The Irrepressible Rothbard
Essays of Murray N. Rothbard
Edited by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
RACE! THAT MURRAY BOOK
Under the spell of a misplaced analogy from Darwinian theory, analysts for over a century liked to think of social change as necessarily gradual, minute, and glacial. The idea of any sort of radical or "revolutionary" social change became unfashionable among intellectuals and social scientists. The political and cultural revolutions of the twentieth century have altered that perspective, and observers are now more willing to entertain the idea of sudden revolutionary change.
Well, one vital and recent social change has been not only truly revolutionary but has occurred at almost dizzying speed. Namely: Until literally mid-October 1994, it was shameful and taboo for anyone to talk publicly or write about, home truths which everyone, and I mean everyone, knew in their hearts and in private: that is, almost self-evident truths about race, intelligence, and heritability. What used to be widespread shared public knowledge about race and ethnicity among writers, publicists, and scholars, was suddenly driven out of the public square by Communist anthropologist Franz Boas and his associates in the 1930s, and it has been taboo ever since. Essentially, I mean the almost self-evident fact that individuals, ethnic groups, and races differ among themselves in intelligence and in many other traits, and that intelligence, as well as less controversial traits of temperament, are in large part hereditary.
While, in contrast to many other countries, the professional egalitarian left in the United States has not been able to use government censorship as one of its weapons of expulsion, it has used every other smear and bullying tactic, high and low, to drive any such sentiments out of public life, to suppress discussion and scholarship, as well as any genuine freedom of inquiry or research in what had long been a flourishing area of study. In a deep sense, this was an early manifestation of Political Correctness, after which other virulent forms of PC were added on top of this previous foundation. In the area of scientific research, the last truthful comprehensive book on the subject, Race, by the great British scientist John R. Baker, was published by the distinguished Oxford University Press in the 1970s. But Oxford Press was virtually forced, by intense pressure, if not to withdraw the book openly, at least to suppress it in practice by giving it as little circulation as possible.
For the rest of society, the racial thought police were able to suppress journalism, and to eliminate all Racially Incorrect traces not only of media sentiment, but even of humor, and the rich American heritage of ethnic humor has almost been stamped out of existence.
The basic tactic of the egalitarian left rulers was, of course, not to dignify any books engaging in candid inquiry into the race question by openly rebutting them. After all, to engage in any sort of public debate, in lecture hall or in print, with The Enemy runs the risk of the egalitarian actually losing, or at least demonstrating to lay intellectuals or to the general public that maybe a plausible case can be made for this horrible heresy. So the ruling tactic of the left was to engage in what Harry Elmer Barnes, in another connection, called "the blackout," and for the rest to smear the heretic relentlessly with the usual PC smear labels we have come to know and love so well: "racist," "fascist," "Nazi," "sexist," "heterosexist," and so on. Better to black out and smear, to marginalize the heretic into shame and oblivion.
The political situation of the 1930s and 40s was used to cunning effect by the egalitarian left to stamp out all opposition. Any expression of racial home truths was automatically lambasted as "fascist," "Nazi," and therefore ultra-rightist. In fact, all of this was a fabrication. The leading "racial scientists" from the 1890s until the 1930s were in agreement across the ideological and political spectrum. In fact, most of the leading racial scientists were Progressives, left-liberals, and New Dealers. In that period, only Communists and other Marxists were egalitarians, for ideological reasons. But the Commies were able to use their extensive ideological and propaganda machine during that era to somehow link Nazi persecution of Jews to racism, and with doctrines of racial superiority and inferiority. In that way, the Commies were able to bully or convert all manner of liberals and leftists, including those ex-Trotskyites and liberals who would much later become neoconservatives. This left the conservatives, who were the least amenable to Marxist influence, but who in turn were bullied into submission by being smeared savagely as "Hitlerite" for any expression of racialist views.
In point of fact, however, it should be clear that Hitler and the Nazis did not persecute Jews because they believed Jews to be inferior in intelligence. And as for blacks, there were too few blacks residing in Europe for the Nazis to bother about, much less persecute. Where pre-World War II racialism was politically relevant was, e.g., in immigration-cutting policies in the United States, and in sterilization of welfare mothers as part of various state welfare programs. Both of these policies, however, could be and were supported on other than racialist grounds.
During the past sixty years, racial research or expression of views by intellectuals has been marginalized and almost literally driven underground by pressure from above and from below. But in October, 1994, with incredible speed, the entire culture did a 180-degree turn. Upon the publication by the respected Establishment, The Free Press, of Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray's The Bell Curve, expressing in massively stupefying scholarly detail what everyone has always known but couldn't dare to express about race, intelligence, and heritability, the dam suddenly burst. It's not that all the reviews were favorable. Not at all. But the crucial point is that the Blackout suddenly collapsed; the Herrnstein-Murray book (since Herrnstein died before publication, it is now for all publicity purposes "the Murray book") is remarkably everywhere, attacked in Newsweek as well as the predictable New Republic, treated as The Cultural Phenomenon of the year. Not only that: the attacks may be bitter, but they are not the traditional mindless smears: no one has dismissed the book as "racist," "fascist," "neo-Nazi," and all the rest.
There are many mind-boggling aspects to the Herrnstein-Murray breakthrough. The Bell Curve is becoming a runaway bestseller, certainly for a non-fiction work on a serious topic; and yet, it is not a book that more than a handful of scholars are actually going to read. How often do we see a 900-page work, filled with boring statistics and social science jargon, become a coffee-table book, the sort of book that my dear you simply have to display to show that you are abreast of the times?
Perhaps the most mind-boggling cultural response, one that most needs explanation, was that of the Queen of middlebrow, the newspaper that Sets the Line telling intellectuals, media people, journalists, think-tankers, etc. what to think: the august New York Times Sunday Book Review. In fact, we can, for once, pinpoint the cultural and social revolution on the Race Question to one precise date: October 16, 1994 the date when the august Establishment New York Times ostentatiously threw in the towel. For the Sunday Book Review devoted the front cover, and three entire pages to a blockbuster review of three recent "racist" books, a review which not only did not engage in the usual Marxoid smears, but was objective, respectful and actually favorable! We have to realize, in the first place, that such a length for a review in the Sunday Times is unprecedented; authors will kill for the publicity of having part of a page in the Review, much less three full pages. Second, instead of the usual Times practice of turning books of this type over to Harvard Marxist hatchetmen, paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould and biologist Richard Lewontin, or one of their ilk, the review is by New York Times science reporter Malcolm W. Browne, who treats these works in a way similar books should have been treated over the past six decades.
Not only that: the Herrnstein-Murray book almost drowns its subject in statistics and qualifications, and it tries to downplay the entire race issue, devoting most of its space to inheritable differences among individuals within each ethnic or racial group. Truly incredible is the treatment Browne gives to the far harder-core, more ideologically explosive though also strictly scientific work of Professor J. Phillippe Rushton, Race, Evolution, and Behavior, published by the respected and courageous Transaction Publishers affiliated with Rutgers University. Transaction has been, for decades, one of the very few publishers in America genuinely devoted to freedom of intellectual inquiry and freedom of scholarly expression. The third work is the unabashedly conservative-libertarian book by Smith College education professor Seymour Itzkoff, The Decline of Intelligence in America (Praeger). Not only are all these books treated soberly and favorably by Browne, but he also points out the shamefulness of the suppression of such views and research for decades. Thus, Browne writes that "the articulation of issues touching on group intelligence and ethnicity has been neither fashionable nor safe for the last three decades," but that these books are "worth plowing through and mulling over." For Browne agrees with these scholars that "the time has come to grasp the nettle of political heresy, to discard social myths and to come to grips with statistical evidence." And Browne concludes what for the Times is a massive review, that "the most insistent plea of the four authors is for freedom of debate and an end to the shroud of censorship imposed upon scientists and scholars by pressure groups and an acquiescing society." He then notes that Herrnstein and Murray write that "for the last 30 years, the concept of intelligence has been a pariah in the world of ideas," and adds that the "time has come to rehabilitate rational discourse on the subject." Browne's ringing last sentence: "It is hard to imagine a democratic society doing otherwise." Wowie!
So how do we explain this phenomenon? How do we account for the fact that straight talk on race, intelligence, and heredity has gone, in one week, from being taboo to being almost old-hat? What in blazes has happened?
In the first place, those who believe in the accidental theory of history have their work cut out for them. No one can convince me that, on a subject of such delicacy and of such magnitude, that this tremendous change of opinion was purely a matter of intellectual fashion, of spontaneous combustion, or sudden consideration and deep conviction. No topic can shift from being shamefully Naziish to respectable and even scientific status overnight and by sudden acclamation (the surprise here, to repeat, is not simply the favorable and long review in the Times, but that the critics suddenly shifted from blackout-and-smear to mere hostility and widespread publicity). Surely, in this particular case, the unprovable "paranoid" view that a few powerful Establishment figures pushed some button is far more plausible an explanation.
SCIENCE WILL OUT
So why did this incredible turnaround occur? In the first place, there is the important point that, praise the Lord, science and truth, though long delayed and deferred, will eventually win out. In the long run, truth cannot be suppressed. In the last few decades, there has been an explosion of genetic and intelligence research, here and in Europe, despite the atmosphere ranging from subtle to brutal suppression. Despite the lack of government or Establishment foundation research funding, despite academic assaults on scholars, and student and community thugs preventing such researchers from lecturing or teaching, there has been an overwhelming accumulation of scientific data confirming, time and again, what everyone knows from his own and from others' observations.
Of the two authors of The Bell Curve, Charles Murray is the best-known in conservative circles as a neoconservative/left-libertarian researcher whose elaborate statistics confirmed what everyone knew anyway: that the welfare state injures, rather than benefits, its alleged beneficiaries, and only aggravates the problem. So what else is new, Charlie? But the real star of the duo is the late Harvard Professor Richard Herrnstein, a Harvard psychologist who was no conservative at all, but instead an old-fashioned left-liberal, that is, one of the rare liberals still dedicated to genuine freedom of inquiry and to the search for scientific truth. When, two decades ago, Herrnstein became interested in intelligence and heritability, and before he had even ventured into the troubled area of race, he suddenly found his classes and lectures invaded and himself physically assaulted by the student-community left. Refusing to be intimidated, Herrnstein pressed on, regardless of threats or of the developing storm of Political Incorrectness.
Other scientists, here and abroad, including such intelligence experts as Belfast professor Richard Lynn, have confirmed these doctrines over and over. Phillippe Rushton, a heroic professor at University of Western Ontario, has literally not been able to teach any of his classes in person, because of continued disruption by thugs. (The "thug" category is not, despite implications of the U.S. media, confined to followers of General Cedras in Haiti.) Fortunately, the Western Ontario University authorities have backed Rushton's academic independence to the hilt, and he is permitted to have all of his lectures shown to classes on videotape.
In the light of this explosion of research, it has been increasingly difficult for the Marxoid left to maintain its egalitarian posture, which more and more smacks of the absurd environmentalist "Lysenkoism" of the shameful era of Soviet genetics. As a result, the scholarly left has fallen back on two tactics to combat the inegalitarian threat. One is the frank if truly horrifying admission that "even if racialist science is true, it should be suppressed because its social and political conclusions are immoral." Such a frank position that truth must be suppressed for alleged social or political considerations, is a true "treason of the intellectuals," a candid junking of the entire point of scholarship and research. It is a position that cannot be condemned too severely, and should be the occasion for the drumming of every advocate out of any sort of public discourse. For how can a self-proclaimed liar and suppressor of truth be taken seriously ever again?
The second fallback position was a tactic that worked for a long time. Its success negates the Hayek position that the only sure way to convert the culture is to first convert the leading philosophers and scientists, who in turn persuade other academics, who in turn convert journalists and media people, who in turn change the course of public opinion. "part from the slowness of this process (it could take centuries), we have seen all too often that it has been short-circuited wherever science or other knowledge enters a hot-button area. Maybe it worked in the old days when journalists tried to be objective truth-seekers, and were content to sample and report to the public authoritative opinion in whatever science or discipline they were covering. As responsible journalists, they set aside their own personal views in the service of their once honorable profession. But in recent years, as we are all aware, journalists and media people have generally become not objective reporters, but missionary zealots with their own ideological agenda for brainwashing the public. We have seen this process in the various pesticide and other environmentalist scares of the last decades. Most scientists did not believe that Alar on apples was a big cancer threat (it is far less of a threat, ironically, than "natural" apples themselves). Most scientists do not believe that "global warming" has ever been established, much less worry about hair sprays or air-conditioners as an important contributor. The media people, knowing this, simply distort the process by always going for quotes to the small handful of scientific propagandists who are leftists with their own fanatical environmentalist agenda.
The same has been true in the case of race and intelligence. One would think from the quantity of their quotes that the only biologists, geneticists, or intelligence experts in this huge country were Harvard Marxoids Gould and Lewontin, occasionally backstopped by their leftist colleague Leon Kamin. One would certainly never know that the bulk of their colleagues differ totally with their professional-egalitarian position. Unlike many other areas, there is no media attempt to "balance" in these fields.
One might excuse this bias as a typical media search for a punchy sound-bite, for a quick dramatic quote, whereas scientists tend to talk in measured, qualified tones. But this defense would be a cop-out, since the media could at least inform us that most scientists disagreed, and they could seek out some punchy counter-quotes from people like Rushton, and treat them with the same deference they show Harvard Marxists. Hah!
At any rate, we can say that in mid-October, the dam burst, and the accumulation of scientific data and research simply became too much for Gould, Lewontin and Company to block.
Certainly, this accumulating tension between scientific truth and the ruling propaganda is part of the explanation of what's happened. But the problem is that it's only a long-run explanation. We still have the puzzle; why did the breakthrough occur now, in October 1994, and why does it center around the Herrnstein-Murray book? All the boring statistics? Sure, but, for example, decades ago, Audrey M. Shuey's book The Testing of Negro Intelligence, published by a small southern university press, was equally impressive in its statistics, and yet it sank without a trace.
Part of the answer, I believe, is precisely that Audrey Shuey was not a neocon beloved by conservative and free-market think-tanks, and she was not a Harvard professor. All too often, the key to public and scholarly success is not what you're saying, but who you are and who is backing you.
JUSTIFYING THE ELITE
So let us go on to a bold, though persuasive, hypothesis: the powerful neocons, despite the smallness of their number, have an iron grip on much public political opinion through their raft of syndicated columnists, their control of numerous Official Conservative and left-libertarian Beltway think-tanks, financed by wealthy neocon foundations, as well as their domination of influential magazines and organs of opinion, headed by the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. Let's assume and there have been increasing indications of this in recent years that the neocons have decided to junk their long-time support for the Black Movement. But this doesn't explain the turnaround of the New York Times, which is no longer neocon (since the exit of Abe Rosenthal, John Corry, and Hilton Kramer), and is now the voice of left-liberalism in the United States (followed closely by the Washington Post). So what happened with liberals? To put it bluntly, white liberals have gotten sick of the Black Movement. Their hysteria about the black nationalism of Louis Farrakhan and its infusion into the NAACP under Benjamin Chavis is a case in point. For why should anyone not a member of the NAACP care what it does, or who it selects as its head? But white liberals care deeply, because the black nationalists are right about this one: the NAACP, and other "civil rights" organizations, were dominated from the very beginning by a minority of white leaders, partially through white financing and partly through white influence over the mainstream media and mainstream politicians. I don't blame blacks one bit for being sick of white control of ostensibly black organizations; if I were black, I'd be trying to cast these people off myself. And why not?
But white liberals, in contrast (and neocons, too, who are, after all, only right-wingish liberals) feel that the blacks are ingrates, as well as threats to their own power. So are white liberals, also driven by the well-known intensifying horrors of crime and welfare, finally fed up. They decided, at long last, that they had had enough, and that they would pull the plug on the black movement that they had done so much to create and foster. As part of what must have been this deliberate, and weighty decision, the liberals (and neocons) decided to remove the stranglehold that the Marxoid Far Left, the Goulds, the Lewontins, and their ilk, had been permitted to maintain in suppressing scientific truth in the area of race and intelligence. And then, bingo! the dam broke. The United Left Front of neocons, liberals, blacks and the Far Left had suddenly dissolved.
The fact that the neocons and liberals chose to take their stand on a book filled with statistics and the rest of the prestigious apparatus of science, co-authored by a liberal Harvard professor and by a neocon-left-libertarian think-tanker, now makes a great deal of sense. It is hardly a coincidence. What better book on which to throw down the gauntlet to the Hard Left?
But there is another, more hidden, and more sinister, aspect to this new stand by neocons and liberals. When all is said and done, as we will emphasize further below, both neocons and liberals are statists. They don't want freedom or free markets. They don't want, for example, genuinely private or home schooling. What they want is national statism run, not by leftists, but by themselves. They want their own kind of welfare state, and they want a nationalized educational system, public and private, run by themselves. Both groups are strongly opposed to the populist movement sweeping this country, a movement profoundly hostile to any form of national socialism and to its embodiment in Washington, D.C. Liberals and neocons both favor rule by a small Washington power elite, an elite which they claim to be merely a natural "meritocracy." Since they, the liberal and neocon intellectuals and technocrats, generally have higher IQs than most of the rest of the population, what better way to justify their own meritocratic rule than by invoking the majesty of Science? Here we have a key to the sudden embrace by neocons, and even by liberals of the scientific truth about race and intelligence.
BUT AFTER ALL, SO WHAT?
There are many wonderful things that paleos, conservatives and libertarians, can celebrate about this new revolutionary cultural turn on race. First and foremost, and despite the common smears against paleos as theocrats and inveterate opponents of free speech, paleos are the most fervent and genuine advocates of freedom of speech and of inquiry in this country. The end of the blackout and of the smears against truth-seekers in the area of race and intelligence is a wonderful thing for its own sake. And second, of course, the egalitarian myth has been the major ideological groundwork for the welfare state, and, in its racial aspect, for the entire vast, ever expanding civil rights-affirmative action-setaside-quota aspect of the welfare state. The recognition of inheritance and natural inequalities among races as well as among individuals knocks the props out from under the welfare state system.
But, when all is said and done, the truth about race and IQ means a lot more to liberals and to neocons than it does to paleos. For the liberals and neocons, being statist to the core, are obliged to seize control of resources and to allocate them somehow among the various groups of the population. Liberals-neocons are "sorters," they aim to sort people out, to subsidize here, to control and restrict there. So, to the neocon or liberal power elite, ethnic or racial science is a big thing because it tells these sorters who exactly they should subsidize, who they should control, who they should restrict and limit. Should they use taxpayer funds to subsidize the "disadvantaged" or geniuses? Which is more socially productive, which dysgenic? I remember the only time I ever met neocon Godfather Irving Kristol; it was many years ago, at a conference critical of egalitarianism in Switzerland. It did not take long before the two of us got into a bitter argument because Kristol wanted geniuses declared a "national resource"; I hotly commented that such a declaration implied (a) that taxpayers should be forced to subsidize geniuses as "national resources"; and (b) that it followed that these subsidized would then be subject to government control. Kristol, as I remember, never denied such implications.
But while neocons and liberals want the planners and national statists to sort, subsidize, and control, for which they need scientific data such as intelligence as guides, paleos are very different. Paleos believe in Liberty; paleos believe in the rights of person and property; paleos want no government subsidizers or controllers. Paleos want Big Government off all of our backs, be we smart or dumb, black, brown or white.
It is truly fascinating that, while liberals and neocons have been deriding paleos for years as notorious "racists," "fascists," "sexists," and all the rest, that actually we, as libertarians, are the last group who deserve such a label: that, in fact, liberals and neocons, as people who all stand with the power elite over the ordinary Americans, are far more deserving of the statist-racist-fascist label.
SO: WHY TALK ABOUT RACE AT ALL?
If, then, the Race Question is really a problem for statists and not for paleos, why should we talk about the race matter at all? Why should it be a political concern for us; why not leave the issue entirely to the scientists?
Two reasons we have already mentioned; to celebrate the victory of freedom of inquiry and of truth for its own sake; and a bullet through the heart of the egalitarian-socialist project. But there is a third reason as well: as a powerful defense of the results of the free market. If and when we as populists and libertarians abolish the welfare state in all of its aspects, and property rights and the free market shall be triumphant once more, many individuals and groups will predictably not like the end result. In that case, those ethnic and other groups who might be concentrated in lower-income or less prestigious occupations, guided by their socialistic mentors, will predictably raise the cry that free-market capitalism is evil and "discriminatory" and that therefore collectivism is needed to redress the balance. In that case, the intelligence argument will become useful to defend the market economy and the free society from ignorant or self-serving attacks. In short; racialist science is properly not an act of aggression or a cover for oppression of one group over another, but, on the contrary, an operation in defense of private property against assaults by aggressors.
In any case, there is cause for jubilation these days, for it looks as if the left-egalitarian blackout-and-smear gang has been dealt a truly lethal blow.
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