All posts filed under: Social Policy

Charles Murray’s ‘Facing Reality’—A Review

A review of Facing Reality: Two Truths about Race in America by Charles Murray. Encounter Books, 168 pages. (June, 2021) I’ve known about Charles Murray since 1994, when I was a voracious and unsupervised teen reader in rural Oregon grabbing the library’s latest issue of the New Republic the instant it was shelved. It was here that I stumbled upon the shocking views Murray and Richard J. Herrnstein expressed in The Bell Curve about race, class, and inequality in America. I didn’t give those views much deep thought at the time, and so my perception of Murray and his ideas hewed more or less to the dismissive conventional wisdom. It wasn’t until I read a 1998 essay in Commentary magazine by Christopher Chabris that I began to reconsider. Chabris argued that the media furor around The Bell Curve obscured more than it illuminated, and that the consensus among psychologists on the importance of intelligence to life outcomes was indeed close to what Murray and Herrnstein had asserted. To my surprise, in the 21st century, my relationship …

The Limitations of Black Conservative Thought

I. Can we choose to be optimistic or pessimistic about our future prospects? Can we choose our appetite for risk or our attitude toward conformity? Can we choose to bolster our self-esteem if we know that low self-esteem is causing us grief? Few of us believe we are entirely free to conduct a sober, sophisticated cost-benefit analysis every time we face an important decision in life, whether it’s how much to study for a final exam, when to end a long-term relationship, or if we should order one last drink before the bar closes. Similarly, few of us believe we live in an entirely deterministic world in which we are free only to rationalize our behavior after the fact. So, how free are we? Science provides us with plenty of empirical evidence to suggest we are not as free as our most exuberant defenders of human freedom assume, but it will likely be a few more decades, if not longer, before neuroscientists, endocrinologists, evolutionary biologists, sociologists, psychologists, and scientists of as-yet-unnamed disciplines identify precisely where …

The Conservative Case for Cannabis Legalization

Last November, more than 75 percent of voters in Mississippi voted to legalize medical marijuana. By February, neighboring Alabama’s Senate had passed its own legalization bill for the third year in a row. Of Alabama’s four neighboring states, only Tennessee still treats all marijuana possession as a crime. If this is where weed stands in the deep south, its legalization recreationally in 18 states (as of this writing) should not be surprising. More than 128 million Americans now live in these states, including New Mexico, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Virginia, and nearly 224 million live in states that have legalized medical marijuana use. According to an April 2021 Pew poll, more than 90 percent of Americans (and more than 80 percent of self-described political conservatives) now support legalization in some form, with 60 percent in favor of recreational legalization. Given this reality, conservative leaders should reconsider their traditionally hostile approach to marijuana and embrace the end of state cannabis prohibition as both good policy and an embodiment of core conservative principles. As the conservative economist and …

Debate and Disinformation: The Ugly Quarrel Over the UK Government’s Race Report

Howard Beckett is the deputy leader of the largest trade union in the UK, a frontrunner in the race to be its new leader, and the elected representative of the country’s unions on the executive of the UK Labour Party. On Friday, May 14th, the party suspended Beckett, and he was reported to the police for tweeting this about the Home Secretary, a woman of Ugandan Asian descent: Although its use in the US dates back to the 1960s Black Power movement, the phrase “institutional racism” gained political currency on this side of the Atlantic following an official investigation into events surrounding the racially motivated murder of a black British teenager, Stephen Lawrence, in 1993. The report produced by this inquiry concluded that the Metropolitan police force investigating that murder was guilty of: …a collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. [Institutional racism] can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour that amount to discrimination through prejudice, ignorance, …

Britain Needs a New Approach to Homelessness

Author note: Some of the names in this essay have been changed in accordance with the wishes of those interviewed. “Out here, everyone’s taking something,” a man named Karl explains as he scratches his chest and tries to gather up the copies of the Big Issue he’s just dropped. Karl is standing in the middle of a busy high street, across from Norwich’s historic market. He is one of the estimated 40 men and women in the city who sleep rough every night. Originally from east London, the 45-year-old left the capital after a relationship broke down and headed northward and settled here. After a number of serious issues with alcohol and drugs, he lost his flat and has spent the last three years bedding down on concrete in and around Norwich. Homelessness is an extremely contentious and emotive issue. As a general rule, those on the Right view it as an employment problem, while those on the Left tend to see it as the result of austerity and cuts to social spending introduced by …

The Question of Affirmative Action: An Interview with Glenn Loury

On November 2nd, 2020, Brown professor of Economics and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute Glenn Loury joined Harvard political theorist Michael Sandel’s course “Justice” to discuss the ethics of affirmative action in American higher education. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of that conversation. MICHAEL SANDEL: I wonder if I could begin with a provocative quotation from a lecture you’ve given. You’ve said that affirmative action is not about equality, it’s about “covering ass.” What did you mean by that and what do you think generally about the ethics of affirmative action? GLENN LOURY: I was drawing the listener’s attention to the difference between the institutional interest in having a diverse profile of participants and the interests, as I understand them, of the population which may be the beneficiary of this largesse. My point was: if you want genuine equality, this is distinct from titular equality. If you want substantive equality, this is distinct from optics equality. If you want equality of respect, of honor, of standing, of dignity, of achievement, of mastery, …

The Problem with Kinship Care

Thanks, but no thanks. That was the message that aspiring foster parents got this fall when they sent inquiries offering their services to the New Jersey Department of Children and Families. According to an automatic email reply from Dawn Marlow, administrator for the Office of Resource Families, the state is not accepting applications from any foster parents except those who are willing to take care of children with “complex developmental or medical needs.” How is it that states from Georgia to Michigan are struggling to find enough qualified foster homes to take in children—especially during a pandemic when many homes have closed and recruitment is hard—but New Jersey is doing just fine? The letter explains that: “In New Jersey, the number of youth in foster care continues to be reduced each year because we are focusing first on kinship placements.” It’s true that the state has reduced the number of kids in foster care by two-thirds since 2003, from 13,000 to 4,000. But there are only about 1,700 kids who are being officially removed from their …

L.A.’s Failed Homeless Policies Turned My Home Into a Prison

I never wanted a gun. In fact, I wanted to never own one—until around noon on Thursday, August 20th. Since the late 1990s, I’ve lived in Venice, California, renting a one-bedroom Craftsman house a mile from the ocean that someone built out of a Sears-catalog kit 100 years ago. I’m a science-based syndicated columnist and author, currently working all hours to complete a book that keeps trying to kill me. Luckily, I’m writing it in this cute little old lady of a house on my sweet Venice block. Whenever it seems I’m pointlessly pushing words around the page, I’ll step out the front door and take in the sunny stretch of palm trees, cacti, and bougainvillea. I’ll spot a hummingbird, wave to my neighbor with his parrot on his shoulder, or maybe watch Joey the Aggressive Squirrel, my wee dog’s taunting nemesis. These brief distractions uncouple me from looming suspicions that I’m an incompetent dullard no one will want to read, and I often go back in, emotionally restored, and pound out a coherent and …

Affirmative Action in a Multiethnic Nation

This last week, the California Legislature voted to hold a referendum to repeal Proposition 209 in November. Passed in 1996, Prop 209 banned affirmative action in public contracting, employment, and education. This maneuver comes on the heels of the Black Lives Matter protests and riots roiling the nation, and is of a piece with the ongoing cultural revolution which is attempting to instantiate Critical Race Theory as the hegemonic ideology in elite institutions. As we are constantly reminded, America is becoming an ever-more diverse nation. Whites will be a minority by mid-century. Some perceive this to be an unalloyed good. But it appears that few proponents of affirmative action are prepared to consider the dangers of quotas in a multiethnic society. A survey of other nations’ experiences with this policy reveals sobering consequences. At best: social strife, inefficiency, endemic public corruption, and nepotism. At worst: tribalized violence and warfare. In Malaysia, after the British colonial administration departed, the fledgling nation faced simmering ethnic tensions among native Malays (bumiputeras/“sons of the soil”) and overseas Chinese and …

Is Foster Care Racist?

“We need to abolish the foster care system,” Charity Chandler-Cole, a member of the Los Angeles County Commission for Children and Families told her colleagues earlier this month. Chandler-Cole, a former foster youth herself, explained: “I don’t care how big your Office of Equity is, I don’t care how many black people and brown people you hire.” Meanwhile, in a recent op-ed entitled “Now Is the Time for Abolition,” Alan Dettlaff, dean of the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, and Kristen Weber, director of equity, inclusion, and justice for the Center for the Study of Social Policy, announced that their “respective organizations have formed upEND, a collaborative movement… [that] works to create a society in which the forcible separation of children from their parents is no longer an acceptable intervention for families in need.” The complaints of structural racism and a desire to abolish foster care will sound familiar to anyone who has been listening to the recent debate about policing. But the claim that the foster care system suffers from systemic bias and …