URLs du Jour

2021-06-26

  • It's a Venn Diagram, So Obviously True. The Baseball Crank tweets:

    The logo in the top right corner indicates it's (probably) from the outfit currently calling itself the Standing for Freedom Center, associated with Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. If you're allergic to all things Falwell-related, avert your eyes! (For the rest of us, it's still pretty funny.)


  • A Small But Important Victory. John Rose, an instructor at Duke, describes How I Liberated My College Classroom.

    The conservative critique of American higher education is well known to Journal readers: The universities are run by intolerant progressives. The left counters with an insult: The lack of intellectually respectable conservative arguments is responsible for campus political uniformity. Perhaps a better starting point in this debate is the students, most of whom actually want freer discourse on campus. They want to be challenged by views they don’t hold.

    This, at least, has been my recurring experience with undergraduates at Duke University, where I teach classes called “Political Polarization” and “Conservatism” that require my students to engage with all sides of today’s hottest political issues.

    True engagement, though, requires honesty. In an anonymous survey of my 110 students this spring, 68% told me they self-censor on certain political topics even around good friends. That includes self-described conservative students, but also half of the liberals. “As a Duke student, it is difficult to be both a liberal and a Zionist,” one wrote. Another remarked, “Although I support most BLM ideas, I do not feel that I can have any conversation that even slightly criticizes the movement.”

    And this one weird trick (well, actually, a set of well thought-out classroom principles) got the kids to open up for honest discussion.

    Unfortunately, way too many instructors see their role differently than does Rose: to "foster belief" in a variety of hard-left doctrines, with dissenting students shut down and disrespected.


  • How Does "Leaning Into" Differ From "Pouncing"? Elizabeth Nolan Brown is dismayed by politicians lacking a firm grasp on the subtleties of an incoherent doctrine: Republicans Urged to ‘Lean into’ Critical Race Theory Culture War.

    Critical race theory sells. "Lean into the culture war," Rep. Jim Banks (R–Ind.) is urging fellow members of a House conservative caucus. If you thought U.S. political discourse couldn't get any dumber…buckle up!

    In a memo sent to the Republican Study Committee on Thursday, Banks told his colleagues that "we are in a culture war. On one side, Republicans are working to renew American patriotism and rebuild our country. On the other, Democrats have embraced and given [sic] platform to a radical element who want to tear America down."

    That's pretty standard rhetoric for GOP culture warriors. The new twist is that this time, it's not communism or feminism or gay rights that have induced this hyperbole but a relatively obscure (until recently) legal/academic framework known as "critical race theory" (CRT). Its ideas have somehow escaped from academia and other wonkish circles to become a focal point of a very disingenuous, very stupid, and yet very mainstream culture war.

    ENB makes some good points, of course. R-side politicians on CRT are (very) analogous to D-side politicians on gun control: they don't know a lot about the topic, and demonstrate that ignorance in their imprecise language and demagogic fear-stoking. Coupled with a prohibitionist mentality, that's a recipe for hot garbage.

    "CRT" has become a handy shorthand for the latest manifestations of hard-left ideology: cancel culture, race obsession, illiberalism, identity politics, etc. Sure, CRT doctrine as explicated decades back in obscure publications is a factor in today's controversies, but it's not the whole story.

    And we shouldn't expect GOP pols to be able to cite chapter and verse from Critical Race Theory (Third Edition): An Introduction. That's like asking Joe Biden to discourse on Friedrich Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty

    What would be nice is for Democrats to explicitly denounce (for example) classroom "anti-racist" indoctrination, ham-fisted censorship, one-sided reading lists promulgated by state-supported institutions, attacks on "meritocracy" and "color blindness", etc.

    But most Democrats won't do that, because it would piss off a significant fraction of their base.


  • I Got Your Stake Right Here. When it comes to "stakeholder capitalism", Andrew Stuttaford is not a fan: Stakeholder Capitalism Erodes Democracy.

    The, well, woke nature of “woke capitalism” — a phenomenon intertwined with “socially responsible” investment (SRI), with stakeholder capitalism at its base — has obscured that the way in which this combination works owes far more to fascism than to socialism. Nearly 90 years ago, the progressive writer Roger Shaw described the New Deal as “employing Fascist means to gain liberal ends.” Overwrought, perhaps, but not without some truth. He would recognize what is going on now for what it is.

    Underpinning the notion of “stakeholder capitalism,” a concept that has taken the C-suites of some of America’s largest companies by storm, is the idea that a company should be run for the benefit of all its “stakeholders,” a conveniently hazy term that can be defined to include (among others) workers, customers, and “the community,” as well as the shareholders who, you know, own the business. It’s a form of expropriation based on the myth that a corporation that puts its shareholders first must necessarily put everyone else last. In reality, an enterprise that, to a greater or lesser extent, fails to consider the needs of various — to use that word — stakeholders in mind, customers, most obviously (but certainly not only) is unlikely to flourish, and nor, therefore, will its owners.

    Andrew's bottom line: "In a corporatist regime, the state has the last word."


  • Which Is Why It's Advocated by the Mediocre. [Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] George Will points out a small problem: Attacking ‘merit’ in the name of ‘equity’ is a prescription for mediocrity.

    In progressivism’s political lexicon, “equity” is a synonym for government-directed social outcomes that improve conditions for particular government-favored groups. Equity is enhanced when government policies — e.g., affirmative action — narrow disparities of outcomes among groups, usually racial or ethnic, in acquiring wealth or educational excellence.

    Necessarily, then, the antonym of “equity” as a social standard of justice is “merit,” in this sense: The opposite of an equitable society is a meritocracy. Progressivism increasingly argues that an important impediment to enlarging equity is “the tyranny of merit.”

    GFW goes on to discuss Michael Sandel's (no relation to your blogger) The Tyranny of Merit (Amazon link at right). Which goes back to a point made above: Sandel is probably not a "critical race theorist". But—bless him—the ideology he is pushing is fundamentally at odds with traditional American values of recognizing and rewarding revealed talent and character.


  • Taxachusetts Redux? I'm old enough to remember the Bad Old Days when Massachusetts was an example of tax-and-spend liberalism run wild. These days it's not, quite so much.

    But that could change! Steven Malanga looks at Massachusetts’ Punitive ‘Millionaire Tax’ Proposal.

    Massachusetts’s state-government coffers are “awash” in cash, as tax collections come in well ahead of projections. State and local governments are also divvying up $8 billion from the so-called Biden stimulus. Things look so good in the state capital, in fact, that legislators now want . . . to raise taxes by another $2 billion. That’s right: with all that money in hand, the Massachusetts legislature voted earlier this month to place a “fair share” amendment before voters next year that would raise taxes by 80 percent on those earning more than $1 million.

    Voters must have their say because the state constitution prohibits a graduated income tax. Instead, everyone pays a flat 5 percent tax rate. Twice since 1998, voters have used the initiative process to lower income taxes in the state—once by reducing the rate from 5.95 percent and once by cutting taxes on dividends and interest. Legislators seem to think that voters are in a different mood this time, as the new initiative would place a 4 percent income-tax surcharge on millionaires.

    We could always use more tax-avoiding millionaires moving up here to New Hampshire, so I say: go for it, Massachusetts! (In contrast, the NH legislature voted the other day to phase out the Interest and Dividends Tax, a yearly pain in the wazoo for me.)