Take This $10,000 And Shove It

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The New Republic, which famously promoted Charles Murray's 1994 The Bell Curve, has run an extremely pithy take-down of Murray by Ezra Klein. The target is Murray's book The Plan, whose title, to Klein, evokes James Bond villainy. (It reminds me of the cult in "Six Feet Under," but whatever.)

The Bell Curve got a cover story and 95% of an issue of the magazine. The Plan gets one review that dismisses Murray's work and mocks his "timeless quest for meaning." Does this bespeak a shift in Murray's influence, or in TNR's?

Ron Bailey and Nick Gillespie interviewed Murray for his last book, in 2004. And you can read Reason's review of The Bell Curve, by James J. Heckman, here.

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  1. I think it marks the fact that TNR is fonder of pseudo-science on the supposedly untouchable subject of racial superiority than it is on the legitimately interesting and thought-provoking idea Murray is floating now. That says something about TNR, and not something nice.

  2. That it’s Murray making the proposal is admittedly icky, but honestly, I like the outlines of his plan.

  3. I also like the plan (excuse me, The Plan), but more than that I like the thought experiment it opens up. In practice (and without having read the book), I think there would be just too much weirdness around taxation, around automatically increasing the supply of disposable income across the board and inflating the currency, around the inevitable situation where some people would still face disincentives to work more (because there would inevitably come a point where you’re on the cusp between making a little money and making a little more, which will be taxed at a higher rate), etc. But then again, those problems already exist, and talking about The Plan makes you see them in a different light. At any rate, it’s a great conversation starter.

  4. Interestingly, the last time I saw a well-known social critic defending some version of the guaranteed-income idea, it was Mr. Michael Kinsley, formerly of The New Republic, writing in The New Yorker. I trust Ezra Klein thinks Kinsley is nutty, too.

  5. Kinsley is nutty.

  6. If In Our Hands doesn’t explain how we got into the mess we’re currently in with respect to entitlements, and why “the Plan” wouldn’t devolve into a worse mess, what’s the point? As a thought experiment, where you can imagine a policy and ignore all the pressure to change it, wouldn’t “the Better Plan” be to give everyone $0? Seriously.

  7. I think it bespeaks the appointment of an editor who doesn’t find himself so fascinated by the argument that black people r dumb that he forgets to check up on whether the research confirming his prejudice is bullshit.

  8. pseudo-science on the supposedly untouchable subject of racial superiority

    the argument that black people r dumb that he forgets to check up on whether the research confirming his prejudice

    I think both of those are inflammatory and unfair characterizations of the book.

    “They argue in the book that 1) intelligence exists and is accurately measureable across racial, language, and national boundaries, 2) intelligence is one of — if not the most — important correlative factor in economic, social, and success in general in America, and is becoming more important, 3) intelligence is largely to mostly (40% to 80%) genetically heritable, 4) there are racial and ethnic differences in IQ that cannot be sufficiently explained by environmental factors such as nutrition, social policy, or racism, 5) nobody has so far been able to manipulate IQ long term to any significant degree through changes in environmental factors, and in light of their failure such approaches are becoming less promising, and finally, 6) as a country the USA has been in denial of these facts, and in light of these findings a better public understanding of the nature of intelligence and its social correlates is necessary to guide future policy decisions in America.” (wikipedia)

    Since when is it “pseudoscience” to point out the fact that a commonly-held perception has not, to date, been supported by evidence? The authors don’t insist that culture isn’t the reason for the differences in test scores, they simply state that there has been no data showing that to be the case.

  9. Seems to me like genetics is the new determinism. Instead of God writing in the book of life, you’ve Messenger RNA plotting out your choices. Your chromosomes knew you before you were knitted together in your mother’s womb.

  10. Timothy,

    > Seems to me like genetics is the new determinism.

    That’s because of MSM laziness/ignorance.

    No serious molecular biologist discounts the effect of environment (hence the measurement of Heritability for traits, usually determined by measuring a trait in identical vs. non-identical, & adopted vs. not-adopted, twins or siblings).

  11. You don’t think he’s actually read the Bell Curve, do you Regression?

  12. I’ll get to as soon as I’m done with my phrenology text, Marvin.

    The book’s been too thoroughly discredited to be worth the time.

  13. “I’ll get to as soon as I’m done with my phrenology text, Marvin.

    The book’s been too thoroughly discredited to be worth the time.”

    The Bell Curve has been “discredited” by assertion. Assertions screamed loudest are the most persuasive, particularly if “it’s all just racism” is thrown in. Don’t bother reading it.

  14. It’s been discredited by other researchers, who caught Murray using shady practices like selectively failing to square the variance, in order to make differences between the mean IQ’s of different races appear larger.

    Either the man made a mistake you learn not to do in intro stats, or he faked his data to make black people appear to be less intelligent.

    Don’t worry, I won’t.

  15. It’s a mistake to reflexively side with someone because he’s been accused of racism. Maybe, just maybe, the guy who wrote a poorly-supported book on the theme that black people just aren’t as intelligent as white people and there’s nothing anyone can do about it, and who published an editorial referring to poor New Orleanians as “animals set free from the zoo” during the height of the “negro hordes” panic after Katrina, really is a racist.

  16. That’s nice Joe, but I’m more interested in whether or not Tim’s read it. But since you responded to me I will respond to you.

    What other researchers? Why don’t you name them so others can evaluate their credibility. Cognitive scientists don’t think anything about IQ in the Bell Curve is wrong or scientifically controversial. The Bell Curve isn’t poorly supported when it was published, all the science since then has only served to reinforce it, and the claim you make about Murray’s use of statistics is flat wrong, which you would no if you understood statistics and had read the Bell Curve.

    Also, could you provide a link to Murray calling anyone “animals set free from the zoo”? I’ve never heard him say anything like that and I can’t find it using google.

  17. I think Marvin and Joe should just have an assertion fight and see who wins.

    No serious molecular biologist discounts the effect of environment (hence the measurement of Heritability for traits, usually determined by measuring a trait in identical vs. non-identical, & adopted vs. not-adopted, twins or siblings).

    GeneThug: That was my point, the breathlessness with which this is reported and some folks in pop-culture grab on to “my genes made me do it, I was bound to be this way” remind me of Calvinists is all.

  18. Timothy, the book never claimed that intelligence was 100% determinist. I suggest you all read the actual review that Reason published, and perhaps the book, before criticising.

  19. I read The Bell Curve when it came out. I didn’t find it a waste of my time.

    I prefer Thomas Sowell’s review of The Bell Curve to the one published in Reason.

  20. taken from amazon

    However, if we accept that there are intelligence differences among groups, we must learn to avoid prejudicial assumptions about any individual of a given group whose intelligence level may be anywhere under the bell curve.

    THE HORROR!!!

    The really funny thing is that Jared Diamond pointed out the same exact thing in Guns, Germs and Steel…and the left never batted and eyelash.

    I haven’t read Murry’s book but I have seen him on Cspan and his ideas do not seem to be as foaming at the mouth racist as Joe and others have claimed…in fact i think the biggest threat they see isn’t racism but Murray’s statistical dismissal of group rights and proposes instead individual rights to allow those with exeptional skills to excel and within a free market system those of us who are less endowned can benifit from thier abilities. This arguement is the lefts achiliees heel so they avoid it by dismissing Murry’s work as racist.

  21. The Race part of the Bell Curve is statistically bunk, but the rest is a fine read.

    And why are people acting like this idea of Murray’s is so radical? Milton Friedman had been talking about pretty much the exact same idea to replace the welfare state in the 60’s and 70’s.

  22. I meant original rather than radical. I think its my gay acting up.

  23. I think its my gay acting up.

    You better have that taken care of before it gets any worse.

  24. Marvin,

    The “animals set free from the zoo” quote is from an editorial he had published in, I think, the NYT about a week after the storm hit.

    You can look up the criticism of ‘The Bell Curve’ for yourself, if you’re interested. Google is a wonderful thing.

    joshua, I don’t think he’s foaming at the mouth. I think he dresses his position up in very reasonable, professional garb.

  25. I think it marks the fact that TNR is fonder of pseudo-science[sic] on the supposedly untouchable subject of racial superiority[sic] than it is on the legitimately interesting and thought-provoking idea Murray is floating now. That says something about TNR, and not something nice.

    Bwahaha! The so-called social sciences might be “pseudo” compared to say, physics and chemistry, but the field of psychometrics is really pretty damned solidly grounded in reproduceable measurements and very reliable statistics. (not as reliable as, say, chemistry, but *far* more reliable than any other social-science field).

    As Marvin said, “Cognitive scientists don’t think anything about IQ in the Bell Curve is wrong or scientifically controversial.” It may be emotionally and/or socially controversial, but it’s not scientifically controversial.

    The Race part of the Bell Curve is statistically bunk
    The book’s been too thoroughly discredited to be worth the time.
    Both those statements are complete bullshit, and joe’s amounts to “I haven’t read it because I like my ideology to be information-free.”

    But it’s nice to see that there’s a few people who can think, as opposed to demontrating their moral outrage with emotional reactions.

  26. “Does this bespeak a shift in Murray’s influence, or in TNR’s?”

    Perhaps it bespeaks the difference between neo-connish Andrew Sullivan and whoever is running TNR now.

  27. I agree with Mr. F Le Mur. There is nothing controversial in The Bell Curve. I DID read it. I have a copy of it on my bookshelf.

    The facts presented in the book are bound to make the racists on the left a little uncomfortable, but that is the nature of facts.

  28. This whole arguement is beyond self delussionment.

    First if you take any two groups even with individuals randomly choosen then apply IQ bell curves to each group…one group is going to have a higher IQ average then the other…but both groups will have an almost equal dispersion of really stupid people and really smart people and everthing in between. And in fact the dispersial will be so great as to make difining each group meaningless…Murrays argument is just that…that racial equalities by race are so close and the bell curves over lap so much as to make any distiction meaningless…i am saddened by your lack of understanding of Murray’s arguement joe…i mean all he does is acknowlage that there are minor differeances in different races but in order to avoid group classification (racisms) we should set up a sociaty and government that recoganizes individual merrit…This i think is your bigest problem with murray…and you are hidding it by twisting what he actually said.

    why should we care if people from Mexico have .00010142% more super smart people then people from Cuba…so long as each individual super smart person is allowed to reach thier full potential without being pigion hold with burdonsome taxes, regulations and oh we have to protect the poor people from themselves statist agenda?

  29. Joe, I have searched. That editorial doesn’t exist, except in your imagination.

    “You can look up the criticism of ‘The Bell Curve’ for yourself, if you’re interested”

    I have, and of what I’ve seen it’s obvious most of the Bell Curve’s critics were not equipped to evaluate it, meaning I don’t think the opinions of the racial activists who attacked the book can be equated with the opinions of scientists like Arthur Jensen who praised the book. Gould’s disengenous attack has been rebutted in devastating fashion. Heckmann has changed his mind.

    The reason you don’t link to any credible criticism of the Bell Curve is the same reason you don’t link to the article with the “letting animals out of the zoo” quote, because it does not exist.

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