Book review of The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (A Free Press Paperbacks Book) by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray
In the last two years I have read an enormous number of books due to my technological isolation, and many times I have thought, why the hell didn’t I read this when I was twenty? This is one of those. It is so prescient, so relevant, and so essential to understanding present-day SJW/Big Tech hysterias that I was embarrassed that I had not read it before, and that, like most others, I had completely misunderstood what it was all about. If you haven’t read it, you no doubt suffer that same misapprehension.
The Bell Curve is one of the most maligned, unread and misrepresented books of the last century. The main purpose of this post is to explain what it is really about, and how important it is.
First, of course, we must explain what it is not about. The Bell Curve contains one section about race and IQ, with some speculation about the causes of observed aggregate differences. It does this only as the topic relates closely to the main theme of the book. People asked Charles Murray why he didn’t just leave it alone, and he replied that he and Richard Herrnstein thought they had to include it otherwise they’d have immediately fallen victim to the ‘there’s no such thing as IQ’ crowd. It was going to be brought up, so they decided to face it head-on.
Was this the right decision? I’m not sure. It certainly got their book a lot of attention, but too many people simply assumed it was some kind of racist polemic and never bothered to read it, thus missing the incredible, non-racial insights it contained. Anyway, what’s done is done, and what is published is published.
So, four paragraphs in, we finally come to the actual theme of the book. I summarize it here in point form:
– IQ is a real thing. Assertions to the contrary, though popular among the general public, carry no weight among experts in the field.
– IQ used to be more evenly distributed across American society than it is today (they mean 1994). College graduates were not necessarily the brightest of the bright, and very high IQ people could commonly be found among farmers, bakers, housewives and shopkeepers.
– Starting from 1945, society became much more efficient at identifying those with high IQ, regardless of social background, sex or race, educating those people at college, and placing them in high-status careers. This seems to have been a requirement for an increasingly technological society.
– While this is mostly a good news story, it has had other effects. While American society was once stratified mostly by inherited class, it is now increasingly stratified by IQ. Due to their highly selective workplaces, interests and social circles, people with an IQ two standard deviations above the mean rarely rub shoulders with those of average or below-average intelligence. Indeed, they likely consider their secretary, whose IQ is only one standard deviation above the mean, a bit slow. They have little idea about what is happening in the rest of society as they have no connection to it.
Those two standard deviations below the mean face the same cognitive isolation, and form an increasingly violent and troublesome underclass.
– In our modern, liberalized society, these differences in IQ make an enormous difference in terms of income, family formation and child raising, crime, employment, and various other factors. The cleverest are highly advantaged while those near the bottom are struggling to survive without welfare.
– There is little more we can do to raise the general IQ level of society, or of groups within it, than we are already doing. Once basic nutrition and K-12 schooling is in place, government policies seem to make little difference. The Flynn effect (a recorded rise in IQ scores over time) seems to have slowed or ceased in developed countries.
You can see how race comes in here.
– This may cause problems in the future such as a developing consciousness of group interests or political views among the cognitive elite in business, academia and government, leading to an erosion of rights for others or a custodial state to manage an increasingly incapable underclass.
They actually use the word ‘convergence’.
In 1994 this was all very speculative. After all, existing trends often change over time. However, my 2019 reader, wearing his shiny silver future jumpsuit with flared trousers and that futuristic thing on the shoulders, will be aware that this is exactly what is happening. The authors were writing before Amazon, Facebook, Twitter or Google existed, but both dirt-level SJWs within these companies plus their cloud-leaders are at one with the surveillance state and the academic leaders that provide the intellectual justification and the brainwashed inductees into the world of our converged Masters of the Universe. And it almost goes without saying, this converging elite now crosses seamlessly over ethnic and national boundaries.
The reader’s obvious objection to this view is: are these people really that smart? Well, yes they are. But they are also quite stupid. I have already written a post explaining several reasons why clever people are stupid, and have another in the works. So let us leave it there for now.
Herrnstein died at about the same time The Bell Curve was published, leaving Murray to defend it alone. Herrnstein was the psychologist and therefore would have been better able to defend the most controversial aspects of the book. Murray was the sociologist and his highly logical and statistical approach has given me newfound respect for that academic field.
Most of the reaction to the book was hysterical. Reasonable critics include Thomas Sowell (full review is behind paywall, and is more positive).
Until you have read this book in full, you probably don’t fully understand the underlying causes or potential consequences of the convergence that we are seeing among the cloud people. As soon as I have internet access I will download Murray’s follow-up, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.
As for mokita – if you think you’re so clever, look it up for yourself.