Michael Levin, American Renaissance, February 1999
Whether some races are superior to others is a question all racialists must consider, if only because their critics are sure to force them to. Just say that whites are, on average, more intelligent than blacks, and you will be told “Oh, so you think whites are superior to blacks.” If you say that Jews are, on average, more intelligent than gentiles you will be lectured that that sort of thinking led to the Holocaust.
Behind all this passionate confusion lie real issues. Academics tend to duck them, from a desire for scientific neutrality or simply to avoid trouble. They will say that race differences in IQ and temperament have nothing to do with questions of value, that the greater intelligence of whites, for example, is just a fact of nature like blood pressure. But very few people view intelligence this way, and I am sure the typical psychologist prefers that his children have IQs of 120 rather than 80. In fact, both views of racial differences are valid. The scientist’s “Sgt. Friday,” just-the-facts-ma’am approach is basically right, I believe, but at the same time, we must acknowledge that group differences touch people’s deepest hopes and fears.
To sort out these issues we must revisit an old riddle common in college philosophy courses: the place of value in the universe. The question is whether justice is “natural” or “conventional” — that is, whether right and wrong, good and bad, beautiful and ugly are objective features of the world, or fictions with no basis in the nature of things. Incidentally, only Europeans have ever reached the level of intellectual abstraction necessary to pose such questions, and the first to do so were the Greeks. They wanted to know whether judgments of good and bad are discovered or invented, whether they are based on reason or on mere projections of human emotion onto the real world. The skeptical view implies that nothing — including one or another race — is inherently better or worse than anything else.
The most eminent ancients — Socrates, Plato and Aristotle — did see value as an objective feature of reality accessible to reason, but they have always had opponents. Socrates’ contemporary, Xenophanes, joked that if horses could draw, they would draw their gods as horses. Plato thought that most men failed to understand the existence of objective good. According to him, the Greek-in-the-street thought that all sensible men were profoundly selfish but had reluctantly agreed to limit their pursuit of self-interest to avoid a catastrophic war of all against all. These agreed-upon limits set on selfishness — which are necessary evils — are the laws of justice. They are like traffic rules: It is useful for everyone to agree to stop on red and go on green, but no one imagines that there is something inherent about red that makes stopping when you see it obligatory. (It is a tribute to Greek genius that the hoipolloi had an opinion on so deep a question.)
Although I have great respect for the belief that God determines what is good and what is evil, I ’m afraid I must count myself among the skeptics. As I see it, nothing in the world is good or bad, or right or wrong, or better or worse. People, like other organisms, have preferences, some of which are more common in some groups than others, but none is objectively better or worse than any other. They just are.
It is not right or good that a lion catch the gazelle he is after, although a catch will certainly please him, and, as Xenophanes might have added, if lions could talk they would doubtless say that gazelle-catching was “proper” and “what all decent lions deserve.” Gazelles, for their part, dislike being caught and would, if given voice, accuse lions of violating their rights. In fact, the universe roots for neither. There is no neutral standpoint from which to rank the lion’s evolved appetite for gazelles against the gazelle’s evolved aversion to being lunch. It is not possible to say which is right or wrong.
So in my view it makes no sense to say that one race is better or worse, superior or inferior, to another. It makes as little sense as saying that lions are “better” than gazelles.
Before I go into my reasons for this, let me add a few words about that singular value called morality. Man alone has preferences about preferences, his own and those of others. For instance, most of us not only want to be honest and punctual, we want others to be honest and punctual, too. In fact, most of us feel distinctly uneasy about doing things we don’t want others to do. This higher-order desire, that our actions conform to general rules that we can also prescribe for others, is the essence of morality. A person is said to be conscientious or principled when he subjects his behavior to the golden rule, the how-would-I-like-it-if-everyone-did-that test.
Concern for morality, like other traits, is not equally distributed. In Why Race Matters and elsewhere I cite evidence that, on average, blacks are less concerned than whites about the golden rule. This is clearly suggested by the very high rates of black criminality not only in the United States but around the world. At a more mundane level it is also reflected, for example, in the unwillingness of many blacks to take turns and a tendency of blacks to “talk back” to movies (which displays a lack of sympathy with audience members who want to watch in silence).
Having taught philosophy for many years to a “diverse” student body, I have been able to compare the preferences and actions of different groups by using a classic philosophical conundrum. When I introduce ethics I always ask my students what you should do if a supermarket cashier gives you too much change, and there is no chance of discovery if you pocket it. While I have not kept precise statistics, disproportionately more black students say that “you’d be a fool” to return the money. Many back up their position by saying that the mistake is the cashier’s problem. When I ask what they would do if they were the cashier many reply, irrelevantly, that they wouldn’t let it happen to them.
Why conformity to universal rules is important to whites may be linked to another Caucasian specialty, the quest for scientific knowledge. The hallmark of scientific explanation is that it follows general rules. Whenever you say that A is why B happened, you implicitly refer to a law of nature. When you say the window broke because the baseball hit it, you have in mind that whenever glass of that sort is struck with a sufficiently great force, it shatters. We find events comprehensible when they fall into general patterns, and we find behavior acceptable only when it obeys rules. It is no coincidence that the race that invented science is also the one pre-eminently concerned with right and wrong.
Having said this, I reiterate that being moral — being concerned with the golden rule — isn’t better in any absolute sense than being amoral. It is a preference, neither right nor wrong, that some people feel more intensely than others, and that still others lack altogether.
The basic reason for skepticism about values is that they explain nothing. There are, as I see it, only two grounds for believing in something: It can be observed, or it is needed to explain something else that can be observed. I believe in elephants because I have seen them at zoos. I believe in electromagnetic waves because, if they didn ’t exist, television could not be explained. Values are not observable — you cannot literally see the goodness of helping a blind man cross the street. Nor is there any phenomenon that requires values to explain it. Nothing in nature happens because it is right; lions chase gazelles and gazelles run away because of natural selection, not because it is “right.” Human beings act as they do, not because of right and wrong, but because of their convictions about right and wrong, and I believe these convictions are ultimately explained by natural selection.
So we seem to be back at the Sgt. Friday position, with its corollary that high intelligence and moral concern are not inherently better than dim-witted amorality. There is no progress over evolutionary time, just change — tendencies, for instance, for organisms to display more intelligence, but no direction towards something inherently better.
This position has its attractions, chiefly as an all-purpose reply to inevitable nagging about “racism”: You can doggedly insist on the facts of race and disavow any moral interpretation. But not only will this never satisfy egalitarians, it misrepresents what people ordinarily have in mind when they make comparisons. People do not usually intend some sort of cosmic, absolute judgment when they make comparisons or talk about superiority. Not even the most fanatical users of Apple computers claim that Macs are just better than PCs, period, in the eyes of God. What they have in mind is that Macs are better than PCs according to certain accepted standards like speed and ease of use. Beef is not graded according to some mysterious quality of inherent goodness, but by tenderness and marbling. Of course, accepted standards may change, but so long as the standards in force are clear, there should be no misunderstanding.
In fact, people have four definite standards more or less clearly in mind when they compare human groups, and relative to those standards it is possible to draw conclusions about different races.
1) The first of these standards is influence. The most salient test for ranking individuals is influence: How different would the world be if so-and-so had never been born? (Michael Hart uses this test in his book The 100, which is his list of the most important people in history.) Columbus is more important than Joe Blow because the world would have been very different without Columbus, whereas Joe Blow’s absence would scarcely have been noticed. This test applies to groups as well as individuals. The Greeks were more important than the Iroquois because they made more difference to the world as a whole.
It is a matter of verifiable fact that the influence of whites dominates mankind. Had blacks never existed, Europe and Asia would be pretty much as they are today. Had Asians never existed, the world would be somewhat different, but still recognizable. But a world in which there had never been Europeans is unimaginable. It is not just that everyone else has been Westernized in the superficial respects that are easy to criticize, like clothing and music. Western science and technology shape mankind’s building, trade, transportation, communication and education. Cars are almost everywhere, and where there aren’t cars there are bicycles — both Western inventions. People pay bills by check, an innovation of late medieval Europe. They erect large structures according to mechanical principles discovered in the West. Terrorists attack with guns of Western design and explosives mixed according to Western chemistry. Every high school student in the world learns Cartesian co-ordinates, another product of Caucasian ingenuity.
2) The other side of the coin of influence is emulation. Every other culture wants — covets — the control over nature that Western man has achieved by scientific methods of thought. It is important to emphasize this standard, for egalitarians always describe Caucasian influence as “imperialism,” as if whites forced it on the rest of the world. Not so; other countries would give a great deal for Western standards of living, infant mortality rates, longevity, productivity and individual freedom. While from a cosmic point of view no culture may be better than another, when all sides agree in prizing the products of one culture, there is from a practical point of view not much to argue about.
This is not to say that other cultures always realize or admit that they emulate the West. They often treat the fruits of Caucasian science as natural resources they are entitled to. Negotiations about sea-bed mining are forever breaking down when backward countries demand that the Western world give them their “fair share” of the world’s mineral wealth. They ignore the fact that it takes Western ingenuity and effort to extract it, and that effort and ingenuity deserve to be rewarded. But it is clear that if a magic wand could give the Third World Western skills, Third-World critics of “imperialism” would wave it without hesitation.
Western values are emulated not just collectively, but individually. Everyone admires the traits in which whites excel, chiefly intelligence. Do not be fooled by the esteem in which athletic and sexual prowess are held by some groups. Intelligence may not be valued as highly elsewhere as it is at an American university but there is no culture in which the local equivalent of “bright” is not a compliment nor “stupid” an insult. The picture is fuzzier for traits like law-abidingness, but on the whole Caucasians and Mongoloids excel Negroids in individual traits that members of all three groups prize. In many of these same traits Mongoloids slightly excel Caucasians, while in others — perhaps originality — Caucasians excel Mongoloids.
To repeat, it is a verifiable fact that all cultures agree on the value of certain traits. This is why racialists are always accused of claiming racial superiority when they note the high intelligence of whites. The average person values intelligence, and assumes that other people, including psychometricians and racialists, do too. So when he hears whites described as more intelligent than blacks, he naturally concludes that the speaker is calling whites superior. This, after all, is the inference he would draw from the same data. Deep down, even egalitarians view intelligence as an important standard of personal value, so, since they would conclude that whites are superior if they admitted to themselves that whites are more intelligent, they foist this view on racialists. Hearing someone say a steak is tender and juicy, you would as a matter of course assume he is praising it. You would be surprised and a little doubtful if he insisted he was only describing the steak’s properties.
3) Closely related to the emulation standard is that of efficiency. Given certain goals or ends common to all groups, one group is considered “superior” when its means to those ends are most efficient. “Better” often means “is a better means.” Crop rotation, for example, is better than sacrificing to the Sun God, because it produces a bigger harvest. By this means-ends test, Caucasians have created a verifiably better civilization because it more readily secures certain universal goals.
Every group has wanted indoor lighting, for instance. Most have achieved it with dangerous, expensive fire, while whites achieved it with cheap, easily controlled electricity. Every culture has wanted the ability to travel from one place to another. All have attained walking speed — about 3 miles per hour. A few have mastered the horse, allowing them to move at about 10 miles per hour. Caucasian mastery of jet propulsion allows people to travel in comfort at 600 miles per hour.
Of course, the desirability of speed and indoor lighting are not inscribed in stone, and one can imagine a society consciously eschewing them. The Pennsylvania Dutch still ride carriages rather than drive cars. But since the desire for technological advance is in fact so widely shared, and Caucasians are better at achieving it than anyone else, Caucasians are “superior” in the sense of having developed the best means to certain universal ends.
Technological preeminence is not the only source of Caucasoid means-ends superiority. Let me describe some recent experiments that shed light on how Western moral attitudes create wealth and other generally accepted goods. Western morality is more efficient.
Suppose someone gives me $10, but with the following proviso: I am to offer you any part of that $10, from one cent to $5 to $9.99. You then decide whether or not to take my offer. If you take it, you get what I have offered and I keep the rest. If you reject my offer, the $10 is taken back and we both get nothing. We both know these conditions. What do I offer you? What offer should you accept from me? (There is a real-world parallel: Having discovered there is gold on my land, but being physically weak, I offer you a share of the profits to mine it for me. If you turn me down, the gold stays in the ground and neither of us is any better off. What deal should we strike?)
From a strictly logical point of view, one would expect you to take any offer, down to a penny for you and $9.99 for me. After all, even a lopsided deal like that leaves you a penny richer. However, when this “take it or leave it” game has been tried on Germans, Americans, Yugoslavs, Japanese and Israelis, offers that deviate significantly from $5 for each person are almost always rejected — in effect punished — and no player ever accepts a split as unbalanced as $2.50 for him, $7.50 for the fellow making the offer. What is more, very few players from these countries ever offer a deal significantly more advantageous to himself than $5/$5, perhaps because each player knows that no such offer will be accepted.
The reason for this seems to be a sense of equity, probably innate, that moves players to punish behavior they see as unfair, even at some cost to themselves. This moral indignation, though it may appear irrational and counterproductive, is one of those rules by which sensible men bind themselves for the sake of their own and everyone else’s long-run profit. For imagine a society of egotists with no compunction about making lopsided offers in the interest of maximizing short-term gain. No one egotistical enough to feel entitled to a $9.99/1¢ split is likely to settle for the one cent when someone makes that lopsided offer to him, so in such a society few beneficial bargains will be made. In such a society I will offer you one percent of the profits for mining my gold, you will give me a piece of your mind, and we will both remain poorer than we need to be. In a society where everyone has a sense of equity and 50/50 offers are apt to be made, these offers are also apt to be accepted, and everyone will become better and better off. Emphasis on equity leads to mutually enriching bargains.
My sense is that Mongoloid moral systems put less emphasis than Caucasoid on conscience but endorse similar rules of fairness. I would love to see take-it-or-leave-it experiments with subjects of different races, although I cannot imagine such experiments being allowed in the present climate. I would predict that racial differences would be found in the lopsidedness of offers made and in offers accepted, with whites and Asians tending toward a 50/50 equilibrium, with blacks more inclined to make — but disinclined to accept — offers deviating from this midpoint. Please recall the “you’d be a fool” view of keeping incorrect change. This attitude would surely encourage short-sighted, unbalanced offers; would it also lead to the acceptance of such offers (since a penny is better than nothing) or militate against them? I suspect the latter, but I would like some data.
4) A fourth criterion of group excellence is power: When the ordinary person calls one group superior to another, he may mean that members of the first group can be counted on to defeat equal numbers of the second in battle. However unlovely, this is a standard people often have in mind, and there is no doubt that Caucasians predominate. The weapons they have invented would allow easy conquest of the planet, and they would meet resistance only from societies that have managed to imitate the weapons of the West. Nor is there much doubt that, say, a thousand Caucasoid males could organize themselves into a more effective fighting force capable of defeating a thousand Negroids. It is not clear that whites would have equal success against Asians, but again it must be remembered that ever since the Middle Ages, Asian armies have done reasonably well against white armies only by using white inventions. If in our imaginary 1,000-on-1,000 battle each group is restricted to weapons developed by its own society, whites would certainly win every time.
This standard is not as brutish as it sounds, since, for better or worse, military power is the upshot of traits that are admired in their own right: courage, intelligence (to devise better weapons and better treatment for the wounded) discipline, audacity, and concern for the group.
Superiority by this standard also has some interesting demographic implications. The first is that whites may well govern — that is, occupy virtually all positions of power — no matter what ideology is dominant. Blacks and non-European Hispanics may become more numerous in the United States, but even in a democracy they will have to have someone to vote for, and whites will generally manage to be the ones that get into a position to be elected. (We see this with the sexes: there are more female than male voters, but at the national level virtually all leaders are men.) This may explain why whites rule in Brazil, even though the black population is proportionally much larger than in the United States. It is not that blacks think whites are more fit to rule, it’s just that the naturally dominant group always does dominate.
Thus, I fully expect that when 2050 rolls around, and assuming (as the demographers assure us) whites become a minority, whites will still rule because they will be better organized. However, at some point they will be unthroned through sheer weight of numbers — perhaps by the 22nd century.
Thus, according to four common criteria — influence, emulation, efficiency and power — whites come out on top, but as I have pointed out, a determined skeptic can reject all four. We can fully expect egalitarians to reject them, at least in public: “What’s so great about influence or intellect or the capacity for moral thinking?” I doubt that anyone can mean this question seriously, but it can’t be answered except by appealing to other standards egalitarians can also disingenuously challenge. All anyone can do is point out that we do care about these things, and ask anyone who doesn’t to suggest traits we should care about more.
As I emphasize in my book, the values we have as individuals and as a culture are the ones we can’t help but use. While upbringing counts to some extent, our values are the heritage of eons of selection. We are born with them. That is the way we are. One can be objective about one’s own values for a few hours in the study, but detachment becomes impossible as soon as the world presses in. Values are like emotions. I know intellectually that the grief I might feel for the death of a son is a biological adaptation — nature’s way of making sure I take better care of my other offspring — but realizing that emotions are a trick of neural wiring would not reduce my suffering one bit.
The much touted “wisdom of the East” that teaches the extirpation of emotions is foolish. It can easily counsel an alienation from one’s own deepest commitments, and this trivializes life. The Western approach of engagement with the world, with its attendant risks of suffering, is more honest.
Each group therefore finds its own standards best, and judges the rest of the world by them. How could it be otherwise? A group of people that disapproved of its own nature would suffer a spiritual dissonance not conducive to survival, and psychologists tell us that pride in one’s ethnic group is a sign of mental health (although this sort of pride is supposed to be reserved for non-whites). By Caucasian standards Caucasians are best.
Critics of white “ethnocentrism,” like Capt. Reynaud in Casablanca, pretend to be “shocked I tell you, shocked” that whites give the highest grades to white writers, artists, composers, statesmen and inventors. What do they expect? If blacks preferred non-black culture, these same critics would say that whites have taught blacks to hate themselves. In any case, even if ethnocentrism is bad it is inevitable. We have the values we have, and we have no choice but to apply them.
So what should you say if someone asks you whether you believe in racial superiority? Ask him what he means by “superior,” what standards he has in mind. If he can’t or won’t answer, remind him that the question was his. If he doesn’t know what “superior” means, he is as much as admitting that he doesn’t know what he is talking about — and if he doesn’t know what he is talking about, why should you continue the conversation?
If he says accusingly “You know darn well what I mean,” pin him down: Tell him you know what you mean, but not what he means. If you finally elicit a concrete standard from him apply it, but remind him that any aspersions cast are his. For instance, if he says creation of material wealth is a measure of superiority, point out that, yes, white societies are richer than others and therefore better by his criterion, and that it is he, not you, who is assuming the value of wealth. This tactic will shame the most shameless egalitarian. In his heart he believes that, by his own criteria, whites (and Asians) are better than blacks. Since he will never admit this, with luck you can at least get him to go away.
[Editor’s Note: This essay appears in A Race Against Time: Racial Heresies for the 21st Century, a collection of some of the finest essays and reviews published by American Renaissance. It is available for purchase here.]