[Paleopsych] John Derbyshire: The Great Syllogism

Premise Checker checker at panix.com
Mon Aug 15 22:55:45 UTC 2005

John Derbyshire: The Great Syllogism

    National Review Online
    June 10th, 2003

    Reader, I have been vouchsafed a revelation, a sudden flash of
    understanding, a satori, a glimpse of the inner workings of the
    universe, of the waters that are under the earth, of the hidden
    tissues that connect aspects of reality not normally thought of as
    being related to each other in any way at all.  Illuminated by that
    flash was quite a large part of the entire political landscape of the
    present-day USA, as if seen from a plane through a sudden gap in the

    I am going to lay out my revelation in three parts:  a preamble, then
    a syllogism, then a conclusion.  The syllogism seems to me so
    all-encompassing and revelatory that, shucking off false modesty, I am
    going to call it The Great Syllogism.  (Students of classical logic
    may complain that it is not, strictly speaking, a syllogism at all
    more like a dilemma.  Syllogism has taken my fancy, though, and
    Merriam-Websters Third seems to permit this usage.  How many students
    of classical logic are there nowadays anyway?)

    Are you sitting comfortably?  Then I'll begin.

      * Preamble.

    Not so much a preamble as a actual amble, conducted here in the outer
    New York suburbs, through some leafy streets with houses standing on
    plots that vary from one-sixth to one-half of an acre, and that show
    up in real-estate catalogs, when they do show up, at prices from the
    low 300s to the high 600s.  The time:  around nine thirty on a weekday
    morning.  My state of mind:  I had finished my breakfast, read the
    newspaper, seen the kids off to school and the wife off to work,
    attended to some e-mail chores, and read some news and opinion pieces
    on the internet.  Among the latter was [2]Peter Woods review of John
    Ogbus Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb.  Then I set out
    to walk my dog.

    There arent many people around in the burbs at this time of the
    morning.  Other than a couple of encounters with neighbors, the human
    beings I saw fell into three categories.
      * Garden-service contractors.  These people pull up in vans and
        trucks, unload mowers, trimmers and blowers, and set to work
        keeping the gardens neat and tidy.  Lots of these, very noisy and
        a bit of a nuisance on that account, but better they should do
        this on weekdays than at weekends.

      * Home-improvement contractors.   I passed three or four houses that
        were being fixed up in one way or another having an extension
        built, getting a new roof or siding put on.

      * An elderly lady out walking.  She had a baby with her, presumably
        a grandchild, in a stroller being pushed by a childrens nurse.

    The garden-service people are solidly Central-American Indian types,
    though often working for a white boss.  They are small-built,
    dark-skinned and black-haired.  When I give them a friendly greeting
    they seem pleased and greet me back, smiling, but in a way suggesting
    that Good morning! is just about the limit of their English-language

    The construction people are a mix of white and Hispanic, the one
    constant factor being that everyone acting in a supervisory way is
    white.  One of the roofing team the owner of the firm, it sounds like
    is talking up to his man on the roof.  He is doing this through a
    third party, who translates his Noo Yawk English into Spanish.

    The elderly lady out walking with her grandchild is white, but the
    childrens nurse pushing the stroller is a Mayan sculpture come to
    life.  The wordless smile with which she returns my greeting shows
    gold teeth.

    I dont see any black people at all, nor any East Asians.

      * Syllogism.

    (1)  At any point in time this one, for example the United States
    economy needs different kinds of workers in different numbers.  It
    needs a certain number of lawyers, accountants, architects and
    doctors.  It needs a certain number of network supervisors, computer
    programmers, web designers, schoolteachers, tax preparers and nurses.
    It needs a certain number of garden-service workers, lumberjacks, auto
    mechanics, plumbers, steel-fixers, cops, soldiers and child-minders.

    (2)  Always scornful of privileges bestowed by accidents of birth or
    place, this country has a deep attachment to the idea of meritocracy.
    In recent decades we have developed an equally strong emotional
    investment in the concept of racial equality.

    (3)  Our very best efforts at creating a meritocratic education system
    always turn up the same unhappy results:  students of Ashkenazi-Jewish
    and East or South Asian ancestry are over-represented among the
    educational successes, while students of West African ancestry are
    over-represented among the educational failures.

    (4)  All sorts of theories are available to explain (3) John Ogbus is
    only the latest.  Unfortunately we dont know which theory is true.
    Possibly just one of the theories is true.  Possibly the true cause is
    something nobody has thought of yet.  More likely the truth contains
    elements, in different proportions, from several theories.

    (5)  Until we understand the causes of (3), the most meritocratic
    system of education we can devise will produce a society with a
    highly-paid cognitive elite in which persons of Ashkenazi-Jewish and
    East or South Asian ancestry are over-represented, a class of manual
    and service workers in which black people are over-represented, and a
    clerical or small-entrepreneurial class in which white gentiles are

    (6)  Such a society would be grossly offensive to American
    sensibilities.  (See (2) above.)  It would also, in all probability,
    be unhappy and unstable.

    (7)  Adjustments to the meritocratic principle therefore need to be
    made:  affirmative action, imposed diversity quotas in businesses,
    anti-discrimination laws, and so on.  We must trade off some
    meritocracy for social harmony.

    (8)  The effect of these adjustments is as it is intended to be! to
    move up into the clerical class people who, in a pure-meritocratic
    system, would be in the manual class.  (And, to a less significant
    degree, to move up into the cognitive-elite class people who would
    otherwise be clerks.)

    (9)  Corresponding adjustments to shift down into the manual class
    people who would, on a pure-meritocratic principle, be in the clerical
    class, are politically impossible.

    (10)  Therefore the manual class is seriously under-staffed.

    (11)  Millions of Third-worlders are only too glad to come to the USA
    to do manual or low-level service work.

    (12)  Unfortunately the immigration laws do not allow them to come

    (13)  The immigration laws should therefore be changed to permit a
    large inflow of unskilled aliens from the Third World.

    (14)  Such changes are unpopular with large parts of the American
    public, who fear the cultural and economic consequences.

    (15)  Politicians know (14) and therefore will not change the
    immigration laws.  And so:

    (16)  For the sake of social harmony, we have no choice but to turn a
    blind eye while several million unskilled aliens enter our country and
    stay here illegally.

      * Conclusion.

    The paradox is that this particular way of avoiding one kind of social
    disharmony racial stratification by class introduces a different
    kind:  the colonization of large parts of our cities by
    non-English-speaking foreigners who, because of their illegal status,
    are stuck outside the mainstream of American life.  Also because of
    that same status, they are looked on with mistrust by citizens and
    legal immigrants.  This unhappy state of affairs is none the less
    considered, by most of us, to be the lesser of two evils.  Rough,
    dirty and strenuous work must be done.  If, as we suspect is the case,
    the choice is between having that work done by (a) large angry black
    people, or (b) small friendly brown people, well buy the package:
    affirmative action plus massive unrestrained illegal immigration.

    Our political classes, who of course know all that I have been saying
    here, had a plan to finesse the situation by simply regularizing the
    illegals, thus at least removing the stigma of law-breaker from them.
    That plan went up in the smoke of 9/11.  It was, in any case, grossly
    unfair to legal immigrants, who have to jump through numberless hoops
    to get the right to live here (it took me seven years).  We are stuck
    with the present situation, with the Great Syllogism.  Probably we are
    storing up untold trouble for ourselves.  The latest news in my own
    neighborhood is that an exceptionally vicious Central American gang
    named Mara Salvatrucha is now entrenched here on Long Island.
    (Working as landscapers and busboys by day and criminals at night,
    says the [3]New York Post.  Which puts those cheery lawn-service
    workers in a new light.)

    Americans, though, do not lose much sleep over the prospect of future
    evils.  This is a big, empty country filled with boundless optimism.
    [4]David Brooks has remarked that the usual reaction of Americans when
    faced with disapproval, anxiety, and potential conflict is to move
    away.  Similarly, given the choice between a pressing problem today
    and a reckless policy likely to deliver far worse problems tomorrow,
    we opt for the second.  The future, after all, is full of
    possibilities, and by the time that second batch of problems arrives,
    we may have found some way to cope with them.

    Lets hope that that is what happens.  Ross Perot used to speak of the
    giant sucking sound of manufacturing jobs fleeing the U.S. to low-wage
    countries south of the border.  The giant sucking sound I am actually
    hearing, ten years later, is the sound of millions of unskilled Third
    Worlders being pulled into this country by the vacuum at the bottom of
    the labor market a vacuum we have ourselves created by deciding that
    such low-quality work should not be done by Americans, especially not
    by those Americans most likely to be assigned to it by our educational

    We no longer believe in the dignity of labor.  We all want our kids to
    go to law school, and have convinced ourselves that they have a right
    to do so.  What do you think the slogan No child left behind means?
    It means that no American child should have to become a low-status
    worker.  Thats what it means, and that is what we honestly and
    sincerely wish, because we fear we know what an American-born class of
    low-status workers would look like.  Everything else follows by pure

More information about the paleopsych mailing list