Sunday, December 10, 2006

Is the term "liberal" still meaningful?

By John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.)

I am constantly bemused by the way people use the word "liberal" as if it had some sort of clear meaning. It doesn't. In America it is used to describe the mainstream Left. In Australia it is used to describe the mainstream Right and in Britain it is used to describe the naive and dreamy Left. The word is also used to describe the sort of doctrine preached (but not practiced) by John Stuart Mill, though a clarifying "neo" prefix is sometimes attached in that case.

The word also has vaguer meanings along the line of "broad-minded", "tolerant", "enlightened", "relaxed" etc. Thus we hear of a "liberal" education -- which is an education in basically useless subjects. We also hear of "liberal" democracy but I am not at all sure how such a democracy differs from any other sort of democracy. Is there an "illiberal" democracy anywhere? Perhaps it means a democracy that respects the rights of the minority but it generally seems to have a much warmer glow attached to it than just that.

I myself almost never use the word. I sometimes use it to refer to the American mainstream Left but I always put it in quotes on such occasions out of respect for the origins of the word -- the Latin "liber" meaning "free". Since the American Left seem to believe in as little freedom for the individual as possible, their adoption of that word as a self-description seems particularly perverse to me.

Perhaps most confusingly of all, paleoconservatives (itself a term of several meanings) sometimes claim that BOTH the Left and Right of modern-day politics are "liberal". By that they seem to mean something like "ignoring genetic constraints and racial differences". I find that usage perhaps the most puzzling of all since conservatives are quite emphatic that there is a genetically inherited "human nature" that constrains greatly what we can do or can be made to do. So how can they be "liberal" in the paleoconservative sense? And even Leftists do admit genetic constraints in one case only -- the case of homosexuality. So I think the paleoconservative meaning has to be decoded as "denying the importance of inborn racial differences". Even that decode has its problems, however, as a majority of psychometricians (who are almost all Left-leaning in one way or another) admit inherited racial differences in IQ, which is a very important difference indeed. Does that make them paleoconservatives? The psychologists concerned would almost all vigorously deny it.

Amusingly, the term "liberal" seems to be falling out of favour among the American Left. The term has so often been attached to silly and unrealistic policies that the term "progressive" is now coming back into favour as a description of the broad Left. If the modern-day users of that term were aware of the eugenic, militaristic and nationalistic policies of the early 20th century "Progressives", however, they might be less keen on applying it to themselves.

Nonetheless, the term is undoubtedly going to be with us for a long time as a description (however inappropriate) of the mainstream American Left so we will undoubtedly have to put up with that. I do wish however that other usages of the term would be dropped in favour of more informative descriptions of the policies or philosophies concerned.

The racial dimension

A curious complication in use of the term "liberal" is what the "liberal" attitude to race might be. Insofar as "liberal" means tolerant or broad-minded, we might expect liberals to be racially tolerant and judge people as individuals rather than as group members. Yet that has never been the case for "Progressives" or those on the Left generally.

Most people today are totally unaware that the mainstream Left were great racists before World War II. Racist beliefs were almost universal at that time but Leftists were the great preachers of it. Even Marx and Engels were furiously racist and if they were not Leftists, who would be? I have documented all that at length here and here and here and here.

Conservatives, by contrast, have generally been moderate in their racial views -- which is why the British Conservative party made an outspoken Jew their Prime Minister at the height of the British empire. And to this day conservatives take a moderate view of race -- rejecting for instance the Leftist claim that the problems of blacks are all the fault of whites. As always, conservatives think in terms of individuals rather than in such crude racial terms. Leftists have now reversed the polarity of their racism but they are still the ardent racists they always were. It is just another instance of their characteristic simplistic thinking. The dreadful Hitler episode made pro-white racism unmentionable just about everywhere but since they really believe in nothing at all other than their own entitlement to power, sophisticated Leftists immediately became anti-white without a qualm. Because of their claim to have an explanation for everything, they NEED that sort of simplistic thinking.

Less sophisticated and more down-to-earth Leftists could not do a backflip so quickly or easily of course -- as we saw in the American South. The opponents of racial integration in the 1960s American South (George Wallace, Orval Faubus etc) were of course prominent Democrats, members of America's mainstream party of the Left. And the Southern Democrats had not long before been the great bastion of support for the socialist FDR. Even in 1932, Roosevelt won all the southern states. Even the Ku Klux Klan was basically a Democrat organization. A former Klansman (Byrd) sits in the U.S. Congress as a Democrat to this day. See here (or here) for more extensive details.

And as for FDR, note this quote showing that FDR too was a typical (racist) Leftist of his era:

"For an excellent illustration of just how little FDR cared for the desperate plight of southern blacks, you can study what happened to the Scottsboro Boys, eight young black men unjustly accused of raping two white women in 1931 Alabama. Even the more level-headed Southerners eventually came to see that no rapes had occurred and that the accused were innocent. But given the region's fierce pride, untangling the legal mess created by their conviction took many years. FDR could have waved it all away with a single signature on a federal pardon, knowing that the party's southern leadership would see that it never became a political issue. Instead, he did nothing."

So I think racism is another way in which "liberal" is a great misnomer for mainstream Leftists. They still judge people by the colour of their skin rather than by the content of their character.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Happiness, money and politics

By John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.)


I have been thinking and reading about happiness ever since I came across the work of Michael Argyle on the subject in the 1970s. And, despite many complexities in the research findings, I think in the end the facts about it are surprisingly simple:

It seems that happiness is to a quite extraordinary degree a trait rather than a state. In other words, we are born happy, unhappy or somewhere in-between. There are a lot of people who are always miserable (most Leftists, for instance) and some who are always sunny in mood no matter what. Even when we find that some classes of people (e.g. married people) are happier than others, it seems likely that it is more a case of happier people tending to marry rather than marriage making you happy.

That is of course rather counter-intuitive. We can all think of events that have made us happy or unhappy so we assume that it is events (or at least external things) that are responsible for our degree of happiness. But it is not so. The events only ever have a transitory effect. We soon settle back to how we were before. The most striking evidence of that is that people who have accidents that leave them paraplegic or quadriplegic (i.e. with very limited use of their limbs) do not sink into irretrievable depths of despair but in fact report after a year or so that they are roughly as happy after their accident as they were before their accident.

So policies aimed at making people happy are pissing into the wind. They are trying to alter what basically cannot be much altered. So in a democracy, political policies have to be aimed at what people WANT, not at what will make them happy -- because nothing can do that.

Which is very pesky for the Left. They have recently discovered the happiness research literature and it has perked them up greatly. "If money will not make you happy, then there's no problem with us taking it off you", has been their hopeful cry. By the same reasoning one might argue that if losing your legs does not make you lastingly unhappy, then there is no harm cutting everybody's legs off either.

The Research

What I have just said is a rather bald statement, however, so let me look in more detail at what we know:

How happy we are does NOT seem to depend strongly on external circumstances, though it does of course depend to SOME degree on what happens to us. So one person will be happy in circumstances that would make another person miserable. I know. I have observed perfectly cheerful people among the street-sleepers of Bombay. Some people are almost always happy. Some people are almost always whining. Some people just have happy natures and some do not. So looking at what it is that makes people happy is largely futile. In statisticians' terms, you are looking for variance in something that is invariant. Or, putting it another way, correlations with something that is invariant will NECESSARILY be zero. So if you are interested in running a public policy that respects other people, you need to look at what they CHOOSE, not at what makes them happy. And most people choose (for instance) more money rather than less.

And I think that this article shows beyond doubt that degree of happiness is a stable disposition:

"Most people who live with serious disability or illness, such as kidney failure, appear to adapt well and maintain a healthy outlook on life, new research reports. This trend may be surprising to some -- the report also found that people without serious illnesses tended to underestimate the level of happiness in these patients. "We think it is encouraging that for at least some illnesses, life seems to (eventually) go on and that people come to experience good and even normal mood levels," study author Dr. Jason Riis of Princeton University in New Jersey told Reuters Health. "We cannot adapt to anything. But we are generally more resilient than we think," he said. In the Journal of Experimental Psychology, Riis and his colleagues note that this is not the first study to show that people can adjust to good and bad life events. For instance, a nearly 30-year old study found that paraplegics were not that much less happy than lottery winners."

And note further this report:

"The senior author of the new paper, Peter Ubel, M.D., has conducted several of these studies, and has found that ill people are often surprisingly happy, sometimes just as happy as healthy people. This suggests an adaptability or resilience in the face of their medical problems. Ubel is the director of the Center for Behavioral and Decision Sciences in Medicine, an advisor to the RWJ Clinical Scholars Program, and author of You're Stronger Than You Think: Tapping the Secrets of Emotionally Resilient People (McGraw-Hill, 2006).

"People often believe that happiness is a matter of circumstance, that if something good happens, they will experience long-lasting happiness, or if something bad happens, they will experience long-term misery," he says. "But instead, people's happiness results more from their underlying emotional resources

And some more evidence that happiness is a personality trait:

"In a boost for exam-flunkers everywhere, a study published yesterday in the British Medical Journal found the levels of satisfaction with life recorded by 550 Scottish men and women aged 84-85 were unaffected by their mental abilities, either when they were young or much later.... The study group, all born in Lothian, Scotland, in 1921, were remarkable for the fact they had all undergone tests of mental ability when they were about 11 years old, and the records had been preserved. The tests were repeated a few years ago, when they were about 79. They each ranked their happiness on a scientifically validated satisfaction scale."

So it is interesting to note that there is a long history of evidence showing that conservatives are happier. The most recent is from Gallup: "Even when accounting for partisan differences in marital status and household income, Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats and independents to be very happy." Leftists are miserable sods, to put it plainly -- but you just have to hear their constant whining about everything in our society to know that. The implication is, then, that conservatives are born with a happier and more contented disposition and that Leftists want to change things in a futile attempt to alleviate their inborn unhappiness.

In recent years, Left-leaning economists such as Ross Gittins (see also here) have discovered the academic psychology literature on happiness -- and it seems to have given them some relief. The research shows, of course, that higher incomes do not automatically buy you more happiness. Any observer of Hollywood knew that long ago and I guess people have in fact known at least the times of ancient Lydia and King Croesus that money does not necessarily make you happy. In 1 Timothy 6:10 St. Paul probably went a bit too far in saying that "The love of money is the root of all evil" but you get the idea. And the whole story of Job in the Old Testament runs along similar lines. But these days, "If money does not make you happier, then take it away!" is the Leftist reasoning. So that old bit of wisdom has found a new use as the latest pathetic excuse to hike taxes. There is for example a Left-leaning academic (Richard Layard) reported here who points to the fact that getting richer does not necessarily make you happier and who thinks therefore that government meddling is indicated.

So why SHOULD we worry about giving everyone higher incomes if that will not make them any happier? The simple answer: "Because almost everybody WANTS higher incomes" does not seem to have occurred to everybody yet. They seem to think that if money will not necessarily make you happy then governments should not bother with efforts to get more of it to you. But satisfaction, comfort, convenience, leisure options, security etc are not the same as happiness. The strongest external influence on how happy you are is probably your relationships with others. Given satisfaction with your relationships, you will probably remain roughly as happy through a wide range of incomes. But you will still want more of the things that money can buy if you can get them. So you will still say "Yes, please" to the possibility of more money.

There is a reply to Gittins on the economic issues here but it should also be noted that money does appear to have SOME influence. As this article reports: "A new survey of national wellbeing has found the people happiest about their lives are those earning more than $150,000 a year. Those least happy earn less than $15,000 a year". We must again be careful about making causal influences there, however. That happier people are more economically successful seems highly reasonable in view of the role that personal relationships can have in ecopnomic success.

But this article also tends to show that there are ways in which money can buy happiness: "Two studies released yesterday shed new light on the importance of economic circumstances, and undermine earlier findings that poor people are just as happy as the rich. Money doesn't buy Happiness - or Does It? by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, at Melbourne University, shows that when wealth - not just income - is measured, the rich are indeed happier than the poor. Earlier research that focused only on income found very little difference in the reported happiness of high-income and low-income people. Mark Wooden, the study's co-author, said: "This has led some people to say money is not that important, relative to other things." However, when people's assets were taken into account - the value of their houses, cars, art works, even stamp collection - a different picture emerged."

So what is going on? Is happiness static or is it not? We certainly DON'T usually think of happiness as a trait. We see it as something that happens to us -- as a temporary state rather than as an enduring trait. We mostly seem to think of it as the sort of thing that happens inside us when we win a prize or a lottery of some sort. And we see UNhappiness as event-related too. If a man's wife leaves him that will usually make him unhappy and if his dog dies that will make him VERY unhappy. But a new love and a new dog will of course immediately restore or even improve the man's happiness. But even without a new love or a new dog, happiness levels will eventually creep back to where they were. In fact even clinical depression (where people are having suicidal thoughts) usually wears off after a couple of years. So it doesn't really matter what a shrink says or does to help a depressed person as long as he can manage to keep the patient alive for a couple of years.

There might be some conceptual confusion in all this. Perhaps the language we use to talk about the subject is inadequate. And a cross-cultural note tends to confirm that. There have for many years been international surveys done which purport to find out which countries have the happiest people. But the big difficulty that the researchers found was that happiness is not always an adequately translatable concept. Perhaps the most surprising case of that is that even a language as closely related to English as German does not have any real equivalent to our word "happiness" (nor do they have a good equivalent for our word "pink" and nor do we have anything like an adequate translation of their word "Reich"). The commonest German translation of "happiness" is "gluecklich" but that really means "lucky", and I well remember an old German Jewish man with whom I was discussing that many years ago. He told me: "gluecklich I am but happy I am not". He meant that he was lucky to have escaped Hitler but still missed much of his old life. So can we really have as a key economic variable something that is not even translatable into German?

One approach that might seem hopeful for researchers into the subject is to talk about "happiness state" versus "trait happiness" but from my point of view as a psychometrician, however, that seems unlikely to help. I spent 20 years measuring psychological traits and have had many papers published on that subject but I have always regarded the measurement of psychological states as too difficult for me. Why? Because what people say about their states seems to be almost the same as what they say about their traits. The best-known example of an attempt to measure both states and traits in the same field is almost certainly Spielberger's work on state/trait measurement of anxiety and I have myself worked with Spielberger's questionnaires. But I found that the questions used to index the two gave generally interchangeable results: People who described themselves as anxious "at the moment" were also highly likely to describe themselves as anxious "in general". And that is not necessarily just a measurement problem, either. It surely stands to reason that people who are anxious "in general" are also more likely to be anxious on any given occasion. That implies to me that very short-term changes in states may be detectable (e.g. the "high" someone gets on being told they have won a lottery) but the sort of medium term change economists are looking for probably is not.

Yet given that traits are by definition both stable and general behaviour tendencies and given that traits are almost always shown to be highly genetically inheritable, any consideration of traits as an economic variable is surely beside the point. Economists are looking for the results of something, i.e. a change of some sort, and something that is inherently not very susceptible to change is surely a strange place to look for change. So it seems to me that any study of happiness as an economic variable must specifically look at states or "moods" -- and that does not generally seem even to be attempted. And the tradition of mood research in psychology exemplified by Joe Forgas and others usually seems to treat moods as short-lived rather than as being the sort of long-lasting change that economists have been looking for.

So I think it is clear that happiness research still has a long way to go and attempts by economists and others to use it for political purposes are totally premature and irrelevant. And, in that context, I think it is time I noted that Leftists are not only using the static nature of happiness to justify higher taxes but they are also using it to attack freedom and variety of choice.

There was a 2004 NYT article (reprinted here) arguing that too much choice can be bad for you. Too much choice is said to be confusing, paralysing and dissatisfying. This is actually a very old idea -- one made much of in Alvin Toffler's 1971 book, Future Shock -- and it is ideal fodder for Leftists who want to dictate to people. As good totalitarians have always said, they can say: "See. Choice is bad for you. WE will make all your decisions for you". This article has some reasonable comments on that:

"In a recent New York Times op-ed touting his book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, psychology professor Barry Schwartz criticized political reforms aimed at expanding choice. He argued that "for many people, increased choice can lead to a decrease in satisfaction. Too many options can result in paralysis, not liberation."... There is much to be said against this thesis. First, if choice makes us unhappy, why do so many of us stop patronizing mom-and-pop stores and rush to Wal-Mart the moment we get the chance?... Choice in the marketplace grows out of individual freedom. I want shoes. Many people are free to sell me shoes. That presents me with choices, requiring me to pay attention and to discriminate. What's the alternative? Government control aimed at limiting choice. Where's the evidence that that makes people happy?... Schwartz is a professor. If someone were to suggest that too many books, journals, and magazines crowd the shelves, that all this choice makes people unhappy, and that government could serve us better by restricting the number of choices, Schwartz and his ilk would scream like banshees".

There is of course some truth in saying that choice can be "blinding", as Toffler put it, but everything has its costs and the key question to ask is what if YOUR particular choice (of jam or anything else) were taken away? You would not like it. I myself feel irritated by the vast range of jams, mayonnaise etc that I have to go through in the supermarket to find just the one I want -- but I get REALLY irritated if my particular favourite is not among those on offer. The basic conclusion is that if we want our OWN choice of something, we have to tolerate OTHER people being given their choice too. Freedom has its costs. Nobody has ever pretended otherwise. But take that freedom away and you run into REALLY big costs -- in contentment and much else besides.

And there is the larger question of whether getting what you want makes you happy. Often it may not. As Oscar Wilde memorably wrote in his 1892 play Lady Windermere's Fan: "In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it". And having choices and options may be an instance of something that people seek but which does not make them happy. But surely only someone who thinks he is a very superior being (e.g. the typical Leftist) would see that as a reason to stop giving people what they want. Who are we to sit in judgment on other people's choices and on what will make them happy? As Queen Elizabeth I asked the King of Spain centuries ago: "Why cannot Your Majesty let your subjects go to the Devil in their own way?"

One finding from happiness research that seems secure is that happiness has a relative component. An article to that effect is here. Having more of some desideratum (like money) than others around you do seems to matter more than the absolute amount of that desideratum that you have. Note this quote, however, "Another survey, by Town & Country magazine, found those with more money tended to have better marriages, were happier with their friends and found their jobs more interesting." So again the direction of the causal links has to be speculative.

And note that this report shows that although money in general may not buy you happiness, SOME of the expenditures that a higher income enables DO make you happier. And this article summarizes the same set of findings as: "Money can buy happiness and the best investment advice may be as simple as the sports shoe slogan: just do it. That's the conclusion drawn by researchers who set out to identify what sort of spending made people happiest. The psychologists, from Cornell University and the University of Colorado in the US, compared "experiential purchases" - things such as holidays, concerts or dining out - with "material purchases" such as clothing, beauty products, stereos or personal computers."

And money can have an indirect role too. There are here some excerpts from an anti-individual, pro-Green rant by an Australian professor that had a possibly correct point in it that the author may not have fully thought through:

"The findings fit those of other studies that have shown people for whom "extrinsic goals" such as fame, fortune and glamour are a priority tend to experience more anxiety and depression and lower overall well-being than people oriented towards "intrinsic goals" of close relationships, self-understanding, acceptance, and contributing to the community. These results are, in turn, consistent with other research that shows materialism - the pursuit of money and possessions - breeds not happiness but dissatisfaction, depression, anxiety, anger, isolation and alienation. In short, the more materialistic we are, the poorer our quality of life."

And that is where capitalism comes in. Because it makes us all richer, it enables us to concentrate more on non-material things instead of spending all our time scrabbling for a living. I have shown elsewhere that materialistic ambition is highest in poor countries and lowest in rich countries.

So we have three mutually-contradictory findings reported in the happiness research literature so far: 1). Happiness is static. Nothing much alters it for long; 2). Happiness can be improved, but only at the expense of others doing less well than us; 3). Some things can make us happier in absolute terms regardless of what others do.

If that does not represent strong confirmation of my previous conclusion that happiness research is still in its infancy and hence not useful for guiding policy, I don't know what would. My suspicion is that what we will eventually find is that happiness is like most other personality traits -- mostly genetically determined but with some room for environmental influences.

In the meantime, however, as this article says: "Psychologists and 'happiness researchers' are using the finding that Calcutta slum-dwellers and Masai nomads are as happy as American businessmen to argue not only that wealth doesn't necessarily make you happy, but that this shows that investment in economic growth should be replaced by social programs. The trouble is that one conclusion doesn't necessarily lead to the other."

Or as Tim Worstall notes with only a touch of sarcasm: "So-called 'happiness research' has been discussed at length recently with economist and TCS contributing editor Arnold Kling writing and blogging about it, and economist Tyler Cowen responding at his blog. That exchange, and the mention of a new book on the subject piqued my interest and some further research led me to the answer: 60% marginal tax rates, that's what will make society happy."

In other words, Leftists are arguing from the findings about static happiness that "If we take your money away it won't hurt". Odd that people do seem to get really peeved if you rob or defraud them, though! And ask anybody if they would rather spend their own money or have someone else spend it instead and there is not much doubt about what the answer will be. And that's the point: What people want matters. If some arrogant git claims that he can spend my money better than I can, he deserves to be treated like the con-man he is. The fact that overall level of happiness is mainly a personality disposition or trait which remains fairly stable across a wide range of circumstances does NOT mean that people are uninterested in improving those circumstances or getting the occasional "high". But Leftists don't care what people want, of course. "We know what's best for you" is their arrogant mantra.

When Leftists argue from the relative nature of happiness, however, they have a slightly better point. There is some logic in saying that if everybody had exactly the same amount of money, nobody would be made unhappy by others having more. Leaving aside the totalitarian nature of a society that would be needed to achieve such a situation, however, it overlooks that there are heaps of ways that people envy one-another. If they did not envy the next guy for having more money they might envy him for having better looks etc. Trying to equalize people is just a battle against human nature. But Leftists have always ignored the evidence about human nature of course.

I am going to call my discussion of happiness to a halt here but there are some further interesting readings here and here and here and here and here. Gregg Easterbrook's book on the subject is reviewed here and I must of course mention the work of Martin Seligman. As a prophet of happiness, Seligman's surname is very apt. It means roughly "Blessed man".


Bryan Caplan points to the perils of overgeneralization in the happiness field. He notes that, beyond a certain fairly low point, earning more money does little to increase your happiness. Does that mean that unemployment does not matter as long as your welfare payments are adequate? Not at all. Having a job or not is one thing that DOES affect your level of happiness:

"If you delve into the life satisfaction literature, you learn two fun facts.

1. Once you reach a modest standard of living, additional income does not increase life satisfaction very much. Marginal utility of wealth decreases rapidly - maybe even more rapidly than you thought. (Having been a happy grad student on $6000/year, it's not more rapid than I thought).

2. Unemployment per se has a large effect on life satisfaction. If you compare two people with equal incomes, one employed, one unemployed, the unemployed one is typically a lot less happy.

Just to get a feel for these results, Donovan and Halpern report (Chart 11) that about 80% of people in almost every occupational category is "fairly" or "very" satisfied with their lives. Manual laborers and white collar workers are nearly equal in satisfaction. Managers are a bit higher, around 90%. But the unemployed are fully 20 percentage points less likely than most workers to be satisfied with their lives....

If you think this is remotely accurate, you will flee in terror from any regulation that might marginally push up unemployment. Flexible labor markets are more than just efficient. Contrary to popular prejudice, they also make a lot of people happy by making it easy to find a job"

So the high unemployment that tends to go with socialistic economic policies DOES affect happiness -- adversely. The socialist claim that through all their regulations they can make people happier than evil capitalism can seems to be the reverse of the truth.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Peak oil theory and the ethanol alternative to gasoline

By John Ray

The recent big rise in crude oil prices and hence gasoline prices has really sharpened what has long been a concern across the political spectrum -- the fear that oil is running out. There are probably even libertarians who share that fear. The main concern for libertarians however is that the idea seems to be a fertile source of schemes for government intervention in all our lives -- from making air travel more expensive to herding us all onto buses instead of cars. Any oil supply problems are in fact greatly exaggerated but here I simply want to show why ethanol is in any case a viable alternative to gasoline.

There is an article here that surveys the arguments for and against using ethanol (industrial alcohol) as a motor spirit from a Greenie viewpoint. But what he says is largely irrelevant to how ethanol would be used if its usage was market-driven rather than Greenie driven. Under free trade and under conditions of higher oil prices, ethanol could be produced much more efficiently than it is. For a start, the basic feedstock used for production of ethanol in the USA is sugar extracted from corn. This is lunacy in economic terms as free-market sugar produced from sugarcane is only about a quarter of the price that Americans are forced to pay for their sugar by their government's trade controls. There would be no corn-sugar industry under free trade.

And traditional sugar-mills in countries like Australia and Brazil are powered almost entirely by burning bagasse -- the pulpy waste that is left over when the cane is crushed to extract the sugar-laden juice. So little or no fossil fuel is needed to drive the process of sugar production. The sugarcane in effect crushes itself. And after the sugar is produced, little bugs (yeast) turn it into alcohol. That's how the alcohol in beer gets there. And the bugs are not powered by fossil fuel either. They do it for us for free, all by their little selves -- as they have been doing for thousands of years. You could in fact feed the cane-juice fresh out of the crusher directly to the bugs if you wanted to be really energy-efficient about it. There is no need for an intermediate stage of sugar production. And you could get good hooch out of doing that as well. If I remember rightly, that is how rum originated

I should add that sugar production (and hence ethanol production) could be ramped up very quickly. Most sugar-producing countries are so restrained by EU, U.S. and Japanese import policy that they are producing way below capacity. Australia, for instance, could double its production within a year just by being allowed to. The crushing mills are so under-used these days that a lot have shut up shop. And there is a huge area in Western Australia (the Ord) that is suitable for cane that could be brought into production as soon as mills were built. It takes only one year for a cane crop to go from planting to maturity. .

Some background

Sugarcane is a huge grass that grows like mad in the tropics and somewhat less insanely in the subtropics. It is thus growable on a huge slice of the earth's surface. One year after planting it has huge stems which are absolutely full of sugary juice. And the technology for getting the juice out is prehistoric. You just crush the stems and the juice flows out. In most of the tropics (though not in Australia) there are vendors who will sell you for a few rupees (or whatever the local currency is) a fresh drink of very palatable cane juice which they produce by feeding cane stems through a little hand-powered crusher. So a sugar mill is a very simple thing. The only complexity arises out of the need to extract granular sugar out of the juice.

If however cane-sugar were to be used solely for ethanol production, the sugar-production step would not be needed. You could just feed the freshly-crushed juice to yeast bugs in a nice warm environment (and the tropics ARE warm) and they will excrete alcohol as a waste product of their metabolism. And since alcohol has a different specific gravity from water, it is very easily separated out. And that alcohol can go straight into an internal combustion motor and will make the motor roar like a lion -- which is why racing cars use it.

And in Brazil they do precisely that: the cane goes straight from the fields to a distillery which crushes out the juice and then ferments it. So I am not talking blue sky there.

The only reason ethanol is not widely used is cost. When crude oil was $30 a barrel, ethanol cost about twice as much to produce as gasoline. All those cane-farmers had to be paid. But crude is now around $60 a barrel so if that price stays there fairly permanently, I suspect that you are going to see ethanol-compliant engines going into mass-production worldwide. They already have them in Brazil, of course. Depending on your car, you drive up to either the ethanol or the gasoline pump. There ARE a few adjustments needed to run a car on pure ethanol for any length of time -- mostly to do with corrosion control if I remember rightly.

Because they are such a big producer of cane-sugar, Brazil long ago set in train moves to run everything on ethanol rather than gasoline. They were rightly criticized at the time for making motor fuel more costly than it needed to be (when crude was at $30 a barrel) but they seem to be having the last laugh now.

And producing ethanol from cane is extremely "sustainable". It needs no complex inputs or technology and cane can be grown on the same soil year after year as long as there is a suitable input of nitrates. And the nitrates can come either from superphosphate application or from rotating the crop with legumes (beans and peas). Australian sugar farmers do both -- and have been doing so for around 150 years. So there are no mysteries or significant problems with it.

More on the Brazilian experience

Brazil is not these days as keen on ethanol as it once was as they have now discovered oil -- which is cheaper than ethanol -- but their big experiment with ethanol does show how it would work for everybody if that became needful. I reproduce below some extracts from an excellent summary in Wikipedia -- which tells you all you never wanted to know about ethanol. The excerpt gives some real-life facts on how gasoline could over time be replaced by ethanol with little disruption and with a number of beneficial side-effects. I have highlighted some of the secondary advantages in red.

"In Brazil, ethanol is produced from sugar cane which is a more efficient source of fermentable carbohydrates than corn as well as much easier to grow and process. Brazil has the largest sugarcane crop in the world, which, besides ethanol, also yields sugar, electricity, and industrial heating. Sugar cane growing requires little labor, and government tax and pricing policies have made ethanol production a very lucrative business for big farms. As a consequence, over the last 25 years sugarcane has become one of the main crops grown in the country.

Sugarcane is harvested manually or mechanically and shipped to the distillery (usina) in huge specially built trucks. There are several hundred distilleries throughout the country; they are typically owned and run by big farms or farm consortia and located near the producing fields. At the mill the cane is roller-pressed to extract the juice (garapa), leaving behind a fibrous residue (bagasse). The juice is fermented by yeasts which break down the sucrose into CO2 and ethanol. The resulting "wine" is distilled, yielding hydrated ethanol (5% water by volume) and "fusel oil". The acidic residue of the distillation (vinhoto) is neutralized with lime and sold as fertilizer. The hydrated ethanol may be sold as is (for ethanol cars) or be dehydrated and used as a gasoline additive (for gasohol cars). In either case, the bulk product was sold until 1996 at regulated prices to the state oil company (Petrobras). Today it is no longer regulated.

One ton (1,000 kg) of harvested sugarcane, as shipped to the processing plant, contains about 145 kg of dry fiber (bagasse) and 138 kg of sucrose. Of that, 112 kg can be extracted as sugar, leaving 23 kg in low-valued molasses. If the cane is processed for alcohol, all the sucrose is used, yielding 72 liters of ethanol. Burning the bagasse produces heat for distillation and drying, and (through low-pressure boilers and turbines) about 288 MJ of electricity, of which 180 MJ is used by the plant itself and 108 MJ sold to utilities.

The average cost of production, including farming, transportation and distribution, is US$0.63 per US gallon (US$0.17/L); gasoline prices in the world market is about US$ 1.05 per US gallon (US$0.28/L). The alcohol industry, entirely private, was invested heavily in crop improvement and agricultural techniques. As a result, average yearly ethanol yield increased steadily from 300 to 550 m3/kmy between 1978 and 2000, or about 3.5% per year.

Sucrose accounts for little more than 30% of the chemical energy stored in the mature plant; 35% is in the leaves and stem tips, which are left in the fields during harvest, and 35% are in the fibrous material (bagasse) left over from pressing.

Part of the bagasse is currently burned at the mill to provide heat for distillation and electricity to run the machinery. This allows ethanol plants to be energy self-sufficient and even sell surplus electricity to utilities; current production is 600 MW for self-use and 100 MW for sale. This secondary activity is expected to boom now that utilities have been convinced to pay fair price (about US$10/GJ) for 10 year contracts. The energy is especially valuable to utilities because it is produced mainly in the dry season when hydroelectric dams are running low. Estimates of potential power generation from bagasse range from 1,000 to 9,000 MW, depending on technology. Higher estimates assume gasification of biomass, replacement of current low-pressure steam boilers and turbines by high-pressure ones, and use of harvest trash currently left behind in the fields. For comparison, Brazil's Angra I nuclear plant generates 600 MW (and it is often off line).

Presently, it is economically viable to extract about 288 MJ of electricity from the residues of one ton of sugarcane, of which about 180 MJ are used in the plant itself. Thus a medium-size distillery processing 1 million tons of sugarcane per year could sell about 5 MW of surplus electricity. At current prices, it would earn US$ 18 million from sugar and ethanol sales, and about US$ 1 million from surplus electricity sales. With advanced boiler and turbine technology, the electricity yield could be increased to 648 MJ per ton of sugarcane, but current electricity prices do not justify the necessary investment. (According to one report, the World bank would only finance investments in bagasse power generation if the price were at least US$19/GJ.)

Bagasse burning is environmentally friendly compared to other fuels like oil and coal. Its ash content is only 2.5% (against 30-50% of coal), and it contains no sulfur. Since it burns at relatively low temperatures, it produces little nitrous oxides. Moreover, bagasse is being sold for use as a fuel (replacing heavy fuel oil) in various industries, including citrus juice concentrate, vegetable oil, ceramics, and tyre recycling. The state of Sao Paulo alone used 2 million tons, saving about US$ 35 million in fuel oil imports.

Most cars in Brazil run either on alcohol or on gasohol; only recently dual-fuel ("Flex Fuel") engines have become available. Most gas stations sell both fuels. The market share of the two car types has varied a lot over the last decades, in response to fuel price changes. Ethanol-only cars were sold in Brazil in significant numbers between 1980 and 1995; between 1983 and 1988, they accounted for over 90% of the sales. They have been available again since 2001, but still account for only a few percent of the total sales.

Ethanol-fuelled small planes for farm use have been developed by giant Embraer and by a small Brazilian firm (Aero~lcool), and are currently undergoing certification.

Domestic demand for alcohol grew between 1982 and 1998 from 11,000 to 33,000 cubic metres per day, and has remained roughly constant since then. In 1989 more than 90% of the production was used by ethanol-only cars; today that has reduced to about 40%, the remaining 60% being used with gasoline in gasohol-only cars. Both the total consumption of ethanol and the ethanol/gasohol ratio are expected to increase again with deployment of dual-fuel cars.

Presently the use of ethanol as fuel by Brazilian cars - as pure ethanol and in gasohol - replaces gasoline at the rate of about 27,000 cubic metres per day, or about 40% of the fuel that would be needed to run the fleet on gasoline alone. However, the effect on the country's oil consumption was much smaller than that. Although Brazil is a major oil producer and now exports gasoline (19,000 m3/day), it still must import oil because of internal demand for other oil byproducts, chiefly diesel fuel (which cannot be easily replaced by ethanol).

The improvement in air quality in big cities in the 1980s, following the widespread use of ethanol as car fuel, was evident to everyone; as was the degradation that followed the partial return to gasoline in the 1990s.

So the scare about running out of oil is nothing like the problem people pretend. If American cars were kept going by tankers of ethanol from Australia and Brazil rather than tankers of oil from the Middle East, what's the problem? You would have a lot more price stability that way too. And since the tropics are the best place to grow cane, it would give much of the third world a cash-crop alternative to subsistence farming -- which would undoubtedly be of benefit to all concerned (though Greenies would find fault of course. There is no such thing as a happy Greenie)


Saturday, October 07, 2006


By John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.)

How important to us today is the Protestant Christian culture that appears to have been so central in creating the modern world? Most conservatives I know would answer: "VERY important". And Leftists of course would also say that it is important -- but only as something that needs to be eradicated as quickly as possible.

I don't agree with either. I hark back to another important and historic conservative belief -- in the importance of human nature. I think that what is normally attributed to culture is in fact almost all due to genetics. And the studies that are now coming out of genetics research are pretty startling confirmation of that. It is in fact something of a wonder to me that conservatives do very often seem to maintain in their heads two rather contradictory beliefs -- in the importance of culture and in the importance of genetics. It is obviously true that what we are is the product of both but I don't see how conservatives can assert the central importance of human nature (which they normally do) and also give a large role to culture. Anybody I put that point to normally retreats into saying that BOTH are important -- perhaps 50-50 or perhaps 60-40 but that neither can be downplayed or ignored.

But that's not what the evidence shows as far as I can see. I don't want to beat people over the head with genetics research findings (though I think I will in a minute) so let me initially point to some things that are widely known. I am however going to have to offend just about everybody to do so. Take the importance of Christian culture. There is a very vigorous flow of claims from Christians to the effect that it is only America's Christian heritage that keeps America civil. Yet that is patently false. The overwhelming source of uncivil (to put it mildly) behaviour in the USA is undoubtedly the black population -- who are at least as Christian as the whites -- perhaps more so overall. So the source of destructive and disruptive black behaviour is not in their culture. It is in their genetics. Yes. I know all the Leftist tosh about the legacy of slavery suppressing their self-esteem etc but since all the studies shows that blacks tend to have unusually HIGH self-esteem, I am not going to waste time on that one.

I suppose I have just spoken an unmentionable truth that you need to blot out from your consciousness in order to get by in American society today but, unlike Leftists, I think the truth is vitally important and I intend to persist with my lifelong habit of exploring it wherever it may lead. And what we see in the black/white behavioural difference is a huge gap that certainly cannot be attributed to Christianity or the lack of it. It is true that there has evolved in recent years a black "rap" culture which is just about as antisocial as you could conceivably get but the black/white behavioural gap goes way back -- to long before the evolution of rap culture. Rap culture is more an effect than a cause.

And I am now going to mention something else that is going to lose me friends. Most Leftists lead perfectly decent personal lives whether or not they subscribe to any form of Christian thinking or values. I myself prefer to deal with Christians where I can because I think that Christianity does have some effect in keeping people honest but I normally don't know anything about the beliefs of the people I come across in everyday life except that on average about half must be Left-leaning and about half must be Right-leaning. But I have yet to be able to detect any person's politics from just the way they behave. So culture doesn't seem to matter there either.

And it is not just that I lead a sheltered life. For twelve years I taught sociology in a major Australian university -- where most of my colleagues were Marxists of one sort or another. And I always made clear my view that Marx was just an obsolete economist. In the middle of my time there I even wrote a big book in defence of conservatism. So how did my colleagues treat me? With the greatest civility. Even though my views were clearly anathema to them they even used to invite me to some of their parties! So how much difference to everyday behaviour did their cultural beliefs and my cultural beliefs make? None that I can see.

Now let me mention something else. I like Indians. I even have four of them living in my house with me (two Hindus, one Sikh and one Muslim). And if there is any group of people I know who are outstanding for warmth, civility, good humour, patience and sociability it would have to be Indians. Their culture could hardly be more different from my own Presbyterian heritage but their behaviour sets a standard that makes Westerners a pretty rough lot by comparison. If I thought culture was important for making decent human beings I would be recommending that we all take up Hinduism.

To help readers to explore the issues I have raised so far in more detail, I have an article on the role of Christian culture here and two articles touching on the central importance of genetics here and here. Which do you think genetics has more influence on: How tall you are or your political beliefs? You may be surprised at what the geneticists have found.

But some environmental factors DO matter. Culture is not all there is among environmental factors

I received in response to what I wrote above the following interesting email from a man who might well be the "father" of the blogosphere -- in the sense of being the oldest blogger there is. Dick McDonald is in his 70s and is as lively as a cricket.

You said something yesterday about blacks that didn't ring true with my personal experience with the black population when I was a kid. Compared to other kids of the era, I believe I had a bird's eye view of their culture and "maybe" their genes. You wrote:

"The overwhelming source of uncivil (to put it mildly) behaviour in the USA is undoubtedly the black population -- who are at least as Christian as the whites -- perhaps more so overall. So the source of destructive and disruptive black behaviour is not in their culture. It is in their genetics. Yes. I know all the Leftist tosh about the legacy of slavery suppressing their self-esteem etc but since all the studies shows that blacks tend to have unusually HIGH self-esteem, I am not going to waste time on that one."

This statement is valid when you look at today's conditions in the USA. But I grew up in a very different world and I can attest to the fact that "black aggressiveness and self-esteem" were the furthest thing from your mind in assessing "colored people" of that day.

We lived in a whites only neighborhood in West Hollywood, California. But I visited the "black" bars and chicken joints of South Central Los Angeles on a regular basis from 1940 through 1946. I accompanied my father who during that period owned and operated the largest record company in the world exclusively devoted to black singers, Giltedge Records. As Dad's singers were comparable in station to the gangster rapper's of today, they couldn't be more dissimilar.

The blacks I knew personally and culturally were painfully passive and their self-esteem on a scale of 1 to 10 was hovering just above 1. They were depicted in movies mostly as servants. When observed the word "massa" came to mind. They always were portrayed in movies as being frightened of their shadow and that is the way they came across in real life. The only violent minority of that time were the Mexican "Cholo's and they were more "Zoot Suit" than dangerous. Then the streets of South Central were calm compared to the war zones they are today.

At the time blacks were barred from participating in professional sports with whites. So I would say that I had a cat bird seat in watching black genes at work in the entertainment joints where among their own their self-esteem was the highest. It just wasn't there. Then they were as polite as the ever-bowing Chinese of the era and would generally run from any confrontation. They were not fighters then. They also were never angry..

Their transformation here in LA was slow. It started with the spectacular success of Jackie Robinson at UCLA and later with the Dodgers; with UCLA's Doctor Ralph Bunche who climbed the ladder to head up the UN.and Sidney Poitier in "Look Who's Coming To Dinner". Somewhere along the line, their attitudes changed, their self esteem soared and they changed to the super-aggressive anger that instructs us today.

I have to say my university played a big role in the transformation with Bunche, Robinson, Kenny Washington and Rafer Johnson. But the times were passive and so were blacks. The anger had yet to be stoked by the MSM and black opportunist leaders looking for a paycheck or a story. I harken back to Marshall McLuhan's admonition "The media IS the message" or something like that.

You are the expert on genes and culture. I was just an casual untrained observer of the scene. But the "blacks" of my youth are not the blacks of "today". Not by a million miles. If there was such a thing as a dormant gene, it sure got juiced in the last 20 years. It surely was absent or in hiding then.

Dick makes a very good point that is almost never mentioned today: That the oppressive discrimination against blacks that was normal in America up until the 60s did make them very submissive and hence much less threatening to whites. Blacks were afraid, rightly or not, that if they got "uppity", they would end up hanging from a tree. They had learned to "know their place" (at the bottom). So Dick's point about a generally low level of black self-esteem at that time is undoubtedly true. It would be surprising if the oppression which blacks suffered from at that time did not have a severe impact on their self-esteem. American Blacks were very largely a cowed population at that time.

All recent studies (See also here and here and the academic review abstracted at the foot of this article) however show that black self-esteem is now at higher averages than that of whites -- reflecting a recovery to natural levels now that systematic oppression has ended. And with that, of course, the fear of whites has also vanished and something like 80% of violent crime against whites is now inflicted by blacks.

I am not quite as old as Dick and I am also not American so in none of these matters can I speak from personal experience. I can however speak from experience of another very similar situation -- South Africa under apartheid. I was in South Africa in 1979 doing field research into -- would you believe? -- racial attitudes. The resultant research report was published in a widely-circulated academic journal and you can read it here.

While I was there I got to know one of the local libertarians well. He was then and still is someone devoted to using libertarian ideas to improving the lot of blacks. Like most white South Africans at that time, however, he was greatly frustrated by the false and simplistic views foreigners tended to have about South Africa in that era. As part of re-educating me, he took me at one stage for a drive through Soweto -- the big black township just outside Johnannesburg that was already at that time internationally notorious for crime and violence. His first point was to show me that there were no checkpoints or other barriers. You could just get into your car and drive there. And his second point was that it was generally a safe and friendly place for whites to go -- at least during daylight hours. We could get out of the car at will and without fear -- which we did -- and in fact a common response in blacks who saw us driving past was to wave! Which is of course a friendly gesture. I noted the same thing when I took the train from Johannesburg down to Bloemfontein. The train's occupants were almost all white but as it passed various black settlements (with roofs generally held down by rocks!) along the way, the people in the settlements would all come out and wave to us.

Now most South African blacks were then and still are enthusiastic Christians. And Soweto (and South Africa generally) was then and still is a place with enormous levels of black-on-black violence. And in this post-apartheid era you would soon be either dead or very sorry for yourself if you tried to do in any black South African township what Leon and I did in 1979. So the idea that Christianity leads to high levels of pro-social behaviour -- as American Christians often claim -- is as patently falsified among black South Africans as it is among black Americans. That the heavy hand of entrenched white oppression can deflect black aggression away from whites (and perhaps to a degree to suppress it generally) in some eras does nothing to falsify that.

In fact, if it were culture that made the difference, present-day international comparisons would lead us to conclude that Christianity is an antisocial influence. I certainly don't always agree with Kristof but he is right about Africa and religion:

"If on a Sunday you want to attend a lively, jammed full, fervent and life-changing service of Christian worship, you want to be in Nairobi, not in Stockholm," notes Mark Noll, a professor at Wheaton College. He adds, "But if you want to walk home safely late at night, you want to be in Stockholm, not Nairobi."

Nairobi is of course in Africa. But high levels of lawless and violent behaviour are characteristic of African-origin populations worldwide -- no matter what system they live under or what their history is -- so it is in fact clearly black genetics that matter, not their culture.

But if we include in our meaning of "culture" the effective laws and other enforced requirements we operate under, then culture does indeed matter to how we live. In this article, however, I have been using the word "culture" to mean the common rules in our environment that we follow (or not) of our own free will.


Reference: (with abstract)

Twenge, J. M., & Crocker, J. (2002). Race and self-esteem: Meta-analyses comparing Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and American Indians. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 371-408.
Abstract: These meta-analyses examine race differences in self-esteem among 712 datapoints. Blacks scored higher than Whites on self-esteem measures (d = .19), but Whites score higher than other racial minority groups, including Hispanics (d = -.09), Asians (d = -.30), and American Indians (d = -.21). Most of these differences were smallest in childhood and grew larger with age. Blacks' self-esteem increased over time relative to Whites', with the Black advantage not appearing until the 1980s. Black and Hispanic samples scored higher on measures without an academic self-esteem subscale. Relative to Whites, minority males had lower self-esteem than did females, and Black and Hispanic self-esteem was higher in groups with high socioeconomic status. The results are most consistent with a cultural interpretation of racial differences in self-esteem.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006


By John Ray (Written September 2006)

People who drive down the middle of the road tend to get smashed up and I risk that frequently in my writings. For instance, when I mention such things as low average black IQ and the high rate of black criminality, Leftists shriek "racist" at me. But I also like Asians and think that they in general make highly desirable citizens. And various Rightists call me "far-Left" (or worse) because of that!

So I want to set out here exactly how I see racial matters and why:

Ethnicity and group membership is one of the great preoccupations of the human race .... possibly second only to sex. It is also an almost taboo subject among modern-day white liberal Anglo-Saxons. Race is to the modern-day civilized and educated world what sex was to the Victorians -- unmentionable. In other words the strength of resistance to discussion of it is a measure of the threat to a civilized order that it is seen as posing.

Amid this fearful silence, I, of course, have always continued to call a spade a spade: Not a recipe for popularity among modern-day intellectuals! My position is really only a classical Anglo-Saxon attempt to find the golden mean between conflicting extremes. It seems to me, in short, that there ARE real differences between races and other groups but that only a few of these differences are of any importance. In other words, I reject the blind Leftist assertion that we are all the same under the skin and I also reject the view that only people like us are any good. This causes Leftists and humanists to see me as a racist and racists to see me as a Leftist pointy-head! In other words, the whole issue is such an emotive and explosive one that the middle-ground tends to be a rather lonely and uncomfortable place.

Group-sentiment is an amazingly pervasive thing. To take some examples from where I live in the State of Queensland and in Australia generally: Queenslanders all know what Queenslanders generally think of "cockroaches" (residents of the State of N.S.W.) and "Mexicans" (Southerners generally) and most know how Sydneysiders and Melbournians regard one-another but such sentiments fade into insignificance if you talk to a Launceston resident about Hobart people! Residents of the two largest towns in a quite homogeneous place like the State of Tasmania hate one-another! And non-Tasmanians would notice no differences at all between the two! So what hope is there for the Protestants and Catholics of Ulster, the Tamils and Sinhalas of Sri Lanka, the Jews and the Arabs of Israel, the Serbs and the Croats of the former Yugoslavia, the Xhosa and the Zulus of South Africa, the Sikhs and the Hindus of Panjab, the "untouchables" and the caste Hindus of India, the Southerners and the Northerners of Italy, the French and the English-speakers of Canada etc etc etc?

And to think that for the whole of my active career as a social science academic, my colleagues virtually universally believed that only maladjusted deviants were racists. I have always thought it to be crystal clear that EVERYBODY is a racist to some degree! My colleagues obviously thought that all the world was out of step and only they were in step. I did my best to disabuse them of their silly notions but there are none so blind as those who will not see.

Of course, discriminatory attitudes towards other groups such as those I have listed ARE generally nonsense. You do not have to be sick in the head to believe nonsense. If you did, most of my academic colleagues would be VERY sick in the head. In fact, of course, they are simply wishful thinkers -- like most of humanity. Wishful thinkers are not scientists, however.

To help see why discriminatory attitudes to other groups are generally nonsense, consider, for example, that Catholic and Protestant Ulstermen come out here to Australia and live side by side with no problems at all. Nor does a Launceston person who moves to Hobart or a Melbourne person who moves to Sydney thereby undergo any sort of personality change. All that is going on with discriminatory attitudes is that the old human preference for familiarity is raising its head. We like people who are like ourselves and people who have made the same decision as we about where to live (or happen to live where we live) become thereby more "like us" and are therefore preferable to others.

So I sound like a nice safe liberal in saying that do I not? Where I get into trouble with liberals, leftists etc is that I go on from there to say "But NOT ALL differences are imaginary". Most loyalty-provoking group differences are either imaginary, trivial or evanescent BUT SOME ARE NOT. As I see it, those who deny ALL intergroup differences are just as dogmatic, irrational and sweeping as the racists they claim to oppose. They are in fact accusing 99% of the human race of being totally blind and preoccupied with something that does not exist! Even I am not misanthropic enough for that! I think it is pretty clear who the blind ones are.

As I see it then, the differences between people of Northern European race are objectively (but not subjectively) mostly trivial. They have been invading and taking over one-another for so many thousands of years that the national gene pools must overlap almost totally. When they emigrate to countries like the USA and Australia, their children cannot tell one-another apart and get on as well with one-another as they do with anybody else.

But some groups ARE different and probably will remain so. The outstanding example of this is of course the negroids. Whether they are discriminated against (as in the old South Africa), discriminated in favour of (as in the USA from about the '70s on) or treated reasonably impartially (as they long were in Britain), they always as a group end up the same -- at the bottom of every heap, mired generally in criminality, violence, incompetence, drug abuse, promiscuity and poverty. And this is not peculiar to white-run countries. They are no different when they live in the African-run countries of Africa and the Caribbean. So for those who will see it, we now have mountains of evidence for the view that, as a group, negroids are always going to be a vastly problematical population with very limited potential for achievement in many spheres and a very great potential for disrupting the lives of others. Only the disagreeableness of that conclusion could blind one to the evidence for it. But THAT conclusion, it seems to me, is important.

I must emphasize here, however, that I am clearly speaking about groups and do NOT assume that what is true of the group is true of all individuals in that group. So individual blacks may be very highly civilized indeed. The person I quote most often on my blogs is an American black (Thomas Sowell). And, unlike Leftists, I don't think group problems can be solved at the group level. I think that treating people according to what they as individuals do (regardless of any group to which they may belong) is the only way to solve problems that the group as a whole may pose.

And note that what I say has nothing to do with skin-colour. Indians are just as brown as Africans but are vastly different. They tend to move towards the TOP of the heap outside their native land, and, as a group, are extremely patient, polite, hard-working, law-abiding and family-oriented. I personally like Indians very much. And Arabs are as white as many Europeans but would be in a very poor position indeed except for their oil wealth. The characteristic Arab achievements at the moment seem to be religious fanaticism, treachery and incest.

Obviously, we should all continue to treat individuals from different groups according to their individual merits but people who report that IN GENERAL they do not like members of a certain group are certainly not to my mind necessarily irrational, misled, deluded, ill-informed or ill-educated. They MAY be perfectly rational, balanced and well-informed. And anyone who doesn't want to live around negro populations is just looking after his own skin! And the phenomenon of "white flight" shows that most Americans understand that very well -- regardless of what their expressed attitudes might be.

Real ethnic differences need not of course be aversive. People would hardly travel so much if they were. The eminent French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss regards racial discrimination as DESIRABLE precisely on the grounds that it fosters diversity. I do not go that far but I do nonetheless enjoy all kinds of ethnic diversity in a way that, I suppose, makes me an ideal citizen of a multicultural society like Australia.

My personal background

I have lived my entire life in a highly multicultural society so I am acutely aware of racial and ethnic differences. I grew up in an Australian country-town that was only half Anglo. The rest were Italians, Spaniards, Greeks, Maltese, Yuogoslavs, Chinese, Sikhs, TIs (Melanesians) and Aborigines (blacks). And when with that perspective I look at my fellow Anglo-Australians I see people of admirable restraint, fortitude, good humour and moderation in all things. But that is only the majority of them. There is also a minority for whom I have no kind words.

Now I could sound like an uncomprehending elitist in saying that. Maybe I am just wiping off working class people and glorifying middle class people like myself. It is however if anything the reverse. If anything I find something like three times as much good sense in the workers as I do in the bourgeoisie. But there are problem-types in both camps. And I find that even the difficult cases among the workers are not much of a problem to me personally. Because I was born into an Australian working class family, working class thinking and conventional wisdom is an open book to me. I know all the key words and key phrases and I defer to no-one in my knowledge and enjoyment of the brilliant Australian slanguage. And I certainly did put all that to the test when I spent a couple of years as a boarding house proprietor in a "depressed" area (Ipswich) of Brisbane. I was really dealing with the hard cases there. A significant number of them in fact came to me directly from "the big house" (jail). Yet such is the power of a shared culture that I was in all cases able to handle to my satisfaction the people concerned. I always knew the right words to use. The people concerned were a considerable problem to others (and to themselves) but they were well within my capacity to handle -- though the time I threw a druggie through a closed door was approaching my limits. Words are wasted on druggies. So there is no doubt that I am as much an insider to basic Anglo-Australian culture as anyone ever will be. I am of my culture and I appreciate it and enjoy it.

But much as I am at home among my own people, I am still delighted at the sterling qualities I find in Asians. I find scarcely any problem-types among them. And I actually share my large house with Asians -- mostly South Asians. None of them are of course flawless human beings but when I think of their relaxed good humour, their intelligence and their unfailing politeness and restraint I cannot see that they are inferior to anyone or that they are anything but an asset to any environment they inhabit.

Now somebody will want to tell me that it is different in England. And it certainly is different superficially. The way just about EVERY small business in London is run by South Asians is pretty amazing (though the way English shop-assistants treat their customers makes it a lot less amazing). And when I am in England and I walk into one of those Asian shops I am greeted with the wariness and reserve that experience has taught the proprietors concerned. But I only have to exchange half a dozen words with the people concerned before all that changes. Because I genuinely like and admire Indians, that message gets through almost as fast as a bullet and it is soon smiles all round. I remember once when I was in an Indian shop in London and some old English prick was telling the Indian proprietor how great the English were and how the world owed them a living. As I walked out, I "accidentally" shouldered him hard enough to knock him over. I felt embarrassed that a fine Sikh gentleman had to put up with such crassness from the prick concerned.

And nor am I talking about immigrant Indians only. I have also lived in Bombay and I can only admire the cheerfulness, enterprise and good humour of the street-people there.

I certainly don't think that all races are equal but I also think it is absurd to say that there is something special about someone just because his skin is pink. Each case must be judged on its individual merits but it seems to me that on any non-racial scale of values the Asians average out well ahead. And we live in a century that will see that proven. Ironically, the poison that has held the Asians back so far is of Western origin -- socialism. If any people are instinctive capitalists it is the Indians and Chinese.

And the claim that Asian cultures are tribal is a grave misconception. Asian culture is a culture of reciprocity. So if you treat them well or do them a good turn you generate enormous feelings of obligation in return. So when I walk into an Indian shop where I am known and buy three samoosas for my lunch I will occasionally get a fourth one popped into the bag as a gesture of goodwill. What is problematical about a culture like that?

"Racist" as a term of abuse

As I have said, I particularly like Indians. And if we are going to use the term at all, Indians are clearly a race. I also like the Han (majority) Chinese. And almost any member of the Han will assure you that the Han are a race apart. I also admire the Japanese and regard Israel as one of the great adventures of the human spirit. So I am clearly a racist, am I not? If not, why not? Just using the word "race" is pretty close to taboo in much of the modern world. The fact that I DO use it probably keeps my blogs much more marginal than they otherwise would be.

How has that come about? It's no mystery is it? The deeds of Hitler showed the world what colossal evil can be done in the name of race and, in their usual way, the Left hopped onto that bandwagon and pushed the idea to simplistic extremes. Not only unreasonable uses of ideas about race were condemned but ALL ideas about race were condemned. So the Left absolutely shriek and go ballistic about any mention of race. Which tends to make people think that there really is something wrong with even using the term. It's rather like the woman who has bad experiences with one or two men and who then concludes that ALL men are "no good". Her response just puts a roadblock in front of her finding out WHICH men are good or bad and probably denies her much happiness that she could have. Similarly, talk about race can be good or bad. The intelligent thing is to discuss and look into the matter. Up until 1945 the whole world did just that. So all our ancestors were "racists"?

Don't get me wrong: As both a conservative and a libertarian, I think that the individual comes first and that each case (or each person) must be judged on its (his/her) individual merits. So while I like most Indians and Chinese I don't like them all. And I don't like all Jews either. Jews who hate Israel I find particularly contemptible. The United Nations charter says that each case must be judged on its individual merits and that is one of the few things about the United Nations that I agree with. That must have been the bit that the conservatives put in.

Because the Left DO judge people in terms of race. The entire Leftist mentality is group-oriented. The individual hardly exists to Leftists. Individuals are too complicated and messy. Leftists can think only in terms of vast groups of people -- such as "blacks", "Hispanics" and "Native Americans" (and "gays", "women", "the workers" etc.). So you can talk about races after all -- just as long as you don't CALL them races.

What utter stupidity! The only way to combat such stupidity is to defy it and talk about race in sensible ways and just ignore all the hypocritical Leftist shrieking. I do. For example, I make no apology for saying that people of Northwestern European origin (principally the Anglo-Celts and the Germans) are the ones who have made the modern world what it is and I am delighted to be myself of that ilk. I have pictures of my Australian pioneer ancestors on my walls and I am forever grateful to them for what they have bequeathed me.


I don't think that an ethnically homogeneous society is a particularly good thing. Yet I am at the same time as pleased as Punch about my English, Scottish and Irish ancestry and am also proud of the country that my forebears have created here in Australia. And I also think it is incontestable that Protestantism has been an overwhelming influence in creating the modern world. And having been brought up as a Presbyterian, that is easy for me to say.

What disturbs many people, as well it might, is the woes that the English and Americans now suffer as a result of past and present unselective immigration. I am in company with the vast majority of Australians in saying that only SELECTIVE immigration makes sense. And Australia practices it too. Though recent admissions of "refugees" appear to have been much less selective and have had some worrisome effects.

But I also think that the egg is thoroughly scrambled now. I can see NO way in which the "internationalization" of the U.K. and U.S. populations is going to stop. Nor will it stop in Australia. Australia's selection criteria do not include race and, as a result, we are said to have a greater percentage of our population foreign-born than any other country except Israel. There is however a huge difference in the COMPOSITION of the Australian population. Where the U.K. and U.S. have large numbers of people of African ancestry, we have large numbers of people of East Asian ancestry. The difference that makes is considerable, to put it mildly. I think Australia is very lucky indeed to have a large minority of hard-working, intelligent, enterprising, law-abiding family-oriented East Asians.

What about the loss of community? Wouldn't it be nice to live in a sort of large village where everybody is of similar ancestry? Yes and No. I must admit what a relief it is when I can go into an Australian shop or cafe and speak relaxed broad Australian with the staff there instead of having to struggle to communicate with people who know little English. But as someone who actually grew up in a large village (the Australian country town of Innisfail) I know there is a downside too. There are huge pressures towards conformity in a village and a lot of back-biting and gossip. Everyone knows everybody else's business so privacy is very restricted. And I shudder to think of the inconvenient opening hours and limited range of services (such as restaurants) that we would have without the ethnics.

So I don't think much of mono-ethnic or village-style life at all. And in a modern society we create our own communities anyway. By and large we associate with whomever we choose and if we are comfortable only with people of a similar ethnic background, then people of that background will become our community. We are no longer restricted to the community that we live geographically next-door to. We create our own communities to suit ourselves. So we in fact get the best of both worlds these days: We live in a virtual community without the limitations of an old-fashioned geographical community.

So regardless of whether the U.K. or the U.S. ever come to their senses about illegal immigration, loss of community and continuity will not occur.

The moral case against racism

On my reading of the psychological research, preference for the similar and the familiar is in general more common than not so it would be fairly hard to argue that such preferences are of themselves morally wrong when applied to one's social environment. But what I myself DON'T do is judge individuals by their group membership. Should my brother be hanged because I commit a murder? All principles of justice as we know it (some systems of tribal justice excepted) say No. Similarly, should all Muslims be discriminated against because a minority of Muslims are dangerous religious nutcases? Again the answer has to be No. Yusuf might be a very decent man while Ali is a psychopath. And there are plenty of Yusufs. I know a few. So to treat the Yusufs like the Alis is a breach of all natural justice. Each case must be judged on its individual merits.

And that applies to Anglos too. There are plenty of dreck Anglos. And they should be treated like dreck while decent Anglos are treated as they deserve. So I make no judgement about Anglos IN GENERAL that can be applied to any individiual. The group level of analysis is interesting and may even be important but conclusions from it CANNOT justly be applied to any individual in that group. Any particular individual may be an exception to the rule.

So while I see no virtue in living in a monoracial homeland, I DO see great virtue in living in a homeland where immigrants are selected for generally desirable characteristics. And Australia is a fair example of the latter. We may have lots of immigrants here but they are generally GOOD immigrants! And some immigrant groups -- Asians mainly -- do in my view leave Anglo-Australians for dead in generally desirable characteristics -- such as low crime-rate, family-orientaion, proclivity to work hard etc. I am happy to have them around.

Mind you, I thoroughly sympathize with "white flight". As a group, Africans are undisputably BAD "minorities". White flight shows that most Americans think that and who am I to argue? What I have seen on my visits to America has certainly convinced me that a wise white person keeps as far away from groups of blacks as he can. On Hispanics as a group I reserve judgment. There clearly are lots of "good" Hispanics. I have met a few.

So I think there is no reason for seeking a monoracial homeland that can be deduced from any external fact or set of facts. You just feel the need for such an environment or you don't. I don't. I DO however feel a need to keep undesirables out of my country and the fact that both the U.S. and U.K. governments have failed to do that seems to me a tragedy of the first order. And some populations have such a high proportion of undesirables (one third of black American males are said to have spent at least some time in jail) that selective admissions of people from those populations should only be on the strictest of criteria. In other words, I think they should be judged as individuals but need to be looked at particularly carefully -- with evidence of good character and educational attainment (for example) being insisted on. At the moment, unfortunately, Australia does the opposite of that. African "refugees" are admitted with what seems very little scrutiny.

As a psychometrician, I am acutely aware of the low average IQ of Africans, Arabs and Australian Aborigines -- while at the same I stress that I am talking about averages, not individuals. As I have noted before, the person I quote most on my main blog is of African ancestry -- Thomas Sowell. As I have set out at length elsewhere, however, there are some circumstances in which we do have to make judgments about groups and I make no apologies for saying that I like my environment to be one with as low a frequency of the three groups I have mentioned as possible. I don't think it is in any way morally questionable to want to live in a safe and trouble-free environment.

East Asians:

I have said a fair bit about Indians above so I want to close with just a few personal anecdotes about my own experiences with East Asians:

When my son Joey was about 2 he discovered that putting things into rubbish bins was great fun. So once when we were dining in a Chinese restaurant I had used a paper napkin and screwed it up after use. Joey immediately spotted his opportunity and declared loudly "In the Wubbish". He seized the napkin and trotted towards the back of the restaurant. In their usual observant way, the Chinese staff of course saw within seconds this little blond moppet trotting towards them and by the time Joey got to the back of the restaurant, there were three Chinese staff bending over and giving Joey every attention with huge smiles on their faces. They directed Joey carefully to a bin and shepherded him gently back to us with every sign that they had had as much fun out of the episode as we did. And anybody who knows anything about the Chinese love of children will not be remotely surprised by any of that.

The second story is about the time I took a ride on the Hong Kong Metro (subway, underground railway). It was offpeak and my wife and I were the only occidentals in the carriage. A little Chinese boy came trotting down the carriage and spotted this strange white individual (me). Being just as much a tease then as I am now, I made "big eyes" at him. And of course in Chinese iconography, wide eyes are associated with demons etc. So the dear little boy ran screaming back to his parents. Again in their usual observant way, however, the Chinese in the carriage had observed what went on and saw the joke. They had a great (but of course restrained) laugh. There is nothing wrong with the Cantonese sense of humour!

And there is this Malaysian Chinese restaurant that I go to regularly. And there is one dish that I particularly like and I always order it. So when I walk in, not only am I greeted with a big smile by the receptionist, but the kitchen staff wave to me and smile at me too. And my dinner arrives with express speed. They put it on as soon as they see me.

And my next two stories are about the Japanese. Again when Joey was about 2 we took him to a local Koala sanctuary here in Australia. And the Japanese love Koalas so there were lots of them there. But when they saw this little toddler with golden-blond hair, sky-blue eyes and paper-white skin being wheeled about they were utterly entranced. I think there were as many photos of Joey taken that day as there were of the Koalas!

And finally there is the Sushi Train restaurant that I often dine at. There are Sushi train restaurants everywhere these days so I am sure readers will know what I am talking about. And my local version does seem to be staffed entirely by Japanese -- a head chef and two assistants. And the amazing thing about them is that they are utterly silent. If the restaurant were staffed by Cockneys it would be an absolute bedlam of chatter. But the Japanese are so well-organized that they need to say nothing to one another. They just silently and steadily go about their great art of producing the most wonderful fresh Japanese food. And they are totally impassive 99% of the time. I greatly value my British heritage and thoroughly appreciate British reserve. But Japanese impassivity makes British reserve look like emotional outpouring. So the head chef misses nothing but the expression on his face never changes. But guess what? They too have noticed that I am a dedicated customer so I do occasionally get a fleeting smile from the head chef when he sees me there again. And to get a smile from him is an honour indeed.

And with such experiences of these gentle, hard-working, family-oriented and utterly civilized people of Asia, how can I not respect them?

Some Addenda


It is always amazing to libertarians when we are referred to by the Left as "extreme Right" or even "Nazis". Libertarians tend to see ALL governments as fascist and that is exactly what we oppose. So to be accused of believing in what you spend most of your time arguing against is pretty weird. But to the simple minds of the Left, anyone they do not like is a "Fascist", of course. But libertarians often get conservatives offside too -- mainly because we believe morality is a personal matter that the government should concern itself with only when a practice clearly attacks the liberties of others. So, as a libertarian, I am used to being a defender of unpopular views.

And it is a good thing that I am. Because as well as being a defender of liberty, I am pernicious in another way: I am also a defender of truth -- historical truth in particular. And THAT can annoy people from both sides of the aisle too. As frequent readers of this blog know well, the history of the Hitler era in particular has interested me for many years -- mainly because the distortions about that era that we are generally fed as history are so unbelievably gross. What I try to do is to UNDERSTAND Nazism as it really was. Merely to condemn it is puerile in my view. And in my big article on Nazism, I do point out the reasons why Nazism was attractive to prewar Germans. And I also, of course, point out that in its day, Nazism was fairly mainstream Leftism. Racism, eugenics and antisemitism were common beliefs among Leftists worldwide in the prewar era.

And my identifying Nazism as socialist (which Hitler himself did) does get me furious emails from Leftists at times. They seem to think that they can counter my careful documentation of everything I say merely by making abusive assertions. The idea that Nazism was Leftist is so foreign to them that evidence just does not matter. So it was interesting that I received recently an email from a real Fascist -- evidently a leader of a Norwegian Fascist group. So what did he have to say about my writings on Fascism? Did he furiously reject them as being all wrong? Not at all! He loved them! He thought that I summarized well what Fascism was all about. So modern-day Leftists -- who generally know next to nothing about ANYTHING in history -- think I am all wrong but people who, as practitioners of it, certainly DO know what Fascism is all about, think I am spot-on. I think that is not a bad endorsement of my endeavours to present the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Even though I am extremely unsympathetic to Fascism, I achieve enough objectivity about it for those so inclined to recognize the attractive side of it in my writings.

And here is where I am going to make a lot of people critical of me: I feel that it is important to note that Hitler and Mussolini were extremely POPULAR Leftists. Fascism is probably the most attractive form of Leftism that has ever been invented. Mussolini was outspokely admired in his day by such diverse figures as Winston Churchill and Frankin Delano Roosevelt and Hitler was really LOVED by many Germans. Modern-day Leftists tend to HATE their fellow-citizens. Hitler loved his fellow Germans and they loved him back. We should be very glad that modern-day Leftists have been so thick as not to learn what they could from history. If they had emulated Hitler instead of Stalin, the whole world would now be completely under their domination. I was actually reluctant to say that -- in case Leftists learn from it. But they are so rigid in their ideas that I think there is little fear of that. If you want to see in full WHY Hitler and Mussolini were so popular, it is all in my articles here and here.

And that brings me to my final point here and the one that will get outraged screeches aimed at me: I think it is always important to look at both sides of every question and that includes looking at the Nazi viewpoint. And there is a modern-day site here that does defend the Nazi viewpoint in a careful way. I certainly do not at all agree with everything on the site but it does nonetheless serve to highlight some of the little-known elements of history that led to the final catastrophe (or catastrophes) of WWII. For instance, in an article that has attracted a lot of justified criticism, it points out that Jews around the world were well aware of the dangers Hitler posed and in the mid-30s mounted a big campaign to boycott German goods etc. The article's claim that Hitler was before that campaign not antisemitic is of course absurd -- as every reader of Mein Kampf will know -- but it is clear that the campaign achieved only one significant thing: It thoroughly confirmed Hitler's claim of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy against him and against Germany. It helped to make Hitler seem reasonable to other Germans. And partly for that reason, many German Jews opposed the campaign.

Sadly, German Jews had no good options at that time other than to emigrate. And even that was not much of an option. In 1939, a German ocean liner, the SS St. Louis, with 1,000 Jewish refugees aboard, got so close to Florida that they could see the lights of Miami -- but that great Leftist hero, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, would not let them land. They returned to Germany to be exterminated. Leftist "compassion" at work all-round there.


There is a 2006 "Republicans are racists" screech here. This version of the screech is dressed up in the language of social psychology, however. I know that language very well. I have myself written many academic publications in it and have come to similar conclusions. When the screech ends ""We have 50 years of evidence that racial prejudice predicts voting", the article is quite right. The correlation between expressions of conservative attitudes and expressions of racially negative attitudes does not always emerge but mostly it does.

For an intelligent person, WHY that happens is the interesting question, however. That the finding might arise because conservatives are more honest in saying what they really think or that it might arise because Leftists are more deluded (including self-deluded) is never to my knowledge examined. Instead, complicated Freudian explanations for the correlation are offered that fall apart when closely examined.

I have myself done umpteen surveys of what people say about their thinking (attitude surveys) and have come to the commonsense conclusion that "You can't trust 'em". People "put their best foot forward" when answering surveys and often do not say what they really think. Psychologists do have some ways of coping with that. They include in their surveys "lie scales" or "social desirability scales" -- sets of questions that try to detect how frank and honest the respondent is being. I myself routinely included such scales in my surveys. But the most common such scales -- the ones I used -- examine lying about one's behaviour and one cannot assume that lying about behaviour and lying about attitudes are the same. To do so assumes a generality that may not exist. I hate to state the obvious, but people may lie about one thing and not another. You can never tell.

And that people who do not in general lie might lie about particularly sensitive issues such as race should, I hope, be supremely obvious. And given the always tense relationship between Leftists and the truth (as evidenced by the long history of Leftists denying the evils of the Soviet empire) that the liars concerned might be mostly Leftists seems in only marginal need of proof.

So my final conclusion is that attitudes surveys are unreliable sources of information. I rely on behaviour. And when history's most infamous racist said this,

"We are socialists, we are enemies of today's capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions."

I think you can see why. The expressed attitudes associated with a given behaviour may vary greatly with time and place. Expecting a permanent link between one set of expressed attitudes and one set of behaviours is something that only a psychologist would be stupid enough to do. Which is why I study history these days instead of psychology.

The truth of what I have just said has however begun to seep into some psychological skulls and some do therefore make an effort to use brain scans rather than expressed attitudes as a source of information about what people think. The limitations of using such gross measurements of such finely articulated phenomena as brain processes should, I hope, be obvious to all but some of the findings so far have at least been amusing. Such procedures have on some occasions shown fanatical Leftists to be "prejudiced". How awful! I say more about such studies here.

The link I have just given does deal with the work of Banaji -- the main protagonist in the latest screech -- but I might perhaps make one additional observation. At best, Banaji's research technique shows who has bad feelings about blacks. And on her results many Leftists do but there is nonetheless a preponderance of Republicans. Again however, the interesting question to non-simplistic people is: WHY? There is an old saying that "a conservative is a liberal who was mugged last night" so perhaps the technique is detecting those who have had REASON to be negative about blacks. And that such people might vote for a party that panders less to blacks would surprise only a psychologist.

Leftist psychologists are very keen to point the finger at possible instances of "motivated social cognition" ("bias" to you and me) so Michelle Malkin's comment on the latest screech does a good job of lobbing that ball back into their court. Or to put Michelle's point in the language of academic psychology: One wonders what precautions were taken to avoid a Rosenthal effect. But of course who needs such precautions when you know the answer before you start?


That populations of African ancestry worldwide are characterized by enormously high levels of aggression, violence and crime is beyond question. It happens in Africa. It happens in Britain and it happens in the USA. It can of course be suppressed. Apartheid South Africa and pre-1960 America certainly kept it down to much lower levels than it is these days. But the extremity of the measures needed to suppress it tells a tale in itself.

The only really interesting question is why the levels of black aggression are so high. The kneejerk Leftist explanation is of course that it is all due to white "racism". How that explains the huge levels of violence in the all-black countries of Africa is not mentioned. Generations have now grown up in Africa who have scarcely even SEEN a white man and the violence seems to have escalated rather than diminished. So I propose simply to ignore here brain-dead Leftist "explanations".

The higher level of black aggressiveness COULD be explained as an outcome of the exhaustively-documented black/white difference in average IQ. Stupid people have fewer ways of getting what they want so often resort to violence as a last resort. For that reason, Australia's prisons are full of dumb whites. Lynn, however, points to statistical studies showing that the higher level of black aggressiveness cannot be explained by IQ differences alone. He shows that there must be personality differences involved as well and goes on to make a carefully-reasoned case for saying that Blacks are more psychopathic than whites. In a slightly earlier work, Lynn interprets psychopathy as being itself the manifestation of two more basic traits. To quote Itzkoff's summary of Lynn:

"He demonstrates convincingly that from all the available research, psychopaths along with low intelligence are responsible for society's problems with crime, drug addiction, unwed mothers, drug abuse, rape, child abuse, unemployment, etc. These people are the underclass. And they result from the combination of two behavioral traits. They almost universally have low conscientiousness and agreeableness or altruism. (Lynn explains that "altruism" would be a better term than "agreeableness" but that term has now "stuck" as the common descriptor for this behavioral trait). That is, people who are both highly unconscientious and disagreeable are pathological, and both of these traits are highly heritable."

So there is a reasonable case for saying that many blacks have personality deficits on top of ability deficits. And the results are all to obvious in the form of massive black crime -- often crime of the most callous sort.

What the above analysis overlooks to some extent, however, is that whites can be pretty aggressive and violent too. Neither Hitler nor Stalin were blacks and the recent barbarities in the former Yugoslavia are surely second to none in brutality. The obvious difference is, of course, that aggression is not a daily experience amongst most whites, whereas it certainly is a constant undertow in most black populations. It can certainly be argued that the occasional explosive outbursts of aggression that characterize white populations are in fact worse than the constant bubbling of aggression that characterizes black populations but I am here concerned with the factual rather than the evaluative aspects of the matter.

And it would seem that there is at least one place where whites have a pretty high level of constant aggression too: Scotland in general and Glasgow in particular. Glasgow is an enormously violent place in some ways. Knifing people to death in drunken Saturday night brawls is an old tradition among the Glasgow "Jimmies". Yet Glaswegians do not at all come across as particularly aggressive people. In 1977 I personally did a doorknock survey of a random sample of Glaswegians -- including slum-clearance suburbs such as Easterhouse. And, accent aside, they seemed to me to be no different from the average Anglo-Australian. And the results of the survey tended to confirm that lack of distinctiveness. On the two major personality variables that I measured (aggressive dominance and ambition), Glaswegians were found to be no different from Londoners.

So I think that in Glasgow we have a very clear case of a difference being solely attitude-driven -- attitudes which are themselves in turn tradition-driven. I found that Glaswegians were as different to Londoners in attitudes as they were similar in personality. And the tradition at work in the Glasgow fighting is really no mystery. Clan warfare was long endemic in Scotland until the accursed English suppressed it. But attitudinal remnants of that warfare survive. To this day you can hear in Glasgow derisive words such as "Choochtah" applied to Highlanders. In short, I think a culture of pugnacity was long ago generated in Scotland (presumably due to rivalry over very scarce resources) and that the persistence of culture has ensured that considerable remnants of that pugnacity survive into modern times.

That similar traditions would be at work among blacks is obvious. They really are victims of "three strikes and you are out". They are disadvantaged by their abilities, their personalities and their attitudes. Changing ability and personality is is not at present within our reach but there are some possibilities for changing attitudes. So those who aim to improve the situation of blacks should concentrate on the attitudes that blacks have. The attitudes that are at present being inculcated in blacks (that they are helpless "victims") would however seem to be the exact reverse of what is required if improvements in black welfare are seriously desired.


I was not initially going to comment on this article (summarizing research by David J. Kelly reported in Developmental Science and Yair Bar-Haim reported in Psychological Science ) but perhaps I should. What it shows is that babies are "racist" from 3 months old. White babies prefer white faces and black babies prefer black faces. But it all depends on exposure. White babies exposed to an equal mix of black and white faces in their early weeks show no preference.

That finding was actually highly predictable from what we already knew about developmental psychology. It is a safety mechanism for babies to know when they are in the "wrong" hands and they turn on their alarm (cry) when they detect it. Any mother who has given her babe to a stranger to hold will have experienced that. So babies learn rapidly what is normal to them and prefer that. And, like all human beings, babies are quick to generalize (Read, 1983; Hamill, Wilson & Nisbett, 1980) in search of safety. The one thing they know much about is faces and they usually know more than one safe face so it helps to find what is general to the "safe" faces. And if there is a prominent feature (such as colour) that is NOT general, they react accordingly.

The reason why I am making this comment, however, is the wrongheaded response that could arise from the findings. It could be argued that the findings present a perfect case for "diversity". Perhaps all white babies need to be given extensive exposure to blacks from early on. That would of course be a fairly Orwellian proposal but, surprisingly enough, it has been tried. White babies in South Africa are normally cared for most of the time by black nannies and maids. And yet white South Africa produced what is arguably the second most racist (apartheid) government of the 20th century! As any conservative will tell you, nothing about human society is simple. And it is certainly hard to predict.

For a more systematic account of what goes on in racial generalizations, see here and here

Hamill, R., Wilson, T.D. & Nisbett, R.E. (1980) Insensitivity to sample bias: Generalizing from a-typical cases. J. Personality & Social Psychology 39, 578-589.
Read, S.J. (1983) Once is enough: Causal reasoning from a single instance. J. Personality & Social Psychology 45, 323-334.


This note will yet again encourage Leftists to shriek "racist" and "Nazi" at me but they regularly shriek that at George W. Bush and heaps of other conservatives so I am going to disregard such shrieks as devalued currency.

I grew up with Aborigines (Australian native blacks) in my class at school and I have seen plenty of them since -- particularly as a landlord (Yes. I HAVE let rooms and houses to them. Racists do that, you know) -- so I think I know a bit about them. And if you are looking for "cultural" differences, Aborigines must be as different from people of Northern European ancestry as you can get. And the reason why is that they were isolated in Australia from other populations for up to 60,000 years (on some estimates). So they evolved separately. And they evolved to suit Australia as it originally was. And the abilities they evolved -- particularly a remarkable capacity for observing and remembering minute details of the landscape -- do in some ways leave the rest of us for dead. In other ways, however, they are badly lacking in what is needed to fit into modern Western society -- a strikingly poor ability to plan ahead being their most obvious handicap. They very much "live for the day".

One thing I have always envied them is their ability to relax. They can sit around under a tree all day happily doing exactly nothing. I, however, am one of those instinctively hard-driving people who is genetically from the far North of the world. And the fact that, in my retirement, I post daily to seven blogs of my own and contribute frequently to four group blogs is, I think, some testimony to that. It is as hard for me to sit back and do nothing as it is easy for Aborigines. But recently I managed it. Just as Aborigines often do, I spent the whole day sitting around and doing practically nothing other than some intermittent chatting. Anne accompanied me in this experience, of course. She is probably more full of beans than I am these days, however, so she caved in first and shot off to do something at about 7pm. She spent many years as a remote-area nurse working with (and getting on with) Aborigines so knows them even better than I do. So she knew all about the model I had in mind when I said we were having an Aborigine day. She enjoyed it but she couldn't keep it up! Genetics will out.


There are a lot of foreign words that are not really translatable into English -- which is why English has adopted so many foreign words. Two German words that we have lost from English seem particularly useful to me: Reich and Volk. I discuss the meaning of Volk here. I sometimes use both words in my postings on Majority Rights -- where they are fairly likely to be understood. The reason why they are rarely used in English these days is probably that Hitler used both words a lot, and used them prominently. So part of the reason why I use them is to "stir the possum": I have been waiting for some Leftist to pounce on me and accuse me of being a Nazi for using them. But, sadly, nobody has given me that pleasure. So I have given up waiting and will outline here the crushing reply that I had ready:

On all the products exported from the old Communist East Germany, there was a "brand name" -- which was "VEB". And what does "VEB" stand for? It stands for "Volkseigene Betrieb", which translates as "The People's own Enterprise" (though that translation could be argued about too). So if Communist East Germany put the word "Volk" on everything it produced, how come it is a Nazi word? The truth, of course, is that it is an ordinary German word that was in common use for at least 2,000 years before the Nazis came along.

And as for "Reich": For starters, the East German State Railway was known as the "Reichsbahn".