UNC Philosophy Professor Discusses “Progressive Privilege” in Academia

The professor is Dr. Jonathan Anomaly, director of UNC’s Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Program, and the discussion appears in a recent article at The College Fix:

After examining research by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending offering evolutionary explanations for group differences in cognitive ability, Anomaly …  set out to answer the following question: If there are biological differences between groups, and if some stereotypes based upon these turn out to be true, what are the moral implications for the way in which human beings should treat one another?

“My conclusion was modest,” Anomaly wrote, “if there are biological differences between groups, and if, as [Cochran and Harpending had argued], some stereotypes turn out to be accurate in part because of correct generalizations about biological differences, these facts should not undermine our commitment to treating one another as moral equals, or to increasing opportunity for all, regardless of group membership.”

Yet, Anomaly’s reviewers had a different take. According to Anomaly, they fixated on his paper’s mere suggestion that biological differences between groups may exist.

“He [the reviewer] had a strong reaction,” Anomaly told The Fix. “He called the research that suggests biological differences ‘wildly implausible’ despite the fact that this wasn’t the focus of the paper. It’s a strange thing for a reviewer to say.”

According to Anomaly, one of the referees gave “the most venomous and dismissive feedback” he had ever witnessed.

“I don’t want to cry sour grapes here because papers get rejected for numerous reasons,” Anomaly continued. “But in this case, it was pretty clear that the section of the review discussing biological differences dominated while my paper only focused a small amount on that topic.”

After talking to numerous other scholars who had their research rejected because of unorthodox [read: not in line with progressive ideology] conclusions, Anomaly said he believes that the process of getting published in academia is fraught with what he calls “progressive privilege.”

“I wrote a paper years ago arguing that obesity is a private health matter rather than a public health matter that I had a difficult time getting published,” he said. “I argued that whether you believe it should be a public or private health matter depends on who you believe should be paying for healthcare. Since I ultimately concluded that obesity is a private health matter (an opinion not shared by many who work on this topic), that paper was also harshly reviewed and was only published on the condition that it be run next to a rebuttal.”

“To me, this is another example of ‘progressive privilege’ because the person writing the rebuttal was invited to publish a piece they hadn’t yet written, and the editors were basically saying, ‘feel free to attack this other paper,’” Anomaly said….

“I wrote another paper for the same journal arguing against factory farming and had no trouble getting that one published because that is an idea with which progressives largely agree,” Anomaly said.

Anomaly believes that “progressive privilege” has real consequences for the quality of research emerging from universities.

“If you are an academic who writes in line with standard progressive ideology, and reaches conclusions which progressives widely accept, reviewers, students, colleagues and the general public often won’t notice (or acknowledge) mistakes you make in your reasoning,” he said.

Pardon me, your lordships, but where is the free speech zone at a public university?

A public university, by dint of being a public university, is itself a free speech zone.

This fact inconveniences anti–free-speech “progressives,” self-styled “social justice warriors,” and other would-be dictators of discourse. And they haven’t yet been able to shout down and drive off all ideas they wish never to be heard.

But if others’ free speech can inconvenience them, they discovered they could inconvenience free speech. Which they do with administrative bluster, declaring only certain portions of the campus as “free expression zones.”

Then they act as if they have expanded freedom to undeserving students out of noblesse oblige, when in fact they have greatly restricted it — while expanding their own powers to harass students subjectively, should something they say outside of the arbitrary boundary upset anyone.

Meanwhile, they carefully cultivate students to be ridiculously hypersensitive to “triggering” ideas, like drug-sniffing dogs snuffling through the mental lockers of their peers and howling whenever they catch even the faintest whiff of ThoughtCrime.

What a woeful lesson to teach, that even the state’s brightest young minds cannot now nor never will learn how to handle an upsetting idea!

So I’m always glad to read when students do what the supposedly higher minds on campus (to their shame) won’t: stand up for the free exchange of ideas on a university campus, the one place where people should be most, not least, receptive to challenging ideas.

Carolina Journal reports of such a movement at Western Carolina University:

A Young Americans for Liberty group at Western Carolina University is protesting what it calls “free speech zones” on campus that the group says suppress First Amendment rights — but university officials deem the institution’s policies reasonable for the protection of its students, faculty, and staff.

Current WCU rules require that students maintain a 50-foot distance from all campus buildings during outdoor assemblies, and demand that groups notify school administrators 48 hours prior to any event so that “safety measures may be provided if necessary.”

The rules make it tough to find enough space for gatherings, and prevent students from spontaneously gathering to respond to current events, said Garrett Smith, the university’s YAL chapter president.

Image: UNC-Chapel Hill’s monument to its communitywide effort to fight the Speaker Ban Law, which is rightly still considered (however ironically now) one of the proudest moments in the university’s history.

Leef explores Obama administration’s decision to kill college chain

George Leef’s latest Forbes column focuses on the Obama administration’s effort to put a college chain out of business.

When the Department of Education was established in 1979, no one would have thought that it was authorized to administer the death penalty to colleges that bureaucrats wanted to get rid of. But that is exactly where we are today.

The demise of ITT Tech illustrates the unchecked power of federal regulators under our administrative law system wherein bureaucratic agencies get to act as lawmaker, judge, jury, and executioner all rolled into one. That concept is completely at odds with the way the Founders thought government should function, a point made with great power by Professor Philip Hamburger in his recent book Is Administrative Law Unlawful? (He answers that it is.)

Back in September, ITT announced that it was closing its 130 campuses located in 38 states. The company had come under fire from several state attorneys general and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, with allegations that students had been misled, taken unfair advantage of, and defrauded by ITT.

With those allegations hovering over the company, in August the Department of Education decided to require ITT to put up over $247 million as surety in to cover the taxpayers in the event that it would close and thus trigger student loan defaults. When it couldn’t do that, the Department moved to “protect” students from ITT by forbidding the company to enroll any new students for this academic year who would pay with federal student aid funds.

Minnesota governor regrets telling truth about Obamacare

Paul Demko reports for Politico on the political fallout linked to Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton’s admission that the Affordable Care Act is failing.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton Friday expressed “regret” that Democrats are being attacked over his comment that Obamacare is “no longer affordable,” and he called on his state to approve emergency measures to help people facing huge rate hikes next year.

Republicans across the country had seized on his remarks, which came just days after Bill Clinton raised similar concerns about Obamacare’s ongoing affordability problems.

“Last week I said that the Affordable Care Act ‘is no longer affordable to increasing numbers of people.’ I regret that my statement was wrongly used against Democratic candidates in Minnesota and elsewhere,” Dayton said in a statement. He said he stands by his remarks that more and more people are unable to afford Obamacare coverage.

Minnesota insurers are jacking up rates by at least 50 percent for individual plans next year. The state’s largest insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, has pulled its most popular product, with more than 100,000 enrollees, from the state’s exchange.

The drumbeat of bad health care news has become a central issue in Minnesota’s state legislative races with all seats on the ballot this year. Democratic lawmakers, who control the state Senate but not the House, have pushed Dayton for to call a special session to blunt the impact of rates hikes.

Growth management does more harm than good

The next time you hear someone decry “urban sprawl,” you might want to reacquaint yourself with key findings from the research of Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute.

Growth management takes away people’s property rights in the name of controlling urban sprawl.

Advocates of growth management say that it produces many benefits, including preservation of farm lands, energy savings, reduced air pollution, and lower infrastructure costs. In comparison with the dubious benefits of growth management, the costs are overwhelming. The most quantifiable cost is the effect on housing prices. Housing typically costs two to five times more in states with growth-management laws than in states without such laws. Overall, growth management slows regional growth, exacerbates income inequality, and particularly harms low-income families.

It is imperative that states repeal laws mandating or authorizing city, county, and regional governments to practice growth management. Local and regional governments that practice growth management should abolish their plans.

A quarter century of charter schools

Andy Smarick uses the 25th anniversary of the charter school movement to remind American Enterprise Institute readers about the important concept underlying charter schools.

Charter schools explicitly shifted power from the government to individuals and neighborhood organizations. They prioritized local needs and local decision-making. They trusted families and practitioners to have better information and more wisdom than technocrats. They made room for entrepreneurialism and innovation. They cultivated a diversity of school options to suit a pluralistic society. They focused governments on outcomes instead of inputs. They emerged from piecemeal reform of a longstanding institution, which proceeded slowly from modest community initiatives, not all at once in accord­ance with grand plans devised by experts.

Though welfare reform is perhaps conservatism’s most visible domestic policy success of the last generation, charter schools may be more significant, and may have more ripple effects in the future. At a time when Donald Trump has tempted the Republican party and conservatism towards an embrace of statism, strong central leadership, and bellicose certainty, charter schooling represents a textbook case of the opposite: how individual empowerment, an enlivened civil society, and a modest skepticism about complex, centralized solutions can change lives for the better. Indeed, the story of charter schooling, a national movement that grew from an early-1990s Minnesotan pilot program, could serve as an inspiration for conservative policy leaders in the months and years ahead.

In 1990, there were no charter schools. Public education was still defined by the traditional school district’s “exclusive territory franchise”—its right to own and operate every single public school in its area. But in some reform circles an idea had been percolating. Perhaps educators and community leaders could partner and run public schools outside the traditional system. In 1991, Governor Arne Carlson of Minnesota signed legislation that would allow up to eight “outcomes-based schools.” …

… Chartering is premised on a basic if provocative idea: The principles of public education allow state leaders to cast the government in a role very different from the one it occupied for a century. Instead of serving as the monopoly public-school operator, government can also (or instead) oversee public schools operated by others. Rather than creating school districts that provide all of a locality’s schools, the state government can create “authorizers” to empower and then monitor nonprofit groups that start, run, and grow schools.

Chartering is a reimagining of the state’s part in an essential public enterprise. It follows from David Osborne and Ted Gaebler’s Reinventing Government credo, that when there’s collective work to be done, the state can “steer” instead of “row.” It can generate public value by establishing principles and goals but give others the authority to do the work.

Ignoring the federal debt

Gene Epstein‘s latest “Economic Beat” column in Barron’s explores Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s disappointing responses to critical long-term fiscal challenges.

In last Wednesday’s third and final debate between the two main presidential candidates, questions posed about the economy touched off an intellectual race to the bottom that can only be judged a dead heat.

Chris Wallace of Fox News asked the two candidates about “the national debt,” correctly noting that federal debt held by the public had ballooned to 77% of gross domestic product, “the highest since just after World War II.” And yet the fiscal plans of both candidates would raise the debt-to-GDP ratio even further, prompting his pointed question, “Why are both of you ignoring this problem?”

Donald Trump’s non-answer took the form of declaring that “you don’t have to bother asking your question” because his policies would bring annual economic growth of “5% or 6%,” which would presumably make it possible to cover all budgetary obligations. Over the past four decades since the mid-1970s, there has not been a single 10-year period in which growth even ran as high as 4% annually, partly because recessions tend to occur. If the fiscal crisis of the state can only be averted by fulfilling Trump’s outlandish claims about potential growth, then we should really be alarmed.

Hillary Clinton’s non-answer took a more subtle form. She insisted that her ambitious spending proposals would “not add a penny to the national debt” because she plans on “going where the money is” by getting the “wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share.” Since new spending programs generally underestimate costs, while taxing programs tend to overestimate revenues, that not “a penny” will be added to the debt from her tax-and-spend proposals sounded equally outlandish.

MORE TO THE POINT, however, Clinton ducked the question by claiming only that she would not make the problem worse. But unless something is done, the debt-to-GDP ratio will continue to climb to dangerous levels. In the July report on the long-term budget outlook released by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the baseline scenario projects a rise in the ratio to 86% by 2016 and to 141% by 2046, a record level that the CBO believes could trigger a fiscal crisis.

The agency’s baseline scenario assumes that nothing will be done to tame the soaring debt. By proposing only to spend more and tax more, Clinton in effect claims she’ll do nothing at best, but more likely she will add to the debt.

Clinton, Trump, and the future economy

Thomas Donlan of Barron’s explains in his latest editorial commentary why both major-party presidential candidates miss the mark in their approach to American manufacturing jobs.

[O]ne of the most significant issues of the presidential season is one on which the two major party candidates do agree: manufacturing. They say the U.S. should regain its lost dominance in manufacturing.

Donald Trump has talked strong-armed protectionism. “We’re going to get Apple to build their damn computers and things in this country instead of in other countries,” he said last January. And while campaigning in Pittsburgh more recently, he said, “We are going to put American-produced steel back into the backbone of our country.” He claimed, “This alone will create massive numbers of jobs.”

Hillary Clinton has a different strategy but the same goal. Although she has madly backpedaled from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, protectionism is not her primary focus. As she said in last week’s debate, she wants to help business with “the biggest jobs program since World War II, jobs in infrastructure and advanced manufacturing. I think we can compete with high-wage countries, and I believe we should. New jobs and clean energy, not only to fight climate change, which is a serious problem, but to create new opportunities and new businesses.”

She also wants to raise the national minimum wage, which will help those who have jobs at the expense of those who need jobs. She wants more technical education to prepare people for the jobs of the future, though there’s no crystal ball of knowledge about the future and its jobs.

Neither side has the courage to present and defend economic facts and principles.

The major fact is that manufacturing is not leaving the U.S. economy. Yes, jobs in manufacturing are down 30% since 1987, (leaving 12 million last year), but America’s remaining makers make more stuff, of higher value, than ever before. Manufacturing output, adjusted for inflation, rose 85% in the same period. …

… To turn to principle, no country, not even the U.S., can successfully rely on its government to maintain international superiority of its businesses. Remember how Japan Inc. was winning the technology race? No matter how fast we seem to be losing some kind of national race, we should understand that profit and prosperity are private matters that do not respond to stimulus, management, or investment by an omniscient government.

The largest problem with imposing political changes on the manufacturing economy is that we all need trade to prosper. The U.S. cannot close its doors to imports of things it needs, whether cheap or expensive, low-tech or high tech. If the government tries to do so on a large scale, it will raise costs and lower quality in its other industries.