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The Last Two Chapters of THE BELL CURVE by Herrnstein and Murray
The Archive ^ | 11.26.17 | Herrnstein and Murray

Posted on 11/26/2017 1:18:11 PM PST by Chickensoup

This is the last two chapters of the Bell Curve. I have read them several times over the years and consider them the two most prescient and gently thoughtful chapters on policymaking ever. I am delighted to share them with you. Remember these chapters were written in 1994, almost a quarter of a century ago.

They discuss the two different options afforded to our society, in dealing with intelligence, social connections, and poverty; one being harsh and totalitarian, and the other being inclusive in the best of ways, and highly textured.

I highly recommend reading these chapters. I am delighted to find this website so I can share this with you.

Chapter 2 1

The Way We Are Headed

In this penultimate chapter we speculate about the impact of cognitive stratification on American life and government. Predicting the course of society is chancy, but certain tendencies seem strong enough to worry about:

• An increasingly isolated cognitive elite.

• A merging of the cognitive elite with the affluent.

• A deteriorating quality of life for people at the bottom end of the cognitive ability distribution.

Unchecked, these trends will lead the U.S. toward something resem- bling a caste society, with the underclass mired ever more firmly at the bottom and the cognitive elite ever more firmly anchored at the top, re- structuring the rules of society so that it becomes harder and harder for them to lose. Among the other casualties of this process would be Amer- ican civil society as we have known it. Like other apocalyptic visions, this one is pessimistic, perhaps too much so. On the other hand, there is much to be pessimistic, about.


As we described in Part I, the cognitive elite refers to people in the top percentiles of cognitive ability who, over the course of the American twentieth century, have been part of a vast but nearly invisible migra- tion. The migration does not reveal itself in masses of humanity cross- ing frontiers but in countless bits of data about the movement of individuals across the levels of society. Like all other great migrations, this one too will transform both the place people left and the place they go.

At the beginning of the century, the great majority of people in the top 5 or 10 percent of the intelligence distribution were not college ed-

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ucated, often not even high school educated, and they lived their lives scattered almost indistinguishably among the rest of the population. Their interests were just as variegated. Many were small businessmen or farmers, sharing the political outlook of those groups. Many worked on assembly lines or as skilled craftsmen. The top of the cognitive ability distribution probably included leaders of the labor movement and ot community organizations. Among the smart women, a few hail profes- sional careers of their own, but most of them kept house, reared chil- dren, and were often the organizing forces of their religious and social communities.

People from the top of the cognitive ability distribution lived nexr door to people who were not so smart, with whose children their own children went to school. They socialized with, went to church with, and married people less bright than themselves as a matter of course. This was not an egalitarian Utopia that we are trying to recall. On the con- trary, communities were stratified by wealth, religion, class, ethnic back- ground, and race. The stratifications may have been stark, even bitter, but people were not stratified by cognitive ability.

As the century progressed, the historical mix of intellectual abilities at all levels of American society thinned as intelligence rose to the top. The upper end of the cognitive ability distribution has been increas- ingly channeled into higher education, especially the top colleges and professional schools, thence into high-lQ occupations and senior man- agerial positions, as Part 1 detailed. The upshot is that the scattered brightest of the early twentieth century have congregated, forming a new class.

Membership in this new class, the cognitive elite, is gained by high IQ; neither social background, nor ethnicity, nor lack of money will bar the way. But once in the club, usually by age eighteen, members begin to share much else as well. Among other things, they will come to run much of the country's business. In the private sector, the cognitive elite dominates the ranks of CEOs and the top echelon of corporate execu- tives. Smart people have no doubt always had the advantage in com- merce and industry, but their advantage has grown as the barriers against the "wrong" nationalities, ethnicities, religions, or socioeconomic ori- gins have been dismantled. Meanwhile, the leaders in medicine, law, science, print journalism, television, the film and publishing industries, and the foundation world come largely from the cognitive elite. Almost all of the leading figures in academia are part of it. In Washington, the

The Way We Are Headed 5 1 1

top echelons of federal officialdom, special interest groups, think tanks, and the rest of Washington's satellite institutions draw heavily from the cognitive elite. At the municipal level, the local business and political movers are often members of the cognitive elite.


Part 1 mostly described a success story — success for the people lucky enough to be part of the cognitive elite but also a success for the nation as a whole. Before turning to the dark side, we should be explicit about the good things that flow from the invisible migration.

Chief among them is the triumph of an American ideal. Americans believe that each person should be able to go as far as talent and hard work will take him, and much of what we have described is the realiza- tion of that conviction, for people with high IQs. The breadth of the change was made possible by twentieth-century technology, which ex- panded the need for people with high IQs by orders of magnitude. But the process itself has been a classic example of people free to respond to opportunity and of an economic system that created opportunities in abundance.

Life has been increasingly good for the cognitive elite, as it has dis- placed the socioeconomic elites of earlier times. We showed in Part I the increasing financial rewards for brains, but money is only a part of the cornucopia. In the far-fronvidyllic past when most of the people at the top of the cognitive distribution were farmers, housewives, workers, and shop owners, many of them were also frustrated, aware that they had capabilities that were not being used. The graph on page 56 that traced the steep rise in high-IQ jobs over the course of the century was to some important extent a picture of people moving from unsatisfying jobs to lucrative and interesting ones.

Technology has not just created more jobs for the cognitive elite hut revolutionized the way they may be done. Modern transportation has ex- panded the realm in which people work. Beyond that, physical separa- tion is becoming irrelevant. A scientist passionately devoted to the study of a certain protein or an investment analyst following a market can he in daily electronic conversation with people throughout the world who share the same passion, passing drafts of work back and forth, calling up data files, doing analyses that would have required a mainframe com- puter and a covey of assistants only a few years ago — all while sitting

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alone at a computer, which need not he in an office, but can as easily be in a beach house overlooking the ocean. Across the occupational do- main of those who work primarily with their minds, the explosion of computer and communications technologies has liberated and ex- panded creativity, productivity, and personal freedom. There may be some costs of this physical isolation, but many people are happier and more fulfilled as a result of the reach of modern technology.

For the nation as a whole, the invisible migration has surely hrought benefits as well. We cannot measure the gains precisely, but they are the inevitable side effect of greater efficiency in identifying intellectual tal- ent and channeling it into high-IQ occupations. Compared to 1900 or even 1950, America in the 1990s is getting more productivity out of its stock of human capital, and this presumably translates into more jobs, gains in GNP, and other effects that produce more wealth for the soci- ety at large.

So what's the problem? The old stratifications are fading, erased hy a greater reliance on what people often call merit. Millions of people have benefited from the changes — including us. Would we prefer less of a meritocracy? Put that way, no — but "no" for larger reasons as well. The invisible migration is in many ways an expression of what Amer- ica is all about.


What worries us first about the emerging cognitive elite is its coales- cence into a class that views American society increasingly through a lens of its own. In The End of Equality > which analyzes the stratification of American society from a vantage point different from ours, social critic Mickey Kaus describes the isolation we have in mind. He identi- fies it broadly with the decline of "the public sphere." 1 The end of the military draft, the social segregation of the school system, and the divi- sive effects of the underclass are among his suspects, and each has doubt- less played an important role independent (to some degree) of the effects of the cognitive stratification that we described m Part I. Thinking about the way these forces had affected his own life, Kaus remarked: "1 entered a good Ivy League college in 1969. 1 doubt I've had a friend or regular social acquaintance since who scored less than an 1 100 on his or her SAT boards." 2

Kaus is probably right. The reason why this is a problem is captured

The Way We Are Headed 5 1 3

by a remark attributed to the New Yorkers one -time movie critic Pauline Kael following Richard Nixon's landslide victory in the presidential election of 1972: "Nixon can't have won; no one I know voted for him." ] When the members of the cognitive elite (of whatever political con- victions) hang out with each other, often exclusively with each other, they find it hard to understand what ordinary people think.

The problem is not simply that smart people rise to the top more ef- ficiently these days. If the only quality that CEOs of major corporations and movie directors and the White House inner circle had in common were their raw intelligence, things would not be so much different now than they have always been, for to some degree the most successful have always been drawn disproportionately from the most intelligent. But the invisible migration of the twentieth century has done much more than let the most intellectually able succeed more easily. It has also segre- gated them and socialized them. The members of the cognitive elite are likely to have gone to the same kinds of schools, live in similar neigh- borhoods, go to the same kinds of theaters and restaurants, read the same magazines and newspapers, watch the same television programs, even drive the same makes of cars.

They also tend to be ignorant of the same things. They watch far less commercial television than the average American. Their movie-going tends to be highly selective. They seldom read the national tabloids that have the nation's largest circulation figures or listen to the talk ra- dio that has become a major form of national communication for other parts of America. This does not mean that the cognitive elite spend their lives at the ballet and reading Proust. Theirs is not 1 high culture, but it is distinctive enough to set them off from the rest of the country in many important ways.

The isolation of the cognitive elite is by no means complete, but the statistical tendencies are strong, and the same advances in trans- portation and communication that are so enhancing the professional lives of the cognitive elite will make their isolation from the rest of the public that much greater. As their common ground with the rest of society decreases, their coalescence as a new class increases. The tra- ditional separations between the business world, the entertainment world, the university intellectuals, and government are being replaced by an axis of bright people that runs through society. They already sense their kinship across these spheres of interest. This too will increase with time.

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The trends we have described would not constitute a threat to the re- public if the government still played the same role in civic life that it played through the Eisenhower administration. As recently as 1960, it did not make a lot of political difference what the cognitive elite thought, because its power to impose those values on the rest of Amer- ica was limited. In most of the matters that counted — rhe way the schools were run, keeping order in the public square, opening a business or running it — the nation remained decentralized. The still inchoate cognitive elite in 1960 may have had ideas about how it wanted to move the world but, like Archimedes, it lacked a place to stand.

We need not become embroiled here in a debate about whether the centralization of authority since 1960 (or 1933, for those who take a longer view) was right or wrong. We may all agree as a statement of tact that such centralization occurred, through legislation, Supreme Court decisions, and accretions of executive authority in every domain of daily life. With it came something that did not exist before: a place for rhe cognitive elite to stand. With the end of the historic limits on the fed- eral reach, everything was up for grabs. If one political group could get enough votes on the Supreme Court, it could move the Constitution toward its goals. If it could get enough votes in Congress, it could do similarly with legislation.

Through the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, the battle veered hack and forth, with groups identifiably "liberal" and "conservative" hloodying each other's noses in accustomed ways. But in the Rush and Clinton ad- ministrations, the old lines began to blur. One may analyze these trends conventionally in terms of the evolution of party politics. The rise of the New Democrats and the breakup of the Reagan coalition are the conventional way of looking at the evolution. We think something else is happening as well, with potential dangers: the converging interests of the cognitive elite with the larger population of affluent Americans.

For most of the century, intellectuals and the affluent have been an- tagonists. Intellectuals have been identified with the economic left and the cultural avant-garde, while the affluent have been identified with big business and cultural conservatism. These comfortable categories have become muddled in recent years, as faculty at the top universities put together salaries, consulting fees, speeches, and royalties that gar-

The Way We Are Headed 515

ner them six-figure incomes while the New York Review of Books shows up in the mailbox of young corporate lawyers. The very bright have be- come much more uniformly affluent than they used to be while, at the same time, the universe of affluent people has become more densely pop- ulated by the very bright, as Part 1 described. Not surprisingly, the in- terests of affluence and the cognitive elite have begun to blend.

This melding has its limits, particularly when the affluent person is not part of the cognitive elite. The high-lQ Stanford professor with the best-selling book and the ordinary-lQ fellow who makes the same in- come with his small chain of shoe stores are hardly allies on everything. But in looking ahead to alliances and social trends, it is still useful to think in terms of their increasing commonalities because, as any good economist or politician will point out, there are theoretical interests and practical interests. The Stanford professors best-selling book may be a diatribe against the punitive criminal justice system, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't vote with his feet to move to a safe neighborhood. Or his book may be a withering attack on outdated family norms, but that doesn't mean that he isn't acting like an old-fashioned father in looking after the interests of his children — and if that means sending his children to a lily-white private school so that they get a good edu- cation, so be it . Meanwhile, the man with the chain of shoe stores may be politically to the right of rhe Stanford professor, but he is looking for the same safe neighborhood and the same good schools for his children. And even if he is more likely to vote Republican than the professor, he is unlikely to be the rugged individualist of yore. On the contrary, he is likely to have become quite comfortable with the idea that government is there ro be used. He and the professor may not be so far apart at all on how they want to live their own personal lives and how government might serve those joint and important interests.

Consider the sheer size of this emerging coalition and how quickly the affluent class as a whole (not just the cognitive elite) is growing. What is "affluence"? The median answer in 1992 when the Roper Or- ganization asked people how much annual income they would need "to fulfill all your dreams" was $82,100, which indicates where affluence is thought to start by most Americans/ For purposes of this exercise, we will define affluence as beginning at an annual family income of $100,000 in 1990 dollars, about three times the median family income. By that definition, more than one out of twenty American families is

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affluent, roughly double what it was a decade earlier/ Furthermore, this growth has accompanied stagnant real income for the average family. Here is the last of the many graphs we have asked you to examine in this book. In some ways, it is more loaded with social implications than any that have come before.

In the 1970s, economic growth began to enlarge the affluent class

Median family income Percentage of families with

(bars) incomes over $100,000 (line)

$40,000- - 6

1950 1960 1970 1980 1990

The shaded years are ones in which real per capita GNP dropped. All figures are based on 1990 dollars.

Sources: Median family income: U.S. Bureau of the Census 1991, Table R-4, supplemented with U.S. Buremi of the Census 1993, Tahle B-l L. For families with incomes over $ 100,000, daw I rom 1967—1990 arc taken from U.S. Bureau of the Census 1991, Tahle B- }; U.S. Bu reau of the Census, 1993, Tahle B-6. Figures for 1947-1964 are esumated from U.S. Bureau of the Census 1975, Series G 269-282, adjusted for differences in definition of the family.

The graph illustrates the reason for the intense recent interest in American income inequality. From the end of World War II until the early 1970s, average family income rose. Then in 1973, median family income hit a peak. Part of the reason for the subsequent lack of progress has been the declining real wages for many categories of blue-collar johs, described in Chapter 4. Part of the reason has been the decline in two- parent families (economic progress continued, though modestly, for families consisting of married couples). In any case, the average Amer- ican family has been stuck at about the same place economically for more than twenty years.

The Way We Are Headed 517

For the affluent, the story diverges sharply. Until the early 1970s, the proportion of families with $100,000 in 1990 purchasing power in- creased slowly and in tandem with the growth in median family income. Rut after progress for the average family stalled, it continued for the af- fluent. The steepest gains occurred during the 1980s, and Ronald Rea- gan's policies ot the 1980s are commonly thought to be an important force (in praise or blame) for increasing the number of affluent. But economists knew that there is a difficulty with this explanation, as you will see when you compare the 1970s with the 1980s. The rising pro- portion of families with incomes of more than $100,000 since the early 1970s docs not seem to be a function of any particular political party or policy, except insofar as those policies encourage an expanding econ- omy. It has gone with gains in real per capita GNP (indicated by the unshaded bars in the graphic) whether those gains occurred under Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, or George Bush/ 6 ' There is no reason to think that this trend will he much different under Bill Clinton or his successors, if the economy grows. The net result is that the affluent will constitute a major portion ot the population in the rel- atively near future, and they will increasingly be constituted of the most talented.

Try to envision what will happen when 10 or 20 percent of the pop- ulation has enough income to bypass the social institutions they don't like in ways that only the top 1 percent used to be able to do. Robert Reich has called it the "secession of the successful."' The current sym- bol of this phenomenon is the gated community, secure behind its walls and guard posts, but many other signs are visible. The fax, modem, and Federal Express have already made the U.S. Postal Service nearly irrel- evant to the way that the affluent communicate, for example. A more portentous development is the private court system that businesses are beginning to create. Or the mass exodus from public schools among those living in cities, if they can afford it. Or the proliferation of private security forces for companies, apartment houses, schools, malls, and any- where else where people with money want to be safe.

Try to envision what will happen to the political process. Even as of the early 1990s, the affluent class is no longer a thin layer of rich peo- ple but a political bloc to be reckoned with. Speaking in round num- bers (for the precise definitions of both groups are arbitrary), a coalition of the cognitive elite and the affluent class now represents something well in excess of 5 percent of families and, because of their much higher

518 Living Together

than average voting rates, somewhere in the vicinity of 10 to 15 per- cent of the voters.* The political clout of this group extends well be- yond its mere voting size because of its financial contributions to campaigns and because this group contributes a large proportion of lo- cal political organizers. The combined weight of the cognitive elite and the affluent is already considerable. But we asked you to envision to- morrow, not today. Do you think that the rich in America already have too much power? Or do you think the intellectuals already have too much power? We are suggesting that a "yes" to both questions is prob- ably right. And if you think the power of these groups is too great now, just watch what happens as their outlooks and interests converge.

Cynical readers will be asking what else is new. The privileged have always used the law to their advantage. Our own analysis is hardly novel; it is taken straight from a book of essays written more than two centuries ago, The Federalist. People are not naturally angelic but self-interested — else, as Publius pointed out, governments would not be necessary in the first place. Politically, people form factions to pursue their common ends. Give them access to government power to further those ends, and they will take advantage of it. The only modest additions we make to these ancient truths are two propositions: First, as of the 1990s, the con- stitutional restraints on how a faction may use government to further its ends have loosened. Second, an unprecedented coalition of the smart and the rich will take advantage of this new latitude in new ways.


What new ways? There are many possibilities, but the central ones all involve the underclass. We fear that a new kind of conservatism is be- coming the dominant ideology of the affluent — not in the social tradi- tion of an Edmund Burke or in the economic tradition of an Adam Smith but "conservatism" along Latin American lines, where to he con- servative has often meant doing whatever is necessary to preserve the mansions on the hills from the menace of the slums below. In the case of the United States, the threat comes from an underclass that has been with American society for some years but has been the subject of unre- alistic analysis and ineffectual, often counterproductive policy. The new coalition is already afraid of the underclass. In the next few decades, it is going to have a lot more to be afraid of. Now is the time to bring to-

The Way We Are Heeded 519

getherfrom many chapters throughout the book the implications of cog- nitive stratification for the underclass.

The Fate of Children

Statistically, it is not good for children to be born either to a single mother or a married couple of low cognitive ability. But the greatest problems afflict children unlucky enough to be born to and reared by unmarried mothers who are below average in intelligence — about 20 percent of children currently being born.' 91 They tend to do badly, socially and economically. They tend to have low cognitive ability themselves. They suffer disproportionately from behavioral problems. They will be disproportionately represented in prisons. They are less likely to marry than others and will themselves produce large propor- tions of the children horn to single women of low intelligence.

Attempts to compensate for cognitive disadvantage at birth have shown how extraordinarily hard it is to do. Many readers no doubt find the plight of children to be among the most compelling arguments for government activism, as we do. But inadequate nutrition, physical abuse, emotional neglect, lack of intellectual stimulation, a chaotic home environment — all the things that worry us when we think about the welfare of children — are very diff icult to improve from outside the home when the single mother is incompetent. Incompetent mothers are highly concentrated among the least intelligent, and their numbers are growing. In Chapter 15, we discussed differential fertility — a bloodless term — and suggested that the nation is experiencing dysgenic pres- sure — another bloodless term. In the metric of human suffering, in- creasing numbers of children are born into the conditions we most deplore and the conditions that government is most helpless to affect.

What happens to the child of low intelligence who survives child- hood and reaches adulthood trying to do his best to be a productive cit- izen? Out of the many problems we have just sketched, this is the one we choose to italicize: All of the problems that these children experience will become worse rather than better as they grow older, for the labor market they will confront a few decades dowi\ die road is gomg to be much harder for them to cope with than the labor market is now. There will still be jobs for low- skill labor, mostly with service businesses and private households, but the natural wage for those jobs will be low. Attempts to increase their wage artificially (by raising the minimum wage, for example, or man-

520 Living Together

dating job benefits) may backfire by making alternatives to human la- bor more affordable and, in many cases, by making the jobs disappear altogether. People in the bottom quartile of intelligence are becoming not just increasingly expendable in economic terms; they will sometime in the not-too-distant future become a net drag. In economic terms and barring a profound change in direction for our society, many people will be unable to perform that function so basic to human dignity: putting more into the world than they take out.

Perhaps a revolution in teaching technology will drastically in- crease the productivity returns to education for people in the lowest quartile of intelligence, overturning our pessimistic forecast. Bui there are no harbingers of any such revolution as we write. And un- less such a revolution occurs, all the fine rhetoric about "investing in human capital" to "make America competitive in the twenty-first century" is not going to be able to overturn this reality: For many people, there is nothing they can learn that will repay the cost of the teaching.

The Emerging White Underclass

The dry tinder for the formation of an underclass community is a large number of births to single women of low intelligence in a concentrated spatial area. Sometime in the next few decades it seems likely that American whites will reach the point of conflagration. The proportion of white illegitimate births (including Latinos) reached 22 percent in 1991. 1101 There is nothing about being Caucasian that must slow down the process. Britain, where the white illegitimacy ratio, which was much lower than the American white ratio as recently as 1979, hit 32 percent in 1992 with no signs of slowing down.

When 22 percent of all births are to single women, the proportion in low-income communities is perhaps twice that. In the NLSY, 43 per- cent of all births to white women who were below the poverty line were illegitimate, compared to 7 percent for all white women anywhere above the poverty line. 1111 In the nation at large, we know from the 1992 Census Bureau study of fertility that women with college degrees con- tribute only 4 percent of white illegitimate babies, while women with a high school education or less contribute 82 percent. Women with fam- ily incomes of $75,000 or more contribute 1 percent of white illegiti- mate babies, while women with family incomes under $20,000

The Way We Are Headed 5 2 1

contribute 69 percent. 12 White illegitimacy is overwhelmingly a lower- class phenomenon.

In the past, whites have not had an "underclass" as such, because the whites who might qualify have been too scattered among the working class. Instead, white communities in America had a few streets on the outskirts of town inhabited by the people who couldn't seem to cope and skid rows of unattached white men in large cities, but these scat- terings were seldom large enough to make up a neighborhood. An un- derclass needs a critical mass, and white America has not had one. Rut if the overall white illegitimacy ratio is 22 percent — probably some- where in the 40 percent range in low-income communities — and rising fast, the question arises: At what point is critical mass reached? How much illegitimacy can a community tolerate? Nobody knows, but the historical fact is that the trend lines on black crime, dropout from the labor force, and illegitimacy all shifted sharply upward as the overall black illegitimacy ratio passed 25 percent and the rate in low-income black communities moved past 50 percent.

We need not rely on the analogy with the black experience. White illegitimacy is also overwhelmingly a lower-cognitive-class phenome- non, as we detailed in Chapter 8. Three-quarters of all white illegiti- mate births are to women below average in IQ, and 45 percent are to women with IQs under 90. tn! These women are poorly equipped for the labor market, often poorly equipped to be mothers, and there is no rea- son to think that the outcomes for their children will be any better than the outcomes have been for black children. Meanwhile, as never-mar- ried mothers grow in numbers, the dynamics of the public housing mar- ket (where they will probably continue to be welcome) and the private housing market (where they will not) will foster increasing concentra- tions of whites with high unemployment, high crime, high illegitimacy, and low cognitive ability, creating communities that look very much like the inner-city neighborhoods that people now tend to associate with minorities.

The white cognitive elite is unlikely to greet this development sym- pathetically. On the contrary, much of white resentment and fear of the black underclass has been softened by the complicated mixture of white guilt and paternalism that has often led white elites to excuse behavior in blacks that they would not excuse in whites. This does not mean that white elites will abandon the white underclass, but it does suggest that the means of dealing with their needs are likely to be brusque.

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Spatial Concentration, Low Cognitive Ability, and Underclass Behavior

As the patience of whites for other whites wears thin, the black inner city will simultaneously be getting worse rather rhan better, Various scholars, led by William Julius Wilson, have described the outmigration of the ablest blacks that has left the inner city without its former lead- ers and role models. 14 Given a mean black IQ of ahout 85 and the link hetween socioeconomic status and IQ within ethnic populations, rhe implication is that the black inner city has a population with a mean IQ somewhere in the low 80s at best, with a correspondingly small tail in the above-average range.' 1 * 1

What is the minimum level of cognitive resources necessary to sus- tain a community at any given level of social and economic complex- ity? For sustaining a village of a few hundred people in a premodern society, the minimum average level is probably quite modest. What is it for sustaining a modern community? The question is of enormous practical significance yet remains innocent of any empirical investiga- tion whatsoever. Perhaps the crucial feature is the average cognitive ability. Perhaps it is the size of the cadre of high-ability people. Perhaps it is the weight of the population at low end of the distribution. No one knows. Whatever the details, a prima facie case exists that t he cognitive resources in the contemporary inner city have fallen below rhe mini- mum level. What looked like a rising tide of social problems a genera- tion ago has come to look more like a fundamental breakdown in social organization.

One may look for signs that these communities are about to recover. The crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s has ebbed, for example, al- though crack is cheaper than ever, as the savage effects of the drug be- came evident to younger brothers and sisters. Black grass-roots efforts to restore the family and combat crime have increased in recent years. But counterpoised against these forces working on behalf of regenera- tion within the inner city is a powerful force working against it: A large majority of the next generation of blacks in the inner city is growing up without fathers and with limited cognitive ability. The numbers con- tinue to increase. The outmigration of the able continues.

While we can see how these trends might be reversed, which we de- scribe in the next and final chapter, let us consider the prospect we face if they do not. This brings us to the denouement of our prognosis.

The Way We Are Headed 523


When a society reaches a certain overall level of affluence, the haves begin to feel sympathy toward, if not guilt ahout, the condition of the have-nots. Thus dawns the welfare state— the attempt to raise the poor and the needy out of their plight. In what direction does the social wel- fare system evolve when a coalition of the cognitive elite and the af- fluent continues to accept the main tenets of the welfare state but are increasingly frightened of and hostile toward the recipients of help? When the coalition is prepared to spend money but has lost faith that remedial social programs work? The most likely consequence in our view is that the cognitive elite, with its commanding position, will imple- ment an expanded welfare state for the underclass that also keeps it out from underfoot. Our lahel for this outcome is the custodial state. Should it come to pass, here is a scenario:

Over the next decades, it will become broadly accepted by the cog- nitive elite that the people we now refer to as the underclass are in that condition through no fault of their own but because of inherent short- comings about which little can be done. Politicians and intellectuals alike will become much more open about the role of dysfunctional be- havior in the underclass, accepting that addiction, violence, unavail- ability for work, child abuse, and family disorganization will keep most members of the underclass from fending for themselves. It will be agreed that the underclass cannot be trusted to use cash wisely. Therefore pol- icy will consist of greater benefits, but these will be primarily in the form of services rather than cash. Furthermore, there will be new restrictions. Specifically, these consequences are plausible:

Child care in the inner city will become primarily the responsibility of the state . Infants will get better nutrition because they will be spending their days in day care centers from infancy. Children will get balanced diets because they will be eating breakfast, lunch, and perhaps supper at school. Day care centers and schools for elementary students will edge closer toward comprehensive care facilities, whose staff will try to pro- vide not only education and medical care but to train children in hy- giene, sexual socialization, socialization to the world of work, and other functions that the parents are deemed incapable of providing.

The homeless will vanish. One of the safer predictions is that sometime in the near future, the cognitive elite will join the broad public senti-

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ment in favor of reasserting control over public spaces. It will become easier to consign mentally incompetent adults to custodial care. Perhaps the clinically borderline cases that now constitute a high proportion of the homeless will be required to reside in shelters, more elaborately equipped and staffed than most homeless shelters are today. Police will be returned their authority to roust people and enforce laws prohibiting disorderly conduct.

Strict policing and custodial responses to crime will become more accept- able and widespread. This issue could play out in several ways. The crime rate in affluent suburbs may be low enough to keep the pressure for re- form low. But events in the early 1990s suggest that fear of crime is ris- ing, and support for strict law enforcement is increasing.

One possibility is that a variety of old police practices — especially the stop-and-frisk — will quietly come back into use in new guises. New pris- ons will continue to be built, and the cells already available will be used more efficiently to incarcerate dangerous offenders (for example, by eliminating mandatory sentences for certain drug offenses and by in- carcerating less serious offenders in camps rather than prisons). Tech- nology will provide new options for segregating and containing criminals, as the electronic bracelets now being used to enforce house arrest (or perhaps "neighborhood arrest") become more flexible and foolproof. Another possibility is that support will grow for a national system of identification cards, coded with personal information includ- ing criminal record. The possibilities for police surveillance and control of behavior are expanding rapidly. Until recently, the cognitive elite has predominantly opposed the use of such technology. In a few years, we predict, it will not.

The underclass will become even more concentrated spatially than it is to- day. The expanded network of day care centers, homeless shelters, pub- lic housing, and other services will always be located in the poorest part of the inner city, which means that anyone who wants access to them will have to live there. Political support for such measures as relocation of people from the inner city to the suburbs, never strong to begin with, will wither altogether. The gaping cultural gap between the habits of the underclass and the habits of the rest of society, far more impassable than a simple economic gap between poor and not poor or the racial gap of black and white, will make it increasingly difficult for children who have grown up in the inner city to function in the larger society even when they want to.

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The underclass will grow. During the 1980s, scholars found evidence that the size of the underclass was no longer expanding. 17 But even as they wrote, the welfare rolls, which had moved within a narrow range since the late 1970s, began to surge again. The government will try yet another round of the customary social programs — sex education, job training, parenting training, and the like — and they will be as ineffec- tual this round as they were in the 1960s and 1970s. 18 Meanwhile, many low-income parents who try to do all the right things and pass their val- ues on to their children will be increasingly unable to do so. They can- not propagate their norms in the face of a local culture in which illegitimacy, welfare, crime, and drugs are commonplace, and there is nothing magically invulnerable about them or their children. Some of the reforms we have described will be improvements — crime might ac- tually drop in the inner city as well as in the other parts of town, for ex- ample — but the main effect will be to make it harder for the children in these solid and conventional working-class families to emulate their parents. Marriage, steady employment, and responsible behavior of many kinds will fall among the next generation, and some portion of the working class will become members of the underclass. Few children of those already in the underclass will escape.

Social budgets and measures for social control will become still more cen- tralized. The growing numbers of illegitimate children born to poor women will have multiplier effects on social welfare budgets — directly and through increased indirect costs generated in the educational and law enforcement systems. As states become overwhelmed, the current cost sharing between the states and federal government will shift toward the federal budget. The mounting costs will also generate intense po- litical pressure on Washington to do something. Unable to bring itself to do away with the welfare edifice — for by that time it will be assumed that social chaos will follow any radical cutback — the government will continue to try to engineer behavior through new programs and regu- lations. As time goes on and hostility toward the welfare-dependent in- creases, those policies are likely to become authoritarian and rely increasingly on custodial care.

Racism will reemerge in a new and more virulent form. The tension be- tween what the white elite is supposed to think and what it is actually thinking about race will reach something close to a breaking point. This pessimistic prognosis must be contemplated: When the break comes, the result, as so often happens when cognitive dissonance is resolved,

526 Living Toge ther

will be an overreaction in the other direction. Instead of the candor and realism about race that is so urgently needed, the nation will be faced with racial divisiveness and hostility that is as great as, or greater, than America experienced before the civil rights movement. We realize how outlandish it seems to predict that educated and influential Americans, who have been so puritanical about racial conversation, will openly re- vert to racism. We would not go so far as to say it is probable. It is, how- ever, more than just possible. If it were to happen, all the scenarios for the custodial state would be more unpleasant — more vicious — than anyone can now imagine.

In short, by custodial state, we have in mind a high-tech and more lav- ish version of the Indian reservation for some substantial minority of the nation's population, while the rest of America tries to go about its business. In its less benign forms, the solutions will become more and more totalitarian. Benign or otherwise, "going about its business" in the old sense will not be possible. It is difficult to imagine the United Stares preserving its heritage of individualism, equal rights before the law, free people running their own lives, once it is accepted that a significant part of the population must be made permanent wards of the state.

Extrapolating from current trends, we project that the policies of cus- todialism will be not only tolerated but actively supported by a consen- sus of the cognitive elite. To some extent, we are not even really projecting but reporting. The main difference between the position of the cognitive elite that we portray here and the one that exists today is to some extent nothing more than the distinction between tacit and cat* plicit.

If we wish to avoid this prospect for the future, we cannot count on the natural course of events to make things come out right. Now is the time to think hard about how a society in which a cognitive elite dom- inates and in which below-average cognitive ability is increasingly a handicap can also be a society that makes good on the fundamental promise of the American tradition: the opportunity for everyone, not just the lucky ones, to live a satisfying life. That is the task to which we now turn.

Chapter 22 A Place for Everyone

How should policy deal with the twin realities that people differ in intelligence for reasons that are not their fault, and that intelli- gence has a powerful bearing on how well people do in life?

The answer of the twentieth century has been that government should create the equality of condition that society has neglected to pro- duce on its own. The assumption that egalitarianism is the proper ideal, however difficult it may be to achieve in practice, suffuses contempo- rary political theory. Socialism, communism, social democracy, and America's welfare state have been different ways of mewing toward the egalitarian ideal. The phrase social justice has become virtually a syn- onym for economic and social equality.

Until now, these political movements have focused on the evils of systems in producing inequality. Human beings are potentially pretty much the same, the dominant political doctrine has argued, except for the inequalities produced by society. These same thinkers have gener- ally rejected, often vitriolically, arguments that individual differences such as intelligence are to blame. But there is no reason why they could not shift ground. In many ways, the material in this book is tailor-made for their case. If it's not someone's fault that he is less intelligent than others, why should he be penalized in his income and social status?

We could respond with a defense of income differences. For exam- ple, it is justified to pay the high-lQ businessman and engineer more than the low-IQ ditch digger, producing income inequality, because that's the only way to make the economy grow and produce more wealth in which the ditch digger can share. We could grant that it is a matter not of just deserts but of economic pragmatism about how to produce compensating benefits for the least advantaged members of society. 1

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Such arguments make sense to us, as far as they go. After the experience of the twentieth century, it is hard to imagine that anyone still disagrees with them. But there are other issues, transcending the efficiency of an economy. Our central concern since we began writing this book is how people might live together harmoniously despite fundamental individ- ual differences. The answer lies outside economics.

The initial purpose of this chapter is to present for your considera- tion another way of thinking about equality and inequality. It represents an older intellectual tradition than social democracy or even socialism. In our view, it is also a wiser tradition, more attuned to the way in which individuals go about living satisfying lives and to the ways in which so- cieties thrive. The more specific policy conclusions to which we then turn cannot be explained apart from this underpinning.


For thousands of years, great political thinkers of East and West tried to harmonize human differences. For Confucius, society was like his con- ception of a family — extensions of a ruling father and obedient sons, de- voted husbands and faithful wives, benign masters and loyal servants. People were defined by their place, whether in the family or the com- munity. So too for the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers: place was all. All the great religious traditions define a place for everyone, if not on earth then in heaven.

Society was to be ruled by the virtuous and wise few. The everyday business of the community fell to the less worthy multitude, with the most menial chores left to the slaves. Neither the Greek democrats nor the Roman republicans believed that "all men are created equal. " Nor did the great Hindu thinkers of the Asian subcontinent, where one's work defined one s caste, which in turn circumscribed every other aspect of life. The ancients accepted the basic premise that people differ funda- mentally and importantly and searched for ways in which people could contentedly serve the community (or the monarch or the tyrant or the gods) , rather than themselves, despite their differences. Philosophers ar- gued about obligations and duties, what they are and on whom they fall.

In our historical era, political philosophers have argued instead about rights. They do so because they are trying to solve a different problem. The great transformation from a search for duties and obligations to a search for rights may be dated with Thomas Hobbes, writing in the mid-

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1600s about a principle whereby all people, not just the rich and well born, might have equal rights to liberty. 2 Everyone, said Hobbes, is enti- tled to as much liberty in gratifying his desires as he is willing to allow others in gratifying theirs. 1 * 1 People differ, acknowledged Hobbes, but they do not differ so much that they may justifiably be deprived of lib- erty by differing amounts. In the modern view that Hobbes helped shape, individuals freely accept constraints on their own behavior in exchange for ridding themselves of the dangers of living in perfect freedom, hence perfect -anarchy. 141 The constraints constitute lawful government.

Hobbes believed that the only alternatives for human society are, in effect, anarchy or absolute monarchy. Given those alternatives, said Hobbes, a rational person would choose a monarch to ensure the equal- ity of political rights, rather than take his chances with perfect freedom. His successor in English political thought, John Locke, did not accept the Hobhesian choice between despotism and anarchy. He conceived of people in a state of nature as being in "a State also of Equality, wherein all the Power and Jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another," 5 and sought to preserve that condition in actual societies through a strictly limited government. What Locke propounded is es- pecially pertinent here because it was his theory that the American Founders brought into reality.

But with Locke also arose a confusion, which has grown steadily with passing time. For most contemporary Americans who are aware of Locke at all, he is identified with the idea of man as tabula rasa, a blank slate on which experience writes. Without experience, Locke is often be- lieved to have said, individuals are both equal and empty, a blank slate to be written upon by the environment. Many contemporary libertari- ans who draw their inspiration from Locke are hostile to the possibility of genetic differences in intelligence because of their conviction that equal rights apply only if in fact people at birth are tabulae rasae. With that in mind, consider these remarks about human intelligence from Locke's An Essay on Human Understanding:

Now that there is such a difference between men in respect of their understandings, 1 think nobody who has had any conversation with his neighbors will question. . . . Which great difference in men's in- tellectuals, whether it rises from any defect in the organs of the body particularly adapted to thinking, or in the dullness or untractableness of those faculties for want of use, or, as some think, in the natural dif-

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ferences of mens souls themselves; or some or ail of these together, it matters nor here to examine. Only this is evident, that there is a difference of degrees in men's understandings, apprehensions, and reasonings, to so great a latitude that one may, without doing injury to mankind, affirm that there is a greater distance between some men and others in this respect, than between some men and some beasts. 6

Locke is strikingly indifferent to the source of cognitive differences and strikingly harsh in his judgment about their size. But that does not mean he believed people to have different rights. They are equal in rights, Locke proclaimed, though they be unequal in everything else. Those rights, however, are negative rights (to impose contemporary ter- minology): They give ail human beings the right not to have certain things done to them by the state or by other human beings, not the right to anything, except freedom of action.

This way of putting it is our of tune with the modern sensibility. The original concept of equal rights is said to be meaningless cant, out- moded; taking equal rights seriously, it is thought, requires enforcing equal outcomes. The prevailing political attitude is so dismissive toward the older conception of equal rights that it is difficult to think of seri- ous public treatments of it; the Founders just didn't think hard enough about that problem, it seems to be assumed. If he were alive today, some eminent political scientists have argued, Thomas Jefferson would surely be a social democrat or at least a New Deal Democrat. 7 We are asking that you consider the alternative: that the Founders were fully aware of how unequal people are, that they did not try to explain away natural inequalities, and that they nonetheless thought the best way for people to live together was under a system of equal rights.

The Founders wrote frankly about the inequality of men. For Thomas Jefferson, it was obvious that they were especially unequal in virtue and intelligence. He was thankful for a "natural aristocracy" that could counterbalance the deficiencies of the others, an "aristocracy of virtue and talent, which Nature has wisely provided for the direction of the interests of society." 8 It was, he once wrote, "the most precious gift of nature," and he thought that the best government was one that most efficiently brought the natural aristocracy to high positions. 9

Jefferson saw the consequences of inequalities of ability radiating throughout the institutions of society. The main purpose of education, he believed, was to prepare the natural aristocracy to govern, and he did

A Place for Everyone 5.3 1

not mince words. The "best geniuses" should be "raked from the rub- bish annually" by competitive grading and examinations, sent on to the next educational stage, and finally called to public life.' 101 But if the au- thor of the Declaration of Independence was by todays standards unre- pentantly elitist, he was nonetheless a democrat in his belief that the natural aristocracy was "scattered with equal hand through all [of soci- ety's] conditions," 11 and in his confidence that the electorate had the good sense to choose them. "Leave to the citizens the free election and separation of the aristoi from the pseudo-aristoi," he advised. "In general, they will elect the real good and wise." 12 For Madison, the "great re- publican principle" was that the common people would have the pub- lic-spiritedness and the information necessary to choose "men of virtue and wisdom" to govern them. 11 For both Jefferson and Madison, politi- cal equality was both right and workable. They would have been amazed by the notion that humans are equal in any other sense.

Nor were Jefferson's and Madison's views a reflection of their south- ern heritage. John Adams, that quintessential Yankee, agreed that "nat- ural aristocracy is a fact essential to be considered in the institution of government" — or, as he put it in another instance, "I believe there is as much in the hreed of men as there is in that of horses." 14 He was not as optimistic as Jefferson and Madison, for he was keenly aware that in- telligence does not necessarily go with virtue, and he was fearful that Jefferson's natural aristocracy would within a few generations have ce- mented its descendants' positions into that: of a ruling caste. But he did not doubt that the reality of human inequalities was of central political importance. 1 ^ 1

The other Founders, including Hamilton and Washington, rumi- nated in the same vein about the inequality of men and the political implications of that inequality. In doing so, they were following an an- cient tradition. Political philosophers have always begun from the un- derstanding that good policy must be in accordance with what is good for human beings, and that what is good for humans must be based on an understanding of how they are similar and how they differ. Aristotle put it earliest and perhaps best: "All men believe that justice means equality in some sense. . . . The question we must keep in mind is, equal- ity or inequality in what sort of thing." 16

The Founders saw that making a stable and just government was dif- ficult precisely because men were unequal in every respect except their right to advance their own interests. Men had "different and unequal

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faculties of acquiring property," Madison reflected in The Federalist} 7 This diversity was the very reason why rights of property were so im- portant and why "the protection of those faculties is the first object of Government/' But the diversity was also the defect of populist democ- racy, because the unequal distribution of property to which it led was "the most common and durable source of factions." And faction, he ar- gued, was the great danger that the Constitution sought above all to confine and tame. The task of government was to set unequal persons into a system of laws and procedures that would, as nearly as possible, equalize their rights while allowing their differences to express them- selves. The result would not necessarily be serene or quiet, but it would be just. It might even work.

In reminding you of these views of the men who founded America, we are not appealing to their historical eminence, but to their wisdom. We think they were right. Let us stop using words like factions and fac- ulties and aristoi and state in our own words, briefly and explicitly, how and why we think they were right in ways that apply today.

The egalitarian ideal of contemporary political theory underestimates the importance of the differences that separate human beings. It fails to come to grips with human variation. It overestimates the ability of po- litical interventions to shape human character and capacities. The sys- tems of government that are necessary to carry out the egalitarian agenda ignore the forces that the Founders described in The Federalist, which lead inherently and inevitably to tyranny, throughout history and across cultures. These defects in the egalitarian tradition are reflected in polit- ical experience, where the failure of the communist bloc to construct happy societies is palpably apparent and the ultimate fate of even the more benign egalitarian model in Scandinavia is coming into question.

The perversions of the egalitarian ideal that began with the French Revolution and have been so plentiful in the twentieth century are not accidents of history or produced by technical errors in implementation. Something more inevitable is at work. People who are free to behave differently from one another in the important affairs of daily life in- evitably generate the social and economic inequalities that egalitarian- ism seeks to suppress. That, we believe, is as close to an immutable law as the uncertainties of sociology permit. To reduce inequality of condi- tion, the state must impose greater and greater uniformity. Perhaps that is as close to an immutable law as political science permits. In T H. White's version of the Arthurian legend, The Once and Future King,

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Merlyn transforms young Arthur into an ant as part of his education in governance. In this guise, Arthur approaches the entrance to the ant colony, where over the entrance are written the words, EVERYTHING NOT FORBIDDEN IS COMPULSORY. 18 Such, in our view, is where the logic of the egalitarian ideal ultimately leads. It is appropriate in the ant colony or the beehive but not for human beings. Egalitarian tyrannies, whether of the Jacobite or the Leninist variety, are worse than inhumane. They are inhuman.

The same atmosphere prevails on a smaller scale wherever "equality" comes to serve as the basis for a diffuse moral outlook. Consider the many small tyrannies in America's contemporary universities, where it has become objectionable to say that some people are superior to other people in any way that is relevant to life in society. Nor is this outlook confined to judgments about people. In art, literature, ethics, and cul- tural norms, differences are not to be judged. Such relativism has be- come the moral high ground for many modern commentators on life and culture.

Even the existence of differences must be discussed gingerly, when they are human differences. As soon as the differences are associated with membership in a group, censorship arises. In this book, we have trod on one of those most sensitive areas by talking about ethnic differ- ences, but there are many others. In what respects do men differ from women? Young differ from old? Heterosexuals from homosexuals? The permissible answers, often even the permissible questions, are sharply circumscribed. The moral outlook that has become associated with equality has spawned a vocabulary of its own. Discrimination, once a useful word with a praiseworthy meaning, is now almost always used in a pejorative sense. Racism, sexism, ageism, elitism — all are in common parlance, and their meanings continue to spread, blotting up more and more semantic territory.

The ideology of equality has done some good. For example, it is not possible as a practical matter to be an identifiable racist or sexist and still hold public office. But most of its effects are bad. Given the power of contemporary news media to imprint a nationwide image overnight, mainstream political figures have found that their allegiance to the rhetoric of equality must extend very far indeed, for a single careless re- mark can irretrievably damage or even end a public career. In everyday life, the ideology of equality censors and straitjackets everything from pedagogy to humor. The ideology of equality has stunted the range of

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moral dialogue to triviality. In daily life — conversations, the lessons taught in public schools, the kinds of screenplays or newspaper feature stories that people choose to write — the moral ascendancy of equality has made it difficult to use concepts such as virtue, excellence, beauty and — above all — truth.

Within the realm of government, small versions of the "everything not forbidden is compulsory" mentality may be seen everywhere. The informal old American principle governing personal behavior was that you could do whatever you wanted as long you didn't force anyone else to go along with you and as long as you let the other fellow go about his affairs with equal freedom. The stopping point was defined by the use- ful adage, "Your freedom to swing your arm stops where my nose be- gins." 19 In laws great and small, this principle has been perverted beyond recognition, as the notions of what constit utes "where my nose begins" stretch far out into space. The practice of affirmative action has been a classic example of the ''everything not forbidden is compulsory" men- tality, as the idea of forbidding people to discriminate by race mutated into the idea of compelling everyone to help produce equal outcomes by race. In tort law, the destruction of the concept of negligence grew out of an explicitly egalitarian view of the purpose of liability — not to redress individual victims for acts of irresponsibility but to redistribute goods more equitably. 20 In personal life, the idea of forbidding people from interfering with members of other groups (blacks, homosexuals, women) as they went about their lives has been extended to the idea of compelling people to "treat them the same." It is a mark of how farthings have gone that many people no longer can see the distinction between "not interfering" and "treating the same."

Our views on all of these issues are decidedly traditional. We think that rights are embedded in our freedom to act, not in the obligations we may impose on others to act; that equality of rights is crucial while equality of outcome is not; that concepts such as virtue, excellence, beauty, and truth should be reintroduced into moral discourse. We are comfortable with the idea that some things are better than others — not just according to our subjective point of view but according to endur- ing standards of merit and inferiority — and at the same time reject the thought that we (or anyone else) should have the right to impose those standards. We are enthusiastic about diversity — the rich, unending di- versity that free human beings generate as a matter of course, not the imposed diversity of group quotas.

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And so we come to this final chapter, discussing the broadest policy implications of all that has gone before. We bring to our recommenda- tions a predisposition, believing that the original American conceptions of human equality and the pursuit of happiness still offer the wisest guid- ance for thinking about how to run today's America. These have been some of our reasons why.


With these thoughts on the table, let us return to the question that opened the chapter: How should policy deal with the twin realities that peo- ple differ in intelligence for reasons that are not their fault and that intelligence has a powerful bearing on how well people do in life! The answer turns us back to the ancient concern with place.

The Goal and a Definition

The broadest goal is a society in which people throughout the functional range of intelligence can find, and feel they have found, a valued place for themselves. For "valued place," we offer a pragmatic definition: You occupy a valued place if other people would miss you if you were gone. The fact that you would be missed means that you were valued. Both the quality and quantity of valued places are important. Most people hope to find a soulmate for life, and that means someone who would "miss you" in the widest and most intense way. The definition captures the reason why children are so important in defining a valued place. But be- sides the quality of the valuing, quantity too is important. If a single per- son would miss you and no one else, you have a fragile hold on your place in society, no matter how much that one person cares for you. To have many different people who would miss you, in many different parts of your life and at many levels of intensity, is a hallmark of a person whose place is well and thoroughly valued. One way of thinking about policy options is to ask whether they aid or obstruct this goal of creat- ing valued places.

Finding Valued Places

The great bulk of the American population is amply equipped, in their cognitive resources and in other personal characteristics, to find valued places in society. We must emphasize that, because for hundreds of pages we have focused on people at the two tails of the bell curve. Now is a

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good time to recall the people in the broad part of the curve, between the extremes. In figure after figure throughout Chapter 16, the pattern was consistent: The prevalence of the social maladies we reviewed was strikingly concentrated in the bottom IQ deciles. By the time people were even approaching average IQ, the percentages of people who were poor, had babies out of wedlock, provided poor environments for their children, or exhibited any other problem constituted small percentages of the population. Translated into the themes we are about to introduce, the evidence throughout this book supports the proposition that most people by far have enough intelligence for getting on with the business of life. We believe the policies we advocate will benefit them as well, by creating a generally richer and more vital society, but it should be made explicit: Our solutions assume that the average American is an asset, not part of the problem.

Finding Valued Places If You Aren't Very Smart: The Traditional Context

Nonetheless, millions of Americans have levels of cognitive ability low enough to make their lives statistically much more difficult than life is for most other people. How may policy help or obstruct them as they go about their lives? Our thesis is that it used to be easier for people who are low in ability to find a valued place than it is now.

In a simpler America, being comparatively low in the qualities mea- sured by IQ did not necessarily affect the ability to find a valued niche in society. Many such people worked on farms. When farms were small, technology was limited to the horse-drawn plow and a few hand tools, and the same subsistence crops were grown year after year. People who would score 80 or 90 on an IQ test could be competent farmworkers, not conspicuously distinguished from most other people in wealth, home, neighborhood, or status in the community. Much the same could be said of a wide variety of skilled and unskilled trades. Even an un- skilled laborer who was noticeably lower on the economic scale was part of a community in which many others with many levels of ability lived close to him, literally and socially. Inevitably, with technological ad- vances, the niches for the less intelligent have shrunk.

As for the most intimate affiliations — marriage and children — there formerly was little difference between people of varying abilities: To be married meant to be responsible for each other, and for the children of

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that marriage, in unqualified and uncompromising ways that the entire community held to be of the highest importance. Those who met those responsibilities had a valued place in the community by definition. Those who failed conspicuously in those responsibilities were outcasts by definition. Meeting the responsibilities of marriage and parenthood did not take a lot of money and did not take high intelligence. The com- munity provided clear and understandable incentives for doing what needed to be done.

Urban communities were somewhat different from small towns in these respects but not unrecognizably so. The top socioeconomic layer moved off to its own part of town, but this left a broad range of people living together in the rest of a city's neighborhoods, and the social func- tioning of those neighborhoods shared many characteristics with small towns. The responsibilities of marriage and children were as clearly de- fined in urban neighborhoods as in rural ones, and success and failure in those responsibilities were as visibly rewarded and punished.

As for the other ways in which people found valued places for them- selves, urban neighborhoods teemed with useful things to do. Anyone who wanted to have a place in the community could find one in the lo- cal school boards, churches, union halls, garden clubs, and benevolent associations of one sort or another. The city government provided the police who walked the local beat. It ran the courthouse and public hos- pital downtown, and perhaps an orphanage and a home for the aged, but otherwise the neighborhood had to do for itself just about every- thing that needed doing to keep the social contract operative and daily life on an even keel. Someone who was mentally a bit dull might not be chosen to head up the parish clothing drive but was certainly eligi- ble to help out. And these were just the organized aspects of commu- nity life. The unorganized web of interactions was even more extensive and provided still more ways in which people of all abilities, including those without much intelligence, could fit in.

It is not necessary to idealize old-fashioned neighborhoods or old- fashioned families to accept the description we have just given. All sorts of human problems, from wretched marriages to neighborhood feuds and human misery of every other sort, could be found. Poverty was ram- pant (recall from Chapter 5 that more than half of the population prior to War II was in poverty by today's definition). Even so, when the re- sponsibilities of marriage and parenthood were clear and uncompro- mising and when the stuff of community life had to be carried out by

5 3 8 Lining Together

the neighborhood or it wouldn't get done, society was full of accessible valued places for people of a broad range of abilities.

Finding Valued Places If You Aren't Very Smart: The Contemporary Context

Out of the myriad things that have changed since the beginning of the century, two overlapping phenomena have most affected people with modest abilities: It has become harder to make a living to support the valued roles of spouse, parent, and neighbor, and functions have been stripped from one main source of valued place, the neighborhood.

THE ECONOMIC ARGUMENT. The cognitive elite has pulled away from the rest of the population economically, becoming more prosperous even as real wages in the rest of the economy stagnated or fell. The di- vergence has been most conspicuous in the lowest-skilled jobs. From their high point in 1973, the median earnings of full-time workers in general nonfarm labor had fallen by 36 percent by 1990, far more than for any other category. [21] A strong back isn't worth what it used to be. Workers in those occupations have been demoralized. They have lost their valued place in the workplace.

So far, we agree that economics plays an important role in taking val- ued places in the workplace from those with low cognitive ability. But the argument typically widens, asserting that economic change also ex- plains why people in low-skill occupations experience the loss of other valued places evidenced by failing marriage rates and rising illegitimacy: Men in low-skill jobs no longer make enough money to support a fam- ily, it is said. This common argument is too simplistic. In constant dol- lars, the income of a full-time, year-round male worker in general nonfarm labor in 1991 was at the level of his counterpart in 1958, when the norm was still one income per family, marriage rates were as high as ever, and illegitimacy was a fraction of its current levels. We may look back still further: The low-skill laborer in 1991 made about twice the real income of his counterpart in 1920, a year when no one thought to question whether a laborer could support a family, [22] Economics is rel- evant in understanding how it has become harder for people of modest abilities to find a valued place, and solutions should take economics into account. But economics is not decisive.

STRIPPING FUNCTIONS FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD. Communities are rich and vital places to the extent that they engage their members in the

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stuff of life— birth, death, raising children, making a living, helping friends, singing in the local choir or playing on the softball team, cop- ing with problems, setting examples, welcoming, chastising, celebrat- ing, reconciling, and negotiating.

If there is one theme on which observers from both left and right re- cently sound very much alike, it is that something vital and important has drained out of American communities. 24 Most adults need some- thing to do with their lives other than going to work, and that some- thing consists of being stitched into a fabric of family and community. In the preceding chapter, we alluded to the federal domination of pub- lic policy that has augmented the cognitive elite's political leverage dur- ing the last thirty years. The same process has had the collateral effect of stripping the neighborhood of much of the stuff of life. For what seemed like sufficient reasons at the time, Congress and presidents have deemed it necessary to remove more and more functions from the neigh- borhood. The entire social welfare system, services and cash payments alike, may be viewed in that light. Certain tasks— such as caring for the poor, for example— were deemed to be too difficult or too poorly per- formed by the spontaneous efforts of neighborhoods and voluntary or- ganizations, and hence were transferred. The states have joined in this process. Whether federal and state policymakers were right to think that neighborhoods had failed and that the centralized government has done better is still a subject of debate, as is the net effect of the transfers, but the transfers did indeed occur and they stripped neighborhoods of tra- ditional functions, 25

The cognitive elite may not detect the declining vitality in the lo- cal community. For many of them, the house is important— its size, lo- cation, view, grounds. They may want the right kind of address and the right kind of neighbors. But their lives are centered outside a geo- graphic community; their professional associates and friends may be scattered over miles of suburbs, or for that matter across the nation and the world. For large segments of American society, however, the geo- graphic neighborhood is the major potential resource for infusing life with much of its meaning. Even the cognitive elite needs local com- munities, if not for itself, then for those of its children who happen not to land at the top of the cognitive ability distribution. The massive transfer of functions from the locality to the government has stripped neighborhoods of their traditional shared tasks. Instead, we have neigh- borhoods that are merely localities, not communities of people tend-

540 Living Together

ing to their communal affairs. Valued places in a neighborhood are created only to the extent that the people in a neighborhood have valued tasks to do.

People who have never lived in such a neighborhood — and as time goes on this includes more and more of the cognitive elite and the affluent in general — often find this hard to believe. It is another case of the isolation we discussed in Chapter 21: They may read about such communities in books, but surely they no longer exist in real life. But they do. Thumb through a few weeks' issues of the newspaper from any small town, and you will find an America that is still replete with fund-raising suppers for the local child who has cancer, drives to collect food and clothing for a family that has suffered a reverse, and even barn raisings. They may exist as well (though they are less well documented) in urban working-class neighborhoods that have man- aged to retain their identity. It is through such activities that much of the real good for the disadvantaged is accomplished. Beyond that, they have a crucial role, so hard to see from a Washington office, of creat- ing ways for people of a wide level of incomes and abilities to play a part. It creates ways for them to be known — not just as a name but as a helpful fellow, a useful person to know, the woman you can always count on. It creates ways in which you would be missed if you were gone.

Thus arises our first general policy prescription: A wide range of social functions should be restored to the neighborhood when possible and otherwise to the municipality. The reason for doing so, in the context of this book, is not to save money, not even because such services will be provided more humanely and efficiently by neighborhoods (though we believe that generally to be the case), but because this is one of the best ways to multiply the valued places that people can fill. As the chapter con- tinues, we will offer some other possibilities for accomplishing this and collateral objectives. But before arguing about how it is to be done, we hope that there can be wide agreement on the importance of the goal: In a decent postindustrial society, neighborhoods shall not have lost their importance as a source of human satisfactions and as a generator of valued places that all sorts of people can fill. Government policy can do much to foster the vitality of neighborhoods by trying to do less for them.

A Place for Everyone. 541


The thesis of this section may be summarized quickly: As of the end of the twentieth century, the United States is run by rules that are conge- nial to people with high IQs and that make life more difficult for every- one else. This is true in the areas of criminal justice, marriage and divorce, welfare and tax policy, and business law, among others. It is true of rules that have been intended to help ordinary people — rules that govern schooling, medical practice, the labeling of goods, to pick some examples. It has happened not because the cognitive elite consciously usurped the writing of the rules but because of the cognitive stratifica- tion described throughout the book. The trend has affected not just those at the low end of the cognitive distribution but just about every- body who is not part of the cognitive and economic elites.

The systems have been created, bit by bit, over decades, by people who think that complicated, sophisticated operationalizations of fair- ness, justice, and right and wrong are ethically superior to simple, black- and-white versions. The cognitive elite may not be satisfied with these systems as they stand at any given point, but however they may reform them, the systems are sure to become more complex. Additionally, com- plex systems are precisely the ones that give the cognitive el ite the great- est competitive advantage. Deciphering complexity is one of the things that cognitive ability is most directly good for.

We have in mind two ways in which the rules generated by the cog- nitive elite are making life more difficult for everyone else. Each requires somewhat more detailed explanation.

Making h Easier to Make a Living

First come all the rules that make life more difficult for people who are trying to navigate everyday life. In looking for examples, the 1040 in- come tax form is such an easy target that it need only be mentioned to make the point. But the same complications and confusions apply to a single woman with children seeking government assistance or a person who is trying to open a dry-cleaning shop. As the cognitive elite busily goes about making the world a better place, it is not so important to them that they are complicating ordinary lives. Its not so complicated to them.

542 Living Together

The same burden of complications that are only a nuisance to peo- ple who are smart are much more of a barrier to people who are not. In many cases, such barriers effectively block off avenues for people who are not cognitively equipped to struggle through the bureaucracy. In other cases, they reduce the margin of success so much that they make the difference between success and failure. "Sweat equity," though the phrase itself has been recently coined, is as distinctively an American concept as "equality before the law" and "liberty." You could get ahead by plain hard work. No one would stand in your way. Today that is no longer true. American society has erected barriers to individual sweat equity, by saying, in effect, "Only people who are good at navigating complex rules need apply." Anyone who has tried to open or run a small business in recent years can supply evidence of how formidable those barriers have become.

Credentialism is a closely related problem. It goes all the way up the cognitive range — the Ph.D. is often referred to as "the union card" by graduate students who want to become college professors — bur it is es- pecially irksome and obstructive for occupations further down the [ad- der. Increasingly, occupations must be licensed, whether the service involves barbering or taking care of neighborhood children. The the- ory is persuasive — do you want someone taking care of your child who is not qualified? — but the practice typically means jumping through bu- reaucratic hoops that have little to do with one's ability to do the job. The rise of licensing is both a symptom and a cause of diminishing per- sonal ties, along with the mutual trust that goes with those ties. The li- censing may have some small capacity to filter out the least competent, but the benefits are often outweighed by the costs of the increased bu- reaucratization.

Enough examples. American society is rife with them. In many ways, life is more complicated than it used to be, and there's nothing to be done about it. Rut as the cognitive elite has come to power, it has trailed in its wake a derritus of complexities as well, individually minor, that together have reshaped society so that the average person has a much tougher time running his own life. Our policy recommendation is to stop it and strip away the nonsense. Consider the costs of complexity itself. Return to the assumption that in America the government has no business getting in people's way except for the most compelling rea- sons, with "compelling" required to meet a stiff definition.

A Place for Everyone 543

Making It Easier to Live a Virtuous Life

We start with the supposition that almost everyone is capable of being a morally autonomous human being most of the time and given suitable circumstances. Political scientist James Q. Wilson has put this case elo- quently in The. Moral Sense, calling on a wide range of social science findings to support an old but lately unfashionable truth: Human beings in general are capable of deciding between right and wrong. 26 This does not mean, however, that everyone is capable of deciding between right and wrong with the same sophistication and nuances. The difference between people of low cognitive ability and the rest of society may be put in terms of a metaphor: Everyone has a moral compass, but some of those compasses are more susceptible to magnetic storms than others. First, consider crime, then marriage.

CRIME. Imagine living in a society where the rules about crime are sim- ple and the consequences are equally simple. "Crime" consists of a few obviously wrong acts: assault, rape, murder, robbery, theft, trespass, de- struction of another's property, (raud. Someone who commits a crime is probably caught — and almost certainly punished. The punishment al- most certainly hurts (it is meaningful). Punishment follows arrest quickly, within a matter of days or weeks. The members of the society subscribe to the underlying codes of conduct with enthusiasm and near unanimity. They teach and enforce them whenever appropriate. Living in such a world, the moral compass shows simple, easily understood di- rections. North is north, south is south, right is right, wrong is wrong.

Now imagine that all the rules are made more complicated. The num- ber of acts defined as crimes has multiplied, so that many things that are crimes are not nearly as obviously "wrong" as something like robbery or assault. The link between moral transgression and committing crime is made harder to understand. Fewer crimes lead to an arrest. Fewer arrests lead to prosecution. Many times, the prosecutions are not for something the accused person did but for an offense that the defense lawyer and the prosecutor agreed upon. Many times, people who are prosecuted are let off, though everyone (including the accused) acknowledges that the person was guilty. When people are convicted, the consequences have no apparent connection to how much harm they have done. These events are typically spread out over months and sometimes years. To top it all off, even the "wrongness" of the basic crimes is called into ques-

544 Living Together

rion. In the society at large (and translated onto the television and movie screens), it is commonly argued that robbery, for example, is not always wrong if it is in a good cause (stealing medicine to save a dying wife) or if it is in response to some external condition (exploitation, racism, etc.). At every level, it. becomes fashionable to point out the complexities of moral decisions, and all the ways in which things that might seem "wrong" at first glance are really "right" when properly an- alyzed.

The two worlds we have described are not far removed from the con- trast between the criminal justice system in the United States as re- cently as the 1950s and that system as of the 1990s. We are arguing that a person with comparatively low intelligence, whose time horizon is short and ability to balance many competing and complex incentives is low, has much more difficulty following a moral compass in the 1990s than he would have in the 1950s. Put aside your feelings about whether these changes in the criminal justice system represent progress. Simply consider them as a magnetic storm — as a set of changes that make the needle pointing to right and wrong waver erratically if you happen to be looking at the criminal justice system from the perspective of a per- son who is not especially bright. People of limited intelligence can lead moral lives in a society that is run on the basis of 'Thou shalt not steal." They find it much harder to lead moral lives in a society that is run on the basis of 'Thou shalt not steal unless there is a really good reason to." 1271

The policy prescription is that the criminal justice system should be made simpler. The meaning of criminal offenses used to be clear and ob- jective, and so were the consequences. It is worth trying to make them so again.

MARRIAGE. It has become much more difficult for a person of low cog- nitive ability to figure out why marriage is a good thing, and, once in a marriage, more difficult to figure out why one should stick with it through bad times. The magnetic storm has swept through from many directions.

The sexual revolution is the most obvious culprit. The old bargain from the mans point of view — get married, because that's the only way you're going to be able to sleep with the lady— was the kind of incen- tive that did not require a lot of intellect to process and had an all-

A Place jar Everyone 545

powerful effect on behavior. Restoring it is not feasible by any (reason- able) policy we can think of

Rut the state has interfered as well to make it more difficult for peo- ple with little intelligence to do that thing — find a compatible partner and get married — that constitutes the most accessible and richest of all valued places. Marriage fills a vital role in people's lives to the extent that it is hallowed as an institution and as a relationship unlike any other. Marriage is satisfying to the extent that society validates these propositions: "Yes, you may have a baby outside marriage if you choose; but it isn't the same." "Yes, you may live with someone without marry- ing, but it isn't the same." "Yes, you may say that you are committed to someone without marrying, but it isn't the same."

Once sex was no longer playing as important a role in the decision to marry, it was essential that these other unique attributes of marriage be highlighted and reinforced. But the opposite has happened. Repeatedly, the prerogatives and responsibilities that used to be limited to marriage have spilled over into nonmarital relationships, whether it is the rights and responsibilities of an unmarried father, medical coverage for same- sex partners, or palimony cases. Once the law says, "Well, in a legal sense, living together is the same," what is the point of getting married?

For most people, there are still answers to that question. Even given the diminished legal stature of marriage, marriage continues to have unique value. But to see those values takes forethought about the long- term differences between living together and being married, sensitivity to many intangibles, and an appreciation of second-hand and third- hand consequences. As Chapter 8's evidence about marriage rates im- plies, people low on the intelligence distribution are less likely to think through those issues than others.

Our policy prescription in this instance is to return marriage to its formerly unique legal status. If you are married, you take on obligations. If you are not married, you don't. In particular, we urge that marriage once again become the sole legal institution through which rights and responsibilities regarding children are exercised. If you are an unmar- ried mother, you have no legal basis for demanding that the father of the child provide support. If you are an unmarried father, you have no legal standing regarding the child — not even a right to see the child, let alone any basis honored by society for claiming he or she is "yours" or that you are a "father."

5 46 Living Together

We do not expect such changes miraculously to resuscitate marriage in the lowest cognitive classes, but they are a step in the return to a sim- pler valuation of it. A family is unique and highly desirable. To start one, you have to get married. The role of the state in restoring the rewards of marriage is to validate once again the rewards that marriage naturally carries with it.

More General Implications for Policy

Crime and marriage are only examples of a general principle: Modern American society can be simplified. No law of nature says that the in- creasing complexity of technology must be matched by a new com- plexity in the way the nation is governed. The increasing complexity of technology follows from the functions it serves. The increasing com- plexity of government does not. Often the complexities introduced by technology require highly sophisticated analysis before good law and reg- ulation can be developed. But as a rule of thumb, the more sophisticated the analysis, the simpler the policies can be. Policy is usually compli- cated because it has been built incrementally through a political process, not because it has needed to become more complicated. The time has come to make simplification a top priority in reforming policy — not for a handful of regulations but across the board.

More broadly, we urge that it is possible once again to make a core of common law, combined with the original concepts of negligence and liabil ity in tort law, the mechanism for running society — easily under- stood by all and a basis for the straightforward lessons that parents at all levels of cognitive ability above the lowest can teach their child- ren about how to behave as they grow up. We readily acknowledge that modernity requires some amplif ications of this simple mechanism, but the nation needs to think through those amplifications from the legal equivalent of zero-based budgeting. As matters stand, the legal edifice has become a labyrinth that only the rich and the smart can navigate.


We have presented what we believe needs to be done. We also under- stand that a common response will be incredulity, for different readers will interpret the long chapters that have come before as a manifesto for completely different kinds of policy initiatives. Specifically, two tines

A Place for Everyone 547

of argument are likely to follow from this book. To some, we will have made a case for increased income redistribution. To others, we will have made a case for steps to manipulate the fertility of people with high and low IQs. We will be pleased if the book leads to a vigorous discus- sion of these issues, but we have just a few words to say about them here.

Dealing with Income

Ever since most people quit believing that a person's income on earth reflects God's judgment of his worth, it has been argued that income dis- tributions are inherently unfair; most wealthy people do not "deserve" their wealth nor the poor their poverty. That being the case, it is ap- propriate for societies to take from the rich and give to the poor. The statistical relationship we have documented bet ween low cognitive abil- ity and income is more evidence that the world is not fair.

Rut it is not news that the world is unfair. You knew before reading this book that income differences arise from many arbitrary causes, so- ciological and psychological, besides differences in intelligence. All of them are reflected in correlations of varying sizes, which mean all of them are riddled with exceptions. This complicates solutions. When- ever individual cases are examined, differences in circumstances will be found that do reflect the individual s fault or merit. The data in this book support old arguments for supplementing the income of the poor with- out giving any new guidance for how to do it.

The evidence about cognitive ability causes us to be sympathetic to the straightforward proposition that "trying hard" ought to be rewarded. Our prescription, borrowing from the case made by political scientist David Ellwood, is that people who work full time should not be too poor to have a decent standard of living, even if the kinds of work they can do are not highly valued in the marketplace. 2 * We do not put this as a principle of government for all countries — getting everybody our of poverty is not an option in most of the world — hut it is appropriate for rich countries to try to do.

How? There is no economically perfect alternative. Any government supplement of wages produces negative effects of many kinds. Such de- fects are not the results of bad policy design but inherent. The least dam- aging strategies are the simplest ones, which do not try to oversee or manipulate the labor market behavior of low-income people, but rather augment their earned income up to a floor. The earned income tax

548 Living Together

credit, already in place, seems to be a generally good strategy, albeit: with the unavoidable drawbacks of any income supplement. 1 ^ 1

We will not try to elaborate on rhese arguments here. We leave the income issue with this: As America enters the twenty-first century, it is inconceivable that it will return to a laissez-faire system regarding in- come. Some sort of redistribution is here to stay. The question is how to redistribute in ways that increase the chances for people at the bot- tom of society to take control of their lives, to be engaged meaningfully in their communities, and to find valued places for themselves. Cash supplements need not compete with that goal, whereas the social wel- fare system that the nation has developed in the twentieth century most definitely does. We should be looking for ways to replace the latter with the former.

Dealing with Demography

Of all the uncomfortable topics we have explored, a pair of the most un- comfortable ones are that a society with a higher mean 1Q is also likely to be a society with fewer social ills and brighter economic prospects, and that the most efficient way to raise the IQ of a society is for smarter women to have higher birth rates than duller women. Instead, Amer- ica is going in the opposite direction, and the implication is a future America with more social ills and gloomier economic prospects. These conclusions follow directly from the evidence we have presented at such length, and yet we have so far been silent on what to do about it.

We are silent partly because we are as apprehensive as most other people about what might happen when a government decides to social- engineer who has babies and who doesn't. We can imagine no recom- mendation for using the government to manipulate fertility that does not have dangers. But this highlights the problem: The United Stares already has policies that inadvertently social-engineer who has babies, and it is encouraging the wrong women. // the United States did as much to encourage high-IQ women to have babies as it now does to encourage low- IQ women, it would rightly be described as engaging in aggressive manipula- tion of fertility. The technically precise description of America's fertility policy is that it subsidizes births among poor women, who are also dis- proportionately at the low end of the intelligence distribution. We urge generally that these policies, represented by the extensive network of cash and services for low-income women who have babies, be ended.

A Place for Everyone 549

The government should stop subsidizing births to anyone, rich or poor. The other generic recommendation, as close to harmless as any gov- ernment program we can imagine, is to make it easy for women to make good on their prior decision not to get pregnant by making available birth control mechanisms that are increasingly flexible, foolproof, in- expensive, and safe.

The other demographic factor we discussed in Chapter 15 was im- migration and the evidence that recent waves of immigrants are, on the average, less successful and probably less able, than earlier waves. There is no reason to assume that the hazards associated with low cognitive ability in America are somehow circumvented by having been born abroad or having parents or grandparents who were. An immigrant pop- ulation with low cognitive ability will — again, on the average — have trouble not only in finding good work but have trouble in school, at home, and with the law.

This is not the place, nor are we the people, to try to rewrite immi- gration law. Rut we believe that the main purpose of immigration law should be to serve America's interests. It should be among the goals of public policy to shift the flow of immigrants away from those admitted under the nepotistic rules (which broadly encourage the reunification of relatives) and toward those admitted under competency rules, already established in immigration law — not to the total exclusion of nepotis- tic and humanitarian criteria but a shift. Perhaps our central thought about immigration is that present policy assumes an indifference to the individual characteristics of immigrants that no society can indefinitely maintain without danger.


Hundreds of pages ago, in the Preface, we reflected on the question that we have been asked so often, "What good can come from writing this book?" We have tried to answer it in many ways.

Our first answer has been implicit, scattered in material throughout the book. For thirty years, vast changes in American life have been in- stituted by the federal government to deal with social problems. We have tried to point out what a small segment of the population accounts for such a large proportion of those problems. To the extent that the problems of this small segment are susceptible to social-engineering so-

550 Living Together

lutions at all, they should be highly targeted. The vast majority of Amer- icans can run their own lives just fine, and policy should above all be constructed so that it permits them to do so.

Our second answer, also implicit, has been that just about any policy in any area — education, employment, welfare, criminal justice, or the care of children — can profit if its designers ask how the policy accords with the wide variation in cognitive ability. Policies may fail not be- cause they are inherently flawed but because they do not make al- lowances for how much people vary. There are hundreds of ways to frame bits and pieces of public policy so that they are based on a realistic ap- praisal of the responses they will get not from people who think like Rhodes scholars but people who think in simpler ways.

Our third answer has gone to specific issues in raising the cognitive functioning of the disadvantaged (Chapter 17) and in improving edu- cation for all (Chapter 18). Part of our answer has been cautionary: Much of public policy toward the disadvantaged starts from the premise that interventions can make up for genetic or environmental disad- vantages, and that premise is overly optimistic. Part of our answer has been positive: Much can and should be done to improve education, es- pecially for those who have the greatest potential.

Our fourth answer has been that group differences in cognitive abil- ity, so desperately denied for so long, can best be handled — can oi\ly be handled — by a return to individualism. A person should not be judged as a member of a group but as an individual. With that cornerstone of the American doctrine once again in place, group differences can take their appropriately insignificant place in affecting American life. Rut until that cornerstone is once again in place, the anger, the hurt, and the animosities will continue to grow.

In this closing chapter, we have focused on another aspect of what makes America special. This most individualistic of nations contains one of the friendliest, most eager to oblige, neighborly peoples in all t he world. Visitors to America from Tocqueville on down have observed it. As a by-product of this generosity and civic mindedness, America has had a genius for making valued places, for people of all kinds of abili- ties, given only that they played by a few basic rules.

Once we as a nation absorbed people of different cultures, abilities, incomes, and temperaments into communities that worked. The nation was good at it precisely because of, not in spite of, the freedom that

A Place for Everyone 551

American individuals and communities enjoyed. Have there been ex- ceptions to that generalization? Yes, predominantly involving race, and the nation rightly moved to rid itself of the enforced discrimination that lay behind those exceptions. Is the generalization nonetheless justified? Overwhelmingly so, in our judgment. Reducing that freedom has ener- vated our national genius for finding valued places for everyone; the ge- nius will not be revitalized until the freedom is restored.

Cognitive partitioning will continue. It cannot be stopped, because the forces driving it cannot be stopped. But America can choose to pre- serve a society in which every citizen has access to the central satisfac- tions of life. Its people can, through an interweaving of choice and responsibility, create valued places for themselves in their worlds. They can live in communities — urban or rural — where being a good parent, a good neighbor, and a good friend will give their lives purpose and meaning. They can weave the most crucial safety nets together, so that their mistakes and misfortunes are mitigated and withstood with a lit- tle help from their friends.

All of these good things are available now to those who are smart enough or rich enough — if they can exploit the complex rules to their advantage, buy their way out of the social institutions that no longer function, and have access to the rich human interconnections that are growing, not diminishing, for the cognitively fortunate. We are calling upon our readers, so heavily concentrated among those who fit that de- scription, to recognize the ways in which public policy has come to deny those good things to those who are not smart enough and rich enough.

At the heart of our thought is the quest for human dignity. The cen- tral measure of success for this government, as for any other, is to per- mit people to live lives of dignity — not to give them dignity, for that is not in any government's power, but to make it accessible to all. That is one way of thinking about what the Founders had in mind when they proclaimed, as a truth self-evident, that all men are created equal. That is what we have in mind when we talk about valued places for everyone.

Inequality of endowments, including intelligence, is a reality. Trying to pretend that inequality does not really exist has led to disaster. Try- ing to eradicate inequality with artificially manufactured outcomes has led to disaster. It is time for America once again to try living with in- equality, as life is lived: understanding that each human being has strengths and weaknesses, qualities we admire and qualities we do not

552 Living Together

admire, competencies and incompetences, assets and debits; that the success of each human life is not measured externally but internally; that of all the rewards we can confer on each other, the most precious is a place as a valued fellow citizen.

TOPICS: Books/Literature
KEYWORDS: bell; curve; thebellcurve
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This is the last two chapters of the Bell Curve. I have read them several times over the years and consider them the two most prescient and gently thoughtful chapters on policymaking ever. I am delighted to share them with you. Remember these chapters were written in 1994, almost a quarter of a century ago.

They discuss the two different options afforded to our society, in dealing with intelligence, social connections, and poverty; one being harsh and totalitarian, and the other being inclusive in the best of ways, and highly textured.

I highly recommend reading these chapters. I am delighted to find this website so I can share this with you.

1 posted on 11/26/2017 1:18:11 PM PST by Chickensoup
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To: Chickensoup

I guess McConnell and Ryan are at the head of the cognitive elite but they just seem like assholes to me.

2 posted on 11/26/2017 1:21:41 PM PST by miss marmelstein
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To: Chickensoup

Interesting, but now I am all depressed thinking about how 1994 was nearly a quarter of a century ago...

3 posted on 11/26/2017 1:25:10 PM PST by bigbob (People say believe half of what you see son and none of what you hear - M. Gaye)
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To: Chickensoup

Thanks for posting.

4 posted on 11/26/2017 1:26:31 PM PST by deadrock
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To: Chickensoup


5 posted on 11/26/2017 1:30:19 PM PST by ClearCase_guy (Benedict McCain is the worst traitor ever to wear the uniform of the US military.)
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To: deadrock

I have found these chapters to be so important. I have even spoken to Murray and written to him about the chapters. His newer books on poverty expand on these chapters, but frankly, I found the chapters to be better, more succinct and clear.

6 posted on 11/26/2017 1:31:44 PM PST by Chickensoup (Leftists today are speaking as if they plan to commence to commit genocide against conservatives.)
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To: miss marmelstein

7 posted on 11/26/2017 1:32:34 PM PST by tomkat
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To: Chickensoup

great post. read the bell curve a long time ago, had forgotten how prescient it is.

8 posted on 11/26/2017 1:33:09 PM PST by beebuster2000
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To: miss marmelstein

The last two chapters discuss the morality of managing a culture with many different kinds of people and how to make it work well, as it once did in our great-great’s times.

9 posted on 11/26/2017 1:33:10 PM PST by Chickensoup (Leftists today are speaking as if they plan to commence to commit genocide against conservatives.)
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To: Chickensoup

Thanks for posting.

10 posted on 11/26/2017 1:37:05 PM PST by pax_et_bonum (Never Forget the SEALs of Extortion 17 - and God Bless The United States of America.)
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To: miss marmelstein

Yes, we need to really think about the cognitive elite. Give me a day at the special Olympics over a day with McConnell and Ryan. I’ve changed a LOT since I read the Bell Curve. I spend my days with a genius IQ and a low IQ person and I can’t say one is necessarily “better” than the other either under Gd or just to hang with.

11 posted on 11/26/2017 1:38:20 PM PST by Yaelle
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To: Chickensoup

I don’t the “elite” that run things are particularly bright, just particularly hungry for power. If they were particularly bright, they’d see the emptiness of what they desire.

12 posted on 11/26/2017 1:45:52 PM PST by rightwingcrazy
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To: Chickensoup
Charles Murray was physically attacked at Middlebury College last spring.

He ended up having to run for his safety, and a liberal professor helping him was injured.

The most hated chapter in "The Bell Curve" is his analysis of race and IQ.

Statistics are what they are.

What the left doesn't "get" is that Murray has been raising warning flags of the rise of the elite for years, and its effect on society as a whole.

His argument, also, is valid across the racial spectrum.

But it was all drowned out because of the chapter on race and IQ.

13 posted on 11/26/2017 1:47:13 PM PST by SkyPilot ("I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6)
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To: Chickensoup
All this stuff about some cognitive elite.

Is John Conyers part of the some cognitive elite? Is Hillary Clinton? Most of the people in government do not strike me as particularly intelligent, which is probably why they have such difficulty with Donald Trump.


14 posted on 11/26/2017 1:49:08 PM PST by ml/nj
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To: rightwingcrazy

I don’t the “elite” that run things are particularly bright, just particularly hungry for power. If they were particularly bright, they’d see the emptiness of what they desire.


That hunger for power is a particular factor of intelligence. You are mistaking moral intelligence for IQ. They have nothing to do with each other.

15 posted on 11/26/2017 1:59:04 PM PST by Chickensoup (Leftists today are speaking as if they plan to commence to commit genocide against conservatives.)
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To: ml/nj

Is John Conyers part of the some cognitive elite? Is Hillary Clinton? Most of the people in government do not strike me as particularly intelligent, which is probably why they have such difficulty with Donald Trump.


There is political intelligence and there is being someone’s puppet and pawn.

16 posted on 11/26/2017 2:00:32 PM PST by Chickensoup (Leftists today are speaking as if they plan to commence to commit genocide against conservatives.)
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To: Chickensoup

Boils down to couple of ideas...Elite have their house negroes( black,Brown,Asian etc) to help do away with the minority groups and the white elite destroy everyone else..Then the white elite get rid of the few house negroes, and they control,own and enjoy the whole damn pie....

17 posted on 11/26/2017 2:01:20 PM PST by Hambone 1934
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To: Chickensoup

“You are mistaking moral intelligence for IQ. They have nothing to do with each other.”

Well said.


18 posted on 11/26/2017 2:01:21 PM PST by Lurker (President Trump isn't our last chance. President Trump is THEIR last chance.)
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To: miss marmelstein

Intelligence is never any guarantee of wisdom.

Or virtue, for that matter.

19 posted on 11/26/2017 2:04:30 PM PST by Catmom (We're all gonna get the punishment only some of us deserve.)
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To: SkyPilot

I know he was attacked by people who are so ignorant of basic human information.

We live in increasingly feral times and some ferals walk the university halls.

The information in his book was interesting and funnily enough, professionals who get together and let their hair down, certainly agree with all the premises.

I thought it was also interesting that whites really got shafted in the book as it showed the large gap between Asian and White IQs. No one talked about that little potato.

20 posted on 11/26/2017 2:09:24 PM PST by Chickensoup (Leftists today are speaking as if they plan to commence to commit genocide against conservatives.)
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