Rock, Paper, Scissors, and Race (ARNOLD KLING, FEB 23, 2024, In My Tribe)

In thinking about The End of Race Politics, a new book by Coleman Hughes, I came up with a description of the race debate using the metaphor of the game Rock, Paper, Scissors. I assign a stance to each of the three symbols.

Rock is individualism. Treat people as individuals, not as members of a race.

Paper is equalitarianism. Treat differences in average outcomes by race as evidence of unfairness.

Scissors is realism. Explain differences in average outcomes by race by appealing to heredity and culture.

In the game, paper covers rock, scissors cuts paper, and rock breaks scissors. Translating from the metaphor, the most compelling argument against individualism is equalitarianism. The most compelling argument against equalitarianism is realism. And the most compelling argument against realism is individualism. […]

The problem with individualism (Rock) is that people intuitively find inequality offensive. If we treat people as individuals, and the resulting outcomes are unequal by race, this will not be acceptable. The unequal outcomes will be viewed as a sign that something is wrong with our society.

The problem with equalitarianism (Paper) is that it requires people to deny, implicitly or explicitly, that average differences by race in inherited or cultural characteristics can be significant. The realists want to confront the equalitarians over this.

The problem with realism (Scissors) is that it uncages the demon of racial stereotyping and prejudice. The individualists will insist that we should pay attention to differences across individuals, not differences across races.