20 years later

Charles Murray reflects on The Bell Curve:

American political and social life today is pretty much one great big “Q.E.D.” for the two main theses of “The Bell Curve.” Those theses were, first, that changes in the economy over the course of the 20th century had made brains much more valuable in the job market; second, that from the 1950s onward, colleges had become much more efficient in finding cognitive talent wherever it was and shipping that talent off to the best colleges. We then documented all the ways in which cognitive ability is associated with important outcomes in life — everything from employment to crime to family structure to parenting styles. Put those all together, we said, and we’re looking at some serious problems down the road. Let me give you a passage to quote directly from the close of the book:

    Predicting the course of society is chancy, but certain tendencies seem strong enough to worry about:

        An increasingly isolated cognitive elite.
        A merging of the cognitive elite with the affluent.
        A deteriorating quality of life for people at the bottom end of the cognitive distribution.

    Unchecked, these trends will lead the U.S. toward something resembling a caste society, with the underclass mired ever more firmly at the bottom and the cognitive elite ever more firmly anchored at the top, restructuring the rules of society so that it becomes harder and harder for them to lose. (p. 509)

Remind you of anything you’ve noticed about the US recently? If you look at the first three chapters of the book I published in 2012, “Coming Apart,” you’ll find that they amount to an update of “The Bell Curve,” showing how the trends that we wrote about in the early 1990s had continued and in some cases intensified since 1994. I immodestly suggest that “The Bell Curve” was about as prescient as social science gets.

The Bell Curve was an early example of the media pinkshirts attacking reality. And it is a good lesson for how retaining a firm grasp on truth will always outlast whatever the various political pressures du jour happen to be. As with The Irrational Atheist, if the ideas a book contains are in harmony with reality, they will penetrate the collective consciousness eventually even if the pinkshirts are successful in preventing people from reading a book or even hearing about it.

The truth always wins out in the end, not due to its own virtues, but because lies always eventually collapse under their own accumulating weight. One of the reasons the equalitarians are becoming increasingly vicious is that their vision has completely failed to deliver on any of the promises that the naive and the clueless found so compelling.