I first began collecting and organizing my old print articles early last summer, believing that having them all conveniently available in book form would be useful for my planned Harvard Overseer campaign. Now at very long last the regular hardcover edition of The Myth of American Meritocracy and Other Essays has been delivered from the printers and is available for easy distribution and open sale at Amazon.com, with a Kindle edition to soon follow.
Unsurprisingly, the entire process took far more time and effort than I ever expected, and given the relative paucity of nonfiction collections by mainstream presses, required quite a bit of thought to issues of organization and design, as well as the aesthetics of layout and typeface. The magnitude of this initial effort meanwhile persuaded me to incorporate more and more of my material into the text, since I would hardly be likely to publish any second collection in the future.
As a result, the volume ultimately came to include virtually all my print articles of the last thirty years and a few of my more recent web columns, thus pushing the length past 700 pages, including a lengthy and comprehensive index. When I cautiously opened my first shipped box this afternoon, I was quite pleased with the physical quality of what I held in my hand, and the first book published by the newly established imprint Unz Review Press seems of fully professional quality.
Given the absence of costly overhead and my lack of mercenary motives, I have priced the thick, attractive hardcover edition at an inexpensive $19.99. Free Amazon shipping is a nice option, though it may be another week or so until the Amazon.com’s own sales page is ready, displaying the book just like any produced by Harcourt or the Free Press, and also allowing international shipments and sales. Any journalist, writer, or academic wishing a complimentary copy for their personal use need only contact me to receive one.
The Table of Contents provides the organization and range, and my Preface provides a bit of explanation:
When considering a collection of previously published articles, unexpected patterns may appear. Such was the case as I reviewed the contents of this book, containing works originally written over a span of thirty years.
The earliest of my pieces are academic papers on the history of Classical Greece, attempting to reconstruct the true events of that era from sources that are often fragmentary, unreliable, and contradictory. Scholars in that field must seek to extract a measure of factual reality from a mountain of propaganda and distortion, knowing full well that embarrassing details are often completely omitted from the narratives of our informants.
While doing such research during the early 1980s I often told my friends how different ancient historical analysis was from that of modern times since “everyone knows” the basic facts about the wars and other major events of the twentieth century.
I was naive. There is a fitting symmetry that one of my earliest papers provided a careful analysis of the source material indicating that Alexander the Great had younger brothers whom he murdered when he came to the throne, while one of my most recent articles applied the same sort of critical analysis to present-day evidence, suggesting that the Vietnam military record of supposed war-hero Sen. John McCain may have actually been rather similar to that of the notorious “Tokyo Rose” of World War II fame. Over the last dozen years I have discovered that we live within the distorted matrix of “American Pravda,” and that determining the true events of our world requires much more effort than merely scanning the morning headlines of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
These writings also trace the evolution of my views in topics of race, ethnicity, and social policy, long my primary area of focus and the one that accounts for more than half the pages of this volume. In late 1999 I published a 9,000 word cover story on California’s racial transformation in Commentary, flagship organ of the neoconservative movement. That exposition took a strongly positive view of the immigration trends in our society, a stance I had also taken in numerous previous pieces. But a dozen years later America’s economic landscape had greatly changed, and when I published my 12,000 word sequel describing the racial transformation of our entire nation, it ran in The American Conservative—a leading anti-neoconservative outlet—where I argued that immigration levels were now far too high, also outlining a viable political strategy to curtail them.
That latter suggestion proposed a very large hike in the minimum wage, and this topic soon became the focus of much of my subsequent writing and political activity, which had previously had little connection to economic issues. I would like to think that my work has played a significant role in helping to move that important idea back to the center stage of American political life.
And then there is “The Myth of American Meritocracy,” the title piece of this collection, running well over 30,000 words with its many footnotes and appendices. Although our elite educational institutions have almost entirely ignored the massive, quantitative documentation that racial discrimination and endemic corruption lie at the heart of our allegedly meritocratic society, many of their victims have come to recognize the injustice of their situation, and I strongly doubt that our current system will long survive unchanged.
But why a book?
In an age when the Internet has so rapidly displaced traditional printed matter, does a bound collection of my writings make any sense, especially since nearly all of these are already available online?
I think so, and if you are holding this book in your hands, you might agree.
Different types of media are suitable for different forms of writing. The sort of short opinion pieces that once graced the op-ed pages of our vanishing newspapers are conveniently browsed on the web, just like the numerous informal blog posts that have largely replaced them. With attention spans dropping, much political debate is circumscribed by the 140 characters of a Tweet, but it is difficult to imagine such transitory sloganeering having much value in printed form. Meanwhile, popular fiction of any length is easily digested on a tablet or kindle, since a story is often read in short snatches of time, with the reader moving forward and rarely looking back.
But my own writings tend toward serious non-fiction of considerable length, with over half this book consisting of major articles running 4,000 words or more, many of them much longer than that. I find that material of such heft is best read in printed form, and a stack of twenty or thirty 8.5”x11” sheets obtained from a website is far less convenient for such purposes than the pages of a professionally typeset book.
Examine the table of contents, explore the pages herein, and judge for yourself whether this product is worth the paper on which it was printed.
I was enormously gratified by the remarkably kind and generous cover quotes my advance proofs received from several prominent academics and journalists, and with more than a little embarrassment, I make these available below:
With high intelligence, common sense, and advanced statistical skills, presented transparently and accessibly, Ron Unz has for decades been addressing key issues in a rapidly changing America, enlightening us on the implications and effects of bilingual programs in American schools, clarifying the issues around crime and immigration so often distorted in political and popular discussion, placing the question of an increased minimum wage effectively on the national agenda, and addressing most provocatively the issue of affirmative action and admission to selective colleges and universities, revealing some aspects of this ever disputed question that have never been noted or discussed publicly before. He is one of our most valuable discussants and analysts of public issues.—Nathan Glazer, Professor Emeritus of Education and Sociology, Harvard University, and author of Beyond the Melting Pot.
Few people on the planet are smarter than Ron Unz or have more intellectual curiosity. This fascinating and provocative collection of essays explores a remarkable range of topics, many of them high profile, some of them arcane. Unz’s analysis is always serious and invariably challenges prevailing wisdoms, which is to say there are a lot of controversial arguments in this book. No one is likely to agree with every one of his conclusions, but we would be better off if there were more people like Ron Unz among us. —John J. Mearsheimer, the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, and author of The Israel Lobby.
Ron Unz is a brilliant essayist. His interests run from ancient history and black holes to contemporary issues like racial quotas and the minimum wage. He moves swiftly to the heart of a subject with cogent analysis and limpid argument. This collection of essays sparkles with unexpected gems ranging from critiques of the mainstream press to appreciation of dissenters from common wisdom such as General Bill Odom and Alexander Cockburn. In every paragraph of these essays the reader enjoys a penetrating intelligence at work. —Nicholas Wade, former writer and editor for The New York Times, and author of Before the Dawn, The Faith Instinct, and A Troublesome Inheritance.
Over the past two decades as an original thinker and writer Ron Unz has tackled complex and significant subjects such as immigration, education, economics, race, and the press, pushing aside common assumptions. This book brings together in one volume these pieces from a variety of publications. Unlike other essayists on culture and politics, Unz shreds ideology and relies on statistical data to support his often groundbreaking ideas, such as his 2010 essay on “The Myth of Hispanic Crime.” And his 2014 efforts to put a $12 an hour minimum wage bill before California voters is an example of how the action of an individual can draw public attention to an issue he believes is necessary for the economic health of the Republic. Anyone reading this book will learn a great deal about America from an incisive writer and scholar who has peeled back layers of conventional wisdom to expose the truth on issues of prime importance today. —Sydney Schanberg, Pulitzer-Prize winning former reporter and editor for The New York Times, whose story inspired the 1984 film The Killing Fields.
Provocative and fearless, sometimes infuriating, and quite often, persuasive. And when American’s low-wage workers get their coming big raise, the apostate conservative Ron Unz will deserve a decent share of the credit. —Prof. James K. Galbraith, author of The End of Normal and Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice: The Destruction of Greece and the Future of Europe .
(Reprinted from The Unz Review by permission of author or representative)