On Left Straussianism

We might therefore say that the left intellectual becomes the left Straussian when they decide that, in addition to sometimes filtering their own public speech to advance an ideological agenda, they’re additionally responsible for “protecting” the public from being exposed to conversations not disciplined by political strategy. To the extent that their own ideas are not already disciplined by such a strategy, they limit discussion of them to close friends and sympathetic colleagues.


In each case, thoughtful criticism of an author’s argument—for being confused, or incomplete—was overshadowed by the left-Straussian assertion that, regardless of whether the argument was true or reasonable, it was “irresponsible” for the author to make it in public.


Those who engage in such tactics would never endorse Strauss’s hard distinction between the elect few and the unthinking many—at least not explicitly. But the care they take to pre-screen intellectual material indicates that they share his dark foreboding about the “costs” of public intellectual conversations reflecting rather than repressing the complexities of private ones. Attempting to marginalize or disqualify intellectual arguments itself implies a gap between the commentator, who trusts themselves to evaluate the arguments in question, and their imagined audience, who is assumed to lack either the tools or the ability to do so unaided. Left Straussians may not believe that they are philosopher-kings but they repudiate, in practice and increasingly even in theory, the possibility of the philosopher-reader.

Here is the full piece by Anastasia Berg and John Baskin, via Agnes Callard.


>he left intellectual becomes the left Straussian when they decide that,
>in addition to sometimes filtering their own public speech to advance
>an ideological agenda, they’re additionally responsible for “protecting”
>the public from being exposed to conversations not disciplined by
>political strategy.

Yes, leftists conceal nuances from the masses. That is not news, nor is it "Straussian".

"Straussian" communication is the practice of an author who writes a text conveying a less controversial exoteric meaning, while communicating a more controversial teaching available only to someone who reads and analyzes closely.

we are pretty that "protecting the public" is a overtly dishonest
euphemism used by the silly people to frame & protect the cultural marxist agenda

erratum-pretty sure

""Straussian" communication is the practice of an author who writes a text conveying a less controversial exoteric meaning, while communicating a more controversial teaching available only to someone who reads and analyzes closely."

How many examples of Left Straussianism are there?

I could probably dig up some examples in Jared Diamond or Francis Fukuyama, but mostly leftists these days tend to be true believers who aren't super bright.

I'd call Fukuyama a centrist and Diamond a center-leftist. Today's firebrand leftists think these guys are complete sellouts and right-wing lackeys. They're not, but just saying...

Think of all those mainstream newspaper articles where the headline and most of the article supports the desired narrative, and then the last three paragraphs or so contain all the contradictory bits that break the desired narrative. I assume in those cases, the journalist wanted to do a good job reporting the facts but also knew what his editor wanted and delivered it, and this was the best compromise he could manage.

Are they not bright, or have they intellectually crippled themselves in some areas?

If you subtract the "writes a text" part, sometimes Chomsky in his interviews and talks has done this. If he gets far removed enough from his political opinions on US and Israeli foreign policy, and starts talking about epistemology or his own approach to ethics, he (intentionally or unintentionally) starts signalling that the adversaries of America and Israel are less blameless than he publicly describes.

I'm looking through books I've reviewed recently for Taki's Magazine.

I guess you could say, for example, that Harvard geneticist David Reich's "Who We Are and How We Got Here" is Left Straussian because it's written in such a way as to not get him in too much trouble, while being highly informative to the careful reader. But that doesn't sound fair to Reich, who is frank enough.

Carl Zimmer's genetics book "She Has Her Mother's Laugh" obfuscates a lot of the more contention issues, although Zimmer does it largely by burying his topics in details so that readers won't find their worldviews' challenged.

This isn't exactly the same, but Steven Pinker is a vocal and enthusiastic Democrat whose books support a basically conservative view of life.

I've been hopeful that Steven Pinker can help restore some common sense to the left.

He's well informed but yet he still uses leftist language so he passes their shibboleth tests.

But... "conservative"? He's a big cheerleader for progress and equality. He just admits the evidence and supports ideas that work.

I think the left has become so unhinged in the last ten years that reasonable/logical/open-minded has become confused with conservative.

Pinker has been cast out by lefties who know better. The Blank Slate was written in 2002 and took dead aim at a chief tenet of the new left.

You're thinking mainly about semi-veiled subversion of left wing dogma from the left, but the article is actually talking about go-along to get-along folks who won't criticize, say, Fat Studies in public, but in private they talk about how retarded it all is. I'm not sure I'd equate the two. The latter is usually motivated by cowardice more than conviction.

Okay, but are the sealed lips leftists "Straussian"? Or does "Straussian" imply written works that can be deciphered by the philosopher?

The article's criteria seems to be that if they don't criticize bad arguments made by their fellow leftists because they don't want to hurt The Cause, they're Straussian. If they're just trying to not to get fired, they're just trying not to get fired and they don't get a fancy philosophical name. I think their view at least makes sense.

The biggest cucks are Straussians.

I think Ezra Klein's attacks on Sam Harris regarding IQ research were Straussian, to an extent. In their longer exchange, Klein tries to tell Harris which topics he'll slander Harris for addressing, and dances around why. Klein cannot say his real reasons, and once he sees that Harris can't read between the lines, Klein resumes slandering Harris. Harris gets enormously frustrated because he doesn't get it. In Harris' mind, he thinks Klein almost understood what Harris was saying. In reality, Klein knew all along what Harris was saying, but would, at best, only opaquely warn Harris not to say it.

To be clear, Klein's controversial opinion that he cannot quite say is that the common folk cannot be trusted with IQ research.

I think you are on to something here i.e. lefty winking while gaslighting.

Just imagine if, e.g. the report stating that it's not possible to determine whether that's really Ralph Northam in the Ralph Northam yearbook picture was delivered with a similar kind of wink.

Yes! That's a really good take on it. Looking over their exchanges; I also took away "Klein understands Harris - why is he acting as if he doesn't by engaging in strawmen and irrelevancies? Is it just bad faith?"

You're absolutely right; there was a lot of coded "SHUT UP about this Harris - you will get us both into TROUBLE" in Klein's approach. He's approaching Harris as a defective cartel member who doesn't realise that the customer is listening in.

Is Klein wrong about this?

There is no inner party. Perhaps the public can't be trusted with the facts about race, IQ, crime, war, foreign policy, banking regulation, political compromises, etc. But if not, we're screwed, because there's no reason at all to think that the "elites" in the media or politics are more able to handle those responsibly than the rest of us are.

Yeah, I kind of wonder if he might be right, also. I still think he's a turd, though.

I came to that conclusion myself. I listened to the first couple minutes (only) of him interviewing Tyler. Or maybe it was the other way around. Anyway, he first expressed surprise at the pronunciation of "Cowen," which was a) weird that someone in his media position didn't know, whether host or guest - but even if not, b) subtly but perceptibly over-emphasized, like: how are you not a Cohen?

Then Cowen seemed to troll him a bit when they got on to the subject of the west coast being fertile ground for bloggers/podcasters/pundits. T.C. named off some dudes I didn't really know, Klein enthused about them; then T.C. let dangle "and Steve Sailer - I think he's from there...?" And Klein affected not to know the name.

Feigning ignorance of somebody, when your interlocutor knows very well you read them, and so must know that California, and being the "alt"-right Joan Didion of sorts, is that person's calling card - well, it's either intellectual cowardice, or arrogance. Or if you don't want research into genetics, or the movements of ancient hominids, because you think it is in some short-term sense safer to pretend that people are all the same, no matter if it makes for a dull world: the burden is on you to make that argument plainly. To make it obliquely, or by avoidance - "I can't hear you" - is not firm forensic footing, and belies your supposed concern for the future.

It's like Matt Yglesias and his proudly "non-conforming garage." Don't nobody else go non-conforming. Straussian, or weaselly?

Yes he is wrong. In two ways. He is either a willing participant, an enthusiastic observer or as someone running a media outlet a perpetrator of the mob rampages that has led to violence is some places. Throughout the whole discussion there was an underlying reality that if Klein want suitably horrified at Harris that Klein himself would be subjected to the opprobrium that he himself had perpetrated. It wasn't a good faith discussion where the could be a meeting of minds. I despise that whole game and it needs to be challenged.

Second, these things will be discussed. Klein can't control the conversation. If there is any, even the most tenuous evidence of iq differences in populations is will become a fact, and there is no one to challenge the extreme views because no one reasonable and open minded can look at the subject. This is already happening and the smarmy preaching of Klein and his ilk have already lost the battle.

And third. I suspect that if it was studied it would show something far more subtle. And far more threatening to the common wisdom. It likely would show that there is little or no correlation with race, but it's the product of a few generations of public policy, either failure or success. If African American communities show a lower iq it may simply be that anyone with any wherewithal to leave does. That is what happens when crime is rampant. And that the same process is happening in other communities where the smart people are leaving. Which decreases the iq of who is left. Do that for a couple generations.

Klein is wrong. I would suggest that this research would challenge almost everything that he assumes. No wonder he prefers mobs.

Who manages this conversation well? Not Klein, not Harris, not Sailer, not Tyler Cowen. Anyone?

Thomas Sowell maybe.

While some of us might be loath to nominate someone from the social sciences - if by "manage well," you mean, remain stubbornly amiable, make observations, and avoid throwing any major bombs at the liberal status quo, policy-wise - I think Charles Murray might be your man. But he's their Cthulhu.

Sorry if stating the obvious, but for those that haven't followed Harris, Harris is indeed criticized for defending Charles Murray.


I think the discussion around decoupling here gets at the heart of the disagreement more accurately than either "cartel defensiveness" or Straussianism (though it's not unrelated to Straussianism). In short: "decoupling" is the ability to discuss or consider claims in isolation, holding aside their implications.

"To a low-decoupler, high-decouplers’ ability to fence off any threatening implications looks like a lack of empathy for those threatened, while to a high-decoupler the low-decouplers insistence that this isn’t possible looks like naked bias and an inability to think straight."

Klein can't see why it would make sense to discuss the topic of The Gap without addressing the historical contexts in which that gap has been used, and he's suspicious of the motivations of those who would attempt to try (like Murray, who is a highly political person). Harris can't see why Klein is stubbornly refusing to address the facts at hand.

It's not clear to me how to distinguish this from simply wanting to complicate discussions of facts that push in a policy direction you dislike. I mean, if I start talking about the need to reduce CO2 emissions based on the best available models of the climate, and you start talking about how all science is political and social and environmentalists are mostly leftist and there's a long history of anti-capitalist / left-wing support for environmentalism, I'm going to suspect you're trying to change the subject away from the narrow factual question (do we actually need to reduce CO2 emissions, and if so, by how much?) to some broader political question where you can dazzle me with your footwork and prevent me coming to any conclusions about what to do.

I think you're right. Low decoupling makes for difficult and contentious disagreements. "The ideal of pure debate is a myth anyways, and in all instances it's used when it suits people's goals and discarded when it doesn't," or something. Words are tools like any other to be placed in service of some endogenous political goal, and it's naive to think otherwise. As mentioned in the article, Charles Murray is an example: he scrupulously sticks to modest scientific claims, decoupling the research in The Bell Curve from its implications, and then in his political life advocates for public policy based on that research. (This is my understanding; I'm not an expert on him.)

Anyway, that's an attempted defense. Certainly I prefer the high-decoupling style and naturally sort myself into environments where that is tolerated and encouraged.

Do people really do this decoupling/non-decoupling consistently, or do they practice it selectively depending on how they feel about a particular issue? I'm with Albatross in that I'm skeptical it's a real cognitive pattern rather than an opportunistic style of argumentation.

My own theory, and it ironically goes back to IQ, is that many people legitimately are unable to decouple, i.e. those with low IQ because IQ is essentially a measure of how well you can think abstractly rather than concretely, and then a smaller but still significant enough portion of people who have above average IQs and can think well abstractly, but are also smart and (more importantly) politically engaged enough to implicitly connect it to other causes that they care about, and then use coupling to discredit an abstract argument that they believe low IQ/unable to decouple people will connect to a cause they care about, where the abstract/in isolation argument might discredit their cause. I'd put Stephen Jay Gould as an exemplary case of the latter: he and Richard Lewontin were professed leftists, and launched an all out intellectual and reputational assault on E.O. Wilson at the mere suggestion that human behavior could be linked to evolutionary biology.

I can't believe that "high-decoupling/low-decoupling" is really a thing.

"Decoupling" is the foundation of knowledge.

Whereas "low-decouplers" are authoritarians who are in actuality the ones who are "threatening" to individuals and societies.

The axis is usually labeled "holistic reductionist". There's plenty of reasonable disagreement about it using those terms.

Make that "holistic vs. reductionist".

You're phrasing this as a generic, unmotivated preference in argument (a more /less "decoupling" preference), but I highly doubt that's the case; Klein isn't someone who generically is reluctant to consider claims in isolation and Harris isn't someone who is generically enthused to consider claims in isolation.

Klein is refusing to consider particular claims to manufacture an outcome that he prefers, not as the outcome of a particular holistic or broad style. I doubt it be hard to find cases in which he is quite happy to consider claims in isolation, when they are not sensitive issues for him and when considering those claims in isolation is preferential for his politics.

So, a Straussian reading involving just a single word change - 'We might therefore say that the right intellectual becomes the right Straussian when they decide that, in addition to sometimes filtering their own public speech to advance an ideological agenda, they’re additionally responsible for “protecting” the public from being exposed to conversations not disciplined by political strategy.'

Anyone tell a difference? See, providing opportunities to highlight pure Straussian symmetry is always a hallmark of MR.

The only factor that seems to change is the external context in which the speech is taking place. In contemporary America, it's "safer" to be on the Left than the Right, so there's less need to filter against hostile readers (such as the mainstream media). On the Right, if someone is discussing getting rid of Medicare and Social Security, for example, those might be conversations deserving of more care, since there are a lot of sensitive members of the public on this issue. Really, any politician in general has to be "message-conscious," as we saw when Hillary's quote about having a "public and private position" came out. Of course now social media makes this easier since one can micro-target ads, delivering one message to one group and possibly a completely contradictory message to another group (and hoping that no third party steps in to "compare notes").

'it's "safer" to be on the Left than the Right'

That explains why Alabama or Indiana, for example, is so notably filled with those on the left - it is safer.

It surely varies to some extent based on geography, but that would seem to be an accurate description of the academy.

First we had the East Coast Straussians and the West Coast Staussians, now we have the left-wing Straussians and the right-wing Straussians. Dare I say that we are all Straussians now. I suppose this is an effort at rapprochement between the East Coast Straussians and the West Coast Straussians: they may have their disagreement (Trump!), but they agree on their shared dislike of the left. Is this a sign that the East Coast Straussians are finally joining the Trump Revolution? Sailer is the keeper of the West Coast canon. Is the focus on a common enemy, the left, the path to rapprochement?

"Sailer is the keeper of the West Coast canon"

I'm the anti-Strauss: I just type whatever is on my mind and hit the Submit button.

The concept of lumpenproletariat has been around since the 1840s, so surely there's been a concept of the unthinking many on the left for a very very long time.

Why is there such a need on the right to argue for genetic racial differences in IQ? You would think people who otherwise emphasize free will and individual effort would tend to believe that individuals can overcome whatever genetic predispositions they are born with. But if environment doesn't matter, then neither does individual choice.

Secondly, it's obvious to me that a lot of people, for whatever reason, really want to believe in the innate racial superiority of white people. Hence it's wise to try to counter this bias by favoring other explanations. In other words, innate genetic differences should be the last explanation we reach for, not the first. The history on the subject is that majority "white" society has always reached first for the flattering explanation that white people are just better/smarter. That's the way our cognitive biases lie. We should try biasing the discussion in some other direction to counter that predisposition.

The short answer: disparate impact as prima facie evidence for discrimination. Drop this and the reasons for discussing the subject go away.

I don't disagree with the "prima facie" part. I do think that laws can have disparate impacts, and that the passage of those laws may be influenced by the disparate political influence of racial groups. (i.e the local city council cites the new landfill near a black neighborhood).
But I agree that a disparate impact is not in itself evidence of discrimination.

Meh, it's still relevant without disparate impact. Immigration patterns matter, understanding human history, etc.

Not sure why people ITT still engage Hazel on this subject though. You're not gonna get anything out of it. She's fairly clear that nothing could persuade her on the subject, and that she's got no commitment to truth on it either (she's part of the illiberal "It's too dangerous for the great unwashed to speak of" mob). It's not like she's gone and read about all the work that has actually been done to try and test why alternatives to the hereditarian hypothesis might hold or anything, she simply declares that not enough has been done. Why debate someone who doesn't have any good faith intention of understanding what is really the case and changing their ideas of reality?

Nothing will ever be enough for her; nothing will ever be enough for anyone who simply wishes to believe in a world in which all human populations are identical, no differences in personality, intellectual strengths, etc. could have ever had a bearing on history, any residual group differences must be the result of oppression away from some ill defined and fluctuating libertarian ideal, and who will continue to believe in this regardless of any possible argument.

It's not that wish there were no group differences, but that I wish for a society where people are treated as individuals, and not judged according to their group membership. There can be group differences, but I want those differences to fall out of objective individual ability rather than prejudice or ethnic/racial sorting.

Also, I note that whenever I say things like this, the responses I get are never "But we can teach people to treat one-another as individuals even if they know all about average group differences." Instead, the responses I get are usually "But it's perfectly natural to judge people by their group averages. It's expensive to seek out information on individuals, and using group averages is a cheap heuristic."
Which really does nothing to convince me that debating the average intelligence of various groups is a good idea.

That's the thing, isn't it? Regardless of the truth of the matter, I don't see that it would have much in the way of a practical impact...except in those cases where we introduce arbitrarily-drawn group rights. Hispanic IQs are on average lower or higher or exhibit more or less variance, or? No skin off my nose either way, I yam what I yam, and that's all what I yam, so long as I have roughly the same access to resources early on, or at least tracking to direct me to such based on uniform criteria. Once we start building policy off of a heuristic (in either direction), it becomes problematic.

People mostly are treated as individuals; they take tests as individuals, they apply for jobs as individuals, &c. No one is really proposing to change this state of affairs.

That said there are arguments that taking into account group information might add slightly more information (e.g. individuals are more likely to regress to a small extent to a family / population mean) about individual capabilities, almost no one would want to see those implemented.

In a sense, this is arguably treating someone more as an individual if it is based on a superior predictor of their capabilities. Group differences don't necessarily just give cheap heuristics, but could supplement test information to give qualitatively superior heuristics of individual ability (and so if the goal is to treat individuals based on your best prediction of their ability, you could do that better).

(Henry Harp ending described this as "rational discrimination", but you might well propose a version of it under the title "meritocratic discrimination" too.)

But there are MANY criteria one could average over. It happens that oddly enough skin color seems to be the thing that is easily observable, despite the fact that there is tremendous variation within skin color groups. So Ethiopians get averaged together with Congolese, and Swedes and Italians get averaged together in one group.

And if you put these two things together, what you are ultimately arguing is really "Yes, black people are stupider, and it should be okay to treat them that way, based purely on the color of their skin."

is that really what you want to argue?

I actually listened to the Klein-Harris dialogue/debate. What those who seem to know what was said without ever having listened to the dialogue/debate is that Klein was not questioning the research that found the IQ of persons of African descent to be lower than that of persons of European descent, but Harris's refusal to even acknowledge the research that traced the difference in IQ to factors such as endemic slavery, poverty, and the absence of educational opportunities. Each time Klein would mention the research, Harris went deaf. This wasn't a debate since Harris refused to even listen to Klein. Those who didn't listen to the dialogue/debate and are convinced black people are stupid just assumed that Klein is impervious to the data. No, Harris is impervious to research that does not support his biases.

Based on the below raw data, is United States society nurturing or hurting the IQ results of African Americans?

Population/Average IQ
Africans in Africa/70
African Americans in USA/85

To think USA is holding blacks down, one would have to hypothesize a genetic potential for average IQ of African descent that is much higher than 85, and I suppose that would be assumed to be 100, based on no evidence, but the blank slate axiom.

I am curious and will listen to the Klein/Harris dialogue, but based on the information Rayward provided, and data above, I don't see a possible coherent argument based on data from Klein.

I wouldn't say people think the US is "holding blacks down". That would put to much agency into "the US". What people think is that there are racial disparities that are the result of self-organizing social phenomenon. I.e. that social sorting along racial lines negatively impacts minority groups due to network effects and racial rent seeking.

I suspect you didn't actually listen to it after reading this comment. Or if you did, it's um.....rather ironic that you'd accuse Harris of bias.

I agree. I think Klein was basically trying to make my point above that, given the history, we should look at other explanations for differences in IQ first, instead of constantly jumping to the conclusion that it's innate. The participants in this debate are not all disinterested scientists having a clinical academic discussion. It's hard to look at a bunch of people going "Hey let's talk about how black people have lower IQs" and not see racial dog-whitsling.

Okay, but I think it's clear that that's not what Charles Murray did, but Klein nevertheless insisted that Murray is a racist Nazi neo-confederate blah blah blah merely for having had something fairly anodyne to say on the topic at all.

There's never any call, to call people stupid. Didn't you people have grandmothers to teach you manners? I remember once in a kindergarten classroom, I did something clumsy, or made some error, and compounded the mistake by saying, "Ah, I'm so stupid." The children audibly gasped. "We don't say 'stupid' in kindergarten!" they chanted at me. But still, the word comes unbidden to the mind sometimes, often followed - well, for most of us - by a certain reflexive humility.

I remember reading an old Nat Geo article about some remote group, that reportedly couldn't be taught to count above four or some such idiosyncrasy, and I recall enjoying the frisson of: how fascinating the world is, and people are, in their variety; and thinking, I admit: those folks don't sound like mental giants; and also thinking, knowing: drop me in their world, how quickly I would die. How useless, like a baby.

IQ is a predictive measure of certain - but not all, very obviously - markers of success in what we - perhaps naively - call the "modern world," yes? Just one of many psychological tests. And the factors you list sort of describe a distance from the ideal conditions in which to prepare to take the test? So: geographic.

I find that echoed in today's NY Times, with its fake editorial from the future, reporting the results of genetic cognition "enhancements." It's a remarkable piece - not as a piece of writing, but the "gotcha": "Cognitive enhancements are useful only when you live in a society that rewards ability, and the United States isn’t one. It has long been known that a person’s ZIP code is an excellent predictor of lifetime income, educational success and health."

Coded, or just zip-coded? I am trying to think what happened the last time there were a bunch of people concentrated in certain "zip codes," with others looking on and judging that whatever those people had, whatever was mysteriously special about them, they likewise didn't deserve.

A strange thing to have deemed worthy to print.

You would think people who otherwise emphasize free will and individual effort would tend to believe that individuals can overcome whatever genetic predispositions they are born with. But if environment doesn't matter, then neither does individual choice.

Huh? Either IQ-heritability does all the work, or it does none of the work? Aren't you ignoring the possibility that heritable IQ has a non-zero effect that can sometimes be overcome by individual effort and sometimes not?

There is just as much incentive for Group A to believe they are not inferior as there is for Group B to believe they are superior. It would be super-awesome if people could stop trying to create public policy based on weak scientific claims, but I have noticed that people just love to get themselves into groups and then think bad things about group non-members. It seems to me that the easiest way to overcome this nasty tendency is to just pass something like a constitutional amendment that just says, "You can't make laws based on demography." Of course, it would have to have a catchy name... something like an... equal... rights... policy... or something. ERP.

But har har har har, what is this, the 70s? And what am I, some kind of hippy?

just pass something like a constitutional amendment that just says, "You can't make laws based on demography."

Well, there's the fly in the ointment, because that's exactly what "disparate impact" is about - people passing laws that disparately impact certain demographic groups. How do you know that the politics in the backroom over what to tax and what to spend weren't influenced by which racial groups it affected, even subconsciously? Don't whites almost automatically have more political power to bend local governments to favor their districts and neighborhoods?

All I was saying, in an admittedly idiosyncratic way, was that I wish the ERA would have succeeded.

When you start talking about what people think and do "subconsciously" then as far as I'm concerned there is no further legal remedy to be had. You can't wave a magic wand and fix people's thoughts, no matter how terrible those thoughts are.

Well, you can certainly try to make people aware of their cognitive biases.

Indeed. But I don't believe that to be a legal remedy, i.e. it's best that we do this through persuasion rather than law.

I totally agree with that. It's all about consciousness raising and social norms, not government intervention.

It’s interesting to see how this plays out in the real world vis NYC’s schools current enthusiasm to install explicitly racist policies. It’s the color vs character vision turned on its head.

There won’t be any function schools when they are done, and the toxic ideas they are pushing will cripple the kids.

It's really the Left that has an innate drive toward an optimistic, "everybody can be anything they want" stance. We see that even with biological sex these days--any kind of natural limit is viewed as "arbitrary" and "unfair." Folks on the Right take a different approach and respect limits. Life, for the Right, isn't supposed to be fair. The Right favors the finite and particular, and rejects universalizing projects. The Left is essentially a heretical, secularized form of Christianity that seeks to establish Heaven on earth. Utopia, though, is somewhere I wouldn't want to live--if it existed, I'd have to find a way to screw it up so that a space for freedom can exist again. That's the sense in which "freedom" is valued by the Right--an entry point for the contingent, the accidental, the arbitrary, and yes, the "dark." Anything else sanitizes some significant and enduring features of humanity.

I suppose the debate about racial differences specifically might come up over and over simply because everyone's radar is tuned for them. This is true no matter which position someone takes; if you're engaging this topic at all, you're either extremely wary of it coming up (because you know anyone listening is waiting for it), or you came in spoiling for an argument.

Personally, I think we've collectively been searching not for justifications for white people becoming so dominant, but explanations for why it was possible. I think this comes from a kind of deep cultural anxiety; was it just luck that allowed Europeans to handily flatten the rest of the world in the 19th century? Did we have a combination of the right factors (genetic or otherwise) working in our favor? Could it even have been stopped? Is it inevitable that whichever group can exert such dominance will do do? Whether or not one believes in overt genetic advantages, the idea that much of the shape of history might be beyond individual or societal control is horrifying. It just might horrify people with different convictions on different levels. I think this is what drives our inquiries and conversations in this field; some of us are afraid it wasn't luck, and some of us are afraid it was. But nobody goes home happy.

And while I can't say I'm fully up on intelligence research, there's also the question of how nuanced intelligence can be and how bad we seem to be at predicting which aspects will matter. A high IQ might help you adapt to social and technological change better than someone with a low IQ, but there are always blind spots for the traits that will contribute to economic and genetic success. And it can take years, maybe generations, to cultivate aptitudes and for people to identify and exploit opportunities. Women and minorities have only been permitted, much less encouraged, into certain pursuits for a very brief time, socially speaking, and in too narrow a cultural wedge. We are starting to see how things like epigenetics, political stability, general nutrition and generational wealth can affect families over long periods of time. Can we really compare intelligence in populations which have experienced different levels of disruption in the relatively recent past? I can't see how this wouldn't affect the data, especially where traits are being measured across entire populations. I'm always wary of social science studies, because while you can claim to control for all sorts of factors, there is always something missing when you're studying something as complex as human intelligence, much less doing so in relation to broad historical factors. I don't think we need to inject countering biases into these conversation with the idea of balancing out racism. I think pointing out how short-lived some demographic and civilizational trends are relative to others does plenty to counter any assertions that whatever advantages white people have had are woven into the fabric of our being.

RhymesWithSilver: the idea that much of the shape of history might be beyond individual or societal control is horrifying

Historical forces and social evolution processes are not really horrifying? I can't really grasp this point of view.

Historical forces constraining our reality are no more horrifying than that we can't defy the laws of physics through 'free will' by desiring to float up from the floor like a soap bubble.

If anything, a world where we could seems rather more of a horror. A world like this would end up being bent to the world of the ambitious, the self seeking and the determined, which is to say, largely the worst of humanity. It's better that such self assertive people are constantly limited and frustrated by immovable laws of reality they can't change or manipulate!

Let this be the obligatory post that this whole picture of "Straussianism" is largely a caricature pretty far removed from anything you could point to in his books.

We also have another good name for what people are in fact talking about: political rhetoric. There is a certain set of "rational" people TC promotes that should really spend more time thinking about good ol' political rhetoric.

It's a Secret Decoder Ring club for adults.

Drink your Ovaltine!

For those not aware of academic jargon, "Straussian" is a tactic where a speaker wants to convey an idea which is so idiotic that if it were exposed to a general audience the speaker would be shamefully mocked and ridiculed.
So the Straussian delivers an innocuous message to the general audience, while revealing the unfiltered idiocy to a small select group who themselves are too idiotic to grasp the foolishness.

Comments for this post are closed