What game is Charles Murray playing? Whatever it is, it doesn’t frighten me. Nor does it particularly annoy me. Then again all I had to listen to was a couple minutes excerpted from an interview with Tucker Carlson, and given this mincemeat meal there’s not much to chew on. Nevertheless, there’s something to say because he’s Charles Murray.
Q: Is Charles Murray’s comment denounceable?
A: Sure, why not?
Still, I think I don’t know enough context from that clip, and I’m not going to listen to the entire thing. I understand that Murray does go on about race, and I know his science has been called pseudo-science, and I have heard claims that he was supposedly one softening up the racist right to make such a pseudo-scientific case for black unemployment. But I don’t think that final thing ever materialized and it is certainly not anything I have heard in the current debate on race. Nobody is talking IQ anywhere. Whatever IQ may or may not be, my nickel says Murray at least understand that the genetic components are more complex than what is commonly held. So to go after Murray you have to go after genetics, in other words against the basis of his conclusions. I tend to believe he is working somewhere else than most of his detractors believe.
Murray, for one, was one of the first people to seriously propose, several years ago now, the idea of Basic Income. So to the extent to which a large number of social commentators actually want to enact any legislation that will have a disproportionate benefit on any racial or ethnic group, Murray is playing the exact same game for different reasons known perhaps only to himself. I am against social engineering in general and I think Basic in a liberal democracy is a dangerous step away from individual liberty. I’m not sure if it is the final step to lock the Welfare State in place or something more sinister, a Servile State.
As a civil libertarian, I resist the categorization of ‘communities’. I am not only anti-racist, I am anti-race. I think it is a pernicious reduction of humanity to demographic terms which are always abused because these are tools of marketing casually used and reinforced in the public mind. The terms of marketing are indeed social constructions, and anyone who accepts these social constructions as true and useful will just as easily accept them for selling cheeseburgers as describing workforces or defining castes. Thats how collectivism works. They talk up the group, they talk down the individual. The socially constructed terms are the same and they are used for political ends, which in a democracy means they may eventually carry the force of law. I see this process as a clear and present threat to non-discrimination law and individuality. To borrow from Hayek, we remain on the brink of redefining tolerance, because we are so close to accepting social constructions in our politics and governance.
I see you staring at me sideways, but I’m telling you race is not the only thing that works this way.
The only proven method of rescuing us from the wishy washy and amorphous arbitrary categorizations of ‘communities’ is the rigor of the scientific process. And the only way the scientific process can work is with open debate and criticism. If there is a scientific theory of race that stands up to the rigorous tests of experiment, falsification etc, then we are obligated to honor that process and to treat its practitioners with the indifference owed. I understand Murray is a pariah, but his conjectures do serve the purposes of problem solving in an open society dedicated to the scientific process. He is also a proponent of social engineering which I oppose. I think there are a number of criticisms of Murray that should limit his influence and perhaps even demonstrate his aim to be a racist. However, to the extent we know that he is dabbling in genetics it is irresponsible to call him a racist of the same sort we associate with white supremacy and anti-black hatred.
It is certainly reasonable to understand that there are greater and lesser racists who pose greater and lesser threats to our open society and principles of equality before the law, but to understand this rationality forces us to recognize how many people are playing the angles to have their theories of race twist those principles of equality in favor of a different term, namely ‘equity’. I repeat that I am anti-race and against social engineering. I am for tolerance of individual rights and individualism. I am for open scientific inquiry. I think Murray requires greater scrutiny than the average activist and this scrutiny must take into account our obligations to make distinctions between genetic research and speculation about the nature of intelligence and the business of public policy. Murray crossed that line in The Bell Curve as are many racial theorists and their ideological toadies today.
From the context of a 3 minute video, I cannot single him out for anything specific beyond the typical racial blather that passes muster for the reasons of ‘good intentions’ or ‘realism’. My take on Murray is that he must be subjected to criticism of the sort which is not fueled by the politics of outrage or of anti-racist activism, but of the scientific process. But I caution anyone who considers him to be unredeemable to remember his implicit association with the candidacy of Andrew Yang and of Americans' general impulse to take wild populist ideas to be panaceas. We are not saved by dismissing Murray and we need to see his commentary in the context of Americans’ desires to do something with race. I say that the more we do with race, the worse off we are for it. Talking about the IQ of nurses by ethnicity is hardly worth much in and of itself. It’s not the sort of thing that made America shoot at Candidate or President Obama, though so many were sure that was inevitable in the evil world Murray created with The Bell Curve.
I would add that the very reason Free Black Thought exists and needs support in America is because of the doings of race. What race has done is circumscribed the ‘proper’ thinking of those ascribed to be black, which is yet another constructed ‘community’. Many of the civilizational problems we are facing in our nation come from such demographics flattening of our complex humanity and our growing inflexibility with regard to the sanctity and necessity of individual freedom and thought. Let us tread carefully, and always continue the open debate respectfully.