Charles (THE BELL CURVE) Murray Inches Towards National Conservatism
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[Adapted from the latest Radio Derb, now available free on]

Here's something I did enjoy watching—as opposed to the Clinton/ Trump debate. It's intelligent, instructive, and thought-provoking, and so the opposite of retail politics. It was balm on my wounded psyche, 84 minutes of sunlit good sense after a raging storm of gibberish—a panel held at the National Press Club (boo!) last week: Immigration and Less-Educated American Workers, organized by the Center for Immigration Studies.

The occasion for the panel: a new CIS report by Jason Richwine. [Report: Immigrants Replace Low-Skill Natives in the Workforce] Jason, you may recall, was the brilliant young quantitative analyst at the Heritage Foundation whose Harvard Ph.D. thesis had argued that when selecting immigrants for settlement in the U.S.A., IQ should be a factor. In 2013, in the wrangling over the Schumer-Rubio amnesty bill, CultMarx Central found out about the thesis. They ordered Heritage to fire Richwine, and Heritage of course obeyed. Honest quantitative analysis on issues relating to intelligence, race, and immigration is not wanted at Conservatism, Inc.

The whole panel is on video at the CIS site. They've broken it into five separate video clips. First Steve Camarota, Director of Research at CIS, gives a three-minute introduction. Then Jason does a brief presentation of his paper, seventeen minutes.

Then fourteen minutes from Amy Wax, one of the smartest people in the social-commentary business today.

How smart is she? Well, she started out in the academy as a microbiologist, got an M.D. from Harvard Medical School; then switched to law, got a J.D. from Columbia, and is now a law professor at U. Penn. Then twelve minutes from Charles Murray, the great quantitative sociologist.

Finally came a Q&A session with a mostly-friendly audience, 39 minutes.

There are a couple of mentions of your humble servant in there. The more striking of them came from Charles Murray, who brought up an exchange we had back in my days at National Review.

I had posted a December 2006 column titled "Libertarianism in One Country," exploring the territory where libertarianism meets immigration policy. I argued in fact that libertarianism refuses to meet immigration policy in any honest way, blithely assuming that mass immigration from the Third World will help the libertarian cause, when the evidence suggests that it would, in fact, burn libertarianism to the ground:

Charles Murray's 1997 book What It Means to Be a Libertarian mentions immigration just once—to apologize for not having mentioned it!
Readers of my column emailed in to ask what Charles Murray's current views on immigration policy were—this is ten years ago, remember. Knowing that Murray followed the National Review blog, I invited him to tell us. He did, and I posted his reply.
What’s my position on immigration? Well, since apparently someone asked (and I have never published anything on immigration), here goes.

Regarding illegal immigration:

  1. Making laws about who gets to become a citizen, under what circumstances, is a legitimate function of the state.
  2. Protecting borders is a legitimate function of the state.
  3. Enforcing the law is a central function of the state.
  4. Immigration reform must begin first with enforcement of existing immigration law. If it takes a wall, so be it.
  5. And while I’m at it, I’ll mention that English should be the only language in which public school classes are taught (except for teaching English as a foreign language) and in which the public’s business is conducted.
Regarding legal immigration:
  1. Immigration is one of the main reasons–I’m guessing the main reason apart from our constitution–that we have remained a vital, dynamic culture, but immigration of a particular sort: Self-selection whereby people come here for opportunity. That self-selection process used to apply to everyone. It still applies to the engineers and computer programmers and entrepreneurs who come here from abroad, but it is diluted for low-job-skill workers by the many economic benefits of just being in the United States. Most low-job-skill immigrants work very hard. But Milton Friedman was right: You can’t have both open immigration and a welfare state. The tension between the two is inescapable.
  2. Massive immigration of legal low-skill workers is problematic for many reasons, and some of them have to do with human capital. Yes, mean IQ does vary by ethnic group, and IQ tends to be below average in low-job-skill populations. One can grant all the ways in which smart people coming from Latin American or African countries are low-job-skill because they have been deprived of opportunity, and still be forced to accept the statistical tendencies. The empirical record established by scholars such as George Borjas at Harvard cannot be wished away.
  3. I am not impressed by worries about losing America’s Anglo-European identity. Some of the most American people I know are immigrants from other parts of the world. And I’d a hell of a lot rather live in a Little Vietnam or a Little Guatemala neighborhood, even if I couldn’t read the store signs, than in many white-bread communities I can think of.
  4. When it comes to the nitty-gritty, I would get rid of reuniting-families provisions, get rid of the you’re-a-citizen-if-you’re-born-here rule, and make immigrants ineligible for all benefits and social services except public education for their children. Everybody who immigrates has to be on a citizenship track (no guest workers). And I would endorse a literacy requirement. Having those measures in place, my other criteria for getting permission to immigrate would be fairly loose. Just having to get through the bureaucratic hoops will go a long way toward reinstalling a useful self-selection process. But, to go back to basics: None of this works unless illegal immigration is effectively ended.
I suppose other libertarians will disagree, but I don’t see a single item in this approach that runs against the principles of classical liberalism.

Charles Murray

Murray started off by mentioning that—then told us that he had not at the time, in 2006, said anything about changing the laws on low-skilled immigration.

But Murray told us, he has since been doing some hard thinking—mostly in the past year or so, and mainly because of Donald Trump; although Murray insisted that there is still no way on earth he could ever vote for Trump as President.

The result of Murray's thinking was, he tells us, acceptance of a simple fact:

 Clip:  The citizens of a nation owe something to each other that is over and above our general obligations to our fellow human beings. That there is a sense in which we should take care of our own; "our own" in this case meaning Americans—native Americans, in the real sense of that term.
In other words, Murray's natural and instinctive patriotism, his love of America, which he has often expressed, has inched over, or is inching over, to, or towards, what we here at call National Conservatism.

I hope I'm not misrepresenting Dr. Murray here. By all means watch the video for yourself and make your own deduction.

If so, that's a very welcome shift. Charles Murray is one of our most rigorous and influential social scientists. I don't really anticipate he'll be publishing at any time soon, but to have him a few ticks closer to our positions on immigration is very encouraging.

I hope he'll do some more rethinking on the issues of skilled immigration, which is a monstrous scam on our middle-class workers, and demographic replacement, which is destroying our social capital—a thing Murray implicitly acknowledges himself in the Q&A video.

The founder of the Christian religion promised us that "joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance." I don't think Charles Murray's epiphany really rises to that level, but it's worthy of note none the less.

One small quibble: the discussion of low-skilled immigrants was all about low-skilled immigrants. Surely, you may say, that's what it should be about, duh.

I beg to differ. Many of the things that were said about low-skilled immigrants—their agreeableness, willingness to work hard, reluctance to complain—apply to them only, not to their American-born children. A big tranche of the second and subsequent generations are as antisocial and unemployable as our native underclass. That always needs saying.

Then, just as I was shaping my quibble in words—my quibble, I mean, that none of the panelists mentioned this issue of the subsequent generations—Amy Wax did mention it, towards the end: around 24 minutes into the Q&A video.

So there went my quibble. I have no quibble. I am quibble-free. Well done to the guys at CIS for a fine presentation, well done to the panelists for their analytical efforts and lucid good sense.

And to Charles Murray, a qualified welcome to National Conservatism.

John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. ) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He's had two books published by FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and From the Dissident Right II: Essays 2013. His writings are archived at

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