Friday, May 30, 2008

Manzi vs Sailer

Please forgive the light posting; I've been up to my eyeballs in final projects and will remain that way for the next week.

I originally started this post early last week, so it may be old news to most of you. If you haven't already, check out the comments on Jim Manzi's post at the American Scene. It's a debate between Manzi and a number of heavy hitters, including Razib and Sailer, on Manzi's NR piece on "genetic determinism," which argues . . . well, I'm not exactly sure what it argues, but it seems to consist of much hand-wringing about how bad bad bad biologically-based racial differences are about anything that matters. Sailer summarizes his response here.

My ability to contribute meaningfully to at debate at this level is limited, but let me focus for a moment on Manzi's prediction that genetic determinism might lead to "the relaxation of the notion of personal responsibility." It should come as small surprise that a Calvinist who has made peace with the paradox of both a sovereign God and Original Sin doesn't have too much trouble in reconciling the fact that our behavior is rooted in biology and the fact of individual accountability for our actions. In any case, nobody is arguing other than that our biology interacts with our environment to produce our behavior; it would follow that the system of rewards and punishments our society creates becomes part of the environment that contributes to our behavior.

But I want to make several points. First, I would point out that the present age of environmental determinism is not exactly the high water mark of personal responsibility. Second, I would point out (as Sailer once pointed out) the utter cruelty in insisting that a low IQ individual failing to perform mentally demanding tasks is exhibiting some kind of character flaw: he isn't applying himself, for instance. That cruelty is amplified by an educational system that attempts to educate smart people and less smart people at the same pace, to the benefit of neither.

But perhaps Manzi has morality more in mind here. Fair enough: no conservative wants low IQ to excuse bad behavior (although the U.S. Supreme Court pretty much did exactly that with its decision prohibiting the execution of people with IQ below 70, so the genie's already out of the bottle). But the flip side is that much of what we describe as "morality" is in fact only the intelligence to anticipate (and be deterred by) the consequences of bad behavior, rather than being motivated by, say, brotherly love and piety. As I recall, Murray and Hernstein documented the inverse relationship between IQ and criminality, and I suspect that such SES correlation that exists would largely disappear when IQ is controlled.

Sure, this kind of reasoning, widely held, could lead to a "liberal therapeutic regime", but not necessarily. In any case, as a guide to policy, surely hard truth is better than pleasant fiction.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Φ's score on the Intercollegiate Studies Institute Civics Quiz was 59 of 60 questions answered correctly. Not too bad for a 2:00 AM bout of insomnia.

The quiz is multiple choice, For a few of the questions, it is possible to quibble over the "correct" answer; however, the alternatives among which the correct one is listed are indisputably wrong, so it should be easy to identify.

According to the Seattle Times:

ISI gave the test to students at a number of universities, offering money for volunteers to take it. The best average score, 69.56%, was at Harvard University. Next were Grove City College (67.26%) Washington & Lee U (66.98%) and Yale (65.85%). University of Washingon students scored at 55.88%, which was about in the middle. At the bottom were students at St. Thomas University in Florida, at 32.5%.

Spoilers below the fold.

Continue reading

Hat tip: Ace

Friday, May 23, 2008

On Hagee

The television last night went on about John Hagee, and McCain's "rejection" of his endorsement. It's not hard to see what's driving this story: Obama has been embarrassed by his intimate 20-year association with a racist anti-American demagogue, so the media was out to find, or manufacture, a similiar association that would embarrass McCain. The appropriate analogy is that if I rob a bank, and you pick up a dime off the sidewalk, well hey, we both took something that didn't belong to us!

But my point here is how bogus the story really is. As I understand it, the particular controversy are Hagee's remarks about Hitler. Despite the efforts of some in the media to pull these out of context, it is apparent even from what they quote that the remarks don't mean what the media say they mean.

Is there really any doubt that the worldwide revulsion at the Nazi attempt at genocide was indispensible to creating the historical moment at which Israel was granted its statehood? I would be surprised to learn that there is much disagreement among historians on this point.

But it follows that, if you believe in a sovereign God, and if you believe that the modern state of Israel is the heir to God's Old Testament covenant and therefore destined to play a specific role in the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, you are pretty much obligated to believe that God used the Holocaust to accomplish his divine purposes. For my part, while I subscribe to the first of the above statements, I am no longer persuaded by the second, although I once was. So I would not tend to subscribe to Hagee's formulation in the way he intends it. But so what? Subscribing to the Left Behind narrative may be practicing sloppy theology; it may distort your foreign policy in irrational ways; but in an era in which our presidential candidates spend more energy swearing fealty to Israel than our own country, I don't see how any of this makes Hagee a bad person, or otherwise beyond the Pale.

The Huffington Post quotes the remarks (from a 1990 sermon) in full:

"Theodore Hertzel is the father of Zionism. He was a Jew who at the turn of the 19th century said, this land is our land, God wants us to live there. So he went to the Jews of Europe and said 'I want you to come and join me in the land of Israel.' So few went that Hertzel went into depression. Those who came founded Israel; those who did not went through the hell of the holocaust.

"Then god sent a hunter. A hunter is someone with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter. And the Bible says -- Jeremiah writing -- 'They shall hunt them from every mountain and from every hill and from the holes of the rocks,' meaning there's no place to hide. And that might be offensive to some people but don't let your heart be offended. I didn't write it, Jeremiah wrote it. It was the truth and it is the truth. How did it happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel."

Two points about this. First, it is very difficult to read this as being motivated by hatred for Jews. The Huffington Post headline, "Hagee Said Hitler Was Fulfilling God's Will," only does justice to what Hagee actually said by narrow technical criteria.

My second point is theological, and aimed at those whose rejection of Hagee's beliefs is part of their broader problem with the nature of evil: why do bad things happen? I do not mean to make light of this question, for there is indeed much pain, suffering and death in this world, and no shortage of evil. And this doesn't even address those who, having rejected the Gospel of Christ despite years of hope and prayer by their loved ones, damn themselves to an eternity of torment.

I cannot do justice to these questions in the short time I have, so I must content myself with one question: what is the alternative? If you reject God's sovereignty, you are left believing either that God is watching our earthly plight, wringing his hands in powerless futility, or that God could do something to relieve our suffering but doesn't care enough about it. And frankly, neither of these alternatives is particularly comforting.

UPDATE: Half Sigma and his commenters make these points as well.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New York Magazine on Adultery

Philip Weiss' article,

"The Affairs of Men", while "fair and balanced" as these things go, isn't terribly original in recycling stories of Europe's more "evolved" attitude towards adultery, nor in pimping Kinsey Institute propaganda as if it was solid research.

But the article's primary shortcoming was in being blind to the obvious: that the Ashley Dupree's must come from somewhere if they are to be made available to the Eliot Spitzer's, and that "somewhere" is at the expense of other men. We can't all keep a mistress; this realization is, to me, the most forceful non-moral argument against the practice, and NY Mag is blind to it.

On the Definition of Racism

Bobvis (here and here) and his co-bloggers are trying to hammer out a definition of racism.


"I believe that the term racist should apply only to beliefs that work to create a society wherein the members of certain races are disadvantaged relative to the members of other races.

"My definition applied to comments that "work to create a society wherein the members of certain races are disadvantaged". Comments that approve of such a society work to create such a society.

"Like it or not though, the race of a person can be useful for creating prior expectations about certain things, and I occasionally use them. Race and sex affect my expectations, and therefore my behavior towards people. I don't think this makes me racist."


"If one uses factual and accurate statistics that suggest, for instance, that blacks in general have lower IQs, are more prone to crime, or whatever... the veracity of the data doesn't absolve the racist intent and, if carried out into action, racist actions.

"I would say that professing (approvingly) that the world would be a better place if minorities were disadvantaged is a racist comment."

Unfortunately, Bobvis and Trumwill find themselves encumbered in this project by their own intelligence and fair-mindedness. Encumbered, because they are smart enough to know that the races of man differ phenotypically in operationally significant ways, and they also want to avoid calling behavior "racist" unless they think it deserves the moral opprobrium normally attached to that word. In contrast, most other writers find it convenient to dispense with these concerns when worrying themselves about racism.

Φ's Definition

For my part, I will avoid tripping over my residual intelligence and fair-mindedness by making a rhetorically sweeping generalization:

"Racism" is morally neutral: it neither asperses a lawful act nor justifies an unlawful one.

People should be free to go about their associations with their fellow citizens with whatever motivations they happen to possess. We choose to buy or not buy, sell or not sell, employ and discharge or refrain from doing either, based on whatever preferences. The fact that our different races affect how we interact with each other may be wise or foolish, efficient or inefficient, but it is not, in and of itself, either good or bad morally speaking.

So Jesse Jackson, for instance, is free to be relieved that the footsteps behind him on a dark night in the city belong to a white person instead of a black person. The home-buyer is free to prefer a neighborhood of his own race. The McDonald's manager is free to staff his registers with people of the race preferred by his customers. Our immigration laws may (and should) take race and nation-of-origin into account to make sure that such immigrants as we choose to admit will benefit the existing citizenry as a whole.

In contrast, no one may use race to justify depriving someone else of his rights under the law. If I murder someone, I am not justified in my murder by this or that claim about race. I am not excused from boorish social behavior on the grounds that I am exercised about race.

In another example, the police may be (and, in fact, are) perfectly justified in suspecting a white person driving slowly through a black neighborhood of seeking to buy drugs, for instance, or a group of blacks driving through a white neighborhood of looking to rob someone. The police should be free to subject such people to a higher level of scrutiny; they may not, however, pre-emptively arrest them without a warrant or a showing of probable cause.

Of course, the reaction to this can be anticipated: Φ doesn't care that the burden of abolishing race-based Civil Rights laws will fall primarily on blacks.

Φ's Justification

It all comes down to prior probabilities. As Brandon Burg points out in the comments, our background knowledge of the prevalence of a certain behavior in the aggregate mathematically factors in determining the proper threshold for determinig its occurence in an individual case. Brandon Burg applies it to assessing certain traits in individuals of a particular race; however, the concept also applies in making determinations of racism.

Our Civil Rights laws were written for the world of 1958, when invidious racial discrimination was widespread, and more often than not enforced by legal or extra-legal violence. And in the minds of many supporters of the status-quo, it is always 1958, with evil racists around every corner.

But that is not the world of 2008. Such racial discrimination as remains is largely prudential, and based on reasonable calculations of the probability of dysfunctional behavior on the part of particular racial minorities. Indeed, if we have a widespread social problem with regard to race, it is our bending over backwards to ignore evidence of this dysfunction in the creation of our social policies, with disastrous results.

So while my sweeping claim may not adequately address every hard case imaginable, it is operationally justified under the conditions in which we actually find ourselves, and our pressing need to expand the domain of freedom and prudence.

Monday, May 19, 2008


I almost never link to an individual Steve Sailer piece, on the grounds that all intelligent people already read him, so what's the point?

I'm going to have to make an exception: this piece -- on why the humanitarian crises in Sudan and Zimbabwe are treated differently -- is so revelatory that it bears special mention.

[I]n an interview entitled "The McCain Doctrines" with Matt Bai in today's New York Times Magazine [May 18, 2008], John McCain volunteers that he's often thought about starting a war with Sudan, if only a way could be found to make it practical:

"I asked McCain if it was true … that he had been brought to a more idealist way of thinking partly by the genocides in Rwanda and Srebrenica. ‘I think so, I think so,’ he said, nodding. 'And Darfur today. I feel strongly about Darfur, and yet, and this is where the realist side comes in, how do we effectively stop the genocide in Darfur?' He seemed to be genuinely wrestling with the question. 'You know the complications with a place that’s bigger, I guess, than the size of Texas, and it’s hard to know who the Janjaweed is, who are the killers, who are the victims. It’s all jumbled up. … And yet I look at Darfur, and I still look at Rwanda, to some degree, and think, How could we have gone in there and stopped that slaughter?'"

Note that, although McCain likes military adventures, the simpler task of intervening in Zimbabwe to avert famine does not appeal to him at all. While McCain volunteered Darfur, the NYT’s Bai has to bring Zimbabwe up:

"Why then, I asked McCain, shouldn’t we go into Zimbabwe, where, according to that morning’s paper, allies of the despotic president, Robert Mugabe, were rounding up his political opponents and preparing to subvert the results of the country’s recent national election?"

McCain tries to spell it out euphemistically for the journalist why a white President of the United States is not going to depose a black tyrant who wrecked his country by persecuting productive whites:

"'I think in the case of Zimbabwe, it’s because of our history in Africa,' McCain said thoughtfully."

Well, not that thoughtfully—the U.S. doesn't actually have much of a history in Africa. McCain notices his mistake and tries to make himself clear without actually mentioning the W-word:

"Not so much the United States but the Europeans, the colonialist history in Africa.'"

... What makes Zimbabwe so unsexy compared to Darfur is that in 1965 the British Colonial Office tried to give the colony of Rhodesia to its black majority. But its white population declared independence and for 15 years resisted an international trade embargo, building a substantial manufacturing base. Finally, in 1979, Margaret Thatcher organized the handover of the country to Robert Mugabe.

This is beyond pathetic: John McCain, eager for military adventurism on behalf of the Darfurians -- with whom we share neither race, nor religion, nor nationality -- won't countenance an effort to intervene in Zimbabwe on the grounds that it might help a white person!

Behold the Straight Talk Express.

To hell with the lot of them. If Half Sigma can torture out a worthwhile difference between John McCain and Barak Obama, well, more power to him, but I don't have the energy anymore.

I would add to that the Khartoum regime spent the 90's butchering or enslaving the Christian population of southern Sudan, and almost nobody cared. On the contrary, I remember how "controversial" that episode of the T.V. show Touched by an Angel that brought attention to what was happening there; controversial, you see, because the victims were Christian, and therefore beyond the proper concern of our bien pensants.

I took up Sailer's challenge to google "Sudan celebrities" vs "Zimbabwe celebrities". Sure enough: all first-page hits on Sudan were about celebrities decrying the violence there, while zero hits on Zimbabwe concerned its self-inflicted crisis.

While I'm still pissed off, I want to call attention to the backstory on the ICE raid at the Postville meat-processing plant: it details 16 years of media, government and business corruption aimed at subverting our immigration laws.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tax Harvard!

Jim Manzi discusses the Massachusetts legislature's plan to tax university endowments over $1B:

Viewed purely in terms of economics, Harvard is really a $40 billion tax-free hedge fund with a very large marketing and PR arm called Harvard University that has the job of raising the investment capital and protecting the fund’s preferential tax treatment.

The trick is that this hedge fund can’t remit earnings to investors, and has to keep them in the company’s account, renaming these retained earnings as an “endowment”. So how do the insiders extract value from this business? One way is by giving themselves cushy jobs that pay a ton of dough. Those who manage Harvard’s money are well-paid. The prior investment head, Jack Meyer, left after criticism of a compensation plan that paid some investment management professionals more than $35 million each in a single year. In spite of this, investment professionals often leave the Harvard Management Company because they can make yet more money as partners in private equity groups or hedge funds. Of course, the qualification of running Harvard’s pool of assets can be leveraged to get exactly such jobs – those who do this are called “Crimson Puppies” – while in the meantime enjoying a somewhat more relaxed work-life balance, and not having to do the hard work of actually raising the fund.

The worker bees in the marketing department (i.e., the faculty) are also quite well-paid. The average Harvard professor now has a salary of about $185,000 per year. Professors in the right disciplines, such as business, can reportedly double their salaries through outside consulting and other income sources. In 1980, the salary of a Harvard professor was about 5.5 times the average US per capita income; today, $185,000 is about 7 times the average national per capita income, and can often be leveraged into much higher actual annual compensation.

Harvard had about a $7B profit last year.

Notwithstanding that institutions of higher education presumably play by the non-profit rules, I find this proposal especially appealing for a very specific reason: some non-significant portion of its revenues come more-or-less directly from government (ie. from tax revenues paid by people not fortunate enough to attend Harvard) in a way that the revenues of the typical church or Museum do not. A seven billion dollar profit from those revenues ought to allow Harvard to give its education away for free; indeed, I think this is exactly what it should do. Until that time, I can't think of a compelling reason to oppose the legislature's plan.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Neighbors II

Busy day on Φ St. But first, some background:

A few weeks ago, we got a puppy named Calley. Female, about four months old, mostly golden retriever, but it was from an animal shelter, so who knows for sure. Friendly, gentle, submissive, everything we wanted. Our next-door neighbors also have a dog, Stacey, and the two of them were so stinkin' cute, the way they would play, chase each other around, and wrestle.

One afternoon this week, I received a mildly panicked call from my wife. Stacey (neighbors dog) had viciously attacked our Calley (our dog), ripping open her face, blood everywhere, they had to go to the vet. As Mrs. Φ related it, one moment they were playing fine, and then Stacey just . . . flipped, and tried to kill Calley. "Was it an accident?" I asked. No, it was sustained and deliberate; Stacey had to be kicked loose. "Did Calley do anything provocative?" No, it was normal play, and Calley is always submissive to Stacey.

"What if she had gone after one of the children?" I asked, mostly of myself, yet feeling sick about where that question would take us. My wife said Stacey's family were more upset than she was, and were swearing to have Stacey put down. But knowing that Stacey's family includes a daughter the same age as one of mine, I said that I didn't want that decision to come from us.

A few hours later, she calls again. Several Mom's on our street had either seen or heard about what happened, and rushed to her aid with offers of childcare and rides to a vet. Calley was fine, had to get about $130 worth of stitches in her face, which Stacey's family had offered to pay for. "Don't accept," I said, but it was too late. They also had said that one of their grown-up daughters had offered to take Stacey, but couldn't until late summer, and if they kept Stacey confined until then, would this be okay? I was relieved that I wouldn't have to have another little girl's dog put to sleep.

Late that evening, I was channel surfing when my wife came inside. It was a pleasant spring evening here in the midwest, when lots of folks get together and sit on each others' porches. My wife had been having a glass of wine over on the neighbor's porch.

"It's Deadbeat," she said. "We heard yelling and screaming coming from his house, and somebody thought they might have seen him strike his daughter (DD). So-and-so is heading over there."

"I'll go with him," I said, lacing my boots. But by the time I was outside, the police were pulling up; one of the women had called them, and they were pretty firm about being the ones in charge.


1. Not only do 80+ year-old neighborhoods like ours have a certain charm, but their geometry, with their cheek-by-jowl houses and front porches where people can sit and socialize, make possible a lot of spontaneous social interaction. You can see when people are home; your children (and puppies) can just go outside and find each other; you can sit out on the porch and your neighbors just drop by; and if someone needs help, there is a lot forthcoming. All this is great . . . so long as you like your neighbors. Our neighborhood, though not rich, is vaguely aristocratic, with lots of engineers and academics, and lots of stay-at-home moms to keep the place running full-time.

2. Modern suburbs don't have porches; they have decks. And nobody ever just drops by. And your dogs don't play together, and your children almost never play in the front yard.

3. And, for better or worse, the modern suburb keeps your privacy. The houses are too far apart to see much of them except the garage, and they are specifically designed and arranged to prevent anyone from seeing or hearing what goes on inside. So . . . the chances that an excitable neighbor thinks she sees something through the window that, absent context, looks bad enough to drop a dime on are relatively small. Plus your dogs can't kill each other.

4. Φ hates cops. Not as individuals; I'm sure they are all nice people. But calling them to deal with a neighbor is so tawdry, so low class, that it's not what good people do. Good people work out their own problems on the front porch over a glass of wine. Good people lace their boots and go kick the shit out of have a chat with someone who seems like getting out of line.

5. Community status matters. Being known as a good person, because you're social or have a wife that is social and brags how great you are, buys you a lot of grace. Being known as a deadbeat with no wife, someone who drinks and smokes his days away on the couch watching TV, well, that person doesn't get much slack.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Yet More Theocons

Via Larison, a thought-provoking review of a review of Marsh's Wayward Christian Soldiers:

Assuming we do not wish to operate within the parameters of liberal monism, and assuming that, as much as we may learn from Hauerwas, Marsh, and their ilk (most importantly, in Elshtain's view, the lesson that Christian teachings "effect...a strong severance...from rights-based liberalism"), we nonetheless do not want to feel obliged to "abandon appeals that have the capacity to stir not only the reason of [our] fellow citizens, but their consciences and souls as well" . . . , can we find a way to theorize and practice the kind of full bore Christian politics that King, by Elshtain's light, practiced: being able to issue a jeremiad that "sacralizes" a particular, extraordinary situation, and calls out those who are in the midst of it to almost consecrated action, but not to do so in such a way as to make that sacralizing obligatory, or co-extensive with political life as a whole? In other words, to formally keep open the possibility of--and preserve the structures and systems which enable on occasion--a real prophetic witness being brought forward, one that at the same time does not necessarily carry the force of that witness to every corner of this divided and often doubtful polity?

As I have blogged before, the long-term ambitions of the Religious Right are much more modest that such as Marsh and Linker both are willing to acknowledge, and the messianic liberalism of George Bush gave us such spectacularly bad policy because it was liberal, not messianic. But Dr. Fox's essay, and in particular the passage quoted above, perfectly frames my own internal conflict about the role of religion in public life.

I'm shopping for a civil religion that unifies us around our Anglo-Saxon tribalism. I want a nationalist public Christianity that expresses our shared sense of being a people and a civilization, but whose actual policy demands are constrained by prudence, and that otherwise leaves us free to pursue authentic, devotional Christianity in the privacy of our homes and churches.

I can only barely convince myself that this bill of order won't collapse of its own contradictions. But I'll keep trying.

UPDATE: Via Ace, a "bracing" piece by none other than the villiage atheist, Sam Harris:

In a thrillingly ironic turn of events, a shorter version of the very essay you are now reading was originally commissioned by the opinion page of Washington Post and then rejected because it was deemed too critical of Islam. Please note, this essay was destined for the opinion page of the paper, which had solicited my response to the controversy over Wilders' film. The irony of its rejection seemed entirely lost on the Post, which responded to my subsequent expression of amazement by offering to pay me a "kill fee." I declined.

God help him, but Sam Harris might someday wake up to the fact that the secularist worldview is powerless to defend the liberal order to which he is rightly devoted.

UPDATE 2: In the comments, Trumwill writes:

I make a point of keeping the Episcopal shield on my car and still identify as such. A significant part of that has less to do with what I believe and more to do with what religious (and ethnic) tradition that I am a part of. The offshoot of the Church of England. The church of a good swath of our nation's founders. A religious tradition that welcomes people from everywhere, but has its roots planted firmly where a good portion of my family's roots are (a lot of British, though some German).

Trumwill captures almost perfectly what I intend when describing the essence of America as Anglo-Protestant. I do NOT mean that we must hang a sign on our nation that says "Whites Only" (although, to be fair, there are those that often appear to mean exactly this). I don't even mean that we mustn't let in another immigrant, never ever. I mean that these immigrants must never be allowed to change our essence.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Obama's Jeremiah Wright Problem, and Ours

God damn America!

As a psychological phenomenon becomes sufficiently widespread, pointing out its specious reasoning, factual errors, and even moral shortcomings becomes progressively less useful as an analytical tool. The sentiment expressed above has met this threshold, and therefore merits a different kind of examination.

Most of the commentary on Rev. Jeremiah Wright has failed to understand this, especially in the days during which Wright has not only "jumped the reservation", but appears actively trying to sabotage the presidential candidacy of his erstwhile congregant. This is particularly true of liberal commentators, although it includes some, like Ross, who should know better. (Steve Sailer's commentary, in contrast, has been exemplary in its dispassion.) All of them unleash their righteous fury at Wright over his racism, his paranoia, his anti-Americanism, and most importantly, his bad manners at not keeping his big mouth shut for the rest of the campaign. All these criticisms are fairly made; indeed, Wright himself would happily plead guilty to many of them. But so what? The salient feature of Wright's preaching this sort of thing is that it carries a powerful resonance among American Blacks, not least with Barak Obama himself.

The liberal response to the progressive revelation of Wright's worldview has taken its cues from Obama, and has correspondingly shifted over time. A few weeks ago, back when Obama was urging understanding and tolerance for the Rev., liberals likewise justified it with the standard references to the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. I am skeptical of this explanation--or rather, I doubt the culpability of America's pre-Civil Rights history in the sense in which liberals intend it. I don't have the numbers, but I would guess that "America" would have received a higher approval rating from American Blacks in 1950 than it does today. Hell, I bet that Blacks would have expressed more patriotism in 1850 than they presently do.

But a lot has happened since then. The Civil Rights movement came and went. Legal segregation passed away, and private discrimination (or anything that could be so construed) has been ruthlessly prosecuted. Affirmative action, quotas, and set-asides became de rigeur. A trillion dollars went to ministering to the needs of Blacks, often in the form of salaries to Black social workers in the civil service.

And what did America get for all this money and effort? Crime. Drugs. Gangs. Violence. Bastardy. Dependency. And, of course, resentment, ladled out by such as Jeremiah Wright to his cheering throng of ministrants.

What is a Black American to make of these developments?

On the one hand, Black conservatives have a ready answer that explains their higher resistance to anti-Americanism. They and others claim that the perverse incentives of the welfare state undermined Black virtue, especially the black family. There is certainly much truth here, but it is not the whole story.

Certainly there are extenuating circumstances surrounding the apparent under performance of Blacks on average, and I do not intend to ignore such factors as, for instance, that black emancipation occurred at precisely the moment that our manufacturing base began to erode, or that immigration has depressed the wages of the remaining low-skill work. Both of these factors have had an enormously negative impact on the remuneration potentially available to the low-skilled work for which American Blacks would qualify.

However, the evolutionary structure of race regrettably ensures that people of African origin, in the mean, will under perform people of European origin in a society constructed along European economic and social norms. As long as the expected end-state of our social policy is not taking steps to assist everyone in achieving their individual potential, or even creating social conditions in which even those with modest cognitive endowment can lead productive and fulfilling lives, but rather seeking racially proportionate representation in all fields of endeavor, then the "problem" will not be solved except by the crudest of quota systems. Yet this "solution" has proved politically intolerable to the White majority, and those people of any race who continue to invest their hopes in such an outcome will continue to have their expectations frustrated.

Again, what is a Black American to think?

Well, it beats Africa.

But nobody actually thinks like this. Gratitude is a virtue precisely because it takes effort and cultivation. Pride and Envy, in contrast, will ever be with us. The notion that Blacks would be grateful for their presence in America, and their enjoyment of greater peace and prosperity compared to Africa, would require them to see clearly their ancestral continent for what it actually is. That this hasn't happened--indeed, will never happen--is not a collective moral failing unique to American blacks; it is historically contingent on their collective circumstances.

It is in this context that Jeremiah Wright's message finds its audience. His paranoid vision of an America secretly undermining the lives and livelihoods of Blacks has the power that it does precisely because the condition of American Blacks predisposes them to believe it. His message that the lack of visible evidence of White racism only shows how insidiously embedded in the fabric of White society is met with cheers of approval because the alternative would be far to painful to accept. And nobody has fled that reality and embraced this fiction as has Barak Obama.

Again, this should not surprise us. It is the entirely predictable arc of all minority groups. Sure, there are exceptions, Obama's brother Mark prominently among them. But rootless cosmopolitanism doesn't come naturally to many people. Obama chose to passionately identify with an idealized version of the Black American experience that was otherwise alien to his actual upbringing in Hawaii and Indonesia. The "post-racial" Obama to whom America, up until about six weeks ago, had become accustomed was entirely a creation of the Obama campaign and its media sycophants.

What's in this for me?

That we should understand, and even sympathize, with Wright's and Obama's embrace of a narrative they clearly find so appealing should not disarm us in our contemplation of the consequences of an Obama presidency. White Americans are not used to asking this question of themselves quite this directly, but it is nonetheless a question that we must face--or, more specifically, a question that the average swing voter in Ohio and Pennsylvania must face: what's in this for us? More specifically, how does an Obama presidency: (1) Reduce crime; (2) Protect from terrorism; (3) Take less of our money; (4) Secure our children's access to opportunity based on their demonstrated ability, not their race; (5) in general, allow us to live under a government that represents our collective interests.