrow ranges, quite well. Most are incorporated into the IQ exam. Interestingly enough for the people who claim the IQ test is ‘culturally biased’, these parts of the exam tend to be pictorial. You look at a set of 3 pictures, you deduce what’s common about them, you look for the answer among the pictures that follow and pick the one that completes the set.

    In more than one case, these types of questions are scored has having two correct answers…depending on which categorization criteria the person noticed first.

    The people who assume the IQ test is pure word association haven’t taken one in a VERY long time, or, they’re repeating things.

    This type of question tends to be like…catnip…to self directed problem solvers (who tend to be what most people call ‘creative’). When you have conversations with engineers, it has a tendency to turn into “Here’s a puzzler…” and then everyone tries to come up with solutions based on their domain expertise.

    Bystander at game store:

    “Why are you guys doing equations on pen and paper at the minis table?”
    “We’re trying to figure out if something is broken.”
    “Um. Why not just play the game?”
    “Where’s the fun in *that*?”
    “OK…um. Why are you doing this?”
    “It just happens.”

  79. Roger Phillips Says:
    > It is unlikely that you have sampled enough dancing partners to rule out bias.

    I did not expect to rule out bias, I only wanted to find a better option than coin flipping. If I can’t narrow the error bands, and I have to make a choice, better to chose the one with the mid point at a more desirable value, even if the standard deviation stretches into a potentially less desirable point.

    What I think is interesting about this though is that there are some ways I am allowed to use my prejudice, and some ways I am not. Black guys dancing is acceptable, in general. However, if my experience was that black guys tended to be in gangs more often, and were consequently thugs more often, then that is a prejudice that I would be considered to be bad, and I would be a bad person for exercising it as part of my judgment.

    My point again is that it is not prejudice that is unacceptable, just certain types of prejudice, and, generally speaking, just certain types of prejudice against particular groups. (My white suitor, for example, was clearly discriminated against on the basis of his race, but nobody feels bad for him, apparently.)

    It seems that part of what is going on here is that there is a secondary meme that has arisen that is designed to correct an error in an existing meme, but that seems that the pendulum has swung too far to the other side.

  80. Most are incorporated into the IQ exam.

    The IQ exam? You make it sound as if there’s only one.

    The people who assume the IQ test is pure word association haven’t taken one in a VERY long time, or, they’re repeating things.

    There’s some, of course, but there are lots of puzzles, especially math and logic puzzles.

  81. Ken Burnside Says:
    > these parts of the exam tend to be pictorial.

    I always hated those parts of the test; perhaps that means that I am not creative enough. However, what always bugged me about some of these tests is that I think often there isn’t actually a right answer, those picture ones in particular always bugged me in that respect.

    Let me give you an example:

    What are the next two numbers in the sequence: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16?

    The answer they are probably looking for I guess would be 32 and 64, however, the correct answer is “any numbers at all could be the next two numbers.” Clearly you can construct a generator function that produces any arbitrary sequence starting 1, 2, 4, 8, 16 and then have any other two numbers follow. The question simply doesn’t restrict the answer space sufficiently.

    How do you measure the height of a building with a barometer?

  82. An even better one:

    2, 4, 6, 14, 22

    The next two numbers in the sequence are among the following pairs:

    26,34 36,48 28,52 14,6 24,48

    The reason for those pictorial puzzles is that they’re asking you to quickly reason out a logical pattern and find the next step, and they measure a very specific kind of intelligence that strongly correlates to problem solving.

    How do you measure the height of a building with a barometer?

    Making sure the distance between the barometer is close enough to the building that the curvature of the earth is negligible, measure the length of the shadow of the barometer, and the length of the shadow of the building, at the same time. The ratio of the length of the building’s shadow over the length of the barometer’s shadow will be the height of the building in barometers, due to the principle of similar triangles.

  83. > How do you measure the height of a building with a barometer?

    Take the barometer and say, 15, 100 ft rolls of string to the top of the building. Tie one end of the string to the barometer and begin lowering it down the side of the building. Tie on additional pieces of string as necessary. When the string goes slack, the barometer is on the ground. Now, cut the string, measure what’s left in the current roll and subtract from 100. Then add 100 for each whole roll used.

  84. Making sure the distance between the barometer is close enough to the building that the curvature of the earth is negligible, measure the length of the shadow of the barometer, and the length of the shadow of the building, at the same time. The ratio of the length of the building’s shadow over the length of the barometer’s shadow will be the height of the building in barometers, due to the principle of similar triangles.

    Time of day also makes a big difference. Furthermore, the shape of the barometer could be a deterrent.

    See? You aren’t sufficiently creative. ;)

  85. How do you measure the height of a building with a barometer?

    Barometers are marked in inches or mm. You could use the barometer to measure some regular interval, on the building (say, a brick), and then count the number of bricks (or whatever) and multiply.

  86. You could also give the barometer to the guy down at the city records office if he will look up the building’s height on the original plans. (This assumes that the original plans are sufficiently close to the building’s current status, of course.)

  87. …or you could throw it over the side of the roof and time how long it takes to smash on the ground, and work backwards from 9.8 m/s^2…or you could go to the building superintendent and offer him a nice barometer for his wall if he’ll tell you how tall the building is.

  88. Time of day also makes a big difference. Furthermore, the shape of the barometer could be a deterrent.

    Time of day will not matter with the method provided, provided there’s sufficient light for both tall structures to cast shadows, and provided both measurements are done at the same time. It doesn’t matter if the building’s shadow is 10 feet and the barometer’s shadow is 4 inches, measured at 11 AM, or whether the building’s shadow is 30 feet and the barometer’s shadow is 1 foot. The ratio of the lengths of the shadows tells you the building is 30 barometers tall.

    (I got this question in high school. I measured the height of the high school building with a barometer using this method. It helped that I’d had trigonometry, and a book on Roman engineering. When cross checked with a tape measure, I was off by an inch on a 6 story building.)

  89. Andy Freeman> (1) Are you sure that “rednecks” aren’t a big enough voting block?

    (2) Who is going to shoot them if they decide to go to war? They dominate the US armed forces and are a huge fraction of most police forces (and fire departments FWIW).

    It was a joke, dude :^).

    Honestly, I find NASCAR more than a little boring (same for football, unless it’s the Texas/A&M game, or my Javalinas :^).

    Your assessment is correct. The general attitude is what’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong. If you don’t do wrong to others, you can do whatever the hell you want to yourself. As I’ve said in previous posts, as a group, rednecks (as you said, the non-posers) are about this most libertarian bunch you’d ever meet.

    And in answer to your questions, we are DEFINITELY a large enough voting block, at least in the South and West, and nobody since rednecks and redneck sympathizers hold the vast majority of the weapons in the US.

  90. Andy Freeman: I’d also add that, since rednecks start shooting guns at about 5 or 6, we tend to be much better aims than the general population as well :^).

  91. # dgreer Says:
    > I’d also add that, since rednecks … tend to be
    > much better aims

    Well, sure, you got guns, but whacha gonna do when the elite deploy their rapier wit and cutting sarcasm? Then you are gonna be in BIG trouble.

  92. The questions about the size of the redneck voting block and “who’s going to shoot them” were directed at Patrick Maupin.

    As our host has pointed out, voting is a war proxy. However, majority rule requires minority consent and/or suppression.

  93. Jessica Boxer> Well, sure, you got guns, but whacha gonna do when the elite deploy their rapier wit and cutting sarcasm? Then you are gonna be in BIG trouble.

    Send Eric a stetson and a pair of boots and invite him to join the resistance :^).

  94. I did not expect to rule out bias, I only wanted to find a better option than coin flipping.

    You misunderstand me; you are falsely deducing that choosing the black guy is a safer bet than selecting by coin toss (maybe I’m wrong; I’d be interested to see your argument steps). Since you cannot deduce that it is safer to choose the black guy, you are better of searching for other criteria, which there undoubtedly will be in any real life scenario. In this case, the ‘racism’ is a direct result of inductive reasoning, which has absolutely no validity as a means for determining truth.

    What I think is interesting about this though is that there are some ways I am allowed to use my prejudice, and some ways I am not. Black guys dancing is acceptable, in general. However, if my experience was that black guys tended to be in gangs more often, and were consequently thugs more often, then that is a prejudice that I would be considered to be bad, and I would be a bad person for exercising it as part of my judgment.

    I don’t think it’s as simple as you’re making out. Anyone who judges you for (as an example) avoiding neighbourhoods associated with black-on-white violence is an idiot. I often hear the argument that people aren’t allowed to point out racial facts in conversation because the world has become too ‘PC’. Too often, these criticisms actually arise because the speaker is being unwittingly obnoxious. There are lots of non-racial things that are factually correct that are rude to point out; racial facts are not a special case. Factual correctness does not circumvent social rules, except where the revelation of those facts is key. In the case of racial remarks, they usually aren’t.

    My point again is that it is not prejudice that is unacceptable, just certain types of prejudice, and, generally speaking, just certain types of prejudice against particular groups. (My white suitor, for example, was clearly discriminated against on the basis of his race, but nobody feels bad for him, apparently.)

    Unacceptable according to who? I may not feel ‘bad’ for your white suitor, because on the balance this is probably not such a harsh ordeal, but I think his rejection is an example of the same kind of faulty reasoning that leads to more insidious racial prejudices. As explained above, I don’t necessarily disagree with your gang-banger example. However, when people in safe, white neighbourhoods start panicking because there’s a black guy wearing a hoody around they are demonstrating the kind of foolishness that can only arise when you hold deeply flawed and racially biased views. It’s not clear who you’re accusing of these things. There is certainly a large contingent of people who uncritically reject racism because they have been told it is wrong. The reason we have racism in the first place is failure to assess evidence correctly. Clearly, these people are in error.

  95. ESR: it’s been conceded for some years now that west African blacks (or their descendants) are better at sprinting and jumping than anyone else on earth (including east Africans). Go check the record books: virtually all the men who have run one of the top 100 times for 100 meters is either a west African, or a Western Hemisphere black descended from slaves imported from west Africa.

    Contrariwise, east Africans dominate marathons and other long distance events, and whites tend to dominate middle distance events.

    The reasons lie in the proportions of fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fiber, and also the development of capillary structures in muscles (blood supply affects oxygenation).

    Bret: “We already know that blacks have been oppressed and therefore perform less well due to environmental factors. The solution is still to overcome that oppression until they perform as well as whites.”

    We know that blacks have been oppressed. We can show causative connections between some black underperformance and past oppression. We do not know that all black underperformance is due to past oppression; that assertion is a matter of faith. not evidence. Suppose we eliminate all such oppression, and blacks still do not equal white performance? There are those who insist that that is not possible – if there is any discrepancy, it must be the result of oppression, even if no oppression can be found. This group is extremely powerful – among other things, it controls admissions at nearly all “prestige” colleges.

    ESR is saying that the genetics is very probably on the verge of discovering concrete reasons other than oppression for some black performance differences. Since this discovery would attack a foundational belief of a very powerful element, it will have painful and explosive political consequences.

    Lev Zelenin: “Do you consider the IQ test, as it is currently employed, to be an accurate enough psychometric of ability that in an ideal situation it and it alone should determine the opportunities offered individuals?”

    Boy, you’ve killed that strawman dead.

    The issue is that under present law, any test or criterion which has racially disparate results is presumed to be invidious unless the employer can prove beyond all doubt (and usually at great expense) that the test is actually predictive of job performance. The only safe harbor is de facto racial quotas. See Ricci v. DeStefano, in which the city of New Haven threw out its firefighters’ promotion test because no blacks passed it – a decision upheld by future Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor.

    Jessica Boxer: “Due to this, all productive societies are self limiting, eventually collapsing under the weight of their own stupidity.”

    Note this essay by Mark Steyn: “We’re too broke to be this stupid.” http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/05/27/were-too-broke-to-be-this-stupid/

  96. Rich:

    ESR is saying that the genetics is very probably on the verge of discovering concrete reasons other than oppression for some black performance differences. Since this discovery would attack a foundational belief of a very powerful element, it will have painful and explosive political consequences.

    FWIW, I don’t believe that we will ever see the true extent of this discovery. The leftists that run academia will ruthlessly suppress it. The shenanigans exposed by Climategate will be a drop in the bucket by comparison.

  97. @Everyone: All this arguing about Jessica Boxer’s narrowly-defined view of prejudice has nothing to do with racism, at least not as I understand it. Many definitions I’ve seen for racism fall along the lines of this one from Wikipedia:

    Racism is the belief that race is a primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

    The article includes definitions from OED and Merriam-Webster that I also find lacking.

    However, from a social justice standpoint, this definition is practically useless, because originally racism meant a belief that one’s own race was inherently superior.

    I propose using the UN’s definition of racial discrimination as better jumping-off point for debate:

    “Racial discrimination shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.”

    Picking the black guy for a dance partner or basketball team member doesn’t really fit here; the white guy will just play on the other team or go dance with someone else.

  98. The questions about the size of the redneck voting block and “who’s going to shoot them” were directed at Patrick Maupin.

    I was responding to Andy Freeman. He said that “discovery of reliable gene indicators for any positive trait will lead to hardening of the race-based stuff”. I originally assumed he meant individual discrimination which, while greatly lessened over the last several decades, still simmers beneath the surface in some places, and responded, essentially, that it would certainly be a problem if that flared up again. Andy replied he meant, rather than discrimination by majority individuals against minorities, some sort of current institutionalized racism.

    So my understanding of his thesis is that the table has been tilted to favor minorities, and that if we find out there are valid genetic reasons why minorities cannot compete fairly for jobs, we will tilt the table even further that direction. It is my (previously stated) opinion that if the economy doesn’t support jobs for everyone, and you take jobs away from well-armed and competent individuals to give them to less competent people, that will be a problem. I used the term “redneck” because most people I know who have their own arsenals self-describe that way.

    I agree that in some states, the redneck voting bloc is large enough in that state, but as history has shown, larger economic conflicts tend to involve more than one state, and/or the federal government attempting to impose its will on certain states. There is no question that high taxation and racial preferences at a national level can contribute to poverty and unemployment at local levels. If you think that I said somebody else was going to start shooting rednecks, you weren’t reading very closely. If you think I said that all rednecks are incompetent, then either you weren’t reading very closely, or you feel obligated to try to prove the very hypothesis you wrongly ascribe to me, but it won’t work — I know plenty of rednecks who are smarter than you.

  99. @Patrick Maupin

    “So my understanding of his thesis is that the table has been tilted to favor minorities, and that if we find out there are valid genetic reasons why minorities cannot compete fairly for jobs, we will tilt the table even further that direction. ”

    As I read it, Eric’s point was that the result will be a more rigorous focus on judging individuals on their own merits rather than what cultural or racial group they align with. I do not think he is suggesting artificially tilting tables further in favor of a particular group to resolve the issue (if that’s what you are saying – and I’m not sure it is).

  100. [quote]
    # dgreer Says:
    > I’d also add that, since rednecks … tend to be
    > much better aims

    Well, sure, you got guns, but whacha gonna do when the elite deploy their rapier wit and cutting sarcasm? Then you are gonna be in BIG trouble.
    [/quote]

    There are a significant number people who have experience with both.

    The pen is only mightier than the sword when the sword is stayed by conscience.

  101. “FWIW, I don’t believe that we will ever see the true extent of this discovery. The leftists that run academia will ruthlessly suppress it. The shenanigans exposed by Climategate will be a drop in the bucket by comparison.”

    If required, the politically incorrect science will be outsourced to one of the countries that doesn’t care so much about this, like Russia or China. The leftists would need complete planetary domination to suppress this. But I think within a few years you’ll see a Decommiefication of US academia anyway, so it won’t come to that.

  102. If required, the politically incorrect science will be outsourced to one of the countries that doesn’t care so much about this, like Russia or China.

    Am I the only person here whose irony sense just went off?

  103. > I agree that in some states, the redneck voting bloc is large enough in that state,

    I think that you underestimate the number of states but …

    > but as history has shown, larger economic conflicts tend to involve more than one state, and/or the federal government attempting to impose its will on certain states.

    “impose its will” – hold that thought.

    > If you think that I said somebody else was going to start shooting rednecks, you weren’t reading very closely.

    I didn’t claim that you understood the consequences of your statements, I merely discussed them.

    However, I skipped some steps, so here’s the backfill.

    At some point “impose its will” involves shooting people or threatening to do so. That requires “shooters”.

    That gets us to my question – who is going to shoot the rednecks?

  104. > I propose using the UN’s definition of racial discrimination as better jumping-off point for debate:

    How about not, because the UN’s efforts in this area are a nasty combination of evil and corruption.

    Yes, the words sound nice and all, but so did the USSR’s constitution. Practice trumps theory.

    > “Racial discrimination shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.”

    > Picking the black guy for a dance partner or basketball team member doesn’t really fit here; the white guy will just play on the other team or go dance with someone else.

    Playing for a team satisfied “economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life” as well as employment, so let’s rewrite the example and see if it still works as intended.

    “picking the white guy for a job doesn’t really fit in here – the black guy will just go work for someone else”.

  105. How about not, because the UN’s efforts in this area are a nasty combination of evil and corruption.

    I don’t care about the UN’s actions here, only the definition of racial discrimination that it has used since the 1950s.

    “picking the white guy for a job doesn’t really fit in here – the black guy will just go work for someone else”.

    You seem to think that I have a problem with this. I think racial quotas are a form racism. Not even a subtle one that, at that. I’m for picking the guy that can get the job done, even if his skin is fuchsia plaid.

  106. “Am I the only person here whose irony sense just went off?”

    Comrade, you must adapt to new geopolitical realities…;)

  107. > You seem to think that I have a problem with this. I think racial quotas are a form racism. Not even a subtle one that, at that. I’m for picking the guy that can get the job done, even if his skin is fuchsia plaid.

    The UN folks have a problem with “the black guy will just go work for someone else”. You remember the UN folks – they produced the definition of racial discrimination that you like.

  108. I’m all for judging people as individuals without consideration as to their race, but I wonder if an exception should be made for immigration policy.

    Pretend that the average Canadian has an IQ of 80 and the average Venezuelan has an IQ of 100 for genetic reasons. (I know there’s no such thing as a racial Canadian or Venezuelan and of course I’m making these numbers up, but I’m trying to illustrate a point). If you’re in the United States, and one hundred Canadians with IQs of 100 and one hundred Venezuelans with IQs of 100 want to immigrate to your country, there is no reason, when looking at these potential immigrants as individuals, to allow the Venezuelans to enter and not the Canadians. What does the fact that the average Canadian has a lower IQ than the average Venezuelan matter if these one hundred Canadians and these one hundred Venezuelans have the same IQs? The problem is that, as a result of regression toward the mean, one could expect the average IQ of the children of the 100-IQ Canadians to be significantly less than 100, and the average IQ of the children of the 100-IQ Venezuelans to be at around 100. While the original group of Canadians and Venezuelans would probably do as well in society (all other things being equal) their children would not. So, allowing high IQ members of low-IQ groups into your country might work well in the short run, but create problems a generation or two down the road.

  109. >Boy, you’ve killed that strawman dead.

    Rich Rostrom: My ‘strawman’ fallacy was unintended. I am more curious as to how much psychometrics are even capable of judging value. I have taken two IQ tests that had a difference of 15 points between them. Given that I did not get smarter and yet scored higher later in life I can only resolve this by concluding that the IQ metric is fallible. If we are to use these tests to sort who goes where, thereby ignoring racial and unjustly discriminatory factors in the distribution of professional opportunities, we must be sure the tests are entirely accurate. I agree though, my point is not directly related to ESR’s post, which focused more on the interplay of racism and psychometrics. Forgive the frivolity of a first time commenter.

  110. @Jessica Boxer.

    all productive societies are self limiting, eventually collapsing under the weight of their own stupidity.

    My dilemma from your corollary: Any non-self limiting, stable society possible must be non-productive.

    That sounds so… nihilistic.

    @The Monster

    The goal is to build a society that is productive, yet “intolerant” of stupidity.

    I can’t help think that the only way any productive society that would exist at this stage of our political/social development would attempt to restrict stupidity through a series of laws causing more stupidity than they restricted in the first place.

    I’d argue that actually the issue is that the idiocy generated is unavoidable and any attempt to avoid it will end up being worse than the idiocy was in the first place. Thus freemans law could be reworded to The more productive a society, the more idiocy that it will generate..

    Having said that I also think that the idiocy is probably less proportional to the productivity of a society and more to the size. I’d also accept as a working hypothesis that the amount of idiocy a society will generate is proportional to the size of it’s governatorial body.

  111. > Having said that I also think that the idiocy is probably less proportional to the productivity of a society and more to the size. I’d also accept as a working hypothesis that the amount of idiocy a society will generate is proportional to the size of it’s governatorial body.

    I think that some normalization is required for idiocy just as it is for productivity. After all, we wouldn’t say that one agrarian society is more productive as another based on just the total amount of food produced – we’d normalize wrt inputs (population and land, among others).

    That said, I think that the proportion of normalized productivity lost to idiocy increases with normalized productivity. At some point, productivity – idiocy reaches a maximum and then that difference starts falling. At first, it falls because idiocy is increasing faster than productivity but eventually productivity also starts falling.

  112. Any non-self limiting, stable society possible must be non-productive.

    Lets try that again in english this time :- For a society to be non-self limiting and stable, it must also be non-productive.

  113. Roger Phillips Says:
    > falsely deducing that choosing the black guy is a safer bet than selecting by coin toss

    Here is my logic, in pseudo math terms.

    In my experience people with attribute A have attribute B with a probability of P1. People without attribute A have a probability of having attribute B with a probability of P2. P1 is greater than P2 by a significant amount. This is based on my experience.

    My sample size is small, and so the margin of error on both measures is quite high. Nonetheless, given a choice between two random people one with attribute A and one without attribute A, I am more likely to achieve my goal or attribute B by choosing the person with attribute A, all other things being equal.

    Of course the error bands are large, so I am subject to a high likelihood of error, however, I still am better off that choosing by coin flip. For a coin flip there is no evidence of a relationship between heads/tails and attribute B, whereas with attribute A there is, however weak you might think the relationship is. You don’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a lottery ticket (and you probably don’t win it if you do, but your chances are certainly larger.)

    Please note, I do not have to demonstrate actual causality between A and B, I just have to observe a statistically significant relationship (even with huge error bands.) Gregor Mendel did not know why descendants of pea plants shared similar characteristics, just that they did (also with very large error bands.) Consequently, I don’t need to know why black men are better dancers on average than white men, just that they are.

    Now, here is something: if I base my decision on my personal experience, many people will grudgingly accept my decision. However, if I broaden my scope of evidence beyond personal experience to what my friends say about black men dancing, or what media say about black men dancing, or what society says about black men dancing then people start to call me prejudiced.

    If attribute A is an attribute strongly associated with a particular group, traditionally considered oppressed (dark skin, female etc.) and B is an attribute that is considered bad (gang banger, bitchy) I am considered an –ist, of the requisite type, racist, sexist, homophobe and so forth.

    Now, in the real world things are a little more complex than that. Generally speaking what we have is this: situation one has a set of attributes S1, and the present situation has a set of attributes S2. S1 and S2 share many of the same attributes, and, since the attributes are not necessarily binary by continuous, S1 and S2 have sets of attributes with relatively similar values. Now, situation one resulted in a set of results R1. My brain will predict that situation two will result in a set of results similar to R1, possibly modified based on some of the differences in S1 and S2. This is a core heuristic mechanism of the human brain, and is essential to our thought processes. It is also a generalize form of a pattern more traditionally called prejudice, which is itself a generalized form of a pattern called racism.

    It is only rarely that we analyze a causality chain between S1 and R1, and in fact, it is something that for the most part we do without any conscious decision making process.

    Eric has argued that it is my duty not to make such deductions: in each case I must evaluate situation two based on a set of tests I construct to determine B more accurately, though perhaps he is arguing more narrowly, that I must do so when the “situation” is in fact making a judgment about a person.
    Yet it is not always possible to test for B, and in those cases where it is possible to test for B, it is often expensive and time consuming to do so. Often the cost of the test is significantly higher than the cost of making a mistake. Sometimes the best we can do is test for some proxy for B, which is to say, test for an attribute that we believe has a strong correlation with B. But if we do so, we are largely back to the same situation above.

    My argument is that in most cases the deduction A-> B is acceptable, and necessary. However, there are special categories of deductions, for particular values of A and B that are not considered socially acceptable, regardless of the evidence for or against them. Many of them are based on deliberate corrective actions for misinformation in our cultural knowledge that have been demonstrated wrong, but still linger on our collective memes. However, sometimes in our society’s enthusiasm to fix what is wrong, we substitute “ought to be” for “actually is”.

    OK, well that was an insanely long comment. My apologies.

  114. The goal is to build a society that is productive, yet “intolerant” of stupidity.

    I can’t help think that the only way any productive society that would exist at this stage of our political/social development would attempt to restrict stupidity through a series of laws causing more stupidity than they restricted in the first place.

    I must not have explained myself well enough. It is not a matter of “society … attempt[ing] to restrict stupidity” so much as it is allowing private stupidity to exact its own toll upon the stupid, and a legal regime that allows those whose person or property have been violated by others’ stupidity to recover their damages.

    Take drugs, for instance. Those people who oppose legalization of currently-illegal substances point to the horrors of someone operating a motor vehicle under the influence thereof, as if the only possible legal sanction against such negligence is to ban the use and possession of the substance entirely. My answer to them is always: “to the extent that the judgement of a person under the influence of _____ is provably impaired thereby, then let people restrict their use of _____ to their own homes, or to other privately-owned spaces where the owners will accept some responsibility for assuring that the impaired person is not a danger to anyone other than himself, perhaps in exchange for a service fee.” If you can “check in” to a place where your personal stupidity will be restricted from hurting anyone else, then no one has any moral authority to demand your liberty be further constrained.

    Always come back to that touchstone: The default assumption is individual liberty, and the burden of proof falls upon those who demand that liberty be limited that the limits proposed are deserved.

    But most people don’t think this way. They want people to be free to do stupid things and then make others subsidize their stupidity.

  115. —-
    Lev Zelenin Says:

    >Boy, you’ve killed that strawman dead.

    Rich Rostrom: My ’strawman’ fallacy was unintended… If we are to use these tests to sort who goes where…
    —-

    There’s the strawman. No one is suggesting that. Here’s what you originally wrote:
    “Do you consider the IQ test… and it alone should determine the opportunities offered individuals?”

    IOW, you are “questioning” a proposition no one is making. The significance of IQ test results is that they measure a basic aspect of human ability which underlays achievement in many areas. Differences in IQ test performance correlate with differences in end-area achievement. No one is saying that individual IQ test performance should determine anything. Or collective performance, either.

    But collective test-performance differences may explain collective achievement differences.

    For quite a while now, public discourse and policy have assumed that that no race-group difference in underlying abilities can exist – therefore race-group differences in end-area achievement must be due to invidious discrimination or damage by previous oppression. If some other race-group doesn’t pass a promotion test at the same rate as whites, the test is presumed defective (Ricci v. DeStefano). This rule is applied to any process for hiriing, promotion, selection, or admission.

    This is in part a reaction to a tragic history of invidious discrimination and worse, justified by fraudulent assertions about race-group differences.

    But underlying abilities do vary between race-groups. This has been accepted for physical abilities for quite a while; but was crimethink for mental abilities. Test results that revealed it have been denied or explained away with enormous effort.

    The significance of the genetic discoveries ESR noted is that they will establish the reality of these differences, with a rigorous foundation. It will no longer be possible to deny them.

  116. @KellyN:

    As I read it, Eric’s point was that the result will be a more rigorous focus on judging individuals on their own merits rather than what cultural or racial group they align with. I do not think he is suggesting artificially tilting tables further in favor of a particular group to resolve the issue (if that’s what you are saying – and I’m not sure it is).

    I was essentially agreeing with Eric, and responding to / rephrasing Andy Freeman’s thesis.

    @Andy:

    At some point “impose its will” involves shooting people or threatening to do so. That requires “shooters”.

    That gets us to my question – who is going to shoot the rednecks?

    Although it requires the omnipresent threat of violence for a government to impose its will, the government doesn’t actually devolve into instigating actual large-scale violence domestically very often of late. You have to remember that the feds have their hands on an awful lot of levers. It’s not a matter of imposing new laws or regulations or taxes, just of gradually twisting the knobs to slowly bring the frog to a boil. My whole point was that some of the frogs might notice eventually, and it won’t be pretty.

    @Jessica:

    Many [rational deductions that we dare not make] are based on deliberate corrective actions for misinformation in our cultural knowledge that have been demonstrated wrong, but still linger on our collective memes. However, sometimes in our society’s enthusiasm to fix what is wrong, we substitute “ought to be” for “actually is”.

    Absolutely, but this does not significantly alter the basic equations — rather, it just adds a couple of variables. Arguably, it even helps us to select politicians and other leaders based on whether they grasp the equation updates. After all, the updated equations have been around for a few decades, they aren’t really that difficult, and some people still very publicly and noisily get it very wrong. (Having said that, I’m from the south and was raised on Br’er Rabbit, and was extremely surprised to find “tar baby” added to the equations a couple of years back.)

  117. >The significance of the genetic discoveries ESR noted is that they will establish the reality of these differences with a rigorous foudnation. It will no longer be possible to deny them.

    Denying something known to be true works great for loyalty testing. A good, loyal anti-racist will deny automatically. Are you a GOOD anti-racist?

    And there are still sundown towns in America. The signs are gone, some Jim Crow remains.

    It’s not a point against the Left that they were responsible for getting rid of most of Jim Crow. Too bad they partly replaced it with Crow Jimism -black chauvinism as a political/commercial racket- but what’s done is done. In fifty years we might look back and wish we’d replaced affirmative action with a black tax cut, or not.

  118. > For a society to be non-self limiting and stable, it must also be non-productive.

    There are only three ways to have a non-productive (after subtracting idiocy) society

    (1) Live off of others.
    (2) Live off of savings.
    (3) Don’t consume anything, that is, be dead.

    Of those, (3) is the only stable alternative.

  119. > It’s not a point against the Left that they were responsible for getting rid of most of Jim Crow.

    Except that they weren’t, unless by “left” you mean Republicans and moderate Dems.

    Jim Crow was a creation of the progressive movement. For example, Wilson segregated the US military.

    The progressives have always been quite fond of eugenics. That’s part of why they liked the Nazis until that interfered with their preference for “Uncle Joe”.

  120. In my experience people with attribute A have attribute B with a probability of P1. People without attribute A have a probability of having attribute B with a probability of P2. P1 is greater than P2 by a significant amount. This is based on my experience.

    My sample size is small, and so the margin of error on both measures is quite high. Nonetheless, given a choice between two random people one with attribute A and one without attribute A, I am more likely to achieve my goal or attribute B by choosing the person with attribute A, all other things being equal.

    How much more likely? How did you calculate this probability? The truth is there is no ‘natural’ relationship between past and future measurements. The fact that I have observed some outcome for some fraction of measurements in the past does not allow me to say anything about how likely it is to occur in the future. There are reasonable assumptions that can be introduced in order to relate future measurements to previous measurements, e.g. the normality assumption. Using these assumptions (which may lead to a contradiction) there are techniques to calculate statistical properties for future measurements. I find it implausible that the hypothetical observer has performed all of these calculations correctly. What’s more likely is that the observer has completely misjudged the probabilities, and would therefore be better off seeking a direct demonstration of dancing ability.

    Of course the error bands are large, so I am subject to a high likelihood of error, however, I still am better off that choosing by coin flip. For a coin flip there is no evidence of a relationship between heads/tails and attribute B, whereas with attribute A there is, however weak you might think the relationship is.

    Let’s suppose I want to select my dance partner using dice rolls. Let’s say I’m superstitious, and I believe that rolling a black dice might yield better selections versus a white dice. Suppose that I give each 6 rolls. If all of the black rolls yield good dancers, and the white dice yield as 50/50 split of good/bad partners, this does not justify the position that I am (even marginally) more likely to get a better partner when rolling the black dice. The race-based method of selection proposed in your example can only be justified more to the extent to which you either, have performed an actual statistical calculation and your assumptions are all correct, or you are simply willing to accept the ‘evidence’ based on your own preconceptions. The latter is the more likely explanation.

    You don’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a lottery ticket (and you probably don’t win it if you do, but your chances are certainly larger.)

    I do not see how this is comparable. You know buying a lottery ticket is better than not doing so because the process of selecting winners is completely transparent. In fact, you can for many lotteries calculate the probability of a win with 100% confidence, assuming that they are not run fraudulently. A more comparable example would be if you had to choose between entering lottery A, or lottery B, the rules of which were not understood and where information about the award of prizes was not effectively collated. By your reasoning, if I have won $100 from lottery A but only $90 from lottery B (say 5 prizes each), then I can say that lottery A yields better prizes. In fact, there is no reason to come to this conclusion, as even under generous conditions it’s most likely that this difference is the result of randomness.

    Now, here is something: if I base my decision on my personal experience, many people will grudgingly accept my decision. However, if I broaden my scope of evidence beyond personal experience to what my friends say about black men dancing, or what media say about black men dancing, or what society says about black men dancing then people start to call me prejudiced.

    People are poor quantitative observers, so deductions that rest on your personal experience are often suspect. Hearsay from other people is even worse. The fact that you’re willing to accept these sources of evidence may be interpreted as simply holding racist viewpoints and grabbing any flimsy justification for it. There was a time when this was absolutely a common-place way of thinking.

    If attribute A is an attribute strongly associated with a particular group, traditionally considered oppressed (dark skin, female etc.) and B is an attribute that is considered bad (gang banger, bitchy) I am considered an –ist, of the requisite type, racist, sexist, homophobe and so forth.

    I don’t think it’s this simple. If you say, “black guys are good dancers”, you are likely to be considered a racist, and rightly so; you cannot substantiate this claim, and it adds to false preconceptions about particular groups of people. If you say, “I have collated some data about my dates of the last 10 years and I’ve found a statistically significant difference in dancing ability between black and white partners”, then, a minority of nutters aside, this is likely to be received more reasonably. However, it should be noted that no matter which way you slice it, you cannot pretend you are an objective observer, so your method is essentially broken from the start. People get irritated hearing a million broken arguments trying to justify judgments based on race.

    Now, in the real world things are a little more complex than that. Generally speaking what we have is this: situation one has a set of attributes S1, and the present situation has a set of attributes S2. S1 and S2 share many of the same attributes, and, since the attributes are not necessarily binary by continuous, S1 and S2 have sets of attributes with relatively similar values. Now, situation one resulted in a set of results R1. My brain will predict that situation two will result in a set of results similar to R1, possibly modified based on some of the differences in S1 and S2. This is a core heuristic mechanism of the human brain, and is essential to our thought processes. It is also a generalize form of a pattern more traditionally called prejudice, which is itself a generalized form of a pattern called racism.

    This may be a core heuristic of the brain, but it is essentially invalid unless certain assumptions (as above) are met. As a result, it can (and does) go very wrong. When it goes wrong in the form of an -ism, it has undesirable consequences for particular groups of people. As a result, applying this mode of thinking to these areas is generally despised.

    It is only rarely that we analyze a causality chain between S1 and R1, and in fact, it is something that for the most part we do without any conscious decision making process.

    The fact that people spend their lives indulging in fallacious thinking does not make it any more desirable.

    Eric has argued that it is my duty not to make such deductions: in each case I must evaluate situation two based on a set of tests I construct to determine B more accurately, though perhaps he is arguing more narrowly, that I must do so when the “situation” is in fact making a judgment about a person.

    I can’t speak for Eric, but certainly you are obliged to think carefully before making a racial judgment about someone (see above).

    Yet it is not always possible to test for B, and in those cases where it is possible to test for B, it is often expensive and time consuming to do so. Often the cost of the test is significantly higher than the cost of making a mistake. Sometimes the best we can do is test for some proxy for B, which is to say, test for an attribute that we believe has a strong correlation with B. But if we do so, we are largely back to the same situation above.

    Racial features are rarely a good proxy for B. The fact that other tests are fallible does not lead us back to your hypothetical quagmire, because no matter how bad your test is it is unlikely to be worse than race. At worst, it leads us to a situation where we would like a better test, which has nothing to do with race.

    My argument is that in most cases the deduction A-> B is acceptable, and necessary. However, there are special categories of deductions, for particular values of A and B that are not considered socially acceptable, regardless of the evidence for or against them. Many of them are based on deliberate corrective actions for misinformation in our cultural knowledge that have been demonstrated wrong, but still linger on our collective memes. However, sometimes in our society’s enthusiasm to fix what is wrong, we substitute “ought to be” for “actually is”.

    These are in fact inductions, not deductions. Deduction cannot produce stronger statements from weaker ones, which is what “A -> B” is. This form of reasoning is known to be invalid, and it can produce arbitrarily bad answers. The consequences of being wrong as a result of a bad induction factor into the extent to which such inductions are accepted in society. If someone claims that the majority of homosexuals are pedophiles, they had better have good evidence for it, because this claim has the potential to do great harm. If the equivalent claim about heterosexuals doesn’t receive the same reaction, it is because people know there are few people who will accept it given that heterosexuals are the majority.

  121. > I can’t speak for Eric, but certainly you are obliged to think carefully before making a racial judgment about someone (see above).

    Obliged by whom?

    Why should race get special treatment that “shifty eyes”, weight, and bad hair doesn’t? What about hoodies?

  122. @Jessica Boxer: So, then, in your book, this train of logic is okay:

    Someone was murdered and they need to find out who did it:

    1. Most murders are poor.
    2. There are two likely suspects known to police at this time, one is rich and one is poor.
    3. Since most murderers are poor, the police should focus their investigation on the poor guy and not the rich guy.

    See the implications of your statement?

  123. 3. Since most murderers are poor, the police should focus their investigation on the poor guy and not the rich guy.

    The police have a legal monopoly on the use of coercive force. The standards for the choices they make in using that power are therefore in an entirely different league from the standards for a person employing their inherent right to freedom of association in the choice of a dance partner or employee.

  124. @Rich Rostrom

    >>Differences in IQ test performance correlate with differences in end-area achievement.
    >>No one is saying that individual IQ test performance should determine anything.

    If the IQ test accurately predicts end-area achievement, what use does it have but to determine the value of an untested candidate? If these tests were not used to rank competing candidates then they wouldn’t replace the use of other discriminatory methods. The notion that such tests would be used to ‘sort who goes where’ is implicit in the notion that such tests can nullify racist or unfairly discriminatory practices.

    I concede the point, however, on the grounds that regardless of how such metrics will be employed the underlying connections (so long as they are truly scientifically based) between genetics (and therefore race) and ability must be acknowledged, politically correct or not.

    I think the fear that such concepts may, given the right society, lead to eugenics is reasonable. That does not however mean they should not be researched. Though knowledge of atomic physics, for example, may lead to destructive weaponry it should still be available and expanded (if only) solely for scientific advancement.

  125. The police have a legal monopoly on the use of coercive force.

    No, they don’t. I see lots of people repeat this without knowing what it means. I suggest you Google for “Castle Doctrine” and “Stand Your Ground Law”.

    And not even the police can use coercive force in all situations.

  126. @Morgan,
    By “coercive force” I mean to exclude the use of force in self-defense as your two examples allude. Police have the legal power to come to your home or business and compel you to obey their orders. In theory that power is strictly limited, but in practice, not so much.

    But let’s have it your way. When the police exercise their coercive powers, they are subject to strict scrutiny as to how to employ it. If Jessica were to react to a criminal invasion of her property by shooting a black guy on the street just because he’s black, then she’d be subject to that same scrutiny.

  127. The danger in any of this is going off with out a complete understanding how of the genetic code actually works. There is so much more to the process than just the actual gene sequences – and that drawing any conclusions from “decoding the genes” will not answer anything. There was a program on Nova that covered this in great detail – cracking the genetic code – but it dealt with genetically identical twins one with autism one without (raised in same environment) – mice that had a genetic disease of obesity but only had it if the gene was passed from the mother – if the father passed the same gene they did not have it – genetically code was identical. Evidence of higher rates diabetes in grandchildren of grandparents who suffered from famine – there is more being passed on generation to generation then just the gene sequences themselves. It was described in a manner that the actually code in the genes is the “hardware” and the chemicals (proteins) that enable and disable features within the hardware as being the software – fundamentally we are all HUMAN – we all run the HUMAN hardware – it’s the software the is different and that literally could depend on what your grandmother had for dinner on a given day. If one wants to be racist – go a head it will not require the human genome justify it.

  128. bruce> It’s not a point against the Left that they were responsible for getting rid of most of Jim Crow.

    Um, I’m no history scholar, but wasn’t it the progressive democrats of the south that MAINTAINED Jim Crow, and conservatives that pushed to end it? From what I recall, despite all the hand waving and propaganda by Democrats, the Republicans, for all their flaws, have pushed the stone over the top of the hill on every race issue since Emancipation. The Democrats seem to then start pushing when it’s on the way down hill and say how evil the Republicans are that they stopped pushing once the stone started rolling down hill on it’s own.

    Again, I’m not a history scholar, so somebody please tell me where I’m wrong here.

  129. pinzero: I think there’s some magic in your post. For instance, “mice that had a genetic disease of obesity but only had it if the gene was passed from the mother – if the father passed the same gene they did not have it – genetically code was identical,” seems rather mystical, since it’s virtually impossible for identical twins to result from the mating of two different pair of mice. They could NOT be identical, therefor what is being observed here is one piece of code in one gene that requires code from another gene to be present in order for it to become active. This happens a lot. Take a look at things like Sex and Eye color in Equine DNA. That’s some pretty weird stuff if I recall correctly (been 20 years since I saw it, but I remember it was REALLY weird).

    Similarly, the famine example could be a historical genetic legacy thing: people who suffer from famine are generally in a location with a very limited diet (think Native Americans in the Southwestern US) and so over generations natural selection has forced their bodies to adapt to that limited diet, making the most use of it (in the example above, high protein, low starch diet of primarily legumes and meat). When their diet suddenly changes because of they exposed to more caloric options (e.g. Twinkies), they body’s cannot handle the high starch foods and this causes diabetes to develop. It’s been proven that returning to a traditional diet corrects this problem in virtually all patients (but it’s hard to put down those Twinkies :^).

    I understand what you are saying, but the above examples are the sort of thing that producers of quasi science shows/magazines put out for lay people to look at and wonder about, and generally are flawed because of the producers or writers lack of knowledge within that field. And you’re right, if somebodies a racist, they don’t need an excuse do what they do.

  130. Andy Freeman> What about hoodies?

    And dark sunglasses, particularly when their carrying a small parcel box :^).

  131. By “coercive force” I mean to exclude the use of force in self-defense as your two examples allude. Police have the legal power to come to your home or business and compel you to obey their orders. In theory that power is strictly limited, but in practice, not so much.

    Okay, you join the police force and start randomly compelling people to obey your orders to give them a sandwich. Go ahead. Let me know how that works out for you.

    But let’s have it your way. When the police exercise their coercive powers, they are subject to strict scrutiny as to how to employ it.

    Right. But we’re talking about a police investigation here, not a police gestapo action here. The use of force often isn’t needed in a police investigation, which mostly consists of gathering evidence, conducting interviews of witnesses, suspects, etc. You know, the boring stuff that doesn’t ever make it into the movies you spend too much time watching.

  132. Obliged by whom?

    By your moral compass, one hopes.

    Why should race get special treatment that “shifty eyes”, weight, and bad hair doesn’t? What about hoodies?

    You didn’t read my entire wall of text; there is no ‘special treatment’. The acceptability of poor reasoning is judged based on its perceived consequences. Racism has had negative (and in many cases inescapable) consequences for many people throughout history and it has been thoroughly discredited. This is not true of your other categories. For example, I can always take my hoody off. Of course, judging people to be dangerous just because they wear a hoody is moronic. If they’re wearing it with a hanky hanging out of their back pocket you might be closer to the mark (depending upon where you are). But mistakes of this kind are unlikely to prevent an intelligent person from obtaining a job, since he’ll just take it off on that day. Likewise, nobody would get angry if someone claimed that whites were more likely to be gang members, simply because nobody would buy into it. Race-fixated people love to ramble about ‘special status’, but the reality is that special statuses are marginal.

  133. Morgan Greywolf Says:
    > Someone was murdered and they need to find out who did it:

    Hopefully the courts are held to a higher standard of evidence to put people in jail than I am in selecting a dance partner. On a more general level, government agencies have different requirements on their decision making process than I do. For example, they, unlike me, are required to be fair.

  134. Okay, you join the police force and start randomly compelling people to obey your orders to give them a sandwich.

    I was thinking more along the lines of the cops who tell people they can’t use their video cameras.

    The use of force often isn’t needed in a police investigation, which mostly consists of gathering evidence, conducting interviews of witnesses, suspects, etc.

    Except for when the cop is undercover, the threat of force is implicit in all police interactions you describe. It is a one-sided relationship, too. Cops can legally lie to you, but you can’t lie to them. Ask Martha Stewart. Or this law professor or the cop he invited to respond.

  135. > How did you calculate this probability?

    I did not, obviously. This is picking a date, not picking a senator. You are assuming a formality that does not exist. In a sense, this is the very essence. Eric tells me that I have to be more formal in such decisions; I say that is impractical for most of the decisions we make day to day.

    > The truth is there is no ‘natural’ relationship
    > between past and future measurements.

    Really? Well there goes science!

    > Let’s suppose I want to select my dance partner using dice rolls.

    Lets say I do choose to use the black dice, am I any worse off? Unlikely. However, with the dice I am using something that has no connection whatever to the potential dancers. At least the racial background of a dancer has some connection with the person. I can think of many reasons why there might be a difference between black people’s dancing ability and white people’s. However, I have chosen not to discuss them because for the most part the brain does not work that way, and, in fact, many discoveries don’t work that way either. I mentioned the Gregor Mendel. He was a monk. He had no idea how genetic characteristics are transmitted. Now of course he was more disciplined than our hypothetical prom queen. However, what he was doing was more important, and consequently worth more effort.

    > People are poor quantitative observers, so deductions
    > that rest on your personal experience are often suspect.

    So if I am not willing to put out the effort to actually measure my past experience quantitatively, I am not allowed to go to the dance? Even if my quantitative measures are not very good, I am not allowed to use them at all without being accused of being a racist? Am I a racist or just because I am a bad measurer?

    > The fact that you’re willing to accept these sources
    > of evidence may be interpreted as simply holding racist
    > viewpoints

    It may be evidence, but not very good evidence. It might also be evidence that I am a robot manipulated by mind control rays by my friends. Again though it isn’t very good evidence. I suggest that you need much better evidence to accuse our prom queen of racism than she needs to pick her dance partner.

    > “I have collated some data about my dates of the last
    > 10 years and I’ve found a statistically significant
    > difference in dancing ability between black and white
    > partners”,

    Well sure, but if I said something as geeky as that, then no-one would want to dance with me. :-) Or to put it another way, outside of a strict formal context, my telling my girlfriend “black guys are better dancers” is often just a short way of saying what you said.

    > This may be a core heuristic of the brain, but it is
    > essentially invalid

    What you call invalid is the basis that you make nearly every decision in your life. I am sure you are an outlier in terms of the logic and care you apply to much of your conscious thought — you are obviously a very smart guy. However, I assure you, that the vast majority of your decisions are made according to this heuristic. Of course most decisions are made subconsciously, and so logic does not apply.

    Of course the fact it is a heuristic means that it fails sometimes, sometimes dramatically. Auschwitz was such a failure.

    > I can’t speak for Eric, but certainly you are obliged
    > to think carefully before making a racial judgment
    > about someone (see above).

    Who places this obligation on me? If someone asks something of me am I obliged to deal fairly with them? If so, who places that obligation on me? It seems to me that I should make choices that are in my best interest, and the best interest of those within my circle of caring. You might call that selfish, but what is the alternative? That I sacrifice the best interest of myself and those I care about for the benefit of a stranger?

    > Racial features are rarely a good proxy for B.

    That is far too broad a brush. Racial features are clearly a good proxy for a number of things. You might not like that, but they clearly are as anyone who has watched most professional sports will testify.

    > If someone claims that the majority of homosexuals
    > are pedophiles, they had better have good evidence
    > for it,

    See I think this is an interesting example. If Mary believed this based on whatever bogus evidence she had read, and she had to put her kids in child care, having the choice between a homosexual carer and a heterosexual carer, what should she do? (To be clear I do not believe that about homosexuals at all, and I don’t have any kids so the point is moot anyway.)

    However, given the circumstances described above, what should she choose? Perhaps one might take a righteous attitude and say that is outrageous to consider sexual orientation in this respect. However, Mary has gotta get to work, and frankly she don’t give a hoot about the politics of homosexuality. Is she obliged to take the time to read all the studies, do all the research, dig deep statistically to find out? Or does she just go with her prejudice and get on with life?

    Lets say the truth is that homosexuals are equally likely to be pedophiles as heterosexuals. Is she any worse off putting her kid in the care of the heterosexual? If the answer is no, then the only reason she has an obligation to do the research is to deal more fairly with the homosexual person. And it isn’t clear to me why she has such an obligation placed on her. She is, after all, pretty busy with life, and really doesn’t owe either child care provider anything.

    Perhaps you rightly say Mary is obliged to make sure her children are provided adequate care. However, her goal is sufficiency not optimality, and so her research need not head off on the tangent of sexual politics.

    This isn’t a particularly appealing position. But it seems the only practical one. The solution to justice for the homosexual child care worker is for the community as a whole to attempt to correct these attitudes in a top down manner. However, to impose on Mary the obligation to right the evils of the world seems rather inappropriate. If she wants to, then good for her, if she doesn’t she isn’t an evil person, just a busy Mom.

  136. @dgreer – Sorry my examples ran together – the genetic bit in the mice were in fact identical for the marker of this particular obesity flawed gene But the gene somehow “knew” that it was passed from the mother vs. the father in the study.

    So if if the bit was on – in both cases it only resulted in a positive when the mother contributed it – not in tests where the father did – it was present the same way – but off – so the male mouse offspring were normal. They were able to make mice luminescent by enabling the same gene that is present in both mice and squid – The name of the show was “What Darwin Never Knew” it was on Nova – worth watching and I am not doing it justice with these posts –

    The autism example was of truly identical twins (legal genetic clones) – growing up in the same environment receiving the same vaccinations at the same time – yet one ended up severely autistic and the other was fine.

    I am not a biologist or a geneticist – and I do not claim to be an expert on the subject – but the show is worth watching for someone that may want a 60,000 foot view into this. The best piece of information that I walked away from is that even though the Genome has been mapped – they ( the real scientists ) – are only 1/3 of the way to really understanding how it all works – and it really does scare me that this information could even be considered to be used in this manner.

    I guess one could go do the same thing with a map and just say all people from here are this, and people from there are that – but given a “scientific” vs. a “geographic” one – I could deduce that people who might laugh at the person making the generalizations with a map – but giving the “Genetic” reasoning a lot more credence – even though it most likely would be just flat wrong or incomplete.

  137. > How did you calculate this probability?

    I did not, obviously. This is picking a date, not picking a senator. You are assuming a formality that does not exist. In a sense, this is the very essence. Eric tells me that I have to be more formal in such decisions; I say that is impractical for most of the decisions we make day to day.

    The formality is determined by the consequences of the choice. Nobody is saying you can’t pick a white or black date because you happen to find one race more attractive than another. This is not racism; it’s a statement of personal preference. Being definitional, you can either agree or not. However, if you make a choice based on an unsubstantiated claims of task performance you are contributing to what is, for all you know, a completely false notion about blacks and whites. This is damaging. Maybe in the prom date example it doesn’t matter so much, but this is just a matter of degrees. Your scenario could just as well have been about selecting candidates for a job position.

    > The truth is there is no ‘natural’ relationship
    > between past and future measurements.

    Really? Well there goes science!

    How so? Inductive reasoning might pass on Mythbusters, but not in real science. Pre-1920′s science is not the same kind of science that is practiced today. Lots of scientists in the past used heavily flawed methods to make ground-breaking discoveries because they didn’t know any better. For every one that happened to be right there were numerous people claiming to have ‘proven’ things that they actually hadn’t. If I say I’m going to flip a heads and then I do, that doesn’t vindicate me in any way. All modern scientific work hinges on deduction from some set of assumptions.

    > Let’s suppose I want to select my dance partner using dice rolls.

    Lets say I do choose to use the black dice, am I any worse off? Unlikely. However, with the dice I am using something that has no connection whatever to the potential dancers. At least the racial background of a dancer has some connection with the person.

    Saying that the racial background is relevant is simply begging the question. If you choose the black dice, you are excluding black dice. Carrying this to the case of people, this has consequences in society, i.e. the exclusion of whites as prom partners.

    I can think of many reasons why there might be a difference between black people’s dancing ability and white people’s. However, I have chosen not to discuss them because for the most part the brain does not work that way, and, in fact, many discoveries don’t work that way either. I mentioned the Gregor Mendel. He was a monk. He had no idea how genetic characteristics are transmitted. Now of course he was more disciplined than our hypothetical prom queen. However, what he was doing was more important, and consequently worth more effort.

    You are missing my point entirely. When did I bring up causality? We’re merely talking about prediction of future events based on assumptions the connection between past and future measurements, which does not entail a causal relationship. Did Mendel fulfill all the requirements of modern science? Probably not, which is why for every Mendel in the past there were numerous other crackpots who falsely ‘proved’ various things. Happening to be right after the fact is not the same thing as knowing the truth ahead of time, which is the essence of science.

    > People are poor quantitative observers, so deductions
    > that rest on your personal experience are often suspect.

    So if I am not willing to put out the effort to actually measure my past experience quantitatively, I am not allowed to go to the dance? Even if my quantitative measures are not very good, I am not allowed to use them at all without being accused of being a racist? Am I a racist or just because I am a bad measurer?

    I didn’t say that at all; I merely pointed out that such judgments are suspect. I daresay the quality of other decisions made by prom-goers are poor in many respects. The consequences of those decisions affects the extent to which they are judged to be inappropriate. If you choose to make inconsequential personal decisions based on inductive reasoning, nobody will care. Anyone who thinks that false beliefs about the particulars of different races are inconsequential needs to consult a history book.

    > The fact that you’re willing to accept these sources
    > of evidence may be interpreted as simply holding racist
    > viewpoints

    It may be evidence, but not very good evidence. It might also be evidence that I am a robot manipulated by mind control rays by my friends. Again though it isn’t very good evidence. I suggest that you need much better evidence to accuse our prom queen of racism than she needs to pick her dance partner.

    That depends on how you define racism. I would say that anyone willing to accept poorly substantiated generalisations about one race or another is exercising racism. There are not ‘racists’ and ‘non-racists’. However, anyone who willing to espouse racist views ought to be embarrassed by their own foolishness.

    > “I have collated some data about my dates of the last
    > 10 years and I’ve found a statistically significant
    > difference in dancing ability between black and white
    > partners”,

    Well sure, but if I said something as geeky as that, then no-one would want to dance with me. :-) Or to put it another way, outside of a strict formal context, my telling my girlfriend “black guys are better dancers” is often just a short way of saying what you said.

    I don’t think people say that at all. In order to be able to say that you have to write all your measurements down and then apply a test most people don’t know exists.

    > This may be a core heuristic of the brain, but it is
    > essentially invalid

    What you call invalid is the basis that you make nearly every decision in your life. I am sure you are an outlier in terms of the logic and care you apply to much of your conscious thought — you are obviously a very smart guy. However, I assure you, that the vast majority of your decisions are made according to this heuristic. Of course most decisions are made subconsciously, and so logic does not apply.

    Of course the fact it is a heuristic means that it fails sometimes, sometimes dramatically. Auschwitz was such a failure.

    I’m not prepared to accept the odd Auschwitz so that people can exercise intellectual laziness without thought for the repercussions. I might exercise this heuristic, but if I am called out on it (because someone is unhappy with my sloppy reasoning) and I cannot formulate a deductive argument then I will admit to being wrong.

    > I can’t speak for Eric, but certainly you are obliged
    > to think carefully before making a racial judgment
    > about someone (see above).

    Who places this obligation on me? If someone asks something of me am I obliged to deal fairly with them? If so, who places that obligation on me? It seems to me that I should make choices that are in my best interest, and the best interest of those within my circle of caring. You might call that selfish, but what is the alternative? That I sacrifice the best interest of myself and those I care about for the benefit of a stranger?

    We’re getting quite philosophical here. If you have the opportunity to kill someone and steal their money without consequences, why not do it? There are lots of good reasons; the good health of your own mind, for one. If you’re happy to free-ride in an egalitarian society and treat people unfairly without having any real evidence that there’s any benefit to it, then so be it. In the end, whether you like it or not you will be judged by those around you. If your behaviour is irrational and damaging (which is the case with overt racism), that will be a point that is counted against you. Maybe you don’t care.

    > Racial features are rarely a good proxy for B.

    That is far too broad a brush. Racial features are clearly a good proxy for a number of things. You might not like that, but they clearly are as anyone who has watched most professional sports will testify.

    Are you saying that if you pick two random people off the street that a good indicator of their running ability would be their race? You could probably get a better idea by looking at their calves. Black people don’t have superhuman running abilities. Professional sports represent a highly biased selection of people, and the variation is vastly exaggerated.

    > If someone claims that the majority of homosexuals
    > are pedophiles, they had better have good evidence
    > for it,

    See I think this is an interesting example. If Mary believed this based on whatever bogus evidence she had read, and she had to put her kids in child care, having the choice between a homosexual carer and a heterosexual carer, what should she do? (To be clear I do not believe that about homosexuals at all, and I don’t have any kids so the point is moot anyway.)

    However, given the circumstances described above, what should she choose? Perhaps one might take a righteous attitude and say that is outrageous to consider sexual orientation in this respect. However, Mary has gotta get to work, and frankly she don’t give a hoot about the politics of homosexuality. Is she obliged to take the time to read all the studies, do all the research, dig deep statistically to find out? Or does she just go with her prejudice and get on with life?

    This isn’t the 1950′s; if Mary isn’t aware that sensational claims about group X having attribute Y are suspect, then she should be ashamed of her ignorance. You say that she is due to make an appearance at work; she would be better of picking the one whose location minimises her transit time, since there is no rational basis to believe her child will be molested simply because her caregiver is a homosexual.

    Lets say the truth is that homosexuals are equally likely to be pedophiles as heterosexuals. Is she any worse off putting her kid in the care of the heterosexual? If the answer is no, then the only reason she has an obligation to do the research is to deal more fairly with the homosexual person. And it isn’t clear to me why she has such an obligation placed on her. She is, after all, pretty busy with life, and really doesn’t owe either child care provider anything.

    Perhaps you rightly say Mary is obliged to make sure her children are provided adequate care. However, her goal is sufficiency not optimality, and so her research need not head off on the tangent of sexual politics.

    If she wants her offspring to enjoy the modern liberties that she does, then she ought not to contribute to their undoing. But again, if she is happy to free-ride then so be it. Others may pull the weight for her; just don’t expect them to be happy about it. They may well accuse her of being unduly prejudiced. Knowing that bias against homosexuals can easily lead people to damaging conduct is hardly following the cutting edge of sexual politics.

    This isn’t a particularly appealing position. But it seems the only practical one. The solution to justice for the homosexual child care worker is for the community as a whole to attempt to correct these attitudes in a top down manner. However, to impose on Mary the obligation to right the evils of the world seems rather inappropriate. If she wants to, then good for her, if she doesn’t she isn’t an evil person, just a busy Mom.

    Racism is fluid; the world is not divided up into evil ‘racists’ and righteous ‘non-racists’. However, racial judgments made on a day-to-day basis are usually poorly substantiated and are frequently damaging. As a result, I (and many others) do not think highly of people who allow themselves to be readily suckered by them. I’m no more outraged by racism than by the claims of, for example, anti-vaccination crowd. It’s not up to Mary to correct the evils of the world (since that implies global action); merely to make responsible decisions based on the correct interpretation of evidence. Sadly, this is something few people are willing to do. I guess they don’t think it’s practical to consider the consequences of their actions.

  138. @Jessica Boxer:

    See I think this is an interesting example. If Mary believed this based on whatever bogus evidence she had read, and she had to put her kids in child care, having the choice between a homosexual carer and a heterosexual carer, what should she do? (To be clear I do not believe that about homosexuals at all, and I don’t have any kids so the point is moot anyway.)

    However, given the circumstances described above, what should she choose? Perhaps one might take a righteous attitude and say that is outrageous to consider sexual orientation in this respect. However, Mary has gotta get to work, and frankly she don’t give a hoot about the politics of homosexuality. Is she obliged to take the time to read all the studies, do all the research, dig deep statistically to find out? Or does she just go with her prejudice and get on with life?

    Well, I guess it’s a good thing that we laws in this country about discrimination in hiring based on gender because if those laws were never created and everyone thought as you, there’s a fairly good chance that you wouldn’t have a job, but instead would be at home, barefoot and pregnant. After all, if those laws never existed, who places that obligation on employers?

    I’m not trying to be mean; those statements might piss you off. But that would be the truth of the matter if the 1960s went down very differently than they did.

    I think perhaps you should think more carefully about your attitudes; they might seem very practical to you, but to me they seem callous and even a bit cruel.

  139. Maybe in the prom date example it doesn’t matter so much, but this is just a matter of degrees. Your scenario could just as well have been about selecting candidates for a job position.

    There is no basis for the claim that Jessica “owes” anyone a dance or a job. She has the right to associate with whomever she wishes (with their mutual consent) when it comes to dancing or work, based on whatever criteria she chooses.

    Do note that the Jim Crow laws were established to force businesses to discriminate. Railroads, for instance, didn’t care what color their passengers were; only what color their money was. Maintaining segregated cars added expense that didn’t contribute to the bottom line, so they had to be coerced into doing it.

    After all, if those laws never existed, who places that obligation on employers?

    Employers hired qualified women for the same reason they hire anyone else: They think that employee will contribute to the profitability of the company. Of course, necessity is a mother; with large numbers of able-bodied men away fighting WWII, “Rosie the Riveter” indicates that it became socially acceptable for women to work in traditionally male jobs, and to work outside the home after bearing children. No one passed a law about it; individual employers remained free to make hiring decisions that discriminated against women if they wanted. They just couldn’t afford to compete with others who did hire women. But if a sexist can get a law to prevent women from working, like they do in Saudi Arabia, then they’ve forbidden that commpetition!

  140. I wrote wrote:
    >> Obliged by whom?

    Roger Phillips wrote:
    > By your moral compass, one hopes.

    If not, then what?

    > You didn’t read my entire wall of text; there is no ’special treatment’.

    Oh really? The laws aren’t special treatment?

    > For example, I can always take my hoody off.

    But, you can’t change your shifty eyes. Likewise, you can’t affect your height or “beauty” (much).

  141. > After all, if those laws never existed, who places that obligation on employers?

    Economics. All other things being equal, employers that make good employment decisions do better than those who don’t.

    That’s why the only places that have significant employment discrimination are the ones that have laws mandating it.

    You remember the progressive movement’s great accomplishment, Jim Crow, right?

  142. > It’s not up to Mary to correct the evils of the world (since that implies global action); merely to make responsible decisions based on the correct interpretation of evidence. Sadly, this is something few people are willing to do. I guess they don’t think it’s practical to consider the consequences of their actions.

    It’s a blessing that we have folks such as Phillips to teach us the error of our ways.

    > All modern scientific work hinges on deduction from some set of assumptions.

    So does all “pre-modern” scientific work and religion.

    And, before you put “modern science” up on the pedestal, look at how bad the statistics tends to be in “social science”.

    One of the reliable rules is that anything labeled “social” is crap. “Social science” gets a two-fer, as most every field with “science” in the name isn’t actually a science. (Materials science is an exception and computer science aspires to be.)

  143. @The Monster:

    Employers hired qualified women for the same reason they hire anyone else

    I know that. My statements were given to make a point, and you missed it.

    Anyway, women don’t have an equal footing in the workplace, either, especially not in IT. (which, if my guess is correct, is where Jessica Boxer works). I co-authored a paper in college about the gender pay gap. The only thing my co-author and I originally disagreed on is that I think that the pay gap these days is due primarily to normal market forces and not discrimination and she doesn’t. But knowing what I know now, I’m not sure that’s entirely true; I also don’t think it’s entirely false, either, however.

  144. One of the reliable rules is that anything labeled “social” is crap. “Social science” gets a two-fer, as most every field with “science” in the name isn’t actually a science. (Materials science is an exception and computer science aspires to be.)

    Physical science? Earth science? Yes, these are real terms: ‘physical science’ == { ‘physics’, ‘chemistry’, ‘earth science’ }. ‘Earth science’ is an all-encompassing term for any sciences dealing with the planet Earth, such as geology, geophysics, seismology, mineralogy, etc.

    This rule doesn’t seem very reliable.

  145. Andy Freeman Says:
    “Jim Crow was a creation of the progressive movement. For example, Wilson segregated the US military.”

    This is flat-out wrong.

    “Jim Crow” was created by reactionary white supremacists in the South, not by Progressives. Plessy v Ferguson, decided in 1896, upheld a Louisiana law enacted in 1890. Progressivism did not appear until the 1900s.

    Furthermore, the U.S. military was segregated long before Wilson. In fact it was segregated from its beginnings until Truman’s desegregation order in 1948. Up to that time, all blacks in the Army were assigned to “Colored” units (such as the famous “Buffalo Soldiers”), and blacks in the Navy were restricted to serving as mess boys and such.

    And while Republicans in general opposed Jim Crow and supported civil rights, the campaign to end Jim Crow and the white-supremacy regime was spearheaded by liberals, mostly Democrats.

    Wilson, who was a stone racist, segregated the U.S. Civil Service, systematically purging it of black appointees. But he was acting as a Southerner, not a Progressive.

  146. Lev Says:

    @Rich Rostrom

    >>Differences in IQ test performance correlate with differences in end-area achievement.
    >>No one is saying that individual IQ test performance should determine anything.

    >If the IQ test accurately predicts end-area achievement, what use does it have but to determine the value of an >untested candidate?

    —-

    IQ test results don’t accurately predict end-area achievement for individuals, but they correlate with end-area achievement for groups, and they explain group differentials in end-area achievement, along with a lot of other things – such as group performance differentials on employment-related tests and in work or school activity.

  147. Andy Freeman Says:
    June 24th, 2010 at 1:21 pm
    I wrote wrote:
    >> Obliged by whom?

    Roger Phillips wrote:
    > By your moral compass, one hopes.

    If not, then what?

    The same thing that stops you from stabbing hookers to death because you can get away with it; nothing. Feel free to treat people of other races differently. When you’re found out you may be labeled a racist; poor you.

    > You didn’t read my entire wall of text; there is no ’special treatment’.

    Oh really? The laws aren’t special treatment?

    You didn’t read what I said. I said that there was no special treatment of categories of fallacious thinking. Race is not treated ‘specially’, its status simply reflects its seriousness. If there were similar levels of discrimination against blonde-haired people it would be treated in the same manner.

    > example, I can always take my hoody off.

    But, you can’t change your shifty eyes. Likewise, you can’t affect your height or “beauty” (much).

    Are you suggesting that discrimination against shifty eyes has had the same consequences as discrimination based on race? Who has loaded shifty eyed people into ovens for extermination? Your height and beauty may be related to task performance, e.g. if you are a basketball player or a stripper (or even a sales person). These are not commensurate in seriousness to race.

    > It’s not up to Mary to correct the evils of the world (since that implies global action); merely to make responsible decisions based on the correct interpretation of evidence. Sadly, this is something few people are willing to do. I guess they don’t think it’s practical to consider the consequences of their actions.

    It’s a blessing that we have folks such as Phillips to teach us the error of our ways.

    I call it like I see it. The better man is glad to be corrected.

    > All modern scientific work hinges on deduction from some set of assumptions.

    So does all “pre-modern” scientific work and religion.

    This is factually incorrect. Read a book on the early philosophy of science.

    And, before you put “modern science” up on the pedestal, look at how bad the statistics tends to be in “social science”.

    People who (readily) make these mistakes are not practicing science.

    One of the reliable rules is that anything labeled “social” is crap. “Social science” gets a two-fer, as most every field with “science” in the name isn’t actually a science. (Materials science is an exception and computer science aspires to be.)

    How is this even relevant? The claims in this paragraph are accusatory but cannot be substantiated; it’s perhaps not surprising that you’re an apologist for racism.

  148. Maybe in the prom date example it doesn’t matter so much, but this is just a matter of degrees. Your scenario could just as well have been about selecting candidates for a job position.

    There is no basis for the claim that Jessica “owes” anyone a dance or a job. She has the right to associate with whomever she wishes (with their mutual consent) when it comes to dancing or work, based on whatever criteria she chooses.

    I didn’t use the word “owes”, so why does it appear in quotation marks? It’s not being used figuratively either. I don’t think she owes anyone a dance; this implies some kind of preexisting history of trade with said person. In any case, you’re attempting to introduce an assumption that can be falsified. If I am a parent, I do not have the right to choose whether or not I associate with my child. The reason this is not the case is that it would be damaging if there was no pressure on parents to look after their kids. There is no reason to believe this is the only exception to this rule.

    Do note that the Jim Crow laws were established to force businesses to discriminate. Railroads, for instance, didn’t care what color their passengers were; only what color their money was. Maintaining segregated cars added expense that didn’t contribute to the bottom line, so they had to be coerced into doing it.

    After all, if those laws never existed, who places that obligation on employers?

    Government-sponsored racism is probably the worst kind. That doesn’t excuse private racism.

    Employers hired qualified women for the same reason they hire anyone else: They think that employee will contribute to the profitability of the company. Of course, necessity is a mother; with large numbers of able-bodied men away fighting WWII, “Rosie the Riveter” indicates that it became socially acceptable for women to work in traditionally male jobs, and to work outside the home after bearing children. No one passed a law about it; individual employers remained free to make hiring decisions that discriminated against women if they wanted. They just couldn’t afford to compete with others who did hire women. But if a sexist can get a law to prevent women from working, like they do in Saudi Arabia, then they’ve forbidden that commpetition!

    All this demonstrates is that when money is tight people will compromise on their beliefs. Women were pigeon-holed into low-status jobs for decades after WWII. It wasn’t just market pressure that allowed women to obtain equal employment opportunities, but a multitude of factors such as changing attitudes, the pill, and (later) anti-discrimination laws. As for your comment about laws preventing women from working, who is suggesting this? Are these laws on the table, or set to be on the table anywhere in the 1st world?

  149. I didn’t use the word “owes”, so why does it appear in quotation marks?

    Jessica used the word earlier, again in the negative:

    She is, after all, pretty busy with life, and really doesn’t owe either child care provider anything.

    I was using scare quotes, which in retrospect wasn’t all that clear, because there are people who believe that she does in fact owe someone a date or a job.

    Government-sponsored racism is probably the worst kind. That doesn’t excuse private racism.

    The term “racism” has been stretched so badly that it’s difficult to know what you mean when you make a blanket statement like that.

    Government racism is backed by force. Private racism that is also backed by force (the Klan or other thugs using force to violate the person or property of members of particular ethnic groups) is also inexcusable Arguably, government racism is worse than private racism because when a government acts unjustly, it is violating its very reason to exist, and undermining the peace by inviting rebellion.

    However, it is not the racial aspect of either action that renders it inexcusable, it is the element of force applied to violate those people’s rights that does that. A rapist who is careful to apportion his victims evenly across all socioeconomic groups is no less evil for having victimized some men and rich white women to balance out the poor black and brown women.

    On the other hand, if a private individual refuses to purchase goods or services from someone purely on the basis of their race or gender, I might find that behavior distasteful, and even use my own freedom of association to refuse to purchase goods or services from the racist. But I would never allow my personal distaste for such stupidity to justify imposing sanctions upon him by force. So long as the worst thing an __ist does is to leave someone alone, there is no moral justification for using force against him.

    As a practical matter, if some white people choose not to live or work around blacks or vice versa, they may peacefully coexist that way, whereas if they are forced into associating with each other, there is a greater chance that they act out violently against each other. Making Black Panthers and Klansmen live in the same apartment building is probably not a good idea.

    If you are incapable of seeing the difference between someone exercising his own liberty, including freedom of association with others under mutually-agreeable terms, and someone initiating the use of force to compel behavior, then there isn’t a lot more I can say that will do any good with you. I’ll have to instead hope that any lurkers who are capable of making that distinction can understand why it is relevant.

    It wasn’t just market pressure that allowed women to obtain equal employment opportunities, but a multitude of factors such as changing attitudes, the pill, and (later) anti-discrimination laws.

    Note that all but one of your multitude of factors precede the laws. By the time that it’s true that a majority of the voters thought discriminating against women was wrong, that majority was sufficient to change things via the free market. If three quarters of the employers in an industry refuse to hire women, or pigeonhole them in menial tasks even when their talents and drive indicate otherwise, they will lose out to the quarter that uses those talented women more effectively.

    It is the change in the attitudes that liberated minorities and women. The law followed and took credit for it.

    As for your comment about laws preventing women from working, who is suggesting this?

    If you approve of the idea that a government can make a law forcing someone to employ women, then you’ve legitimized those governments that make law forcing someone not to employ them. If you approve of laws that let governments dictate racial quotas, then you’ve legitimized Jim Crow.

  150. >BTW, I don’t know if “unsane” was a typo for “insane”, but either way, it is a great word, that I plan to adopt.”

    “Unsane” is a term of art in General Semantics. In GS, “sane” behavior is that which exhibits rationality and consciousness of abstracting; “unsane” behavior exhibits semantic confusion, including but not limited to confusion between map and territory.

  151. The Monster Says:
    June 24th, 2010 at 10:29 pm
    I didn’t use the word “owes”, so why does it appear in quotation marks?

    Jessica used the word earlier, again in the negative:

    She is, after all, pretty busy with life, and really doesn’t owe either child care provider anything.

    I was using scare quotes, which in retrospect wasn’t all that clear, because there are people who believe that she does in fact owe someone a date or a job.

    I still don’t understand your point; I never forwarded the argument that anybody was owed or entitled anything individually. You don’t pay the government taxes because they’re entitled to it, you pay it because it’s deemed (correctly or not) as necessary to support the function of the government. I truly do not understand this fixation with so-called entitlements that various people are getting and how unfair it supposedly is. You don’t owe anyone a job, but if you don’t play along with the general current of society (e.g. paying your taxes, not defecating on the sidewalk, engaging in racial discrimination), then you are free-riding. Essentially, you enjoy the benefits of a tolerant and egalitarian society, but you believe it’s a violation of your rights to contribute to its maintenance.

    Government-sponsored racism is probably the worst kind. That doesn’t excuse private racism.

    The term “racism” has been stretched so badly that it’s difficult to know what you mean when you make a blanket statement like that.

    Segregation based on race is pretty clearly racist policy-making, which is what that statement was made in reference to.

    Government racism is backed by force. Private racism that is also backed by force (the Klan or other thugs using force to violate the person or property of members of particular ethnic groups) is also inexcusable Arguably, government racism is worse than private racism because when a government acts unjustly, it is violating its very reason to exist, and undermining the peace by inviting rebellion.

    However, it is not the racial aspect of either action that renders it inexcusable, it is the element of force applied to violate those people’s rights that does that. A rapist who is careful to apportion his victims evenly across all socioeconomic groups is no less evil for having victimized some men and rich white women to balance out the poor black and brown women.

    I’m not certain that you’re following me. I have never advocated that anything needs to be apportioned equally amongst the races. If black people end up with less, that’s not necessarily wrong.

    On the other hand, if a private individual refuses to purchase goods or services from someone purely on the basis of their race or gender, I might find that behavior distasteful, and even use my own freedom of association to refuse to purchase goods or services from the racist. But I would never allow my personal distaste for such stupidity to justify imposing sanctions upon him by force. So long as the worst thing an __ist does is to leave someone alone, there is no moral justification for using force against him.

    It’s quite a bold statement to claim that there is no moral justification for using force against racists who use their economic power to disadvantage minorities. Have you really exhausted all of the possible moral justifications? Chinese working on the transcontinental railroad were driven out of whole towns using non-violent boycotts. Powerful minorities strong-armed businesses to the point where they couldn’t afford to accept Chinese business. There is a very good economic and moral justification for making this kind of flagrant activity illegal. It benefits nobody to allow it to continue.

    As a practical matter, if some white people choose not to live or work around blacks or vice versa, they may peacefully coexist that way, whereas if they are forced into associating with each other, there is a greater chance that they act out violently against each other. Making Black Panthers and Klansmen live in the same apartment building is probably not a good idea.

    Are there any laws forcing you to live near blacks in existence? On the table? On the table in the future? Who is making Black Panthers and Klansmen live in the same building? We are talking about the flagrant abuse of economic power to advance an unjustifiable racial agenda, not forcing people to co-habitate in their private lives.

    If you are incapable of seeing the difference between someone exercising his own liberty, including freedom of association with others under mutually-agreeable terms, and someone initiating the use of force to compel behavior, then there isn’t a lot more I can say that will do any good with you. I’ll have to instead hope that any lurkers who are capable of making that distinction can understand why it is relevant.

    I am perfectly capable of seeing the difference between the difference between free association and force in the abstract. You are simply weasel-wording to try to introduce your opinions about what constitutes free association and coercion in the real world axiomatically. Economic rights are enforced using violent coercion; if I waltz onto your property, either you or the police may have rights under law to apply violence to remove me. The fact that you (presumably) obtained the land through legitimate economic transactions does not provide an escape to this problem, as it is simply begging the question. It is a myth that economic competition is somehow axiomatically more righteous than, say, warfare. Your false axioms do not bypass argument about the actual consequences of our actions.

    It wasn’t just market pressure that allowed women to obtain equal employment opportunities, but a multitude of factors such as changing attitudes, the pill, and (later) anti-discrimination laws.

    Note that all but one of your multitude of factors precede the laws. By the time that it’s true that a majority of the voters thought discriminating against women was wrong, that majority was sufficient to change things via the free market. If three quarters of the employers in an industry refuse to hire women, or pigeonhole them in menial tasks even when their talents and drive indicate otherwise, they will lose out to the quarter that uses those talented women more effectively.

    You’re making some very specific assertions here about the timing with which various groups of people changed their opinions about women. Are you claiming that discrimination wasn’t an issue by the 60′s or 70′s? Furthermore, it is absolutely conceivable that a company could survive while maintaining sexist hiring practices or indeed a workplace environment that is actively hostile to women. It seems you accept as a basic assumption that management consistently make decisions on the basis of sound rationalism. Why should we assume that a manager who is superstitious enough to believe that women don’t make good managers is going to be a rational decision maker, even when there is money involved?

    It is the change in the attitudes that liberated minorities and women. The law followed and took credit for it.

    I certainly think attitudes were changing before anti-discrimination legislation was introduced. This does not present a good counterargument against codifying these attitudes into law. You are discounting the possible effects of legislation on attitudes outright when the time-line does not allow you to do so.

    As for your comment about laws preventing women from working, who is suggesting this?

    If you approve of the idea that a government can make a law forcing someone to employ women, then you’ve legitimized those governments that make law forcing someone not to employ them. If you approve of laws that let governments dictate racial quotas, then you’ve legitimized Jim Crow.

    How so? This viewpoint can only be justified if you think that you can deduce the legitimacy of one law from the legitimacy of another that shares some apparent similarity. You might as well tell me that if I legitimize government mandates for the safe production of food that I legitimize government mandates for deliberate poisoning of food, since they both refer to the inclusion or exclusion of substances. It is fallacious to argue for the truth of statement thing purely on the basis of similarity to another. Furthermore, I never put forth support for quotas, as I think are a form of racist policy. Anti-discrimination laws are broader than affirmative action style legislation. Maybe you have a rampant, government-mandated quota system in the US; if so, I am against it.

  152. legislation on attitudes outright when the time-line does not allow you to do so.

    That should be ‘legislation regarding employment practices’.

  153. >It is a myth that economic competition is somehow axiomatically more righteous than, say, warfare.

    Um, no, no it isn’t. Economic competition doesn’t involve applying force to anyone. Economic transactions are voluntary. (Both in theory.) If that theory is rendered false–say the Mafia are forcing people to pay protection money, or gunning down competitors–then it stops being considered more legitimate than violence of any other sort. However, when no violence is being used, you need a really overwhelming justification to bring violence into the equation–whether directly or via governmental coercion. Trying to ensure nondiscrimination does not qualify, in my opinion.

    >Economic rights are enforced using violent coercion; if I waltz onto your property, either you or the police may have rights under law to apply violence to remove me.

    I have no idea why you might think that this is even marginally relevant. The fact that you are justified in using violence against a trespasser to force them to leave does not mean that the government is justified in using violence against you to force you to hire black people. The difference is that the trespasser has done violence against you (in a philosophical sense) by violating your property. You axiomatically have a right to be secure in your property. Individual minorities do not axiomatically have the right to be hired by you, nor does the government axiomatically have the right to enforce your hiring practices.

  154. I’m okay with much of the discussion in this article: after all, science shedding light onto the fixed underpinnings of our personality has been around for centuries — from biology and psychology to chemistry to sociology to genetics and neuroscience and onward, we all know we aren’t blank slates.

    At the same time, I’m concerned about ESR’s bogus category of “racial grievance-mongering.” The only “obvious” concerns about race are Neo-Nazis, black separatists, and a moderate-conservative Indian political party? Really? Even if there is a genetic component to intelligence, few would have the myopia to claim that such a component is sufficient to explain the source of *all* intelligence. The “Political Left” wishes to address the socio-economic roots of inequality in our society — and for that, genetics doesn’t matter one bit.

    Exploring the genetic roots of intelligence is important! but it is not everything.

  155. >It is a myth that economic competition is somehow axiomatically more righteous than, say, warfare.

    Um, no, no it isn’t. Economic competition doesn’t involve applying force to anyone. Economic transactions are voluntary.

    Being condescending doesn’t increase the veracity of your argument. If you cheat the economic system, then you are subject to violent penalties. The fact that this violence is predicated by a violation of some system of property does not mean that it ceases to be violence. What divine source do property laws come from? They are a human invention, like any other legal construct.

    In any case, there are plenty of counter-examples to your claim. For example, if someone buys out all of the viable farming land on your smallish island then your choice to trade with them is no more voluntary than being forced to do something a knife point. Perhaps they will demand sexual favours from your daughter in return for not allowing you to starve to death. I see no reason to think such conduct is necessarily any more righteous than forcibly overthrowing said person and putting their land under better management.

    (Both in theory.) If that theory is rendered false–say the Mafia are forcing people to pay protection money, or gunning down competitors–then it stops being considered more legitimate than violence of any other sort. However, when no violence is being used, you need a really overwhelming justification to bring violence into the equation–whether directly or via governmental coercion. Trying to ensure nondiscrimination does not qualify, in my opinion.

    Violence is in the equation in any society. If you have rules about how people are allowed to deal with one another, then they are going to be enforced through threat of violence. This goes equally for property laws and laws regarding discrimination. There’s not even any reason that property rights cannot be said to prohibit forms of discrimination, other than that you simply assume it to be so.

    You axiomatically have a right to be secure in your property.

    Where does this axiom come from? This is not even a complete statement; how is property is assigned to owners, and what means are they permitted to use to enforce their rights? It is hardly true that everyone agrees on these issues, and so you cannot claim they are axiomatic. Property rights are generally accepted in various forms because they can be justified from assumptions that are more widely agreed upon, such as the desirability of secure living conditions. Anti-discrimination laws are justified via the same process.

    >Economic rights are enforced using violent coercion; if I waltz onto your property, either you or the police may have rights under law to apply violence to remove me.

    I have no idea why you might think that this is even marginally relevant. The fact that you are justified in using violence against a trespasser to force them to leave does not mean that the government is justified in using violence against you to force you to hire black people. The difference is that the trespasser has done violence against you (in a philosophical sense) by violating your property. You axiomatically have a right to be secure in your property.

    You are equating trespass with violence. If I sit on your lawn, no harm is done to your person, nor is there the threat of harm to your person in the future. What kind of violence is it then? I could equally describe discriminatory hiring practices as being violent (“in a philosophical sense”).

    Individual minorities do not axiomatically have the right to be hired by you, nor does the government axiomatically have the right to enforce your hiring practices.

    Why do you keep saying ‘axiomatically’? I never said any of these things. I certainly did not suggest that the government ‘axiomatically’ has any particular rights. It’s sensible to allow them to do these things because it produces certain outcomes that many people agree are good. Perhaps you don’t know what the word ‘axiomatically’ means.

  156. If I sit on your lawn, no harm is done to your person, nor is there the threat of harm to your person in the future.

    Roger, Roger… Care to provide your address so we can send over a few busloads of purple-shirted SEIU thugs to occupy your lawn?

  157. I could equally describe discriminatory hiring practices as being violent

    But the difference is that the alleged victim of those practices doesn’t own the job.

    Either transactions will be entered into voluntarily, or force will be used to compel those transactions. In the former case, all parties to the transactions will do so because they believe they benefit. In the latter case, at least one party will have been compelled to engage in a transaction that leaves him the worse.

    You can pretend that the defensive use of force against an aggressor is the same as the offensive use of force by that aggressor, but the difference exists and is crucial.

  158. Being condescending doesn’t increase the veracity of your argument. If you cheat the economic system, then you are subject to violent penalties. The fact that this violence is predicated by a violation of some system of property does not mean that it ceases to be violence. What divine source do property laws come from? They are a human invention, like any other legal construct.

    While property laws are actually a human concept, the concept of ‘property’ is not a human invention. Ever see a lion with a piece of meat? I guarantee you that lion considers that piece of meat ‘his’. If you’re unsure, go ahead an try to take it away from him. Go ahead. I’m waiting…

  159. You might as well tell me that if I legitimize government mandates for the safe production of food that I legitimize government mandates for deliberate poisoning of food, since they both refer to the inclusion or exclusion of substances.

    Governments that assert the power to require nutritional additives can define something as an essential nutrient that is harmful to some people.

    A decade or so ago, I recall a scientific study that showed that rear-seat automobile passengers were actually better off not using a lap seatbelt without any shoulder strap, because it increased the severity of injury more often than it reduced it. And yet several US state governments mandate that passengers use those belts.

    Back during the 70s, the Consumer Product Safety Commission evaluated the standards for flame retardance in infant/children’s sleepwear, and determined that they needed to raise those standards significantly. Never mind that the majority of fire-related deaths are from smoke or toxic fume inhalation rather than burns, and that those deaths that occur while people sleep are even more likely to be from inhalation. The experts decided that we had to do it for The Children™!

    Well, there was only one economically-feasible way to comply with these new regulations, which was to use fabric impregnated with a chemical called Tris. After use of that chemical became widespread in response to the new rules, someone noticed that Tris exposure in lab rats correlated to higher incidence of cancer. so the CPSC issued a ban on the use of Tris in children’s clothing, or in cloth intended for use in children’s clothing.

    So yes, once you grant to government the power to demand that certain products must include certain ingredients or possess certain characteristics, you’ve opened the door to them demanding something harmful.

  160. I’ve seen the idea that people don’t hire black folks because they’re afraid of the threat of an EEOC lawsuit, but I don’t think it holds water. Whether you’re coming up with it out of thin air (I haven’t seen it elsewhere, but I haven’t really looked) or it’s really a reason people give for maintaining an all-white workforce, it doesn’t make sense.

    At some point in the past, discrimination was openly practiced on the basis of race. Now, it’s not. However, the hiring gap and level of prejudice seems to have followed a pretty straight trajectory from the until now. The change, then, from unacceptable justifications for racial discrimination (I don’t like black people) to more acceptable-sounding justifications (I don’t want to be the target of an EEOC lawsuit). The actual presence of discrimination seems to have been constant, or at least pretty linear, over this time period, implying that the deeper cause remains the same.

    This justification is not given as a reason to avoid hiring women or older people, despite the EEOC addressing more complaints on sex and age (combined) than they do on race, which implies that there might be something else at work there. (The total number of claims addressed is, in the scheme of things, pretty small, and the actual number of suits filed is minuscule, something like one in a million Americans per year is the plaintiff in a case.) It smacks of post hoc justification for something you’ve already chosen to believe, i.e., racism isn’t a significant force in American life, or if it is, it’s just “grievance mongers” taking advantage of silly white guilt which shouldn’t even exist at this point.

    The problem isn’t that nobody’s thought of judging people as individuals. The problem is that people think they’re not applying bogus racist memes to their thinking, but in reality, they’ve just come up with justifications to let themselves proceed as they were before. Last generation’s “lazy and shiftless” is this generation’s “is an EEOC risk”. I’m sure the people picking through names in the Chicago resume study didn’t think they were discriminating on race, but they were.

    And this is why your proposal is flawed. People are profoundly good at self-deception, and one of the things we’re measurably excellent at deceiving ourselves on is the way we discriminate based on race. If we followed your prescription, we’d just all be occasionally shocked by results like the Chicago resume study, and then probably brush it off with a laughable bit of nonsense like claiming that frivolous EEOC suits are a credible threat to employers, because it’s easier to come up with a justification than to change your mind.

    Patrick Maupin: A company which had its own evaluation test could save big bucks on hiring the black candidate nobody else wants, if it weren’t for interference from that little thing called the minimum wage.

    Yes, some job is, except in a few pathological cases, better than no job at all, but I’m trying to imagine the reaction you’d get if you explain to someone that, well, you won’t get a job because you’re black, but because I’m such a nice, non-racist fellow, I’d be happy to hire you for to do the same work white guys do, but at a much lower wage, and also, there’s nothing racist about this arrangement.

  161. The Monster: Back during the 70s, the Consumer Product Safety Commission evaluated the standards for flame retardance in infant/children’s sleepwear, and determined that they needed to raise those standards significantly. Never mind that the majority of fire-related deaths are from smoke or toxic fume inhalation rather than burns, and that those deaths that occur while people sleep are even more likely to be from inhalation.

    That’s a bit of a non sequitur; even if more children die from smoke inhalation in fires, that doesn’t mean that flame-retardant sleepwear is a bad idea. As the ban notice from the CPSC itself notes, “CPSC continues to strongly support the need for flame-resistant sleepwear. Recent investigations indicate that burn injuries to children wearing flame-resistant sleepwear are significantly less severe than those to children wearing non-flame-resistant sleepwear.”

    It’s an ironic story, but it doesn’t illustrate the point you’re trying to make about mandating known-harmful things for stupid reasons. I’m sure that BP thought it had an effective and cost-efficient way of extracting oil when it built Deepwater Horizon, but it turned out that they were wrong. They didn’t build it because they were blinkered by ideology or suckered into it; they legitimately thought it was a good idea.

  162. >You are equating trespass with violence. If I sit on your lawn, no harm is done to your person, nor is there the threat of harm to your person in the future. What kind of violence is it then? I could equally describe discriminatory hiring practices as being violent (”in a philosophical sense”).

    I am working in a philosophical system that equates, in a moral sense, harm done to your property to harm done to your body. (After all, your body is your property, is it not?) Trespass in a non-physically-violent manner is, in this sense, equivalent to violence. Not very severe violence–say it’s equivalent to someone poking you in the arm–but violence nonetheless. If someone is repeatedly poking you in the arm, you have the right to grab them and force them to stop. The same sort of equation holds true for preventing people from trespassing. Most people would say that you would be wrong to, say, shoot someone who is sitting on your lawn, but they are still the initiators of force. (“Force” used, again, in a philosophical sense.) If you can elucidate a coherent philosophical system that equates discriminatory hiring practices with violence, then maybe I’ll take your analogy seriously.

  163. > Oh really? The laws aren’t special treatment?

    > You didn’t read what I said. I said that there was no special treatment of categories of fallacious thinking. Race is not treated ’specially’, its status simply reflects its seriousness.

    Umm, stating that different treatment is appropriate for any reason is stating that something is special for that reason.

    You’re free to argue that race should be treated differently, but in doing so, you’re arguing for special treatment.

    > > But, you can’t change your shifty eyes. Likewise, you can’t affect your height or “beauty” (much).

    > Are you suggesting that discrimination against shifty eyes has had the same consequences as discrimination based on race?

    People have been denied jobs on the basis of shifty eyes and on the basis of race. How are those consequences different?

    > Who has loaded shifty eyed people into ovens for extermination?

    Pol Pot didn’t use ovens, but he did kill on the basis of eyewear, among other things.

    > > > All modern scientific work hinges on deduction from some set of assumptions.

    > >So does all “pre-modern” scientific work and religion.

    > This is factually incorrect. Read a book on the early philosophy of science.

    Yes, do. You may not agree with their assumptions, you may find their arguments unsound, you may not like how they handle data, but deduction from assumptions is how “pre-modern” science and religion work.

    For example, the stereotype Aristotelean answers the question “how many teeth does a donkey have?” with the assumptions “all knowledge is to be found in {books}”, contents of those books, and deduction. Suppose one of those books says that all four legged creatures have 10 teeth. The deductive path is fairly clear.

    > it’s perhaps not surprising that you’re an apologist for racism.

    Considering the source, that’s pretty much proof that I’m not.

  164. > This viewpoint can only be justified if you think that you can deduce the legitimacy of one law from the legitimacy of another that shares some apparent similarity. You might as well tell me that if I legitimize government mandates for the safe production of food that I legitimize government mandates for deliberate poisoning of food, since they both refer to the inclusion or exclusion of substances.

    You’re catching on.

    You seem to think that a law mandating no more than x grams of fat in a burger is legitimate if x has an acceptable value. What principle are you using to determine whether a given value of x is acceptable?

    A govt that can tell you who you can hire can use any criteria it pleases.

  165. The Monster Says:
    June 25th, 2010 at 9:15 am
    If I sit on your lawn, no harm is done to your person, nor is there the threat of harm to your person in the future.

    Roger, Roger… Care to provide your address so we can send over a few busloads of purple-shirted SEIU thugs to occupy your lawn?

    I am not defending trespass; I said it wasn’t violent. Also I don’t have a lawn.

    The Monster Says:
    June 25th, 2010 at 9:21 am
    I could equally describe discriminatory hiring practices as being violent

    But the difference is that the alleged victim of those practices doesn’t own the job.

    You’re begging the question. I grow tired of pointing this out.

    Either transactions will be entered into voluntarily, or force will be used to compel those transactions. In the former case, all parties to the transactions will do so because they believe they benefit. In the latter case, at least one party will have been compelled to engage in a transaction that leaves him the worse.

    Not true; as more land is bought and developed, my ability to live off the sweat of my own brow in the woods by, say, hunting is diminished. Who owns those woods? It doesn’t matter how many decades I spend wandering the woods, someone else can claim ownership (see: Australian Aboriginals and others). At that point violence will be used to eject me, because I am trespassing. Who is the aggressor here?

    You can pretend that the defensive use of force against an aggressor is the same as the offensive use of force by that aggressor, but the difference exists and is crucial.

    I would find your argument more compelling if you weren’t just introducing new arguments that you take to be correct by definition. I am not pretending there is no difference between defense and offense. I did not say this at any point. I disagree that you can simply assert that violence done in defense of property is defensive and that violence done in defense of egalitarian ideals is offensive.

    Morgan Greywolf Says:
    June 25th, 2010 at 9:37 am
    Being condescending doesn’t increase the veracity of your argument. If you cheat the economic system, then you are subject to violent penalties. The fact that this violence is predicated by a violation of some system of property does not mean that it ceases to be violence. What divine source do property laws come from? They are a human invention, like any other legal construct.

    While property laws are actually a human concept, the concept of ‘property’ is not a human invention. Ever see a lion with a piece of meat? I guarantee you that lion considers that piece of meat ‘his’. If you’re unsure, go ahead an try to take it away from him. Go ahead. I’m waiting…

    I didn’t say the concept of property was a human invention; the specific codes that give the concept the force of law are.

    You might as well tell me that if I legitimize government mandates for the safe production of food that I legitimize government mandates for deliberate poisoning of food, since they both refer to the inclusion or exclusion of substances.

    Governments that assert the power to require nutritional additives can define something as an essential nutrient that is harmful to some people.

    A decade or so ago, I recall a scientific study that showed that rear-seat automobile passengers were actually better off not using a lap seatbelt without any shoulder strap, because it increased the severity of injury more often than it reduced it. And yet several US state governments mandate that passengers use those belts.

    Back during the 70s, the Consumer Product Safety Commission evaluated the standards for flame retardance in infant/children’s sleepwear, and determined that they needed to raise those standards significantly. Never mind that the majority of fire-related deaths are from smoke or toxic fume inhalation rather than burns, and that those deaths that occur while people sleep are even more likely to be from inhalation. The experts decided that we had to do it for The Children™!

    Well, there was only one economically-feasible way to comply with these new regulations, which was to use fabric impregnated with a chemical called Tris. After use of that chemical became widespread in response to the new rules, someone noticed that Tris exposure in lab rats correlated to higher incidence of cancer. so the CPSC issued a ban on the use of Tris in children’s clothing, or in cloth intended for use in children’s clothing.

    So yes, once you grant to government the power to demand that certain products must include certain ingredients or possess certain characteristics, you’ve opened the door to them demanding something harmful.

    This is a long one. However, I never stated that government regulation could not be harmful. You missed the word ‘deliberate’. If the government was found to have deliberately poisoned anyone, it would hardly be seen as legitimate. Likewise, the effect of Jim Crow laws could hardly be said to be accidental. I’ll bite though; there is no reason to believe people cannot be forced to ingest harmful substances under a free market regime. Perhaps some enterprising retailer thinks it would be more profitable to sell you drugs than food. So, he secretly laces his food with an addictive substance for 6 months until you are thoroughly addicted. I guess this is completely non-violent; after all, nobody forced you to eat his food. If you don’t like his food, you should have eaten somewhere else.

  166. For example, the stereotype Aristotelean answers the question “how many teeth does a donkey have?” with the assumptions “all knowledge is to be found in {books}”, contents of those books, and deduction. Suppose one of those books says that all four legged creatures have 10 teeth. The deductive path is fairly clear.

    Have you ever read Aristotle’s History of Animals, On The Generation of Animals or On the Parts of Animals? They might surprise you. Sure, they contain lots of very obvious mistakes — remember that Aristotle believed in concepts like formal causes and that everything was made up of the 5 elements of earth, air, fire, water and aether — but they do show how Aristotle used empirical research, and he does get a lot of things right, like separating aquatic mammals from fish and classifying rays and sharks together. Aristotle was by no means an idiot, he was just a product of the time in which he lived.

  167. Andy Freeman Says:
    June 25th, 2010 at 5:07 pm
    > Oh really? The laws aren’t special treatment?

    > You didn’t read what I said. I said that there was no special treatment of categories of fallacious thinking. Race is not treated ’specially’, its status simply reflects its seriousness.

    Umm, stating that different treatment is appropriate for any reason is stating that something is special for that reason.

    You’re free to argue that race should be treated differently, but in doing so, you’re arguing for special treatment.

    There is a difference between treating something differently and treating it specially. The sine function varies from point to point, but it is not defined as a set of special cases; however, it certainly differs from point to point. In society the condemnation of various behaviours is fluid. The fact that legislation requires a certain level of condemnation turns it into a step function. This does not make it a ‘special case’. Any behaviour can get past that bar.

    > > But, you can’t change your shifty eyes. Likewise, you can’t affect your height or “beauty” (much).

    > Are you suggesting that discrimination against shifty eyes has had the same consequences as discrimination based on race?

    People have been denied jobs on the basis of shifty eyes and on the basis of race. How are those consequences different?

    You can consider me a critic of discrimination against shifty-eyed people. If you can obtain enough support, there is no special reason the legislation cannot be amended to cover appearance (it already has been in some places).

    > Who has loaded shifty eyed people into ovens for extermination?

    Pol Pot didn’t use ovens, but he did kill on the basis of eyewear, among other things.

    We were talking about shifty eyes, not eyewear. Even if we substitute eyewear into your original argument, the key point stands: racial discrimination has been rife throughout this century, and so there was sufficient support for legislation. If there were lynchings and overwhelming and artificial disadvantage for people with eyewear then the same argument would be made.

    > > > All modern scientific work hinges on deduction from some set of assumptions.

    > >So does all “pre-modern” scientific work and religion.

    > This is factually incorrect. Read a book on the early philosophy of science.

    Yes, do. You may not agree with their assumptions, you may find their arguments unsound, you may not like how they handle data, but deduction from assumptions is how “pre-modern” science and religion work.

    For example, the stereotype Aristotelean answers the question “how many teeth does a donkey have?” with the assumptions “all knowledge is to be found in {books}”, contents of those books, and deduction. Suppose one of those books says that all four legged creatures have 10 teeth. The deductive path is fairly clear.

    Such a deduction is essentially vacuous, and lacks any substantial deductive content. Likewise, if I simply assume that inductive reasoning is valid, this is morally no better than simply using inductive reasoning, and in addition such a scheme can be used to prove anything, no matter how absurd. Furthermore, the fact that one can reconstruct this deduction does not entail that the hypothetical scientist in question also constructed it. We know many scientists simply assumed that inductive reasoning was correct. I do not intend on wasting my time arguing over the semantic issue of whether this corresponds precisely to the language in my original assertion.

  168. Andy Freeman Says:
    June 25th, 2010 at 5:15 pm
    > This viewpoint can only be justified if you think that you can deduce the legitimacy of one law from the legitimacy of another that shares some apparent similarity. You might as well tell me that if I legitimize government mandates for the safe production of food that I legitimize government mandates for deliberate poisoning of food, since they both refer to the inclusion or exclusion of substances.

    You’re catching on.

    You seem to think that a law mandating no more than x grams of fat in a burger is legitimate if x has an acceptable value. What principle are you using to determine whether a given value of x is acceptable?

    I neither said nor implied this, but it seems you’re happy to put words into my mouth regardless. I was making a statement about what can and can’t be inferred to be legitimate based on what other things are said to be legitimate. I never made a statement in support of any kind of food safety regulation.

    A govt that can tell you who you can hire can use any criteria it pleases.

    A government that can tell you whether something is your property can use any criteria it pleases.

  169. @grendelkhan:

    A company which had its own evaluation test could save big bucks on hiring the black candidate nobody else wants, if it weren’t for interference from that little thing called the minimum wage.

    Yes, some job is, except in a few pathological cases, better than no job at all, but I’m trying to imagine the reaction you’d get if you explain to someone that, well, you won’t get a job because you’re black, but because I’m such a nice, non-racist fellow, I’d be happy to hire you for to do the same work white guys do, but at a much lower wage, and also, there’s nothing racist about this arrangement.

    To your point, that very racist act (unequal pay for equal work) happens subtly all the time. You can see companies get caught in this sort of behavior in the news on a regular basis, and you’re an idiot who doesn’t read very carefully if you think I was advocating that sort of racism.

    It’s pretty basic economics that the minimum wage artificially restricts the number of available jobs by effectively putting the entire citizenry into a union of sorts, and that, in locations where the average minority high school graduate can be expected to perform at a much lower level than the average non-minority high school graduate (this is not true everywhere, but I can certainly show you places where it is), it it harder for a minority to get into the union.

    Lower the minimum starting wage, and a lot more people can get into the union, where they can then proceed to prove themselves (or not).

  170. @Patrick Maupin
    My thing is that a contract between an employer and and employee should ONLY be between the employer and the employee. If I am willing to work for $5 an hour, I should be able to find a spot working for $5 an hour. If the employer cannot find quality applicants willing to work for $5 an hour, the employer can raise his own starting wage without the external interference.

    As for the genetic information, I just saw an article on GenomeWeb that linked to http://www.ginahelp.org/ that tries to make understanding the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 a little more palatable. It seems that there are going to be legal issues with insuring people based on genetic markers due to a person’s race.

  171. Lower the minimum starting wage, and a lot more people can get into the union, where they can then proceed to prove themselves (or not).

    Lowering or eliminating the minimum wage would sure go a long way towards fixing the illegal immigration problem. Just sayin’.

  172. Lowering or eliminating the minimum wage would sure go a long way towards fixing the illegal immigration problem. Just sayin’.

    Yes, despite the fact that illegally produced income is still taxable, and the IRS is the organization that took down Al Capone, it will always be easier to tax legal transactions, for the simple reason that people have less to hide when they are operating legally.

    So from a government revenue enhancement perspective, it appears to make really good sense to legalize and tax all sorts of currently legal behaviors, from paying people less than minimum wage, to prostitution and gambling, to recreational drugs.

    Of course, all of these things have been abused at different places and times, which brings a moral component into the equation, and may also bring in an offsetting economic component — when people are paid less, they can’t buy as much stuff (and, in fact, might not even money to live on); if prostitution is legal, next thing you know you might have less detectable coercion and underage prostitute; addicting a populace to opium has been shown to be an extremely effective way to control a nation and reduce its GDP; etc.

    So it’s understandable that people become polarized on these issues, but it makes it harder to come up with rational solutions.

  173. Well, there’s no correlation between stricter enforcement of prostitution or drug laws and actual occurrences or abuse. Furthermore, labor laws have failed to stop sweatshops from existing. Government and legislation simply can’t solve all problems.

  174. Well, there’s no correlation between stricter enforcement of prostitution or drug laws and actual occurrences or abuse.

    Cite?

  175. I cut and pasted incorrectly — I am curious about citations on the prostitution and on the sweatshops. I agree that, in general, enforcement of drug laws is inadequate to change behavior. I have no opinion as to whether it would even be theoretically possible to enforce drug laws sufficiently to make a dent in behavior, but I do feel that an effective level of enforcement would be economically ruinous.

    However, I have seen first-hand evidence that enforcement at economically viable levels can reduce prostitution and sweatshops significantly.

  176. > If the government was found to have deliberately poisoned anyone, it would hardly be seen as legitimate.

    Since the US govt has deliberately poisoned people, the resultant loss of legitimacy must result in, what exactly?

    > I’ll bite though; there is no reason to believe people cannot be forced to ingest harmful substances under a free market regime.

    “free market” – voluntary transactions
    “force” – involuntary transactions – “do what I want or I will hurt you”

    > Perhaps some enterprising retailer thinks it would be more profitable to sell you drugs than food. So, he secretly laces his food with an addictive substance for 6 months until you are thoroughly addicted. I guess this is completely non-violent; after all, nobody forced you to eat his food.

    Yup, no force was involved. So, it isn’t an example of the “forced to ingest”.

    It’s an example of something else, namely fraud.

    Roger Phillips acts as if “{x} is a name for a bad thing, {y} is a bad thing, therefore {y} is called {x}” is valid.

  177. > If the government was found to have deliberately poisoned anyone, it would hardly be seen as legitimate.

    Since the US govt has deliberately poisoned people, the resultant loss of legitimacy must result in, what exactly?

    I don’t recall making an assertion about the consequences, nor does my argument rest on the consequences of government regulation; I already stated the government regulation can be harmful. How many viewpoints that I never espoused are you going to attack?

    > I’ll bite though; there is no reason to believe people cannot be forced to ingest harmful substances under a free market regime.

    “free market” – voluntary transactions
    “force” – involuntary transactions – “do what I want or I will hurt you”

    This is not an argument; it is a list of associations. You have failed to substantiate that economic actions cannot be coercive; it doesn’t help your case to assert these assumptions over and over without substantiation. Furthermore the term ‘force’ does not relate solely to physical violence as you assume. Even if it did, it would not negate the existence of coercion that does not involve physical violence. Notions are more important than notations.

    > Perhaps some enterprising retailer thinks it would be more profitable to sell you drugs than food. So, he secretly laces his food with an addictive substance for 6 months until you are thoroughly addicted. I guess this is completely non-violent; after all, nobody forced you to eat his food.

    Yup, no force was involved. So, it isn’t an example of the “forced to ingest”.

    Whether you can stick a particular label on it is irrelevant to the point. Besides, if the substance you have ingested has permanent effects, then he may have forced you to continue ingestion into the future. Perhaps the substance has damaged your thyroid and you need T3/T4 every day for the rest of your life. You’re assuming an artificially narrow definition of the word ‘force’ as a means of trying to introduce a false dichotomy.

    It’s an example of something else, namely fraud.

    Who decides that it’s fraud, assuming it’s not falsely advertised? Presumably he doesn’t sell you food contaminated with some substance while advertising that it’s free of that substance.

    Roger Phillips acts as if “{x} is a name for a bad thing, {y} is a bad thing, therefore {y} is called {x}” is valid.

    The ability to retrofit a broken proof to a theorem doesn’t disprove it, and I never put forth this argument.

  178. >> Since the US govt has deliberately poisoned people, the resultant loss of legitimacy must result in, what exactly?

    > I don’t recall making an assertion about the consequences,

    You claimed that legitmacy was important, so it’s quite reasonable to discuss how that legitimacy matters. Or you can backpedal on when legitimacy is lost.

    Or, maybe you should avoid testable claims because they’re not working out as you’d like.

    > This is not an argument; it is a list of associations.

    Actually, no, it’s a list of definitions.

    > Whether you can stick a particular label on it is irrelevant to the point.

    No, it’s precisely the point. You’re claiming that something involves force. As a result, it is quite relevant whether or not said thing actually involves force.

  179. > Such a deduction is essentially vacuous, and lacks any substantial deductive content.

    The short chain was for the purposes of example; they did longer chains. Surely you’re not going to argue that the longer the chain, the more valid.

    However, the point stands – they did deductive reasoning from assumptions. Since that’s your definition of “modern science”….

  180. Patrick, what’s wrong with unequal pay for equal work (apart from the racism which causes it to happen)? Given the existance of racism, unequal pay for equal work is a GOOD thing. It causes racist behavior to be punished. Attempting to erase unequal pay for equal work without curing the racism that causes it actually REMOVES a penalty for racist hiring and makes it easier for racists to hire people just like them.

    You see, there is no such thing as a “free market”. There are only markets regulated by customers and markets regulated by governments. The only way to have a free market is for governments to suppress customer regulation and then fail to provide effective regulation of their own. This, you might imagine, tickles companies no end, so they seek government regulation all the time. “Regulating our business causes it to be legitimate”, yeah, sure, and it reduces customer regulation so your profits are higher.

  181. >> Since the US govt has deliberately poisoned people, the resultant loss of legitimacy must result in, what exactly?

    > I don’t recall making an assertion about the consequences,

    You claimed that legitmacy was important, so it’s quite reasonable to discuss how that legitimacy matters. Or you can backpedal on when legitimacy is lost.

    I did not claim that legitimacy was important. How many woefully wrong claims do you have to make before you drop your condescending tone? It was the person who I was responding to who was attempting to argue for the consequences of legitimacy. Arguing that legitimacy is unimportant would be a point in my favour. It would be helpful to me if you would at least pretend to be following the argument.

    Or, maybe you should avoid testable claims because they’re not working out as you’d like.

    What claims are you referring to, specifically?

    > This is not an argument; it is a list of associations.

    Actually, no, it’s a list of definitions.

    You’re really determined to be “that guy”, aren’t you? This is a semantic quibble, and a definition is not an argument either. At some point I’m expecting you to present an actual argument.

    > Whether you can stick a particular label on it is irrelevant to the point.

    No, it’s precisely the point. You’re claiming that something involves force. As a result, it is quite relevant whether or not said thing actually involves force.

    The fact that you feel you can attach the word ‘force’ to something is irrelevant; it is the underlying notion that is important. That you (arbitrarily) choose to define force as referring to very specific forms of coercion does not produce an argument. You have as yet failed to establish that economic coercion does not exist, other than to assert that certain forms of coercion somehow don’t count. You know that I accept a broader definition of force than you do; this is a mere matter of expression.

  182. Andy Freeman Says:
    June 27th, 2010 at 12:15 am
    > Such a deduction is essentially vacuous, and lacks any substantial deductive content.

    The short chain was for the purposes of example; they did longer chains. Surely you’re not going to argue that the longer the chain, the more valid.

    In deductive terms, the length of the chain is irrelevant and I never argued to the contrary. The use of assumptions that trivially lead to contradiction is however vacuous and scientifically invalid. Your Aristotelean can use a proof tree as large as he likes; it still takes me the same few steps to derive absurdity.

    Here’s a replay of how we entered this argument:

    (1) Claim: Inductive reasoning is valid because scientists used to use it.
    (2) Counter-claim: Modern science follows a deductive approach.
    (3) You: All scientists used deduction in the past.

    In this context, (2) is assumed not to include vacuous deduction. Assuming my conclusion is perfectly valid deductively, but invalid in any discussion relating to science. With this in mind, (3) is easily falsified by borrowing a book on the history of science from the library.

    However, the point stands – they did deductive reasoning from assumptions. Since that’s your definition of “modern science”….

    I did not attempt to define “modern science” at any point. I gave a necessary condition for something to be characterised as modern science. I did not claim deduction was never used prior to the modern era of science, either. You conveniently ignore the context and opt to pick on a specific sentence, attempting to squeeze out an implication about pre-modern science that was never made. The fact is that we know many scientists accepted inductive reasoning in the past. We know this to be in direct opposition to any useful deduction. So we know that in the past many scientists were not following any meaningful deductive approach.

  183. Not true; as more land is bought and developed, my ability to live off the sweat of my own brow in the woods by, say, hunting is diminished.

    That ability is also diminished by having more hunters competing in the commons. Such disputes are settled by the hunters banding together so that the more powerful gang can kill the weaker gang if they don’t leave the hunting grounds. There is no concept of “property” other than might makes right.

    The institution of agriculture provides for food supply that supports roughly 30x the population density of hunting/gathering, but in order for it to work, the farmer must have confidence that the work he does in planting and tending crops will be repaid in his enjoyment of the literal fruits of his labors. This is why property rights are required for a society to function above that primitive level. For you to come along and “hunt” his livestock or “gather” his crops, which seems perfectly acceptable under your pre-agricultural, tribal rules, requires the agricultural society to deal with you under the terms your rules dictate: Our gang will kill you if you don’t leave our grounds. Since those are the rules of hunting, you have nothing to complain about. That agriculture in turn allows that massive food surplus to subsidize people to spend time away from finding their next meal, and work on building better tools for farmers and warriors means that our gang doesn’t even need to be larger than yours, just better-armed.

    So, to summarize:


    1. Your hunting on someone else’s property is a violation of our code but not of yours.
    2. Our punishing you for it
    a. isn’t a violation of your code; in fact, it’s pretty much expected.
    b. is demanded by our code.

    Regardless of which rules you choose, you’re not going to be allowed to hunt on land that we consider to be someone’s property.

    You have as yet failed to establish that economic coercion does not exist, other than to assert that certain forms of coercion somehow don’t count.

    What exactly do you mean by “economic coercion”? Once you’ve defined that, we can move on to the question of whether it exists, and if it does exist, we can see where it fits as compared to unadorned coercion.

    If “economic coercion” is defined as “threatening not to engage in economic transactions unless certain conditions are met”, well, I think we can all agree that it exists, but I fail to see how that’s deserving of the same word as “threatening to violate someone’s life, liberty, or property unless certain conditions are met”, despite the fact that both definitions are constructed in the form “threatening ${consequence} unless certain conditions are met”. The difference between the two, is that you have no moral right to compel someone to engage in economic transactions, but you do have the right to compel them not to kill, rape, steal, etc.

  184. > I did not claim that legitimacy was important.

    You claimed that a govt that mandated poison in food lost legitmacy while that didn’t happen to a govt that mandated “good” in food. That was in response to someone pointing out that a govt that could mandate one thing in food could mandate other things, an statement which which you disagreed.

    If losing legitmacy is not important, then what is the important difference between laws mandating different things in food?

    >>> This is not an argument; it is a list of associations.

    >>Actually, no, it’s a list of definitions.

    >You’re really determined to be “that guy”, aren’t you?

    The guy who’s correct, yes. Thanks for noticing.

    > This is a semantic quibble, and a definition is not an argument either.

    I didn’t say that the definitions were the argument. I merely pointed out that they were definitions, not associations. The argument which used them followed. It showed that your example didn’t show what you claimed that it showed.

    I agree that deceit is a problem, as is ignorance, but that doesn’t make them coercion, even if all three are bad things.

    > That you (arbitrarily) choose to define force as referring to very specific forms of coercion does not produce an argument. You have as yet failed to establish that economic coercion does not exist.

    My defintion of force actually included all forms of coercion. However, you have to actually show coercion. You haven’t – you’ve merely claimed that there’s some unstated coercion in some unstated situation and therefore you’re correct. Sorry – you have to actually provide relevant details.

    I’ll help – my refusal to deal with you is not coercion, regardless of my reason, regardless of the benefit that you’d get from a deal. Your inability to find someone with whom to deal is not coercion either.

  185. > The use of assumptions that trivially lead to contradiction is however vacuous and scientifically invalid.

    Actually, those assumptions didn’t lead to contradition. They led to error, because the assumptions were false. If you’re going to discuss logic, you should learn the difference between error and contradiction.

    BTW – You also don’t know what “vacuous” means. The conclusion that horses have 12 teeth isn’t vacuous and neither was the process that lead to that conclusion. It was wrong.

    Your claim was “All modern scientific work hinges on deduction from some set of assumptions.” That followed “Pre-1920’s science is not the same kind of science that is practiced today.”

    I’ve shown that “pre-1920s science” did “hinge on deduction from some set of assumptions”.

  186. @Russell:

    Patrick, what’s wrong with prostitution or sweatshops?

    From my perspective, the main thing wrong with these is that they are illegal. This leads to all sorts of secondary problems, starting with proprietors who obviously aren’t afraid to break some laws and with employees who are quite fearful.

    what’s wrong with unequal pay for equal work (apart from the racism which causes it to happen)?

    Often times, there is absolutely nothing wrong with unequal pay for equal work, especially when there is a true marketplace for labor. But as you point out, the market is often quite distorted — the government itself is a large employer, and in some cases there is a single large employer in a town.

    Given the existance of racism, unequal pay for equal work is a GOOD thing. It causes racist behavior to be punished. Attempting to erase unequal pay for equal work without curing the racism that causes it actually REMOVES a penalty for racist hiring and makes it easier for racists to hire people just like them.

    In the case of the government, or the single large employer in an area, I don’t necessarily buy this argument. It certainly allows the large employer to attain some labor more cheaply than other labor, but this will cause no end of internal strife and resentment, and will possibly even help to perpetuate racism — if two high school graduates know they can go to the main employer in town and get two different rates for the same work, we’re back to the old South.

    In any case, given that you are responding to a thread that was started when I wrote:

    A company which had its own evaluation test could save big bucks on hiring the black candidate nobody else wants, if it weren’t for interference from that little thing called the minimum wage.

    I think it’s safe to say that I agree with at least part of your premise. And while I also agree that companies seek regulation all the time, I don’t think it’s the companies that are seeking racial quotas or equal pay laws.

    The problem with racist companies is that the racism often permeates the top level. So, if you let companies pay differentially based on race, the pay differential between blacks and whites could become institutionalized, and blacks will never make it to the top of those organizations. If I had to choose between removing equal pay laws and removing the minimum wage laws, I would definitely choose to remove the minimum wage laws. Let a company of mostly black and/or women workers making less per hour outcompete a company of mostly white male workers making more, and salaries will find their correct level pretty quickly. Also, while removing either sets of laws would be difficult, I would think that it would be much more incendiary to try to remove those laws which purport to redress discrimination…

  187. @Morgan:

    That study is very problematic, in that it was undertaken in a shifting regulatory environment:

    The feeling in the prostitution sector is that licensed businesses are inspected more often than non-licensed businesses. This situation undermines the willingness of operators of licensed businesses to adhere to the rules and complicates combating human trafficking.

    Reading further the study says that in some cases there are quotas, etc. for licensed businesses. So, it’s not just “license and tax” — it’s “license and try to regulate severely.” Nonetheless, the study says they appear to be effectively regulating “location-based businesses” (which makes good sense, since those are harder to hide). Once customers are educated that “location-based businesses” are apt to be more reliable for repeat business, it might be that most prostitution shifts to those.

    Also, the study says:

    Both the demand and supply of prostitution services appear to have decreased in the past years. However, it is debatable as to what extent this is a result of the lifting of the ban on brothels and the accompanying stricter enforcement. It is more probable that the drop in demand has been caused by other factors such as the economic downswing and the growth of the Internet.

    So, I don’t think the study is at all determinative of whether or not strict enforcement can reduce prostitution significantly.

  188. Patrick Maupin Says:
    > So from a government revenue enhancement
    > perspective, it appears to make really good
    > sense to legalize and tax all sorts of currently
    > legal behaviors, from paying people less than
    > minimum wage, to prostitution and gambling, to
    > recreational drugs.

    Well you learn something new every day. Patrick this is the best argument I have ever heard for not legalizing prostitution, drugs and gambling.

    (BTW, my apologies for my absence here, I have been busy earning a living… y’all know how that goes.)

  189. @Patrick Maupin:

    So, I don’t think the study is at all determinative of whether or not strict enforcement can reduce prostitution significantly.

    How about Las Vegas, Nevada? It’s an area of very strict and heavy enforcement, yet most of the prostitutes arrested there are back on the street the next day. Plenty of prostitutes to go around.

    FWIW–I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with prostitution itself, aside from the practical problems associated with sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy, both of which are quite preventable. It’s the world’s oldest profession and despite centuries of laws banning prostitution, it remains quite lucrative for prostitutes and pimps alike. Otherwise, no would be doing it. It’s not something I’d participate in either as a customer or as service provider, but I don’t see anything wrong with those that wish to.

  190. @morgan:

    It’s an area of very strict and heavy enforcement, yet most of the prostitutes arrested there are back on the street the next day.

    You undermine your own argument — if most of the prostitutes only spend a night in jail, it’s a tax on prostitution, not “strict and heavy enforcement.” The tourists get their prostitutes, the religious-righters get the appearance of heavy-handed law-enforcement, the city gets its share of fines, and the prostitutes get a very unevenly applied tax, which is still apparently low enough to make the whole thing profitable.

    @jessica:

    Well you learn something new every day. [ability to tax] is the best argument I have ever heard for not legalizing prostitution, drugs and gambling.

    But these things weren’t already being “taxed” with very unfair enforcement of “civil forfeitures.” If we legalize them, then there would be no reason for the civil forfeiture laws, and in theory, taxation could be a bit more fair. Or are you arguing that you would prefer that your own job be made illegal so you could more easily hide your income? :-)

  191. Andy Freeman Says:
    June 27th, 2010 at 12:13 pm
    > The use of assumptions that trivially lead to contradiction is however vacuous and scientifically invalid.

    Actually, those assumptions didn’t lead to contradition. They led to error, because the assumptions were false. If you’re going to discuss logic, you should learn the difference between error and contradiction.

    Counter-examples admitted into an argument necessarily lead to contradiction. There are counter-examples for the various assumptions we have been talking about. It’s not even clear which assumptions you were talking about, but they were all trivially vacuous.

    BTW – You also don’t know what “vacuous” means. The conclusion that horses have 12 teeth isn’t vacuous and neither was the process that lead to that conclusion. It was wrong.

    Assuming an inherent falsehood and making some deduction is indeed vacuous. The assumption of inductive reasoning is inherently false. The size of the proof tree is irrelevant.

    Your claim was “All modern scientific work hinges on deduction from some set of assumptions.” That followed “Pre-1920’s science is not the same kind of science that is practiced today.”

    This merely entails that some that some pre-modern work was not following a deductive approach. The fact that inductive reasoning was accepted by many scientists is sufficient to fulfill this condition.

    I’ve shown that “pre-1920s science” did “hinge on deduction from some set of assumptions”.

    You have shown that some pre-modern scientists used deduction; a claim that I never disputed. You’re also appealing to direct quotation when the quotation in question has been clarified; you need to show that all pre-modern scientists used a non-vacuous form of deduction. I have provided a falsification of this statement; you are yet to point out any erroneous steps in the argument.

  192. The Monster Says:
    June 27th, 2010 at 11:51 am
    Not true; as more land is bought and developed, my ability to live off the sweat of my own brow in the woods by, say, hunting is diminished.

    That ability is also diminished by having more hunters competing in the commons. Such disputes are settled by the hunters banding together so that the more powerful gang can kill the weaker gang if they don’t leave the hunting grounds. There is no concept of “property” other than might makes right.

    The fact that other hunters may be violent does not change the fact that the outcome of economic transactions are forcing my hand.

    The institution of agriculture provides for food supply that supports roughly 30x the population density of hunting/gathering, but in order for it to work, the farmer must have confidence that the work he does in planting and tending crops will be repaid in his enjoyment of the literal fruits of his labors. This is why property rights are required for a society to function above that primitive level.

    This is an interesting story, but I never disputed that property rights were necessary (nor would I, since I am for some level of property rights). I am disputing your false dichotomy; let’s stay on-topic.

    For you to come along and “hunt” his livestock or “gather” his crops, which seems perfectly acceptable under your pre-agricultural, tribal rules, requires the agricultural society to deal with you under the terms your rules dictate: Our gang will kill you if you don’t leave our grounds. Since those are the rules of hunting, you have nothing to complain about. That agriculture in turn allows that massive food surplus to subsidize people to spend time away from finding their next meal, and work on building better tools for farmers and warriors means that our gang doesn’t even need to be larger than yours, just better-armed.

    It is false to assume that someone living off the land must accept a might-makes-right philosophy. Whether you believe you’re merely engaging this person on his terms or not, you are coercing him with violence. Your basis for coercing the man with violence seems to be based on the fact that you believe your way is superior. In what way is this less coercive than government regulation?

    So, to summarize:

    1. Your hunting on someone else’s property is a violation of our code but not of yours.
    2. Our punishing you for it
    a. isn’t a violation of your code; in fact, it’s pretty much expected.
    b. is demanded by our code.
    Regardless of which rules you choose, you’re not going to be allowed to hunt on land that we consider to be someone’s property.

    (a) is an unwarranted assumption. You’re simply asserting that it’s acceptable to use violence on someone because you have decided they’re an acceptable target.

    You have as yet failed to establish that economic coercion does not exist, other than to assert that certain forms of coercion somehow don’t count.

    What exactly do you mean by “economic coercion”? Once you’ve defined that, we can move on to the question of whether it exists, and if it does exist, we can see where it fits as compared to unadorned coercion.

    If “economic coercion” is defined as “threatening not to engage in economic transactions unless certain conditions are met”, well, I think we can all agree that it exists, but I fail to see how that’s deserving of the same word as “threatening to violate someone’s life, liberty, or property unless certain conditions are met”, despite the fact that both definitions are constructed in the form “threatening ${consequence} unless certain conditions are met”.

    I already gave you several clear examples of this. If I buy all the property around your house and point out that I’ll kill you if you trespass, this is a form of coercion.

    The difference between the two, is that you have no moral right to compel someone to engage in economic transactions, but you do have the right to compel them not to kill, rape, steal, etc.

    This is begging the question (again).

  193. (a) is an unwarranted assumption. You’re simply asserting that it’s acceptable to use violence on someone because you have decided they’re an acceptable target.No, I’m asserting that under the tribal code, violence against members of other tribes that hunt game on land our tribe controls is entirely consistent with that code. We aren’t going to sit here and let them get away with stealing our game, or pretty soon we’ll be starving. Hunting/gathering civilizations are constantly butting up against other tribes, and either killing each other or working out some kind of diplomatic solution that recognizes a tribal collective property right to hunt certain lands to avoid conflict. But those diplomatic agreements follow the military realities; a tribe must demonstrate its ability to defend the lands it claims, or the other tribes won’t agree to them.

    It is false to assume that someone living off the land must accept a might-makes-right philosophy. Whether you believe you’re merely engaging this person on his terms or not, you are coercing him with violence. Your basis for coercing the man with violence seems to be based on the fact that you believe your way is superior. In what way is this less coercive than government regulation?

    If someone is “living off the land” and does not recognize my tribe’s collective property rights, his taking our game must be punished. or everyone will know that we are weak, and they can keep taking the food from our bellies. If the chief of a tribe is seen as weak enough to let it happen, he’ll probably be challenged and defeated by one of the other warriors, who will then lead us into battle against the evil intruders, who smell funny and worship false gods (at least that’s what the Witch Doctor said, and that’s good enough for me).

    If there isn’t a recognition of property rights, what else is there but might-makes-right?

    No, I’m not merely engaging him on his terms. I’m holding myself to a far higher standard than his, which restricts the use of force to the defense of people and property. It happens to be true that under his terms, by hunting on land claimed by another tribe, he’s asking for it, so he’s fair game under both codes.

    I already gave you several clear examples of this. If I buy all the property around your house and point out that I’ll kill you if you trespass, this is a form of coercion.

    That’s a ridiculous example, because our legal system doesn’t allow you to do that. You have to permit some path for me to enter and leave my property. It may be in the form of an easement that lets me and my guests use a particular road on your property, or it may be that a narrow strip of land remains public property for the purpose of serving as a public road. My right to ingress/egress are attached to the land even if you surrounded it before I bought it, and are only extinguished if you buy me out as well.

  194. (a) is an unwarranted assumption. You’re simply asserting that it’s acceptable to use violence on someone because you have decided they’re an acceptable target.

    No, I’m asserting that under the tribal code, violence against members of other tribes that hunt game on land our tribe controls is entirely consistent with that code. We aren’t going to sit here and let them get away with stealing our game, or pretty soon we’ll be starving. Hunting/gathering civilizations are constantly butting up against other tribes, and either killing each other or working out some kind of diplomatic solution that recognizes a tribal collective property right to hunt certain lands to avoid conflict. But those diplomatic agreements follow the military realities; a tribe must demonstrate its ability to defend the lands it claims, or the other tribes won’t agree to them.

    What tribal code? Who says someone who lives off the land has to accept a ‘tribal code’? We might be talking about one person here, living in the present day.

    It is false to assume that someone living off the land must accept a might-makes-right philosophy. Whether you believe you’re merely engaging this person on his terms or not, you are coercing him with violence. Your basis for coercing the man with violence seems to be based on the fact that you believe your way is superior. In what way is this less coercive than government regulation?

    If someone is “living off the land” and does not recognize my tribe’s collective property rights, his taking our game must be punished. or everyone will know that we are weak, and they can keep taking the food from our bellies. If the chief of a tribe is seen as weak enough to let it happen, he’ll probably be challenged and defeated by one of the other warriors, who will then lead us into battle against the evil intruders, who smell funny and worship false gods (at least that’s what the Witch Doctor said, and that’s good enough for me).

    Your collective property rights are defined by you. The hunter defines your property rights differently. Whose conception wins out is decided by violence; again, this is no different to government regulation. The Australia Aboriginals had their own system of property, and it wasn’t based purely on might-makes-right; the fact that the English invaders viewed it as invalid does not make it so. This is no different to government regulation.

    If there isn’t a recognition of property rights, what else is there but might-makes-right?

    Someone who lives off the land can have a concept of property rights. There is no reason they cannot be entirely in conflict with yours.

    No, I’m not merely engaging him on his terms. I’m holding myself to a far higher standard than his, which restricts the use of force to the defense of people and property. It happens to be true that under his terms, by hunting on land claimed by another tribe, he’s asking for it, so he’s fair game under both codes.

    You have not established that living off the land entails the acceptance of might-makes-right. Are you asserting that it’s okay to go and kill a man who isolates himself in the mountains because you believe he lives by a tribal code? A hunter who keeps to himself and lives off the land is hardly holding himself to a “lower standard” than someone who attempts to exclude him from property he has been hunting on for years. This is as good as an admission that warfare is a valid way to establish property rights.

    I already gave you several clear examples of this. If I buy all the property around your house and point out that I’ll kill you if you trespass, this is a form of coercion.

    That’s a ridiculous example, because our legal system doesn’t allow you to do that. You have to permit some path for me to enter and leave my property. It may be in the form of an easement that lets me and my guests use a particular road on your property, or it may be that a narrow strip of land remains public property for the purpose of serving as a public road. My right to ingress/egress are attached to the land even if you surrounded it before I bought it, and are only extinguished if you buy me out as well.

    We were not talking about any particular legal system; and certainly not our own legal system. The fact that our own legal system forbids certain kinds of voluntary trades (e.g. the ability to trade away free passage off your land) excludes it from the discussion, which related to a system where voluntary trades could not be regulated by the government. A system with restrictions relating to easements is no less regulating voluntary trades than a system that regulates trades based on discrimination.

  195. # Patrick Maupin Says:
    > But these things weren’t already being “taxed” with
    > very unfair enforcement of “civil forfeitures.”

    Ah, OK, well you have convinced me. The realization was fleeting. I guess I am still in favor of the government butting out of people’s private lives after all. Makes me want to go smoke a joint while I play the ponies. (Though I will take a pass on the third vice.)

    The point I was making is the less money we give to the government the less they can use it to screw us over. I might misquote Joe Biden by saying that it is our patriotic duty to pay as little tax as we can.

    However, that doesn’t seem as true as it used to be. Our governments has this magic word: “deficit”, and even better “stimulus” which means that spending need bear little relationship to income. As someone once pointed out, at least a drunken sailor is spending his own money.

  196. What tribal code? Who says someone who lives off the land has to accept a ‘tribal code’? We might be talking about one person here, living in the present day.

    Because he’s trespassing on my land, and apparently doesn’t accept that it is my land. You’ve been claiming that my assertion of my right to defend my property with force, up to and including lethal violence should things escalate to that point, is in fact aggression against him. If he accepts the same code of property ownership as I do, then he
    a) won’t be deliberately hunting on my property without permission
    b) once he’s informed he’s hunting on my property without permission, he’ll say “oops, sorry about that” and leave without anyone needing to inflict any violence at all (even though the threat that I will defend my property personally, or request assistance from the police in defending it, while not necessarily stated overtly, is implicit in my pointing out to him that he’s a trespasser.
    If instead, he says “well, why do you have the right to forbid me to hunt here; I’m just exercising my right to live off the land, and you’re the aggressor, because ‘property is theft’, and besides, why should I have to respect a deed granted from one Dead White Guy to another DWG?”, then he bloody doesn’t accept the code of conduct that says it’s my property.

    The fact that our own legal system forbids certain kinds of voluntary trades (e.g. the ability to trade away free passage off your land) excludes it from the discussion,

    This is deep-fried nonsense on a stick. Our legal system doesn’t forbid the trade, it recognizes that it’s oxymoronic to “own” land but not enjoy its use (which includes the right to come and go from your property as you please). With that in mind, it doesn’t allow someone who holds a large chunk of land to subdivide it and sell the parts without one of the two methods of assuring that the bundle of rights being sold can legitimately be called “property ownership”.

    Then, once those separate parcels exist, they either include the easement or a public right-of-way that cannot be unilaterally rescinded even if all but one of the pieces are reassembled. That one remaining surrounded plot still carries with it the same rights that were originally sold when the subdivision was platted, and if the owner of that last parcel somehow traded away those rights, when he then sold the land to me without them, he’d have been guilty of fraud. He couldn’t call what he was selling me “property”. If there were a way to sell someone all the rights of owning land save for the right of actually going there and returning (and I’m not sure exactly how that would work) it would have to be called something other than “property ownership”, because it isn’t.

    which related to a system where voluntary trades could not be regulated by the government.

    The word “regulated” is awfully broad, and frankly I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s deliberately used by statists in these discussions to confuse people. ESR is an anarchist; I’m a minarchist. (We’ve had a few arguments about the difference, in fact.) That distinction is of great importance, because minarchists do indeed believe in certain forms of “regulation”, which are based in assuring that transactions are characterized by informed consent. One cannot really claim that the other party to a contract has consented if the terms of the contract have not been disclosed, or have been misrepresented. Your hypothetical about a land-owner voluntarily losing his right to access his own land requires such a misrepresentation.

    The sort of “regulation” that minarchists support includes punishing a butcher who claims to be selling meat at a certain price per pound when he’s using a scale that inflates the number of pounds, or including poisonous substances in food (without disclosing that fact; if someone wants to eat food that could lead to hypertension, coronary disease, cancer, etc., once they know the risks they should be free to assume them). It does not include an externally-asserted burden considering race or gender (either to favor or oppose any particular such group) in hiring decisions.

    For what it’s worth, there is one particular case in which I’d support government action to enforce some “anti-discrimination” policy. That is if a business advertises itself to the public as adhering to some standard of non-discrimination, and then fails to do so. That constitutes fraud, and its customers who do business with it based on the promise of non-discrimination have standing to demand that it either live up to that standard or compensate them for having defrauded them. But even then, I think that the private sector can play a part: I can see a wonderful opportunity for high-minded people to create voluntary accreditation associations that put their Seal of Approval upon companies that meet their standards. You’d then know to spend your hard-earned money with Approved vendors, who in turn would find great competitive advantage from hiring plenty of women and minorities to keep their certification.

    On the other hand, if such an accreditation effectively represented a quota, and the female/minority hires didn’t really do their jobs as well as the White Heterosexual Anglophone Males that were turned away, the competing companies that hired those better-qualified WHAMs might actually be providing a better quality product or at a lower price. At that point, the Seal becomes a helpful clue to the discriminating (heh) buyer that the product will be expensive, crap, or both. The accreditation agency therefore has an incentive to protect its own reputation, and make sure that it doesn’t punish “de facto discrimination” simply based on numerical deviations in hiring from the general population. We might even see competing agencies come up with different criteria, from which customers can then make their own decisions.

    Of course, governments don’t allow competing agencies. They demand that everyone obey their edicts, no matter how wrongheaded they may be. Precisely because there is little opportunity to choose to be a customer of another government, there isn’t a lot to stop wrongheaded policies from being pushed onto everyone.

    But statists wrap up “regulation” that assures that people aren’t being cheated with “regulation” that places positive obligations on people, forcing them to engage in trades against their consent. Referring to both of those things as “regulation”, and pretending that someone who objects to the latter therefore must object to the former, is disingenuous. (“Oh, you don’t want any government at all; you want murder to be legal!!!!1111eleventy. Now let me get a match and light this straw man.”)

  197. What tribal code? Who says someone who lives off the land has to accept a ‘tribal code’? We might be talking about one person here, living in the present day.

    Because he’s trespassing on my land, and apparently doesn’t accept that it is my land. You’ve been claiming that my assertion of my right to defend my property with force, up to and including lethal violence should things escalate to that point, is in fact aggression against him. If he accepts the same code of property ownership as I do, then he
    a) won’t be deliberately hunting on my property without permission
    b) once he’s informed he’s hunting on my property without permission, he’ll say “oops, sorry about that” and leave without anyone needing to inflict any violence at all (even though the threat that I will defend my property personally, or request assistance from the police in defending it, while not necessarily stated overtly, is implicit in my pointing out to him that he’s a trespasser.
    If instead, he says “well, why do you have the right to forbid me to hunt here; I’m just exercising my right to live off the land, and you’re the aggressor, because ‘property is theft’, and besides, why should I have to respect a deed granted from one Dead White Guy to another DWG?”, then he bloody doesn’t accept the code of conduct that says it’s my property.

    The fact that he doesn’t accept your code of conduct does not imply that he has to accept a ‘tribal code’, or might-makes-right, or any other particular code. He can accept any code he wants, and that code can bestow upon him rights of ownership on what you think is your own land. Your code is no less arbitrary than his, and your enforcement of it upon him is coercive.

    The fact that our own legal system forbids certain kinds of voluntary trades (e.g. the ability to trade away free passage off your land) excludes it from the discussion,

    This is deep-fried nonsense on a stick. Our legal system doesn’t forbid the trade, it recognizes that it’s oxymoronic to “own” land but not enjoy its use (which includes the right to come and go from your property as you please). With that in mind, it doesn’t allow someone who holds a large chunk of land to subdivide it and sell the parts without one of the two methods of assuring that the bundle of rights being sold can legitimately be called “property ownership”.

    If the legal system does not permit you to trade in this manner, then it is forbidding that kind of trade. The fact that you can provide a doctrine for it does not change the fact that you are not permitted to trade away passage rights. If not being allowed to do something does not entail it being forbidden, then we evidently disagree wildly on the meaning of the word ‘forbidden’.

    Then, once those separate parcels exist, they either include the easement or a public right-of-way that cannot be unilaterally rescinded even if all but one of the pieces are reassembled. That one remaining surrounded plot still carries with it the same rights that were originally sold when the subdivision was platted, and if the owner of that last parcel somehow traded away those rights, when he then sold the land to me without them, he’d have been guilty of fraud. He couldn’t call what he was selling me “property”. If there were a way to sell someone all the rights of owning land save for the right of actually going there and returning (and I’m not sure exactly how that would work) it would have to be called something other than “property ownership”, because it isn’t.

    The government could just as easily say that food containing certain ingredients isn’t real food and that advertising it as such is fraud. This is essentially the regulation of food safety.

    which related to a system where voluntary trades could not be regulated by the government.

    The word “regulated” is awfully broad, and frankly I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s deliberately used by statists in these discussions to confuse people. ESR is an anarchist; I’m a minarchist. (We’ve had a few arguments about the difference, in fact.) That distinction is of great importance, because minarchists do indeed believe in certain forms of “regulation”, which are based in assuring that transactions are characterized by informed consent. One cannot really claim that the other party to a contract has consented if the terms of the contract have not been disclosed, or have been misrepresented. Your hypothetical about a land-owner voluntarily losing his right to access his own land requires such a misrepresentation.

    For the purposes of this discussion regulation refers the government interfering in economic transactions. The fact that it doesn’t neatly exclude the kinds of regulation that you are happy with does not mean it is too ‘broad’. I may be able to purchase the land at a lower price if passage rights are not included. There is no special reason why the government should be able to forbid this gamble any more than it should be able to forbid other gambles, such as taking up a dangerous profession without insurance. Such a gamble need not be taken up without informed consent.

    The sort of “regulation” that minarchists support includes punishing a butcher who claims to be selling meat at a certain price per pound when he’s using a scale that inflates the number of pounds, or including poisonous substances in food (without disclosing that fact; if someone wants to eat food that could lead to hypertension, coronary disease, cancer, etc., once they know the risks they should be free to assume them). It does not include an externally-asserted burden considering race or gender (either to favor or oppose any particular such group) in hiring decisions.

    You have already made it abundantly clear that you assume the regulations that you favour personally to be part of a special category. That doesn’t constitute an argument.

    For what it’s worth, there is one particular case in which I’d support government action to enforce some “anti-discrimination” policy. That is if a business advertises itself to the public as adhering to some standard of non-discrimination, and then fails to do so. That constitutes fraud, and its customers who do business with it based on the promise of non-discrimination have standing to demand that it either live up to that standard or compensate them for having defrauded them. But even then, I think that the private sector can play a part: I can see a wonderful opportunity for high-minded people to create voluntary accreditation associations that put their Seal of Approval upon companies that meet their standards. You’d then know to spend your hard-earned money with Approved vendors, who in turn would find great competitive advantage from hiring plenty of women and minorities to keep their certification.

    On the other hand, if such an accreditation effectively represented a quota, and the female/minority hires didn’t really do their jobs as well as the White Heterosexual Anglophone Males that were turned away, the competing companies that hired those better-qualified WHAMs might actually be providing a better quality product or at a lower price. At that point, the Seal becomes a helpful clue to the discriminating (heh) buyer that the product will be expensive, crap, or both. The accreditation agency therefore has an incentive to protect its own reputation, and make sure that it doesn’t punish “de facto discrimination” simply based on numerical deviations in hiring from the general population. We might even see competing agencies come up with different criteria, from which customers can then make their own decisions.

    Of course, governments don’t allow competing agencies. They demand that everyone obey their edicts, no matter how wrongheaded they may be. Precisely because there is little opportunity to choose to be a customer of another government, there isn’t a lot to stop wrongheaded policies from being pushed onto everyone.

    You seem to assume that I necessarily disagree with these ideas. I’m not endorsing them, but I don’t dismiss them out of hand for being pro-market. Our argument is over whether anti-discrimination legislation is specially coercive.

    But statists wrap up “regulation” that assures that people aren’t being cheated with “regulation” that places positive obligations on people, forcing them to engage in trades against their consent. Referring to both of those things as “regulation”, and pretending that someone who objects to the latter therefore must object to the former, is disingenuous. (”Oh, you don’t want any government at all; you want murder to be legal!!!!1111eleventy. Now let me get a match and light this straw man.”)

    There is no hard distinction between ‘positive’ obligations and any other sort of obligation. Things like quotas are probably easily agreed to be positive forms of obligation. Anti-discrimination laws encompass a broader ranger of policy than that. I don’t recall making any assertions about what you do or don’t want. We were specifically discussing your belief that economic actions cannot be coercive. I am not trying to trap you into admitting you want no regulation. It’s clear enough that you support the coercion of specific concepts of property ownership.

    When did I say that objection to one category implied objection to another? You are free to object or not to whatever you please. However, you were drawing a false distinction between two categories as support for your argument that anti-discrimination is coercive whereas a system of property rights is not. Maybe you’re not referring to me; if so, why badger me about what you think some group of “statists” think?

  198. For the purposes of this discussion regulation refers the government interfering in economic transactions.

    Well, now you’ve just moved the anticonceptual packaging from “regulation” to “interfering”. If you define “interference” to include punishing those who violate the person or property of others by force or fraud, then you’ve again packaged together things that are fundamentally different in character. Yes, babies and bathwater can be defined as “tub contents”, but to then make broad general statements about what to do with “tub contents” is proverbially problematic.

    The fact that he doesn’t accept your code of conduct does not imply that he has to accept a ‘tribal code’, or might-makes-right, or any other particular code. He can accept any code he wants, and that code can bestow upon him rights of ownership on what you think is your own land.

    Your entire premise is that anyone’s ownership of the land somehow infringes upon his ability to “live off the land”. It isn’t a question of whether he accepts my code, but of whether he accepts that someone has the right to demand he not hunt on that land.

    If we don’t agree on who owns the land, and we don’t agree on who the neutral arbiter is that should settle our dispute, then how else can our dispute be resolved but might-makes-right?

    You have already made it abundantly clear that you assume the regulations that you favour personally to be part of a special category.

    Then why did you just propose that I am arguing in favor of no regulation?

    There is no hard distinction between ‘positive’ obligations and any other sort of obligation.

    Sure there is. Let me demonstrate a few of the obvious distinctions:

    In order to respect my negative obligations toward you, I need merely refrain from killing or wounding you, or otherwise molesting your person or property. In short, I can respect those obligations by literally doing nothing, since you probably live far enough from me that it’s unlikely I’ll harm you even by some negligence on my part.

    While it requires little effort to discharge my negative obligations to the two million people who live in this metropolitan area (operating my automobile in a safe manner is the biggest effort I make toward my negative obligations), and no additional effort at all to cover the negative obligations I have toward the other 305 million or so Americans, or the other billions of people on the planet. Including those other people in the calculation doesn’t affect my obligation in the least. Positive obligations, however, can add to my burden depending on the scope of those obligations. Which particular subset of the billions of humans will necessarily affect the equality targets we are positive obligated to hit.

    To be perfectly clear, I’m not saying that no one ever has a positive obligation. However, positive obligations arise out of specific acts that create them (such as my inseminations of the Bride of Monster that produced the Monsterettes decades ago) and as such are very narrow.

    The idea that someone has a positive obligation to enter into an employer-employee relationshp with some number of members of a large group of people defined by their general appearance is simply absurd. Suppose the Diversity Police have examined my hiring practices, and told me that the next person I hire has to be black or I’ll be in trouble. It happens that a few score applications come over the transom, and after quickly rejecting those that are woefully unqualified, I come up with an even dozen to call in for interviews. As the interview process unfolds, I start to sweat, because the applicants aren’t black. Finally, I breathe a sigh of relief, as the final tally is three East Asians, six whites, a Hispanic and two blacks. (I know this because I am required to determine the interviewees’ ethnicities to comply with the order.)

    I have a positive obligation to hire a black person. But guess what? No matter which one I hire, I turn the other one down. So he goes to someone else under such an order, and damned if he still doesn’t get hired. Lather, rinse, repeat… Here we have a whole bunch of employers with a positive obligation but he keeps getting negative results out of it.

    Now, let us suppose arguendo that I decided decades ago for some reason that I like Monsterette 2 better than her older sister, and failed to fulfill my positive obligation to provide shelter, sustenance, etc. to the old clunker. Could I stand in the court and tell the judge “But Your Honor, look at how well I’m taking care of my positive obligation toward my younger daughter! Don’t punish me; I’m a great father!” That argument would be dead on arrival.

    See the difference between these two kinds of positive obligations?

    Maybe you’re not referring to me; if so, why badger me about what you think some group of “statists” think?

    You’re employing one of their favorite tactics. You’re arguing in favor of government intrusion into private transactions between consenting adults, where there is no allegation of the consent being obtained via force or fraud. So far, it looks like the shoe fits. If it doesn’t, then explain what you think the limits of government power ought to be, and we can see how you’d go about enforcing those limits so that it’s only used the way you hope it’s used, and not in the ugly ways it so often is.

    When did I say that objection to one category implied objection to another?June 27th, 2010 at 7:33 pm When you made the comment about “regulation” as if all regulation were the same, and since I object to some “regulation” it implies objection to all “regulation”. Of course, you consider the all one category, which is the fundamental issue. It’s all “tub contents”.

  199. For the purposes of this discussion regulation refers the government interfering in economic transactions.

    Well, now you’ve just moved the anticonceptual packaging from “regulation” to “interfering”. If you define “interference” to include punishing those who violate the person or property of others by force or fraud, then you’ve again packaged together things that are fundamentally different in character. Yes, babies and bathwater can be defined as “tub contents”, but to then make broad general statements about what to do with “tub contents” is proverbially problematic.

    The whole argument is over whether particular targets of regulatory control are ‘fundamentally different in character’ due to the use of coercion. You have so far not produced any convincing argument in this direction. Another claim that I’m ‘packaging’ various things inappropriately does not further your point. The only relevant difference between trespass and any other regulated behaviour is that you favour its regulation. Whether you choose to call it ‘regulation’ is irrelevant. It is the government limiting your behaviour using the threat of violence.

    The fact that he doesn’t accept your code of conduct does not imply that he has to accept a ‘tribal code’, or might-makes-right, or any other particular code. He can accept any code he wants, and that code can bestow upon him rights of ownership on what you think is your own land.

    Your entire premise is that anyone’s ownership of the land somehow infringes upon his ability to “live off the land”. It isn’t a question of whether he accepts my code, but of whether he accepts that someone has the right to demand he not hunt on that land.

    If we don’t agree on who owns the land, and we don’t agree on who the neutral arbiter is that should settle our dispute, then how else can our dispute be resolved but might-makes-right?

    Though I didn’t use the term, it was me who first suggested that might-makes-right would be the means with which the dispute would be resolved; namely, that the hunter would be driven out by force. The fact that it will happen does not change the fact that it is coercion. There is no right or wrong party; only what can be coerced using violence. This is the basis of property rights, just as it is with all other legal devices.

    You have already made it abundantly clear that you assume the regulations that you favour personally to be part of a special category.

    Then why did you just propose that I am arguing in favor of no regulation?

    I do not remember proposing this; perhaps I had you confused with another correspondent. If you quote me I will attempt to clear it up.

    There is no hard distinction between ‘positive’ obligations and any other sort of obligation.

    Sure there is. Let me demonstrate a few of the obvious distinctions:

    In order to respect my negative obligations toward you, I need merely refrain from killing or wounding you, or otherwise molesting your person or property. In short, I can respect those obligations by literally doing nothing, since you probably live far enough from me that it’s unlikely I’ll harm you even by some negligence on my part.

    While it requires little effort to discharge my negative obligations to the two million people who live in this metropolitan area (operating my automobile in a safe manner is the biggest effort I make toward my negative obligations), and no additional effort at all to cover the negative obligations I have toward the other 305 million or so Americans, or the other billions of people on the planet. Including those other people in the calculation doesn’t affect my obligation in the least. Positive obligations, however, can add to my burden depending on the scope of those obligations. Which particular subset of the billions of humans will necessarily affect the equality targets we are positive obligated to hit.

    Counter-example: does the hunter in question have a positive or negative obligation under your laws? You might choose to characterise refraining from hunting on your supposed property as a negative obligation. The plain fact of the matter is that this imposes positive burdens upon him, despite the fact that they don’t immediately take the form of legal obligations. For example, he now has to find a new way to feed himself.

    To be perfectly clear, I’m not saying that no one ever has a positive obligation. However, positive obligations arise out of specific acts that create them (such as my inseminations of the Bride of Monster that produced the Monsterettes decades ago) and as such are very narrow.

    The idea that someone has a positive obligation to enter into an employer-employee relationshp with some number of members of a large group of people defined by their general appearance is simply absurd. Suppose the Diversity Police have examined my hiring practices, and told me that the next person I hire has to be black or I’ll be in trouble. It happens that a few score applications come over the transom, and after quickly rejecting those that are woefully unqualified, I come up with an even dozen to call in for interviews. As the interview process unfolds, I start to sweat, because the applicants aren’t black. Finally, I breathe a sigh of relief, as the final tally is three East Asians, six whites, a Hispanic and two blacks. (I know this because I am required to determine the interviewees’ ethnicities to comply with the order.)

    I don’t know why you imagine I am in favour of such laws, nor why you think giving an example of a bad law refutes the universal case. Bad legislation is bad whether it relates to property or discrimination.

    I have a positive obligation to hire a black person. But guess what? No matter which one I hire, I turn the other one down. So he goes to someone else under such an order, and damned if he still doesn’t get hired. Lather, rinse, repeat… Here we have a whole bunch of employers with a positive obligation but he keeps getting negative results out of it.

    Prohibiting discrimination does not entail positive obligations (in the narrow sense that you choose to use them) for anybody. We’re not talking about specific laws imposing quotas on people, but rather the universal case. If you want to take the opportunity to restrict yourself to opposition laws that impose immediate and undue ‘positive obligations’, then you can consider me in agreement. Clearly they are in a different category to laws that do impose such obligations. That is not what we are currently arguing about.

    Now, let us suppose arguendo that I decided decades ago for some reason that I like Monsterette 2 better than her older sister, and failed to fulfill my positive obligation to provide shelter, sustenance, etc. to the old clunker. Could I stand in the court and tell the judge “But Your Honor, look at how well I’m taking care of my positive obligation toward my younger daughter! Don’t punish me; I’m a great father!” That argument would be dead on arrival.

    See the difference between these two kinds of positive obligations?

    As stated above, I reject the assumption that all discrimination laws impose positive obligations.

    Maybe you’re not referring to me; if so, why badger me about what you think some group of “statists” think?

    You’re employing one of their favorite tactics. You’re arguing in favor of government intrusion into private transactions between consenting adults, where there is no allegation of the consent being obtained via force or fraud. So far, it looks like the shoe fits. If it doesn’t, then explain what you think the limits of government power ought to be, and we can see how you’d go about enforcing those limits so that it’s only used the way you hope it’s used, and not in the ugly ways it so often is.

    We are not arguing about the specific limits of government power. We are arguing about your claim that property rights are in a special category. Saying you think the shoe of a “statist” fits me is not an argument that furthers your claim.

    When did I say that objection to one category implied objection to another?June 27th, 2010 at 7:33 pm When you made the comment about “regulation” as if all regulation were the same, and since I object to some “regulation” it implies objection to all “regulation”. Of course, you consider the all one category, which is the fundamental issue. It’s all “tub contents”.

    I did not make that inference, nor would I; it would be fallacious. If you state that you dislike regulation, and I attempt to limit or broaden the scope of the term “regulation”, that doesn’t have some retroactive effect on your statement; it’s a mere matter of definition. At best it requires a restatement of your position using the new terms of discourse. The fact of the matter is that whenever the government tells you what you can and cannot do it involves coercion. Easement laws are enforced by coerced limits on trade. As a result, any argument that attempts to discount discrimination laws purely on the basis of being coercive works equally for easement laws.

  200. Apparently in my haste I wrote a few things down incorrectly relating to quantification.

    I don’t know why you imagine I am in favour of such laws, nor why you think giving an example of a bad law refutes the universal case

    This should be “proves the universal case”.

    We’re not talking about specific laws imposing quotas on people, but rather the universal case

    This is open to misinterpretation. What is intended to be asserted here is that you are arguing against all instances of anti-discrimination law (excluding laws relating to fraud). As a result, an argument against quotas does not entail an argument against all discrimination laws.

  201. The only relevant difference between trespass and any other regulated behaviour is that you favour its regulation.

    You deem these differences irrelevant. I don’t.

    I don’t know why you imagine I am in favour of such laws, nor why you think giving an example of a bad law refutes the universal case.

    Because you claim there is no relevant difference between those laws and the ones against violating the person or property of another. Because you can’t distinguish between laws that assure that all the parties to a transaction are giving their informed consent and those that coerce that consent.

    You clearly do not assign the same importance to coercion, because you’ve gone out of you way to assert that I really support some kinds of coercion myself, since my right to enjoy my property in peace may require a confrontation with a trespasser that ends because of the implicit threat of force if not explicit threats or actual violence. You think that somehow proves that the minarchist code of conduct isn’t really morally different from any other code, because when it’s all said and done, we’ll use force too.

    Well, if you can’t adopt what minarchists consider the bright line of distinction between the defensive and aggressive use of force, because you find no fundamental difference between them, and you’re not in favor of those laws, then explain the doctrine under which you can oppose them.

    We’re not talking about specific laws imposing quotas on people,

    I invite you to explain how any anti-discrimination law that doesn’t recognize the validity of statistical evidence about uneven distribution of talent could fail to impose de facto quotas.

    Every anti-discrimination law actually adopted in the actual world has actually imposed those quotas, whether they be called “quotas” or not. Some are quite explicit, like the Detroit Police practice of promoting one black officer to Sergeant for every white, or the NFL’s requirement that teams filling a head coaching position must interview at least one black candidate. Others are fuzzy, with the regulatory bodies pointing out discrepancies between hiring/promotion rates and the general population within some geographical area. While these don’t come right out and say “you have to hire X blacks for every Y whites”, by saying “you don’t have enough blacks” repeatedly, the message is nevertheless communicated that they have not yet hit the unstated quota. Anyone with the intelligence to be in a position to make hiring/promotion decisions can read between those lines, and after a few rounds of playing high/low, have a pretty good idea what the quota is. (Hint: It is somewhere between the point where the enforcement agency last complained it wasn’t high enough yet, and the point where they examined the statistics and failed to complain about them.)

  202. The Monster Says: I invite you to explain how any anti-discrimination law that doesn’t recognize the validity of statistical evidence about uneven distribution of talent could fail to impose de facto quotas.

    Easy. The lasw says that when any individual presents evidence that he was denied an opportunity or benefit because of race, the persons responsible are punished.

    The issue of statistical evidence about unequal distribution of talent is not addressed. It doesn’t need to be because statistical evidence about unequal distribution of outcomes is not admissible.

    The entire basis for imposing minimum-quotas (as opposed to maximum-quotas, such as the traditional restrictions on Jewish college admissions) is statistical claims about “disparate impact” on aggreggate outcomes. An institution can be “proven” guilty of discrimination without ever showing that any individual was unfairly treated by that method. The only defense against it is to have outcomes in the “correct” proportions. (Or to prove, beyond all possible doubt, that the process which generates the disparate outcomes is genuinely connected to the real requirements of the outcomes. Professions in which qualifications are directly connected to life-and-death outcomes in the real world tend to be exempted from quotas – such as airline pilots.)

  203. I invite you to explain how any anti-discrimination law that doesn’t recognize the validity of statistical evidence about uneven distribution of talent could fail to impose de facto quotas.

    The lasw [sic] says that when any individual presents evidence that he was denied an opportunity or benefit because of race, the persons responsible are punished.

    The issue of statistical evidence about unequal distribution of talent is not addressed. It doesn’t need to be because statistical evidence about unequal distribution of outcomes is not admissible.

    In the actual world, is there an actual law like this that has actually never had statistical evidence used to convict anyone? (Hint: The key words in my invitation are italicized.) That the law doesn’t explicitly demand quotas does not determine the actual effect of the actual laws that have actually been enacted, which uniformly produce those de facto quotas.

  204. Murray & Herrnstein’s The Bell Curve (1994) included a brave and excellent summation of the science on this point. Consequently, the bien-pensant reaction to that book was hysterical vilification, anathematization of heresy in full cry.

    Lawl. The acceptance of genetic and, in particular, racial causes of difference in intelligence is not nearly as universal as you would assume, Eric; in particular consider Stephan Chorover, who in From Genesis to Genocide debunked The Bell Curve even before it went to print by documenting the systematic development of psychometry to justify racially discriminatory and even genocidal practices by the white elites here and abroad.

    Finding thorough debunkings of this poisonous nonsense is not hard if you would but look.

    Also clear is at least one important tactic: objective testing. We already use this in athletics; if you can’t score the goal, run the mile, or leap the hurdle, you don’t make the team and your skin color is irrelevant.

    On this we can agree. However, psychometry as it’s currently practiced is not the way to do objectively measure a person’s capability. Chief among the problems is that “intelligence” is about as rigorously defined as “pornography” is: by the maxim “I know it when I see it”. Accordingly, an attempt to objectively measure a person’s intelligence, in the general sense, will be as arbitrary, culturally biased, and otherwise fraught with confounding factors as an attempt to objectively measure the pornographic content in an image, film, or other work.

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