which is not about race! Or the recent firing of John Derbyshire. Or the continued failure of NCLB to show much progress at all. Or maybe just that we have a black president. But paleo-conservativism seems to be getting bullish on the political incorrect notions of genetic and racial explanations of social inequality.
As I have written before, there is an enormous degree of correlation
between the acceptance of right wing assumptions and the acceptance of genetic explanations for race and socioeconomics. Because of the
unconscious nature of how racism tends to operate, it is therefore
appropriate to ask how much right wing assumptions are actually
facilitating acceptance of racist frameworks for socioeconomic analysis.
It is easy to see why. The right wing framing generally sees social
class as meritocratic and fair. Yet the continued disproportionate
representation of blacks among the lower-SES strata presents a problem that
needs to be explained. The three general categories of answer are
1) genetic, 2) environmental, and 3) personal choice. Because of our
history of racism, civil society shies away from genetic explanations.
The left wing, comfortable with subverting traditional power structures
and state intervention in social environments, tends toward
The right, to the degree that it opposes social redistribution or
state intervention, is challenged to propose its own solutions.
Generally, it adopts the personal choice model; even though it accepts
some of the environmental explanations (who could deny so much
research?), as a practical matter - to the degree that we value justice
- it argues for the metaphysical existence of an individual's power to
transcend environmental limitations. This isn't actually supported by
social research, but it apparently has great intuitive and rhetorical
Another choice, one favored by right-leaning individuals, is to be "politically incorrect", and adopt the
genetic explanation. The IQ-SES framing adopts the genetic explanation,
with higher IQs in positions of power, and lower IQs in position of
subordinance. While intuitively "icky", this explanation at least
removes the burden of having to explain stubborn patterns of racial and
socioeconomic inequality in environmental or personal choice terms.
Of course, as with right wing claims about personal choice and the effects of environment on development, claims about the existence of a genetic meritocracy aren't supported by the research. Sure, you can always find research that agrees with you. But like evolution or global warming, the research is poorly designed and rejected by a large consensus of experts in the relevant fields.
Yet given the troubling persistence of unscientific views on the right (far more representative of majority opinion than unscientific views on the left), one wonders whether genetic explanations of socioeconomics and race will begin to become more acceptable in conservative circles, and among the base of the Republican party?