George Floyd and the Rise of the Rival Constitution

On May 25th, 2020, a Minneapolis police officer subdued a suspected forger by placing his knee on the suspect’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. The encounter was filmed and wildly disseminated. The suspect died as a result of several factors, including the officer’s use of excessive force. The officer was subsequently arrested, tried, and convicted of murder. By now, virtually every engaged American knows the story of George Floyd. Beyond the specific facts of the incident, history will place far greater emphasis on what transpired after his death.

The incident, along with constant broadcasting of that disturbing footage by the media, set off a firestorm of protests and riots and a national dialogue—monologue, really—about race and policing. When Christopher Caldwell wrote his penetrating history of the civil rights movement, The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties, he probably did not imagine that, only four months after the book’s appearance, race would become the primary focus of cultural thought, political discourse, and public policy, consuming every major facet of American life, including sports, music, school curricula, police practices, corporate boardrooms, and Congress.

The New York Times took the opportunity to double-down on its discredited 1619 Project. Amazon Prime felt compelled to remind me that “Black Lives Matter” as I content-surfed. Corporations rushed to create vaguely defined diversity and inclusion officers. And the current Vice President of the United States was selected on the basis of her race (and sex) rather than any particular virtue or ability or even the pragmatic need for the ticket to carry her home state of California. Whatever one’s view of this regime, its successes have been extraordinary.

If one wants to understand the intellectual underpinnings of the reaction to Floyd’s death, then The Age of Entitlement is essential reading. Caldwell’s overarching narrative holds that modern America is governed by two fundamentally irreconcilable constitutions. The first is the actual constitution—the one that preserves liberty through the structural protections of the separation of powers and federalism and the rights articulated in its first 10 amendments. The second constitution—what Caldwell calls the “rival constitution”—is a complex web of civil rights statutes, judicial claims, policies and regulations, bureaucracies, and a cultural attitude of entitlement upon which this power structure has been constructed and organized. This is less an extension of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that ended de jure segregation based on race in public accommodations, and more the hardening of an “all-embracing ideology of diversity.”

As Caldwell explains:

Much of what we have called “polarization” or “incivility” in recent years is something more grave—it is the disagreement over which of the two constitutions shall prevail: the de jure constitution of 1788, with all the traditional forms of jurisprudential legitimacy and centuries of American culture behind it; or the de facto constitution of 1964, which lacks the traditional kind of legitimacy but commands the near-unanimous endorsement of judicial elites and civil educators and the passionate allegiance of those who received it as a liberation.

Reading The Age of Entitlement prior to May 25th, 2020, the existential dimension of Caldwell’s argument might have seemed alarmist and overwrought. Today, however, it is surely undeniable that the 2020 unrest—ignited by a single instance of police misconduct but inflamed by selective media coverage, COVID-19 lockdown boredom, BLM ideologues, the demagogic architect of the 1619 Project, and assorted left-wing activists and anarchists—was an outburst of political violence in the name of the rival constitution. For those who favor the actual Constitution (and I do), how we arrived at this moment matters, and Caldwell does an exceptional job of guiding us through the relevant markers of history.

Those reviewers who criticized The Age of Entitlement for being short on history miss the point. Caldwell’s historical analysis is limited, but that is, I suspect, by design. All roads lead to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, so the book primarily focuses on the episodes, attitudes, and motivations that birthed the Act, fueled its transformation from equal protection enforcer to racial preferences gatekeeper, and created its contemporary political and legal superstructure:

Civil rights transformed the country not just constitutionally but also culturally and demographically. In ways few people anticipated, it proved to be the mightiest instrument of domestic enforcement the country had ever seen. It can fairly be described as the largest undertaking of any kind in American history.

No serious person today would dispute the need for federal intervention to dismantle the racialized regime of the segregated South. And at the time, most Americans—black and white alike—who did not live in the Jim Crow South supported the 1964 Act and considered it necessary and just in its aims. They reflexively understood, as Caldwell contends, that “government-sponsored racial inequality was a contradiction of America’s constitutional principles and an affront to its Christian ones.” In his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King, Jr., elucidated this contradiction when he appealed to “the architects of our republic [who] wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence ... that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Nevertheless, using polling data from the '60s, Caldwell demonstrates that whites and blacks had divergent conceptions of what de-segregation and integration entailed. Whites “saw the race problem as something distant. It had to do only, or mainly, with the exotic culture of the South, where segregation was legal.” Non-Southern whites believed “racial harmony had arrived long ago,” so civil rights legislation needed only to end desegregation as a matter of law. With a stroke of the presidential pen, “a system of racial oppression so intricate and ingenious that it had taken three-and-a-half centuries to devise could be dismantled overnight—by sheer open-minded niceness, at no price in rights to anyone.” Non-Southern whites were naïve and failed to apprehend that, “in exchange for civil rights, they were going to have to surrender certain basic freedoms they had until then taken for granted”—primarily, freedom of association.

Blacks, on the other hand, understood intuitively that civil rights law was nothing short of regime change. Professor Alan David Freeman, a sociologist of race and to whose ideas The Age of Entitlement repeatedly returns, explained that, in a system of oppression, blacks were the “victims” and whites the “perpetrators.” They see the world differently:

Victims see racial discrimination as a system of corruption that burdens them in a variety of practical, measurable ways—with “lack of jobs, lack of money, lack of housing.” They are unlikely to view the system as repaired until those practical burdens are removed. Perpetrators, on the other hand, see an ethical failure on the part of society’s leadership and feel society will have done its duty as soon as most people are behaving ethically—speaking out against prejudice and refraining from acts of overt discrimination.

It’s not difficult to extrapolate the “structural” or “systemic” language that we hear so much of today from Freeman's victim-perpetrator paradigm. Within that construct, Caldwell argues, “the most zealous civil rights activists of all races, saw whites as having entered a guilty plea in the court of history, and thus as repudiating the moral posturing on which the good name and the good conscience of their constitutional republic had rested.” In the end, the “systems view” would prove to be more in sync with the regime change that civil rights law precipitated. In 2020, over 55 years after the 1964 Act’s passage, it would herald a fundamental reorientation of American society toward something more racialized, identitarian, redistributive, and borderless. And it would demand silence in the face of screams that whites should “shut up and listen,” bend the knee before BLM protestors, and pledge allyship to designated groups within an intersectional hierarchy of the oppressed.

By 2016, when Caldwell’s historical inquiry ends, the list of victims would include women, undifferentiated “people of color” (save for Asians who are considered something called “white adjacent”), legal immigrants, illegal aliens, the mentally ill, drug addicts, the disabled, homosexuals, transgender people, Muslims, the poor, and even criminals. This non-exhaustive list left only one group as perpetrators: white, heterosexual, Christian males. This monolithic villain would serve as the cause of all America’s problems, not only with respect to race but also the distribution of wealth, schools, equal justice, meritocracy, housing, law enforcement, and foreign affairs (framed invariably as capitalist conquests on behalf of racialized imperialism). This monolith only has crimes for which it must answer, rarely achievements worthy of celebration, save for the 1964 Act.

For two generations, Americans were exposed to the national victim-perpetrator historical narrative and eventually required to embrace it in accordance with the demands of those who occupy the commanding heights of the culture. It is no wonder, then, that debate would give way to broken windows. The 2020 riots were not merely the work of aggrieved minority militants; some of the most wanton acts of property destruction and performative nihilism were executed by young white malcontents pillaging under the banner of social justice.

The riots also resurrected an intellectual and political project over 30 years in the making that, until the post-Floyd “reckoning,” had found no serious constituency outside the precincts of the academy. In 1989, an obscure legal academic at UCLA’s law school named Kimberlé Crenshaw wrote a law journal article, to which she gave the suitably jargonistic title, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.” Crenshaw described how race, sex, class, and other characteristics “intersect” and argued that black women (like Crenshaw) face discrimination that is neither exclusively racist nor sexist, but a combination of both. The result is multiple layers of manifest injustice to the victim classes.

Caldwell, however, offers his own “critical study” of intersectionality—“a philosophical-sounding term for the political strategy of bundling different minorities into a coalition.” The dynamic political force of aggrieved minorities “could benefit in some way from civil rights law,” and continue to divvy up the spoils by “rallying other non-white groups” to the cause. Or as one critical commentator put it, intersectionality takes “the form of sweeping denunciations of disliked beliefs, concepts, and social institutions” and “functions as a normative identification strategy to imbue the characteristics of racism, sexism, white supremacy, and other bigotries onto the oppositional target of the activist’s political agitation.”

Intersectionality is a foundational species of what is now loosely termed Critical Race Theory (CRT). According to a monograph by Professors Jean Stefancic and Richard Delgado, the chief interpreters of this theory, CRT is a “movement” and “collection of activists and scholars interested in studying and transforming the relationship among race, racism, and power.” They stand in opposition to “traditional civil rights discourse, which stresses incrementalism and step-by-step progress,” favoring instead an approach that “questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law.” Activists are “discontent[ed] with liberalism as a framework for addressing America’s racial problems.” The problem, in their view, is that “[m]any liberals believe in color blindness and neutral principles of constitutional law.” Their stated objections to the liberal order and neutral constitutional principles reveal the authoritarian impulse that animates CRT ideologues.

CRT integrates this illiberal instinct with a totalizing racial reductionism which holds that, in the United States, “racism is ordinary, not aberrational”—blacks and other people of color experience the indignities of racism every day. White supremacy is America’s default setting because it “serves important purposes, both psychic and material, for the dominant group.” Race, meanwhile, is a social construct that is exploited, manipulated, and, where expedient, retired for the benefit of the white power structure. Finally, CRT privileges the so-called “unique voice of color” that grants minorities “presumed competence to speak about race and racism” in a manner unavailable to their “white counterparts.” This essentialism, which evolved from feminist standpoint theory, is the reason one cannot recreationally browse a political Twitter thread without somewhere encountering the introductory clause, “As a woman of color...”

In practice, CRT adherents such as BLM view America and its primary political and social institutions as fundamentally corrupt, immoral, and irredeemable. National redemption is out of the question, but individual indulgences are purchased in post-Floyd America through performative displays of public self-flagellation: a craven police chief takes a knee to satisfy the demands of aggressive BLM activists surrounding him and a disturbed Twitter user denounces her “whiteness” and makes meaningless promises to her followers to “do better.” Indeed, in March of this year, a law school dean voluntarily stepped down before anyone had called for her resignation after she drew an ill-considered analogy during a faculty meeting. She then checked herself in for reeducation and counseling to uncover more of her own racism while pleading with her law school to appoint her replacement “as quickly as possible so that I can step aside as Dean even sooner.”

These spectacles are uncomfortable to watch, and they are becoming more common. Rather than incidental acts of political and moral cowardice brought about by an ephemeral “racial reckoning,” these are features of a new American order—a regime governed by the civil rights state, ideologically energized by an “all-embracing ideology of diversity,” the illiberal tenets of CRT, progressive orthodoxy, and statist antiracist doctrine.

The policy implications of the new regime are equally revolutionary. President Biden voiced support for a commission to examine reparations for black Americans—an idea even socialist Bernie Sanders would not endorse in 2019. Two COVID-19 relief bills that the Biden administration approved offered taxpayer funds to black and minority farmers and restauranteurs, excluding whites from receiving aid. This makes a certain sense under the victim-perpetrator paradigm of racial justice, but three federal courts have since found the policies unconstitutional because “the loan forgiveness program is based entirely on the race” of the applicant. One can at least find consolation in these judicial decisions.

In New York alone, a billion dollars has been removed from the NYPD’s budget following demands to “defund the police,” and America's major cities are now engulfed by a crime wave not seen since the early 1990s. While BLM hardliners stand ready to revolt should a black man be shot by a police officer—whether or not the use of lethal force is justified under the circumstances—the movement’s leaders remain silent about the 100 people shot and 18 killed in Chicago over the 2021 July 4th weekend, almost all of whom were black men and children. This glaring discrepancy is largely ignored by people who know better. Neither the self-inflicted public shaming nor racialized policies at the highest level of American government would have materialized without decades of elite ratification of the rival constitution illuminated by Caldwell.

By no means as illuminating or convincing is Caldwell’s critique of President Reagan’s eight years in the White House. This includes the claim that “Reaganism shared certain of the counterculture’s deepest aspirations,” and that the President merely “tapped rather than embodied” conservatism. Caldwell complains that Reagan “changed the country’s political mood for a while, but left its structures untouched.” [Emphasis Caldwell's.] According to this view, Reagan did little to dismantle the civil rights and welfare state that defined post-Great Society America, but instead used debt to permit “Americans to live under two social orders, two constitutional orders, at the same time.”

The Reagan faithful may be tempted to dismiss this criticism as part of a new revisionist history on the Right—as recently as the 2012 presidential primary season, every Republican candidate pledged fidelity to Reagan’s philosophy at his eponymous library in Santa Barbara. Today, however, one hears some conservatives deride “Zombie Reaganism,” tax cuts, and even ending the Cold War as they seek to move toward a new agenda focused on workers, trade, and regulating big tech.

Caldwell places too much power in the executive branch. While castigating Reagan for not doing more to slow the growth of Pell Grants is fine, he elides the caveat that the president—any president—is constrained by two other branches of government. Reagan governed with a Democratic majority in the House, which had neither the political appetite nor the ideological commitment to take on the civil rights and entitlement machine that Caldwell describes. Similarly, the federal courts were populated by judges reared in the robust injunctive mechanisms of the 1964 Act. During that era, judicial incentives, the legal academy, and the establishment rewarded more judicial forays into the political process, not fewer. Prudence, that Burkean virtue of statesmanship, generally compels serious men to emphasize what can be practically accomplished rather than pursuit of ideological maximalism.

Caldwell also ignores the coherent race-neutral jurisprudence of Reagan’s attorney general, Edwin Meese, and his top civil rights lawyer, William Bradford Reynolds. Reynolds, who served as the Justice Department’s Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division for the entirety of the Reagan presidency, worked tirelessly—if not always successfully—to rein in the civil rights apparatus that Caldwell indicts. Reagan hired Reynolds consistent with his promise to appoint officials who would carry out his policies of “non-discrimination.” As chief of the Civil Rights Division, Reynolds pledged to dedicate his office “to the principled path of color-blindness, where the right to be free from government-imposed discrimination (no matter how benign the motive) inheres in all individuals.” His philosophical commitments were manifest: “If history taught us any lesson at all, it is that the use of race to justify treating individuals differently—whether they be black or white—can never be legitimate. Regrettably, we have too often disregarded that admonition, always with predictably dire consequences.”

Under the Meese-Reynolds approach, the Justice Department sought to severely limit the use of counterproductive school busing and racial preferences generally. Reynolds reoriented the Civil Rights Division to challenge what he called “the remedies of overreaction,” and to employ the 1964 Act to ensure “racial quotas in the workforce [and] the schoolroom” ended. One would be hard-pressed to find any daylight between Reynolds’s position and Caldwell’s in this respect. Given Caldwell’s erudition, range, and body of work, it is unlikely that this omission of directly relevant historical material was an oversight. The safer assumption is that the Reagan project to curtail the civil rights state undercuts the thrust of Caldwell’s primary critique. Ignoring unhelpful facts is an understandable impulse, but in a survey of the modern civil rights movement, the reader is owed this history.

Reviving the legacy of William Bradford Reynolds is for another day. The larger and more urgent matter—the rival constitution’s seemingly unstoppable conquest of American institutions—requires attention now. The Age of Entitlement vindicates the observation by Angelo M. Codevilla (Caldwell’s colleague at the Claremont Institute) that, in the name of opposing discrimination, the 1964 Act “became the little law that ate the Constitution.” Under the rival constitution, American elites in the post-Floyd moment have never wielded a greater sense of power to impose their doctrines of race and social justice, policing and criminal justice, and economic redistribution that prioritizes an intersectional order of the deserving.

The grand American pluralistic experiment has endured because it ensures that diverse peoples embrace the unifying and, at the time, radical idea announced in the Declaration of Independence: “...that all men are created equal.” Contrary to the contemporary platitude, it is not diversity that is our strength, but the American Creed animated by the Declaration’s equality principle and the Constitution’s guarantee thereof. In An American Dilemma, Swedish economist and sociologist Gunnar Myrdal observed, “Americans of all national origins, class, regions, creeds, and colors have something in common: a social ethos, a political creed. It is difficult to avoid the judgment that this ‘American Creed’ is the cement in the structure of this great and disparate nation.” The new racialist regime takes a jackhammer to that cement, rejecting the unifying principles of the American political, legal, and economic order. This arrangement cannot continue indefinitely.

Ultimately, Caldwell is light on solutions (or serious tradeoffs), short of repealing the 1964 Act, which he knows will not happen. But The Age of Entitlement’s value lies in its diagnosis of the problem. Concerned Americans can no longer afford denial. As they say in 12-step programs, acknowledging the problem is the first step toward recovery. With every unpunished riot, CRT curriculum victory, repressed opinion, abolished standardized test, elected progressive prosecutor, permissive criminal justice reform, woke army general, and discriminatory Biden administration policy, the new regime fortifies its position. What small or large event will trigger the constitutional crisis is anyone’s guess. But this much is plain: When that great constitutional conflict arises, the actual Constitution and the colorblind principles it encompasses must prevail.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://quillette.com/2021/09/17/george-floyd-political-violence-and-the-rise-of-the-rival-constitution/
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The root reason behind the likely pending fall of American Empire is the emergence of a super-class of Left-leaning liberals (I would call them Leftist) whose basic psychology is fundamentally different from their fellow countrymen and from everyone else in the world. They are Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich (in global terms) and Democratic, or WEIRD. They are not exclusive to America, and are to be found in Europe and a few other majority white economically privileged parts of the world.

For those unfamiliar with Moral Foundations Theory (click here to find out what you are), it’s all laid out in Jonathan Haidt’s seminal work The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. There are six core Moral Foundations care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation and liberty/oppression. Cosmopolitan liberals (Leftists) for the most part loath the theory- there have been numerous attempts to disconfirm it, all of which have failed miserably. The issue with cosmopolitan liberals they are incapable of understanding even the complete basic needs (Maslow) of the people the purport to want to help. To them low value, hard, gritty work is demeaning- to almost everyone else, it’s the lifeblood of community- the reason why it thrives or slowly dies. They are also deeply uncomfortable with the idea that the social conservatives who they so deride have far more in common with almost everyone else in the world than themselves, or indeed with most minority groups.

Perhaps the best illustration of cosmopolitan liberals misconceptions about other people comes from the history of the War on Poverty. By the sixties it was rapidly becoming apparent that the abundance created by industrial and agricultural productivity would create labour shortages- at the time they didn’t foresee the extent of the rise of the service sector. It was theorised that the only way to avert the pending crisis was to pay people a government supplement to stay at home and not work. The Democrats were convinced it would be a sure-fire vote-winner- imagine their surprise when they found that sizeable portions of the dispossessed populations they were trying to help didn’t want welfare, they wanted work.

You see, according to an even more firmly established piece of psychometric psychology, the Big Five Personality Model, (test here), liberals are high in trait Openness to New Experience and low in trait Conscientiousness. It’s a key characteristic of entrepreneurs and innovators (although liberals are terrible at running things well in general, because that requires conscientiousness and meticulous attention to detail) and is somewhat correlated with intelligence. The key to understanding why they were so dismayed by the reaction is because those high in trait Openness and low in trait conscientiousness tend to see labour, and especially low value monotonous or repetitious labour, as inherently exploitative- because to them there could be nothing worse than this life of quiet desperation.

By contrast, social conservatives (who in America can vary a great deal in political affiliation) are high in conscientiousness and low in openness, it’s why they tend to value the status quo and personal responsibility. To them labour is meaning. It’s why, if given the choice between government cheques and spending all day sitting on a sofa watching TV, or taking huge personal risks frequenting street corners and back alleys, so many young men of all races would willingly choose the latter. It’s why, if you are an older man living in Montana whose job, vocation and sense of meaning has been stolen from you, you are just as likely to end-up in the hospital overdosed as you are to suicide. Maslow missed something out- for so many- in addition to food, water, warmth, rest, safety and security, people need labour.

Of course, the dynamics are different when the social decay of joblessness and intergenerational welfare set in. It’s why everything is so dysfunctional in communities without labour. It is socio-economic, but liberals seem to think that it’s the economics, a lack of material needs being met, which cause the despair and the hopelessness, when reality it is the absence of labour which causes almost all the problems. It’s why whenever they go outside the Western bubble, to them people can seem to live in such desperate poverty, but to be relatively poor in West can, in so many ways, be so much worse, because what it really means is to be labourless. This doesn’t mean we should abandon welfare, but why perpetuate a system which causes so much harm- when it would be so easy to design one which doesn’t take away everything with the first dollar earned, but instead slowly eases people off welfare and into work, whilst supplementing those with perennially low incomes?

But back to the Moral Foundations. Although there are other way in which liberals and conservatives differ (a Left-leaning liberal’s psychology is care/harm and fairness/cheating, whilst conservatives possess these two, as well as the other moral dimensions- with the sanctity so key to their religiosity), the one characteristic I would like to focus on is the key difference between the way the two psychologies view fairness/cheating. For social conservatives it’s a matter of fairness in terms of proportionality- you deserve what you get according to your ability and the hard work you put it in.

For Left-leaning liberals it is equality in the sense that they want people to be as equal as possible in the distributive sense, they loath inequality of any sort, and whilst they might be somewhat mollified by the comforting lie that everyone has their forte, a unique talent of gift which for many as yet lies undiscovered, they are horrified to discover that high cognitive abilities tend to group or that successful professional athletes, performers, music artists all tend to be of higher than average intelligence because it takes smarts to manage the criteria to optimise your success. Even the highly attractive tend to be above average in intelligence, because it requires grooming, dress sense with an eye to making the most of what you’ve got and taking care of oneself in terms of diet and exercise.

Social conservatives see it differently, for them equality is all about fairness (if Rawlsian fairness is set aside). It’s the quintessential divide over equality of outcome versus equality of opportunity. Recently, there was an attempt to repeal prop 209, with prop 16, which would have seen a return to affirmative action and an attempt to arbitrarily redistribute opportunities in racial terms. But why did it fail in an overwhelmingly liberal state? Well, despite the the fact that wealthier white liberals thought it was a good idea, especially suburban women, many of the key constituencies it sought to help like Latinos didn’t want it. Even African Americans only voted for it by the tiniest of margins, which- given that men tend to skew more socially conservative- would mean that African American men (who have the done the least well under a socio-economic system designed by neoliberals), who stood the most to gain, were evenly split. This Pew survey tells us more- for the socio-economically privileged who almost exclusively compromise the Left-leaning liberal psychology, equity makes perfect sense- they are all keen advocates of Rawls and equity is just an extension of redistributive policies to status and position- but for those further down the economic spectrum, they just want a shot, a level playing field, they want fairness.

If we look back on all the triumphs of the Civil Rights era, it was fairness which was at stake, not equity. It had to be fairness in order to garner mass support through the simple necessity that the Moral Foundations of the majority in society are always going to grounded in fairness. Being in the top- which is almost a requirement of Left-leaning liberal psychology- is always going to be relative. Equally, when Ruth Bader Ginsberg quoted Sarah Moore Grimké with “I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks” in her famous plea to the Supreme Court it was an appeal to basic fairness, not equity. Equality under Law, or justice, can only exist in a framework of equality of opportunity, for the simple reason that equity requires we treat people unequally. To put it another way Lady Justice has to be blind to preference to provide justice, and if she has presided over all manner of travesties and cruel inhumanities in the past it was because men are fallible, they insert their own preference over our highest ideals- she was blind in the past, but blind to injustice.

I always fail to find this particular psychology experiment online, but I will try explaining it nonetheless. A group of students in one of Scandinavian countries were divided into teams of two. They were given a set of maths questions and given a pot of money, based upon their paired scores, to divide between themselves. To no one’s surprise they did not divide the spoils equally, but what was surprising, and perhaps more than a little revelatory, is that they did not divide the prize up per question answered correctly. Instead those who got all of the questions right were disproportionately rewarded, whilst those who only answered a few questions right only received a consolatory pittance.

Let’s do a thought experiment. If we were to maroon five men and five women on a deserted island. If we came back six months later, we know innately and can almost guarantee that one of the men will have taken charge. He will always be the one who is hyper-competent in the outdoor domain, good at fishing and hunting, creating shelters and at lighting fires. A degree of specialisation will have emerged. Three of the other four men will have made themselves useful, perhaps surpassing in him in one prized task. Meanwhile, there will be one man who is resentful of his low status, shirks his responsibility and is generally useless.

The leader will by necessity be a good leader, if he is not the group will be dead- but chance favours him, because by its very nature having something of great value to offer the group invites reciprocity and establishes a hierarchy. Meanwhile the women will have returned to their gatherer roots and established a pecking order of their own, but at least some of their status will revolve around who has established access to the prize male. To be fair, it probably wouldn’t be that gender specific- at least if our nearest neighbours, the chimpanzees are anything to go by- there are females who run with the males- and we even have extensive evidence of female hunters. And with humans, we have every reason to believe from the archaeological record, that there were male artists and shamans who staid with the women.

You see we don’t have to imagine. There is ample empirical evidence to suggest that hunter gatherer societies possessed inequality- it may have been an inequality most similar to modern Denmark, but it was unequal, nonetheless. It goes against the grain, anyone attracted to theorising is likely to be high in trait openness to new experience and going to want to imagine an egalitarian past before inequality- just as many today imagine that life before industrialisation or in traditional non-intensive farming communities today was or is pastoral or idyllic when the truth is nature is brutally oppressive, life is or was short and generally malnourished- but the truth is that inequality is baked in.

We have to also remember that impoverished society generally have less inequality for the simple reason that there is far less of a distance to rise above others. Recent evidence has shown that with the advent of farming, inequality grew alongside wealth (although by todays standards it could hardly be classed as wealth). And, by degree, through the dark satanic mills of industrialisation, to mass produced and the dawn of the information age we have seen inequality grow by a staggering extent.

So what’s the solution? Well, some would argue that we don’t need one- that it is only material poverty which should concern us. Others like Charles Murray would have us believe that there is no solution, and we should simply learn to value other things, and they are right to an extent, but only to an extent. Because what this ignores is the priceless value of labour as a basic need. I’ve witnessed its transformative value myself- listless, apathetic boys barely past their teens turned into cheeky energetic young men, driving hire purchase cars and sporting girlfriends on their arms.

In order to understand the roots of our current existential crisis, we need how to understand how we solved the last one. Universal public education was largely instituted as a response to the general discontent and occasional rioting of the 19th century. It was by no means confined to America and swept through the Western Democracies. But gradually, as with de-industrialisation, the role of the vocational side of education was eroded and neglected and we slept walked into a system which places value on only one tiny aspect of human achievement, educational attainment.

Think through the consequences of this for a second. By its very nature education grades on curve, even if one is not imposed. It’s why participation medals are not only worthless, but cruel and a source of embarrassment- like a certificate of attendance upon graduating high school. It’s cruel and inhuman and teaches at least 50% of our kids they are worthless by the time they are 16. It’s why many, including some teachers, are so hell-bent on removing excellence wherever it is to be found and imposing equity in its place- because if there are no unequal outcomes there is no heartbreak, no slow grinding down of the soul.

But it is the wrong answer. Here is the right one- and, by the way, the answer to so many other cruel problems and racial inequities. Fathers have value in so many ways, but chief amongst them is their value when as collective and productive mentors- as a communal safety net for their community. When this roughly half or more of underperforming boys finish school so dejected, demoralised and downtrodden by a system which only values one single dimension of the whole range of human attributes which society can and does value, fathers step in to whisper in their ear “yes, you can have value”. Mike needs someone else to go up that ladder and onto that roof. Simon needs another driver for his deliveries. Would you like to be a plumber, an electrician, a baker?

Much of Professor Raj Chetty’s work into social mobility has recently been lost in the white noise of inequality, race and the drive for equity, but one single fact remains an absolute axiom- productive fathers in the community are the single biggest driver of upward social mobility in the West. It’s why even though the UK fares far better in terms of racial inequality than America, with average earnings for Black and White people roughly equal for the 18 to 30 age bracket, unequal levels of unemployment stubbornly persist, with Black unemployment roughly twice that of whites.

America needs to get radical with education, and reintroduce vocationally orientated education for every kid who doesn’t do well academically at 14. Fix that and you’ll see educational outcomes (and IQ) rise with the next generation. Because nothing raises overall ability beyond the innate more than the division of labour and the high parental engagement levels that come with two parent homes and it amplifies out through the peer group, because of self-selection in housing, and by extension schools. Pair that with a decent system of vocational mentoring for school leavers and you have decent shot a restoring a healthy society and one with a great deal more racial equality.

Take a look at this Swedish Sibling Adoption Study on the Malleability of IQ. Go to Fig. 1- notice how the there is a modest gain even with a slight downward shift in socio-economics- that’s because adoption systems select for two parent homes. But why does it drop so precipitously with a larger downward shift? Well, part of it socio-economic, but the larger part is because it necessarily means single parent peer groups because the parents can’t afford to live in areas where two parent families are prevalent. The cruel necessity of single parenthood means less parental engagement through the struggle for hours in the day most single parents encounter, and this is particularly important in the early pre-school years.

So we have three factors- socio-economic, parental status and peer group parental status. Here is the thing- the further we go up the the socio-economic spectrum- the more we select for two parent homes. You can’t go online without tripping over an article telling us that marriage is now a luxury good. Taken as a whole there is roughly an 11 point IQ gap between the top and the bottom. To be fair, it will average downwards in mean, but given that we know the socio-economics, parental status and peer group parental status all disfavour African Americans I think that this is a major dent in the argument for racial IQ gaps, which recent studies have shown is shrinking in the West already .

And here’s the beauty building success for communities from the ground upwards. There is no lack of blue collar jobs within the American economy- many of them paying significantly more than those available to many university graduates- if anything many of them are standing vacant as we speak. Especially if America favours its own disadvantaged, dejected and demoralised sons over those who are undocumented, then it has a chance at healing its wounds both psychic and real. Because the beauty of educating young men to fill blue collar jobs is you naturally create a cohort of responsible, productive and eligible young males.

In reality, stable family formation might have a less to do values than many think, with culture almost a distraction to one simple truth- it generally only happens when hypergamy can exist. Simply put, women might sleep with a man if he is a attractive and popular amongst his peers, but she will only settle down with him if he is a productive contributor. In this, culture or values matter less than the right benign conditions.

Ever since I watched Mellody Hobson and Adam Foss on Ted Talks I’ve been looking for answers. As I’ve watched events unfold in America from across the Pond in the UK, I have had an increasing sense of urgency and despair. I watched 13th, read The New Jim Crow, but in order to maintain balance and my critical thinking capacities I also read The War On Cops. It’s also what brought me to Quillette, because in addition the often dissenting and controversial articles it features, it also has a pretty intellectually diverse and well-read crowd.

I read about policing, education anything and everything I could get my hands on which might explain the mounting problems I could see building across the ocean. And, of course, in my travels I inevitably came across race and IQ. I don’t generally hold with the belief that ideas are harmful, but this one made me sick. I slept fitfully day this. It physically hurt me. I cannot even begin to imagine the assault to dignity being on the other side of the equation entails, even though it tells me nothing whatsoever about any single person as an individual. But rather than calling it a pseudoscience or claiming cultural bias I set out to investigate it. I won’t claim objectivity- my reasoning was high motivated- I wanted to destroy it. And, in my own small way, I think I’ve gone a good way to accomplishing just that.

In my journey, I’ve come across conservatives, argued with them, laughed with them and shared with them. If you are on the Left, they are nothing like you imagine. Apart from anything else I desperately needed them- because I knew in my bones that the problem could be solved by liberal thinking alone, the universities would have solved it decades ago. You truly are cousins separated by a common language- politics. Two warring tribes of brothers so resigned to the bad faith and insult hurled their way, they have no option but to return more in kind. I hope I’ve helped diagnose the problem, offer you a blueprint for how to fix it. The problem is a well without a ladder which some communities have sunken into, which all efforts so far to provide a ladder having failed. I hope (and pray) my ladder fares better.

As usual my essays are free to view and comment on my Substack:

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Maybe. You could call wokeness a rival constitution I suppose but constitutions imply law and order and social contracts and the other things that glue a society together. Wokeness is certainly an ideology but IMHO it is too flattering to call it a constitution. It aims to destroy and replace whitey and either destroy or steal all his works, but once the looting and burning is finished, do we really have a new constitution? I’d say at the very most optimistic we have noble but vague ideas about Equity, but no, not a constitution.

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Perhaps Mr. Trainor failed to expand sufficiently on the key point which is that the US Supreme Court itself created the second constitution between its decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) [segregated schools] and Bostock v. Clayton County (2020) [trans as a protected class under the Civil Rights Act of 1964].

The key decisions were Griggs v. Duke Power (1971) [disparate impact] and Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978) [diversity]. “Wokeness” is the product of these decisions.

Since, like the Pope, the Supreme Court has also assumed the mantle of being infallible and therefore the final arbiter what is and what is not “constitutional” (Cooper v Aaron (1958)), the US now has two constitutions, the ratified written one and the unwritten one the Supreme Court has concocted in hundreds, if not thousands, of district, circuit and Supreme Court decisions since 1954. These have become the day to day law of the land. Some of us have been referring to the nine justices on the Supreme Court as the Nine Nazgûl for a generation or more; we take their decisions as a parable on how do evil while convincing yourself and everyone else you’re doing good.

So we now do have two constitutions. Geary Johansen’s comment is a good background to the motivations of the liberal judges that have infested the Supreme Court since 1940.

Every time the problem of having two constitutions has arisen in the Anglo-American segment of our common Anglosphere it has resulted in civil war. It happened in 1642 in England with the Magna Carta versus sovereign prerogative (the first settlers of New England were Independent Parliamentarians). It happened in 1775 when “the ancient rights and liberties of Englishmen” in North America collided with the prerogatives of Parliament in Great Britain. And it happened again in the US in 1861 when the Constitution was silent on the point of secession.

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Powerfully argued sir. Yes, I take your point. I’ve always admired your SCOTUS from a distance, but you do throw a cloud over it.

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Quite right, The main thing which gets in the way of what you and I might think obvious is that the British have operated with that unwritten Constitution for even longer than the US has had a written constitution. There’s seems to wortk fairly well for them, most of the time, and courts seem to have ways to know what it says (and even use it to interfere with the PM). And in plenty of other places, written ‘constitutions’ are routinely violated, so there ain’t nothin so special about ours being written (the only difference being that some us believe that ours is worth more than the parchment it is written on).

But it’s from that line of argument that we get the notion of the Living Constitution, in which the written version is just the imperfectly recorded example of the Ideal Platonic constitution, which the courts continually discover.

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One of the things in politics that never stops fascinating me is how much better the Westminster system works in practice than the American system. On paper theirs is vastly superior, carefully designed by very wise men, yet it seems to be perpetually broken. Dumb old Parliament seems to some how get it done. We even know how to hold an election. I’ve got my card in the mail, tomorrow I’ll go to the designated school gym – with mask on and ID ready (what sane country allows voting without ID? Just askin’.) Get my paper ballot after my name is ruled out on the voter’s list, grab a pencil, make my X and be home in under half an hour. By evening, we’ll have the results. One or two close calls will be recounted and that will be that. Easy.

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If the Woke Constitution were to emerge victorious, I think it could indeed manifest itself as a proper document under which a government is formed. It might even resemble the 1789 document in most regards, except explicitly defined gaps in coverage inspired by the original’s lack of concern with non-whites, non-landowners, and women. One need only look to the University Handbooks of 2021 to see what the text might look like… “All students are free to express themselves, unless they have the wrong skin color, gender, religion, national origin, haircut etc.”

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I agree. The American system has far too many veto points, which leads to both gridlock and the overuse of procedural loopholes like executive orders and reconciliation bills. When one party is dominant the other party has an incentive to play nice and compromise, but when control of the government flips as frequently as it has over the past several decades the out-party has an incentive to engage in scorched-Earth obstructionism.

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A few months back the Wall Street Journal ran this.

Its behind a paywall but its very good. Actually changed my mind.

It makes several of these same points. However further argues that a system with so many veto points actually makes extremely crazy legislation all but inevitable. Eventually one party or the other will have a veto proof majority and will use it pass everything on their wish list. Once out of power the same mechanisms cause these bad laws to be very hard to repeal.

I have generally been “pro” filibuster and minority powers because I worry about the crazy-bad legislation. However this kinda swung me around to the idea that it might be a large part of the problem masquerading as a solution.

Absent so many veto points the parties will have more reason to negotiate because otherwise their legislation can just be repealed the next time the government changes color.

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One could certainly make the argument that there’s a lot of New Deal stuff still in place, and not repealable, because even Republicans / conservatives held the presidency and both houses of congress, they’ve never had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. But that’s also just part of hte natural way of bureaucracy: things that grow and get weedy are often hard to get rid of. And the best defenses against weeds are pre-emergent. Don’t let them get roots in the first place.

And the WSJ argument presupposes that conservatives/republicans would prune things back if they had the appropriate majorities to do so. But we didn’t see that under GWB, nor in the first two years under Trump when Republicans still nominally controlled Congress. You don’t it it happen, because a significant number of the ‘conservatives’ are really just protectors of the establishment. And so since the natural tendency is to spread and self-perpetuate, I might still favor a system which requires supermajorities for radical change.

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As Scotty said: ‘The more complicated the plumbing, the easier it is to plug the drain’. Yet up until Gingrich they say that the government worked pretty well. What would be really cool is Constitutional Convention 2.0 – see what would come of putting your best brains to work fixing things up. You don’t lack for brilliant thinkers.

I had a similar experience with the EC – it seems like such an obvious anachronism, so obviously obsolete. But then we had Trump’s attempted coup d’etat and one realizes that the fact that Washington does not control elections turns out to have saved the Republic. As Mitch said: “The Electoral College as spoken.” Mind, I hear the Rats are trying to interfere with the States as to election laws.

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It seems a bit hard to argue that Brown v Board constitutes the initial plank in the second constitution when it was simply a reversal of the heinously unconstitutional Plessy v Ferguson from the previous century. Personally, I’m inclined to say that the second constitution actually arose as part and parcel of the original one with the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments which represented a shift in the concept of federalism as America had known it up to that point. Everything else flows out of this critical juncture in American history IMO.

Brown was Christopher Caldwell’s starting point and the issue in Brown was "separate but equal” treatment of Blacks by state actors. If Brown had been limited to that your objection would be sound. But subsequent decisions relied upon Brown to extend the concept of de jure segregation by a state actor to de facto segregation and ultimately “disparate impact” segregation by non-state actors.

It’s amusing that you choose to the adverb “heinously” in the context of separate but equal when one of the objectives of the critical race theory movement seems to be to segregate presumptively virtuous people of color from presumptively oppressive Whites and their culture.

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I understand that Brown is Caldwell’s starting point, but that’s not where things began in reality. To ignore the alteration of the principle of federalism which was accomplished by the Reconstruction-era constitutional amendments is a pretty big oversight on his part.

Also I used the term “heinously” in relation to a SCOTUS decision. I fail to see what’s amusing about that in comparison to your personal view of CRT, which I never even mentioned.

“Things began” with the Civil Rights Cases of 1883, which was the first Supreme Court decision construing the 14th Amendment. The majority decision in Plessy v. Ferguson (1897) conformed with the decision in the Civil Rights Cases.

In 1883, the radical Republicans who passed the Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1870 were long gone and the Supreme Court seemed to believe that confirming the reintegration of the eleven formerly Confederate states into the Union was simply more important than vindicating the rights of the former slaves.

I think the Civil Rights Cases and Plessy were wrongly decided but I also think that very many of the case that arose under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were also wrongly decided. I also think that John Marshall Harlan, the author of the dissent in Plessy, had a too expansive understanding of the 14th Amendment; as did most of justices on the Court in the second half of the 20th Century.