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Charles Murray
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  • The Charles Murray Fan Club

    President Bill Clinton: "He did the country a great service. I mean, he and I have often disagreed, but I think his analysis is essentially right. ... There's no question that it would work," Clinton said in interview with NBC News in 1993.Billionaire Charles Koch: According to the Wall Street Journal, Charles Koch named Murray as one of the "authors who have had the most profound influence on his own political philosophy." (The respect is mutual: Murray admitted that he has "enjoyed a friendly acquaintance with both Charles and David Koch for more than 20 years" and continues "to admire their efforts on behalf of a cause that I share.")New York Times columnist David Brooks: "I'll be shocked if there's another book this year as important as Charles Murray's Coming Apart," wrote Brooks in 2012 about Murray's latest book, which argues that wealthy people are wealthy because they are genetically superior to the poor due to interbreeding. "I'll be shocked if there's another book that so compellingly describes the most important trends in American society."Reason.TV: In a 35-minute video tribute to Murray, Reason said: "Libertarian intellectual Charles Murray is perhaps America's most influential social policy thinker."New York Times columnist Ross Douthat: "'Coming Apart' is one of the strongest and most lucid explorations of the existing data on the long-simmering social crisis in working-class life," Douthat gushed in a piece headlined "What Charles Murray Gets Right". Among those things Murray "gets right" according to Douthat: crackpot eugenics, and the dubious notion that America is currently ruled by a meritocracy, disastrous wars and financial collapses notwithstanding: "'Coming Apart' offers a convincing account of how meritocracy has exacerbated the problems that Murray describes encouraging the best and brightest to work and live and (especially) mate within the cocoons of what he calls the SuperZIPS, segregating Americans by intelligence to an unprecedented degree..."Cato Institute Senior Fellow Doug Bandow: "Murray does not ignore or sugarcoat the tough side of liberty," Bandow wrote in 1997, applauding Murray's understanding that government social programs are incompatible with liberty and freedom. "Actions have consequences, and free people must bear the consequences of their actions."Christian Reconstructionist Gary North: North praised Murray as a writer who has "presented for us in bone-chilling detail . . . how poor people, in our own country and abroad, have been transformed by humanitarian policy . . . completely dehumanized by the programs that were supposed to be motivated by compassion." North, a former research assistant to Ron Paul, also believes that homosexuals should be stoned to death, as should children who disobey their parents and women who have abortions or engage in "unchastity before marriage."Dave Weigel, Slate columnist and MSNBC Contributor: "I'm a Charles Murray fan..." (October 25, 2010)Former National Review columnist John Derbyshire: Derbyshire praised him: "On the welfare state itself, which he has been studying most of his adult life, Murray is infallible." (Derbyshire, a well-known racist, wrote a guide to what parents should teach their children about black people, which included "tips" like: "Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway." and "Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.")Libertarian Murray Rothbard: Rothbard, co-founder of the Cato Institute and supporter of David Duke, praised Murray's Bell Curve for "expressing in massively stupefying scholarly detail what everyone has always known but couldn't dare to express about race, intelligence, and heritability."Reason magazine:In 1984, Reason magazine placed Murray's Losing Ground second only to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago as one of the books that "had kept liberty alive over the past two decades."Andrew Sullivan: "I had no interest in this subject until I saw the data in Murray's and Herrnstein's book [The Bell Curve]. I was, frankly, astounded by it. As a highly educated person, I had never been exposed to this data. And yet, it turned out it was undisputed." Sullivan defended Murray's argument that intelligence is determined by race as "not racist," writing in The New Republic: "The notion that there might be resilient ethnic differences in intelligence is not, we believe, an inherently racist belief."William Hammett, former president of the Manhattan Institute: "Every generation produces a handful of books whose impact is lasting; books that change basic assumptions about the way the world works (or ought to work...)," wrote in Hammat in a personal memo, describing why he thought the Manhattan Institute should bankroll Murray's research. "Charles Murray's Losing Ground could become such a book. And if it does it will alter the terms of debate over what is perhaps the most compelling political issue of our time: the modern welfare state."

    Charles Murray on the Issues

    Murray on Social Security: "Social Security is a ponzi scheme. That chicken has to come home to roost sooner or later."Murray on privatizing public education: "You may ask, 'What about those schools in poor neighborhoods which are still just as rotten as they ever were?' And the answer to that is: if enough of the affluent and middle class solve their education problem, the political urgency of solving that problem [ie public education for low-income Americans] will go away."Murray on the superiority of the private sector: "Compare for example the typical voice that answers the phone when you call a corporation with the typical voice that answers the phone when you call a government agency. Compare the food in government cafeterias to the food in McDonalds."Murray on the surveillance state: "It is possible right now [1997], I am told, to have a sophisticated bracelet on, let's say, somebody who is on probation on his arm and know within a few feet where that person is 24 hours a day. So if there is a mugging on 5th and Pine, you run through all your people on probation and say, 'Were any of these guys at 5th and Pine at 10:15 last night when this robbery occurred?' And if they were, you take them to jail. . . . and this is just one example of many of how technology might be used for surveillance and control of criminals…or of citizens…If that technology is out there and if the public mood is sufficiently scared of crime to support it, then that technology can be implemented. And that problem would go away as well."Murray on outsourcing American jobs: "We are underestimating the number of [laid-off] people out there saying 'This is great!'"Source: Charles Murray's speech at an event hosted by the Libertarian Party of Los Angeles County, 1997.
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Charles Murray

Author of The Bell Curve; Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute

Charles Murray is one of the most influential right-wing ideological architects of the post-Reagan era. His career began in a secret Pentagon counterinsurgency operation in rural Thailand during the Vietnam War, a program whose stated purpose included applying counter-insurgency strategies learned in rural Thailand on America's own restive inner cities and minority populations. By the late 1970s, Charles Murray was drawing up plans for the US Justice Department that called for massively increasing incarceration rates. In the 1980s, backed by an unprecedented marketing campaign, Murray suddenly emerged as the nation's most powerful advocate for abolishing welfare programs for single mothers. Since then, Murray revived discredited racist eugenics theories "proving" that blacks and Latinos are genetically inferior to whites, and today argues that the lower classes are inferior to the upper classes due to breeding differences.

The recovered history of Charles Murray

  • In high school, at the height of the Civil Rights movement, Charles Murray burned a cross on a hill in his Iowa town, according to a New York Times profile of Murray. Murray later claimed he had no idea that his cross-burning had any racial significance.
  • Murray spent the peak Vietnam War years (1965-71) in Thailand, first with the Peace Corps, and then, from 1968 onward, in a Pentagon-contracted counterinsurgency program run by the American Institutes for Research (AIR), which operated under cover of academic anthropology research. In 1970, the New York Review of Books exposed the AIR program in Thailand where Murray worked as a covert military counter-insurgency program run by the Department of Defense's research and development agency ARPA, in cooperation with the CIA. [ 1 ]
  • The American Institutes for Research's own description of its counter-insurgency program included: "assassinating key spokesmen, strengthening retaliatory mechanisms and similar preventative measures" and efforts to "neutralize the political successes already achieved by groups committed to the 'wrong' side. This typically involves direct military confrontation." The AIR program also tested crop destruction and artificially-induced starvation in order to pacify restive populations, described as a "behavior control plan enhanced by crop destruction." Referring to its staffers like Charles Murray, the AIR proposal promised: "The social scientist can make significant contributions to the design of all [these] operations." [ 2 ]
  • Columbia University adjunct professor Eric Watkin's book Anthropology Goes To War: Professional Ethics & Counterinsurgency in Thailand published the names of the military and CIA officials that Murray worked with in the AIR counter-insurgency program. For example, the "Participants in AIR Advisory Panel Meetings" included Murray's name alongside "Philip Baston, senior U.S. advisor to the Thai National Police Department"; "Coffey, civic action advisor to the Border Patrol Police most likely Raymond Coffey of Development Consultants, Inc (DEVCON), a CIA-front corporation"; "Maj. Gen. Prasart, commanding general of Joint Thai-U.S. Military Research and Development Center"; "George K. Tanham, U.S. Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency"; "Lt. Gen. Yuan, Thai National Police Department." [ 3 ]
  • The AIR counter-insurgency program that Charles Murray worked in was designed to serve as a model for the CIA and Pentagon for counter-insurgency operations elsewhere in the world, including back home in the United States. The AIR proposal to the Pentagon stated: "The potential applicability of the findings in the United States will also receive special attention. In many of our key domestic programs, especially those directed at disadvantaged sub-cultures, the methodological problems are similar to those described in this proposal; and the application of the Thai findings at home constitutes a potentially most significant project contribution." As one study on anthropology ethics observed, it took "little imagination to recognize the identities of the 'disadvantaged subcultures'" that AIR's proposal was referring to. [ 4 ]
  • In a 1994, New York Times interview, Murray admitted that his work in Thailand laid the foundation for his harsh authoritarian politics and policies he later espoused in the United States under the political label "libertarianism."
  • Murray returned to the United States in the early-mid 1970s, and began advising law enforcement agencies to impose harsh zero-tolerance measures on inner-city and minority populations. In 1979, Murray co-authored a series of studies on juvenile crime underwritten by the US Department of Justice, titled "Juvenile Corrections and the Chronic Delinquent" calling for mass-jailings of youths a plan Murray argued was not "philosophically barbaric and expensive." The Carter Administration rejected Murray's proposals; however, under the Reagan Administration, juvenile and minority incarceration rates soared.
  • In 1982, Charles Murray was hired as a research fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a right-wing free-market think tank co-founded by CIA director William Casey. Murray was brought in on the recommendation of Irving Kristol, the godfather of neoconservativism and a board member at the Manhattan Institute. Murray's position at the Manhattan Institute was bankrolled by well-known rightwing foundations including the Scaife and Olin Foundations, as well as a personal grant from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.
  • Two years later, in 1984, Murray published Losing Ground. It was described by the The New York Review of Books as a "persuasive . . . new variation on Social Darwinism." Its central thesis was that all government welfare programs should be abolished, supposedly because welfare hurt the very people it was intended to help by "rewarding bad behavior" such as "illegitimate babies." Murray also called for ending food stamp programs. The New York Times wrote in 1985 that Losing Ground became "this year's budget-cutters' bible" noting, "in agency after agency, officials cite the Murray book as a philosophical base" for slashing social programs. [ 5 ] [ 6 ]
  • Murray's book project proposal for Losing Ground made clear its race-baiting purpose: "a huge number of well-meaning whites fear that they are closet racists, and this book tells them they are not. It's going to make them feel better about things they already think but do not know how to say."
  • To promote Losing Ground, the Manhattan Institute "hired a PR expert to turn the unknown author into a media celebrity" and "paid journalists $500 to $1,500 each to participate in a seminar on Murray and his thought" in a campaign costing six figures. The Nation called it "an extraordinary campaign to sell Murray to the public"; the New Republic concurred, observing, "The Manhattan Institute's canny innovation is to rely as little as possible on chance and as much as possible on marketing [to promote Murray's book]. Of course, money helps too." [ 7 ] [ 8 ] [ 9 ]
  • Several critics and academics attacked Murray's crude manipulation of data and fraudulent "scholarship" to back up his thesis that liberal welfare programs were the cause of minority poverty, rather than the cure. Lester Thurow, former dean of MIT's Sloan School of Management, called out Murray in the Harvard Business Review for ignoring or distorting data. For example, to "prove" that liberal social welfare spending created poverty, Murray excluded government spending on the elderly from his "evidence." As Thurow noted, in 1983, 86% of federal social welfare spending went to programs to help the elderly; and the poverty rate for the elderly dropped from 25.3% in 1969 to 14.1% in 1983, refuting Murray's thesis. Thurow concluded: "The purpose of Losing Ground is to help President Reagan shoot a silver bullet into the heart of the monster called social welfare spending."
  • In a 1997 speech at an event hosted by the Libertarian Party of Los Angeles County, Murray cheered the explosion of wealth inequality since the start of the Reagan Revolution, noting that greater concentration of wealth meant the rich had much more political power, "making it harder for politicians to bash the rich than it used to."
  • In 1996, Charles Murray's decade-plus campaign to end welfare for single mothers paid off when President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, essentially killing traditional welfare programs with a specific emphasis on cutting welfare for poor families with children. The bill was influenced in large part by Murray's ideas and policy suggestions. Clinton praised Charles Murray: "He did the country a great service. I mean, he and I have often disagreed, but I think his analysis is essentially right. ... There's no question that it would work," Clinton said in an interview with NBC News in 1993, referring to Murray's argument that welfare payments to single mothers incentivizes out of wedlock births.
  • Today, single mothers in America have the least social welfare support in the developed world. Moreover, the US poverty rate in 2005 for children of single mothers was 51%, the highest in the world among similar developed economies, and double the average child poverty rate.
  • Murray's most famous and notorious book, The Bell Curve (1994), co-authored with Richard Herrnstein, promoted racial eugenics theories claiming that whites and Asians are genetically superior in intelligence to blacks and Latinos. Like his previous book, The Bell Curve was also made possible by the generous support of ultra-rightwing foundations, including the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation which dished out $100,000 per year as he worked on his book at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Murray's home since the early 1990s.
  • The Bell Curve's research was criticized by the scientific community as a fraud. "I believe this book is a fraud, that its authors must have known it was a fraud when they were writing it, and that Charles Murray must still know it's a fraud as he goes around defending it," wrote a researcher in an article published in The American Behavioral Scientist journal. This is a pattern in Murray's work: academic fraud and data manipulation. [ 10 ]
  • As FAIR's Jim Naureckas reported, The Bell Curve heavily depended on research funded by the notorious Pioneer Fund, described as a "neo-Nazi organization" by the Telegraph. The Pioneer Fund's founder, Wickliffe Draper, advocated shipping blacks back to Africa, and the fund's first president, a notorious white supremacist named Harry Laughlin, spearheaded the campaign in the early 1920s to restrict Jewish immigration, testifying before Congress that 83% of Jewish immigrants from eastern and southern Europe were feeble-minded. In The Bell Curve, Murray describes Laughlin as "a biologist who was especially concerned about keeping up the American level of intelligence by suitable immigration policies."
  • ABC News reported in 1994 that almost half of the footnotes in support of "The Bell Curve's most controversial chapter that suggests some races are naturally smarter than others refer to Pioneer Fund recipients." One example: Murray and Herrnstein wrote in the acknowledgements that The Bell Curve "benefited especially from the advice of" a Pioneer Fund eugenicist named Richard Lynn. As FAIR reported, Richard Lynn wrote, "What is called for here is not genocide, the killing off of the population of incompetent cultures. But we do need to think realistically in terms of the 'phasing out' of such peoples.... Evolutionary progress means the extinction of the less competent. To think otherwise is mere sentimentality." Another Pioneer Fund researcher, Philippe Rushton, received nearly $800,000 to study the correlation of penis, breast and buttocks size to intelligence. "It's a trade-off: More brain or more penis. You can't have everything," Rushton told Rolling Stone. [ 11 ] When asked about his sources, Murray responded by accusing ABC of waging an "intellectual witch hunt."
  • Despite its fraudulent scholarship and its promotion of quack racial eugenics, The Bell Curve received glowing reviews in the mainstream press. The New York Times swooned: "The government or society that persists in sweeping their subject matter under the rug will do so at its peril." Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen rushed to Charles Murray's defense: "Both Murray and Herrnstein have been called racists . . . Their findings, though, have been accepted by most others in their field, and it would be wrongboth intellectually and politicallyto suppress them." Newsweek told readers not to worry: "the science behind The Bell Curve is overwhelmingly mainstream." Andrew Sullivan, as editor of The New Republic in 1994, published a 10,000 word article by Charles Murray and co-author Richard J. Herrnstein drawn from The Bell Curve. In fact, the "science" behind The Bell Curve has been thoroughly debunked.
  • In 2005, Murray wrote a lengthy op-ed defending then-Harvard President Larry Summers after Summers falsely asserted that women are genetically inferior to men in math and science intelligence. Murray described criticism of Summers as "Orwellian disinformation."
  • During the 2012 presidential elections, Charles Murray wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal supporting Mitt Romney's candidacy because Murray believed that the wealthier the person, the more qualified they are to be president. "Who better to be president of the greatest of all capitalist nations than a man who got rich by being a brilliant capitalist?"
  • In 2012, Murray published his newest variation on eugenics, Coming Apart, arguing that wealth and poverty are a product of breeding, and that the poor are poor because they're genetically inferior types who interbreed with each other, while the rich are getting richer because they are genetically superior types who are increasingly interbreeding with each other. New York Times columnist David Brooks, author of Bobos in Paradise, gushed: "I'll be shocked if there's another book this year as important as Charles Murray's Coming Apart. I'll be shocked if there's another book that so compellingly describes the most important trends in American society."

  • Counterinsurgency Goes To War cites several documents that list Charles Murray (C. A. Murray) as a participant in meetings with U.S. State Department/Department of Defense as a representative of the American Institute for Research regarding AIR's counterinsurgency work in Thailand. [↩]
  • A 1970 Ramparts magazine investigation into counter-insurgency operations details the effects of such behavior control crop destruction programs on a rebellious minority hill tribe, the Meo, during the period that Murray participated in the counter-insurgency program in rural Thailand: "Conditions in the Meo resettlement villages are harsh, strongly reminiscent of the American Indian reservations of the 19th century. The people lack sufficient rice and water...Physical hardship and psychological strain have taken a heavy toll on these people. They are gaunt and sickly; many are in a permanent state of semi-withdrawal stimulated by the shortage of opium to feed lifelong habits. Yet the decay of the Meos' spirit is even more distressing than the deterioration of their bodies. It is hard to associate the pitiful inhabitants of Ban Song San (a resettlement village) with the defiant rebels remaining in the mountains." [↩]
  • Ibid., pp.100-101 [↩]
  • When leaked to the public, AIR's direct collaboration with the with military caused a scandal in the winder community of American anthropologists, and is now cited by anthropology ethicists as a textbook example of unethical behavior. [↩]
  • Then-president of the Manhattan Institute William Hammett described Murray's book in his personal notes: "Every generation produces a handful of books whose impact is lasting; books that change basic assumptions about the way the world works . . . Charles Murray's Losing Ground could become such a book. And if it does it will alter the terms of debate over what is perhaps the most compelling political issue of our time: the modern welfare state." [↩]
  • According to professor Lucy A. Williams' Decades of Distortion: The Right's 30-Year Assault on Welfare, welfare for black single mothers became the major focus of an anti-government campaign in the late 1960 and early 1970s: "Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) or "welfare" was a New Deal program, enacted in 1935 as part of the Social Security Act. But it was always a program that differentiated among its recipients based on race. In its early years it served primarily white widows and their children, who were seen as the "deserving" poor. Gradually, the welfare rolls became predominantly single mothers and their children. States had wide discretion to determine eligibility and many states conditioned the receipt of welfare on the sexual morality of the mother, using "suitable home" and "man in the house" rules to disqualify many African American single mothers. In the 1960s, as a result of the civil rights movement, welfare rights organizing, and several Supreme Court decisions striking down state mandates, the rolls were opened to African American women . . . Although the vast majority of those receiving welfare continued to be white, it was this increase in African American welfare recipients that triggered the Right's focus on welfare as a magnet to unite various sectors of the Right. The Old Right developed a critique of AFDC that linked it with street crime, busing, deteriorating neighborhoods, and centralization of power in the hands of the federal government. That critique was a central theme in Senator Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign and in Old Right publications such as those of the John Birch Society and the influential right-wing publication Human Events." [↩]
  • 3/25/85, Chuck Lane, "The Manhattan Project" New Republic [↩]
  • Eric Alterman's 1999 article in The Nation goes into more detail: "Two years before his book became the handbook on handling welfare, Murray was living in obscurity in Iowa, having written nothing more than a few pamphlets. According to Michael Joyce, Murray sent an article to Kristol at Public Interest, whereupon Kristol immediately called Joyce, who was then running the Olin Foundation, and scared up the money necessary for Murray to turn his article into a book." [↩]
  • The Institute for Public accuracy lays out some of the funders of Murray's first big project: The Manhattan Institute "spent $125,000 to promote Murray's book and pay him a $35,000 stipend, most coming from Scaife [Foundation], which gave $75,000, and Olin, $25,000. Upon publication, it sent 700 free copies to academics, journalists, and public officials worldwide, sponsored seminars on the book, and funded a nationwide speaking tour for Murray that was made possible by a $15,000 grant from the Liberty Fund." [↩]
  • Co-author of Bell Curve, Herrnstein, was caught in 1973 using "data that was faked" for his 1971 report arguing that intelligence is inherited and racial. [↩]
  • Rushton also believes that "Mongoloids (Asians), Caucasoids (whites) and Negroids (blacks) are ranked in that order in average brain size, intelligence, family stability and sexual restraint." [↩]
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.

Daring Research or 'Social Science Pornography'?: Charles Murray

By Jason DeParle
Published: October 09, 1994
THE MAN WHO WOULD ABOLISH welfare was flying to Aspen, Colo., sipping Champagne in the first-class cabin and spinning theories about the society unraveling 30,000 feet below. In the past, he says, people were poor because of bad luck or social barriers. "Now," he says, "what's holding them back is that they're not bright enough to be a physician."
It is precisely the kind of statement that makes Charles Murray so infuriating to so many people: sweeping, callous, seemingly smug. The words are harsh, but the voice is genial and oddly reassuring, suffused with regret. He switches to a Bordeaux and recalls his last approach to Aspen, on a private jet sent by Rupert Murdoch.
"Intelligence seems to blossom in the barest ground," he says, contesting the suggestion that the South Bronx is less nurturing than Scarsdale. "Now I know that's an odd thing to say about the inner city, but at least they're going to school and they have the television on all day. You couldn't say that about blacks 50 years ago."

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A white wine follows, and Murray is bursting with anticipation about the corks that will pop later that evening at the home of wealthy Aspen friends. He is 51 and balding, but boyish in blue jeans and tennis shoes, and he leavens his sociological theories with personal asides. The stewardesses in Japan offered him "everything short of a body massage"; he boasts that his friends look at his wife with longing, "and think of what might have been." He is smart enough to know that he is inviting caricature, and bold enough not to care.
Outrageousness, after all, has been good to Charles Murray. He was an unemployed Ph.D. stuck in a midlife crisis a decade ago when he produced "Losing Ground," the book that eroded the assumptions guiding American social policy. With 236 pages of charts and tables, it lent an aura of scientific support to an old suspicion -- that welfare and other social programs cause more problems than they solve. Taking the thought a step further, Murray spoke the unspeakable: why not just abolish them all?
Now, if his name is not a household word, it is about as close as a social scientist can get. It is hard to know which is more startling -- that Murray would imagine before publication that the book might be "to the 1980's what 'The Other America' was to the 1960's," or that it was. Even his most bitter enemies concede his formidable intelligence, and in the wake of his antigovernment theories, it sometimes seems downright utopian for others to argue that Federal support can help the disadvantaged.
Though much of official Washington regards him as a menace, Murray's influence is still on the rise, both as the enemy of social programs and the champion of the two-parent family. His prophecy last year of a coming white underclass touched a national nerve, and it brought a flurry of proposals to deny welfare to young mothers. It also brought a surprisingly respectful comment from President Clinton. While he did not agree with Murray's solutions, the President said, the warning about out-of-wedlock births "did the country a great service."
With his new book, "The Bell Curve" (The Free Press), Murray has something even more dangerous and inflammatory on his mind: the relationship between race, class, genes and intelligence. Written with Richard Herrnstein of Harvard, who died last month at the age of 64, the book argues that I.Q. scores -- and their large genetic component -- are the key to understanding who gets ahead in America and who languishes in crime, poverty and dependency.
The authors say the country is witnessing the rise of a cognitive elite, people who are intermarrying and passing on to their children their genetic advantages. They see an underclass operating in reverse, with unemployed men and welfare mothers passing on genetic disadvantages in communities rife with disorder. As the gap widens between the mental haves and have-nots, the authors predict the rise of a new conservatism, "along Latin American lines," with the cognitive elite employing repressive, police-state tactics to protect themselves from the growing danger.
"Like other apocalyptic visions, this one is pessimistic, perhaps too much so," they write. "On the other hand, there is much to be pessimistic about."Unsurprisingly, Murray sees the low intelligence of the poor as a reason to abandon remedial education and similar programs designed to help them, since "for many people, there is nothing they can learn that will repay the cost of teaching."
For years, colleagues have been arching skeptical eyebrows at the work in progress, and the chapters on race show why. Although "The Bell Curve" is not primarily about race, it argues that differences in intelligence are an important reason that blacks are disproportionately poor, imprisoned and dependent on Government aid. And it suggests that at least some of those differences have genetic roots. "That's wild stuff," Murray says with pursed lips and a frown of concern. Like many others, he wonders whether the work will bring an end to his remarkable influence, or extend it into new, more outrageous realms.
HALFWAY TO ASPEN, MURRAY GRABS his laptop computer and demonstrates his research technique. How much can 15 I.Q. points be expected to raise a person's earnings? The machine, packed with data on 12,000 Americans, whirrs and makes a tongue-clucking sound, before spitting out its answer -- $6,654 a year. "See how fun this is!" he says.
Which white kids drop out of high school? More buttons, more whirring -- only those with low I.Q. scores and lower-class parents. "White trash," Murray says. While "that's obviously a generalization," he explains whom he has in mind -- people "sitting at home in their undershirts drinking, and they really don't care anyway." Murray's persona in print is that of the burdened researcher coming to his disturbing conclusions with the utmost regret; but at the moment, he seems to be having the time of his life. "It really is social science pornography," he says.
Social science pornography. The phrase may explain more about Murray's influence than he intended, and possibly more than he fully understands. Much of that influence has stemmed from his ability to express, through seemingly dispassionate analysis, many people's hidden suspicions about race, class and sex. His writings comprise a kind of Michelin guide to the American underpsyche.
The phenomenon is one that he himself has at least inadvertently acknowledged. "Why can a publisher sell it?" he asked in the proposal for "Losing Ground." "Because a huge number of well-meaning whites fear that they are closet racists, and this book tells them they are not. It's going to make them feel better about things they already think but do not know how to say."
Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich may have more power than Murray, and Rush Limbaugh and Pat Buchanan may have more direct influence. But no other conservative has his ability to make a radical thought seem so reasonable. Where others rant, Murray seduces with mountains of data and assurances of his own fine intentions. He will never be the country's most famous conservative, but he may well be the most dangerous.
Seventy-nine academic researchers signed a statement this spring condemning Murray's proposal to abolish welfare; they say it would "increase the incidence of homelessness and hunger among children." And in speeches in June and September, Donna E. Shalala, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, called Murray's welfare solution "un-American" and "almost surreal." She likened it to Jonathan Swift's "modest proposal" that society eat poor children -- minus Swift's satirical intent.
The question now is whether, in his zeal to shatter taboos, Murray has finally gone too far. Murray was dropped from the Manhattan Institute, the think tank that had underwritten "Losing Ground," as soon as he began the new book. In an interview at the time, William Hammett, the institute's president, alternately praised Murray's integrity and worried that the book would broach "the genetic inferiority stuff." Murray quickly affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. The Boston Globe began denouncing "The Bell Curve" this summer, months before it was publicly available. An article quoted scholars speculating that the book was based on pseudoscience, while the editorial page attacked the book's "high ignorance quotient."
The reason for the unease is no mystery: theories of genetic differences have a long and ugly history, especially when it comes to race. Herrnstein and Murray acknowledge as much, and worry that their book, "wrongly construed, might do harm." They hedge their bet slightly, saying the evidence "suggests, without quite proving, genetic roots" for part of the black-white difference. They even call the debate over genes a distraction from more important issues. But once again Murray may be saying with scientific references and assurances of his own good will what others murmur darkly in barrooms and taxis. And his disclaimers are unlikely to mute critics.
"We don't know anything relevant about how the physical processes of the brain differ by race," says Christopher Jencks, a sociologist at Northwestern University, after hearing a lengthy description of the Murray thesis. "There's a striking dearth of evidence.
"This seems to me a case where you ought to have really airtight evidence before you make claims," he continues. "Promulgating the view that, for some physical reason, blacks are unable to do certain intellectual work, reinforces every harmful stereotype we've inherited over 300 years."
Denunciations, firing -- no matter. For Murray, the prospect of trouble was always part of the project's appeal. "Here was a case of stumbling onto a subject that had all the allure of the forbidden," he says. "Some of the things we read to do this work, we literally hide when we're on planes and trains. We're furtively peering at this stuff."
Who is speaking here, an ideologue or a provocateur? Murray sees elements of both in himself but says at bottom he is neither. "The real answer is that I'm a social scientist, damn it, and a good one," he says. But the story is more complicated than that.
PEERING FROM HIS WINDOW SEAT, Murray watches the buckled Eastern continent gentle into a Midwestern plain, and he searches for the Iowa town of Newton. He describes his childhood there as if gazing upon a faded photograph of a 1950's Lake Wobegon. The streets are shady, the fences are white and the parents are moral and married.
It is impossible to understand Murray without understanding Newton, or at least his interpretation of Newton, which drives his pronouncements on family and community. "My family was pretty much the way a family was supposed to be," he says, "a Norman Rockwell kind of family, I'm afraid. I say 'I'm afraid' because it will just confirm my critics' view that my views about family are unrealistic."
The story patched together from ground level in Newton is more nuanced. Murray was raised in a Midwestern household that stressed moral responsibility, the value that forms the core of his ideology. But his brainy, somewhat alienated youth also kindled his distinctive impulse toward rebellion.
Newton, now a town of 14,789, happens to be where F. L. Maytag manufactured his first appliance, and remains the headquarters of the Maytag Corporation. Murray's father, Alan, spent most of his career as a Maytag executive, rising quickly from working-class roots. The Murrays lived a half-mile from the country club in a neighborhood of managers who worked, golfed and voted Republican together.
If streets can embody a corporate ethic, these do -- one that dubs its employees "the dependability people." The homes are solid and proud, comfortable but not lavish. Alan Murray says a similar creed prevailed inside his family's home: "You were supposed to do what's right, and that was it."
But ask how Charles Murray became the person he is, and the answer usually comes compressed into two words: his mother. At 88, she retains the stage presence cultivated in a lifetime of amateur drama, and she is happy to take credit for sculpturing an ideology. "In his writings I see many things we talked about at our dinner table," she says. "Home background just comes out, that's all." Murray tells a vivid story of her bursting into "furious tears" when she learned that that he had accepted a stolen sweater from a friend.
He describes his youth as "a pretty typical story of the bright, quirky kid who doesn't quite fit in." In a community that stressed athletics, he played chess by mail and starred on the debate team. "I had friends, but I was always a bit weird," he says, recalling the time as a 9-year-old when he told a playmate he looked "rigid" when diving into the pool. "One of the kids said, 'rigid?' and started teasing me unmercifully for using a big word. I remember thinking to myself: 'Rigid? It's a little word. It's only five letters.' "
By his teens, Murray was moving from smart to smart aleck, a transformation he may never have reversed. It began at home, where the disputatious debate star began espousing labor unionism, a pose that so annoyed his parents it is the first thing they mention upon a visitor's arrival many decades later. "He was pro-labor, living on his father's management money," his mother says.
During his senior year of high school, Murray found a more satisfying form of rebellion -- decamping to the Newton pool hall, "where all the juvenile delinquents hung out." He discovered he was actually good at the game, and says that after years of semi-exile, "it was very gratifying to be accepted at that point by the hoods."
The hoods were struck by the change, especially after Murray returned home from college and announced his theory of love. "He was saying, 'To be more successful with women, you really have to have a background as a bit of an outlaw,' " says Denny Rutledge, who was still hanging around the pool hall.
While the basic facts of Murray's youth are not in dispute, his interpretation of them is. In Murray's memory, Newton becomes a kind of Jeffersonian village, where neighbors help neighbors and class distinctions are minor and "not invidious." It is a vision that shapes his hope of what society might look like if the misguided state would just get out of the way.
But Rutledge, who was arrested for theft in high school, says this is an airbrushed view. "That's incredibly myopic, totally inaccurate," he says. "There was a very big dividing line in Newton." Rutledge, who graduated from juvenile delinquency to social work (and, later, real estate) says his own, pained understanding of Newton's class structure was formed during his family's annual pilgrimage to look at the Christmas lights in the Murrays' neighborhood. He remembers thinking, "those people are the haves, and we're the have-nots, and we're not going to get there."
While there is much to admire about the industry and inquisitiveness of Murray's teen-age years, there is at least one adventure that he understandably deletes from the story -- the night he helped his friends burn a cross. They had formed a kind of good guys' gang, "the Mallows," whose very name, from marshmallows, was a play on their own softness. In the fall of 1960, during their senior year, they nailed some scrap wood into a cross, adorned it with fireworks and set it ablaze on a hill beside the police station, with marshmallows scattered as a calling card.
Rutledge recalls his astonishment the next day when the talk turned to racial persecution in a town with two black families. "There wouldn't have been a racist thought in our simple-minded minds," he says. "That's how unaware we were."
A long pause follows when Murray is reminded of the event. "Incredibly, incredibly dumb," he says. "But it never crossed our minds that this had any larger significance. And I look back on that and say, 'How on earth could we be so oblivious?' I guess it says something about that day and age that it didn't cross our minds."
MURRAY LANDED AT HARVARD IN THE fall of 1961, where by his own account he spent four mostly uneventful years, studying Russian history and working at a classical music station. Taking a "pride in perversity," he went out of his way to advertise his oddness, wearing his ties, for instance, with the fat end short. "I really had very few close friends," he says. Graduating in 1965, Murray left for the Peace Corps and stayed abroad for six years. "Thailand was the transforming experience in my life," he says. "Thailand is where I grew up."
Murray claims he joined less out of idealism than a desire for adventure, and he found some in the romance he kindled that summer in Hawaii with his language instructor, Suchart Dej-Udom. The daughter of a wealthy Thai businessman, she was born with one hand and a mind sharp enough to outscore the rest of the country on the college entrance exam. He proposed by mail in the fall of 1965 and their 14-year marriage began the following summer, a move that Murray now views as another youthful rebellion. "I'm getting married to a one-handed Thai Buddhist," he said. "This was not the daughter-in-law that would have normally presented itself to an Iowa couple."
If Newton is where Murray's antistate politics were planted, Thailand is where they began to sprout -- in part as the unintended consequence of the nation's privy program. The Peace Corps sent him from village to village, urging skeptical Thais to build and use modern sanitation, but Murray says his importunings had little effect. His father recalls him writing home to say, "It's hard to get a guy to build a well when he likes the taste of dead rats."
Murray's suspicions of Government initiative deepened after his tour ended. He found work with research firms doing counterinsurgency studies on behalf of the United States Government. The job sent him back into Thai villages, to assess the impact of programs designed to stave off rebellion with the provision of things like fish ponds, health clinics and roads.
But Murray concluded that the services had virtually no impact on the villagers' attitudes. They were much more interested in whether local chiefs could catch water buffalo thieves. "It became clear to me how utterly irrelevant Bangkok was to the life of the village," he says, adding that in some cases the Government intrusion even destroyed a delicate civic fabric.
The theory blossomed into a doctoral thesis in political science at M.I.T. It is a classic Murray work, filled with complex statistical considerations from which he drew a stark conclusion: "Thai villages show a remarkable latent ability to take care of their own affairs." It is a message that, in one form or another, Murray has been repeating ever since.
Murray retained enough residual liberalism in 1972 to contribute $5 to the McGovern campaign. But when he finally returned home a year later he was a married man with a child, and the country no longer looked the way it did when he left in 1965. Radical chic, Woodstock, the Black Panthers -- all had washed across the continent while he'd been pondering modernity in places called Pong and Khao Soi. "I read about the 60's in Time magazine," he says. Driving to work one day, he had a minor epiphany. "Gee," he told himself, "you really are a conservative."
Murray cemented the belief with a seven-year stay at the American Institutes for Research, a Washington organization that evaluates social programs -- none of which, he says, worked.
Murray's disillusionment had deepened on more than one level. His marriage had been unhappy for years, but his childhood lessons on the importance of responsibility brought him slowly to the idea that divorce was an honorable alternative, especially with young children involved. Then one day in 1980 he told his wife, "Life cannot go on like this." "He found he dreaded coming home," she recalls. When he could not bring himself to tell his parents, she made the call.
A year later, Murray made his second break, leaving the research firm. Though he had risen to the position of chief scientist, he sensed a futility in the work. He had written what he considered "gems of reports," but he knew they were mostly unread. His plans (and his means of support) were unclear, but a book began to take shape in his mind.
MURRAY BOUNDS FOR THE DOOR AS THE ASPEN runway halts the jet. By sundown his car is climbing toward the gated community of Starwood (home to John Denver and the Saudi Ambassador, Prince Bandar) and the wine cellar that has tantalized him for much of the day. His host, Irwin Stelzer, is gone on business, but he has left his wife, Cita, a wine list and decanting instructions -- a half-bottle of 1983 Chateau Margaux will be followed by the main event, a 1979 Petrus (retailing at $375 a bottle).
A business consultant whose clients include Rupert Murdoch, Stelzer once arranged for Murray to spend a month in England writing about the British underclass for The Sunday Times. The paper paid for Murray's family to accompany him, an arrangement Murray considered his payment for the work. But as a bonus, Stelzer had the paper drop Murray a $10,000 check. "He's the godfather," Murray says.
The Stelzer home happens to be the one where in 1976 Claudine Longet shot the skier Spider Sabich, and there is a requisite tour of the bathroom crime scene. Hummingbirds flit around the patio grill and the small talk eventually turns to Murray's work on I.Q. and race.
An Israeli cellist asks if Murray draws any conclusions about Africa's shortage of ancient literature. Murray says he does, and as the veal chops sizzle, he offers the Israeli a national compliment: "In terms of I.Q, you guys are off the charts." As the meal ends, a call is placed to the absent Irwin, and it falls upon Murray to deliver the bad news; the Margaux was somewhat tannic. "But the Petrus!" he says. "It's just been blossoming!"
The next morning brings a tougher audience. Murray is in town to address a retreat of foundation executives, sponsored by the Aspen Institute, and he will warn that welfare is driving illegitimacy and bringing society to the brink of collapse. The message is one he has perfected in the decade since "Losing Ground." It is a beguiling book, thick with statistics yet accessible, even lively, and steeped in a tone of good intentions. Scrapping the welfare system will not mean that stingy people have won, he wrote, but that "generous people have stopped kidding themselves." His calm marshalling of evidence, and would-that-it-weren't-so tone, made it a work that liberals could not simply dismiss.
By now, an army of critics has challenged some of the book's statistical underpinnings. Murray tied the soaring rate of out-of-wedlock births to the growth of the welfare system that supports single mothers. Critics say the relationship is, at most, indirect. Births to single mothers continued to rise, they say, even when benefits were holding steady or (depending how one calculates) in retreat. And they rose for middle-class women who never collected welfare. After a decade of esoteric statistical debate, Murray claims (plausibly, even to some detractors) to have shown at least a small link between benefit levels and out-of-wedlock births, though only among whites.
But it is another thing then to leap, as Murray does, to the assertion that abolishing welfare will immediately halve the number of out-of-wedlock births -- or that the resulting pain would be worth it. "There'd be a lot more homelessness, a lot more hunger and a lot more despair," says Robert Greenstein, until recently the director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington advocacy group.
But as out-of-wedlock births have continued to grow (more than 30 percent of Americans are now born to single mothers) so has Murray's influence. When "Losing Ground" first appeared in 1984, Murray's views were too radical even for Murray -- the book couches them as "a thought experiment," and not even Ronald Reagan would actually propose such a thing. But this spring a dozen Representatives stood in front of the Capitol and called for an end to benefits for mothers under 21. They would send the children of those who could not manage to state-run orphanages.
Similar proposals are backed by such glamorous Republican names as Jack Kemp and William Bennett. Murray may even be the first welfare analyst to see his work on the multiplex screen. When the makers of the Joe Pesci film "With Honors" wanted to depict the tough-minded undergraduate of the 90's, they showed a Harvard student with "Losing Ground" tucked under his arm.
Without undue armchair psychology, it is possible to see in this outcome the satisfaction of two of Murray's deepest, if contradictory, yearnings. With his speaking schedule, book sales and Congressional appearances, he has captured the respectability so valued in his childhood home. At the same time, he manages to remain the pool-hall outlaw with shocking views, luxuriating in the clucking disapproval of polite society.
His presence in Aspen is a bit of an event. His two co-panelists, Judith Jones of Columbia University and Frances Fox Piven of CUNY, berate him as a demagogue fueling the forces of reaction, but Murray has heard it all before. He genially professes "a lot of common ground" with his liberal antagonists, only to tick off his agenda: abolish welfare, abolish food stamps, abolish subsidized housing. Murray even wants to end child support payments to unwed mothers, arguing that physical unions acquire their legitimacy only through marriage. What would he tell a young, unwed mother? "I don't want society to say to her, 'You made a mistake,' " he says. "I want society to say, 'You did wrong.' "
Piven, looking aghast, accuses him of being "preoccupied with sin."
It is a provocative thought -- is Charles Murray, deep down, on an antisex crusade? The notion makes him laugh. As a policy analyst, he cares only that children are raised by two parents. Besides, he adds, "No young man who spent as many years in Bangkok as I did can be against sex."
It is a flamboyant comment, but Murray has been advertising his hormones throughout the trip. He let out a manly groan when a woman in a tube top passed him on the plane. He noted the shapely blond assistants staffing the seminar and gave thanks, as a married man who values monogamy, that he did not dwell permanently among them, shuddering at "the tension."
In fact, Murray has been raising the subject of his own sexuality throughout months of discussion. Speaking of his high-school girlfriend, he volunteered that "in those innocent days, we never had the experience," adding later that he feared "the worst would happen, the condom would break" and he would be forced into a teen-age marriage. He added sarcastically, "It probably accounts for the twisted views I have today."
What then, took place in Bangkok? Quite a lot, it seems, since his friends from those days still tell tales of Murray's barroom antics, ones that he nostalgically repeats. Murray explains that he and a Peace Corps friend once sat for 12 hours at a place called the Patpong Terrace, interviewing bar girls as they returned from their liaisons, taking "all sorts of intimate notes about who did what, that I don't care to repeat." The resulting document became an underground thriller among his friends.
Murray also makes clear that he did more than take notes, though he theatrically objects to hearing the women described as prostitutes. "Don't use that word," he says. "They were women of the evening. Courtesans. We liked them, and they liked us.
"In a lot of the places you had to woo the ladies," he continues. "It involves money on the man's part, yes, but it also involves consensual relations."
He understands that he is describing a pastime not usually associated with a defense of the two-parent family. "I'm trying to tell you I'm not against sex," he says, characteristically blunt.
"You," Murray concludes, "should have been so lucky."
THE CRITICS WHO SAY MURRAY IS living in the 1950's are, in at least one respect, off by more than a century. His home in rural Maryland, a half-hour outside Frederick, originally served as a tannery in the 1830's. Worried that the new book may bring threats of physical harm, he asks that the village's name be withheld. He lives there with his second wife, Catherine Cox, and their two young children.
The romance started a year after his divorce, when Cox, then teaching English literature at Rutgers, dropped him a letter. Their parents were close friends, but Murray, who is six years older, had never known her well. He invited her sailing, and they were married two years later. He wrote a chapter of "Losing Ground" on the honeymoon. "Catherine is just the person," he says. "We just fit like this utterly perfect fit."
There was one hitch -- his politics repelled her. Cox says she knew the relationship would never work as soon as she saw him reading the conservative author George Gilder, and she spent long hours trying to reconcile his Continued on page 62 shocking views with what she saw as his deep decency. "It took a long time for that to sink in," she says. "He really cares about people," she says.
By all accounts, Murray has managed the merger of his old family and his new one with unusual grace. Guilt-ridden over the divorce, he spent virtually every weekend with his daughters, Narisara and Sarawan, and friends say he sometimes turned down lucrative out-of-town engagements to do so. His ex-wife remarried first, and she says when Catherine was pregnant she told her, "Don't worry, Charlie's a good father." When Murray threw a 60th anniverary party for his parents, Suchart Dej-Udom Murray Milsted was on hand. "Everyone's healed nicely now," she says.
At least until the new book arrives. In Richard Herrnstein, Murray found his equal in two vital categories -- intelligence and shock value. Superficially, their backgrounds could not be more dissimilar. Herrnstein's parents were left-wing, Jewish immigrants from Hungary who raised him in a working-class neighborhood of the Bronx.
But as he told the story of his youth, in a long conversation last summer, it echoed with Murray-like themes of alienation and rebellion. He was packed off in Hungarian short pants and stockings to endure the taunts of grade-school classmates, and he acted up so much that his teachers used to lock him in the coat room. "I was raising hell most of the time," he said.
Though he was an acclaimed psychologist who held B. F. Skinner's former chair at Harvard, Herrnstein's notoriety stems from his nonacademic work. In 1971, he published an article in The Atlantic Monthly about the heritability of intelligence, famously predicting a future in which the "the tendency to be unemployed may run in the genes of a family about as certainly as bad teeth do now." Though Herrnstein dealt only peripherally with race, militant students branded him a racist, interrupted his lectures and, he said, threatened him with physical violence.
But he continued to write about intelligence, not only out of interest but also out of a sense of obligation. Scholars, like priests, he said, have a "calling to find the truth and disclose it." Meeting Murray at a conference, he told him "you ought to get into the I.Q. business," and the two quickly agreed to collaborate. Their paired sensibilities reminded one colleague of two kamikazes on a test flight.
The book begins by asserting a paradox: America, by its commitment to equal opportunity, is reordering society into increasingly unequal classes, with a prospering, intellectual elite at one end of the bell curve and a miserable, menacing underclass at the other. This inequality, it says, is the inevitable result of a modern economy that needs and rewards smart people. A true meritocracy is an astonishingly unequal place, since the abilities of individuals vary widely.
The argument goes like this:
The country has always had class divisions, but the criteria for them have changed. In the past, racial and class barriers kept smart people down, and privileged births lifted dim people up. In a world of bright farmers and dull senators, the rich weren't necessarily smart and the smart weren't necessarily rich.
But in midcentury, the economy vastly expanded its need for smart people, like engineers and computer programmers. And the educational system got increasingly efficient at finding them and channeling them into elite universities and prosperous careers. At the same time, there was little room for those with stong backs but dull minds, and a cognitive underclass settled like sediment. The result, they write, was a world "in which it became much more consistently and universally advantageous to be smart." The authors stress that they are merely describing this development, not celebrating it.
While lots of critics have worried about rising inequality, "The Bell Curve" veers away from more familiar discussions by its emphasis on genes. While others use words like "education" or "test scores" to describe the sorting mechanism at work, Herrnstein and Murray use the word "intelligence" and stress its genetic roots. Citing studies that estimate that from 40 to 80 percent of an individual's intelligence stems from genes, the authors take a midpoint of 60 percent. (The studies refer to how much an average individual's I.Q. is affected by genes, not to the cause of interracial differences in intelligence.)
While that would seem to leave a large role for environment, the authors insist that the differences separating one household from another are diminishing. (Unlike a century ago, for instance, virtually all children go to school.) As environmental differences narrow, heritability rises. Suddenly, they write, "success and failure in the American economy, and all that goes with it, are increasingly a matter of the genes that people inherit."
Herrnstein and Murray chase this vision to its apocalyptic conclusion. Smart people, intermarrying, will produce smart children; the disadvantaged will pass down their intractable handicaps; and the gap between the classes will grow. Skeptics may pin their hopes on "regression to the mean," the statistical phenomenon that predicts that two high-I.Q. parents will have children whose scores are lower, closer to the national average (just as two low-I.Q. parents are likely to have children whose scores are higher). But the authors say this force is overpowered by other factors, like the increasing tendency of the very smart to intermarry.
The book includes eight chapters of original research designed to correlate low I.Q. with a variety of social problems, including crime, poverty, out-of-wedlock births -- even bad child-rearing and poor citizenship. They are careful to stress that for any given individual, I.Q. scores may mean little; character, drive and luck may do much more to influence success. But they insist that the scores establish powerful patterns for people in the same cognitive range, meaning that inequality will increase.
Their prescriptions are, in many ways, a continuation of Murray's attacks on social programs. The authors want to abandon affirmative action, which they think poisons race relations by promoting unqualified blacks. They want to drop remedial education programs, which they think can never work, and spend the money on the talented students they say the economy really needs. They would alter immigration practices that they think are admitting people of less-than-average intelligence. And they would eliminate welfare and other Government benefits that, they believe, encourage women with low I.Q.'s to reproduce.
How all this would avert the apocalypse is unclear. If some people are really too dim to make it on their own, for instance, maybe welfare (or Government jobs programs) should be expanded. In the end, the Herrnstein-Murray solutions reside less in a specific set of policies than in a new set of expectations. Rather than trying to erase individual differences, they say, society should find ways for people of differing abilities to live with dignity.
They conjure a romantic vision of a world that strips power from the central Government and returns it to the neighborhood, where all people can engage "in the stuff of life -- birth, death, raising children, making a living, helping friends, singing in the local choir or playing on the softball team." The goal is to offer the less gifted something more precious than economic equality, "a place as a valued fellow citizen." While it's hard to see how this will shore up a collapsing society, the neighborhood does sound familiar. It seems a lot like the world Murray saw in Newton, one that perhaps even then did not exist.
EVEN SKEPTICAL READERS will find the book's central message disturbing. A country founded on the principle that people are created equal does not like to be reminded that people can have innate, limiting, differences.
But bleak as "The Bell Curve" 's vision may be, it is not entirely new. Herrnstein has been saying similar things for two decades. And the fear that a meritocratic society will prove a dystopian one is at least a half-century old. In 1958, the British sociologist Michael Young, a member of the Labor Party, sketched a similar scenario in his novel "The Rise of the Meritocracy." He saw the trend leading to an armed rebellion by the year 2034.
One group of skeptics will question whether intelligence is as newly influential, or as dominant, a force in American life as Herrnstein and Murray believe. They are almost certainly right that the intelligent person can rise more easily today than a century ago. But brains have always helped, even before such gifts could be measured at the end of a No. 2 pencil. Witness Huck Finn.
Others will question whether I.Q. really is, as Herrnstein and Murray assert, the all-encompassing measure of mental aptitude. One leading skeptic is Robert Sternberg, a Yale psychologist, who has pioneered the study of what he calls practical intelligence. He cites experiments among housewives who are failures at pad-and-pencil math but competent comparison shoppers when they hit the supermarket aisle. "That's not to say I.Q. counts zero," he says. "It's to say that there are other kinds of intelligence that are equally or maybe more important."
A third, and perhaps more powerful, criticism of the book will most likely involve its stress on genes, and the short shrift Murray gives to environmental factors. There is, at the heart of the book, a fundamental conflict between cause and effect. While it may be true that cognitive differences produce inequality, inequality also produces cognitive differences. Environment, especially the unspeakably bad environment of the black ghetto, must count for something.
Murray sounds surprised and alarmed that anyone would think "that we're hung up on genes," a puzzling protest given the book's clearly provocative assertion (to repeat) that "success and failure in the American economy, and all that goes with it, are increasingly a matter of the genes that people inherit" (emphasis added). Of course environment matters, Murray goes on to say, but no one knows how to change bad environments in ways that bring long-term cognitive gains. The book makes a case that Head Start and other programs have tried, only to leave behind "high hopes, flamboyant claims and disappointing results." Murray concludes that "the heritability of I.Q. is not a big deal in this book," but "the intractability of I.Q. is a very big deal."
It is true that the public often assumes that environmental differences can be easily remedied, while genetic differences are forever fixed. Theoretically, the opposite could someday be true: biological differences may be easier to rectify than social differences. But his late-hour protests aside, Murray has spent months arguing that cognitive differences are highly heritable and highly intractable.
He has repeatedly waved aside the suggestion that rotten homes and neighborhoods suffocate the intellectual development of the disadvantaged. When I asked him in August if his own children would test as well if they had been raised in the Robert Taylor Homes, the vast public housing wasteland in Chicago, he said, "It doesn't make a damn bit of difference -- their I.Q.'s are going to be the same, one way or another." Later, when I remind him of his words, Murray says he had given "the wrong answer," and speculates that his children would have done worse in school and possibly have become criminals or teen-age parents. Nonetheless, he adds, "they still would have tested pretty high on I.Q. tests."
Whichever shading represents Murray's deepest belief, it's clear that most Americans think that environment matters quite a lot -- especially those with the supposed genetic edge. The upper middle class is obsessive about getting its children in the right schools and test-prep courses. The Murray family seems no exception: before moving on to Harvard, Murray's older two daughters attended Washington's tony National Cathedral School (a decision he attributes to his ex-wife).
The emphasis on innate differences would be explosive enough, even if the subject of race never arose. But it does, and Murray knows an assault is coming. "Let's be sensible about this stuff," he says. "Let's not ignore it. Let's not run screaming from the room, either. That's not justified."
THIS MUCH IS KNOWN: blacks, on average, score about 15 points lower than whites on intelligence tests. Why that is, and what it means, are questions with a long and troubled past, marred by pseudoscience and racial animosity.
The most obvious explanation is that black children are more likely to grow up under handicapping circumstances like worse schools, poorer homes, inferior nutrition and violent neighborhoods. Indeed, as the overall gap in living conditions has narrowed, so, too, have the racial differences on test performance (although not as much as many people have hoped).
Other explanations for the differences involve test bias or differential motivation on the part of black children convinced of their own limited prospects. Herrnstein and Murray consider these theories but say they cannot explain the entire 15-point difference. They conclude that the evidence "suggests" that a portion of the gap -- they are agnostic about how much -- stems from "genetic roots."
What evidence? They cite studies showing the test differences persist even when class is held constant. They cite a survey in which a plurality of psychologists indicated that genetic factors helped explain racial differences. The authors also offer a Minnesota study of transracial adoption by the psychologists Richard Weinberg and Sandra Scarr. The study involved about 100 children born in the late 1960's, including black children adopted into upper-middle-class white homes.
At first, the new environments seemed to boost cognitive performance. At age 7, the adopted black children had I.Q.'s of about 97, above the racial average of 85. But a follow-up study 10 years later showed a fall-off to 89, only slightly above the national black average. White adoptees also declined, but had higher scores at both testings, falling from 117 to 106. Herrnstein and Murray conclude that "whatever the environmental impact may have been, it cannot have been large."
But that is not what Weinberg and Scarr emphasize. Their most recent paper, written with Irwin D. Waldman, claims to find "little or no conclusive evidence for genetic influences underlying a racial difference." Instead, they note that the black adoptees fared worse than white adoptees even before the adoption took place, thanks to longer stays in foster care and worse foster-care homes. They speculate that the blacks may also have encountered increased discrimination as they reached adolescence. They were, after all, still black children in a mostly white world.
Moreover, the psychologists found that although their I.Q. scores dropped, the black adoptees did better in school than other black children, suggesting their privileged home environments helped. Thus, "the balance of evidence, while not conclusive, favors a predominantly environmental etiology."
At this point, the debate gets both nuanced and nasty. Murray notes that if an explanation is "predominantly" environmental, then it is at least partly genetic. Weinberg says, "the genetic component may be skin color," which triggers a discriminatory social response. Weinberg calls Murray "acontextual." Murray attacks Weinberg for trying to "dance around the point."
Other scientists, meanwhile, say the whole inquiry is plagued by insurmountable methodological difficulties, that no one knows how to disentangle genes from the social impact of being raised black in America. Jonathan Beckwith, a microbiologist at Harvard Medical School, argues that scientists cannot measure genetic differences between the races "until we can identify a gene that's involved." He adds: "I don't think there is any evidence that would point toward a genetically based black-white difference in intelligence."
"The Bell Curve" devotes only 2 of its 22 chapters to race, and less than that to the subtopic of genes. It even asserts "that it matters little whether the genes are involved at all." There are manyoutstanding black minds, Murray says, just as there are many dull white ones; individuals should always be treated as such. Genetic differences between the races, he says, "are utterly irrelevant to the arguments of 'The Bell Curve.' "
But in a country where white people have claimed innate superiority for 300 years, the talk of genetic differences matters quite a lot. It could be put to any number of demagogic uses, at a time when many blacks are already willing to suspect the worst of whites. "The Bell Curve" acknowledges that I.Q. tests have been used to support "outrageous racial policies." And it notes that by 1917, the spread of the tests had led 16 states to pass forced sterilization laws (primarily for the mentally retarded). But the authors remain uninhibited by this history.
In the last chapter they say they will be pleased if the book brings a discussion of how to "manipulate the fertility of people with high and low I.Q.'s." Murray says he is talking about the elimination of welfare, not coercion, but given the history of eugenics it is a disturbing phrase nonetheless. It recalls the high-school prankster who burned a cross, only to learn later what the fuss was all about.
"I really don't think I'm a racist," he says, explaining he uses the word "think" only because he distrusts blithe assertions. "Deep down inside, I don't think I am. So if people say, 'You have a racial agenda,' I just say, 'No, I don't.' "
THERE ARE AT LEAST TWO people in America who hold Charles Murray in special esteem, even as they judge his ideas skeptically against their own difficult lives. They live in a weatherbeaten farmhouse, down five miles of gravel road, just past a junkyard, outside of Baxter, Iowa. Kaye and Jerry Postma are two of Murray's oldest friends.
A visitor is deluged with engaging stories about the man Kaye theatrically calls "Mr. Murray." Kaye adopts an arch voice and remembers Murray sauntering in from Harvard to declare, "you remind me of a Rubens." Jerry recalls a visit to Washington, when a neighborhood kid volunteered that Murray had odd views about race. "The kid said, 'Just say something to him bad about blacks, and he'll just get up and leave,' " he recalls.
It is clear that Murray sees the Postmas as something special as well -- the ideal denizens of the Jeffersonian village he wants this country to become. He regards Jerry, who works at the Maytag factory, as "kind of a saint figure." He notes the dozens of championship baking ribbons that line Kaye's kitchen wall -- betraying a depth of talent that her day job, as a nursing aide, disguises. When he talks about a place for the "valued fellow citizen," the Postmas are who he has in mind.
But ask the Postmas about abolishing welfare and they reply that one of their daughters has relied on it. 'It's just more complicated than Mr. Murray has any idea," Kaye says. "The girl falls in love with this total, freakin' bum. She thinks she can change him.
"The last thing on these people's minds is whether or not they'll have welfare," she continues.
When the topic turns to "The Bell Curve," the emotions rise another notch. Kaye is white, but one of her daughters has married a black man, and her living room boasts a portrait of three black grandchildren. Her response to a "Bell Curve" paragraph about race, genes and I.Q. recalls Murray's admonition not to "run screaming from the room," since that is precisely what she does.
"I get so emotional," she says, stomping around the house. "As a mother, I get a lump in my throat. I just don't think humankind needs to hear how much smarter this one is than that one. I just don't have that much faith in statistics. I don't think that can ever be proven."
In her view, Murray is still playing the precocious tricks he perfected in seventh grade, when his antics tied their teacher into knots. "He'll take off on one little piece of lint in an argument and make a furball out of it," she says.
But when the evening ends, she sends her visitor packing with a gift for her contrarian friend -- a slice of blueberry pie, freshly baked in her championship kitchen. "No matter what," she says, "I adore him."

Jason DeParle is a reporter in the Washington bureau of The New York Times.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.

Racism Resurgent

How Media Let The Bell Curve's Pseudo-Science Define the Agenda on Race

By Jim Naureckas

When the New Republic devoted almost an entire issue (10/31/94) to a debate with the authors of The Bell Curve, editor Andrew Sullivan justified the decision by writing, "The notion that there might be resilient ethnic differences in intelligence is not, we believe, an inherently racist belief."
In fact, the idea that some races are inherently inferior to others is the definition of racism. What the New Republic was saying--along with other media outlets that prominently and respectfully considered the thesis of Charles Murray and the late Richard Herrnstein's book--is that racism is a respectable intellectual position, and has a legitimate place in the national debate on race.
The Bell Curve was accorded attention totally disproportionate to the merits of the book or the novelty of its thesis. The book and its dubious claims set the agenda for discussions on such public affairs programs as Nightline (10/21/94), the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour (10/28/94), the McLaughlin Group (10/21/94), Charlie Rose (11/3/94, 11/4/94), Think Tank (10/14/94), PrimeTime Live (10/27/94) and All Things Considered (10/28/94).
In addition to the above-mentioned New Republic issue, the "controversy" made the covers of Newsweek (10/24/94) and the New York Times Magazine (10/9/94), took up nearly a full op-ed page in the Wall Street Journal (10/10/94), and garnered a near-rave review from the New York Times Book Review (10/16/94; Extra! Update, 12/94).
While many of these discussions included sharp criticisms of the book, media accounts showed a disturbing tendency to accept Murray and Herrnstein's premises and evidence even while debating their conclusions. "While Murray and Herrnstein base their findings on various surveys and extensive research, many of the conclusions they draw are fiercely disputed," declared Robert MacNeil (10/28/94). "You've written a long book," Ted Koppel told Murray (10/21/94). "I assume a great deal of work and research went into it. But the problem is your book has become a political football."
While Murray and Herrnstein were generally characterized as sober social scientists, their critics were sometimes identified with censorious political correctness: "Both Murray and Herrnstein have been called racists," wrote Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen (10/18/94). "Their findings, though, have been accepted by most others in their field, and it would be wrong--both intellectually and politically--to suppress them." Proclaimed Newsweek's Geoffrey Cowley (10/24/94): "As the shouting begins, it's worth noting that the science behind The Bell Curve is overwhelmingly mainstream."
Murray himself doesn't think that the research they relied on was so mainstream. "Some of the things we read to do this work, we literally hide when we're on planes and trains," Murray told the New York Times Magazine (10/9/94).
Pioneers of Eugenics
As well they might. Nearly all the research that Murray and Herrnstein relied on for their central claims about race and IQ was funded by the Pioneer Fund, described by the London Sunday Telegraph (3/12/89) as a "neo-Nazi organization closely integrated with the far right in American politics." The fund's mission is to promote eugenics, a philosophy that maintains that "genetically unfit" individuals or races are a threat to society.
The Pioneer Fund was set up in 1937 by Wickliffe Draper, a millionaire who advocated sending blacks back to Africa. The foundation's charter set forth the group's missions as "racial betterment" and aid for people "deemed to be descended primarily from white persons who settled in the original 13 states prior to the adoption of the Constitution of the United States." (In 1985, after Pioneer Fund grant recipients began receiving political heat, the charter was slightly amended to play down the race angle--GQ, 11/94.)
The fund's first president, Harry Laughlin, was an influential advocate of sterilization for those he considered genetically unfit. In successfully advocating laws that would restrict immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, Laughlin testified before Congress that 83 percent of Jewish immigrants were innately feeble-minded (Rolling Stone, 10/20/94). Another founder, Frederick Osborn, described Nazi Germany's sterilization law as "a most exciting experiment" (Discovery Journal, 7/9/94).
The fund's current president, Harry Weyher, denounces the Supreme Court decision that desegregated schools, saying, "All Brown did was wreck the school system" (GQ, 11/94). The fund's treasurer, John Trevor, formerly served as treasurer for the crypto-fascist Coalition of Patriotic Societies, when it called in 1962 for the release of Nazi war criminals and praised South Africa's "well-reasoned racial policies" (Rolling Stone, 10/20/94).
One of the Pioneer Fund's largest current grantees is Roger Pearson, an activist and publisher who has been associated with international fascist currents. Pearson has written: "If a nation with a more advanced, more specialized or in any way superior set of genes mingles with, instead of exterminating, an inferior tribe, then it commits racial suicide" (Russ Bellant, Old Nazis, the New Right and the Republican Party).
"Leading Scholar"
These are the people that financed nearly all The Bell Curve's "data" on the connection between race and intelligence. (Murray and Herrnstein themselves have not been funded, although Weyher says of Herrnstein, "We'd have funded him at the drop of a hat, but he never asked"--GQ, 11/94.)
Take the infamous Chapter 13, which Murray has often claimed is the only chapter that deals with race (far from it--there are at least four chapters focused entirely on race, and the whole book is organized around the concept).
Murray and Herrnstein's claims about the higher IQs of Asians--widely cited in the media as fact--are almost entirely cited to Richard Lynn, a professor of psychology at the University of Ulster.
In the book's acknowledgements, Murray and Herrnstein declare they "benefitted especially from the advice" of Lynn and five other people.
Lynn has received at least $325,000 from the Pioneer Fund (Rolling Stone, 10/20/94). He frequently publishes in eugenicist journals like Mankind Quarterly--published by Roger Pearson and co-edited by Lynn himself--and Personality and Individual Differences, edited by Pioneer grantee Hans Eysenck. Among Lynn's writings cited in The Bell Curve are "The Intelligence of the Mongoloids" and "Positive Correlations Between Head Size and IQ."
Murray and Herrnstein describe Lynn as "a leading scholar of racial and ethnic differences." Here's a sample of Lynn's thinking on such differences: "What is called for here is not genocide, the killing off of the population of incompetent cultures. But we do need to think realistically in terms of the 'phasing out' of such peoples.... Evolutionary progress means the extinction of the less competent. To think otherwise is mere sentimentality." (cited in Newsday, 11/9/94)
Elsewhere Lynn makes clear which "incompetent cultures" need "phasing out": "Who can doubt that the Caucasoids and the Mongoloids are the only two races that have made any significant contributions to civilization?" (cited in New Republic, 10/31/94)
Lynn's fingerprints are all over the footnotes to Chapter 13. In discussing the question of Asian intellectual superiority, Murray and Herrnstein say that the affirmative position has been well defended by Lynn, but that the question can only be decided by "data obtained from identical tests administered to populations that are comparable except for race."
"We have been able to identify three such efforts," the authors announce--two that support the concept of Asian superiority and one that does not. A review of the footnotes reveals a sleight of hand: The two tests that support Lynn's thesis were conducted by Lynn himself. (See New York Review of Books, 12/1/94.)
Credibility Gap
Media reports also treated as fact Murray and Herrnstein's claim that black IQs are 15 points lower than whites. "For as long as Americans have been IQ-tested, blacks have trailed whites by that 15-point margin," ABC's Dave Marash reported for Nightline (10/21/94). "Murray sees in the consistency of these gaps proof that intervening to raise low IQs just doesn't work."
But The Bell Curve cites as its primary sources for this assertion R. Travis Osborne, Frank C.J. McGurk and Audrey Shuey--all recipients of Pioneer grants. Osborne, who has received almost $400,000 from Pioneer, used his "research" into black genetic inferiority to argue for the restoration of school segregation (Newsday, 11/9/94).
And, in fact, even the data collected by these racists does not show a consistent 15-point gap. The studies they present show a wide range of results, ranging from no black/white IQ disparity at all to the absurd finding that most African-Americans are severely retarded.
As for the "consistency of the gaps," even The Bell Curve acknowledges that more recent tests have shown a narrower black/white difference, ranging from seven to 10 points. SAT tests have shown a similar convergence. But Murray and Herrnstein warn that "at some point convergence may be expected to stop, and the gap could even begin to widen again"--because "black fertility is loaded more heavily than white fertility toward low-IQ segments of the population." In other words, the bad genes will triumph, no matter what the evidence says.
That sort of circular argument abounds in The Bell Curve. Although sociologist Jane Mercer has shown that supposed racial differences in IQ vanish if one controls for a variety of socio-economic variables, the authors reject her method because their theories assume that low IQ causes people to be poor, rather than poverty causing low IQs. Similarly, even though IQ tests show that average scores are rising--by as much as 15 points since World War II--"real" IQs must be falling, since low IQ women are having more babies.
Giants in the Profession
Another person whose advice Murray and Herrnstein "benefitted especially from"--and who shows up constantly in their footnotes--is Arthur Jensen, whose very similar claims about blacks having innately lower IQs were widely discredited in the 1970s. The Pioneer Fund has given more than $1 million to this "giant in the profession," as Pioneer chief Weyher describes him (GQ, 11/94). And it's easy to see why: "Eugenics isn't a crime," Jensen has said (Newsday, 11/9/94). "Which is worse, to deprive someone of having a child, or to deprive the child of having a decent set of parents?"
Elsewhere, Jensen has worried "that current welfare policies, unaided by genetic foresight, could lead to the genetic enslavement of a substantial portion of our population." (cited in Counterpunch, 11/1/94)
Murray and Herrnstein also rely heavily on Thomas Bouchard, whose study of separated-at-birth twins has "proved" that not only is intelligence largely genetically determined, but so are religiosity, political orientation and leisure-time interests. The Bell Curve uses Bouchard to rehabilitate Sir Cyril Burt, whose twin-based evidence for inherited intelligence is now believed to be fraudulent. Their logic is that Burt's research must have been sound, because Burt's findings closely resemble Bouchard's, and Bouchard's research is "accepted by most scholars as a model of its kind."
That illustrates the sort of scholars Murray and Herrnstein associate with. More reputable researchers have raised many questions about Bouchard's work: While other twin researchers estimate that 50 percent of the average variation in intelligence can be attributed to heredity, Bouchard comes up with 70 percent. Even the twin studies that came up with more conservative estimates of intelligence's "heritability" (itself a highly dubious concept) are flawed because the supposedly "separated-at-birth" twins usually turn out to have been raised in close proximity; Bouchard refuses to let skeptics examine the case histories of the twins he studied, essentially rendering his research into so many "Believe It or Not!" anecdotes (Scientific American, 6/93; The Nation, 11/28/94).
Bouchard, of course, is also a major recipient of Pioneer money--"We couldn't have done this project without the Pioneer Fund," he told GQ (11/94). And he's a colleague and mentor of (and has some peculiar views in common with) perhaps the crankiest of all of Pioneer's beneficiaries, J. Philippe Rushton.
"More Brain or More Penis"
Rushton (who's gotten more than $770,000 from Pioneer) has transformed the Victorian science of cranial measurement into a sexual fetish--measuring not only head and brain size, but also the size of breasts, buttocks and genitals. "It's a trade-off: More brain or more penis. You can't have everything," he told Rolling Stone's Adam Miller (10/20/94), explaining his philosophy of evolution.
Rushton was reprimanded by his school, the University of Western Ontario, for accosting people in a local shopping mall and asking them how big their penises were and how far they could ejaculate. "A zoologist doesn't need permission to study squirrels in his backyard," he groused (Rolling Stone, 10/20/94).
Rushton's creepy obsessions intersect with the ugliest sides of politics: A 1986 article by Rushton suggested that the Nazi war machine owed its prowess to racial purity, and worried that demographic shifts were endangering our "Northern European" civilization. Rushton co-authored a paper that argued that blacks have a genetic propensity to contract AIDS because of their "reproductive strategy" of promiscuous sex (cited in Newsday, 11/9/94). The other author was Bouchard, the author of those amazing twin studies celebrated in mainstream news outlets.
It's not surprising that Murray and Herrnstein would defend Rushton, writing that his "work is not that of a crackpot or a bigot, as many of his critics are given to charging." But it's startling that a science writer for the New York Times, Malcolm Browne, would actually endorse Rushton's book (10/16/94). Echoing The Bell Curve, Browne respectfully concludes his summary of Rushton's bizarre theories with: "Mr. Rushton is nevertheless regarded by many of his colleagues as a scholar and not a bigot." ("Browne doesn't identify these 'colleagues,' but I expect he means Professor Beavis and Professor Butthead," the Toronto Star's Joey Slinger wrote--10/20/94.)
Political Timing
Anyone who flipped through the footnotes and bibliography of Murray and Herrnstein's book could see that there was something screwy about their sources. And there is hardly a proposition in their book that had not been thoroughly debunked more than a decade ago by Steven Jay Gould's classic work on the pseudo-science behind eugenics, The Mismeasure of Man.
So why is The Bell Curve suddenly an "important book" that needs to have cover stories, news broadcasts, even whole magazines devoted to it? In large part, because the book is well-timed to take advantage of a resurgence of racism in U.S. media and society--a racism that does not want to face up to its own identity.
In a proposal outlining the book, Murray wrote that there is "a huge number of well-meaning whites who fear that they are closet racists, and this book tells them they are not. It's going to make them feel better about things they already think but do not know how to say." (New York Times Magazine, 10/9/94) The Bell Curve does indeed tell closet racists that they aren't racist, and makes them feel better by saying that their prejudices are grounded in science.
The Bell Curve also fits in well with some current political agendas. The immigration issue has been seized upon by the U.S. right wing, as it has by the far right in other countries. Much of Murray and Herrnstein's book is devoted to suggesting that "Latino and black immigrants are...putting some downward pressure on the distribution of intelligence."
The connection between the book and the anti-immigrant movement is, once again, the Pioneer Fund; the fund has always feared immigrants, although its concerns have shifted from Poles and Italians to blacks and Latinos. The leading anti-immigration group in the U.S. is the Federation for American Immigration Reform (unfortunately sharing an acronym with the media watch group FAIR); the federation has received more than $1 million in Pioneer money, which was critical in getting the organization off the ground. (See Extra!, 7-8/93.) Pioneer also funds the American Immigration Control Foundation, a more overtly racist group whose work is cited by Murray and Herrnstein.
Similarly, the book also meshes well with conservative efforts to drastically restrict welfare spending. Murray has long been associated with the idea of eliminating welfare, and now with The Bell Curve he produces a eugenic justification: "The United States already has policies that inadvertently social-engineer who has babies, and it is encouraging the wrong women.... We urge that these policies, represented by the extensive network of cash and services for low-income women who have babies, be ended."
For Their Own Ends
Many pundits carefully distanced themselves from the book, then made use of its claims to push their own ideological ends. In a New Republic column (10/31/94), Mickey Kaus argues against a genetic basis for IQ differences, saying, "There are obvious policies that might change the black 'environment' and therefore black IQ scores." But what's his example of such a program? "Abolition of cash welfare," he suggests.
The McLaughlin Group (10/21/94) featured a whole parade of this sort of pseudo-critic: While no one wanted to embrace wholeheartedly Murray and Herrnstein's genetic determinism, almost all were happy to make use of the conclusion The Bell Curve draws from the eugenic argument: that the poor and non-white are getting what they deserve.
Thus Pat Buchanan declared: "I think a lot of the data are indisputable.... It does shoot a hole straight through the heart of egalitarian socialism which tried to create equality of result by coercive government programs."
And Michael Barone: "The implication of their argument is, if they're right, that we really should not engage in a lot of government social engineering to create equal outcomes and so forth. They'd have to throw all the Chinese out of the Higher Math Department."
Morton Kondracke found this message: "It does undermine the case, John, for racial quotas, which is the form of discrimination in our society."
Clarence Page, the token liberal on the panel, described Murray as a personal friend, and gave a lukewarm critique: "It's got some good data, but it's Murray's conclusions that he doesn't prove."
It was left to John McLaughlin, of all people, to say the obvious about The Bell Curve: "It is largely pseudo-scientific and it is singularly unhelpful."
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.

The 'Right' Books and Big Ideas

Eric Alterman | November 4, 1999
Abigail Thernstrom, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and her husband, Harvard professor Stephan Thernstrom, would like to thank the John M. Olin Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Earhart Foundation and the Carthage Foundation for help in funding their anti-affirmative action tome America in Black and White: One Nation Indivisible. Tamar Jacoby, also a Manhattan Institute denizen, is indebted to the John M. Olin Foundation, the Joyce Foundation and the Smith Richardson Foundation for the financial help they gave her in writing her critical look at integration, Someone Else's House: America's Unfulfilled Struggle for Integration. Dinesh D'Souza acknowledges the John M. Olin Foundation's funding of his bestselling books Illiberal Education, The End of Racism and Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader while he was in residence at the American Enterprise Institute, to which he is also grateful. So too, Charles Murray, author of Losing Ground and The Bell Curve, whose immense gratitude to the Manhattan Institute has now been transferred to the American Enterprise Institute, considered a more congenial place for pseudoscholarly tomes devoted to making racism respectable. And Marvin Olasky cannot say enough in thanks to the Bradley and Heritage foundations, "not only [for] the financial support" for The Tragedy of American Compassion but also for the "stimulating research and writing environment" they provided.
Take a tour of our nation's cultural landscape as the century turns, and you find that ideas once considered ideologically revanchist are in full bloom, funded by right-wing donors. While many of the most promising intellectual talents on the left have eschewed the "real" world of public discourse for the cloistered confines of narrow academic concerns, the right has been taking its message to "the people" in the form of bestselling book after bestselling book. Authors like the late Allan Bloom, Jude Wanniski, Charles Murray, Marvin Olasky, Bill Bennett, Dinesh D'Souza, Francis Fukuyama and Samuel Huntington, to pick just a few, have all written books in the past two decades that have transformed our political and cultural discourse on issues that are central to the way we organize ourselves as a society. Yes, they had the advantage of a powerful echo chamber within the punditocracy and the world of conservative opinion media. Yes, many of the books played into a few prejudices that many Americans may have already held but did not consider respectable to utter in polite company. But most important, these people wrote books directed at a mass audience and received funding and support from conservative sources that understood the fundamental importance of the battle of ideas.
The Bradley Foundation, for instance, recently compiled a list of more than 400 books it has supported during the past fourteen years. Its president, Michael Joyce, explains, "We have the conviction that most of the other media are derivative from books. Books are the way that authors put forth more substantial, more coherent arguments. It follows that if you want to have an influence on the world of ideas, books are where you want to put your money. It is what we are most proud of, of all the things we've done here." Indeed, Bradley recently invested $3.5 million to start up its own publishing arm, to be called Encounter Books, named after the defunct journal of neoconservative ideas. Its editor in chief, Peter Collier, explains that the decision was inspired by the perception that "the Gutenberg galaxy is imploding." Says Collier, "The reason for this operation is that it is perceived by certain people in the middle part of the country that serious nonfiction publishing is an endangered species. A lot of important books don't get done not because of the left but because of the market."
Joyce and Collier are not concerning themselves with questionable tabloid tell-alls, like Gary Aldrich's Unlimited Access, or with incompetent attempts to cash in on the scandal of the moment, like Ann Coulter's impeachment rant. These are best left to the old, reliable Regnery, which has been a far-right mouthpiece for decades. While Regnery books occasionally sell well, they do so only to members of the conservative movement. Neither Aldrich's flimsily sourced exposé nor Coulter's legal hysterics made much of a dent in the public discourse. Rather, the focus of Encounter will be on "questions involving history, culture and public affairs." Paying relatively meager advances--none more than $30,000 so far, he says--Collier has signed up Sol Stern, a City Journal contributing editor and Manhattan Institute senior fellow, to write a book on the strengths of urban Catholic schools, and Wes Smith, a former Nader attorney, "on how the right to die becomes the duty to die." The plan is to skimp on advances but spend mightily on publicity. If a book takes off, then the profits are split, with a high royalty rate for the author and more investment funds for the publishing house. (Hmm, sounds almost socialist...)
Liberal foundations would do well to take a hard look at the model being employed by the right here. The left's current predicament mirrors that of the right between two and three decades ago. While it could still win national elections (witness Richard Nixon), the right felt shut out from the larger cultural discourse. Conservative thinkers were forced to fight their battles on a liberal playing field. Today the opposite is true. "The weakness of the left," Columbia political scientist Ira Katznelson has noted, "forecloses meaningful political choice, flattens political debate and leaves unattended vast human needs and distortions of power."
More than anyone alive, perhaps, Irving Kristol can take the credit for reversing the direction of American political culture. Before he began his career as an ideological godfather of the right, Kristol spent a brief period as an editor at Basic Books, where he found himself "exasperated" by the built-in vagaries of the business. But sometime during the seventies, Kristol apparently changed his mind about the value of book-length arguments. A regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and a close comrade of its editor, Robert Bartley, he was introduced to the page's self-described "wild man," Jude Wanniski. Despite the fact that Wanniski had no formal training in economics, he believed (and still believes) that in the now infamous "Laffer Curve," whereby lower taxes on the rich allegedly lead to higher government revenues, he had found the key to all human happiness. Wanniski needed money and a place to write and think while he composed a supply-side manifesto based on the Laffer theory.
By then, the intellectual impresario Kristol was deeply involved in shaping the grant-giving agendas of the Olin Foundation and the Institute for Educational Affairs, which he co-founded. He also helped "grow" the American Enterprise Institute to its current status. He continued to oversee the neoconservative domestic-policy journal Public Interest, which he founded in 1965 with Daniel Bell (twenty years later he added to his burgeoning empire the neoconservative foreign-policy journal The National Interest, which he started with $750,000 from the Olin Foundation).
According to Wanniski, Kristol convinced the folks at Smith Richardson to give Wanniski $40,000 to write a book, of which $10,000 went to AEI to house him. His manifesto, The Way the World Works (1978), proved to be the bible of a movement that transformed fiscal policy and economic debate. Basic Books, which published the original version, printed 4,000 copies, expecting them to take years to sell out. Embraced first by Jack Kemp and then by Ronald Reagan, Wanniski's supply-side gambit became the "riverboat gamble" (in then-Senate majority leader Howard Baker's words) upon which our government's finances were recklessly bet. The Way the World Works was augmented in 1981 by George Gilder's no less airy tome, Wealth and Poverty, which was funded by the Smith Richardson Foundation and helped lead to the creation of the International Center for Economic Policy Studies--later renamed the Manhattan Institute.
It is an ironic fact that in a society as culturally debased as ours, books can have a significant political and ideological impact precisely because they are not read. Book reviews and Op-Eds based on the reviews become the currency through which big ideas are traded in the ideological marketplace. Reviews, let it be remembered, are frequently written by people with considerably fewer qualifications than the writers themselves. In Wanniski's case, his magic potion of pain-free prosperity was sold and resold on the Wall Street Journal editorial page and in the columns of Rowland Evans and Robert Novak. Few economists paid much attention to Wanniski's work or the theory itself when it first appeared. The only scholarly journal to publish an article on the subject before the eighties was Kristol's Public Interest. Nevertheless, the book provided a prop for Kemp, Reagan and their allies to wave at voters, demonstrating that the theory upon which they were basing their policies was somehow intellectually legitimate.
The creation of the largest peacetime deficit in human history once supply-side was finally implemented demonstrates just how little its predictions corresponded to reality. Reagan budget director David Stockman all but admitted that the entire intellectual edifice was a carefully constructed hoax by conservatives to defund the welfare state. No matter. The right had seen the future of public discourse, and it worked.
The great book of the New Right's assault on traditional forms of knowledge was Charles Murray's antiwelfare tract Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980 (1984). Two years before his book became the handbook on handling welfare, Murray was living in obscurity in Iowa, having written nothing more than a few pamphlets. According to Michael Joyce, Murray sent an article to Kristol at Public Interest, whereupon Kristol immediately called Joyce, who was then running the Olin Foundation, and scared up the money necessary for Murray to turn his article into a book. William Hammett, then president of the Manhattan Institute, agreed to house Murray and soon decided that this horse had legs. As he explained in a memo to himself at the time: "Every generation produces a handful of books whose impact is lasting; books that change basic assumptions about the way the world works (or ought to work...). Charles Murray's Losing Ground could become such a book. And if it does it will alter the terms of debate over what is perhaps the most compelling political issue of our time: the modern welfare state."
The Manhattan Institute inaugurated an extraordinary campaign to sell Murray to the public. Once the book was published, Hammett sent 700 copies to journalists, politicians and academics and hired a PR expert to turn the unknown author into a media celebrity. He paid journalists $500 to $1,500 each to participate in a seminar on Murray and his thought. In addition, Hammett wrote, "any discretionary funds at our disposal for the next few months will go toward financing Murray's outreach activities." Once again the model worked flawlessly. The book itself proved to be the prototype of The Bell Curve: Murrayite ideology mixed with pseudoscience and killer public relations. Sociologist Christopher Jencks and economists like Robert Greenstein, Jared Bernstein and Nobel laureate James Tobin, who took the time to examine Murray's data, found the book contradictory, solipsistic, intentionally misleading and often wrong. Never mind that, said the larger culture. Welfare causes poor (read "black") people to breed like bunnies, and "we" would be doing everyone a favor if we just stopped encouraging "them." "We tried to provide more for the poor, and we created more poor instead," as Murray argued.
Murray's book proved an effective spearhead. It was not the only book written during a time when Americans were reassessing their feelings about federal welfare policy. But it was the first and the boldest and the one that gave the most generous permission to voice resentments that had hitherto been unspoken in polite society. The net result, following a decade of arguments and Clintonite compromises, was a "welfare reform" policy based on many of the false assumptions that Murray laid out in Losing Ground. A decade later, Murray would undertake an even grander mission on behalf of his sponsors. It would be to make racism scientifically respectable. Murray's research was considered so controversial that this time the Manhattan Institute refused to have anything to do with him, and he was shunted off to the American Enterprise Institute, where Kristol ruled the roost.
The AEI had already invested in respectable racism when it funded D'Souza during the writing of his apologia, The End of Racism, in which the author attributed racism, which he believed was vestigial, to a "civilization gap" between blacks and whites rather than to the fact that many powerful and influential white people think black people are inferior. These two arguments--that welfare caused laziness and black overbreeding, and that the blacks who were doing all the breeding were genetically inferior and, hence, hard-wired to rip you off, either through welfare payments, armed robbery or both--formed the unspoken foundation of the 1995-96 welfare debate. Perhaps the ultimate expression of Murray's influence can be found in the words of Gordon Lee Baum, chief executive of the Council of Conservative Citizens, which has hosted as guest speakers the likes of Trent Lott and Bob Barr. "My personal belief is that the overwhelming, almost unanimous belief of the professionals, the academia, if you will, in the field, say that is the case that there's a difference between black and white intelligence," says Baum. "My personal inclination is to believe that The Bell Curve is not too far off the mark."
Should George W. Bush win the presidency, the next new thing in conservative counseling is likely to be Marvin Olasky's The Tragedy of American Compassion, an attack on government social-welfare policies. Published with Bradley and Heritage support in 1992, the book was quickly dismissed by many. One critic described it as the ravings of a "utopian crank," while other reviewers preferred to call it "romantic," "bizarre" and "shallow." Indeed, Olasky's background--a fanatical atheist/Communist Jew turned fanatical Christian conservative--did little to inspire faith among the skeptics. Picking up where Murray's Losing Ground left off, Olasky's call to dismantle the entire welfare system nevertheless caught fire on the Republican right. William Bennett termed it "the most important book on welfare and social policy in a decade." William Kristol used the word "thunderbolt." Then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich thought it was so terrific that he had it delivered to the entire freshman class of Republicans, going so far as to speak of Olasky in the same breath as Alexis de Tocqueville. Now George W. Bush has apparently fallen under Olasky's spell as well, and the Texas Governor invites the onetime Brezhnevite down to Austin for frequent chats. If you want to know the meaning of "compassionate conservatism," including the source of Bush's enthusiasm for "faith-based" social-welfare programs, then do what Bush's aides do when they have a question: "Talk to Marvin" (or read his book).
Although few investments have paid off as handsomely as the Bradley-Heritage bet on the unknowns Murray and Olasky, similar stories can be told in a host of policy areas. To understand how liberals grew so defensive on affirmative action, look into Terry Eastland's Ending Affirmative Action: The Case for Colorblind Justice (1994), funded by Olin and Bradley; Frederick Lynch's The Diversity Machine: The Drive to Change the "White Male Workplace" (1997), also funded by Olin, and Invisible Victims: White Males and the Crisis of Affirmative Action (1989); and the Thernstroms' previously mentioned tome. At the now Murray-less Manhattan Institute, Peter Huber's Liability (1988) and Galileo's Revenge (1993) and Walter Olson's The Litigation Explosion (1991) helped spark the national debate on civil justice, the use of social science in the courts and the nationwide attack on trial lawyers commonly known as "tort reform."
The right has funded far more than attacks on traditional liberal policies. It has used its financial power to underwrite books that portray liberals and liberalism itself as illegitimate and corruptive. To understand how alien leftist beings have kidnapped your college-age children, see Roger Kimball's Tenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education (1988) and Charles J. Sykes's Profscam: Professors and the Demise of Higher Education (1988). Also quite popular among funders has been a full-frontal attack on the "culture of the sixties." David Horowitz, the beneficiary of millions of Olin, Bradley and Scaife dollars, is convinced that the publishing industry is controlled by "political comrades" of Cornel West and Edward Said. Horowitz has declared that "the conservative agenda should broadly be seen as the conservative counter-revolution against the 1960s. It was a national tragedy that we gave up our cultural institutions to the left, and now we need to take them back." With that in mind, we have read the Manhattan Institute's Myron Magnet, whose The Dream and the Nightmare (1993) blamed the sixties counterculture for the creation of the urban underclass; John DiIulio's Olin-funded jihad, in an endless series of journal articles, against a "permissive" penal code; Allan Bloom's bestselling jeremiad against modernity, The Closing of the American Mind; and a seemingly endless series of scoldings about our moral failings by the likes of Robert Bork, William Bennett and Michael Novak. Each one of them is generously supported by one or more of the foundations mentioned above. Each has played a seminal role in moving the political discourse to the right. During the House impeachment vote, for instance, ABC News chose Bennett and NBC chose Bork as guest commentators, despite the fact that their positions were deeply outside the mainstream of popular opinion on the subject. No liberals were similarly deployed.
In matters of foreign policy, conservative big ideas have had even greater success in determining the intellectual foundations of public discourse. Ever since the end of the Soviet Union, the foreign-policy establishment has been casting about desperately for a political paradigm to replace George Kennan's "containment" as the organizing principle of foreign and military policy. So far, three contenders have emerged. In 1989, former State Department official Francis Fukuyama argued in his essay "The End of History?" that no great challenges to Western-style liberal capitalism were likely to arise, and so, ideologically speaking, history had ended. The article was funded by Olin and published in The National Interest, which then promoted it and printed a series of responses from the Olin-funded Allan Bloom, Samuel Huntington and Irving Kristol, among others. Later it was expanded into a well-received Free Press book. Critics found Fukuyama's thesis provocative but difficult to apply to the real world, and recently even Fukuyama has articulated reservations in light of Russia's backsliding toward the possibility of a state-controlled economy.
Next up was Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington, who offered a thesis based on the notion of a global "clash of civilizations." Huntington divided the globe largely into Western nations and the Muslim world, which "threatened Western domination" with "kin-country rallying" and "the threat of broader escalation." Despite generating some initial excitement, his rigid division also failed to cohere as an agreed-on new paradigm. Huntington's Institute for Strategic Studies received more than $3.4 million in Olin funds between 1993 and 1999.
The most recent contender is Fareed Zakaria, managing editor of Foreign Affairs and a former protégé of Huntington's at his Harvard-based Olin Center. Zakaria argued in his essay "Illiberal Democracy" that the United States and the West should show more patience toward semidemocratic nations with one-party systems or elected authoritarian rulers as long as they "accord their citizens a widening sphere of economic, civil, religious and limited political rights." The essay will soon become a book, with some help from the Olin Foundation.
In addition to the fancy conferences, the cushy offices and the occasional consulting trip to the Governor's mansion in Austin, being a conservative intellectual, it should be noted, appears to be a pretty decent way to make a living. According to the July 1997 report of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, approximately $10 million was spent by conservative foundations between 1992 and 1994 to finance fellowships for authors at their favored think tanks. Dinesh D'Souza enjoyed $483,023 at AEI; Irving Kristol, $380,600, also at AEI; Robert Bork managed to scare up $459,777 for his office at Heritage; and William Bennett, also at Heritage, garnered $275,000 in addition to his considerable book earnings. Fellowships at the left's much smaller institutes do not, to put it mildly, compare. Small progressive "angels" like the Schumann Foundation, which generously funded my 1998 book Who Speaks for America? Why Democracy Matters in Foreign Policy through the good offices of the World Policy Institute, are in no position to make the researching of a book quite so comfortable or profitable. AEI notes in its 1998 report that "the most significant areas of expense growth were in the economics studies area and in efforts toward broader dissemination of our research." Thirteen percent of its more than $14 million 1997 budget went to publications and another 14 percent to "marketing and management." Those two figures together are more than most liberal foundations spend on their entire operations, including the gas and electric bills.
The publishing world, while consolidating itself to a disturbing degree, remains open to fresh ideas that it believes will likely capture the public imagination. Unlike much of the rest of the media, it lacks a discernible ideological viewpoint. Public-minded ventures like the New Press, Norton and the Perseus Books Group would love to expand their ability to reach serious readers with foundation-funded books that are also fun to read. What is needed is for liberal funders to recognize the value that books have in shaping the overarching direction of American political discourse and to fund not only the books but also the efforts required to make certain they receive a fair hearing. A progressive funder once told me that he never bankrolled books because if he took away a grant from a human rights or Third World poverty organization, "people would die." Yes, I said, but they will continue to die in greater numbers so long as the right has a lock on the foundations of public discourse. The outcome of any contest is a foregone conclusion when one side plays only defense.

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"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
Magda - excellent. Thanks.

When I was a BBC journalist making investigative films, many of those private foundations and "thinktanks" tried to lobby and influence me.

I played the game to see how much of their real agenda they would disclose.

That agenda is the darkest interpretation of Charles Murray's "political philosophy".
"It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...."
"Proverbs for Paranoids 4: You hide, They seek."
"They are in Love. Fuck the War."

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
The last words of the last Inka, Tupac Amaru, led to the gallows by men of god & dogs of war
Magda Hassan-Thank you for the posts.

Just a few random thoughts- If you support Mammon you get well rewarded....Andrew Sullivan said a few years ago, this is NOT an exact quote...the two coasts are filled with 5th colmunists, people who want Saddam Hussein to win.........this is a clear thinker ? In 2008, on the Chris Matthew weekend show I believe Sullivan called out the "McCarthyite tatics" of the McCain campaign. Mr. Sullivan must believe that all Americans have short memories or are extremely ignorant, what Sullivan did in the lead up to the Iraqi war went way beyond "McCarthyite tactics" and was downright insulting and much more than ignorant. IMO is nothing more than a shill, and his editorship at TNR dreadful.

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