Individualism, Collectivism and the Alt-Right

So Charlotte is burning. A black cop shot a black man with a gun and black people rioted, blocking the highway, destroying property, and hurting people. As of this writing, I do not believe anyone was gravely injured in the riots. At the heart of this is a very civil rights era American question, are we to judge an individual by the content of his character rather than the color of his skin? But what are we to say when character/behavior is dictated by the color of his skin? Is there a solution that will preserve individual judgment while taking account of the tribal nature of the riots? I believe there is. But it requires that we hold two ideas in our minds simultaneously.

These are deep questions which we will need to address in a coherent manner if the alt-right is to be taken seriously as a political force I the United States. For now I want to address two aspects of individualism and collectivism that are at the heart of much unrest: public policy and legal justice.

Public Policy

Since MLK’s famous “I have a dream” speech America has slid leftward in its approach to public policy. From desegregation of schools to the absurd modern requirements of Title IX funding for university sports teams. (There is a reason why women’s field hockey exists yet no one attends.) It has even, under the Obama Administration, taken on the topic of rape – now called “rape culture” because the absurd “1 in 4 women will be raped on a college campus” narrative doesn’t hold up.

This is a mix of individualism and collectivism in the formation of public policy, largely along lines of “historical victimization” or to use the more academic terms hegemon (those with power) and subaltern (those without power). And simply put, our public policy is “a tangle of thorns.” So I am going to propose a solution, public policy should be made using the best available science, incorporating historical understanding, and created for a collective or tribal view of society. What does that mean in practice?

Let us look at the educational field for insight.

Currently, in the education we have many policies that were instituted to make sure minorities, specifically blacks and Hispanics, succeed just as whites and Asians succeed without the policies. We have affirmative action, “no child left behind,” head start pre-schooling, various scholarships for minorities and now some universities are even giving minorities their own housing. But isn’t this collective or tribal policy? No, I would argue that it isn’t. Indeed these policies are intended to create an equal outcome for individual minorities but were formed without the input from science and history.

I’ve been in higher education for most of my adult life, and I’ve seen the effects of these policies on the people they were intended to help. Some people, usually whites, Jews and Asians, are opposed to affirmative action because of the effects on their own admission to top universities. There is some merit to this argument, but really we have more students in higher education today than at any point in history. Universities are businesses and will make room for you and your student loan money. I promise.

I’m opposed to affirmative action because it is an individualist solution to a collective problem. It admits many unprepared individual minority students to universities they have no business attending. They can’t cut it. I’ve seen this, first hand, for over a decade. But I don’t dare bring it up to my faculty advisor or write about it in our school newspaper. I have seen many black and Hispanic students struggle at our university simply because they do not have the learned skills (from their family, culture, and heritage) for academic success at this level.

Affirmative action students are routinely put into remedial reading and math classes. They come to my class unaccustomed to the level and intensity of reading (about 75 pages a night) required for success. They lack the analytical skills acquired through high school courses designed to prepare one for university success. Though this is mostly a failure of public education, which is a similar problem. In short, I oppose the individualist approach to solving the problem of minority underperformance because the solution actually harms those individuals it was intended to help.

So what would be a collective approach to solving minority underperformance? Well, first we need to actually address the fact that black and Hispanic families do not often emphasize education to their children. (There are many on the left trying their best to disprove this, but from personal experience, it is true.)

Many minorities have told me over the years that they believe schools should prepare their children for higher education, often failing to realize that education is not something which should be confined to school. It requires homework. It requires families that can help their children learn the skills necessary to succeed at the highest levels. And from what I’ve seen from my academic career, this often does not happen. It’s cultural, and since culture is derived from heritage, it is in part racial. To ignore the notion that it is black and Hispanic students falling behind is to plug your ears and pretend we should admit these students as individuals and expect them to succeed as individuals.

Instead we should encourage the current generation of minority students to find success in fields that do not require a college degree. Many Hispanics already do this. Indeed many whites do this as well. There is no indignity in honest work. As a society we look at plumbers, electricians, welders and mechanics (to name a few), as lesser jobs, or at least less prestigious jobs. We should use high school to prepare less academically gifted (meaning average or low IQ) students for a successful life without a college degree. And there is nothing wrong with not having a college degree. Neither of my parents went to college, and both were successful for many years. (The necessity of a college degree is a topic for another post.)

So this is where the collectivist public policy prescription comes into play. IQ testing has been shown to have racial correlations. There are many science deniers who object to this, just read the article I linked (the researcher doesn’t want the research pursued), and resort to ad hominum attacks such as calling the proponents racists. But that does not negate the fact that IQ testing is a necessary factor in determining who should go to college, what colleges they should go to, and what they should major in. Indeed,many on the left are insisting on ignoring the SAT and ACT for the sake of diversity.

So I propose that we use IQ testing to determine, from perhaps first grade on, which students will be placed in rigorous classes. Yes there will be individual black and Hispanics placed in these classes. Few would doubt that Ben Carson has a very high IQ. But in truth, we would see a large portion of the black and Hispanic students put in more slowly paced classes. And in high school we should encourage students with low IQs to take classes that will prepare them for working class jobs.

This is not a bad thing. Indeed, I believe much of the anger in the black community today results from the broken promises of the left’s equality fetish. For at least fifty years blacks have been promised success on par with whites, if only blacks were given the same opportunities as whites, and have not achieved it. The left claims it is because of “systemic racism” rather than owning up to the fact that IQ and race matter. And when we as a society have a limited amount of funds available for education, we should not squander it on social justice motivated equality projects.

So this is just a look at one instance of collectivism, as embodied by IQ scores, as a public policy prescription. What then of individualism? Well I believe in individualism. Perhaps it is a hangover from my libertarian days, but I think (and I do believe I left room in my collectivist public policy above for exceptional individuals of all races) we should enforce our public policies from an individualist perspective.

Legal Justice

Legal justice is policy enforcement. At its best it is individualist, though much like contemporary American public policy, we’ve muddled individualism with collectivism in legal enforcement. For example, see the recent Brock Turner case for evidence that the legal system for some today (in this case a male) was used to punish an individual for the perceived crimes of many (other men who’ve gotten away with rape).

Many women who claimed rape at college have been shown to be liars (Duke La Crosse, UVA, mattress girl). And men are not taking it anymore. This greatly embarrasses the feminists and SJWs who push the narrative of a college rape. For them Brock Turner was the proof they’ve been looking for. If he was guilty, so also was every man accused of rape. The difference? Turner was convicted. But for the leftists, feminists, and SJWs his conviction was not enough. In their rush for collective justice they went after the judge for who did not give him a sentence worthy of a million-bajillion rapes.

I propose that for a more just and content society we should disentangle the two and rely upon individualism for the enforcement of our collectivist public policies.

Back to education for a detailed discussion. Allow me to use a personal story to illustrate my point.

From the time that I was able to read I’ve been fascinated with space and NASA. My life goal was, like many who grew up in the ‘80s, to be an astronaut. When I was in high school I took all the honors classes I could. I struggled in math and physics, but excelled in history and literature. It was enough to get me into a good (but not top) university.

I began as a physics major with a minor in astronomy. But the truth is, I only made it through about two years of this course before my grades began to suffer. I was not talented (or smart enough) for the differential equations used in quantum mechanics. I busted my ass for a B+ in Newtonian Mechanics (and I’m still proud of how hard I worked). But by the end of sophomore year I was hoping for a future at JPL (NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory) and I intended to get my foot in the door with an undergraduate research project/internship.

But then I didn’t get it. It wasn’t because of my lack of hard work. It was because I was competing with people whose IQ’s and specific talents are more suited to physics than mine. I was competing with minds from MIT and Caltech for the precious few spots available. But I did get an internship: at an oil company. And it was interesting, and unexpected, and more suited to my mind.

So I changed my major to geophysics. As a physics major I earned two scholarships, just enough to keep me afloat financially. But as a geophysics major I earned many scholarships. So many in fact that I was able to graduate from this university debt free, despite coming from a working class family.

This brings me to one scholarship that in particular that I earned: the McNair Scholarship. At the time this was a scholarship open to any first generation university student with an excellent GPA and SAT score, and an interest in a PhD program. At the time it was open to men and women of any race and background, as long as you were a first generation college student. And it was mostly populated with whites, about three-quarters of us were male. But that’s not the case anymore. Now they take into account race and gender in determining who gets the scholarship. I disagree with collectivism in public policy enforcement.

But wait, am I not being contradictory? Above I advocated accounting for race in determining public policy. Why shouldn’t the government account for race in administering scholarships to help minority students succeed where whites and Asians already have?

Because that’s not individualism. I advocate for collectivism in the formation of public policy. We should put an IQ requirement on public scholarships. But that enforcement will not prevent high IQ individuals of any race or gender from obtaining those scholarships. Generally speaking, it may not be conducive to creating a mass of black mathematicians at NASA, but it will create a society where people succeed with their innate skills. Again, in terms of enforcing public policy I am in favor of individualism not collectivism.

So this is where we are as a society. We have an entangled mess of public policy and public policy enforcement. If we are to solve our problems, we must disentangle those twin ideas. As Americans we are often lectured about “rugged individualism” being the reason for America’s greatness, at least by conservatives and some libertarians. The problem is that this ignores emerging scientific and historical truths about groups, women and men, blacks and whites. Liberals tend to look at groups and then proceed to engineer social justice policies that will ensure the equality of the groups. This results in a regression to the lowest common denominator, punishing the exceptional individuals of any group. Neither solution is satisfactory, and neither leads to individual happiness.

The simple fact is that we must draw our public policies and legal enforcements of those policies from two different ideologies. It will be hard for some to accept this. It goes against what we are taught through the public indoctrination programs, the media, and entertainers.

But what of the alt-right and individualism? Many of the alt-right will rightly look at the collective interests of a group and understand that individuals will identify with a group/race/gender and then advocate for the interests of that group. But we, as a movement, must begin to establish a rigorous ideology that accounts for both group interests and individual exceptionally, without fetishizing either.

I will no doubt talk about this further in other posts, as individualism and education are dear to my heart. But for now this is where we start.


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