[As reported here last week, I was scheduled to speak to a student group at Williams College in Massachusetts on Monday, February 22nd. However, the President of Williams College, Adam Falk [Email him] , banned me from his campus on the grounds that I am a speaker of "hate speech." For updates, check out the coverage at Ephblog.
I had already, at that point, prepared an address. Feeling that it would be a shame to waste my efforts, and loth to pass up an opportunity to spread some hatred in the world, I asked the editors at VDARE.com if I might post my address here, suitably formatted as an article and decorated with hyperlinks. The editors very kindly agreed. (REMEMBER, TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATIONS TO VDARE.COM CAN BE EARMARKED FOR ME!)
Here then, for connoisseurs of "hate speech," is the address I would have given at Williams.]
The National Question: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity In the 21st Century
Introduction. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for inviting me to speak here today.
My name is John Derbyshire. I am a freelance writer. My principal outlet nowadays is the online web magazine VDARE.com (which is why it such a worthy cause), though I do occasional reviews for print publications. VDARE.com hosts my weekly podcast, Radio Derb.
VDARE.com mainly concerns itself with what we call the National Question, which we approach from a conservative position.
What is the National Question, and how does one approach it from a conservative position? Let me take those in turn.
The National Question. What is the National Question? I have a handy answer to that here: a book written in 2004 by the late Professor Samuel Huntington of Harvard. Title of the book: Who Are We?—The Challenges to America’s National Identity. That is the National Question: Who are we?
The answer is of course that we are Americans. But what does that mean? That’s the National Question re-phrased: What does it mean to be an American?
The conservative approach. How about a conservative approach to the National Question? What does that mean?
Let me come at my answer indirectly by stating the un-conservative approach.
This un-conservative approach says: We, Americans, are a proposition nation. That is to say, we are a nation by virtue of our agreement on a set of propositions about the place of individuals in society, the relationship of the individual to government, and the proper scope of governmental powers.
It’s rather easy to mock this concept of a proposition nation. Suppose I were to trek up into the highlands of Ethiopia, get myself invited into the hut of some illiterate Amhara goatherd, and explain our founding documents to him; and suppose he were to respond with enthusiastic agreement. Did he thereby instantly become an American?
Conversely, here is a U.S. citizen every one of whose forebears arrived here before the Revolution, and whose male forebears fought with distinction in our country’s wars. He strongly disagrees with the principles of the Founders, and would have preferred we become a Christian theocracy. Should he be stripped of his citizenship?
Well, it’s easy to make fun. The proposition nation is not actually a completely absurd concept. It is not what the Founders intended, though; and, as the wisest of them would have told you, it ignores important features of our human nature in its social context. Both those features—contradicting the Founders and ignoring human nature—betray its un-conservative character.
So there is an answer, or the beginnings of one, to the question: What is a conservative approach to this topic? A conservative approach is one that rejects the merely propositional definition of Who We Are, or at least considers it inadequate.
We have in fact waded some way here into waters that get very deep indeed. What is a nation?
Let me work my way round the back of that by proceeding to the next few words in the title of my talk.
Race, ethnicity, identity. The three nouns “race,” “ethnicity,” and “identity” name three concepts that overlap considerably; whose main difference in fact is not so much in meaning as in provenance—where they come from.
The word “race” comes from biology; the word “ethnicity” comes from sociology; the word “identity” comes from psychology. What they all have in common is the notion of an individual belonging to a group.
In the matter of race, most individuals actually do belong to an actual group that can be objectively defined.
Race is a feature of the natural world. Members of any sexually-reproducing species mate predominantly with nearby individuals. Thus, if the species is widely distributed, localized and mostly-inbred groups develop over time, isolated from other groups. Each group has a distinctive menu of genetic variations, shaped by founder effect, genetic drift, and natural selection. These localized varieties are races.
Ethnicity describes the social behavior of individuals who perceive themselves as belonging to a group.
Identity is the interior view of that: the group membership as felt and understood by an individual.
Ethnicity as perceived kinship. Ethnicity does not of course describe just any kind of group. Most of us belong to several groups. You may belong to a church, a basketball team, a bridge club, the Republican Party, and the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes. None of those is an ethny.
A good thumbnail definition of ethnicity is perceived kinship. The sociologist Pierre van den Berghe, in his 1981 book The Ethnic Phenomenon describes ethnic sentiments as, quote, “extended forms of nepotism—the propensity to favor kin over nonkin.”
That’s the “kinship” side of my thumbnail definition. The other side is the word “perceived.” People belong to an ethny when they believe they do. That’s why the word “ethny” belongs to sociology, not to biology. To quote Prof. van den Berghe again , quote:
Descent … is the central feature of ethnicity. Yet, it is clear that, in many cases, the common descent ascribed to an ethny is fictive. In fact, in most cases it is at least partly fictive.
Let me give an example. This is from a different author, also a professor, but this time of political science: Walker Connor. I’ve taken it from his 1993 book Ethnonationalism. He is speaking about the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence. Quote:
The political elite of the period did not believe that they were leading an ethnically heterogeneous people. Despite the presence of settlers of Dutch, French, German, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh extraction—as well as the presence of native Americans and peoples from Africa (the latter accounted for one of every five persons at the time)—the prevalent elite-held and mass-held self-perception of the American people was that of an ethnically homogeneous people of English descent.
Connor proceeds to give many examples taken from the words of our Founders. The Declaration, for instance, speaks of “our British brethren,” and grumbles that: “They … have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity.”
The wealth of mankind. The United States is by no means alone in having had to invent a partly fictive ethnicity for itself. As nations go, in fact, this has been rather the rule than the exception. One of the leaders of the Risorgimento, the movement for Italian unity in the middle 19th century, famously said: “Having made Italy, we must now make Italians.”
Likewise, modern Greeks boast themselves the descendants—the kin—of Homer, Pericles, and Aristotle. In fact Greece was massively invaded by Slavs in the Middle Ages, and modern Greeks have a large Slavic component in their ancestry. If you point this out to a Greek patriot, he’ll sock you on the jaw.
And come to think of it, you can even take that ethnic identifier “British” that I just quoted the authors of the Declaration having used. As Princeton historian Linda Colley showed in her 1992 book Britons, British ethnicity was rather new at the time of the Declaration, a product of the wars with France in the earlier 18th century.
To this day, it has not altogether “taken.” For the English and Scots, at least, the older national loyalties—which, after all, went back several centuries—persist. When making out envelopes for the Christmas cards I send home to relatives over there, under the name of the city I write ENGLAND. It would never occur to me to write BRITAIN; let alone THE UNITED KINGDOM, an even more recent creation.
(The lady who described the intimate side of her marriage as, “I close my eyes, open my legs, and think of England” may not actually have existed; but the legend would likely never have gained currency at all if she had been quoted as saying “… of Britain.”)
Citizens in many nations nurse these subnational loyalties—ethnicities. They don’t invalidate the concept of a nation-state, any more than the fictive element in ethnic loyalties invalidates the emotional power of the ethny.
A human society must be administered under agreed rules. Its members need a common language in which to discuss their affairs. Laws must be written and approved by agreed procedures. Armies must be raised for the common defense.
Localized populations have, over many generations, come to common understandings, different from one population to another, about these arrangements. Each population, by long fellowship, cherishes customary traditions and observances. These are our nations.
Attempts to manage these things on a supra-national scale have, in the modern age, always failed at last. We see the European Union failing before our eyes, right now. Before that we saw the Soviet Union fail.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who was a citizen of that latter supranational entity expressed a great truth. He expressed it in religious language, but the underlying fact about human sociality is independent of one’s spiritual outlook. Quote:
The disappearance of nations would impoverish us no less than if all peoples were made alike, with one character, one face. Nations are the wealth of mankind, they are its generalized personalities: the smallest of them has its own peculiar colors, and embodies a particular facet of God’s design.
Longing for meaningful community. Homo sapiens is a social animal. We long to bond with other people, at many levels. We enlist the emotions aroused by blood ties rather carelessly, sometimes unscrupulously, to aid that bonding.
I have mentioned Prof. Huntington’s book Who Are We? Here is a quote from that book.
People are not likely to find in political principles the deep emotional content and meaning provided by kith and kin, blood and belonging, culture and nationality. These attachments may have little or no basis in fact but they do satisfy a deep human longing for meaningful community.
Note please that second sentence: “These attachments may have little or no basis in fact.” We live by myths and fictions. I don’t say that flippantly: it is an important sociological truth.
It is also of course a psych-ological truth. If ethnicity generally has some fictive component, identity may be entirely fictive. The name Rachel Dolezal mean anything?
The present situation: shaping forces. So how is this all playing out in the 21st century?
Today’s world has been shaped by two big clusters of events in the last century.
The first cluster consists of the two world wars and the Cold War. At the heart of this cluster was a flow and a counter-flow of ideas about human society. The flow was Marxist-Leninist universalism, “the proletariat has no country.” The counter-flow was despotic ethnonationalism, most prominent in Italy, Japan, and Germany in the second quarter of the century.
That was the first cluster. The second cluster you could file under the heading “Rise of the Third World.”
There was a political rise across the third quarter of the century, as former colonial possessions became independent and took up self-government.
There was also a demographic rise, in many cases a very spectacular one. Here’s one of my favorite illustrations of that.
In 1922 the British Isles had a population of 47.31 million. The territory called British West Africa, for contrast, had a population of 22.48 million. So the British Isles had over twice the population of British West Africa 94 years ago.
Forward to today. The British Isles are still here, now the U.K plus Ireland: total population 68.97 million. British West Africa is nowadays the independent nations of Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Gambia: total population 215.74 million. That’s over three times Britain's number.
This happened very quickly as history goes. Ninety-four years ago, my father was a young adult, a war veteran and a failed businessman. If demography is destiny, the shape of our destiny has been changing very fast these past few decades.
Universalism, ethnonationalism. These two clusters I’ve identified—one, the world wars and Cold War; two, the rise of the Third World—worked together in complex ways.
What, for example, brought about the end of colonialism?
Well, in Japan’s case it was simply defeat in WW2. For the European powers, it was in part a response to the Cold War.
Later Marxist-Leninism appealed directly to the colonized peoples. In many cases—Vietnam, for example, and the Portuguese colonies in Africa—it armed their insurgent groups.
There was a feeling on our side of the Cold War that we needed a universalist appeal of our own.
The phrase “of our own” needs some qualifying. Much of the Western intelligentsia was sympathetic to Marxist-Leninism, so the universalism came naturally to them. “The intelligentsia has no country!” … as it were.
Universalism was widespread beyond the intelligentsia, though. Seek out old copies of Reader’s Digest from around 1960. Yearning for the Brotherhood of Man long predated the arrivals of Marx and Lenin.
There is a pleasant symmetry here. If anti-national universalism found a ready market in the West, ethnonationalism had plenty of customers on the other side. The official Soviet name for WW2 was “the Great Patriotic War (Велика Отечественная Война).”
In Asia, where ethnonationalism is stronger, the Communists were even more frank. Mao Tse-tung referred to the Chinese Communist Party not as the Vanguard of the Proletariat but as, quote, “the vanguard of the Chinese nation and the Chinese people.” Ho Chi Minh argued against the division of Vietnam thus, quote: “We have the same ancestors, we are of the same family.” The press in communist North Korea frequently scolds South Korea for allowing mixed marriages, which, say the Norks, dilute the purity of the Korean race.
Note how, in all these ethnic appeals, the speakers harness those human emotions related to kinship. “We are brothers and sisters,” they say. “This is our fatherland [or motherland; or in Chinese, ancestor-land (祖國).]”
Hitler’s revenge. These paradoxes aside, the despotic ethnonationalism of the Axis powers in WW2 was widely understood, at any rate by governing and academic elites in the postwar West, to have delegitimized ethnonationalism altogether.
The logical fallacy is plain:
The second thing does not follow from the first. Absolute monarchy has a fairly long rap sheet, but that is not an argument against monarchy. Constitutional Monarchy has proved one of the more benign forms of government.
Logic is not a major determinant in human affairs, though, nor even much in evidence. Those generalized, partly fictionalized emotions of ethnic kinship that had been normal and socially healthful components of national identity before fascism came up, were now seen as shameful, the very concept of the nation-state as illegitimate.
My colleague VDARE.com Editor Peter Brimelow calls this “Hitler’s revenge.”
Universalism in America: Civil Rights. Universalism as thus shaped by the world wars and Cold War was at work in the two great revolutionary upheavals of the U.S.A. in the 1960s: the Civil Rights movement and the 1965 Immigration Act. Both arose during the deepest depths of the Cold War. That is not a coincidence.
The Civil Rights movement was of course much more than a Cold War phenomenon, but the Cold War was a factor.
For example: In the later Soviet Union there was a strain of cynical underground humor aimed against the system. Its productions were known as “Radio Armenia jokes.” Here is a Radio Armenia joke I recall from my college days in the early 1960s:
Question from a listener to Radio Armenia: “Tell, me, Comrades, is it true that an engineer in America earns four times as much as one in the U.S.S.R.?” Radio Armenia’s reply: “In America they lynch Negroes!”
Part of the desire among white Americans to get right with blacks came from awareness of being the target of that sort of critique: not only from the Soviets, but also from Europeans.
American elites have always been susceptible to the “cultural cringe” vis-à-vis Europeans; and midcentury Europeans, as soon as they had shaken off the dust of their colonies—in some cases, before—were striking poses of lofty moral superiority to the gap-toothed hillbillies of North America.
Universalism in America: Immigration. Similarly with the 1965 Immigration Act.
After some order had been brought to the U.S. immigration system in the early 1920s, permanent settlement was granted in limited numbers and based on national origin, with preference for settlers from north and west Europe.
This was grounded in a common-sense approach to ethnonationalism. If subnational ethnies became too numerous and strong, it was believed, the core of American nationhood, what Prof. Huntington called our “Anglo-Protestant culture,” would be threatened. This belief was perfectly rational.
By the early 1960s, however, with universalism in the ascendant, selection of immigrants by national origin was being seen, at any rate by key sections in our elites, as shamefully racist, a sort of border-guard Jim Crow. The 1965 Act was a response to this perception.
There has been much discussion about the motives of those who gave us the Immigration Act. Edward Kennedy, the floor manager for the Act in the Senate, famously promised that:
First, our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually. Under the proposed bill, the present level of immigration remains substantially the same … Secondly, the ethnic mix of this country will not be upset …
In fact, levels of legal immigration have been over a million a year since 1989; and the ethnic mix of 1960—89 percent white, ten percent black, one percent other—is a fading memory.
What accounts for the huge discrepancy between declared intent and actual consequences of the 1965 Act? Malicious dishonesty, or blank stupidity?
There are cogent arguments on both sides. I am personally inclined to the view stated by Prof. Huntington, that there was a deliberate intent on the part of our elites to move the governance of our country from a national to an imperial model.
Let me quote the relevant passage from Prof. Huntington’s book. It is rather long, I’m afraid, but I believe it strikes to the heart of the matter. Quote:
In the past, imperial and colonial governments provided resources to minority groups and encouraged people to identify with them, so as to enhance the government’s ability to divide and rule. The governments of nation-states, in contrast, attempted to promote the unity of their people, the development of national consciousness, the suppression of subnational regional and ethnic loyalties, the universal use of the national language, and the allocation of benefits to those who conform to the national norm. Until the late twentieth century, American political and governmental leaders acted similarly. Then in the 1960s and 1970s they began to promote measures consciously designed to weaken America’s cultural and creedal identity and to strengthen racial, ethnic, cultural, and other subnational identities. These efforts by a nation’s leaders to deconstruct the nation they governed were, quite possibly, without precedent in human history.
I should say there is also a line of thought that applies a Marxist analysis to these changes. In the Western world these post-WW2 decades saw the opening of a great new age of consumerism. Business was humming; and whole new types of business came up, especially in the services sector, that were outside the entrenched protections of labor union power.
Why not bring in willing workers from abroad who would accept lower wages than natives? Sure, they would incur social costs—housing, roads, energy, schooling, policing, healthcare, native unemployment—but government expenditures could take care of that. Privatize profits, socialize costs!
You can see the appeal to Capital. A school of economists came up to assure us that, yes, mass immigration would make us all richer.
Curiously, the fastest-developing nations of that era were the “tigers” of East Asia: Japan, South Korea, Taiwan. These nations held firm to their ethnic nationalism and shunned mass immigration; but they got rich anyway.
Nowadays of course they are having their comeuppance. Japanese people today are huddled under threadbare blankets as icy winds blow through their disintegrating houses. They subsist on tree bark, insects, and the flesh of their family pets. So, at any rate, I am given to understand by economists.
Universalism triumphant. By the late 1980s, antinational universalism was triumphant in the West. Immigrants from all over the world were pouring into our countries: not just the U.S.A. but Britain, France, Germany, Australia, …
One of the crowning achievements of this peak universalism was the European Union. A Marxist analysis can be applied here, too; but there is no doubt that the EU came up at least in part as a reaction against the despotic ethnonationalism that had brought such horrors to the continent in the 1940s.
Away with all ethnonationalism, then! There will be no more Spaniards and Dutchmen and Frenchmen and such men, only Europeans!
So barriers came down all over Europe. The Third World poured into the First World.
Then two things happened: one suddenly, one gradually.
Nations make a comeback. The first thing that happened was the end of the Cold War in 1991.
I assume I am speaking to an audience of Millennials here, persons with no direct recollection of the Cold War. To you people—and I don’t mean to be patronizing, I’m sure some of you know about this: but it can’t be said often enough—to you people, just let me say: the Cold War was a very big deal.
Here’s one data point at random. Time: about fifteen years ago, before 9/11. Place: the Manhattan town house of a very senior figure, an elder statesman, in the American conservative movement. Dramatis personæ: ten or a dozen conservative writers and policy intellectuals ranging in age from the thirties to the seventies, seated around the elder statesman’s dinner table.
We were discussing the state of the world. The discussion lapsed for a minute or two. Then one of the older persons present said, with what I recall as a perfectly genuine-sounding sigh of nostalgia: “How I miss the Cold War!”
Two or three others of the same generation murmured agreement. “Oh, yes!” One of the younger members of the company laughed, a bit nervously—the way you laugh when you’re not sure if you should laugh. The others just looked baffled.
Well, the Cold War ended, and policy intellectuals bent their attention to prognostications about the shape of things to come. What would the post-Cold War world look like?
Think-tanker Francis Fukuyama was first off the starting blocks. In fact he jumped the gun: his landmark essay “The End of History” was published in 1989, when the Soviet Union was still intact, though plainly tottering. Fukuyama foresaw a world in which Western-style liberal democracy would triumph everywhere.
It quickly became apparent that in defiance of Dr Fukuyama, History intended to go on for a while longer. The first Gulf War and more especially the violent break-up of what had once been Yugoslavia showed that ethnonational passions had by no means been extinguished by decades of Marxist-Leninist universalism.
The liberation of Eastern Europe likewise. Here is a story I heard from one of the participants.
After the Soviet troops withdrew from Hungary following the end of the Cold War, there was a political faction in the new Hungarian government clamoring for war against Romania. The Treaty of Trianon in 1920 had stripped Hungary of much of its territory, for example giving Transylvania to Romania, and Hungarian patriots had been seething about it ever since. (Some of them still are.) “Here’s our chance to get back Transylvania!” they clamored.
The U.S. ambassador had to talk them down off the ledge. If Hungary attacked Romania, he told them, they could kiss goodbye their chances of joining the EU. The Hungarians very much wanted to join the EU for economic reasons, so they came off the ledge.
That was Europe after the Cold War.
I should add, by the way, that the years after the Cold War ended were a Golden Age of geopolitical speculation. Francis Fukuyama kicked it off, but many fine minds followed. Prof. Huntington was one of them: his 1993 essay, later a book, “The Clash of Civilizations” is still well worth reading. So is Benjamin Schwarz’s 1995 essay “The Diversity Myth” in the May 1995 issue of The Atlantic, which ties together American and European developments. So are many others: it was, as I said, a Golden Age for geopolitical policy eggheads.
The resurgence of ethnonationalism was in any case too obvious to ignore. Francis Fukuyama’s End of History thesis became what Wall Street calls a distressed security. One wag, I forget who, proclaimed “the end of the End of History.”
The collapse of universalism. I said that two things happened at the end of the twentieth century: one suddenly, one gradually. The end of the Cold War was the sudden event. The gradual one—it is in fact still under way—was the collapse of universalism.
Let’s just go back to the 1950s and 1960s, when the old colonial empires of Europe and Japan had fallen or were in process of being dismantled. What had once been colonies were emerging as independent nations under self-government. What were the expectations for these new nations?
Again, you have to see this situation in the context of the Cold War, with much jostling for favors, East versus West. Overall, though, for persons of a universalist mindset, there were good reasons to hope.
These ex-colonies had experienced First World-grade government. They’d seen how it was done. Many of their elites had studied in Western universities.
Human beings are a very imitative species. Since human beings everywhere have common hopes, desires, and abilities, why should not Africa, Asia, Oceania, the Caribbean, and the Middle East have nifty little parliamentary democracies up and running in no time?
A few of them did. A few more, especially in Asia, slipped into autocracy then came out at the other end after a decade or three into properly constitutional government.
Others, especially in Africa and the Islamic world, fell under the control of gangster-despots. Still others got some semblance of rational government, but were plagued by corruption, crime, poor human capital, and demographic pressure.
The result in these latter cases—Africa and Islamia—has been despair.
A young Third Worlder of fifty years ago—a citizen of newly- or recently-independent Nigeria, Pakistan, or Algeria, for example—could reasonably hope that his nation would develop into a comfortable welfare democracy like those of the First World; that his children and grandchildren, and he himself in his old age, could live in security and prosperity, as Australians and Japanese and Norwegians do.
Young Nigerians, Pakistanis, and Algerians no longer think like that. The hope proved an illusion. All over the Third World today, young people understand that their only hope for a decent, secure life is to get themselves into a First World country by any means possible.
Revealed preference. Fortifying the pull of First World living standards is technology: the comparative ease of modern travel, and the worldwide communications revolution, bringing pictures of those living standards into Third World hovels.
Another pull factor is what systems analysts call “the installed base”: communities of one’s fellow nationals or ethnics already settled in the First World by half a century of generous immigration policies.
And then there’s the push factor of demography. To repeat my earlier illustration:
Hundreds of millions of Third Worlders see no hope in their own countries. This is why you see boatloads of them crossing the Mediterranean, scaling the border fences of Spain’s African territories, crowding into the “Jungle” camp at Calais.
I’m sorry to say that when I see pictures of those boatloads, the phrase that comes into my mind is one from economics: “revealed preference.” The idea here is that if you want to know what people truly desire and believe, watching what they do is a much surer guide than listening to what they say.
The revealed preference of those boat people is to live in a First World country. Their hope—an entirely reasonable one—is to improve their lives thereby.
The fear of many First Worlders is that the boat people, if they settle in sufficient numbers, will reduce the host nations, or significant enclaves within them, to the wretched condition of the nations they’re fleeing. This fear is also entirely reasonable.
Despair, American-style. As in the world at large, so within the U.S.A. Fifty years ago—I was there, I was active, I remember it—it was assumed by almost everyone that with legalized segregation struck down, black Americans would soon rise and merge into the uniform American population as most other ethnies had done, and race would no longer be a significant social issue.
That hasn’t happened. Smart, capable, and well-socialized blacks—the “talented tenth”—have indeed merged as promised, but a huge black underclass remains, exhibiting spectacular levels of crime and social dysfunction. The underclass is proportionally much larger, and the social pathologies more intense, than is the case with any other race.
Revealed preference is in play here, too. Fifty years ago there was a faction among black Civil Rights activists who argued that blacks could never be happy or fulfilled in white society. Stokely Carmichael settled in Guinea; Maya Angelou lived in Ghana for a while.
You never see that now. Can you imagine Al Sharpton going to live in Guinea, or Ghana, or Haiti? What would he do there? To be sure, Ta-Nehisi Coates, the current darling of gentry white liberals, has left America. He has gone to live in … France.
Sharpton or Coates would starve to death in a black society. They are, in the plain ecological sense, parasites on their non-black fellow citizens.
The revealed preference of blacks everywhere today is to live in white societies, an implicit admission that they can’t create pleasant societies of their own and are dependent on other races for a decent living standard.
The orthodox explanation for black failure, at both the national and subnational level, is that it is the fault of whites. The peculiar success of East Asians at both these levels, in spite of past white colonialism and discrimination, suggests that this orthodox explanation may need work.
Looking forward. How may we expect nationality, race, and ethnicity to play out in years to come?
One thing we may reasonably expect is better understanding. A human society is the vector sum of many human personalities, past and present. Everything that we can quantify about the human personality—intelligence, extraversion, neuroticism, aggressiveness, and so on—is heritable to some degree, typically at around the fifty percent level.
This suggests that the human personality, and the societies it forms, are shaped to some degree by human genetics, the only known mechanism of heredity. It would therefore not be very surprising to learn that the different menus of genetic variation that characterize different races might tend to result in different societies.
At present we can’t do much more than speculate about these matters, but the fog is clearing fast. Almost every week I read something new out of the human sciences bearing on these topics. As one of Shakespeare’s characters says: The future comes apace. Or as Charles Murray likes to say: There’s a locomotive coming down the tracks.
And in the caboose of that locomotive of understanding will come technology. It is already the case today that no-one in a First World country need give birth to a Down Syndrome child, unless she wants to. If my knowledge of current science is correct, it will be the case ten years from now, perhaps less, that no First-Worlder will need to give birth to a stupid child unless she wants to; or an ugly child, or an un-athletic or un-musical child, or an antisocial child.
Supposing this is right, how will this technology be made available? Who will be the decision-makers? Individual citizens, exercising their own volition under constitutionally-protected liberties? Or overbearing governments with grand plans of social engineering?
That will depend on which nation, which one of Solzhenitsyn’s “generalized personalities,” you find yourself living in.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.
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 VDARE.com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and From the Dissident Right II: Essays 2013. His writings are archived at JohnDerbyshire.com.
Readers who wish to donate (tax deductible) funds specifically earmarked for John Derbyshire's writings at VDARE.com can do so here.