All posts filed under: Top Stories

The Fear of White Power

A new report by the American Enterprise Institute, “Black Men Making It in America,” uses Census data to show that African-American men are succeeding in the United States. Written by University of Virginia sociology professor W. Bradford Wilcox, director of research at the Institute for Family Studies Wendy Wang and Columbia University social policy professor Maurice Russel, the report reveals that more than one-in-two black males–57 percent–now belong to the country’s middle or upper class. That is up from 38 percent in 1960. Meanwhile, the share of black men in poverty has fallen from 41 percent in 1960 to 18 percent today. In comparison, 55 percent of Hispanic-Americans belong to the middle or upper class while the figures stand at 73 percent for Asian-Americans and 75 percent for white Americans. There is still clearly work to be done, but this cannot be described as anything other than huge socio-economic progress for black American males, a group often unfairly associated primarily with crime and unemployment. However, you would never imagine such progress was going on if you were to rely on …

Bridging the STEM Gender Gap Divide

Another still small voice has joined the chorus of those calling for us to reconsider our approach to the gender gap in technology. Writing in Quillette, University of Washington computer science lecturer Stuart Reges discussed in depth why there is reason to believe that the tendency of more men than women to pursue careers in the field may arise primarily from innate factors rather than bias or discrimination.1  Predictably, many have called for him to lose his job as punishment for speaking this heresy.2  However, one response that stood out from the others was written under the intriguing and provocative title “Women in tech: we’re training men to resent us” by Microsoft software engineer Kasey Champion.3  In it, she describes how learning that the article had been written by Mr. Reges, who had been her teacher and mentor when she was a student at the University of Washington, challenged her to rethink her view of men who think differently on these issues.  She goes on to discuss his arguments in detail, explaining what she believes …

Why Should We Be Good?

Today we are witnessing an irrepressible and admirable pushback against the specters of ‘cultural relativism’ and moral ‘nihilism.’ On the Right, thinkers such as Patrick Deneen and Jordan Peterson have responded to an increasingly cynical postmodern culture by arguing for a return to traditionalist and/or local values. More centrist thinkers such as Steven Pinker and Sam Harris have argued for a return to the Enlightenment’s emphasis on using reason and its handmaiden, empirical science, to develop an ever more objective set of ethical norms. And even on the far-Left, radical thinkers such as Alain Badiou and Slavoj Zizek have levelled scathing attacks against postmodern relativism and ‘totalitarian’ identity politics, calling for a return to ethics properly understood: Indeed, relativism and the moral nihilism with which it is often affiliated, seems to be in retreat everywhere. For many observers and critics, this is a wholly positive development since both have the corrosive effect of undermining ethical certainty. I think there are two motivations behind this disdain for relativism and moral nihilism: one of which is negative …

A Progressive Defense of Thomas Jefferson

Since the election of President Trump, American progressives have been looking at their country and its Founders with renewed scrutiny. Although protesters have rallied against Confederate statues for decades, in recent years left-wing activists have increasingly included Thomas Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers in their calls for a thoroughgoing repudiation of America’s racist past. In 2015, protesters at the University of Missouri covered a statue of Jefferson in sticky notes labelling him a “racist” and a “rapist” for his ownership of slaves and sexual relationship with Sally Hemings. (For a defense of Jefferson from these specific charges, see Race Hochdorf’s excellent piece.) More recently, activists in Jefferson’s own state at the University of Virginia shrouded his statue, and later vandalized it with the same insults. At Hofstra University in New York, a crowd including the local College Democrats went so far as to demand the removal of a Jefferson statue from campus, declaring in a petition that he had “been embraced as an icon by white supremacist and neo-nazi organizations such as the Ku Klux …

Journalism Is Not Activism

In 1893, Finley Peter Dunne, a journalist-turned-humorist at the Chicago Evening Post, introduced Martin J. Dooley to the people of Chicago. Mr. Dooley, as he was best known, was a thick-accented bartender from Ireland who owned a tavern in the Bridgeport neighborhood. Mr. Dooley became popular among Chicagoans for his rich satire of politics and society. Of course, Mr. Dooley wasn’t real. He was a fictional character created by Dunne. His work included countless sketches and wide-ranging commentary, but he may be best known for his biting one-liner on newspapers, since reclaimed by journalists as central to the profession’s creed: “The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” The original quote is from Observations by Mr. Dooley, one of several works Dunne produced as the character, in which Dunne specifically satirizes the press’s penchant for trial-by-media. He presented Mr. Dooley through Irish dialect pieces, hence the diction, so the “affliction” quote below has been lightly edited for comprehension: When anything was wrote about a man ’twas put this way: …

The New York Times Comes Out Against Free Speech

According to a front page New York Times news (not opinion) article by Adam Liptak “Weaponizing the First Amendment: How Free Speech Became a Conservative Cudgel,” we must adopt a stance of skepticism toward all this talk of free speech: if we wish to be sophisticated and sensitive, as all good Times readers aspire to be. Free speech? So passé. Only conservatives care about free speech anymore. This is monumental news: the most influential newspaper in the world, the standard bearer of the Establishment, is announcing that free speech is, or should be, over. The article states: The (Supreme) Court’s five conservative members, citing the First Amendment, had just dealt public unions a devastating blow. The day before, the same majority had used the First Amendment to reject a California law requiring religiously oriented “crisis pregnancy centers” to provide women with information about abortion. Conservatives, said Justice Kagan, who is part of the Court’s four-member liberal wing, were “weaponizing the First Amendment.” That’s a disquieting thing for a Supreme Court justice to say. Taking a hard …

Unfabling the East—A Review

A review of Unfabling the East: The Enlightenment’s Encounter with Asia by Jürgen Osterhammel (translated by Robert Savage). Princeton University Press (June, 2018) 696 pages. Late nineteenth century Europeans were arrogantly certain of the inherent superiority of their civilization. Edward Said’s influential book Orientalism (1978) describes representations of the East as inverted projections of Western superiority. Europeans looked down on the East and created myths that flattered the supposedly more advanced and civilized imperialists. Said’s thesis is controversial, but there’s no question that headstrong imperialism was an intellectual force at the apogee of Empire. The problem is that the critique of representation has itself become dogmatic, losing sight of the diversity of historical sources and unable to reflect critically on its own practices. Postmodern critiques either accuse Europeans of ignoring difference, because they are blinded by universalism, or of the opposite: exaggerating difference and creating the stigmatised ‘Other.’ The diagnoses can be diametrically opposed, but the common theme is that Europeans’ prejudices render them unable to understand Asia. Edward Said’s acolytes have become the new …

‘She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity—A Review

A review of She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity by Carl Zimmer. Dutton (May 2018) 656 pages.  In this book, Carl Zimmer tries to lay out how our ideas and knowledge of genetics have developed over time, and where we are today. He mixes in discussion of the social impact of these ideas. Some of those discussions are reasonable, some are not. He covers a very wide range of topics, from contagious cancers in clams to recent developments in genetic engineering. Before I go any further – Zimmer is wordy. He has things to say, but he never uses one word when ten will do. The facts are always part of some long-winded human-interest story. If you like that sort of thing, you may like this book. I cannot say that I did. The real problem with this book is that, to Zimmer and many other people, genetics itself is the enemy. The facts, not the discipline, particularly in how they apply to humans. We now know that everything is …

The War on Normal People—A Review

A review of The War on Normal People: The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income is Our Future by Andrew Yang. Hachette Books (April 2018) 305 pages.  “I am writing from inside the tech bubble to let you know that we are coming for your jobs.” So begins Andrew Yang’s book, The War on Normal People: The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income is Our Future. Despite the tagline, this isn’t fundamentally a book about Universal Basic Income (UBI). It’s about the market, and our attitude towards it. American society has been reorganising over the past few decades. Some business sectors have faded, while others have surged. Importantly, many of the surging sectors are concentrated in a few key regions. This has led to what Yang refers to as “six paths to six places,” meaning that the most qualified college graduates generally choose a career in one of six sectors and in one of six places: finance, consulting, law, technology, medicine, or academia in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, …

Heterodoxy is Hard, Even at Heterodox Academy

Heterodox thinking requires room to be made for different views, different ideas, and different voices to be heard. With sufficient heterodox thinking, it is hoped, the bonds that blind and bind people into groups of tribal moral warriors might wither and eventually allow for truth to replace ideology. However, if the first Heterodox Academy meeting is any indication, heterodox thinking poses substantially more problems than even the hardworking leaders of Heterodox Academy realized. Entering the meeting I was immediately struck by the fact it was held in the New York Times conference center—a beautiful area replete with wait staff, security, and a professional grade lighting and recording area. Everything was well orchestrated, professional, and deliberate. And as Jonathan Haidt took the stage, I felt a sense of respect for a man who has not only deepened our understanding of humanity but who has also worked diligently to make Heterodox Academy a reality. He has, in many ways and sometimes against scathing criticism, popularized the idea of intellectual diversity—making the case that people like me, who …