A Big Deal: Amy Chua and a Society that Can’t Handle the Truth

The last time Al Fin looked at Amy Chua (pictured below with husband Jed Rubenfeld) was in connection with the Tiger Mother furor. As fascinating as the Tiger Mother phenomenon turned out to be, Chua’s newest foray into popular non-fiction may be even more controversial. In her new book: The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America, Chua and her husband wander into the minefield of comparative US cultures, and why some cultures fail.

The cultural view is also important  Chua-Rubenfeld as a complement to Charles Murray

The cultural view is also important Chua-Rubenfeld as a complement to Charles Murray
Dual Camera Photo credit: New York Times

Chua is being pilloried from all sides — much as she was with “The Tiger Mom” concept. The politically correct set, in particular, is upset to the breaking point. But some critics from the right are also a bit perturbed — for different reasons. When that happens, a wise person should perk up and suspect that something big is in the air.

Looking at minorities like Mormons, Nigerian immigrants, Asian-Americans and Jews, among others, Chua and Rubenfeld contend that successful groups share three traits: a superiority complex, feelings of insecurity and impulse control. America, they conclude, used to be a “triple-package culture” before it succumbed to “instant-gratification disorder.”… _NewYorkTimes

The author of the NYT piece excerpted above attempted to take a cool, superior attitude toward Chua and Rubenfeld, their life together, and their worldview. She clearly adopted that tone to distance herself from any heresies for which Chua and Rubenfeld may need to be burned at the stake. 😉

For instance:

It may be taboo to say, but some groups in America do better than others. Mormons have recently risen to astonishing business success. Cubans in Miami climbed from poverty to prosperity in a generation. Nigerians earn doctorates at stunningly high rates. Indian and Chinese Americans have much higher incomes than other Americans; Jews may have the highest of all. _Steve Sailer VDare on The Triple Package

And so Chua and husband Rubenfeld set out to explain the failures and successes of different population groups based upon cultural values. Certainly, cultural values are key to achievement and success. But where do cultural values come from, beyond the obvious methods of cultural transmission across generations?

The book gives examples of groups — such as Cubans in Miami — who went from poverty to success in one generation. America abounds in such examples, from Vietnamese in Southern California to Koreans, Chinese, and Japanese across the country.

And look at how quickly West Germany bounced back from the absolute depravity it suffered in the years after WWII. Or how quickly Japan and South Korea bounced back after their respective devastation from different wars. Powerful stuff, this culture — eh?

But what happened to Haitian immigrants to the US? Weren’t they supposed to rise quickly to prosperity like the Cubans? Clearly something is wrong with certain groups that seem resistant to success, but what is the problem? Is it “merely” culture, or is it something even deeper?

Why are some groups — such as American blacks — so perennially violent, prone to underachieving, so dependent on government handouts and preferences, and so blessed with an egregious sense of entitlement? And why do most immigrants of African descent fall into the same desperate positions — despite coming from different cultures?

Chua and Rubenfeld gave the example of Nigerian immigrants, as an example of a successful group that is driven by a superior culture. But Nigeria (like the rest of sub Saharan Africa) is not ethnically homogeneous — as anyone who is aware of the bloody tribal wars will know. The Igbo people of Nigeria, in particular, are a nation apart. If one focuses upon the Igbo — rather than Nigerians at large — an exceptional people can be found. And a reason beyond “mere” culture can be found for the successes of the Igbo.

Richard Lynn and Charles Murray looked at some of the same issues as Chua-Rubenfeld. While not discounting culture as an important determinant, these authors and many others built a powerful case for the importance of genes in determining the success or failure of societies, nations, and cultures.

In reality, one cannot separate cultures and genes. Genes contribute to the creation and propagation of culture, and culture helps to channel the propagation of genes in particular directions.

A culture of common chimpanzees, for example, is distinct from a culture of bonobos in behaviour. No one with an ounce of evolutionary intelligence will deny that genes are a crucial component of the difference between the two sub-species.

But when it comes to humans, even the best educated evolutionary biologists find excuses for why divergent brain evolution could not have played an important role in the differences in IQ, culture, or success between peoples derived from Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, Australia . . .

If you doubt whether breeding populations of humans have had enough time apart “out of Africa” to evolve into significantly different peoples, I suggest reading The 10,000 Year Explosion, by Cochran and Harpending. Then consider that human populations have been peeling out from Africa for hundreds of thousands of years. There has been time enough and much more.

A number of scientific projects (BGI and Project Einstein for example) are devoted to tracking down the genetic basis for intelligence, and the tendency for particular breeding populations to produce high IQ individuals. It shouldn’t be many more years before incontrovertible evidence linking genes and IQ in human populations will be flowing like a river through an unwelcoming PC landscape.

The work of Chua and Rubenfeld is important for the data it provides and for the ideas that it will open up. Rather than being seen as a contradiction to the work of Richard Lynn and Charles Murray, it should be seen as a complementary work.

It is a big deal, an important development in the evolution of humans understanding their own cultures and both their cultural and biological evolutions.

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13 Responses to A Big Deal: Amy Chua and a Society that Can’t Handle the Truth

  1. James Bowery says:

    One of the key tricks to group selection as reflected in civilization was to conflate the original meaning of the word “culture” with the modern meaning. The original meaning was synonymous with eugenics — the breeding of domesticated strains of animals and plants and, by extension, humans. Once you have conflated those meanings you can then “disappear” the primary meaning of “culture” and render eugenics “immoral” for all but your group. You do this to each agrarian society you intend to enslave and, over the course of a number of generation and you have cultured your own slave populations.

    • Tom says:

      Once you have conflated those meanings you can then “disappear” the primary meaning of “culture” and render eugenics “immoral” for all but your group. You do this to each agrarian society you intend to enslave and, over the course of a number of generation and you have cultured your own slave populations.

      Yes, this is the basic Jewish “strategy”. Promote dysgenics, universalism, anti-racialism, anti-nationalism, migration, multiculturalism, miscegenation, etc. in the diaspora among the gentile nations while providing relative protection for the Jewish nation.

      • alfin2101 says:

        James: Interesting comment. If you have developed your ideas further, please link to your writing.

        Tom: Since you mention “the Jewish state,” I should point out that Hitler was the father of Israel, since Hitler’s Holocaust created the level of international sympathy that was required to get UN backing for the Jewish state. Hitler also intensified the Jewish desire for a secure Jewish nation, free from pogroms and holocausts.

        Are you saying that unspecified Jewish interests put Hitler into power so as to set the plan in motion? That would be a rather byzantine concept.

        Everyone has a right to his own opinions, but not to his own facts. Links and supporting evidence are allowed here. And by supporting evidence, I am referring to specific works, not merely vague references to the names of a few authors.

        Actual history is always far more complex than conspiracy theories allow. That is why conspiracy theories can have a lobotomizing effect on persons who take them too literally.

        If you are looking for a true budding “master race,” capable of culturing “subservient slave races” from now until the cows come home, consider the offspring from Ashkenazim Jews and East Asian matings. These are the two populations with the highest average intelligence, presumably via different gene clusters affecting intellect.

        Time will tell what effects on achievement and overall IQ and EF (frontal lobe Executive Function) this gene matching will achieve, but both IQ and EF approach 80% heritability.

        Personally, I think such obsessions are a destructive waste of time, which means they are a waste of lives. Many other threats are far greater and far more proximal.

      • Tom says:

        I didn’t mention Hitler or Israel. I’m not sure why you bring them up.

        I’m not talking about “conspiracy theories”. For supporting evidence, see the works and writings of evolutionary psychologists and evolutionary biologists such as Kevin MacDonald, David Sloan Wilson, and the late W.D. Hamilton on Jewish behavior. Both Wilson and Hamilton have written favorably of MacDonald’s work on Jewish behavior.

        The offspring of Ashkenazim and East Asians invariably result from an Ashkenazi father and East Asian mother. They are part of the wider diasporic Jewish group and Jewish identity tends to predominate, especially since East Asians don’t like foreign men poaching their women and paternal identity is important in East Asian culture.

  2. bob sykes says:

    In the Russian fox experiments, only 20 to 30 generations were needed to domestic wild foxes. Of course, the selection pressure was extreme.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Interesting. Artificial selection can be fairly fast. History should provide many instances where entire sub-populations of humans were held in captive breeding conditions for many generations, under some form of artificial selection or another.

      Slavery was the natural human condition for a significant portion of humanity for most of human existence. And of those who were not slaves, most were impoverished, living in subsistence conditions.

  3. Dan_Kurt says:

    re: “Are you saying that unspecified Jewish interests put Hitler into power so as to set the plan in motion? That would be a rather byzantine concept.

    Everyone has a right to his own opinions, but not to his own facts. Links and supporting evidence are allowed here. And by supporting evidence, I am referring to specific works, not merely vague references to the names of a few authors.” alfin2101

    I have been reading about WW2 since 1956 when I was 14 and specifically when a bookish fellow student put me down over a comment I had made about WW2. That comment is lost in the mysts of time. His shaming of me set me off and a reading adventure that has never stopped.

    Two of the points that came to the surface over the years are:
    1) German Strategy from before through to the end made no sense from any perspective that I could see that would benefit the Germans;
    2) One book, an obscure book, made point one disappear should the book be true. If the book were true the German Strategy of WW2 was run by the British through their agent Adolf Hitler.

    The book is: HITLER WAS A BRITISH AGENT by Greg Hallett .
    Read an introduction here:
    here, a youTube video series: ,
    here an article about the book: .

    Dan Kurt

  4. alfin2101 says:

    Dan: It is difficult to make sense of Hitler’s erratic leadership, just as it is difficult to make sense of the actions of most unstable persons — except by looking through the lenses of their particular dysfunctions.

    One could certainly conjecture that Hitler was a British agent in an attempt to make sense of his leadership style. Whether such a conjecture would be a serious attempt to explain, or just a gimmick for selling books, would depend upon the person who made the conjecture. There are many ways of explaining the unexplainable. Most such ways are wrong.

    Humans like to be right. But they are usually wrong. When we understand that we are wrong, and take steps to stop making that particular class of mistakes, we can make significant progress. Most people are unwilling to make the effort.

    • Dan_Kurt says:

      Dear alfin2001,

      Thanks for your thoughts.

      On the surface the concept that Hitler was a British agent is near insanity. The book however was quite convincing to me that it could be true. I would urge you to obtain a copy and read it yourself or if you have a Scribd account down load an e-copy. Note also that Jerome Corsi has just published a book that suggests Hitler managed to escape from Germany at the end of WWII as does Greg Hallett. The Corsi book is Hunting Hitler: New Scientific Evidence That Hitler Escaped Nazi Germany [Hardcover], ISBN-10: 1626361711. (I have not read the Corsi book.) BTW, Corsi was the Harvard Ph.D. who Swift-Boated John Kerry.

      In case you are interested, here are three that Hitler did that make no sense. You may never of heard of any of them and they each had dire consequences for the Germans.
      1) May 15-17, 1940. The Germans just won the battle of Sedan and crossed the Meuse. The path to the Channel was open, the British and French were in disarray when Hitler stopped the advance for about 48 hours allowing a defense to be mounted and thus delayed the advance. Had the Germans not paused under Hitler the war in the West would have ended with a complete bagging of the British and French forces weeks earlier and no Miracle of Dunkirk would have transpired.
      2) In perhaps the most impressive coup in Barbarossa (or any other operation by either side in the Russian campaign), the 8th Panzer Division, 56th Panzer Corps, seized the road and rail bridges over the Dvina River at approximately 0530 on 26 June 1941. Moving about 350 km by road and using innovative tactical subtlety, a small combat team of the Brandenburg Regiment (special forces) reinforced by engineers seized the bridges and prevented their destruction long enough for stronger forces to pass over the bridges and seize the city quickly, preventing it from being turned into a rubble fortress by the Soviets. Halder noted the achievement laconically in his diary: “Confirmed report passed on to Fuhrer; 8th Panzer Division penetrated into Dvinsk at 0800, occupied town at 1250 after hard street fighting.” Hitler stopped the advance at that point. The door to the Northern Front had been kicked open only nominal defenses existed and Hitler did not allow an advance for three months during which time the Soviets developed their defenses. The way had been open to strategic victory and Hitler balked.
      3) Hitler froze Army Group Center the entire month of August and September, 1941 instead of attacking toward Moscow. There was good weather, the Soviets were collapsing, casualty figures were running 20-30 Russians for every one German loss, German logistics were strong and yet Hitler broke off the main attack for two months.

      Dan Kurt

      • alfin2101 says:

        Yes, Hitler’s leadership was erratic and unpredictable. Amphetamines and other drugs can do that to even the most stable person, much more to someone with deep schisms of mind.

        Thanks for the links, Dan.

  5. Abelard Lindsey says:

    Amy Chua looks Korean in this photos.

    The people who are calling her “racist” are conflating culturalism with racism. I am not racist. But I am very much a culturalist. In other words, I believe some cultures are superior to others and have no problem saying so openly. I will actually correct people when they call me racist by saying that I am a culturalist, not a racist.

    A culture that is based on and promotes the values of liberty, scientific inquiry, productive accomplishment, entrepreneurship, and individual liberty is of course superior to cultures that do not place emphasis on these values. I have no problem saying this openly in public.

    • alfin2101 says:

      It may be time in our group descent into political correctness, to lose our fears of being called particular names — which are only “code words of power” to our decadent PC power bloc of media-government-academia-lobbies/activist groups. It may be time to hit back orders of magnitude harder.

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