Why should group differences in intelligence, assuming they exist, be publicly talked about? This question or a variant of it has been asked in several places following the James Watson affair. I've seen a host of insightful answers. But I think the answer can be distilled into a single sentence that is nonetheless pragmatic instead of being based on principal (ie, the truth is good) or pure veracity (ie, because that's the way things really are):
Whatever dysfunctional places (or people) do appears uniformly bad, while whatever the most functional places (or people) do looks almost exclusively good.
That's great for elites, and for morally elitist nations. I'm successful, or our country ranks high on the HDI, and thus whatever suits our tastes is best.
Squelching discussion on group differences negatively influences popular opinion and makes for bad public policy. Try comparing the policies popular in Massachusetts with those in Mississippi. There is no capital punishment in the Bay State, but the Magnolia State allows for it. And in which state do more murders occur? Indeed, it is in places where homicide rates are relatively high that capital punishment is practiced most often!
Quasi-socialism hasn't brought down the Scandanavian countries, which function well with their generous public safety nets and social liberalism. Demographic changes, not the inconstancy of their economic and social systems, are finally challenging their idyllic existences. So quasi-socialism is generally preferable to the free market, then?
There are apples to apples comparisons that give reason to think otherwise, as in East Germany vs. West Germany before the fall of the wall, and North Korea vs. South Korea today. But situations where comparisons approach ceteris paribus such as these do are rare.
Take religiosity and social pathology. A couple of years ago Gregory Paul wrote a paper purporting to show that piety leads to all kinds of negative social outcomes in the developed world. The primary example of this phenomenon in action, of course, is the US.
Except that when the behavior of American blacks and Hispanics were adjusted to the white average, the US fell in with the rest of the pack on everything (abortion rates, infant mortality rates, criminality, teen births rates, life expectancy, etc). Race is the reason for the divergence (something that should be kept in mind when the status of healthcare in the US is compared with that of other developed nations). Dogmatic piety may well be beneficial for many of those on the left side of the bell curve, where a religiously-informed worldview is vying with the lifestyle of the soul survivor. This even as religiosity inversely correlates with benefits like greater intelligence.
Or take the glorification of unmarried motherhood in the media, as evidenced by glowing profiles of popular actresses like Bridget Moynahan. But the divas are exceptional. For the vast majority of children whose parents go their separate ways, life is a lot rougher than it would otherwise be, with higher rates of poverty, lower levels of parental involvmenet, less discipline and less physical security.
It seemed a perpetual argument I'd have with friends who were drug users and drank regularly in high school and college. "That stuff isn't good for you." "I toke up and I got a full-ride." "Yes, you did so in spite of these things. You'll perform even better if you are more abstentious."
Beyond the realization that groups are not fungible lies the realization that uniform proscriptions cannot always optimally treat a diverse set of patients. Not all kids will benefit from taking ritlin, nor will all countries function at their highest levels under democratic principles. A libertine society may allow for the maximization of happiness in the Sweden of two decades ago even as it will maximize suffering in contemporary Haiti.
It is the difference between looking at what the 'best' do and then trying to mimic that, and figuring out what actually works best given the circumstances.