I recently became aware that Ted Sallis has been criticizing my book, Individualism and the Western Liberal Tradition (2019; hereafter Individualism) on his blog. Sallis is basically on-page with most of my work, including my work on Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy, and he has made great contributions in defending and promoting Frank Salter’s theory of ethnic genetic interests. Some of this work was posted on TOO, and in all, he has written 17 articles for us, starting with “Why Was the Understanding of Ethnic Genetic Interests Delayed for 30 Years?” in July of 2009.
In preparing this, I looked at his blog entries under ‘MacDonald‘; here I discuss what I regard as his most important objections, but also ones that are likely to give rise to questions from others who have read the book.
Sallis claims I am a Nordicist. I presume this refers to the fact that a major theme of Individualism is that I claim to have found a north-south cline in family structure, and I link geographical variation in family structure with the settlement patterns of the three groups that populated pre-historic Western Europe—the Scandinavian hunter-gatherers, the Indo-Europeans (mainly north-central Europe and northern Italy), and the Early Farmers from Anatolia (mainly in the southern part of Western Europe). I suppose one can argue with that, but I don’t see an argument in Sallis’s writing. Doing so would require an explanation of how my review of the population genetic data in Chapter 1 fails to show a north-south genetic cline linked to these three groups, and/or that my review of the family history data in Chapter 4 is faulty. The family history data show a more collectivist pattern in southern Europe (e.g., brothers living together with wives and parents) than in northern Europe, the extreme being Scandinavia with nuclear families characterized by very weak ties among their members.
But the claim that I am a Nordicist has an evaluative ring to it—that I think that the Nordics are superior in some way. In fact, Individualism reveals the weakness of northern Europeans, especially in the current cultural environment in which traditional social controls embedded in religion have disappeared, resulting in a dysfunctional, guilt-prone culture unable to oppose the invasion of other peoples that is now besetting them. Moreover, Scandinavia was a relative backwater in European culture compared to the dynamic northcentral regions of Western Europe. Charles Murray’s map of human accomplishment (discussed in Ch. 9 of Individualism) excludes the great majority of Scandinavia, apart from Denmark which has a strong infusion of German genes (Ch. 1). If anything, I suppose one could call me a Germanicist.
Individualism and Conformity
I portray Scandinavians as highly individualistic but also as highly conformist—what I regard as a paradox in need of explanation, but Sallis regards their conformity as a fatal flaw in my argument. I regard this paradox as a fundamental problem for any analysis and certainly not solved by Sallis’s theory that individualism resulted from geographical distance from racially dissimilar others (see below). There is no question that Scandinavians are conformists. My first efforts to understand this are from a 2012 review of David Hackett Fischer’s Fairness and Freedom (pp. 80–81) where I discuss the Jante Laws of Scandinavia and the Tall Poppy Syndrome in New Zealand as basically socially enforced egalitarianism common in hunter-gatherer cultures around the world (see Christopher Boehm’s Hierarchy in the Forest ), and a major point of Chapter 3 of Individualism is that, because of their peculiar ecological position (briefly described below), the northern Europeans retained their hunter-gatherer ways for a very long time, holding off the Early Farmers of more southerly regions prior to the Indo-European invasion for 2000-3000 years. My solution was thus to emphasize the point that extended kinship is less important as a social glue among Nordics (and to a lesser extent, among the Indo-Europeans compared to southern Europeans). All cultures require mechanisms of social cohesion, but rather than relying on kinship distance, as in the rest of the world, social cohesion is maintained mainly by reputation in the community: Can you be trusted? Do you uphold the moral values of the community? Are you a courageous, competent warrior? From Chapter 8:
In Chapter 1 it was argued that the Scandinavian countries are on the extreme end of the northwest-southeast genetic cline, with higher levels of northern hunter-gatherer-derived genes than other parts of Western Europe. Chapter 3 described these hunter-gatherer cultures as reflecting egalitarian individualism, and Chapter 4 described the Scandinavian family patterns as extreme within Western Europe.
Although all Western European-derived societies are undergoing replacement-level, non-White migration, there can be little doubt that Scandinavia and especially Sweden, are extreme in welcoming replacement of their peoples and cultures. As elsewhere in the West, a major role in these transformations has been played by Jewish activists and Jewish media ownership, but Scandinavians seem particularly favorable to these transformations. Indeed, Noah Carl, analyzing 2015 survey data from the European Union, found that Swedes were the least ethnocentric group as measured by items such as approval of children having a love relationship with various ethnic groups, sexual minorities, and disabled people. Respondents from the U.K. and the Netherlands were also highly tolerant, with Eastern European countries on the low end, data consistent with northwestern Europeans being the most tolerant.
The reputation-based moral communities of Scandinavia have been strongly egalitarian. The “Jante Laws” of Scandinavia are paradigmatic: 1. Don’t think you are anything; 2. Don’t think you are as good as us. 3. Don’t think you are smarter than us. 4. Don’t fancy yourself better than us. 5. Don’t think you know more than us. 6. Don’t think you are greater than us. 7. Don’t think you are good for anything. 8. Don’t laugh at us. 9. Don’t think that anyone cares about you. 10. Don’t think you can teach us anything. In short, no one must rise above the rest. Such egalitarianism is typical of hunter-gatherer groups around the world and is antithetical to the aristocratic ideal of the Indo-Europeans.
Extreme egalitarianism results in high levels of conformism and social anxiety. Individuals fear social ostracism for violating egalitarian norms and standing out from the crowd—a phenomenon that has played a major role in creating a public consensus in favor of mass migration and multiculturalism. Decisions are by consensus, implying that individuals are loathe to stand out from the group. In Sweden especially there is no public debate on the costs and benefits of immigration; sceptics typically remain silent for fear of shunning and disapproval.
So my view is that Scandinavians are conformists in a social setting where reputation is paramount because of their evolutionary background as hunter-gatherers living in socially enforced, highly egalitarian moral communities where extended kinship relationships were relatively less important. In interacting with another person, the important issues are whether another person is trustworthy and whether one can benefit from the relationship, not how closely related the person is. But on the other hand, Scandinavian family relationships are egalitarian and relatively loose. The radical individualism of Sweden is illustrated in the following, from Chapter 4:
What is unique about Swedish social policy is neither the extent to which the state has intervened in society nor the generous insurance schemes, but the underlying moral logic. Though the path in no way has been straight, one can discern over the course of the twentieth century an overarching ambition to liberate the individual citizen from all forms of subordination and dependency in civil society: the poor from charity, the workers from their employers, wives from their husbands, children from parents (and vice versa when the parents have become elderly).
In practice, the primacy of individual autonomy has been institutionalized through a plethora of laws and practices … . Interdependency within the family has been minimized through individual taxation of spouses, family law reforms have revoked obligations to support elderly parents, more or less universal day care makes it possible for women to work, student loans which are blind in relation to the income of parents or spouse give young adults a large degree of autonomy in relation to their families, and children are given a more independent status through the abolition of corporal punishment and a strong emphasis on children’s rights. All in all, this legislation has made Sweden into the least family-dependent and the most individualized society on the face of the earth .
In this regime, families become “voluntary associations”—despite continuing to exhibit high-investment parenting as indicated by high levels of time spent with children. Nordic families are relatively prone to “independence (of children), individualism, and (gender) equality.” The “Swedish theory of love” is that partners should not be dependent on each other—that true love means not entering a relationship as dependent in any way (e.g., financially) on the other person. Surveys of values confirm that Nordic societies cluster together in scoring high on “emancipatory self-expression.” Nordic societies also cluster at the top of social trust, despite also being high on secular/rational values and despite trust typically being associated with religiosity.  Finally, the high standing on “generalized trust” provides economic advantages because it lowers “transaction costs”—less need for written contracts and legal protections, fewer lawsuits, etc.
These trends toward individual freedom and lack of dependency on superiors go back at least to the medieval period. Michael Roberts noted that the peasant in medieval Sweden “retained his social and political freedom to a greater degree, played a greater part in the politics of the country, and was altogether a more considerable person, than in any other western European country.” Similarly, Lars Trägårdh:
The respect for law and a positive view of the state are historically linked to the relative freedom of the Swedish peasantry. The weakness, not to say absence of feudal institutions, corresponds with a history of self-reliance, self-rule, land ownership, representation as an estate in parliament, and the consequent willingness and ability to participate in the political affairs of the country.
The concept of moral communities as the social glue of Western societies is recurrent throughout Individualism, particularly in Chapter 7 on the movement to abolish slavery. It is not cherry-picking but backed up with numerous examples and is strongly rooted in theory. Sallis writes, “unfortunately, MacDonald started to extend that idea into bizarre HBD-Nordicism, and stretching facts to fit into some overarching theory of heritable group differences to explain even relatively shallow differences in national behavior.” I need specific examples of how I have stretched facts in order to reply. Obviously, this is a very difficult area. Theory must attempt to deal adequately with all the historical data on political and family structure, population genetics, and much more—and with seeming paradoxes such as the extreme individualism of Scandinavia combined with social conformism. My solution to the paradox of individualism may not be correct, but refuting it requires more specificity.
And I should add that one thing that stands out from my reading is how persistent family structures are despite vast changes in other areas. Chapter 4 on family structure is critical. For example, recent research on families in southern France shows continuing remnants of moderate collectivism—living near their parents (often residing in the same house), marrying people from the same area, helping each other more (including financial aid), and having stronger distinctions between male and female roles. Patrick Heady labels this pattern “parentally anchored and locally involved,” the extreme opposite being “origin free and locally detached”  typical of Scandinavia. On the other hand,
Middle Eastern cultures were dominated for centuries by Greek and Roman conquerors, but this had no influence on the collectivist, clan-based, extended kinship social organization that remains typical of the area today. Cousin marriage, an excellent marker of these tendencies because it shows a preference for endogamy within a male kinship lineage (patrilineage), originated in Middle Eastern prehistory and continues into the present era despite centuries of domination by Western powers. In view of the recent surge of Middle Eastern Muslim immigration to Europe, this incapacity for assimilation to Western norms is likely to represent a long-term problem for the West. [Ch. 4 of Individualism]
I would apply the same sort of analysis to African-American families in the U.S.—that the lack of male involvement in rearing children is at least partially explained by their West African cultural-genetic heritage where men had multiple wives and each wife headed her own household and provided for the children. If indeed there are such proclivities among African-Americans, it is not surprising that changes in welfare laws making it easy for women to rear their children without male provisioning would give a major impetus to out-of-wedlock births among African-Americans (and other groups, but less so) compared to levels prior to 1960.
At times, Sallis appears to deny that Nordics are highly individualist, while here he is proposing to explain the high levels of individualism among some Europeans (presumably including Nordics) as the result of geographical distance from racially distinct others. For example, he seems to deny that Nordics are particularly individualist when he complains about my statement that “Scandinavian [societies] are the most individualist cultures on Earth…” (Sallis’s emphasis): “That MacDonald continues to assert that lie, refuted at my blog, and then cites himself as evidence (!!!), really trashes his reputation as an objective scholar.” I think I have made clear here why I think Scandinavian cultures are the most individualist cultures, and a more elaborate version is in Individualism. And it’s based on much more than citing myself. And calling it a “lie” is outrageous—at most it’s a garden variety scholarly mistake.
In any case, I find Sallis’s theory of European individualism unpersuasive for a number of reasons. For example, eastern Europe in general is more collectivist in terms of family structure than western Europe despite living among racially and ethnically similar peoples for the vast majority of their history, and it was noted above that family structure is highly resistant to change despite huge cultural transformations, such as changing elites. Most Western groups lived with Jews as a very distinct alien, often hated outgroup for centuries without effects on family structure or obliterating individualism. How does the theory explain the uniqueness of Western individualism cross-culturally—were Western European peoples the only people in the world with no experience confronting racially dissimilar others? How does the theory explain the relatively collectivist family structure of traditional Ireland compared to Germanic family structure (reviewed in Chapter 4)? How does it explain the difference in family structure between Scandinavians and the Germanic peoples of Europe (the latter roughly populating the area encompassed by Murray’s map of human accomplishment)? In Individualism I make a major point about the contrast in family structure within France between northeastern France and France south of the Loire. I rather doubt that the latter area was threatened by more racially dissimilar others—the only invasion from the south that I am aware of were the Muslims defeated in 732 by Charles Martel of the Germanic Franks who are more individualist in terms of family structure than France south of the Loire; the Huns came from the east, but their invasion was short-lived and would have affected Germanic groups at least as much. Indeed, how would it explain Murray’s map of human accomplishment in general? Moreover, it is at best an incomplete theory because it does not provide a mechanism for understanding the paradox of individualism mentioned above: If, say, Swedes are so individualist because they evolved at a greater distance from racially dissimilar others, why are they also the most conformist?
It’s always difficult and a bit distasteful to have to respond to someone who is basically in agreement on many issues, and someone who has posted on TOO. But it has to be done, and frankly I thought the tone of many of Sallis’s comments was uncollegial to say the least. I hope this can clarify some of these issues and move the ball forward a bit.
 M. Eckehart, How Sweden Became Multicultural (Helsingborg, Sweden: Logik Förlag, 2017); Roger Devlin, “The Origins of Swedish Multiculturalism: A Review of M. Eckehart’s How SwedenBecame Multicultural,” The Occidental Observer (September 9, 2017); Kevin MacDonald, “The Jewish Origins of Multiculturalism in Sweden,” The Occidental Observer (January 14, 2013).
 Noah Carl, “Tolerance of Inter-Ethnic Relationships in Europe,” @NoahCarl (July 227, 2019). https://medium.com/@NoahCarl/tolerance-of-inter-ethnic-relationships-in-europe-c27bda8a25e1
 Aksel Sandemose (1899–1965) in his novel En Flyktning Krysser Sitt Spor (A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks, 1933). Although originating in a work of fiction, the Jante Laws have been widely recognized by Scandinavians as accurately reflecting a mindset typical of their society.
 Christopher H. Boehm, Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999)
 Lars Trägårdh, “Statist Individualism: The Swedish Theory of Love and Its Lutheran Imprint,” in Between the State and the Eucharist: Free Church Theology in Conversation with William T. Kavanaugh, Joel Halldorf and Fredrik Wenell (eds.) (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2014): 13–38, 21–22.
 Ibid., 33.
 Ibid., 27. [
 Ibid, 26. [
 Ibid., 26–27.
 Michael Roberts, Essays in Swedish History (London: Weidenfield & Nicholson, 1967), 4–5.  Lars Trägårdh, “Statist Individualism: The Swedish Theory of Love and Its Lutheran Imprint,” in Between the State and the Eucharist: Free Church Theology in Conversation with William T. Kavanaugh, Joel Halldorf and Fredrik Wenell (eds.) (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2014): 13–38, 21–22.
 Trägårdh, Ibid.
 Patrick Heady, “A ‘Cognition and Practice’ Approach to an Aspect of European Kinship,” Cross-Cultural Research 51, no. 3 (2017): 285–310.
 Ladislav Holy, Kinship, Honour, and Solidarity: Cousin Marriage in the Middle East (Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 1989), 12, 13.
 Joseph Henrich, Steven J. Heine, and Ara Norenzayan, “The Weirdest People in the World?,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33 (2010): 61–135.