Sunday, July 15, 2007

Class Stratification

Commentary Magazine has an interesting article by Charles Murray discussing the origins of Jewish Genius.

Since its first issue in 1945, COMMENTARY has published hundreds of articles about Jews and Judaism. As one would expect, they cover just about every important aspect of the topic. But there is a lacuna, and not one involving some obscure bit of Judaica. COMMENTARY has never published a systematic discussion of one of the most obvious topics of all: the extravagant overrepresentation of Jews, relative to their numbers, in the top ranks of the arts, sciences, law, medicine, finance, entrepreneurship, and the media.

I have personal experience with the reluctance of Jews to talk about Jewish accomplishment—my co-author, the late Richard Herrnstein, gently resisted the paragraphs on Jewish IQ that I insisted on putting in The Bell Curve (1994). Both history and the contemporary revival of anti-Semitism in Europe make it easy to understand the reasons for that reluctance. But Jewish accomplishment constitutes a fascinating and important story. Recent scholarship is expanding our understanding of its origins.

And so this Scots-Irish Gentile from Iowa hereby undertakes to tell the story. I cover three topics: the timing and nature of Jewish accomplishment, focusing on the arts and sciences; elevated Jewish IQ as an explanation for that accomplishment; and current theories about how the Jews acquired their elevated IQ.
He doesn't come to any firm conclusions. He does ask a lot of interesting questions.

In the letters to the editor section of the magazine he gets asked a few questions. Here is one.
To the Editor:

Charles Murray’s consideration of the historical sources of higher-than-average Jewish intelligence and cultural achievement is the most informed and intelligent on the subject that I know of. That it is written by a non-Jew is, I believe, instructive for many of us who tend to take pride in Jewish achievements. We must always keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of great cultural creators of mankind have not been Jewish, and that achievement is by no means a Jewish monopoly.

We should also be aware that a number of factors—rising rates of intermarriage, the increasing insularity of some religious Jews—raise considerable questions about whether Jewish cultural and creative achievement will be as disproportionately great in the next 200 years as it has been in the previous 200.

Shalom Freedman
Jerusalem, Israel
Charles Murray replies:
Shalom Freedman’s first point is of course correct: Jews are disproportionately represented in the ranks of outstanding achievers but, in raw terms, non-Jews are in the great majority. I proudly join Eoghan Harris in noting that among them are Scots and Irish, and even the occasional Scot-Irish. Mr. Freedman’s worries about intermarriage are justified if the question is the survival of a robust Jewish culture, but less so with respect to IQ. On average, Jews do not marry randomly selected Gentiles, but ones they meet in college or workplace, which in turn means spouses whose own mean IQ is also considerably above the Gentile mean. Increasing cognitive stratification independent of ethnicity or social origins is the ignored story of today’s evolving class structure—the story that the late Richard Herrnstein and I tried to bring to public attention in The Bell Curve (1994).
I discusses The Bell Curve and other sources extensively in Inequality. What it comes down to is that these days the big advances in science, technology, and business tend to come from the smartest people. These kinds of advances make us all absolutely richer (the poor in America are fat - some call this a bug, I call it a feature) while it makes the poor relatively poorer (income inequality grows). Personally I think that giving these huge incentives to our brightest people is what makes America what it is. Murray thinks there should be some noblesse oblige provided through government and he is a libertarian. I tend to agree.

As my friend Jose Arias used to say: welfare is the price we pay to keep the lower classes from revolting. I think what we have done with welfare in terms of encouraging work is a good idea. If for no other reason that it provides some cultural cohesion. We all have our shoulders to the wheel. My friend Bob used to say that "Liberty is just equality in school". There is no way equality in school can be accomplished without destroying the effectiveness of our schools. I might add that Bob was a lot older when he first said that. He is younger than that now.

Cross Posted at Classical Values and at The Astute Bloggers

1 comment:

JCR said...

The Cochran-Harpending paper on Jewish intelligence was covered pretty extensively at gnxp.com. Razib has also interviewed Charles Murray. http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2006/07/10-questions-for-charles-murray.php