Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Frank Salter is a very popular guy in white nationalist circles. He has written a book (On Genetic Interests: Family, Ethny, and Humanity in an Age of Mass Migration) that has been widely acclaimed in those circles as giving a rational argument in favour of preferring your own race and stopping immigration. As it happens, I know Frank personally but that is not what I want to talk about here. I want to outline his ideas very briefly and then point to an alternative view. Frank rightly notes that we tend to prefer being with and helping people who are genetically similar to ourselves and that members of our own racial group are more similar to us genetically than are members of other racial groups. From my reading of the scientific literature in psychology and genetics, both those statements are clearly true and racial preference therefore probably is indeed an extension of kin preference.

Frank however extends his reasoning to say that we SHOULD prefer people who are genetically closer to us -- but I am agnostic about that. I cannot say SHOULD NOT because that would be telling most of the human population not to behave in the way that they do and I cannot say SHOULD because I see it as a basic civil liberty that people should be allowed to make their own choices about whom they should or should not associate with and prefer. I don't remotely understand bondage freaks but if their interactions with one-another help them get their rocks off, good luck to them. Similarly I think that most white women who take black lovers will regret it (ask Nicole Brown Simpson about that -- Whoops! You can't) but if it turns them on that is their business. We all take our risks in one way or another and if our bedrooms are not private where is privacy to be found?

So I will confine myself to the DO rather than the SHOULD. I want to look more closely at exactly how kin preference works. And the first thing to note is of course that kin is only one of the critieria we use in deciding whom we wish to be with and help. There are many instances where opposites attract and there are many sorts of similarity that we like other than genetic similarity. I think that is too obvious for me to bother with examples -- though I cannot help noting that most Westerners who spend time in India do come away saying that they "loved India" -- despite India's deprivations and dissimilarities.

And I owe what I think is the key fact in this matter to a French Leftist intellectual -- Emmanuel Todd. Now I know that that statement will immediately have brought on acid reflux in some readers here so let me assure you that I am in general as contemptuous of what passes for philosophy in France as I am admiring of Wittgenstein (Yes: I know that Wittgenstein was so far Left that he emigrated to Russia but it is also true that he lasted only three weeks in Russia. Nobody is wise about everything! It is not his politics but his cautious and anti-theoretical arguments about the nature of knowledge that I like -- arguments that fall squarely within the tradition of Anglo-Saxon conservatism as far as I can see).

But if even a stopped clock is right twice a day, a French intellectual can occasionally be right too. And Todd is half English anyway. And in his 1985 book The explanation of ideology Todd's approach is thoroughly empirical -- combining history and anthropology. And what he points out is that the English family has always been weird by world standards. Nobody values kin as little as the English do and they have been that way for as far back as we can follow it. I myself noted that in my Australian survey research. In one of my doorknock surveys, one of the questions I asked was: "How often do you visit relatives?" If the household was a Mediterranean one (usually Greek or Italian) the normal and immediate answer was "every weekend". In Anglo-Australian households however most people had to think hard about that and a common answer was "Never". Anglo-Saxons tend to choose their company with little or no regard to relatedness whereas family is all to most of the rest of the world.

But as it happens, those weird Anglo-Saxons seem to have got it right. It is their culture that dominates the world and it is they (together with their close relatives in North-Western Europe) who have largely created the modern world. So I think that all Anglo-Saxon ways come with some presumption in their favour. And it could be the reduced kin preference among Anglo-Saxons that is the key to their success. On Salter's reasoning, their minimal kin orientation would be part and parcel of their greater devotion to individualism, their greater racial tolerance, their greater devotion to abstract justice and their lesser tendency to corruption. That sounds like a pretty good brew to me!

And since practically every personality trait the geneticists look at turns out to have a large genetic component, it seems likely that degree of kin preference is genetically encoded too. So others may not be able to emulate the Anglo-Saxons just by trying. Though they may have advantages in other ways, of course. So it is surely some irony that the people to whom Frank primarily addresses his arguments (his fellow Anglo-Saxons) are the ones least likely to be moved by them. But it does explain why Frank needed to write his book: The desirability of people to whom one is related is instinctively obvious to most of the world. Only the Anglo-Saxons need a book to tell them that!


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