With the benefit of hindsight, I see that I did not go about this in the best way.
First, I tried to soften Nick (editor of the new book Choice: The Best of Reason) with a lie. I told him via email this past week that, in effect, I'd spent long dreamy hours over the telephone with his predecessor at Reason magazine, Virginia Postrel, and that I'd barely have time to fit him in for his interview Friday morning.
I wondered how could Virginia be so charming and so cute and so intellectually taut all at the same time?
The longer Nick runs Reason, the more I miss Virginia. She just had a certain something, a Southern female touch, a grace, a dignity in movement, an alluring glance, a come-on-hither writing style, a submissive streak, that Nick will never have.
It's not fair that I judge Nick so harshly and that I miss Virginia so terribly, but these are my honest feelings. What can I do? Do you want me to repress who I really am just so that I can suck up to my interview subject?
I stay awake at nights wondering who is hotter? Virginia or Nick?
While my criticisms of Gillespie are substantial (on journalistic, moral, intellectual and personal grounds), I will admit that that he is dreamy looking.
Thursday night I was out late, way late, observing the human condition on Sunset Blvd. What I saw there deeply disturbed me and I was in a surly mood when Friday rolled around.
Let's just say I was not as prepared for the week's Torah portion as I should've been.
My Friday interview with Nick was scheduled for 8AM. I woke up at 8:44am. At 8:45AM, I had Nick on the phone and by 8:46AM I was rolling tape.
My interview was a complete failure. I could not rattle him. He wouldn't reveal anything to his enormous gay fan base in LukeFord.net land, nor what he was thinking about in this photo. Nick refused to take a position on decriminalizing bestiality and he had the audacity to claim it wasn't something he thinks about much.
At least Virginia Postrel tells you where she stands on people having sex with dogs. You can say many things about Virginia, but she never equivocated on the love that dare not speak its name.
Interviewing Nick was a lot like interviewing Jenna Jameson. Both have a supreme confidence, have tasted the greatest success, and no matter what question you ask them, they are always on top and in control.
I call Nick Friday, February 25, 2004. He is in the Reason office in Washington DC
Nick: "I'm terrified. I suspect that if your printed questions are any indication, I'm going to have a lot of no comments."
At this point I've been awake for fewer than two minutes. I'm appalled that I was 45-minutes late for our scheduled interview. I feel thoroughly chastened and unable to pose the truly nasty questions I love so much.
Luke: "Where do you want to go with Reason magazine? Where do you feel you haven't yet been able to achieve your vision?"
Nick: "We haven't yet been able to introduce nude photos of Luke Ford and others into our pages...
"Part of what we've accomplished is changing the look and feel of the magazine into something that is more interesting and textured. More importantly, we've established a wider range of topics and ways of thinking about things from a libertarian perspective. We're able to comment on more things that are more important to more people.
"We're creating more of a culture of debate within the pages of the magazine. There's a range of positions on any given topic. It shows that we're trying to grapple with a complicated world, which most political magazines don't. Most political magazines are dogmatic rags that exist to push a party line.
"We've tried to show that if you are intellectually honest, that leads to more interesting journalism.
"I want to push further into places where the libertarian philosophy isn't clear or where there are events in the world that are difficult to make sense of. One issue we might look at in the future, which I realize must be absolutely fascinating to you in the morning on the West Coast, there's a long-standing tradition that the only proper role of a corporation is to deliver profits for shareholders. There are a number of libertarian-minded entrepreneurs, such as John Mackey (CEO of Whole Foods markets), who argue that that's wrong. That's too narrow a vision of what profits are for and what shareholders would value.
"It would be interesting to kick those ideas around among people who are into profits and free markets and capitalism and find out which of those positions are socially responsible, economically viable and interesting. What kinds of businesses come out of those different types of mindsets."
Luke: "Which magazine editors are your heroes?"
Nick: "One of my heroes is Felix Dennis, the British publishing magnate. He was at the cutting edge of free expression in the 1960s in swinging London and ended up becoming a multimillionaire by publishing a bunch of kungfu magazines of the '70s."
Nick: "I worked for Felix Dennis for a while in the late '80s during the only obvious period of failure in his career for a bunch of new teen magazines. He's the publisher of Maxim, Blender and the news digest The Week, the most interesting magazine to came along in a long time.
"His politics are bulls--- as far as I'm concerned. He's a big Labor party supporter but his example is that of somebody who has always tried a lot of different things in his career and has always tried to push the envelope of free expression. He's always shown a keen understanding of where audiences want magazines to go. Maxim and Blender are two of the most interesting industry-leader magazines of the past decade.
"I admire Warren Hinckle who was the editor of the old idiotic left-wing magazine Ramparts. He showcased a lot of what became known as New Journalism. Participatory journalism. He's more responsible for giving Hunter S. Thompson a start than anybody else. Again, I don't necessarily agree with any of his political views. But the vision, the inventiveness and the risk-taking... When you read old issues of Ramparts, they're interesting. It's a rare magazine that can have any claim on your interest 35 years later.
[Chaim says: "Ramparts was a great mag. It showed breasts."]
"Finally, Louis Rossetto and Jane Metcalfe, who founded Wired magazine. Louis has been a good friend to Reason magazine. He knew the original editor and he's been reading it since the magazine started in 1968. He is politically simpatico with most of our positions. With Wired, he helped to create what became known as the Digital Revolution.
"Louis has keyed in to the idea of the big boom versus the long boom. That we've reached a point in social history where most of the issues about wealth creation have been sold and we're shifting from an economics of scarcity, at least in the Western world, to a world where that is not the main issue anymore. We're living in a world where everything is more symbolic and everything is about creating your life on your own terms. Wired mapped how it happened and why it happened. That tracks closely with what Reason has been doing. If you believe in these plain ideas of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, what are the institutions that give rise to creating more of that. And what do people do with this freedom to pursue happiness."
Luke: "What about Michael Kinsley?"
Nick: "What about him?"
Luke: "Is he a model for you? Would you agree that The New Republic was at its best under him?"
Nick: "The New Republic was at a height under him. I'm 41. I started reading The New Republic [around 1980] when he was in charge. I always found it interesting and exciting, mostly because it had a wide range of voices within a discernible viewpoint. It was one of the few magazines where you wouldn't know from the first sentence what the story was going to tell you.
"Most political magazines don't exist to challenge their readers or to inform their readers but to confirm the readers in their previously held assumptions."
Luke: "Did you ever meet Francis Fukuyama?"
Nick: "Yes, I was on a panel discussion with him shortly after 9/11. Reason and the Institute of Ideas cosponsored a conference about post-humanity. We were on the same panel.
"We might agree on the end of history, that liberal democracy has generally won. That's a profound shift in global politics. I think that holds up even in the wake of 9/11. We have different views on self-directed human evolution. On giving people more options to change their bodies as well as their minds. Fukuyama engaged in a debate in our pages with UCLA's Greg Stock, who wrote the book Redesigning Humans. Fukuyama is wedded to a dangerous and outmoded understanding of a supposed human essence. He is wary of intervention into human life that would allow us to lead longer, better, smarter, more interesting lives."
We discuss the birth control pill.
Nick: "It's part of a radical shift in Western society from few people having control to more people having control over their own lives. One of the fundamental problems with human society is how do you deal with female sexuality. This is one of the great successes of Western society. We have made peace with female sexuality."
Luke: "Do you think it is ok for society to stigmatize female promiscuity more than male promiscuity? Do you think it is rational for society to do that?"
Nick: "I don't know. It's hard to know what any of that means."
Luke: "Society has an instinctive need to know who the fathers of our children are."
Nick: "If it comes down to a question of fatherhood, we are on the threshold of an age where that won't be an issue. Due to genetic tests, we will have an absolute read of paternity. One of the central problems of human organization is not promiscuity."
Luke: "Do you think there's a cosmic significance to sexual intercourse?"
Nick: "There can be, and under the best of circumstances, there probably should be."
Luke: "Do you understand why many men reject their woman if she's been raped?"
Nick: "I don't know what that means..."
Nick says "Western civilization doesn't have any problem related to birth rate."
Luke: "Even though Europe can't sustain itself without bringing in Third World Islamic labor."
Nick: "Europe can't support itself is a meaningless concept. Europe can't support itself if it insists on having a welfare state that is predicated upon having a lot of workers for every beneficiary. They could change things that would probably alter the birth rate or they could change an economic system so that none of this would be an issue.
"I'm not convinced that Europe stigmatizes non-conventional sexuality less than America does. In many ways, gays in America have a much better position than they do in Europe. Women have more sexual freedom and less stigmatization in America than Europe."
We discuss race.
Nick: "My mother was Italian and my father was Irish. A hundred years ago, neither of them was part of the white race. I suspect in the future that might change again."
Luke: "So you don't regard yourself as a white man?"
Nick: "I don't think of myself in those terms.
"I grew up in suburban New Jersey in a working class immigrant [neighborhood]. There were a lot of Irish, Italian and Polish-Americans. We had a similar background. In Europe, we wouldn't have considered ourselves that similar."
Luke: "Would most of your friend be conventionally considered white?"
Nick: "Most of my friends would be conventionally considered interesting.
"What is your fixation with race?"
Luke: "I don't think we discuss it honestly and I think it plays a much larger role..."
Nick: "In what way? Do you have some kind of visceral reaction to people who look more or less like you?"
Luke: "I think people tend to overwhelmingly live among people of their own race but they don't want to admit it."
Nick: "OK. Then you don't need my opinion on it, do you?"
Nick: "I'm not sure what to say about the chapter on race. Reason ran a long and powerful critique of The Bell Curve by James Heckman, who won a Nobel prize in Economics.
"Ronald Bailey, our science correspondent, and I interviewed Murray for Reason. The overwhelming question for me when people make these kind of arguments that there is a hereditary aristocracy that is growing in America... That is one of the fears articulated by the authors of The Bell Curve. That people at the top intermarry and pull further and further away from the average person who is poorer and poorer.
"I see little evidence of that in America. We have tremendous turnover [in social class] and class mobility is more important than anything else as far as what society looks like."
Luke: "How come all the people who write in your book are white?"
Nick: "They're not all white. In our next issue, we have something written by a Taiwanese-American."
Luke: "No, in the book Choice."
Nick: "I don't know. I guess because they were all born that way.
"What is that? What's the point of a question like that?"
Luke: "On the one hand, you say that race is an artificial construct, but then you see certain actions...that seem contrary to [Nick's] stated race-means-nothing [attitude]."
Luke: "Do you support ending all of America's anti-discrimination laws?"
Nick: "Yes. I don't think that they tend to have the affect that the people who pass them think they will.
"I think it is important for the government not to discriminate. In the most odious chapters of American life, it is government discrimination that causes the most harm.
"I think it is important for society, both in its government and its citizens, to stand up against racial and other forms of discrimination.
"Libertarians believe in individuals not groups, or groups that are made up of individuals freely choosing. The whole idea of group-based discrimination is problematic."
Luke: "You believe that people should be able to hire whom they want, live with whom they want?"
Nick: "Yes. I think miscegenation laws are an abomination."
Luke: "There's nothing in you that tingles when you see a black man with a white woman?"
Nick: "No. Tingles? I'm not sure what that means. You'll have to explain your own feelings."
Luke: "If it is an NBA basketball player and a beautiful white model, you could care less?"
Nick: "As long as people are freely consenting, I have no problem with that."
I'm thinking about this essay in the National Review 7/14/97: "While interracial marriage is increasingly accepted by whites, a surprising number of Asian men and black women are bitterly opposed."
Nick: "Do you seriously have a problem with that?"
Nick: "Is that just a pose?"
Luke: "No. I don't have a problem with it, but I think a lot more people do than will admit it."
Nick: "I don't think so. It might be a generational thing. I know few people who have any kind of problems with that sort of thing."
Luke: "Yeah, but they won't admit it. It's a visceral reaction. It's not an intellectual one."
Nick: "Even if it is a visceral reaction, it is historically contingent. As the world becomes more global, as America becomes more internationalist... It is more coming to have Australians in America now then it was 30 years ago. Being Australian means less than it did then. As people become more cosmopolitan, because there's more travel, there's more trade, there's more interaction, a lot of these things will fade. We see people more as individuals and less as representative of some ambiguously defined group."
Luke: "If everything is so hunky dory..."
Nick: "I didn't say anything was hunky dory. I think things are getting hunkier and dorier. Things are getting better when compared to 30 years ago and 300 years ago."
Luke: "Why do you think there are so many white women with black men and so few black women with white men?"
Nick: "I don't know that any of that is the case. I would suspect that in every possible category, you are seeing [more interracial relationships], not less. The premise of your question is probably flawed."
Luke: "We see few Asian men with white women as opposed to Asian women with white men."
Nick: "Is this the kind of discussion that you had with Virginia [Postrel]?"
Luke: "I never spoke to Virginia. I just made that up."
Nick: "Really. There you go. OK."
Luke: "I guess that wasn't ethical."
Nick: "What are your ethics? To say that wasn't ethical presumes you have ethics."
Luke: "I subscribe to the morals of Orthodox Judaism."
Nick: "What are those?"
Luke: "There are 613 commandments ascribed to the Torah and thousands of rabbinic elaborations. One, you shouldn't put a stumbling block before the blind. So that would seem to rule out lying about talking to Virginia. Maybe it was such a powerful fantasy for me that it overcame my otherwise strong moral repugnance about lying?"
Nick: "OK. There you go. At least you have an explanation for things."
Luke: "Did you suffer moments of crippling doubt that you wouldn't be up to succeeding Virginia [as editor of Reason]?"
Nick: "Virginia set a high standard and was incredibly generous to me."
Luke: "Did you suffer moments of crippling doubt that you wouldn't be up to succeeding Virginia?"
Nick: "My life is a succession of doubts, but they are rarely crippling.
"I have probably had more doubts about sitting for this interview than I have had about anything else in the past five years."
Luke: "People say such unkind things."
Nick: "That was a huge compliment."
Luke: "Thank you."
Luke: "I love that new photo of you on your Reason page. What were you thinking about when that photo was taken?"
Nick: "I was probably hung over."
Luke: "If you were offered $100,000 to pose nude, would you do it?"
Luke: "Why not?"
Nick: "I don't know."
Nick: "I haven't thought about that."
Luke: "Do you think it would detract from the seriousness with which people would take your thought?"
Nick: "I think it would detract from the seriousness with which they took my body. I am fundamentally not interested in posing nude."
Nick: "I'm sorry if that brought the conversation to a screeching halt."
Luke: "When was the last time reality mugged your political philosophy?"
Nick: "One of the things that has been of interest to me over the past two years has been the Iraq invasion and occupation and election in that I was opposed to invading Iraq because I felt that whatever threat it represented to the United States was being contained... I haven't changed my mind, but I think that the occupation has gone better than people predicted. I don't think a government should undertake nation-building much less region-building as we are doing but it is worth thinking about the times when that has worked. Foreign intervention poses a lot of problems both to non-interventionists and hyper-interventionists."
Luke: "Do you think good looks are an obstacle for male intellectuals in being taken seriously?"
Nick: "I wouldn't know, being neither good looking or intellectual. I will have to rely on you. I notice you have a lot of pictures up on your website."
Luke: "My gay fan base demands it.
"How has marriage and fatherhood changed your political philosophy?"
Nick: "Not terribly."
Luke: "Do you think non-Anglo-Saxons are as capable of democracy?"
Nick: "Yes. The last time I checked, it was non-Anglo-Saxons [the Greeks] who invented democracy. It was only the Nazis who thought the Greeks were Anglo-Saxon. I don't think there's a genetic component, much less a racial component to democracy."
Luke: "Do you think the Japanese and the Germans are really fascists at heart [to quote a content by National Review columnist John Derbyshire]?"
Nick: "No. What about the Australians?"
Luke: "We spring from sturdy Anglo-Saxon stock."
Nick: "No, you spring as much from Irish stock. If you go back to 1900, nobody was claiming the Irish as Anglo-Saxon."
Luke: "Why do you think there are such huge rates of black crime as compared to other groups such as Asians and whites?"
Nick: "I think that is a fundamentally wrong way to phrase any kind of question."
Luke: "Why? There are more [young] black men in prison than in college."
Nick: "That statistic may not be accurate. That mostly reflects the war on drugs, which is one of the most baleful, stupid and counterproductive government policies."
From an essay: "A study conducted by the Sentencing Project in 1989 found that more than one-fourth of all Blacks between the age of 20 and 29 are under the control of the USCJS [United States Criminal Justice System]. This alarming figure becomes more so when you consider their are more Blacks in prison in this age group than their are all Blacks in college."
I ask Nick about this: "Everyone is certainly familiar with Jesse Jackson's famous comment about being scared when a black man was following him down the street late at night, and later being embarrassed about the fact."
Nick: "If I was walking with Jesse Jackson, I'd feel pretty comfortable. What's the point of that? A lot of crime is related to economic development and social policy such as the war on drugs, which concentrates drug dealing and various kinds of black market activity in certain neighborhoods."
Luke: "How do you account for the huge black illegitimacy rate? How do you account for that?"
Nick: "I don't know. The one thing I know is that illegitimacy rates have leveled off and teenage pregnancy rates have gone down and they are converging among most demographic groups."
From National Review 4/4/94: "By 1991 illegitimacy rates had reached 68 per cent of all births to black women; the inner-city figure typically exceeds 80 per cent. White illegitimacy is rising too. In 1991, 22 per cent of all white births were to unmarried mothers."
Tristine Rainer writes in her 1998 book Your Life As Story:
Nick: "Sweden has higher illegitimacy rates than most parts of the US. It's not necessarily seen as an indicator of criminality."
Luke: "Do you think we should promote the handjob among teenagers as a step back from the precipice of vaginal intercourse?"
Nick: "I'll defer on that until my older son reaches puberty."
Luke: "How would you tailor America's immigration policies?"
Nick: "I would make immigration easier. I think this is one area where George Bush is on the right track in allowing people who come here [illegally] to work to document their status. It makes it easier for them to be protected from exploitation. It makes it easier for employers to deal with them.
"The problems with immigration are not problems with immigrants but with the welfare state. Any system that makes it difficult for people to come here to work is a bad system.
"Immigration is a difficult issue because there are social costs to things.
"Immigration is fundamentally a good thing because it is a reflection of the human desire to move elsewhere and to do better for yourself and your children, as you should understand better than anyone."
Luke: "Yeah, but I'm here legally."
Nick: "Legal and illegal is often an arbitrary distinction. In the mid-1980s, Ronald Reagen with the stroke of a pen legalized hundreds of thousands of supposedly illegal immigrants. Before the 1920s, there was open immigration.
"Every restaurant in Los Angeles is a Mexican restaurant at some level because the people who bring the food to the table and the people who prepare the food in the back are Mexicans. That's a social good."
Luke: "We have great scientists, computer programmers etc who can't get legal entry to America..."
Nick: "That's a mistake. Tell me how militarizing the border between California and Mexico is going to allow computer scientists from India to get an H1B visa?"
Luke: "Do you think there are immoral books and immoral films?"
Nick: "I think that's the wrong to do it. Certainly there are immoral artists and artists who create works that portray immorality but it is much more important how audiences receive things. That's where the act of meaning takes place.
"You could argue that certain books of the Bible that detail various horrible things... Is it moral or immoral? Morality is in the mind of the reader."
Luke: "Who determines what's moral?"
Nick: "Individuals do."
[I should've followed up: So if an individual thinks murder is moral, then it is moral? If Nick argues that society determines right and wrong, then what about societies that have sanctioned genocide?]
Luke: "How do you determine what is right and wrong?"
Nick: "I haven't really thought about that. Part of it is reflexive. As a core principle, there is the Golden Rule. Is this something that you would want done to you? Another thing is a basic understanding of individual rights. People should be free to live life on their own terms as long as they are not hurting others. At the rock bottom of the libertarian point of view, is a belief in nonaggression, a belief in voluntary action as opposed to coercion, and a commitment to honesty and forthrightness."
Luke: "Why would you follow the Golden Rule in those instances where it is not to your advantage to do so?"
Nick: "Because it feels good."
Luke: "Do you believe that you have an eternal soul?"
Nick: "I don't know. I haven't thought about those questions for a long time."
Luke: "If you don't think there are moral and immoral books and films, why do you think corporations spent hundreds of millions of dollars inserting their products in movies and television to sway people to act in a certain way?"
Nick: "There's a fundamental difference between buying Skittles and committing murder or having sex. It's unclear that any media thing causes behavior. Did reading Catcher in the Rye cause Mark David Chapman to shoot John Lennon?
"In the past 30 years, it is clear that depictions of drugs, sex and violence in media have increased but it is not clear that that has increased the behavior."
Luke: "You don't think the murder rate, illegitimacy rate and drug-taking rate has dramatically climbed in the last 40 years?"
Nick: "It certainly hasn't. Virtually all government statistics show a peak of drug use in 1979. Drug use now is half of what it was then. There's been no correlation between spending on drug education and the rates of drug use."
Luke: "What do you think about allowing hookers to solicit on the street?"
Nick: "Prostitution should be legalized."
Luke: "Do you think they should be allowed to do on the street outside of where you live?"
Nick: "I don't know. I don't know that I want any businesses outside on the street soliciting things."
Luke: "Do you think Times Square is a better place now than it was 20 years ago?"
Luke: "What are your solutions to diminishing the amount of violent crime in America?"
Nick: "We've been doing it. Violent crime is way down since the early '70s. The way you diminish violent crime is by having an economy that is active and having a decent police force..."
Luke: "Do you think people should be allowed to have sex with dogs?"
Nick: "Ask the dogs."
Luke: "But you can't. So do you think bestiality should be legal?"
Nick: "This is a completely ridiculous question. Do you know anybody?"
Luke: "Yes, I know people who've had sex with dogs."
Nick: "How do you stamp it out?"
Luke: "You criminalize it."
Nick: "So they're criminals now? Is it criminal now?"
Nick: "So what's your point?"
Luke: "As a libertarian, you want to remove criminality from prostitution. What about bestiality?"
Nick: "I don't think a lot about bestiality other than when I get an occasional spam email. It seems to me that it is not a pressing social issue that cries out for comment."
Luke: "So you don't want to face up..."
Nick: "No. I'm more than willing to face up to anything. It's just not important to me."
Luke: "Age of consent for sex? Should it be lower?"
Nick: "I don't even know what the age of consent is."
Luke: "It is 18 in most states."
Nick: "I think it varies from state to state. This is an area that whatever the laws are, they have little affect on social practice."
Luke: "That's all immaterial to my question. What do you favor doing with the age of consent?"
Nick: "I don't even think about revisiting it."
Luke: "Do you think rock music promote promiscuity?"
Luke: "Why do you stick so much drugs, sex and rock n' roll in your magazine. Doesn't that lower the intellectual discourse?"
Nick: "I don't think so. Sex, drugs and rock n' roll are all interesting and they can be treated seriously, comically, humorously. We do all of that."
Luke: "Which novels best explain who you are as a human being?"
Nick: "I continue to enjoy The Great Gatsby speaks to questions of the American experience, to love, to relationships, to the past and the future, to reinvention. I like the novels of Philip K. Dick, particularly A Scanner Darkly, which is not only a great drug war novel but a fascinating meditation on identity and alienation. I'm a big fan of Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf, which talks about warring senses of the self."
Luke: "When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?"
Nick: "A writer."
Luke: "What were you expected to become?"
Luke: "What would you tell a friend who had a drug or alcohol addiction?"
Nick: "That they should get treatment. I don't know that I would call it an addiction."
Luke: "Isn't AA the most successful at treating these things?"
Nick: "No. They don't submit their treatment statistics to objective analysis."
Luke: "Have you ever participated in an intervention?"
Nick: "No. The opportunity has never arisen."
Luke: "Do you think AA is compatible with a robust libertarianism?"
Nick: "If AA is truly voluntary, yes. There are issues where courts will remand people to AA, which is a violation of not only AA precepts..."
Luke: "When have you stuffed something down the reader's throat because you think it is good for them?"
Nick: "I'm not sure what you mean."
Luke: "You've got an important story but it is a slog to read."
Nick: "I haven't faced that choice. If Reason stands for anything it is that if something is good for you it doesn't have to taste like spinach."
Luke: "Greatest philosopher of the 20th Century?"
Nick: "Friedriech Hayek."
Luke: "What was David Aaron Clark like at Rutgers [student newspaper]?"
Nick: "He was a wonderful presence. He was a party master and an inspirational leader of the Rutgers Daily Targun."
Luke: "How do you think we can better morally educate people?"
Nick: "The more people understand that they are responsible for the results of their actions, the more moral they can be."
Luke: "Do you think human nature is basically good or evil?"
Nick: "I think that's a bad way of framing the question."
Luke: "Well, suggest a better frame and provide an answer, please."
Nick: "Humans are neither good nor evil. People looking for ways of creating meaning in their lives and innovating...can be more or less interesting and constructive."
Luke: "Do you think that unless people are in something that morally educates them they tend to moral entropy?"
Nick: "Say that again."
Nick: "I don't know what moral entropy means."
Luke: "To morally spiral downwards..."
Nick: "People leading productive lives tend to be moral. I'm not trying to be difficult. I don't understand some of the terms you're talking about."
Luke: "Did you read George Gilder's book Men and Marriage?"
Nick: "I did. I think it was mostly hysterical. I thought Sexual Suicide was more interesting. It has to be read in the context of early '70s rapidly changing gender roles."
[Dr. Judith writes: "Sociologist George Gilder, in his book, "Men and Marriage," points out that men who respond to short term sexual desires are apt to have significantly higher rates of suicide, drug and alcohol addiction, mental disease, accidental death, and arrest."]
Luke: "Thank you Nick for your forbearance."
Nick: "Thank you, Luke. I hope, if nothing else, this will be an accurate representation of my half-baked thoughts on things unlike the previous secretly-taped conversation you ran."
Questions I wanted to ask Nick if my time, courage and blood alcohol content had not run so low:
* How does a husband tactfully tell his wife to look better for him and drop 20-pounds?
* Isn't atheism simply an excuse to have all the sex you want?
* Who's your favorite porn star?
* Isn't there something unlibertarian about giving your employees medical insurance, particularly ones like Matt Welch who support socialized medicine?
* Do you own a gun? Do you know how to use it?
* If you ran into ten big black guys in a bad part of Washington DC at 2am, would you or would you not be relieved to know that they were just returning from a Bible study?
* Who would you like to see become the head of the Supreme Court?
* Do you find it aesthetically pleasing for one man to stick his willy inside another man?
* Do you care about how many black people are murdered in Africa or America's inner cities? If you do care, what were you doing when the Hutus were murdering 500,000 Tutus in Hotel Rwanda?
* Have you ever paid for sex?
* Did you like that motorcycle movie about Che Guevara?
* Why are chicks left of center hotter and sluttier than chicks right of center?
* Are women genetically less suited for serious scientific thinking?
* Are airport screeners groping too many women? Is this an example of intrusive government?
* Do neurological enhancements undermine good character?
* How should America combat the p---- plague?
* Where do you support government involvement aside from the libertarian basics?
* What do you love/hate about your job?
* In which cases would you favor affirmative action?
* Solution to nuclear arms development in Iran and North Korea?
* I notice how your essay on immigration likes to use the word "immigrant" without making any distinction between legal and illegal immigrants. Do you think Americans are too stupid to notice this rhetorical sleight of hand?
* What matters of public policy last made you mad?
Troy writes: "Is the world divided by two conflicting ethical doctrines? That is to say, are there some countries who abide by Utilitarianism while others abide by Kantianism? If you agree, what implications does this have?"
Reflections On My Nick Gillespie Interview
Smiling Arab writes:
Oblivious To The Obvious
I never suggested there was a genetic or ethnic cause for crime. I asked questions of Nick Gillespie about race because the existential reality (as reflected by the statistics I linked to) shows that race remains a major factor in American life.
An Interview I Would Have Dodged
Virginia Postrel writes: "In a truly bizarre interview, Nick Gillespie demonstrates that he's unflappable and the charming (in person) but morally disturbed and disturbing (in print) Luke Ford demonstrates that for all his Jewish posturing, he needs to brush up on the concept of l'shon hara."
I love how people who do not observe Judaism, and show their ignorance of it by defining mitzvah as good deed when it means divine obligation (even after this mistake was politely pointed out to her) feel no compunction about lecturing others on "the concept of l'shon hara."
Lashon hara (evil speech) must be the most invoked ethical rule of Judaism by those who are not personally concerned with Judaism's requirements for their lives but want to use the concept to stifle others. I find this obnoxious. If Virginia wants to observe the Torah, then fine. Go ahead and tell other what to do Jewishly. You've sacrificed. You've earned more of a right than one who has not.
As Virginia leads a life that ignores the Torah, I wish she would skip giving me and other Judaic lectures.
Who Let The Dogs Out?
Steve Sailer Interview Via Email
Luke: * Is race such a big deal in America that we can't talk about it publicly?
Steve: Well, we talk about race all the time, but in private. You're also allowed to joke about race in public if you are a comedian. You're just not supposed to write seriously and honestly about it in public.
For example, take the connection between race, crime, and real estate. Try this experiment: Go tell your most politically correct friends that you've found the perfect house to buy. It has a very cheap price and it's in a conveniently located neighborhood … right on Martin Luther King Blvd. (The nice thing about this experiment is that it hardly matters what city you live in.). Your friends will make very clear to you that you would be a fool to move to Martin Luther King Blvd.
Stand-up comics are socially allowed to talk about race in public. For example, Chris Rock famously advised: "If a friend calls you on the telephone and says they're lost on Martin Luther King Boulevard and they want to know what they should do, the best response is 'Run!'"
But, you aren't supposed to write seriously about race in public, other than to repeat the usual cant. For example, a fine reporter named Jonathan Tilove wrote a book in 2003 called "Along Martin Luther King: Travels on Black America's Main Street," but practically nobody besides me would review it, apparently because of discomfort over the "stereotypes" associated with MLK Blvds.
Of course, serious public debate in print or on-line is far better than private talk to figure out how to ameliorate our country's problems. So, public understanding of race remains crude because writing frankly about race just isn't done in polite society.
Much of the censorship stems from the following logic (if you can call it logic): "If different racial groups tend to behave somewhat differently, then -- oh my God -- Hitler Was Right! Therefore, we must never allow this fact to be mentioned in print, or the public will learn the horrible truth and they'll all vote Nazi."
Well, that's just nuts on so many levels.
It's one big non-sequiter: Of course, there are different racial groups. And of course their members tend to inherit certain different genes, on average, than the members of other racial groups. And that means racial groups will differ, on average, in various innate capabilities. But that also means that no group can be supreme at all jobs. To be excellent at one skill frequently implies being worse at something else. So, there can't be a Master Race.
Sports fans can cite countless examples. Men of West African descent monopolize the Olympic 100m dash, but their explosive musculature, which is so helpful in sprinting, weighs them down in distance running, where they are also-rans. Similarly, there are far more Samoans in the National Football League than Chinese, simply because Samoans tend to be much, much bigger. But precisely because Samoans are so huge, they'll never do as well as the Chinese in gymnastics, on average.
* What have been the repercussions to your life from your writings on race?
I guess it's made me a cult figure, which is bizarre because I'm just about the most boringly conventional guy I know: a middle-aged, golf-playing, Republican family man with an MBA.
Years ago when I was working on a deal alongside a wise investment banker of the old school, he told me, "Always tell the truth. It's much easier to remember." At my age now, my memory isn't getting any better. Besides, I figure that the truth is better for the human race than lies, ignorance, and wishful thinking. At minimum, it's more interesting.
* Can a society ever have too much diversity?
Personally, I like ethnic diversity a lot. I lived for many years in the Uptown neighborhood in Chicago, where something like 100 different languages are spoken. I enjoy observing different kinds of people, and because I'm rather shy, the fact that I couldn't converse with most of my neighbors due to the language barriers wasn't much of a problem to me. And I didn't worry too much about crime because I'm a big galoot and muggers don't mess with me much.
But, just because I like diversity doesn't mean everyone else necessarily should. When you get right down to it, most intellectuals' prescriptions for how to improve the world is for the human race to Be Like Me. Well, I try not to be that dogmatic about imposing my tastes on others. For example, among all the professional film critics in this country, I probably spend the least time in my reviews explaining my opinion of the movie and the most time analyzing the issues it raises. I like understanding how the world works more than I like.
For example, precisely what I liked about Uptown was what made it a lousy place to raise a family due to it lack of neighborliness, crime, and public schools completely overwhelmed by the challenge of educating children speaking 100 different languages.
Ethnic diversity isn't of much interest or value to little kids. They need to learn to deal first with all the human diversity that is found in even the most mono-ethnic communities: young and old, boy and girl, and all the different personality types that you see even in one extended family. Further, kids need some homogeneity and safety so they can learn independence. Before the great crime wave began in the 1960s, kids used to walk or ride their bikes everywhere. Now, moms chauffeur their kids everywhere, which is bad for kids and bad for women.
Overall, like everything else in life, increased ethnic diversity comes with tradeoffs. The funny thing is that a lot of its side effects are precisely the ones that liberals say they oppose: for instance, diversity makes free speech less popular; it lessens community solidarity and support for welfare programs, and it vulgarizes the arts. That probably why so many liberals have moved to Howard Dean's and Bernie Sanders' Vermont, which is the whitest state in the country.
* What do you think about the flood of illegal immigrants into the US? Is that good for our country?
It's good for some people, bad for others. The problem is that most of the Americans it's good are already among the most privileged people in America -- factory owners looking for cheap, nonunionized labor; corporate farmers wanting to bust the UFW with scabs from south of the border; movie stars looking for cheap servants; Democratic politicians, ethnic activists, people who eat out at sit-down restaurants a lot (such as journalists), and so forth. In contrast, illegal immigration tends to be bad for the poor and working class of America -- it cuts their wages, messes up their public schools, increases the cost of health care because so few illegals have insurance that the cost of their care gets passed on by hospitals to the rest of us, and increases crime in their neighborhoods.
But while the victims of illegal immigration outnumber the beneficiaries, they don't have much influence compared to the privileged. If you look at poll results, the divergence between elite opinion and mass opinion is greatest on immigration. The privileged maintain their privileges by demonizing anyone who calls for the enforcement of the laws against illegal immigration as a "racist," "xenophobe," "nativist," etc.
* Which public figures talk about race honestly?
Minority comedians, mostly.
As the film critic for The American Conservative magazine, I've noted that you can show an honest view about race, but for talking about it, well, you might have to go back to Ron Shelton's comedy with Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson, "White Men Can't Jump." Writers? Not too many … Heather MacDonald, the boys at GNXP.com, Randall Parker, the amazing prose stylist who calls himself the War Nerd, John Derbyshire … You can find a lot of the best free thinkers on my iSteve.com website under "Links".
* Is it good to be proud of being black? Is it bad to be proud of being white?
I don't have too much of a problem with either, but I think it's healthier for our country to inculcate non-racial loyalties, such as being proud of being an American citizen, which is a legal concept, not a racial one. I'm a "citizenist." I try to think about: "What is in the best overall interests of the current citizens of the United States?" In contrast, so many others think in terms of: "What is in the best interest of my: identity group / race / ethnicity / religion / bank account / class / ideology / clique / gender / sexual orientation / party / and/or personal feelings of moral superiority?" Precisely because basing loyalties upon a legal category defined by our elected representatives -- citizenship -- is so unnatural, it's the least destructive and most uplifting form of allegiance humanly possible on an effective scale. I believe in looking out for my fellow citizens, especially the ones who didn't get lucky in the genetic lottery for IQ, even if it means I have to pay a little more to have my strawberries picked. And that's one reason why I'm against illegal immigration -- the elites have trashed the concept of solidarity with our fellow American citizens in order import more cheap labor.
* Is race a concept that has a basis in reality? In genetics?
First, the human race is clearly one single, interbreeding species.
Second, there's a huge amount of confusion on this subject since the standard scientific model of race we've had since Linnaeus -- race as subspecies -- doesn't work very well in theory, although it turns out to be surprisingly close to adequate in practice, as the findings of population geneticists L.L. Cavali-Sforza and Neil Risch show. Risch, who is with the UC San Francisco Medical School, compared the racial self-identification of medical patients to what their genes said their background was and found over 99% agreement.
Third, the logical problems with the Linnaean taxonomic model of race, however, allow many people to advance the trendy Race Does Not Exist dogma by throwing difficult questions at supporters of the race as subspecies model, such as "So, how many races are there?" "What race is Tiger Woods?" "How can you belong to more than one race?" and "Can races change over time?"
But this conceptual fuzziness inherent in race is common in the natural world. The best example of the fuzziness of natural categories is the "extended family." All the criticisms made about the fuzziness of racial groups apply in spades to extended families. How many extended families do you belong to? Well, at least two: your mom's and your dad's. But they each belonged to their parents' two extended families, so maybe you belong to four. And your grandparents each belonged to two …
And what are the boundaries of your various extended families? If the question at hand is who you'd give a spare kidney to, you'd probably draw the limits rather narrowly. But, when making up your Christmas card list, you probably toss in the occasional third cousin, twice removed. And exactly what's the appropriate name for all these extended families anyway?
In fact, extended families are even less clear-cut than racial groups. Yet, nobody goes around smugly claiming that extended families don't exist. I dislike the Linnaean model, with its implicit assumption of "A race for everyone and everyone in his race." All the Linnaean categories both below and above "species," such as "subspecies" or "genus," tend to be highly arbitrary. So I've been exploring an older definition of race, which has the advantages of both being almost undeniable to the point of tautology, and fitting closer with what people around the globe think of as race: lineage. By far the most useful definition of a racial group is "a partly inbred extended family."
Why is extended family such a perfect analogy for race? Because it's not an analogy. They are the same thing: kin, individuals united by common descent. There's no natural law defining where extended families end. A racial group is merely an extended family (often an extremely extended family) that inbreeds to some extent. It's this tendency to marry within the group that makes racial groups somewhat more coherent, cohesive, and longer lasting than smaller-scale extended families.
For example, oceans slow down intermarriage. The same is true for the Sahara and the Himalayas. Social barriers of language, religion, caste, class, etc. get in the way of the whole world turning into beige Tiger Woods-look-alikes.
* What do you think of the famous chapter on race and IQ in the book The Bell Curve?
Something that always kills me is how liberals denounce IQ as utterly meaningless, except when they claim IQ scores prove that they are smarter than conservatives. Right after the election, millions upon millions of liberals visited web pages reassuring them that the blue states had much higher average IQs the than red states (such as Connecticut 113 and Utah 87). But, as I pointed out, it was a complete hoax, an utter fabrication.
As for The Bell Curve, even though it is one of the biggest selling social science books since Kinsey, it is now out of print, which says a lot about the intellectual climate these days. As for the backlash against the book, well, as my friend Greg Cochran says, "Nobody ever gets that mad at somebody unless they are telling the truth."
In many ways, though, what interests me more in The Bell Curve is its analysis of trends that transcend race, such as the stratification of American society by IQ, a process that allows the clever to wage a clandestine class war against the clueless. Nobody on the higher IQ right half of the bell curve is very interested in the welfare of the left half of the bell curve, per se. I wrote a long series on how to help our fellow citizens on the left half of the Bell Curve, but I've never seen anybody else interested in the subject.
* Can a racial or ethnic or religious group only have good characteristics? Is ascribing only good to a group patronizing?
These days we're supposed to celebrate diversity - but not notice it! The reality is that life is about trade-offs. For example, in the last six Olympics, all 48 finalists in the men's 100-meter dash to determine the World's Fastest Man have been of West African descent. On the other hand, the kind of massive muscularity and minimal body fat percentage that allows people of West African descent to dominate sprinting makes them very bad at, say, English Channel swimming. Sprint champions tend to sink like stones.
Nobody can be best at everything. There's no such thing as racial supremacy. Nobody can be above average at everything either. We don't live in Lake Wobegon.
Chaim Amalek writes: "The interview you did with Steve Sailor is one of the best discussions of race I've ever seen on the internet. They could build a course around it at Stern College. Kudos to you for asking, and to him for answering."