Posts Tagged ‘political correctness’

Are We Equal?

April 9, 2013

This column draws from an article written by my good friend and George Mason University colleague, Professor Walter Williams, one of the two leading black economists in the United States (the other being Thomas Sowell of The Hoover Institution in Palo Alto, California.

Professor Williams answers his own question categorically in the negative:

“Are women equal to men? Are Jews equal to gentiles? Are blacks equal to Italians, Irish, Polish and other white people? The answer is probably a big fat no, and the pretense or assumption that we are equal – or should be equal – is foolhardy and creates mischief.” Walter W. Williams, ‘Are We Equal?’ https://mail.gmu.edu/frame.html?rtfPossible=true&lang=en

Some of the counter-examples deployed by Professor Williams in his article are as follows:

Male geniuses outnumber female geniuses 7-1. Female intelligence is packed much closer to the middle of the bell curve, whereas men’s intelligence has far greater variability. There are many more male geniuses, there are also many more male idiots.

Blacks comprise 80 per cent of the players in professional basketball. There are only two Chinese players.
Blacks are among the highest paid players and achieve the highest number of awards for excellence.

Blacks who trace their ancestry to West Africa, including black Americans, hold more than 95 per cent of the top times in sprinting.

Blacks comprise only 2 per cent of the NHL’s ice hockey players. Most U.S. professional hockey players were born in Minnesota, followed by Massachusetts. Not a single U.S. professional hockey player was born in Hawaii (no the Messiah himself never made it in that profession).

Are different races of equal intelligence? No, they are not. Jews represent only 3 per cent of the U.S. population. Yet they constitute a whopping 39 per cent of all U.S. Nobel Laureates. At the international level, the disparity is even more marked. Jews comprise less than 1 per cent of the world’s population. Yet, they constitute 20 per cent of the world’s Nobel Prize winners.

Many other disparities are evident. Asians routinely score the highest on the math portion of the SAT. Blacks routinely score the lowest. Prostate cancer is nearly twice as common among black men as white men. Cervical cancer rates are five times higher among Vietnamese women in the U.S.than among white women.

“Soft-minded and sloppy-thinking academics, lawyers and judges harbor the silly notion that but for the fact of discrimination we’d be proportionately distributed by race across incomes, education, occupations and other outcomes. There is absolutely no evidence anywhere, at any time, that proportionality is the norm anywhere on earth; however, much of our thinking, many of our laws and much of our public policy are based upon proportionality’s being the norm. Maybe this vision is held because people believe that equality in fact is necessary for equality before the law. But the only requirement for equality before the law is that one is a human being.” Walter Williams, ibid.

Litigate against university presidents to enforce first amendment rights

February 17, 2013

University and college campuses across the United States massively infringe the first amendment rights of their teachers and their students, typically in order to enforce politically correct language. Such interventions constitute violations of open scholarship and a contempt for any notion of individual liberty.

Presidents of public universities, until recently, have protected themselves when challenged in the courts by faculty or students whose first amendment rights have been so violated, by hiding behind the legal principle of qualified immunity. Qualified immunity is a legal principle that shields state employees from personal liability for constitutional violations while carrying out their job duties. In essence, this principle requires taxpayers to cover any adverse legal consequences of constitutional violations by university presidents or, indeed by any of their agents.

A recent court judgment, blessedly may have pierced, that shield and located the Achilles heels of those demi-gods who throw their weight about on college campuses. Trojans may now rejoice once again in their fight against the armies of Agamemnon.

In 2007, President Ronald Zaccari expelled student Hayden Barnes from Valdosta State University in the State of Georgia. Zaccari was responding to a sequence of flyers posted on campus by Barnes challenging Zaccari’s plan to construct two new parking garages on campus. One such flyer pointed out that the estimated $30 million cost of the garages would provide 2,950 full scholarships for students of the university.

Barnes’s real ‘crime’, however, was his reference to the construction project as a ‘memorial’ parking garage, a joke on the president’s reach for immortality by naming the garage project for himself. President Zaccari, alleging that the use of the word ‘memorial’ constituted a threat on his life, and ignoring objections by his own staff and statements from several psychiatrists to the effect that Mr. Barnes was a known advocate of non-violence, expelled this ‘troublesome student’.

Mr. Barnes filed suit in 2008, enlisting the help of First Amendment attorney, Robert Corn-Revere. In February 2013, a federal jury found against former president, Zaccari, and awarded compensatory damages of $50,000. Zaccari may additionally be held liable for all of Mr. Barnes extensive legal costs. The remaining question, for the court to determine, is whether Zaccari can now protect himself via qualified immunity, thereby diverting the cost of his misbehavior to the pocketbooks of Georgia taxpayers.

There is a real opportunity in this case to pierce this protection. Qualified immunity does not hold when a state official is found to have abused his legal authority and done something he either knew, or should have known, violated clearly established constitutional rights. One would think that the case is clear with respect to President Zaccari’s self-seeking intervention.

The case constitutes an enormously important potential break-through for free speech across college campuses. Legions of state employees will be placed in financial jeopardy should Zacarri’s defense be broken. Since the early 1980′s campuses across the country have maintained dramatic speech restrictions, including the imposition of minute ‘free-speech zones’ on college campuses. In some instances, colleges prohibit the use of words by their professors that might be read to pass judgment on the relative performance of their students. How such professors manage to grade, other than, like Harvard, by denoting 95 per cent of their students as passing summa cum laude, is beyond understanding.

Speech restrictions are challenged only rarely by students or professors – for reasons that are self-evident – but litigation almost always succeeds when it occurs. An obvious solution now exists to roll back speech restrictions en masse. By holding university administrators financially responsible for their violations of free speech, they will confront the ultimate test: having to put their pocket-books directly in support of their personal prejudices. Few will make that choice. For the prejudices of university administrators are rarely more than skin-deep. And the depth of their personal pocket-books is the only reason – other than incompetence in scholarship – why they choose administrative careers on college campuses.

Sue and damn the administrators, should be the motto of any free-speech loving member of any college community across the United States.

Hat Tip: Greg Lukianoff, ‘Campus Clampdowns on Free Speech Flunk Their Legal Tests’, The Wall Street Journal, February 16, 2013

Woman do not belong in direct combat

January 27, 2013

Let me commence this column by making it clear that I am no misogynist. From 50 years experience in teaching at university level, I know that, on average,undergraduate women perform far better in the classroom than average undergraduate men, in part because they are more mature, in part because they work harder, and in part perhaps because they may be smarter. At the graduate level, women on average do slightly less well than men, as men mature and as some women become handicapped by child-bearing and unfair responsibility for household chores. But even there, the best women students (Larry Summers notwithstanding) perform as well as the best men. I do not write this column out of prejudice, but simply out of a desire to speak the truth, and not to succumb to the fraud of political correctness.

When it comes to direct combat on the field of battle, however, other qualities than maturity, smarts, and commitment come under consideration. Direct combat is no classroom exercise. And women, on the average, are severely handicapped by nature.

Let me shift the focus away from the exceptional example of a hard-bitten, 30-year old woman cop, low on estrogen and high on testosterone. Instead, let me focus attention on anyone’s 18-year-old estrogen-charged daughter, a much more likely candidate for direct combat in the nation’s infantry.

Now this eighteen year old female may have all the smarts, all the skills, all the patriotism, all the dedication, and more, of any 18-year-old male. But in direct ground combat – and that is where I focus attention – she has three grave physical deficiencies.

The first such deficiency manifests itself in diminished testosterone, the hormone that fuels aggression.In hand-to-hand combat,against a testosterone-driven, Muslim, woman-despising, aggressive man, ignore the estrogen-limitation at your peril. And remember that military rules are designed to to maximize efficiency in killing enemies.

Second, take note of the established fact that the average woman is blessed with only 50 per cent of the upper-body strength of the average male. Whenever the poor bloody infantry is cutting and scything its way through jungle terrain, or moving heavy equipment across mountainous terrain, or is engaged in hand-to-hand combat too close for rifles to be deployed, other than as bayonets, that 18-year-old woman will be a physical drag on efficiency. Julius Caesar, probably the most successful general of all time, would never have relied on women to supplement his famous legions.

The third deficiency is the much higher susceptibility of that 18-year old daughter to sexual abuse and rape, should she fall alive into the hands of the enemy. No more than 5 per cent of 18-year-old male foes have a taste for homosexuality. So captured men are not regularly raped by their captors. Some 95 per cent of male enemies will be trained and eager to abuse captive 18-year old women. The expectation must be that such abuse and rape will be the rule rather than the exception. And those 18-year-old women will know that this is so.

Now it is in the chivalrous culture of Western man to protect women from harm on the battlefield and from potential abuse if captured, especially by men from an inferior culture. This will not be efficient in the midst of direct combat. No doubt the military will train its male infantrymen to steel themselves, to leave their female comrades at especial risk, when it is efficient so to do, and in order to protect their hidden positions, to ignore the screams of their captured female comrades, as they are openly abused in earshot of the battlefield. But is this the kind of society that we wish to cultivate?

Political correctness- and only political correctness – can explain why Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, neither of whom has any direct combat experience, have abandoned all rationality and lifted the ban on women in direct combat.

Hat Tip: Kathleen Parker, ‘Women do not belong in combat’, The Washington Post, January 27, 2013

Democracy sometimes may be worse than autocracy

December 11, 2012

Democracy has become a favored form of government in Western parlance. And autocracy has become a dirty word.  Yet, history does not support such a comprehensive judgment.  Just to mention, in broad-brush terms,  a few possible exceptions:

Germany’s  democratic Weimar Republic performed so badly as to open the gates to Hitler’s Third Reich.  Kaiser Wilhelm’s autocracy performed much better during the early years of the twentieth century.

British autocratic rule over Hong Kong offers one of the finest examples of governance in the history of mankind.

Singapore’s long-lived one-party autocracy continuously positions Singapore second in the index of economic freedom.

The Allende democratic majority in Chile brought the nation to economic ruin. It took a  General Pinochet dictatorship to promote Chile from third to second world status.

The Chavez democratic majority in Venezuela has brought the holder the world’s largest oil reserves to economic ruin.

British economic performance under limited democracy 1689-1884 arguably was far superior to British performance under an expanded suffrage following the passage of the Third Reform Act in 1884.

Readers will easily identify other exceptions to current political correctness on this issue.

Readers may care to think about the implications of such ‘evidence’ for the future of  those Middle Eastern countries that move from secular dictatorship to Islamic ‘democracy’.

With respect to Egypt, the ‘democratic’ rule of Mohamed (Moriarty) Morsi quickly springs to mind!

 

Progressive philosophy and political correctness in US universities

August 26, 2012

The term university itself suggests and implies that such institutions should be open to all ideas rationally advanced.  Surely, they should not be institutions dedicated to advancing any particular brand of social philosophy.

Sadly, this is not the case.  Almost without exception, U.S. universities are controlled by senior bureaucrats of progressive, left-leaning persuasion.  Unconstrained by any profit-motive, these individuals indulge their own personal preferences in the organization of ‘their’ universities. They do so through a discriminatory allocation of budgets to specific programs, through hiring and tenuring practices,  and through the imposition of speech restrictions to enforce political correctness across ‘their’ campuses.

Evidence is irrefutable about the success of their interventions. University faculty are inexplicably out of balance regarding politics by comparison with the general population.  Regularly, opinion polls show university faculty committing  86 per cent in favor of Democratic Party presidential candidates – even when the choice is between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, or Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale. The history of much more evenly-contested  US presidential elections suggests that enormous bias exists in faculty hiring and promoting, and that enormous pressures are exerted against non-tenured  hired  faculty who fail to toe  the progressive line in their academic publications.

This situation is enormously unhealthy.  Even scholars committed to the progressive philosophy surely must recognize that the closing off of debate, to such an extent, is detrimental to human flourishing.  Safely ensconced at George Mason University, the Virginia Political Economy program has withstood powerful progressive pressures to survive for just short of 60 years as one of a small number of high-quality, non-progressive departments of economics across the nation.

It has done so only through an established academic eminence – two Nobel Prize winners in James M. Buchanan and Vernon Smith, an inter-disciplinarian genius in Gordon Tullock,  the world’s finest black economist, Walter Williams and an army of international recognized scholars attracted by inspired leaders – that has overwhelmed  bureaucratic resistance.

By the way, note that I refer to Walter Williams as black and not as African-American. That is the way that he likes it. Walter is  an American and understands that the noun requires no qualification. Walter’s office also openly displays a Confederate Flag, something that is not widely on display in public offices in this land of the free.

The Virginia Political Economy program was not always so well-placed to survive the onslaught of progressive philosophy. It commenced life in the 1950s at Mr. Jefferson’s academical village in Charlottesville, Virginia. A left -leaning University of Virginia administration, during the late 1960s, viciously attacked and dismantled that program, in the process driving out  two future Nobel Prize winners – James M. Buchanan and Ronald H. Coase –  as well as Gordon Tullock.  Well worth the price, those bureaucratic progressives  defiantly would pronounce once the Prizes were won.

Fortunately for free markets, the Virginia Political Economy program was able to regroup  in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, welcomed by President Marshall Hahn of Virginia Tech who cared much more for scholarship and for putting one over on Mr. Jefferson’s academical village, than he did for any form of crude ideology.

When a revitalized Virginia Political Economy program came down from the mountain to the Big City in 1983, Washington itself realized that a significant blast of fresh air had blown in just south of the Mason-Dixon line. With Ronald Reagan in the White House, the intellectual program, for a time at least, was  warmly welcomed by the government of the nation.

When Will They Ever Learn?

December 10, 2009

Experienced professors in universities and colleges are well-acquainted with a certain category of student, clearly ill-suited to the environment in which they find themselves.  Often, such students are pushed beyond their abilities and/or their interests, by parents, siblings, or peers, or are motivated by a lack of desire to enter the regular work-force.  So, they enroll in college, hopefully to pursue ‘the good time’.  They quickly build up an unmistakable record of  poor attendance, late delivery of  work, academic course withdrawals and, if they are really poorly-treated  by excessively tolerant faculty, of grade incompletes and grade inflations to keep them in the program.  The end is completely foreseeable: termination of their degree programs, either mercifully swiftly or painfully slow, depending upon the quality of their program and the senses (good or bad) of their instructors.  The failure surely in large part is their own.  But the failure is also  institutional, with revenue-greedy and socially over-sensitive, politically-correct administrators grasping for admittances among the clearly unsuited lower tails of both the ability and the motivation distributions.

So it is with US home-ownership.  As with university education, home-ownership for individuals and families with the wherewithal and the commitment, is a wonderful aspiration and a comforting environment.  Indeed, it is the bedrock of a civilized society.  But, as with university education,  it is clearly not for everyone. For those who lack the ability, or the motivation, or the sheer good fortune, to build a sufficient asset-base and to hold down a sufficiently remunerative job, home-ownership is a crippling burden, draining resources, and placing intolerable economic and social pressures upon the weak and the vulnerable to maintain life-styles that are well beyond their reach.

In a well-functioning market system, households would unfold themselves like some giant jigsaw puzzle into appropriate configurations of home-ownership and home rental.  The configuration would not be set in stone. The jigsaw puzzle would reshape itself continuously under the impulse of changing market conditions. In consequence, house prices and rents would maintain a healthy market equilibrium that facilitates household mobility in response to changing  job-market signals.

Unfortunately, in the United States, political rather than private market forces control the distribution of properties between home-ownership and rentals. Perceived vote and interest group pressures, fueled by a climate of political correctness,  drive congressmen, senators and presidents, of whichever party, with the support of a typically proactive Federal Reserve, to extend home-ownership beyond sustainable levels, just as monetary greed drives university administrators to over-extend the level of student admissions.  Such narrow self-seeking behavior provides a climate of deception in which households clearly unsuited to home-ownership enter into unsustainable, sub-prime contracts with financial institutions  that respond foolishly to political pressure, only to find themselves  under-water from the outset and on an irreversible path to foreclosure or bankruptcy with all the long-term bad- credit implications thus implied.

So, if this was the 2001-2006 route to the burst house-price bubble, that caused the 2008 financial crisis and economic contraction, why are President Obama and the US Congress now repeating the error as they thresh about to coerce unwilling financial institutions into writing liars’ contracts for unsustainable sub-prime mortgages in order to send out a political signal that the Making Home Affordable program is really successful.  Perhaps they really enjoy the political latitude for socialism provided by the 2008 crisis and contraction, and want to create another,  just for good measure,  albeit in 2013?  Or perhaps they will never learn:

“We have learned some things from comparable experiences of the 1930s’ Great Depression, perhaps enough to reduce the severity of the current contraction.  But we have made no progress toward putting limits on political leaders, who act out their natural proclivities without any basic understanding of what makes capitalism work.”

James M. Buchanan, Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences 1986. Frontispiece to Economic Contractions in the United States: A Failure of Government by Charles K. Rowley and Nathanael Smith. September 2009 (www.amazon.com).


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