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Neoclassical Pseudo Theories and Crooked and Bought Economists as Fifth Column of Financial Oligarchy

There is no economics, only political economy, stupid

News Casino Capitalism Recommended Links Neoliberalism as Trotskyism for the rich Number racket Efficient Market Hypothesis Economism and abuse of economic theory in American politics
Supply Side or Trickle down economics Invisible Hand Hypothesys Twelve apostles of deregulation Monetarism fiasco Financial Sector Induced Systemic Instability of Economy Samuelson's bastard Keynesianism Greenspan as the Chairman of Financial Politburo
Libertarian Philosophy Elite [Dominance] Theory And the Revolt of the Elite The Iron Law of Oligarchy Audacious Oligarchy and "Democracy for Winners" Ayn Rand and her Objectivism Cult Neoliberal Brainwashing -- Journalism in the Service of the Powerful Few The Deep State
Free Market Fundamentalism Friedman --founder of Chicago school of deification of market Lawrence Summers Corruption of Regulators Glass-Steagall repeal Rational expectations scam Free Markets Newspeak
In Goldman Sachs we trust: classic example of regulatory capture by financial system hackers Mathiness GDP as a false measure of a country economic output Introduction to Lysenkoism Republican Economic Policy Think Tanks Enablers  Small government smoke screen
Hyman Minsky John Kenneth Galbraith  Bookshelf History of Casino Capitalism Casino Capitalism Dictionary :-) Humor Etc
Is it really necessary for every economist to be brain-dead apologist for the rich and powerful and predatory, in every damn breath?

Bruce Wilder in comments to Clash of Autonomy and Interdependence

Smith briskly takes a sledgehammer to any number of plaster saints cluttering up the edifice of modern economics:

"assumptions that are patently ridiculous: that individuals are rational and utility-maximizing (which has become such a slippery notion as to be meaningless), that buyers and sellers have perfect information, that there are no transaction costs, that capital flows freely"

And then...papers with cooked figures, economists oblivious to speculative factors driving oil prices, travesty versions of Keynes's ideas that airbrush out its most characteristic features in the name of mathematical tractability.

And then...any number of grand-sounding theoretical constructs: the Arrow-Debreu theorem, the Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium model, the Black-Scholes option model, Value at Risk, CAPM, the Gaussian copula, that only work under blatantly unrealistic assumptions that go by high falutin' names - equilibrium, ergodicity, and so on.

The outcome of this pseudo-scientific botching is an imposing corpus of pretentious quackery that somehow elevates unregulated "free markets" into the sole mechanism for distribution of the spoils of economic activity. We are supposed to believe that by some alchemical process, maximum indulgence of human greed results in maximum prosperity for all. That's unfair to alchemy: compared with the threadbare scientific underpinnings of this economic dogma, alchemy is a model of rigor.

How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism

How many others are being paid for punditry? Or has the culture of corruption spread so far that the question is, Who isn't?

PAUL KRUGMAN, NYT, December 19, 2005

"MIT and Wharton and University of Chicago created the financial engineering instruments which, like Samson and Delilah, blinded every CEO. They didn't realize the kind of leverage they were doing and they didn't understand when they were really creating a real profit or a fictitious one."

Paul Samuelson


Introduction

When you see this "neoclassical" gallery of expensive intellectual prostitutes (sorry, respectable priests of a dominant religion) that pretend to be professors of economics in various prominent universities, it is difficult not to say "It's political economy stupid". Those lackeys of ruling elite are just handing microphone bought by financial oligarchy.  Here is am Amazon.com review of  ECONned How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism eBook Yves Smith that  states this position well:

kievite:
Neoclassical economics as a universal door opener for financial oligarchy

There are many good reviews of the book published already and I don't want to repeat them. But I think there is one aspect of the book that was not well covered in the published reviews and which I think is tremendously important and makes the book a class of its own: the use of neoclassical economics as a universal door opener for financial oligarchy. I hope that the term "econned" will became a new word in English language.

Neoclassical economics has become the modern religion with its own priests, sacred texts and a scheme of salvation. It was a successful attempt to legitimize the unlimited rule of financial oligarchy by using quasi-mathematical, oversimplified and detached for reality models. The net result is a new brand of theology, which proved to be pretty powerful in influencing people and capturing governments("cognitive regulatory capture"). Like Marxism, neoclassical economics is a triumph of ideology over science. It was much more profitable though: those who were the most successful in driving this Trojan horse into the gates were remunerated on the level of Wall Street traders.

Economics is essentially a political science. And politics is about perception. Neo-classical economics is all about manipulating the perception in such a way as to untie hands of banking elite to plunder the country (and get some cramps from the table for themselves). Yves contributed to our understanding how "These F#@king Guys" as Jon Steward defined them, economics professors from Chicago, Harvard, Columbia, Princeton and some other places warmed by flow of money from banks for specific services provided managed to serve as a fifth column helping Wall Street to plunder the country. The rhetorical question that a special counsel to the U.S. Army, Joseph Welch, asked Senator McCarthy: "Have you no sense of decency?" applies.

The main effect of neoclassical economics is elevating unregulated ( "free" in neoclassic economics speak) markets into the key mechanism for distribution of the results of economic activity with banks as all-powerful middlemen and sedating any opposition with pseudo-mathematical mumbo-jumbo. Complexity was used as a powerful smoke screen to conceal greed and incompetence. As a result financial giants were able to loot almost all sectors of economics with impunity and without any remorse, not unlike the brutal conquerors in Middle Ages.

The key to the success of this nationwide looting is that people should be brainwashed/indoctrinated to believe that by some alchemical process, maximum level of greed results in maximum prosperity for all. Collapse of the USSR helped in this respect driving the message home: look how the alternative ended, when in reality the USSR was a neo-feudal society. But the exquisite irony here is that Bolsheviks-style ideological brainwashing was applied very successfully to the large part of the US population (especially student population) using neo-classical economics instead of Marxism (which by-and-large was also a pseudo-religious economic theory with slightly different priests and the plan of salvation ;-). The application of badly constructed mathematical models proved to be a powerful tool for distorting reality in a certain, desirable for financial elite direction. One of the many definitions of Ponzi Scheme is "transfer liabilities to unwilling others." The use of detached from reality mathematical models fits this definition pretty well.

The key idea here is that neoclassical economists are not and never have been scientists: much like Marxist economists they always were just high priests of a dangerous cult -- neoliberalism -- and they are more then eager to stretch the truth for the benefit of the sect (and indirectly to their own benefit). All-in-all this is not unlike Lysenkoism: state support was and still is here, it is just working more subtly via ostracism, without open repressions. Look at Shiller story on p.9.

I think that one of lasting insights provided by Econned is the demonstration how the US society was taken hostage by the ideological views of the neoclassical economic school that has dominated the field at least for 30 or may be even 50 years. And that this ideological coup d'état was initiated and financed by banking establishment who was a puppeteer behind the curtain. This is not unlike the capture of Russia by Bolsheviks supported by German intelligence services (and Bolshevics rule lasted slightly longer -- 65 years). Bolsheviks were just adherents of similar wrapped in the mantle of economic theory religious cult, abeit more dangerous and destructive for the people of Russia then neoclassical economics is for the people of the USA. Quoting Marx we can say "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce".

That also means that there is no easy way out of the current situation. Ideologies are sticky and can lead to the collapse of society rather then peaceful evolution.

So it's no surprise that there is a strong evidence that neo-classical economics is not a science, it's a political ideology of financial oligarchy masquerading as science. Or a religious cult, if you wish.

So it's no surprise that there is a strong evidence that neo-classical economics is not a science, it's a political ideology of financial oligarchy masquerading as science. Or a religious cult, if you wish.

The cult which served as a Trojan horse for bankers to grab power and wealth by robbing fellow Americans. In a way this is a classic story of a parasite killing the host. The powers that be in academia put their imprimatur on economic ‘theory,’ select and indoctrinate its high priests to teach it, and with a host of media players grinding out arguments pro and con this and that, provide legitimacy sufficient for cover of bankers objectives. Which control the disposition and annuity streams of pension fund assets and related financial services. In his new documentary Inside Job, filmmaker Charles Ferguson provides strong evidence of a systematic mass corruption of economic profession (Yahoo! Finance):

Ferguson points to 20 years of deregulation, rampant greed (a la Gordon Gekko) and cronyism. This cronyism is in large part due to a revolving door between not only Wall Street and Washington, but also the incestuous relationship between Wall Street, Washington and academia.

The conflicts of interest that arise when academics take on roles outside of education are largely unspoken, but a very big problem. “The academic economics discipline has been very heavily penetrated by the financial services industry,” Ferguson tells Aaron in the accompanying clip. “Many prominent academics now actually make the majority of their money from the financial services industry, not from teaching or research. [This fact] has definitely compromised the research work and the policy advice that we get from academia.”

... ... ...

Feguson is astonished by the lack of regulation demanding financial disclosure of all academics and is now pushing for it. “At a minimum, federal law should require public disclosure of all outside income that is in any way related to professors’ publishing and policy advocacy,” he writes. “It may be desirable to go even further, and to limit the total size of outside income that potentially generates conflicts of interest.”

The dismantling of economic schools that favor financial oligarchy interests over real research (and prosecuting academic criminals -- many prominent professors in Chicago, Harvard, Columbia and other prominent members of neo-classical economic church) require a new funding model. As neoliberalism itself, the neoclassical economy is very sticky. Chances for success of any reform in the current environment are slim to non existent.

Here is one apt quote from Zero Hedge discussion of Gonzalo Lira article On The Identity Of The False Religion Behind The Mask Of Economic Science zero hedge

"They analyze data for Christ sakes"

Just like Mishkin analyzed Iceland for $120k? a huge proportion in US [are] on Fed payroll, or beneficiaries of corporate thinktank cash; they are coverup lipstick and makeup; hacks for hire.

Like truth-trashing mortgage pushers, credit raters, CDO CDS market manipulators and bribe-fueled fraud enablers of all stripes -- they do it for the dough -- and because everybody else is doing it.

It's now a common understanding that "These F#@king Guys" as Jon Steward defined them, professors  of neoclassical economics from Chicago, Harvard and some other places are warmed by flow of money from financial services industries for specific services provided managed to serve as a fifth column helping financial oligarchy to destroy the country. This role of neo-classical economists as the fifth column of financial oligarchy is an interesting research topic. Just don't expect any grants for it ;-).

As Reinhold Niebuhr aptly noted in his classic Moral Man and Immoral Society
Since inequalities of privilege are greater than could possibly be defended rationally, the intelligence of privileged groups is usually applied to the task of inventing specious proofs for the theory that universal values spring from, and that general interests are served by, the special privileges which they hold.

I would like to stress it again: they are not and never have been scientists: they are just high priests of dangerous cult -- neoliberalism -- and they are more then eager to stretch the truth for the sect (and that means their own) benefits. Fifth column of financial oligarchy. All-in-all this is not unlike Lysenkoism: at some point state support became obvious as financial oligarchy gained significant share of government power (as Glass-Steagall repeal signified). It is just more subtle working via ostracism and flow of funding, without open repressions. See also Politicization of science and The Republican War on Science

Like Russia with Bolsheviks, the US society was taken hostage by the ideological views of the Chicago economic school that has dominated the field for approximately 50 years ( as minimum over 30 years). Actually the situation not unlike the situation with Lysenkoism is the USSR. It's pretty notable that the USA suffered 30 years of this farce, actually approximately the same amount of time the USSR scientific community suffered from Lysenkoism (1934-1965)

Rules of disclosure of sources of financing for economic research are non-existent


"Over the past 30 years, the economics profession—in economics departments, and in business, public policy, and law schools—has become so compromised by conflicts of interest that it now functions almost as a support group for financial services and other industries whose profits depend heavily on government policy.

The route to the 2008 financial crisis, and the economic problems that still plague us, runs straight through the economics discipline. And it's due not just to ideology; it's also about straightforward, old-fashioned money."

Peter Dormat noticed amazing similarity between medical researchers taking money from drug companies and economists. In case of medical researchers widespread corruption can at least be partially kept in check by rules of disclosure. Universities are being called out for their failure to disclose to public agencies the other, private grants researchers are pulling in. This is not perfect policing as the universities themselves get a cut of the proceeds, so that the conflict of interest exists but at least this is theirs too.

But there is no corresponding policy for economics. So for them there are not even rules to be broken. And this is not a bug, this is  feature.  In a sense corruption is officially institualized and expected in economics. Being a paid shill is the typical career of many professional economists. Some foundations require an acknowledgment in the published research they support, but that's all about “thank you”, not disclaimer about the level of influence of those who pay for the music exert on the selection of the tune. Any disclosure of other, privately-interested funding sources by economists is strictly voluntary, and in practice seldom occurs. Trade researchers can be funded by foreign governments or business associations and so on and so forth.

In this atmosphere pseudo-theories have currency and are attractive to economists who want to enrich themselves. That situation is rarely reflected in mainstream press. For example, there some superficial critiques of neo-classical economics as a new form of Lysenkoism (it enjoyed the support of the state) but MSM usually frame the meltdown of neo-classical economic theory something like "To all you corrupt jerks out there: shake off the old camouflage as it became too visible and find a new way misleading the masses...". At the same time it's a real shocker, what a bunch of toxic theories and ideologies starting from Reagan have done to the US economy.

That suggests that neo-economics such as Milton Friedman (and lower level patsies like Eugene Fama ) were just paid propagandists of a superficial, uninformed, and simplistic view of the world that was convenient to the ruling elite. While this is somewhat simplistic explanation, it's by-and-large true and that was one of the factors led the USA very close to the cliff... Most of their theories is not only just nonsense for any trained Ph.D level mathematician or computer scientist, they look like nonsense to any person with a college degree, who looks at them with a fresh, unprejudiced mind. There are several economic myths, popularized by well paid propagandists over the last thirty years, that are falling hard in the recent series of financial crises: the efficient market hypothesis, the inherent benefits of globalization from the natural equilibrium of national competitive advantages, and the infallibility of unfettered greed as a ideal method of managing and organizing human social behavior and maximizing national production.

I would suggest that and economic theory has a strong political-economic dimension. The cult of markets, ideological subservience and manipulation, etc. certainly are part of neo-classical economics that was influenced by underling political agenda this pseudo-theory promotes. As pdavidsonutk wrote: July 16, 2009 16:14

Keynes noted that "classical theorists resemble Euclidean geometers in a non Euclidean world who, discovering that in experience straight lines apparently parallel often meet, rebuke the lines for not keeping straight --as the only remedy for the unfortunate collisions. Yet in truth there is no remedy except to throw over the axiom of parallels to work out a non-Euclidean geometry. SOMETHING SIMILAR IS REQUIRED IN ECONOMICS TODAY. " [Emphasis added]

As I pointed out in my 2007 book JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES (Mentioned in this ECONOMIST article as a biography "of the master") Keynes threw over three classical axioms: (1) the neutral money axiom (2) the gross substitution axiom, and (3) the ergodic axiom.

The latter is most important for understanding why modern macroeconomics is dwelling in an Euclidean economics world rather than the non-Euclidean economics Keynes set forth.

The Ergodic axiom asserts that the future is merely the statistical shadow of the past so that if one develops a probability distribution using historical data, the same probability distribution will govern all future events till the end of time!! Thus in this Euclidean economics there is no uncertainty about the future only probabilistic risk that can reduce the future to actuarial certainty! In such a world rational people and firms know (with actuarial certainty) their intertemporal budget constrains and optimize -- so that there can never be an loan defaults, insolvencies, or bankruptcies.

Keynes argued that important economic decisions involved nonergodic processes, so that the future could NOT be forecasted on the basis of past statistical probability results -- and therefore certain human institutions had to be develop0ed as part of the law of contracts to permit people to make crucial decisions regarding a future that they "knew" they could not know and still sleep at night. When the future seems very uncertain, then rational people in a nonergodic world would decide not to make any decisions to commit their real resources -- but instead save via liquid assets so they could make decisions another day when the future seemed to them less uncertain.

All this is developed and the policy implications derived in my JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES (2007) book. Furthermore this nonergodic model is applied to the current financial and economic crisis and its solution in my 2009 book THE KEYNES SOLUTION: THE PATH TO GLOBAL PROSPERITY (Palgrave/Macmillan) where I tell the reader what Keynes would have written regarding today's domestic crisis in each nation and its international aspects.

Paul Davidson ghaliban wrote:

July 16, 2009 15:34

I think you could have written a shorter article to make your point about the dismal state of economics theory and practice, and saved space to think more imaginatively about ways to reform.

A bit like biology, economics must become econology - a study of real economic systems. It must give up its physics-envy. This on its own will lead its practitioners closer to the truth.

Like biological systems, economic systems are complex, and often exhibit emergent properties that cannot be predicted from the analysis of component parts. The best way to deal with this is (as in biology) to start with the basic organizational unit of analysis - the individual, and then study how the individual makes economic decisions in larger and larger groups (family/community), and how groups take economic decisions within larger and larger forms of economic organization. From this, econologists should determine whether there are any enduring patterns in how aggregate economic decisions are taken. If there are no easily discernable patterns, and aggregate decisions cannot be predicted from a knowledge of individual decision-making preferences, then the theory must rely (as it does in biology) on computer simulations with the economy replicated in as much detail as possible to limit the scope for modeling error. This path will illuminate the "physiology" of different economies.

A second area of development must look into "anatomy" - the connections between actors within the financial system, the connections between economic actors within the real economy, and the connections between the real and financial economies. What are the precise links demand and supply links between these groups, and how does money really flow through the economic system? A finer knowledge of economic anatomy will make it easier to produce better computer simulations of the economy, which will make it a bit easier to study economic physiology.

"Markets uber alles" or more correctly "Financial oligarchy uber alles"

In her interview What Exactly Is Neoliberalism  Wendy Brown advanced some Professor Wolin ideas to a new level and provide explanation why "neoclassical crooks" like Professor  Frederic Mishkin (of Financial Stability in Iceland fame) still rule the economics departments of the USA. They are instrumental in giving legitimacy to the neoliberal rule favoured by the financial oligarchy:

"... I treat neoliberalism as a governing rationality through which everything is "economized" and in a very specific way: human beings become market actors and nothing but, every field of activity is seen as a market, and every entity (whether public or private, whether person, business, or state) is governed as a firm. Importantly, this is not simply a matter of extending commodification and monetization everywhere-that's the old Marxist depiction of capital's transformation of everyday life. Neoliberalism construes even non-wealth generating spheres-such as learning, dating, or exercising-in market terms, submits them to market metrics, and governs them with market techniques and practices. Above all, it casts people as human capital who must constantly tend to their own present and future value. ..."

"... The most common criticisms of neoliberalism, regarded solely as economic policy rather than as the broader phenomenon of a governing rationality, are that it generates and legitimates extreme inequalities of wealth and life conditions; that it leads to increasingly precarious and disposable populations; that it produces an unprecedented intimacy between capital (especially finance capital) and states, and thus permits domination of political life by capital; that it generates crass and even unethical commercialization of things rightly protected from markets, for example, babies, human organs, or endangered species or wilderness; that it privatizes public goods and thus eliminates shared and egalitarian access to them; and that it subjects states, societies, and individuals to the volatility and havoc of unregulated financial markets. ..."

"... with the neoliberal revolution that homo politicus is finally vanquished as a fundamental feature of being human and of democracy. Democracy requires that citizens be modestly oriented toward self-rule, not simply value enhancement, and that we understand our freedom as resting in such self-rule, not simply in market conduct. When this dimension of being human is extinguished, it takes with it the necessary energies, practices, and culture of democracy, as well as its very intelligibility. ..."

"... For most Marxists, neoliberalism emerges in the 1970s in response to capitalism's falling rate of profit; the shift of global economic gravity to OPEC, Asia, and other sites outside the West; and the dilution of class power generated by unions, redistributive welfare states, large and lazy corporations, and the expectations generated by educated democracies. From this perspective, neoliberalism is simply capitalism on steroids: a state and IMF-backed consolidation of class power aimed at releasing capital from regulatory and national constraints, and defanging all forms of popular solidarities, especially labor. ..."

"... The grains of truth in this analysis don't get at the fundamental transformation of social, cultural, and individual life brought about by neoliberal reason. They don't get at the ways that public institutions and services have not merely been outsourced but thoroughly recast as private goods for individual investment or consumption. And they don't get at the wholesale remaking of workplaces, schools, social life, and individuals. For that story, one has to track the dissemination of neoliberal economization through neoliberalism as a governing form of reason, not just a power grab by capital. There are many vehicles of this dissemination -- law, culture, and above all, the novel political-administrative form we have come to call governance. It is through governance practices that business models and metrics come to irrigate every crevice of society, circulating from investment banks to schools, from corporations to universities, from public agencies to the individual. It is through the replacement of democratic terms of law, participation, and justice with idioms of benchmarks, objectives, and buy-ins that governance dismantles democratic life while appearing only to instill it with "best practices." ..."

"... Progressives generally disparage Citizens United for having flooded the American electoral process with corporate money on the basis of tortured First Amendment reasoning that treats corporations as persons. However, a careful reading of the majority decision also reveals precisely the thoroughgoing economization of the terms and practices of democracy we have been talking about. In the majority opinion, electoral campaigns are cast as "political marketplaces," just as ideas are cast as freely circulating in a market where the only potential interference arises from restrictions on producers and consumers of ideas-who may speak and who may listen or judge. Thus, Justice Kennedy's insistence on the fundamental neoliberal principle that these marketplaces should be unregulated paves the way for overturning a century of campaign finance law aimed at modestly restricting the power of money in politics. Moreover, in the decision, political speech itself is rendered as a kind of capital right, functioning largely to advance the position of its bearer, whether that bearer is human capital, corporate capital, or finance capital. This understanding of political speech replaces the idea of democratic political speech as a vital (if potentially monopolizable and corruptible) medium for public deliberation and persuasion. ..."

"... My point was that democracy is really reduced to a whisper in the Euro-Atlantic nations today. Even Alan Greenspan says that elections don't much matter much because, "thanks to globalization . . . the world is governed by market forces," not elected representatives. ..."

 


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I find an attempt to elevate academic finance and economics to sciences by using the word "scientism" to be bizarre. Finance models like CAPM, Black-Scholes and VAR all rest on assumptions that are demonstrably false, such as rational investors and continuous markets.

May 11, 2012 at 1-40 pm

[Dec 14, 2019] William Barr on big tech: Companies becoming successful, dominant is not wrong

Dec 14, 2019 | www.youtube.com

Matt S. , 5 hours ago

Break up Silicon Valley, they are trying to take over the world, they think they are above the gov't and the Constitution!

Joe OConnor , 7 hours ago

Big Corp and unions influence gov to much as well as foreign lobbyists Listen to the American people

[Dec 14, 2019] As Dean Baker pointed out in his book Rigged, the neoliberal capitalism of America is rigged to benefit the top one percent

Dec 14, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Tomonthebeach , December 13, 2019 at 5:10 pm

As Dean Baker pointed out in his book Rigged, the neoliberal capitalism of America is rigged to benefit the top 1%. After all, they were the architects. Most Americans appreciate that. Nevertheless, the vast majority willingly wade into its rigged quicksand. All economies are rigged in the sense that there is a structure to it all. Moreover, the architects of that system will ensure there is something in it for themselves – rigged. Our school system does not instruct Americans on how their own economic system works (is rigged), so most of us become its victims rather than its beneficiaries.

Books by Liz Warren and her daughter offer remedial guidance on how to make the current US economic system work for the average household. So, in a sense, Liz comes across as an adherent to the system she is trying to help others master .

This seems to be a losing proposition for candidate Warren because most Americans want a new system with new rigging; not a repaired system that has been screwing them for generations.

[Dec 14, 2019] There is No Economics Without Politics

Dec 14, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

By Anat R. Admati, the George G.C. Parker Professor of Finance and Economics at Stanford University Graduate School of Business (GSB), a Director of the GSB Corporations and Society Initiative, and a senior fellow at Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. Originally published at ProMarket

Author's note: This essay is based on a speech I gave at the Stigler Center 2019 Conference on Political Economy of Finance. Whereas the content refers to my experiences as an academic with expertise in finance and economics, the key ideas apply to other areas in business schools and beyond. I hope colleagues will reflect on the harm from silos and on our opportunities as academics to benefit society.

In the real world, it turned out, important economic outcomes are often the consequences of political forces. During 2010, people within regulatory bodies told me privately that false and misleading claims were affecting key policy decisions. They urged me to help clarify the issues and I felt compelled to become involved. Despite years of research and advocacy , however, flawed claims persist and still have an impact. (A recently updated document lists and debunks 34 such claims.)

Many of my experiences in the last decade, which involved extensive interactions outside as well as within academia, were sobering. I saw confusion, willful blindness , political forces, various and sometimes subtle forms of corruption, and moral disengagement , first hand. The harm from economists ignoring political economy became increasingly evident. There was no way for me to return to ignoring the issues.

It was also impossible to explain my experiences using economics alone. In writing an essay in 2016 for a book on Finance in a Just Society edited by a philosopher, I went beyond economics and finance and drew from scholarship in political science, law, sociology, and social psychology. My essay was entitled " It Takes a Village to Maintain a Dangerous Financial System ."

Sadly, among the enablers of our inefficient and distorted financial system are economists and academics. Perhaps most shocking, a fallacious claim about the impact and "cost" of more equity funding, which contradicts basic teachings in corporate finance, has been included in many versions and editions of banking textbooks authored by prominent academic and former Federal Reserve governor Frederic Mishkin. (See Section 3.3 here or Chapter 8 of The Bankers' New Clothes .)A risk manager in one of the largest banks, whom I met in 2016 at a conference attended almost exclusively by practitioners and regulators and who had dropped out of a top doctoral program in finance, quipped in an email after quoting from an academic paper: "with such friends [as academics], who needs lobbyists?"

Lobbyists, who engage in "marketing" ideas to policymakers and to the public, are actually influential. They know how to work the system and can dismiss, take out of context, misquote, misuse, or promote research as needed. If policymakers or the public are unable or unwilling to evaluate the claims people make, lobbyists and others can create confusion and promote misleading narratives if it benefits them. In the real political economy, good ideas and worthy research can fail to gain traction while bad ideas and flawed research can succeed and have an impact.

Luigi Zingales highlighted political economy issues within our profession in a 2013 essay entitled " Preventing Economists' Capture " and in his 2015 AFA presidential address entitled " Does Finance Benefit Society ?" Zingales notes and laments a pro-business and pro-finance bias within economics and finance and the pervasive blindness to issues such as corporate fraud and political forces. "Awareness of the risk of [economists'] capture is the first line of defense," he writes in his 2013 essay. I agree that the issues are real yet often denied or ignored, and that recognizing problems is essential for addressing them.

Governance and political economy challenges are pervasive beyond banking, where I encountered them so clearly. For example, corporate governance research, including my own coauthored papers (in 1994 and 2009 ) on shareholder activism, has focused almost exclusively on conflicts between shareholders and managers, effectively assuming that competitive markets, contracts, and laws protect everyone except for the narrowly-defined "shareholder" -- who is implicitly assumed to own only one corporation's shares and to care only about the price of those shares.

Having observed governance and policy failures in banking, I realized that the focus on shareholder-manager conflicts is far too narrow and often misses the most important problems. We must also worry about the governance of the institutions that create and enforce the rules for all. How power structures and information asymmetries play out within and between institutions in the private and public sectors is critical.

A 2017 Journal of Economic Perspectives Symposium on the modern corporation includes an essay I wrote on the distortions that arise as a result of the focus in corporate governance on financialized targets that purport to capture "shareholder value" when combined with political economy forces that can lead to governments failing to set and enforce proper rules. The symposium also includes an essay by Luigi Zingales on how political and market power feed off each other. We both noted that more public awareness and understanding of these problems is essential for addressing them.

Economists and academics have numerous opportunities to be helpful by looking more frequently out of their windows, expanding their domain beyond "solved political problems," collaborating across disciplines, and bringing back a more holistic approach to their work. Small changes in this direction are starting to happen, as the Stigler Center's conferences on the political economy of finance show, but we can and should do much more.

Numerous research topics are ripe for more study by theorists and empiricists. Within the following long list of topics (still a partial one) there are low-hanging fruits and more challenging problems that may require interdisciplinary reach and which tenured academics are in a particularly privileged position to take on: whistleblower policies, the impact of consumers, employees, and politicians on corporate actions, accounting rules for derivatives, the effectiveness of boards, audits and auditors regulation, the design of bankruptcy laws, money laundering, corporate fraud, the organization and pricing of deposit insurance, debt subsidies, the role of financial literacy and ideology in policy discussions, the structure and governance of regulatory agencies and central banks, lobbying of multinational corporations, the governance of international bodies such as Financial Stability Board, Basel Committee, and IMF, and the political economy of corporate enforcement.

Anat Admati. Photo by Nancy Rothstein

Engaging with policy issues in our research and teaching, and even engaging in advocacy when appropriate and effectively lobbying on behalf of the public (for example by writing comment letters or opinion pieces ) can be valuable and important. Policy involvement, however, requires not only disclosing potential conflicts of interest but, most importantly, scrutinizing research carefully to ensure it is adequate for guiding policy. A problem I have become acutely aware of is that economists and others can be cavalier in claiming that research is relevant for real-world application without such scrutiny.

As a theorist, I know models have unrealistic and sometimes stylized assumptions, yet models can bring important insights, and theoretical and empirical papers that capture key features of the real world can be useful for policy. It takes a big leap of faith, however, and can actually do more harm than good, to claim that models whose assumptions greatly distort the real world are adequate for real-world applications. Specific examples are discussed in the first paper I wrote with Peter DeMarzo, Martin Hellwig, and Paul Pfleiderer (Sections 5-7), the omitted chapter from the book I wrote with Martin Hellwig, Paul Pfleiderer's paper on the misuse of models in finance and economics (which starts with the old joke about the economist assuming a can opener on a deserted island and, among other things, compares economics and physics) and a recent presentation by Paul Pfleiderer that discusses the role of assumptions in theoretical and empirical research and which includes great visuals.

The key takeaways if research is claimed to be relevant for the real world are:

Just because a model claims to "explain" something in the real world does not give it logical or actual validity . Even if we may never have the data to be able to reject a model, there are ways to apply casual empiricism ("if this model was true, we would observe x and we don't"), and we must be especially careful if a model contradicts other plausible explanations for what we see. (Consider: "cigarette smoking improves people's health" as an "explanation" of why people smoke.) Just because a model can be "calibrated" does not give it logical or actual validity .

Applying inadequate economic models to policy in the real world is akin to building bridges using flawed engineering models. Serious harm may follow.

We can also enrich our teaching and connect more dots for our students by developing interdisciplinary courses and by bringing out the bigger picture, at least occasionally, in teaching standard courses. For example, basic corporate finance courses show how to calculate the debt tax shield, and we should point out that there is no good reason for the tax code to subsidize debt relative to equity and that this tax code can create distortions. We can also ask whether shareholders as individuals actually want a company in which they hold shares to pursue " positive Net Present Value " projects that involve pollution or deceptive marketing of harmful products.

Many students are anxious to have such discussions. There is a broad sense today that standard business practices and dysfunctional governments have exacerbated economic, social, and political problems. We must find ways to broaden the discussion beyond our narrow lanes. Academic silos are part of the problem, and we should break them to be part of the solution.

Finally, we can and should engage in trying to ensure that governments and other institutions serve society. If only conflicted experts engage in the process of creating rules, especially on important issues that appear technical and confusing such as accounting standards or financial regulation, we get what Karthik Ramanna calls " thin political markets " and our assumptions about markets are more likely to be false. Academics may be in the best position to inform policy, expose flawed or poorly enforced rules, and help hold power to account. We cannot assume others will be able or willing to do it without our help.

Governance and politics are key to outcomes everywhere. Related issues about power and control and about the respective roles of governments and private sector institutions are playing out prominently today in the technology sector. A course I taught recently about the internet allowed me to compare and contrast the finance and internet sectors. The Stigler Center has laudably been informing policy related to digital platforms .

In a recent Harvard Business Review piece, I argue that business schools should practice and promote "civic-minded leadership" much more than they currently do. (The text is also available here .) I hope more academics and academic institutions recognize and embrace the great opportunities we have to try to make the world a better place.


aj , December 13, 2019 at 10:41 am

Does anyone know of a good book (or series of books) that discusses the history and evolution of economics. Ideally, I'm looking for something that discusses particular political philosophers (e.g Adam Smith, Marx, Keynes, Mises, etc.) in sequence. What I'm interested in is not only their ideas, but also their histories–what were the circumstances of their lives that lead to their ideas and how did the political environment they found themselves in contribute. Also, how were the philosophies adopted or corrupted by followers (e.g. Marx and Russian communism, Adam Smith and neoliberalism). I have yet to find a truly comprehensive book that has this info. I would expect a title something like "History of Political Economy." Any suggestions from the NC commentariate?

The Historian , December 13, 2019 at 12:33 pm

So far I haven't found one book that covers it all. And most books I do find try to describe all economic thought in terms of the author's particular belief system, which to me isn't all that helpful. So I read a lot of books on history, economics, and archeology to try and piece together an accurate story. And I still have not read nearly enough to have a complete picture.

One website that has been of great help finding sources is:
http://www.hetwebsite.net/het/introd.htm

Good luck to you. If you do find a great book, let us all know!

aj , December 13, 2019 at 1:04 pm

If I was much smarter I'd try to do it on my own. Sadly, I'm only mildly intelligent and a crappy writer. Somebody get Michael Hudson on this so I can read it. I'll start the Kickstarter campaign.

Sol , December 13, 2019 at 3:25 pm

+1

It's much like religion in that introspection and study is generally confined to the walled-garden-containing-all-that-is-true-in-this-world of choice.

Alfred , December 13, 2019 at 4:01 pm

This question intrigued me enough to explore what the Library of Congress catalog has to offer in response to it. The short answer, based on a good deal of rather fancy searching, is not much -- in English. The subject heading, "Economics–History," is the one that LC applies to the history of economics as a discipline. However, it retrieves so many citations as to be all but useless, even when those results are sorted chronologically, because it has been applied to so many works that treat narrow rather than broad sub-topics. LC has numerous books sharing the straightforward title, History of Economic Thought; they range in date from 1911 on. The oldest is by Lewis F. Haney. The latest of them seems to be the 2nd "updated" edition of History of Economic Thought, by E. K. Hunt (2002).

The Library of Congress has also established the subject heading "Political economy–history." However, it is attached to only one title that covers the topic broadly: Histoire de la pensée économique : abrégé des analyses et des théories économiques des origines au XXe siècle / Alain Redslob (2011). Despite characterizing itself as a 'summary' the book comes in at a hefty 355 pages. LC classifies this work at HB75. A title search on "Political Economy" yields, to my eye, only one somewhat recent work that seems to offer a general treatment: Political economy / Dan Usher (2003). Coming in at 427 pages, it is classified as "Economics" and classed at HB171.5. LC applies the heading 'Economics–Historiography" to eleven works of which the most relevant here may be: History and historians of political economy / Werner Stark ; edited by Charles M.A. Clark (1994). As a check of those results a bit of googling turned up a set of essays edited by Maxine Berg under the title, Political Economy in the Twentieth Century (1990), which set out to represent thinking outside the 'mainstream' of neoclassical or Keynesian traditions. LC classes it at HB87.

For books titled "History of Political Economy" it looks like one would have to go back into the 19th century, to discover works bearing just such a title by John K. Ingram (1888; reprinted 2013 by Cambridge UP) and Gustav Cohn (1894), thus apparently from the point where the Berg essays begin. I have read nothing by any of the authors I've mentioned here; am just posting the outcome of my searching fwiw.

eg , December 13, 2019 at 8:17 pm

I have, but haven't yet finished, "An Economist's Guide to Economic History" by Blum and Colvin. If the text itself is insufficient, the bibliography ought to be pretty comprehensive.

https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9783319965673

witters , December 13, 2019 at 8:37 pm

John Kenneth Galbraith – 2 books.

Economics in Perspective: a critical perspective
History of Economics:The Past as the Present

skippy , December 13, 2019 at 9:21 pm

Yes Galbraith Sr was the last classical that pointed out the failings of the payed for PR merchants that some have called economists and to rub salt in that wound claim dominate economics has no value based biases.

aj , December 13, 2019 at 11:33 pm

From the book descriptions these are probably my best start. It makes sense it would be JK Galbraith. Thanks a bunch.

Deplorado , December 14, 2019 at 12:33 am

Richard Wolff (of Democracy at Work) has one but I'm not able to search for the title. Just google/qwant his name and a title that you will recognize as what you are looking for will appear.

I've skimmed that book and it seemed accessible and neatly putting together timelines and major inflection points in the development or economics.

anon in so cal , December 13, 2019 at 10:44 am

"In the real world, it turned out, important economic outcomes are often the consequences of political forces."

Sorry to sound mean, but, duh.

"The key takeaways if research is claimed to be relevant for the real world are:

Just because a model claims to "explain" something in the real world does not give it logical or actual validity. Even if we may never have the data to be able to reject a model, there are ways to apply casual empiricism ("if this model was true, we would observe x and we don't"), and we must be especially careful if a model contradicts other plausible explanations for what we see. (Consider: "cigarette smoking improves people's health" as an "explanation" of why people smoke.)"

Did the individuals she is addressing ever take a required undergraduate course in research methods?

lyman alpha blob , December 13, 2019 at 12:53 pm

You beat me to it with that first quote.

Not understanding that is like believing that money does actually grow on trees. I don't understand how this could be a revelation to supposedly intelligent people with advanced degrees.

somecallmetim , December 13, 2019 at 7:22 pm

It's the advanced degrees that do it, reducing the supposedly to possibly, or maybe formerly

skippy , December 13, 2019 at 9:24 pm

The problem with mainstream economics is its concept of theory to start with, but, you'll get that with ideological funding.

diptherio , December 13, 2019 at 12:12 pm

You've got Evonomic's newsletter sign-up text box, copy-pasted in here, along with the article text. Guessing that wasn't intentional. Mentioning it just in case.

Susan the Other , December 13, 2019 at 1:50 pm

I signed up. Couldn't hurt if it's free.

skippy , December 13, 2019 at 9:25 pm

I hear the first step into any ideologically driven construct is an expression of free [will].

John Wright , December 13, 2019 at 12:24 pm

This has "Academics may be in the best position to inform policy, expose flawed or poorly enforced rules, and help hold power to account. We cannot assume others will be able or willing to do it without our help."

Given the funding method for much of academics (wealthy patrons, wealthy think tanks, wealthy companies and wealthy parents) is it reasonable to expect that academics will truly speak truth to power?

In my view, the article implies a more vigilant economic profession COULD be important in influencing policy.

But I have doubts this could occur.

Economics and economists may be used in the same way that an insurance company executive told me that outside consultants were sometimes chosen at his firm.

He suggested that consultants were sometimes selected because they were expected to agree with what management wanted to do.

One could suggest that similar dynamics exist for newspaper editorial writers.
If editorial writers were to go counter to their expected editorial content (right or left), they could well be expecting their future paychecks would be at risk.

Western economics has evolved to serve TPTB, not the common good.

One can see that outside voices, such as Steve Keen and Michael Hudson, are relegated to outside the mainstream.

It is not because Keen and Hudson are incorrect.

flora , December 13, 2019 at 12:38 pm

And on top of that, as Nassim Nicholas Taleb and others have regularly pointed out, achieving a high degree of efficiency typically comes at the expense of safety.

An old Star Trek episode titled The Trouble With Tribbles is about Star Fleet and Klingons disputing ownership of a planet which can grow vast amounts of food grains. In one short scene the Klingons claim ownership based on their more efficient exploitation of resources (more efficient than the Federation) which, they claim, gives them 'rights' to own the planet. To which either McCoy or Kirk say to themselves, "Oh yes, they're efficient all right. Ruthless, but efficient."

Another Amateur Economist , December 13, 2019 at 1:22 pm

And on top of that, as Nassim Nicholas Taleb and others have regularly pointed out, achieving a high degree of efficiency typically comes at the expense of safety.

No system ever operates at a greater efficiency than at the moment before its collapse.

Just something to think about, Capitalism rewarding efficiency rather than sustainability or robustness. Both of these require the expenditure of resources, costs, which subtract from potential profits.

Susan the Other , December 13, 2019 at 2:05 pm

Yes, exactly. I liked this piece, long overdue for me. But what exactly is "efficiency"? I agree that there is no good reason for the tax code to subsidize debt if, if, adequate financing is otherwise available. Hence the question: Why is there no alternative? I dunno about small changes but I'm pretty sure we need to be able to downshift, as opposed to spinning out disastrously. There's this too: finance itself (because financial time is much faster than ordinary time) is more desperate, even frantic, to maintain its survival in a competitive "economy" so that as finance turns into financialization it achieves critical mass. And in order just to hang on and not explode requires massive infusions of new money just so finance can stay on top of their own monster. Some rodeo. The first good regulation for economic security might be to extend financial time – reducing the necessity for huge turnover profits. But doing so in a way that preserves finance in a tame and domestic manner. Like preventing all the animals in the barn from eating exponential volumes of alfalfa and producing mud slides of manure in order that the noble farmer doesn't lose his tennies whilst mucking . Thereby reducing the risks inherent in equity finding – which for a sole proprietor (should any still exist) is also known as crushing debt.

Steve H. , December 13, 2019 at 3:06 pm

> The first good regulation for economic security might be to extend financial time – reducing the necessity for huge turnover profits.

In ecology there is a tau function, the delay time. Predator population lags prey variation and can stabilize systems. And Theo Compernelle gives details about delaying response time, as the productivity of a work session drops with the number of interruptions. The Oct 28 Links included the article "Asynchronous Communication: The Real Reason Remote Workers Are More Productive", along similar lines.

This seems to go against instant messaging, hi frequency trading, and OODA loops. But those seem to operate best in disregulated situations. To extend financial time – what would that do to speculation?

Edit: Also, Taleb had something on taking data points too often leading to noisy results.

Susan the Other , December 13, 2019 at 3:43 pm

tau function seems to apply here. so as not to eat the seed corn. by extending financial time I meant slow it way down, in my mind that means extending obligations over a much longer period. That might also mean many fewer financings, less opportunity to speculate. tau is interesting; nice to know nature has this one figured out.

farmboy , December 13, 2019 at 7:50 pm

speculation is the "money" in financial markets. lenghten time=0 opportunity=0liquidity
on the other hand maybe another LTCM can be avoided.
pet theory, financial markets and all their attendend complexity exist to abosrb blasting high energy, innovation to assure survival,nutjob i know

skippy , December 13, 2019 at 9:33 pm

The McCrazzypants part about that is interruption or increased lag in information is denoted in the loss of billions in productivity.

Not that it actually translates to better outcomes for the bulk of humanity or life on this orb.

Another Amateur Economist , December 13, 2019 at 11:41 pm

I'm thinking that one possibility would be money that expires after a set amount of time. Say one year. Money could not then be used as an asset. It would have to be continuously and reliably spent. All assets would be physical. For one thing, we would know what society really possessed, as opposed to the imaginary stuff/asset money is.

Danny , December 13, 2019 at 1:32 pm

When I was a little boy, obsessing over Christmas presents, it seemed to me that politics was economics and that economics was about the extraction of resources from the earth, and from human beings, with all kinds of shenanigans about timing.

No matter how much I learn, it seems that not much has changed.

David Laxer , December 13, 2019 at 2:10 pm

NARRATIVE ECONOMICS
https://cowles.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/pub/d20/d2069.pdf

Glen , December 13, 2019 at 2:17 pm

Thank you for this post! Political economics is a much better name for this pseudo science. If aerospace engineers were wrong as often as theses clowns airplanes would routinely fall out of the air.

And as Boeing so aptly demonstrates, putting the MBA PMC types in charge of the engineers, also results in airplanes falling out of the air.

But huge props to Steve Keen for calling this out!

Arthur Dent , December 13, 2019 at 4:58 pm

Paul Samuelson and Milton Friedman took the "animal spirits" out of economics and turned it into a mathematical model. However, the behavioral economics and psychological research has shown that people are hard-wired in ways that make the mathematical models flawed and erroneous.

As a design engineer, we use lots of complex modeling but ultimately our design blueprints and specifications are not rigidly based on these models because people and/or robots have to build and operate the things. So there is a fair amount of simplification and clarification that has to happen to have something built without major errors and then operated without major errors, as well as maintained with varying levels of attention and funding. These require a fair amount of understanding about how humans process and execute things and/or the limitations on what can be programmed into robots and computers.

I point out to junior engineers that the people who will build and operate the systems did not necessarily graduate in the top 25% of their high school class unlike the designers. However, many of them have different skill sets that the designers don't have, such as how to operate heavy equipment and do physical trade activities. So we need to design systems to a common denominator that work from design and operations viewpoints.

In economics, we are seeing the systems being biased by focusing on theoretical models that don't actually work in practice because they don't account for what people actually do compared to what a "rational" model says they should do. Hence the crap about "trickle-down" that never actually works in practice in tax cut plans for the wealthy. Similarly, complex private healthcare systems in the US don't remotely follow a "perfect information" model that would allow the "invisible hand" to produce efficiency. so we get massive bloat and rentiere models that prey on consumers. However, that has become a feature, not a bug, on K-street.

flora , December 13, 2019 at 7:45 pm

Thank you X 10. Samuelson and Friedman claimed they could take the "animal spirits", aka human nature however defined, out of economics. The claim amounts to saying they could measure, quantify, model, and manipulate human responses to changing situations, which amounts to a claim of god-like understanding of human mental capacities. How do they measure a human? Reason and logic and measurable outputs are only a part – and how large a part is as yet undetermined – in human awareness and decision making. Logic is a good servant but a bad master, as the saying goes. Samuelson and Friedman construct a 'rational man' without ever questioning the epistemology of their construct. (Mary Shelly might recognize the conceit.)

eg , December 13, 2019 at 8:24 pm

You might like Pilkington's "The Reformation in Economics" (one that I have finished)

https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9783319407562

Paul Hirschman , December 13, 2019 at 11:12 pm

Michael Hudson is perhaps the best place to start. (Bill Black is a close second. Author of "The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One.")

Really, if one's education includes a healthy dose of history, anthropology, sociology, politics, and social theory, it's tempting to suggest that economics is a self-important and smug discipline. Wow, politics affects markets, property relations, and conflict over economic surplus! Wow. Good to know. And someone just told me that human beings aren't as rational as economists assume. Wow again. Thanks.

[Dec 13, 2019] The Silicon Valley Gulag

Dec 13, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

It is tempting to see this as a function of political correctness. Americans, and others around the world, who have found themselves on the "wrong side of history" (as determined by the cultural elite in an endless cycle of epistemological door closing) have long been shut out of conversations, their views deemed beyond the pale of acceptable discourse in enlightened modern societies. Google, Facebook, Twitter -- are these corporations, and their uber-woke CEOs, just cranking the PC up to eleven and imposing their schoolmarmish proclivities on the billions of people who want to scrawl messages on their electronic chalkboards?

Not so, says reformed leftist -- and current PC target -- Michael Rectenwald. The truth of Stanford and Harvard alumni's death grip on global discourse is much more complicated than just PC run amok. It is not that the Silicon Valley giants are agents of mass surveillance and censorship (although mass surveillance and censorship are precisely the business they're in). It's that the very system they have designed is, structurally, the same as the systems of oppression that blanketed and smothered free expression in so much of the world during the previous century. In his latest book, Google Archipelago , Rectenwald outlines how this system works, why leftism is synonymous with oppression, and how the Google Archipelago's regime of "simulated reality" "must be countered, not only with real knowledge, but with a metaphysics of truth."

Google Archipelago is divided into eight chapters and is rooted in both Rectenwald's encyclopedic knowledge of the history of science and corporate control of culture, as well as in his own experiences. Before retiring, Rectenwald had been a professor at New York University, where he was thoroughly entrenched in the PC episteme that squelches real thought at universities across North America and beyond. Gradually, Rectenwald began to realize that PC was not a philosophy, but the enemy of open inquiry. For this reason, and because Rectenwald is an expert in the so-called digital humanities and the long history of scientific (and pseudo-scientific) thinking that feeds into it, Google Archipelago is not just a dry monograph about a social issue. By turns memoir, Kafkaesque dream sequence, trenchant rebuke of leftist censorship, and intellectual history of woke corporate political correctness, Google Archipelago is a welcoming window into a mind working happily in overdrive.

There is much in Google Archipelago addressing the lie that Google, Facebook, and Twitter are neutral platforms for free-ranging debate. This is not so much, because, statistically and empirically, it is irrefutable that Silicon Valley is hostile to non-Beltway-leftist opinions, but because, much more damningly, their woke-capital corporate structures are themselves iterations of massification, propaganda, and deep social control. For Rectenwald, the "Google archipelago" is not PC version 2.0; it is Marxism, version 1,000 (and raised by several orders of magnitude to boot).

For example, in the first and second chapters of Google Archipelago , Rectenwald lays out how the various elements of woke-capitalist ideological repression work together in actual practice. Rectenwald's chief example is the Gillette ad campaign of January 2019, in which a company whose products (razor blades and shaving cream) are purchased, of course, was said to insult the very essence of its customers by belittling manhood as "toxic." Why would a razor blade company go out of its way to alienate the people who buy the majority of razorblades? The answer is surprising. Rectenwald tells us Gillette was not simply responding to a renewed PC craze by running the "toxic masculinity" ad. Gillette, from the beginning, has been a pioneer in designing systems to mold public opinion and shape individuals into easily pliable socialist masses. King Camp Gillette, the founder of what is now the Gillette company, hated competition and sought to make, as he put it, a "world corporation." Through this corporation, the ignorant plebs around the globe could be impelled to do what their social and intellectual superiors -- the leaders of the "world corporation" -- thought was in their best interest. This "singular monopoly," as Rectenwald puts it, would control the material and mental makeup of the entire world. Quoting King Camp Gillette's biographer, Rectenwald adds, "It was almost as if Karl Marx had paused between The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital to develop a dissolving toothbrush or collapsible comb."

Rectenwald outlines a direct line of descent from this earlier corporate socialism of razor blades and "collapsible comb[s]" to the "authoritarian leftism" of the present digital age, authoritarian leftism being "the operational ethos of the Google Archipelago." The Google Archipelago's "wokeforce" practices what Rectenwald calls "avant-garde identity politics extremism," the organizing principle for deciding which parts of society are in revolt against PC and need to be excised from the archipelago of allowed opinion. The internet did create the "information superhighway," as was endlessly exclaimed by politicians and nascent digitalistas during the late 1990s. But it also amplified the structures of woke corporate control that had been in place since the beginning of globalized leftism, Marxian "capitalist" finance, and elite-led collectivism -- precisely the kind of inversion of free enterprise and perversion of the free market practiced by King Camp Gillette and his socialist comrades a hundred and more years before. The Google Archipelago is not a product of the personal computer, but of another kind of political correctness, the PC that is the manifestation of the same old human urge to control others and bring the world under the sway of one's will.

[Dec 13, 2019] Who Are The Globalists And What Do They Want

Dec 13, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Authored by Brandon Smith via Alt-Market.com,

I get the question often, though one would think it's obvious - Who are these "globalists" we refer to so much in the liberty movement? Sometimes the request comes from honest people who only want to learn more. Sometimes it comes from disinformation agents attempting to mire discussion on the issue with assertions that the globalists "don't exist". The answer to the question can be simple and complex at the same time. In order to understand who the globalists are, we first have to understand what they want.

We talk a lot about the "globalists" because frankly, their agenda has become more open than ever in the past ten years. There was a time not long ago when the idea of the existence of "globalists" was widely considered "conspiracy theory". There was a time when organizations like the Bilderberg Group did not officially exist and the mainstream media rarely ever reported on them. There was a time when the agenda for one world economy and a one world government was highly secretive and mentioned only in whispers in the mainstream. And, anyone who tried to expose this information to the public was called a "tinfoil hat wearing lunatic".

Today, the mainstream media writes puff-pieces about the Bilderberg Group and even jokes about their secrecy. When members of Donald Trump's cabinet, Mike Pompeo and Jared Kushner, attended Bilderberg in 2019, the mainstream media was wallpapered with the news .

When the World Government Summit meets each year in Dubai, attended by many of the same people that attend Bilderberg as well as shady mainstream icons and gatekeepers like Elon Musk and Neil deGrasse Tyson, they don't hide their discussions or their goals, they post them on YouTube .

I remember when talking about the US dollar being dethroned and replaced with a new one world currency system and a cashless society controlled by the IMF was treated as bizarre theory. Now it's openly called for by numerous leaders in the financial industry and in economic governance . The claim that these things are "conspiracy theory" no longer holds up anymore. In reality, the people who made such accusations a few years ago now look like idiots as the establishment floods the media with information and propaganda promoting everything the liberty movement has been warning about.

The argument on whether or not a globalist agenda "exists" is OVER. The liberty movement and the alternative media won that debate, and through our efforts we have even forced the establishment into admitting the existence of some of their plans for a completely centralized global system managed by them. Now, the argument has changed. The mainstream doesn't really deny anymore that the globalists exist; they talk about whether or not the globalist agenda is a good thing or a bad thing.

First , I would point out the sheer level of deception and disinformation used by the globalists over the past several decades. This deceptions is designed to maneuver the public towards accepting a one world economy and eventually one world governance . If you have to lie consistently to people about your ideology in order to get them to support it, then there must be something very wrong with your ideology.

Second , the establishment may be going public with their plans for globalization, but they aren't being honest about the consequences for the average person. And, there are many misconceptions out there, even in the liberty movement, about what exactly these people want.

So, we need to construct a list of globalist desires vs globalist lies in order to define who we are dealing with. These are the beliefs and arguments of your run-of-the-mill globalist:

Centralization

A globalist believes everything must be centralized, from finance to money to social access to production to government. They argue that centralization makes the system "more fair" for everyone, but in reality they desire a system in which they have total control over every aspect of life. Globalists, more than anything, want to dominate and micro-manage every detail of civilization and socially engineer humanity in the image they prefer.

One World Currency System And Cashless Society

As an extension of centralization, globalists want a single currency system for the world. Not only this, but they want it digitized and easy to track. Meaning, a cashless society in which every act of trade by every person can be watched and scrutinized. If trade is no longer private, preparation for rebellion becomes rather difficult. When all resources can be manged and restricted to a high degree at the local level, rebellion would become unthinkable because the system becomes the parent and provider and the source of life. A one world currency and cashless system would be the bedrock of one world governance. You cannot have one without the other.

One World Government

Globalists want to erase all national borders and sovereignty and create a single elite bureaucracy, a one world empire in which they are the "philosopher kings" as described in Plato's Republic.

As Richard N. Gardner, former deputy assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations under Kennedy and Johnson, and a member of the Trilateral Commission, wrote in the April, 1974 issue of the Council on Foreign Relation's (CFR) journal Foreign Affairs (pg. 558) in an article titled 'The Hard Road To World Order' :

" In short, the 'house of world order' will have to be built from the bottom up rather than from the top down. It will look like a great 'booming, buzzing confusion,' to use William James' famous description of reality, but an end run around national sovereignty, eroding it piece by piece, will accomplish much more than the old-fashioned frontal assault."

This system would be highly inbred, though they may continue to give the masses the illusion of public participation and "democracy" for a time. Ultimately, the globalists desire a faceless and unaccountable round table government, a seat of power which acts as an institution with limited liability, much like a corporation, and run in the same sociopathic manner without legitimate public oversight. In the globalist world, there will be no redress of grievances.

Sustainability As Religion

Globalists often use the word "sustainability" in their white papers and agendas, from Agenda 21 to Agenda 2030. Environmentalism is the facade they employ to guilt the population into supporting global governance, among other things. As I noted in my recent article 'Why Is The Elitist Establishment So Obsessed With Meat' , fake environmentalism and fraudulent global warming "science" is being exploited by globalists to demand control over everything from how much electricity you can use in your home, to how many children you can have, to how much our society is allowed to manufacture or produce, to what you are allowed to eat.

The so-called carbon pollution threat, perhaps the biggest scam in history, is a key component of the globalist agenda. As the globalist organization The Club Of Rome, a sub-institution attached to the United Nations, stated in their book 'The First Global Revolution' :

" In searching for a common enemy against whom we can unite, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like, would fit the bill. In their totality and their interactions these phenomena do constitute a common threat which must be confronted by everyone together. But in designating these dangers as the enemy, we fall into the trap, which we have already warned readers about, namely mistaking symptoms for causes. All these dangers are caused by human intervention in natural processes. and it is only through changed attitudes and behaviour that they can be overcome. The real enemy then is humanity itself."

In other words, by presenting human beings as a species as the great danger, the globalists hope to convince humanity to sublimate itself before the mother earth goddess and beg to be kept in line. And, as the self designated "guardians" of the Earth, the elites become the high priests of the new religion of sustainability. They and they alone would determine who is a loyal servant and who is a heretic. Carbon pollution becomes the new "original sin"; everyone is a sinner against the Earth, for everyone breaths and uses resources, and we must all do our part to appease the Earth by sacrificing as much as possible, even ourselves.

The elites don't believe in this farce, they created it. The sustainability cult is merely a weapon to be used to dominate mass psychology and make the populace more malleable.

Population Control

Globalists come from an ideological background which worships eugenics – the belief that genetics must be controlled and regulated, and those people they deem to be undesirables must be sterilized or exterminated.

The modern eugenics movement was launched by the Rockefeller Foundation in the early 1900's in America , and was treated a a legitimate scientific endeavor for decades. Eugenics was taught in schools and even celebrated at the World's Fair. States like California that adopted eugenics legislation forcefully sterilized tens of thousands of people and denied thousands of marriage certificates based on genetics. The system was transferred to Germany in the 1930's were it gained world renown for its inherent brutality.

This ideology holds that 4% or less of the population is genetically worthy of leadership, and the elites conveniently assert that they represent part of that genetic purity.

After WWII the public developed a distaste for the idea of eugenics and population control, but under the guise of environmentalism the agenda is making a comeback, as population reduction in the name of "saving the Earth" is in the mainstream media once again . The Question then arises - Who gets to decide who lives and who dies? Who gets to decide who is never born? And, how will they come to their decisions? No doubt a modern form of eugenics will be presented as the "science" used to "fairly" determine the content of the population if the elites get their way.

Narcissistic Sociopathy

It is interesting that the globalists used to present the 4% leadership argument in their eugenics publications, because 4% of the population is also consistent with the number of people who have inherent sociopathy or narcissistic sociopathy , either in latent or full-blown form, with 1% of people identified as full blown psychopaths and the rest as latent. Coincidence?

The behavior of the globalists is consistent with the common diagnosis of full-blown narcopaths, a condition which is believed to be inborn and incurable. Narcopaths (pyschopaths) are devoid of empathy and are often self obsessed. They suffer from delusions of grandeur and see themselves as "gods" among men. They believe other lowly people are tools to be used for their pleasure or to further their ascendance to godhood. They lie incessantly as a survival mechanism and are good at determining what people want to hear. Narcopaths feel no compassion towards those they harm or murder, yet crave attention and adoration from the same people they see as inferior. More than anything, they seek the power to micro-manage the lives of everyone around them and to feed off those people like a parasite feeds off a host victim.

Luciferianism

It is often argued by skeptics that psychopaths cannot organize cohesively, because such organizations would self destruct. These people simply don't know what they're talking about. Psychopaths throughout history organize ALL THE TIME, from tyrannical governments to organized crime and religious cults. The globalists have their own binding ideologies and methods for organization. One method is to ensure benefits to those who serve the group (as well as punishments for those who stray). Predators often work together as long as there is ample prey. Another method is the use of religious or ideological superiority; making adherents feel like they are part of an exclusive and chosen few destined for greatness.

This is a highly complicated issue which requires its own essay to examine in full. I believe I did this effectively in my article 'Luciferians: A Secular Look At A Destructive Globalist Belief System' . Needless to say, this agenda is NOT one that globalists are willing to admit to openly very often, but I have outlined extensive evidence that luciferianism is indeed the underlying globalist cult religion. It is essentially an ideology which promotes moral relativism, the worship of the self and the attainment of godhood by any means necessary – which fits perfectly with globalism and globalist behavior.

It is also the only ideological institution adopted by the UN , through the UN's relationship with Lucis Trust, also originally called Lucifer Publishing Company . Lucis Trust still has a private library within the UN building today .

So, now that we know the various agendas and identifiers of globalists, we can now ask "Who are the globalists?"

The answer is – ANYONE who promotes the above agendas, related arguments, or any corporate or political leader who works directly with them. This includes presidents that claim to be anti-globalist while also filling their cabinets with people from globalist organizations.

To make a list of names is simple; merely study the membership rosters of globalists organizations like the Bilderberg Group, the Council On Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, Tavistock Institute, the IMF, the BIS, World Bank, the UN, etc. You will find a broad range of people from every nation and every ethnicity ALL sharing one goal – A world in which the future for every other person is dictated by them for all time; a world in which freedom is a memory and individual choice is a commodity only they have the right to enjoy.

* * *

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[Dec 13, 2019] Socialism s Biggest Hero Is John Maynard Keynes, a Bourgeois British Capitalist

Notable quotes:
"... Although he didn't mean it the way it sounds, the economist Milton Friedman once said, "we are all Keynesians now," and in a way it has turned out to be close to true: Since World War II, Friedman and his fellow residents of the wealthy part of the world have almost all been Keynesians at some point. But they have never all been the same kind of Keynesians. ..."
"... There is, of course, the Keynesianism long associated with the welfare-state policies Friedman spent his career trying to discredit. It's not clear what Keynes would have made of the permanence of the welfare state's massive institutional infrastructure. ( The General Theory would suggest it is not what he had in mind: "public works even of doubtful utility may pay for themselves over and over again at a time of severe unemployment but they may become a more doubtful proposition as a state of full employment is approached.") Nevertheless, Keynes definitely believed that in a "slump," coordinated state action -- especially low interest rates and employment supports if necessary -- was the answer. ..."
"... But there has also always been what could be called a "right-Keynesian" way of doing economics and economic policy. Indeed, although the welfare state is commonly thought of as the victory of left-wing economic policy, during its heyday it was actually tied to a way of economic thinking that was in no way anti-capitalist. The Keynesian economics that ruled the disciplinary and policy roost in the postwar Golden Age -- and justified its welfare-oriented institutions such as public housing or collective bargaining -- was absolutely not left-wing and certainly did not understand itself as such. ..."
"... Perhaps the seminal moment in the emergence of this division is the controversy over the so-called IS-LM model of the macroeconomy. ..."
"... At its simplest, Hicks' model says that economic output (including levels of employment) will be determined by the intersection of two curves ("schedules"): one that describes the range of possible relationships between investment demand and the supply of savings (investment-saving, or IS, which we can basically think of as the "real" economy), and another that describes the range of possible relationships between the demand for and supply of money (liquidity preference-money supply, or LM, essentially the financial side of the economy). The model is almost perfectly intuitive: macroeconomic equilibrium is the point at which conditions in the "real" economy intersect with credit conditions in the money markets. There is no reason to expect the level of output at this point to involve full employment. ..."
"... Hicks's IS-LM model is the first step in what has since been labeled the "neoclassical synthesis," the marriage of Keynesian intuition and classical equilibrium analysis. ..."
"... Much of this work was done in Cambridge, Massachusetts, especially at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Krugman and Stiglitz were trained. Across the Atlantic at the other Cambridge, however -- Keynes's University of Cambridge -- many of Keynes's students and colleagues saw the neoclassical synthesis as a step backward, the dilution or even betrayal of Keynes's contribution. Led by Joan Robinson, among the most brilliant and creative economists of the 20th century, the basis of a more critical Keynesianism -- what we now call "post-Keynesianism" -- took shape. Robinson, never one to mince words, labeled the neoclassical synthesis "bastard Keynesianism," an ad hoc mix of cherry-picked bits of The General Theory and classical arrogance. ..."
"... For Robinson and those who follow in her footsteps, the suppression of fundamental uncertainty in the neoclassical synthesis is among the most egregious of its many errors. IS-LM, and the menu of fine-tuning policy choices it seemed to provide, took economics back to the realm of abstraction and away from Keynes's insistence on an economics for "the kind of system in which we actually live." It dismissed true uncertainty and replaced it with a set of equilibrium points, none of which was really uncertain insofar as it was mechanically determined by the dynamics of the model. Hyman Minsky (whose financial instability hypothesis helped a lot of people understand Lehman Brothers' collapse) called it "Hamlet without the prince." ..."
"... Some degree of rapprochement between the Keynesianisms was perhaps always a possibility, because Keynesianism, whatever its stripes, has always been about addressing a crisis, actual or potential. Keynes wrote The General Theory in the 1930s in the shadow of growing social disorder, and insurgent fascisms and radical socialisms, not to mention collapsing empires. ..."
Dec 05, 2019 | foreignpolicy.com
ARGUMENT Socialism's Biggest Hero Is a Bourgeois British Capitalist John Maynard Keynes felt little solidarity for workers and inspired a century of establishment economics. The West's revived socialists have adopted him as their own anyway. , 9:52 AM

If John Maynard Keynes came back to life today, more than 70 years after his death at the end of World War II, he would probably be surprised by much of the economics and policy that gets called "Keynesian." He might also be surprised to find that, at least in the English-speaking world, his name is usually associated with the left end of the political spectrum.

This would not have been his experience. With the 1936 publication of his The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money -- probably the most influential work of economics written in the 20th century -- there were certainly dedicated free-traders who denounced his assault on laissez faire, but committed socialists immediately attacked him as capital's wily messiah, and they continue to do so. His economics, they said, was merely the sugar-coating that allowed the working class to swallow the capitalist pill. The accusation isn't entirely unfair. Keynes did famously claim that "the Class war will find me on the side of the educated bourgeoisie."

Keynes did famously claim that "the Class war will find me on the side of the educated bourgeoisie."
Revolution, he said, "is out of date."

At the same time, of course, many of those who identify as progressives have long championed Keynes and Keynesianism, and Keynesian economics is now crucial to the social-democratic revival. Activists may not be chanting his name in the streets, and it's safe to assume that left reading groups are still more likely to parse Karl Marx. But however hesitant he might have felt about it, Keynes is now firmly at the center of the progressive imagination. There are many thinkers pushing the left beyond orthodox neoclassical economics -- but the most prominent are Keynesians.

This change in Keynes's status isn't just a straightforward case of misreading by one side or the other. It's the product of an ambiguity at the heart of Keynes's own thinking that leaves a great deal of room for political maneuver. So much, in fact, that some of the more heated postwar battles in economics have been between schools of self-identified Keynesians: critics of capitalism who think Keynesian economics can make a bad system less cruel, and proponents of capitalism who think it can make a good system work better. Although they share a common enemy -- the market fundamentalism of the Chicago school of economics -- they have usually existed in a state of bitter disagreement. Temporary reprieves happen for one reason: crisis. In an emergency, Keynesianism seems both to have a better chance of addressing contemporary challenges than economic business-as-usual, and to be a lot more politically plausible than some of the more radical programs the left has on offer. As the Nobel-winning Chicago economist Robert Lucas put it, "everyone is a Keynesian in a foxhole."

The recent financial crisis is a lesson in how true that can turn out to be. Even among some whose faith in the self-regulating market had seemed unshakeable only a few months before, including more than a few of Lucas's colleagues in mainstream economics, the foxhole of 2007 and 2008 reanimated Keynesian ideas and policy shockingly quickly. As the Wall Street Journal announced at the time, Keynes was "The New Old Big Thing in Economics." This return to Keynes, however brief, only makes Keynesianism's status all the more complicated. Although virtually always associated with the left, it is neither entirely welcome on the left nor entirely unwelcome on the right. This goes some way to explaining both how a bourgeois post-Edwardian economist could end up essential to much of the economic thinking of the Euro-American left, and how readily many supposedly orthodox economists and free-market businesspeople became Keynesians in the subprime foxhole.

Although he didn't mean it the way it sounds, the economist Milton Friedman once said, "we are all Keynesians now," and in a way it has turned out to be close to true: Since World War II, Friedman and his fellow residents of the wealthy part of the world have almost all been Keynesians at some point. But they have never all been the same kind of Keynesians.

There is, of course, the Keynesianism long associated with the welfare-state policies Friedman spent his career trying to discredit. It's not clear what Keynes would have made of the permanence of the welfare state's massive institutional infrastructure. ( The General Theory would suggest it is not what he had in mind: "public works even of doubtful utility may pay for themselves over and over again at a time of severe unemployment but they may become a more doubtful proposition as a state of full employment is approached.") Nevertheless, Keynes definitely believed that in a "slump," coordinated state action -- especially low interest rates and employment supports if necessary -- was the answer.

He met with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s and encouraged him to use federal resources to fight the Depression (although it is not at all clear what, if any, aspects of Roosevelt's New Deal were consciously Keynesian). And when the transition to a peacetime economy in the United Kingdom needed a boost at the end of the war, he welcomed the Beveridge Report, now recognized as the founding document of the welfare state insofar as it is the origin of the National Health Service, social insurance, workers' compensation, rent control, and more. If U.S. President Harry S. Truman's Fair Deal or President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society programs are called "Keynesian," it's not entirely unwarranted.

But there has also always been what could be called a "right-Keynesian" way of doing economics and economic policy. Indeed, although the welfare state is commonly thought of as the victory of left-wing economic policy, during its heyday it was actually tied to a way of economic thinking that was in no way anti-capitalist. The Keynesian economics that ruled the disciplinary and policy roost in the postwar Golden Age -- and justified its welfare-oriented institutions such as public housing or collective bargaining -- was absolutely not left-wing and certainly did not understand itself as such.

The Keynesian economics that ruled the disciplinary and policy roost in the postwar Golden Age -- and justified its welfare-oriented institutions such as public housing or collective bargaining -- was absolutely not left-wing and certainly did not understand itself as such.
This Keynesianism has remained influential, if not dominant, within economics to this day. This is not well recognized largely because contemporary common sense seems to suggest that a well-functioning capitalist economy must have as little to do with the state and social life as possible. But in the decades of the postwar boom, most economists believed the state had a crucial role to play in making capitalism work, buffering citizens from its arbitrary punishments and rendering its inequalities legitimate. There's nothing left-wing about that.

The bipolar world of Keynesian economics is a product of several factors -- Keynes's own ego and his eagerness to have his ideas widely accepted not least among them. But the most significant cause is almost certainly the bifurcation in Keynesian analysis that began as soon as The General Theory 's ink dried. In a famous letter to George Bernard Shaw just before its publication, Keynes claimed his book would "revolutionise" economics. But as it turned out, not everyone agreed.

The "revolution" The General Theory aimed to inspire involved escaping the orthodoxy he called "classical economics," a somewhat ill-defined category in which he included many if not most of his colleagues, much to their consternation. To oversimplify somewhat, Keynes argued that The General Theory overcame "classical" thinking by abandoning its indefensible attachment to Say's Law -- the presumption that markets' price mechanism always efficiently links supply and demand, bringing all available resources, including labor, into production. Worse still, to Keynes's mind, this suggested that when all engines were evidently not firing, it was best not to intervene, because they would naturally push the economy back up to full employment. All sub-full employment conditions were, by definition, in what he called "disequilibrium." This is the kind of economic analysis, for example, behind central banks' reluctance to lower interest rates and abandon the gold standard when the Depression hit.

But this was 1936, remember. After years of widespread unemployment and vast pools of idle resources in every nation in the capitalist West, it seemed pretty clear that markets were not self-correcting, and that the economy could quite easily find a disastrous equilibrium, or even no equilibrium at all, far below full employment.

The most common criticism Keynes had to deal with in the months after The General Theory 's appearance was that it was simply old wine in new bottles, readily translatable into "classical" terms. The timing of this debate is crucial. While the formalization or "mathematization" of economics had begun several decades earlier, by the 1930s the discipline was at an important moment in the transition. The profession was leaving behind the expository mode of expression favored by Keynes and most earlier political economists, which relied on little and quite simple math to make its point, and turning to the highly technical, formally complex mode of argument that dominates today. While Keynes himself was suspicious of the reliance on increasingly formal methods -- "I doubt if they can carry us any further than ordinary discourse can" -- this was (and is) the conceptual language through which much of the debate about The General Theory has played out, among both admirers and critics.

In practice, this involved framing Keynes's ideas using the terms and models of the classical economics he claimed to relegate to the dustbin of history. The contest over the results of these efforts is the origin of the split in the Keynesian worldview and the multiple political purposes Keynes and Keynesianism seem to serve. What today is called "post-Keynesian" economics, essentially the left-Keynesian position, rejected the retranslation into classical. Those now called "New Keynesians," occupying the loose right-Keynesian position, celebrated it. A wide gap has since opened up between the camps, the space between what the economist Axel Leijonhufvud has called "the economics of Keynes and Keynesian economics."

Perhaps the seminal moment in the emergence of this division is the controversy over the so-called IS-LM model of the macroeconomy. First formulated in 1937 by Keynes's friend John Hicks, IS-LM was designed to describe an economy on classical terms in a manner that took account of one of The General Theory 's principal criticisms of classical economics: that it always assumed a tendency to full employment. With IS-LM, Hicks tried to capture this criticism by devising a new type of classical equilibrium model. At its simplest, Hicks' model says that economic output (including levels of employment) will be determined by the intersection of two curves ("schedules"): one that describes the range of possible relationships between investment demand and the supply of savings (investment-saving, or IS, which we can basically think of as the "real" economy), and another that describes the range of possible relationships between the demand for and supply of money (liquidity preference-money supply, or LM, essentially the financial side of the economy). The model is almost perfectly intuitive: macroeconomic equilibrium is the point at which conditions in the "real" economy intersect with credit conditions in the money markets. There is no reason to expect the level of output at this point to involve full employment.

Hicks's IS-LM model is the first step in what has since been labeled the "neoclassical synthesis," the marriage of Keynesian intuition and classical equilibrium analysis. The bulk of the synthesizing work was eventually done by postwar American economists such as Paul Samuelson and Alvin Hansen, who found in IS-LM an extraordinarily useful tool for policy analysis: If the IS curve is the real economy, then we can shift it with fiscal policy; if LM is money markets or the financial side of the economy, we can shift it with monetary policy. As Samuelson put it, with skillful use of the two, we can have a "managed economy" that behaves like a neoclassical model.

In other words, we can -- and indeed must -- use regulatory tools to realize the high-growth capitalist economy the classicals said markets would produce if left to themselves. This, not any sort of left-wing agenda, is the Keynesian economics that cemented the economic foundation of the welfare state, and -- with important changes of course -- this common sense remains at the heart of modern economics. Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, among the most prominent economists working today, are both New Keynesians in this tradition.

Much of this work was done in Cambridge, Massachusetts, especially at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Krugman and Stiglitz were trained. Across the Atlantic at the other Cambridge, however -- Keynes's University of Cambridge -- many of Keynes's students and colleagues saw the neoclassical synthesis as a step backward, the dilution or even betrayal of Keynes's contribution. Led by Joan Robinson, among the most brilliant and creative economists of the 20th century, the basis of a more critical Keynesianism -- what we now call "post-Keynesianism" -- took shape. Robinson, never one to mince words, labeled the neoclassical synthesis "bastard Keynesianism," an ad hoc mix of cherry-picked bits of The General Theory and classical arrogance.

The distance between the Keynesian camps today originates in these contrasting postwar trajectories, and for the most part it has tended to only grow wider.

The distance between the Keynesian camps today originates in these contrasting postwar trajectories, and for the most part it has tended to only grow wider.
Today, the intra-Keynesian debate matters at least as much for our understanding of contemporary politics as our grasp of economics proper, because it also captures the conversation around key public policy questions. Right now, New Keynesians such as Krugman, Stiglitz, and Janet Yellen dominate much of the public-intellectual space in economics, while some of the most incisive economic minds on the left, such as Ann Pettifor in the U.K. and Stephanie Kelton in the United States, are post-Keynesians.

For the former, the most important Keynesian lesson is that on its own, effective demand will rarely if ever reach a level that generates full employment. They mostly work with tools and models derived from the tradition Hicks inaugurated with IS-LM, which is to say mostly quite non-Keynesian equilibrium economics to which frictions, information asymmetry, and price stickiness have been added to make it more realistic. In contrast, the latter work from the proposition that for Keynes, as Robinson put it, "the very essence of his problem was uncertainty." Decisions, calculations, expectations, even monetary values are always worked out in historical, not logical time. If that is the case, then much of orthodox macroeconomics' so-called hydraulic analysis -- push X down and Y must go up, producing another equilibrium -- is up for debate.

Having uncertain expectations about the future was in many ways the element of The General Theory that Keynes most emphasized after its publication. Businesses invest and hire (or not) based on expected future demand, consumers spend (or not) based on expected future income. It is quite possible those expectations will turn out to be mistaken. If so, then it is virtually guaranteed that at any moment things are going to be at least a little out of balance -- too much of something, not enough of another. In that shifting reality, everyone is constantly readjusting their expectations of tomorrow, next year, or a decade from now -- and the further out we look, the more uncertain we get. As Keynes famously said, regarding most important future events, "We simply do not know."

For Robinson and those who follow in her footsteps, the suppression of fundamental uncertainty in the neoclassical synthesis is among the most egregious of its many errors. IS-LM, and the menu of fine-tuning policy choices it seemed to provide, took economics back to the realm of abstraction and away from Keynes's insistence on an economics for "the kind of system in which we actually live." It dismissed true uncertainty and replaced it with a set of equilibrium points, none of which was really uncertain insofar as it was mechanically determined by the dynamics of the model. Hyman Minsky (whose financial instability hypothesis helped a lot of people understand Lehman Brothers' collapse) called it "Hamlet without the prince."

These differences have become very public recently in the heated debate around so-called Modern Monetary Theory. This theory -- which is founded on the claim that a sovereign cannot default on a debt denominated in its own currency, and thus has the fiscal flexibility to use deficits to generate full employment (or address the climate emergency) -- grew directly out of post-Keynesian economic soil. New Keynesians for the most part vehemently disagree. Krugman, who calls himself a "conventional Keynesian," says Modern Monetary Theory forgets what are to his mind unimpeachable truths of "standard macroeconomics" -- like the fact that expanding deficits lead to higher interest rates that crowd out private investment. Indeed, he uses the IS curve to make his argument, leading Kelton to dismiss the "crude, IS-LM interpretation of Keynes" on which it is based.

While a broadly centrist or what Americans call "liberal" constituency remains committed to capitalism and to something like a New Keynesian approach to the economy (at least in moments of crisis), today's left encompasses a mix of Keynesianisms and more radical economic ideas. This is because the left, to the extent that we can even use the singular, weaves together a rather unruly coalition -- from those considered true democratic socialists to liberals sympathetic to Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Accelerating inequality, climate change, and the President Donald Trumps of the world have pushed formerly market-oriented New Keynesians such as Krugman and Robert Reich to include some post-Keynesian thinking in their analyses. Kelton, the prominent post-Keynesian and key modern monetary theorist, is Sanders's own economic advisor. In fact, although Keynes and Keynesianism have never been necessarily left, we are at a moment when Keynesian ideas are one of the few things that seem to have the potential to unite a viable left coalition

Keynesian ideas are one of the few things that seem to have the potential to unite a viable left coalition
, and the excitement generated by proposals for a Green New Deal, currently most closely associated with the Sanders campaign and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is proof it is by no means impossible.

Much of that momentum has come from the increasing size and effectiveness of youth-led activism. The generational shift is potentially crucial here, because the fact that more and more young people are embracing socialism and getting involved in left politics is, maybe ironically given Keynes's own sentiments, arguably much more closely related to the broad appeal of left-Keynesianism than to that of Marxism. Not that these youth are not truly radical -- many of them are formulating a sophisticated socialism based in the ideas of Marx, Antonio Gramsci, and Rosa Luxemburg. But the radically individualist, pro-market, and increasingly unforgiving economic thinking that has dominated American debate since before they were born has for many of them made what once seemed reasonably nonradical to their grandparents -- Keynes's Keynesianism -- seem radical. It is no fault of theirs that for more than a few of them, socialism can easily look something like an environmentally sustainable version of the welfare state that labor unions have been demanding for decades. At the packed rallies for the Green New Deal, Roosevelt is as much a hero as Salvador Allende.

Some degree of rapprochement between the Keynesianisms was perhaps always a possibility, because Keynesianism, whatever its stripes, has always been about addressing a crisis, actual or potential. Keynes wrote The General Theory in the 1930s in the shadow of growing social disorder, and insurgent fascisms and radical socialisms, not to mention collapsing empires. While the "or else" that loomed over the Cold War-era West was perceived as more foreign, there can be no doubt that both the Bretton Woods system (which Keynes helped design) and the economics of the welfare state were constructed at least partly in societies that embraced capitalism but never quite trusted the goods that free markets would deliver. Today, after the embarrassment of the financial crisis, economics rediscovered Keynes, and, for many, the simultaneous crises of ecology, inequality, and democracy only make Keynesianism of some variety more appealing than the status quo.

In other words, Keynes has become essential to much of the left partly because the widespread sense of impending crisis calls out desperately for something to be done

Keynes has become essential to much of the left partly because the widespread sense of impending crisis calls out desperately for something to be done
, and partly because the vast differences between them seem increasingly irrelevant in the face of potential calamity. In fact, a Keynesian rapprochement is arguably already underway. Stiglitz, perhaps the most prominent economist-public intellectual in the English-speaking world, has dedicated enormous energy to analyzing and advocating substantial carbon taxes and measures for addressing inequality both within and between nations. His latest book is subtitled Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent . Esther Duflo, another Keynesian and one of this year's Nobel Prize winners, has a new book out that takes on similar problems. Both begin from the same place -- the world is increasingly anxious about the future of civilization, and has a reason to be -- and both begin there not by chance. This is to a significant extent what Keynesianism has always been about.

Keynes himself said that our problems are mostly a "frightful muddle, a transitory and an unnecessary muddle," from which science, experts, and reason could almost certainly rescue us. On this, virtually every Keynesian agrees. Change -- maybe radical, maybe not -- is afoot. Whether it will be enough, soon enough, is by no means clear. Climate change alone would seem to demand more transformative political-economic surgery, but at present, at least, the plan to get there goes through Keynes.

Geoff Mann is director of the Centre for Global Political Economy, Simon Fraser University.

[Dec 12, 2019] Dmitry Orlov, who has invested much of his overall thesis in the process of collapse (of the US empire) recently predicted its happening in his lifetime

Dec 12, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

john , Dec 11 2019 18:01 utc | 11

james says:

..all i mostly see is the needed collapse and waiting for that to happen..

someone around here said recently that it should be smooth sailing for the USA for at least another 150 to 200 years, so indeed to make a prediction it's enough you have vocal cords.

interestingly though, Dmitry Orlov, who has invested much of his overall thesis in the process of collapse (of the US empire) recently predicted its happening in his lifetime At this point, I am tempted to go out on a limb and predict that if all goes well (for me) I will still be alive when this collapse actually transpires

[Dec 10, 2019] The USA is losing its "sole superpower" status, albeit at a very slow pace. It couldn't be another way, since the USA is a nuclear superpower, so its competitors must deactivate its hegemony slowly and gently.

The congress decline is now visible. Other institutions will follow.
Much depends on how long "plato oil" will hold and Seneca cliff arrives.
Notable quotes:
"... First the institutions will decline. Second, the State will decline. Third, the economy will decline and only after this "phase 3" that we'll be able to se the real desintegration of the USA. ..."
"... More probable would be the gradual secession of some States after the economy has degraded enough. I wouldn't consider the loss of one peripheral State as the formal end of the USA, but if it goes to the stage of it losing more or less the Southern States or the Midwest States, then I think some historians would use these as a useful event to mark the formal end of the USA. ..."
"... the USA will remain a very influent regional superpower for the foreseeable future. It would have to take the entire capitalist structure to fall for the USA to really enter its disintegration phase. I've talked with some Marxists, and the most optimistic of them believe the USA still has some 150-200 years of tranquil existence. Of course, we're not psychics, so they are all wild guesses. ..."
Dec 10, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org
vk , Dec 9 2019 17:02 utc | 106
@ Posted by: Passer by | Dec 9 2019 16:39 utc | 102

Well, the only USA that matters to the rest of the world is the USA-as-the-world's-sole-superpower. If that version of the USA disappears, then we would be talking about a completely different geopolitical architecture ("multipolar").

The USA itself doesn't need to collapse or disintegrate for that to happen.

My opinion is that the USA is losing its "sole superpower" status, albeit at a very slow pace. It couldn't be another way, since the USA is a nuclear superpower, so its competitors must deactivate its hegemony slowly and gently.

I also believe the USA will disappear some day, but in a different way than the USSR. Since the USA is a capitalist economy, it will desintegrate rather than collapse, and this disintegration will happen more a la Roman Empire (Crisis of the Third Century and beyond) rather than a la USSR. Capitalism has an anarchic way of producing and distributing its wealth, resulting in a decentralized web of institutions. First the institutions will decline. Second, the State will decline. Third, the economy will decline and only after this "phase 3" that we'll be able to se the real desintegration of the USA.

I don't believe the USA will fall by conquest, mostly because it has MAD, second because its geographic location favors a defensive war of its territory. More probable would be the gradual secession of some States after the economy has degraded enough. I wouldn't consider the loss of one peripheral State as the formal end of the USA, but if it goes to the stage of it losing more or less the Southern States or the Midwest States, then I think some historians would use these as a useful event to mark the formal end of the USA.

But before that, I believe the USA will remain a very influent regional superpower for the foreseeable future. It would have to take the entire capitalist structure to fall for the USA to really enter its disintegration phase. I've talked with some Marxists, and the most optimistic of them believe the USA still has some 150-200 years of tranquil existence. Of course, we're not psychics, so they are all wild guesses.

[Dec 09, 2019] Neocon attempts to build "A New American Century" which is to say hegemony and globalisation failed

Notable quotes:
"... Significantly Wallerstein, arguing from history that the intervals between these brief periods of hegemony are periods in which several states compete for the 'succession'-France and the UK in the period after the Dutch moment had passed; Germany and the United States after 1850- suggested that the European Community would be competing with the East Asian bloc for hegemony. ..."
"... Also of interest is the fact that Russia, which didn't feature among the contestants for future hegemony in 1980, has now re-emerged in its ancient role as the 'eastern' version of expanding America, a mirror image with even more natural resources, a larger landmass and a natural affinity with China and the formerly Soviet states of central Asia. ..."
"... It might be argued that it is because the hubristic United States cannot bring itself to treat the potentially enormously powerful states of Europe as anything more than contemptible slaves that it is never going to re-establish its global position. On the other hand a case can be made that the current thrust of the United States is to re-establish its ownership of the rest of the hemisphere. It treats Canada as a sort of Puerto Rico with snow and oil. Only recently was Mexico was threatened on the improbable-in historical terms- that it allows the CIA to run its drug trade and supervise its Death Squads. ..."
"... US interference and arrogance is as evident as it has ever been. What is less evident is whether, for all its military and financial power, US policy against Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and their increasingly rebellious neighbours has any chance of succeeding. ..."
Dec 09, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

bevin , Dec 8 2019 23:14 utc | 49

There is a sense in which everything on this blog comes back to international relations and neo-con attempts to build "A New American Century." Which is to say hegemony and globalisation.
Immanuel Wallerstein, who recently died and will be greatly missed, had some interesting things to say about hegemonic powers.
He identified the Dutch Republic, for a brief period after emerging victorious from the Thirty Years war in 1648, the United Kingdom, after Waterloo and up until the Crimean War and the United States, from 1945 to 1973 as true hegemons with networks of alliances and designated enemies.

He also makes the point that, long after states have ceased to be hegemonic, they remain dominant in the areas of finance and culture.

So far as the United States is concerned it is hanging on in both those areas in which, long after the paper in its Thuggerish foreign policy has been exposed, it retains enormous influence though its media/entertainment businesses and Wall Street's command in finance. (It is interesting here that The City, long after the UK has become a US puppet, still has enormous power in the world of finance.)

Wallerstein prophesied (and this was in 1980) that the next contender for the position of hegemon was likely to be an East Asian alliance of Japan, Korea and China.

Not a bad guess but one, like the end of US hegemony, made premature by the implosion of the Soviet Union which provided the US with a new dawn and another chance-quickly blown- to re-establish its hegemony. Which it did if not in fact then in its own mind in the shape of the hubristic unipolar moment and Brother Fukuyama's End of History celebration.

Significantly Wallerstein, arguing from history that the intervals between these brief periods of hegemony are periods in which several states compete for the 'succession'-France and the UK in the period after the Dutch moment had passed; Germany and the United States after 1850- suggested that the European Community would be competing with the East Asian bloc for hegemony.

It is that prophecy which looks lame currently with the European countries probably more under the domination of the United States than at any time in the past. Wallerstein was writing at a period when it looked as if the the EEC strengthened by the accession of, inter alia, the UK would be capable of throwing off the domination of the US and taking an independent course of its own.

This is a dream, rather like that of the 'Social Europe' in which full employment, welfare states, free education and regional development defy the spread of neo-liberal values and strategies, which still leads a ghost like existence in the minds of Europhiles who don't get out much and have never heard of Greece and the PIIGs.

Also of interest is the fact that Russia, which didn't feature among the contestants for future hegemony in 1980, has now re-emerged in its ancient role as the 'eastern' version of expanding America, a mirror image with even more natural resources, a larger landmass and a natural affinity with China and the formerly Soviet states of central Asia.

It might be argued that it is because the hubristic United States cannot bring itself to treat the potentially enormously powerful states of Europe as anything more than contemptible slaves that it is never going to re-establish its global position. On the other hand a case can be made that the current thrust of the United States is to re-establish its ownership of the rest of the hemisphere. It treats Canada as a sort of Puerto Rico with snow and oil. Only recently was Mexico was threatened on the improbable-in historical terms- that it allows the CIA to run its drug trade and supervise its Death Squads.

As to the rest of central America and the southern continent: US interference and arrogance is as evident as it has ever been. What is less evident is whether, for all its military and financial power, US policy against Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and their increasingly rebellious neighbours has any chance of succeeding.

It wrote in 2001 that the War on Terror was destined to end with Latin American militias, wearing red armbands, patrolling the streets of Cleveland. Perhaps it will.

[Dec 08, 2019] 'Free World'? What exactly does that mean? What does 'Freedom' mean? I 'freely' admit I simply have no idea what people mean when they urgently bleat words like that at me.

Dec 08, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

Ant. , Dec 5 2019 18:32 utc | 39

In Uncle Sam Land, "freedom" has two meanings. Rich people are free to do as they like. The rest of us are free to live under a bridge and starve.

We do have one right: The Right To Obey.

The whole society is organized around obedience, and the purpose of public education is to make sure every one obeys. Modern schools are more accurately called "day prisons", with all the cameras, metal detectors, armed police, isolation rooms, etc. I wonder how many people realize that "lockdown" is straight out of the criminal prison system, and is now a regular occurrence for little kids.

Ant. , Dec 5 2019 18:32 utc | 39

@33 vk

'Free World'? What exactly does that mean? What does 'Freedom' mean? I 'freely' admit I simply have no idea what people mean when they urgently bleat words like that at me.

To me, freedom applies to an action. You are free to do this, or you are free to do that. Which is, of course, actions that are constrained or allowed by various laws passed by local, state, federal and/or international entities. I would suppose that the amount of freedom you have depends on haw many laws have been passed in your own country to criminalize various activities.

Has anyone done such an analysis, to define which countries have limited their citizens behaviour? Simplistically, which countries have written the most laws?

I'll be willing to bet they are the 'democracies' that are most bellicose about protecting 'freedoms'. Let's face facts, politicians just love to keep passing laws, otherwise they have no reason to exist. I unreasonably think there should be another superior law, that any government should only be able to have so many laws. If they want to have yet another one, take some other law away. Otherwise 'freedoms' are just being chipped away at, constantly.

'Freedom', as a thing unto and onto itself, seems a completely meaningless concept. I keep wondering why politicians aren't asked what they are talking about when they roar about 'freedom' as a general term.

Trailer Trash , Dec 5 2019 19:51 utc | 53
>What does 'Freedom' mean? >

[Dec 07, 2019] Even neoliberal economists seem to agree that the decline of labor power, the decimation of Unionism in the US, has had a devastating effect on the existing quality of life

Dec 07, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

Mr. Bill , November 29, 2019 at 06:18 PM

Even Economists' seem to agree that the decline of labor power, the decimation of Unionism in the US, has had a devastating effect on the existing quality of life, the opportunity for economic mobility, and even longevity in the US. The society has been wringing it's hands over how to bring back the salad days of the strong middle class afforded by representative labor in the 50's and 60's.

Bernie Sanders platform represents all that was lost. There really is no difference between Sanders proposals and the union contracts of yore. The election of Sanders along with a unified Congress to enact his labor friendly proposals will restore the American middle class.

And America.

Mr. Bill -> Mr. Bill... , November 29, 2019 at 06:48 PM
The Trojan horse of neo-liberal economics, and the defenestration of an independent press into an oligopoly of lies, was able sell labor arbitrage as beneficial. Underselling American production by Capitalists employing a Communist monopoly supplier of labor, at substandard income, health, safety, and environmental conditions, against American workers, was sold as benefit.

Forty years later, America is unrecognizable. Reduced to platitudes, paying homage to a long lost civilization.

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Mr. Bill... , November 30, 2019 at 06:41 AM
Yep, but before we could get there we first had to believe that corporate mergers were necessary and good to achieve economies of scale rather than merely to bestow unbridled monopoly power, monopsony power, and political power upon the biggest sharks in the tank. Mergers were about owning Boardwalk and Park Place and globalization was about collecting rents. Mergers crippled unions and globalization put them out of their misery with a final death blow.
RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to RC (Ron) Weakley... , November 30, 2019 at 06:42 AM
The old one, two, so to speak.
Paine -> RC (Ron) Weakley... , November 30, 2019 at 01:46 PM
Amen

CIO
R.I.P.

Paine -> Mr. Bill... , November 30, 2019 at 01:44 PM
Punchy lingo

" AN Oligarchy of lieS"

LOVELY PHRASE
makes me jealous

Last line
Pungent indeed :

Forty years later
America is unrecognizable

Reduced to platitudes

paying homage
to a long lost civilization

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Paine ... , November 30, 2019 at 02:08 PM
How far do you live from Palm Beach, FA, the new permanent residence of our fearless orange leader?
RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to RC (Ron) Weakley... , November 30, 2019 at 02:10 PM
Sorry, the abbreviation for Florida is FL. FA must stand for something else :<)
Paine -> RC (Ron) Weakley... , December 02, 2019 at 08:54 AM
I winter in Zero beach fla.

Former training town
for the Brooklyn Dodgers

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Paine ... , December 02, 2019 at 12:37 PM
Vero Beach is awesome, as is most of the FL coasts when there are no hurricanes in town. I checked Google Map and you are halfway between Daytona Beach and Ft Lauderdale and well away from that Miami place. If I lived there then I would be fishing for tuna, cobia, wahoo, and king mackerel every day.
Fred C. Dobbs , November 30, 2019 at 05:55 AM
2020 Democratic Candidates Wage Escalating Fight
(on the Merits of Fighting) https://nyti.ms/2Ds4OIC
NYT - Mark Leibovich - Nov. 30

For all the emphasis placed on the various divides
among the candidates, the question of "to fight or
not to fight" might represent the most meaningful contrast.

WALPOLE, N.H. -- Pete Buttigieg has a nifty politician's knack for coming off as a soothing, healing figure who projects high-mindedness -- even while he's plainly kicking his opponents in the teeth.

"There is a lot to be angry about," he was saying, cheerfully. Mr. Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., was seated aboard his campaign bus outside a New Hampshire middle school before a recent Sunday afternoon rally. He was sipping a canned espresso beverage and his eyes bulged as he spoke, as if he was trying to pass off as revelatory something he had in fact said countless times before.

"But fighting is not enough and it's a problem if fighting is all you have," he said. "We fight when we need to fight. But we're never going to say fighting is the point."

In fact, these were fighting words: barely disguised and directed at certain Democratic rivals. As Mr. Buttigieg enjoys a polling surge in Iowa and New Hampshire, he is trying to prevent a rebound by Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has leveled off in the polls after a strong summer, and contain Senator Bernie Sanders, whose support has proved durable.

Both are explicit fighters, while Mr. Buttigieg, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and some others warn that Democrats risk scaring off voters by relying too heavily on pugnacious oratory, and by emphasizing the need to transform America rather than focusing simply on ending the Trump presidency and restoring the country to some semblance of normalcy.

As Mr. Buttigieg has sharpened this critique, however, he has adopted a more aggressive tone himself -- a sly bit of needle-threading that has coincided with his rise. Mr. Biden, too, has combined cantankerous language about beating Mr. Trump "like a drum" with more uplifting rhetoric about "restoring the soul of America."

As Mr. Buttigieg spoke, Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders were holding rallies in which they could scarcely utter two sentences without dropping in some formulation of the word "fight." They spoke of the various "fights" they had led and the powerful moneyed interests they had "fought" and how they would "keep fighting" all the way to the White House.

Mr. Sanders touted himself as the candidate who would "fight to raise wages" and was "leading the fight to guarantee health care" and "fight against corporate greed." Ms. Warren (fighting a cold) explained "why I got into this fight, will stay in this fight and why I am asking others to join the fight."

Every politician wants to be known as a "fighter," even the placid young mayor who has promised to "change the channel" on Mr. Trump's reality show presidency and all the rancor that has accompanied it. But Mr. Buttigieg is also fighting against what he sees as the political trope of fighting per se. He is presenting himself as an antidote to the politics-as-brawl predilection that has become so central to the messaging of both parties and, he believes, has sapped the electorate of any hope for an alternative. "The whole country is exhausted by everyone being at each other's throats," Mr. Buttigieg said.

At a basic level, this is a debate over word choice. Candidates have been selling themselves as "fighters" for centuries, ostensibly on behalf of the proverbial "you." It goes back at least to 1828, when Andrew Jackson bludgeoned John Quincy Adams, his erudite opponent, with the slogan "Adams can write but Jackson can fight." Populists of various stripes have been claiming for decades to "fight for you," "fight the power," "fight the good fight" and whatnot, all in the name of framing their enterprises as some cause that transcends their mere career advancement.

In a broader sense, though, it goes to a stylistic divide that has been playing out for nearly a year in the battle for the Democratic nomination. The split is most acute among the top four polling candidates: you could classify Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders as the pugilists in the field, whereas Mr. Buttigieg, he of the earnest manner and Midwestern zest for consensus, fashions himself a peacemaker. Mr. Biden would also sit in the latter camp, with his constant promises to "unite the country" and continued insistence -- oft-derided -- that his old Republican friends would be so chastened by Mr. Trump's defeat that they would suddenly want to work in sweet bipartisan harmony with President Joe.

For all the emphasis placed on the identity and generational partitions between the candidates, the question of "to fight or not to fight" might represent a more meaningful contrast. "This has been a longstanding intramural debate," said David Axelrod, the Democratic media and message strategist, who served as a top campaign and White House aide to former President Barack Obama. "It's what Elizabeth Warren would call 'big structural change' versus what critics would call 'incremental change.'"

He believes the energy and size of the former camp has been exaggerated by the attention it receives. "I think sometimes the populist left is overrepresented in places where reporters sometimes spend a lot of time," Mr. Axelrod said. "Like on Twitter." ...

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , November 30, 2019 at 06:59 AM
Apparently what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire stays in Iowa and New Hampshire. Here in VA, which does not primary for the Democratic Party until Super Tuesday (March 3, 2020) the only message coming through from Dems is Dump Trump. Since VA went for Hillary in 2016, then it is unlikely that voters here will hold for Trump now, but not for lack of trying among staunch Republican Party financial backers.

Fortunately enough for me though is that my happy life does not hinge on national politics. VA will be a better place to live now that Republicans no longer control the state's legislature nor executive branches. Sorry about the country, but it must live with its own unique history of bad choices.

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to RC (Ron) Weakley... , November 30, 2019 at 03:46 PM
Here in MA, we pay particular attention to
our cranky neighbor NH because we know how
votes will go here at home, but not there.

NH is endlessly fascinating, and remote-ish.

With four electoral votes, it has one-third
more than Vermont. That's why it's important-ish.

Overall, the six New England states have an extra
twelve electoral votes, disproportionate to our
total population. Lately all Dem, except for a
stubborn pocket in Maine.

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to RC (Ron) Weakley... , November 30, 2019 at 03:56 PM
MA is also joined at the hip with NY,
sharing about a hundred miles of border,
and much political sensibility. It wasn't
always this way (except for the border part.)

I was growing up in western NY when Robert Kennedy
was foisted upon us as a Senator, mainly from NYC.
He with considerable NYC roots, but that god-awful
'Bahston' accent. In those days, western NY was
a GOP bastion, and still is to a lesser extent.

None the less, we are still joined at the hip.
Just not over the Yankees & the Red Sox.

ilsm -> Fred C. Dobbs... , December 01, 2019 at 06:14 AM
Hillary Clinton was foisted on the "rest of NY" outside the NYC metro!

An argument to keep the elector college.

Boston is closer to Manhattan than Springfield is to Albany.

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to ilsm... , December 01, 2019 at 07:20 AM
Literally, or figuratively>

Boston => NYC: 210 miles
Springfield => Albany: 86 miles

(I've noticed, you often get
things wrong. Whatever happened
to 'Knowledge & Thoroughness'?

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , December 01, 2019 at 06:22 AM
Thanks. My wife is from CT. Is CT even more true blue than MA. A quandary for me as she was raised devout Republican although her mother was a public school teacher.
Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to RC (Ron) Weakley... , December 01, 2019 at 10:23 AM
All of New England is blue these days, except
for a portion of Maine. Only one GOPerson in
Congress these days, that being Susan Collins
of Maine, soon to be up for re-election.

'Sen. Susan Collins faces a potentially
difficult reelection campaign in 2020. ... J

Although (she does not yet have a primary challenger), Collins could be especially vulnerable if she breaks with Trump -- she's the most moderate Republican in the Senate and has had lukewarm intraparty support in the past, though it improved markedly after she voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court last year.' ...

Primary Challenges Might Keep These Republican Senators
From Voting To Remove Trump https://53eig.ht/36mLHgu

Paine -> Fred C. Dobbs... , December 02, 2019 at 09:00 AM
New England has a sesionist
Past
The blue light federalists

The Hartford convention

Recall?

All that
pre anti slavery movement

A second source of
New england secessionist sentiment


Let's leave this beast

EMichael , November 30, 2019 at 06:31 AM
Wow, Mankiw.

"How to Increase Taxes on the Rich (If You Must)"

https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/mankiw/files/how_to_increase_taxes_on_the_rich.pdf

Suffice to say the two main characters are Sam Spendthrift and Frank Frugal.

geez

Paine -> EMichael... , November 30, 2019 at 08:47 AM
Household saving is an anachronic
Activity given modern credit systems

And effective macro management of the net rate of social accumulation

Paine -> Paine ... , November 30, 2019 at 08:52 AM
New Housing and household durables
In as much as they increase
The labor productivity
of
Domestic production...
Are a worthy investment
Best financed with credit

The combo of productivity increases
and substitution of market products combined cut domestic labor time dramatically
Last century

More credit powered improvement to come

joe -> EMichael... , December 01, 2019 at 10:50 PM
He is protecting this text book, it is in the parenthesis (if you must).

His text book is a fraud, it explains very little about what is happening, contains nothing about irregular gains to scale, nothing about value added network effect, assumes the senate is a proportional democracy, never considers the regularity of generation default. The text should be shunned, it is ten years behind the mathematicians.

Paine -> joe... , December 02, 2019 at 08:35 AM
I read this joe scratch
and tremble

Is this mental caliban
In a profound sense
A fun house reflection of myself

Probably

Paine -> Paine ... , December 02, 2019 at 08:36 AM
But for the North star texts of Marx and Lenin
Julio -> Paine ... , December 05, 2019 at 10:28 PM
We are all mulpians now.
Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to EMichael... , December 02, 2019 at 07:02 AM
Tax the Rich? Here's How to Do
It (Sensibly) https://nyti.ms/2NsILFP
NYT - Andrew Ross Sorkin - Feb. 25, 2019

Everyone, it seems, has ideas about new tax strategies, some more realistic than others. The list of tax revolutionaries is long. ...

Whatever your politics, there is a bipartisan acknowledgment that the tax system is broken. Whether you believe the system should be fixed to generate more revenue or employed as a tool to limit inequality -- and let's be honest for a moment, those ideas are not always consistent -- there is a justifiable sense the public doesn't trust the tax system to be fair.

In truth, how could it when a wealthy person like Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of the president, reportedly paid almost no federal taxes for years? Or when Gary Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs who once led President Trump's National Economic Council, says aloud what most wealthy people already know: "Only morons pay the estate tax."

If you pay taxes, it's hard not to feel like a patsy.

A New York Times poll found that support for higher taxes on the rich cuts across party lines, and Democratic presidential hopefuls are offering plans to do it. But the current occupant of the Oval Office signed a $1.5 trillion tax cut into law, so the political hurdles are high.

Over the past month, I've consulted with tax accountants, lawyers, executives, political leaders and yes, billionaires, and specific ideas have come up about plugging the gaps in the tax code, without blowing it apart. ...

Patch the estate tax

None of the suggestions in this column -- or anywhere else -- can work unless the estate tax is rid of the loopholes that allow wealthy Americans to blatantly (and legally) skirt taxes.

Without addressing whether the $11.2 million exemption is too high -- and it is -- the estate tax is riddled with problems. Chief among them: Wealthy Americans can pass much of their riches to their heirs without paying taxes on capital gains -- ever. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, unrealized capital gains account for "as much as about 55 percent for estates worth more than $100 million." ...

The Congressional Budget Office estimates simply closing this loophole would raise more than $650 billion over a decade.

As central as this idea is to the other suggestions, it is not an easy sell. Three Republican senators introduced a plan this year to repeal the estate tax.

But this and other changes -- eliminating the hodgepodge of generation-skipping trusts that also bypass estate taxes -- are obvious fixes that would introduce a basic fairness to the system and curb the vast inequality that arises from dynastic wealth.

Increase capital gains rates for the wealthy

Our income tax rates are progressive, but taxes on capital gains are less so. There are only two brackets, and they top out at 20 percent.

By contrast, someone making $40,000 a year by working 40 hours a week is in the 22 percent bracket. That's why Warren Buffett says his secretary pays a higher tax rate.

So why not increase capital gains rates on the wealthiest among us?

One chief argument for low capital gains rates is to incentivize investment. But if we embraced two additional brackets -- say, a marginal 30 percent bracket for earners over $5 million and a 35 percent bracket for earners over $15 million -- it is hard to see how it would fundamentally change investment plans. ...

['Incentivizing investment'
leads to more income inequality.]

End the perverse real estate loopholes

One reason there are so many real estate billionaires is the law allows the industry to perpetually defer capital gains on properties by trading one for another. In tax parlance, it is known as a 1031 exchange.

In addition, real estate industry executives can depreciate the value of their investment for tax purposes even when the actual value of the property appreciates. (This partly explains Mr. Kushner's low tax bill.)

These are glaring loopholes that are illogical unless you are a beneficiary of them. Several real estate veterans I spoke to privately acknowledged the tax breaks are unconscionable.

Fix carried interest

This is far and away the most obvious loophole that goes to Americans' basic sense of fairness.

For reasons that remain inexplicable -- unless you count lobbying money -- the private equity, venture capital, real estate and hedge fund industries have kept this one intact. Current tax law allows executives in those industries to have the bonuses they earn investing for clients taxed as capital gains, not ordinary income.

Even President Trump opposed the loophole. In a 2015 interview, he said hedge fund managers were "getting away with murder."

This idea and the others would not swell the government's coffers to overflowing, but they would help restore a sense of fairness to a system that feels so easily gamed by the wealthiest among us.

There are a couple of other things worth considering.

Let's talk about philanthropy

Nobody wants to dissuade charitable giving. But average taxpayers are often subsidizing wealthy philanthropists whose charitable deductions significantly reduce their bills.

These people deserve credit for giving money to noble causes (though some nonprofits are lobbying organizations masquerading as do-gooders) but their wealth, in many cases, isn't paying for the basics of health care, defense, education and everything else that taxes pay for.

Philanthropic giving is laudable, but it can also be a tax-avoidance strategy. Is there a point at which charitable giving should be taxed?

I'm not sure what the right answer is. But consider this question posed by several philanthropic billionaires: Should the rich be able to gift stock or other assets to charity before paying capital gains taxes? ...

Finally, fund the Internal Revenue Service

The agency is so underfunded that the chance an individual gets audited is minuscule -- one person in 161 was audited in 2017, according to the I.R.S. And individuals with more than $1 million in income, the people with the most complicated tax situations, were audited just 4.4 percent of the time. It was more than 12 percent in 2011, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported.

The laws in place hardly matter: Those willing to take a chance can gamble that they won't get caught. That wouldn't be the case if the agency weren't having its budget cut and losing personnel. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , December 02, 2019 at 07:22 AM
'If you pay taxes, it's hard not to feel like a patsy.'

[I heartily disagree.]

'In 1927 in the court case of Compañía General de
Tabacos de Filipinas v. Collector of Internal Revenue
a dissenting opinion was written by Oliver Wendell
Holmes, Jr. that included the following phrase ... :

Taxes are what we pay for civilized society '

https://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/04/13/taxes-civilize/

anne -> Fred C. Dobbs... , December 02, 2019 at 07:59 AM
If you pay taxes, it's hard not to feel like a patsy.

-- Andrew Ross Sorkin

[ What a disgraceful, shameful phrase. ]

Paine -> Fred C. Dobbs... , December 02, 2019 at 08:39 AM
Tax talk is for star chambers

In public call for spending

And back it by attacking all fuss budgets

The uncle debt load can be lightened
By sovereign rate management

It's part of uncles extravagant privilege
As global hegemon

Paine -> Paine ... , December 02, 2019 at 09:03 AM
Tax wealth not work
Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Paine ... , December 02, 2019 at 09:20 AM
One can at least imagine that,
back in the day (long ago?),
wealth would have been taxed,
but then with the rise of the
middle-class, taxes were extended
to those who had *income* if not
much wealth. Perhaps just as the
wealthy were hiring lawyers and
accountants, and making generous
political 'contributions' to
avoid taxes generally.
Mr. Bill -> Fred C. Dobbs... , December 02, 2019 at 04:43 PM
A 0.25% tax on financial transactions will supply $1.8 Trillion over the next 10 years,
Mr. Bill -> Mr. Bill... , December 02, 2019 at 04:46 PM
The elimination of corporate loopholes would provide an estimated $1.25 Trillion over the next 10 years.
Mr. Bill -> Mr. Bill... , December 02, 2019 at 04:50 PM
Cutting the bloated military budget by 5% would provide $0.5 Trillion over the next 10 years.

Returning to the Clinton top marginal tax rates would provide another $0.5 Trillion over the next 10 years.

Mr. Bill -> Mr. Bill... , December 02, 2019 at 04:54 PM
It really comes down to priorities. Are we a democracy, or not. Health care, education, etc. for the citizens, or corporate welfare for the aristocracy.
anne , November 30, 2019 at 07:14 AM
https://twitter.com/paulkrugman/status/1200781466604621825

Paul Krugman‏ @paulkrugman

This New York Times article on rising mortality had me thinking about regional disparities. It's true that rising mortality is widespread, but the article also acknowledges that mortality in coastal metros has improved 1/

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/26/health/life-expectancy-rate-usa.html

It's Not Just Poor White People Driving a Decline in Life Expectancy
A new study shows that death rates increased for middle-aged people of all racial and ethnic groups.

6:19 AM - 30 Nov 2019

So I did some comparisons using the KFF health system tracker https://www.healthsystemtracker.org/chart-collection/u-s-life-expectancy-compare-countries/ and a JAMA article on life expectancy by state in 1990 and 2016 2/

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2678018

The State of US Health, 1990-2016
Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Among US States

What we see is another red-blue divide. Compare population-weighted averages for states that supported Clinton and Trump in 2016, and you see very different trends 3/

[ https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EKoJry8WoAAAU6E.png ]

This is NOT simply a matter of declining regions voting for Trump. Look at the 4 biggest states: in 1990 FL and TX both had higher life expectancy than NY, now they're well behind 4/

[ https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EKoKPKzXsAANKK9.png ]

I'm not sure what lies behind this. Medicaid expansion probably plays a role in the past few years, and general harshness of social policies in red states may matter more over time. Divergence in education levels may also play a role 5/

What's clear, however, is that the US life-expectancy problem is pretty much a red-state problem. In terms of mortality, blue states look like the rest of the advanced world 6/

anne -> anne... , November 30, 2019 at 07:15 AM
https://twitter.com/paulkrugman/status/1199719100496449537

Paul Krugman @paulkrugman

I was struck by one line in this article: "Life expectancy in the coastal metro areas -- both east and west -- has improved at roughly the same rate as in Canada." Indeed, the American death trip has been driven by only part of the country 1/

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/26/health/life-expectancy-rate-usa.html

It's Not Just Poor White People Driving a Decline in Life Expectancy
A new study shows that death rates increased for middle-aged people of all racial and ethnic groups.

7:58 AM - 27 Nov 2019

And while the divergence is surely linked to growing regional economic disparities, there's a pretty clear red-blue divide reflecting state policies. Consider NY v. TX 2/

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2678018

[ https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EKZCmPnXkAAjsOG.png ]

In 1990 Texas actually had higher life expectancy, but now NY is far ahead. Surely this has something to do with expanding health coverage, maybe also to do with environmental policies. 3/

In general, progressive US states have experienced falling mortality along with the rest of the advanced world. Red America is where things are different 4/

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to anne... , November 30, 2019 at 07:42 AM
The NYT article has a graphical map
'Falling Life Expectancy' - that shows
death rate (age 25-64) declines in only
two states (CA & WY) with small increases
in 11 other states (OR, WA, AR, UT, TX, OK,
SC, GA, FL, IL & NY). Increases in all other
states. Hence, shorter life expectancies
in most states, regardless of region.
Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , November 30, 2019 at 07:52 AM
'US life-expectancy problem is
pretty much a red-state problem.'

If so (which I doubt), it's perhaps
because most states are 'red states'.

In the northeast, which is quite 'blue',
only NY is doing reasonably well on this.

In the deep (red) south, TX, FL, SC & GA
are also doing ok. As are TX and OK.

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , November 30, 2019 at 08:02 AM
Slight correction: It's AZ, not AR
that is in the small increase category.
In any case 8 of these 13 states are
'red' ones.
Julio -> Fred C. Dobbs... , November 30, 2019 at 11:50 AM
How does "death rate 25-64" relate to life expectancy? I would think it measures a different thing.
anne -> Julio ... , November 30, 2019 at 11:56 AM
How does "death rate 25-64" relate to life expectancy?

[ Think of the fierceness of AIDS in South Africa, which effected specific age ranges, and notice the change in life expectancy:

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=pCWX

January 15, 2018

Life Expectancy at Birth for China, India, Brazil and South Africa, 1977-2017 ]

anne -> Julio ... , November 30, 2019 at 12:02 PM
How does "death rate 25-64" relate to life expectancy?

[ Similarly, by dramatically improving the care of young children China dramatically improved life expectancy. This was and remains a failing for India, even though India had a far higher per capita GDP level than China before 1980. Amartya Sen has written about this:

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=oWKW

January 15, 2018

Life Expectancy at Birth for China, India, Brazil and South Africa, 1960-2017

anne -> anne... , November 30, 2019 at 12:03 PM
https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=oWL6

January 15, 2018

Life Expectancy at Birth for China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa, 1960-2017 ]

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Julio ... , November 30, 2019 at 12:42 PM
Anne is correct. Death rate 25-64 is throwing out the disease susceptible childhood years, the suicides and automobile accidents of early adulthood, and also access to medical care for the increased disease risks of advanced ages. What is left tells a story of alcoholism, smoking, and fentanyl mostly along with healthcare access. Employment security matters in both healthcare access and incidence of depression including adult suicide and drug use along with a tendency to engage in risky activities just to pay the bills.
Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Julio ... , November 30, 2019 at 03:35 PM
JAMA (& others who have done similar studies)
are just looking at data. Draw your own
conclusions? The media will draw theirs.

Fair to say, these are people dying NOT of old-age.

Americans' Life Expectancy Drops For Third Year In Row, Signaling There's 'Something Terribly Wrong' Going On https://khn.org/MTAyNTQ4Mw via @khnews (Kaiser Health News)

Americans' Life Expectancy Drops For Third Year In Row, Signaling There's 'Something Terribly Wrong' Going On
Researchers say the grim new reality isn't just limited to rural deaths of despair, but rather the numbers reflect that many different people living in all areas of the U.S. are struggling. "We need to look at root causes," said Dr. Steven Woolf, the author's lead study. "Something changed in the 1980s, which is when the growth in our life expectancy began to slow down compared to other wealthy nations."

The New York Times: It's Not Just Poor White People Driving A Decline In Life Expectancy
As the life expectancy of Americans has declined over a period of three years -- a drop driven by higher death rates among people in the prime of life -- the focus has been on the plight of white Americans in rural areas who were dying from so-called deaths of despair: drug overdoses, alcoholism and suicide. But a new analysis of more than a half-century of federal mortality data, published on Tuesday in JAMA, found that the increased death rates among people in midlife extended to all racial and ethnic groups, and to suburbs and cities. (Kolata and Tavernise, 11/26)

The Washington Post: U.S. Life Expectancy: Americans Are Dying Young At Alarming Rates
Despite spending more on health care than any other country, the United States has seen increasing mortality and falling life expectancy for people age 25 to 64, who should be in the prime of their lives. In contrast, other wealthy nations have generally experienced continued progress in extending longevity. Although earlier research emphasized rising mortality among non-Hispanic whites in the United States, the broad trend detailed in this study cuts across gender, racial and ethnic lines. By age group, the highest relative jump in death rates from 2010 to 2017 -- 29 percent -- has been among people age 25 to 34. (Achenbach, 11/26)

Los Angeles Times: Suicides, Overdoses, Other 'Deaths Of Despair' Fuel Drop In U.S. Life Expectancy
In an editorial accompanying the new report, a trio of public health leaders said the study's insight into years of cumulative threats to the nation's health "represents a call to action." If medical professionals and public health experts fail to forge partnerships with social, political, religious and economic leaders to reverse the current trends, "the nation risks life expectancy continuing downward in future years to become a troubling new norm," wrote Harvard public health professors Dr. Howard K. Koh, John J. Park and Dr. Anand K. Parekh of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C. (Healy, 11/26)

---

Changes in midlife death rates across racial and ethnic
groups in the United States: systematic analysis of vital statistics
https://www.bmj.com/content/362/bmj.k3096
British Medical Journal - August 15, 2018

Paine -> Fred C. Dobbs... , December 02, 2019 at 09:06 AM
Are death rates for 70 to 90 types
still falling

That's where we need thinking out

Not the big 40
25 to 65
The big 40 are the main meat hunters
of the cohorts

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Paine ... , December 02, 2019 at 12:06 PM
(Seen on web so must be true.)

'Men 65 years and older today have an average
life expectancy of 84.3 years. Life expectancy
outcomes get even better among younger men and
women according to the CDC's data. For instance,
one in 20 women who are 40 today will live to
celebrate their 100th birthday.'

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , December 02, 2019 at 12:19 PM
(OTOH...)

CDC Data Show US Life Expectancy Continues to Decline https://www.aafp.org/news/health-of-the-public/20181210lifeexpectdrop.html

American Academy of Family Physicians - December 10, 2018

"The latest CDC data show that the U.S. life expectancy has declined over the past few years," said CDC Director Robert Redfield, M.D., in a Nov. 29 statement. "Tragically, this troubling trend is largely driven by deaths from drug overdose and suicide.

(CDC Director's Media Statement on U.S. Life Expectancy
https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/s1129-US-life-expectancy.html via @CDCgov - about one year ago)

Three new reports from the CDC indicate that the average life expectancy in the United States has declined for the second time in three years.

Deaths from drug overdose and suicide were responsible for much of the decline, with more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths reported in 2017.

As a result of overall increases in mortality rates, average life expectancy decreased from 78.9 years in 2014 to 78.6 years in 2017.

"Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the nation's overall health, and these sobering statistics are a wake-up call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable." ...

More than 2.8 million deaths occurred in the United States in 2017, an increase of about 70,000 from the previous year. Death rates rose significantly in three age groups during that period (i.e., in those 25-34, 35-44, and 85 and older) and dropped in 45- to 54-year-olds, yielding an overall age-adjusted increase of 0.4 percent. That percentage represents a rise from 728.8 deaths per 100,000 standard population to 731.9 per 100,000.

The 10 leading causes of death remained the same from 2016 to 2017: heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicide. Age-adjusted death rates increased significantly for seven of the 10 causes, led by influenza and pneumonia (5.9 percent), unintentional injuries (4.2 percent) and suicide (3.7 percent). Death rates for cancer actually decreased by 2.1 percent, while heart disease and kidney disease rates did not change significantly. ...

Drug overdose death rates increased across all age groups, with the highest rate occurring in adults ages 35-44 (39 per 100,000) and the lowest in adults 65 and older (6.9 per 100,000). ...

CDC Data Show US Life Expectancy Continues to Decline
https://www.aafp.org/news/health-of-the-public/20181210lifeexpectdrop.html

anne , November 30, 2019 at 07:30 AM
http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/free-market-drugs-a-key-part-of-elizabeth-warren-s-transition-to-medicare-for-all

November 29, 2019

Free Market Drugs: A Key Part of Elizabeth Warren's Transition to Medicare for All
By Dean Baker

Earlier this month, Senator Warren put out a set of steps that she would put forward as president as part of a transition to Medicare for All. The items that got the most attention were including everyone over age 50 and under age 18 in Medicare, and providing people of all ages with the option to buy into the program. This buy-in would include large subsidies, and people with incomes of less than 200 percent of the poverty level would be able to enter the Medicare program at no cost.

These measures would be enormous steps toward Medicare for All, bringing tens of millions of people into the program, including most of those (people over age 50) with serious medical issues. It would certainly be more than halfway to a universal Medicare program.

While these measures captured most of the attention given to Warren's transition plan, another part of the plan is probably at least as important. Warren proposed to use the government's authority to compel the licensing of drug patents so that multiple companies can produce a patented drug, in effect allowing them to be sold at generic prices.

The government can do this both because it has general authority to compel licensing of patents (with reasonable compensation) and because it has explicit authority under the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act to require licensing of any drug developed in part with government-funded research. The overwhelming majority of drugs required some amount of government-supported research in their development, so there would be few drugs that would be exempted if Warren decided to use this mechanism.

These measures are noteworthy because they can be done on the president's own authority. While the pharmaceutical industry will surely contest in court a president's use of the government's authority to weaken their patent rights, these actions would not require Congressional approval.

The other reason that these steps would be so important is that there is a huge amount of money involved. The United States is projected to spend over $6.6 trillion on prescription drugs over the next decade, more than 2.5 percent of GDP. This comes to almost $20,000 per person over the next decade.

This is an enormous amount of money. We spend more than twice as much per person on drugs as people in other wealthy countries.

This is not an accident. The grant of a patent monopoly allows drug companies to charge as much as they want for drugs that are necessary for people's health or even their life, without having to worry about a competitor undercutting them.

Other countries also grant patent monopolies, but they limit the ability of drug companies to exploit these monopolies with negotiations or price controls. This is why prices in these countries are so much lower than in the United States.

But even these negotiated prices are far above what drug prices would be in a free market. The price of drugs in a free market, without patent monopolies or related protections, will typically be less than 10 percent of the US price and in some cases, less than one percent.

This is because drugs are almost invariably cheap to manufacture and distribute. They are expensive because government-granted patent monopolies make them expensive. We have this perverse situation where the government deliberately makes drugs expensive, then we struggle with how to pay for them.

The rationale for patent monopolies is to give companies an incentive to research and develop drugs. This process is expensive, and if newly developed drugs were sold in a free market, companies would not be able to recover these expenses.

To make up for the loss of research funding supported by patent monopolies, Warren proposes an increase in public funding for research. This would be an important move towards an increased reliance on publicly funded biomedical research.

There are enormous advantages to publicly-funded research over patent monopoly-supported research. First, if the government is funding the research it can require that all results be fully public as soon as possible so that all researchers can quickly benefit from them.

By contrast, under the patent system, drug companies have an incentive to keep results secret. They have no desire to share results that could benefit competitors.

In most other contexts we quite explicitly value the benefits of open research. Science is inherently a collaborative process where researchers build upon the successes and failures of their peers. For some reason, this obvious truth is largely absent from discussions of biomedical research where the merits of patent financing go largely unquestioned.

In addition to allowing research results to be spread more quickly, public funding would also radically reduce the incentive to develop copycat drugs. Under the current system, drug companies will often devote substantial sums to developing drugs that are intended to duplicate the function of drugs already on the market. This allows them to get a share of an innovator drug's patent rents. While there is generally an advantage to having more options to treat a specific condition, most often research dollars would be better spent trying to develop drugs for conditions where no effective treatment currently exists.

Under the patent system, a company that has invested a substantial sum in developing a drug, where a superior alternative already exists, may decide to invest an additional amount to carry it through the final phases of testing and the FDA approval process. From their vantage point, if they hope that a successful marketing effort will allow them to recover its additional investment costs, they would come out ahead.

On the other hand, in a system without patent monopolies, it would be difficult for a company to justify additional spending after it was already clear that the drug it was developing offered few health benefits. This could save a considerable amount of money on what would be largely pointless tests.

Also, as some researchers have noted, the number of potential test subjects (people with specific conditions) is also a limiting factor in research. It would be best if these people were available for testing genuinely innovative drugs rather than ones with little or no incremental value.

Ending patent monopoly pricing would also take away the incentive for drug companies to conceal evidence that their drugs may not be as safe or effective as claimed. Patent monopolies give drug companies an incentive to push their drugs as widely as possible.

That is literally the point of patent monopoly pricing. If a drug company can sell a drug for $30,000 that costs them $300 to manufacture and distribute, then they have a huge incentive to market it as widely as possible. If this means being somewhat misleading about the safety and effectiveness of their drug, that is what many drug companies will do.

The opioid crisis provides a dramatic example of the dangers of this system. Opioid manufacturers would not have had the same incentive to push their drugs, concealing evidence of their addictive properties, if they were not making huge profits on them.

Unfortunately, this is far from the only case where drug companies have not accurately presented their research findings when marketing their drugs. The mismarketing of the arthritis drug Vioxx, which increased the risk of heart attacks and strokes, is another famous example.

We can try to have the FDA police marketing, but where there is so much money at stake in putting out wrong information, we can hardly expect it to be 100 percent successful in overcoming the incentives from the large profits available. There is little reason to think that the FDA will be better able to combat the mismarketing of drugs, than law enforcement agencies have been in stopping the sale of heroin, cocaine, and other illegal drugs. Where you have large potential profits, and willing buyers, government enforcement is at a serious disadvantage.

It is also worth mentioning that the whole story of medical care is radically altered if we end patent monopolies on drugs and medical equipment, an area that also involves trillions of dollars over the next decade. We face tough choices on allocating medical care when these items are selling at patent protected prices, whether under the current system of private insurance or a Medicare for All system.

Doctors and other health care professionals have to decide whether the marginal benefits of a new drug or higher quality scan is worth the additional price. But if the new drug costs roughly the same price as the old drug and the highest quality scan costs just a few hundred dollars (the cost of the electricity and the time of the professionals operating the machine and reading the scan), then there is little reason not to prescribe the best available treatment. Patent monopoly pricing in these areas creates large and needless problems.

In short, Senator Warren's plans on drugs are a really huge deal. How far and how quickly she will be able to get to Medicare for All will depend on what she can get through Congress. But her proposal for prescription drugs is something she would be able to do as president, and it will make an enormous difference in both the cost and the quality of our health care.

anne , November 30, 2019 at 07:33 AM
http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/nafta-was-about-redistributing-upward

November 29, 2019

NAFTA Was About Redistributing Upward
By Dean Baker

The Washington Post gave readers the official story about the North American Free Trade Agreement, diverging seriously from reality, in a piece * on the status of negotiations on the new NAFTA. The piece tells readers:

"NAFTA was meant to expand trade among the United States, Canada and Mexico by removing tariffs and other barriers on products as they were shipped between countries. The pact did open up trade, but it also proved disruptive in terms of creating new manufacturing supply chains and relocating businesses and jobs."

This implies that the disruption in terms of shifting jobs to Mexico to take advantage of low wage labor was an accidental outcome. In fact, this was a main point of the deal, as was widely noted by economists at the time. Proponents of the deal argued that it was necessary for U.S. manufacturers to have access to low cost labor in Mexico to remain competitive internationally. No one who followed the debate at the time should have been in the last surprised by the loss of high paying union manufacturing jobs to Mexico, that is exactly the result that NAFTA was designed for.

NAFTA also did nothing to facilitate trade in highly paid professional services, such as those provided by doctors and dentists. This is because doctors and dentists are far more powerful politically than autoworkers.

It is also wrong to say that NAFTA was about expanding trade by removing barriers. A major feature of NAFTA was the requirement that Mexico strengthen and lengthen its patent and copyright protections. These barriers are 180 degrees at odds with expanding trade and removing barriers.

It is noteworthy that the new deal expands these barriers further. The Trump administration likely intends these provisions to be a model for other trade pacts, just as the rules on patents and copyrights were later put into other trade deals.

The new NAFTA will also make it more difficult for the member countries to regulate Facebook and other Internet giants. This is likely to make it easier for Mark Zuckerberg to spread fake news.

* https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2019/11/29/final-terms-nafta-replacement-could-be-finalized-next-week-top-mexican-negotiator-says/

Paine -> anne... , November 30, 2019 at 09:29 AM
Excellent worker slanted sarcasm

A Dean specialty


We have no public industrial policy
Because we have a private corporate industrial policy that wants full reign


Even toy block models like
ole pro grass liberal brandishes

Warn what heppens to trade good producing wage rates when
Proximate borders open
to potential products
Built with zero rent earning
raw fingered foreign wage slaves

Paine -> Paine ... , November 30, 2019 at 09:36 AM
That is
What happens to
Domestic wages rates
and job totals
Not just wages
where wage rates
are sticky down

BUT also production itself
can move south of the border

Recall

Small town and rural new England
has recovered from a protracted
farm depression in the 19th century
And two industrial depressions
in the 20th

Depressions
That more or less wiped out
both sectors

Now we're post industrial
And recreational
Plus synthetic opiates


Paine -> Paine ... , November 30, 2019 at 09:39 AM
Higher ed
and uncle Sam funded
medical high Hijinx

Are our salvation sectors
That is
For regular employable folks

Paine -> Paine ... , November 30, 2019 at 09:43 AM
England with its
London FIRE monster core
Is
The other post industrial laputa
Like the Manhattan Washington metroplex

Pull the plug on those two

Global value extractors


And the American northeast
and jolly ole England
An both shrivel to second class regions

A just sentence in my mind

Paine -> Paine ... , November 30, 2019 at 09:44 AM
Trump has moved to Florida

Big Apple watch out !

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Paine ... , November 30, 2019 at 12:30 PM
"Excellent worker slanted sarcasm...

...Big Apple watch out !"

[Totally digging that comment chain from top to bottom. Made me smile :<) ]

[Dec 07, 2019] While neoliberal talk much about the redistribution of wealth we need to talk more about its creation. And that involves the state.

Notable quotes:
"... "There's a whole neoliberal agenda," she said, referencing the received free-market wisdom that cutting public budgets spurs economic growth. "And then the way that traditional theory has fomented it or not contested it -- there's been kind of a strange symbiosis between mainstream economic thinking and stupid policies." ..."
"... Dr. Mazzucato takes issue with many of the tenets of the neoclassical economic theory taught in most academic departments: its assumption that the forces of supply and demand lead to market equilibrium, its equation of price with value and -- perhaps most of all -- its relegation of the state to the investor of last resort, tasked with fixing market failure. She has originated and popularized the description of the state as an "investor of first resort," envisioning new markets and providing long-term, or "patient," capital at early stages of development. ..."
"... Emphasizing to policymakers not only the importance of investment, but also the direction of that investment -- "What are we investing in?" she often asks -- Dr. Mazzucato has influenced the way American politicians speak about the state's potential as an economic engine. In her vision, governments would do what so many traditional economists have long told them to avoid: create and shape new markets, embrace uncertainty and take big risks. ..."
Dec 07, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne , November 28, 2019 at 12:05 PM

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/26/business/mariana-mazzucato.html

November 26, 2019

Meet the Leftish Economist With a New Story About Capitalism
Mariana Mazzucato wants liberals to talk less about the redistribution of wealth and more about its creation. Politicians around the world are listening.
By Katy Lederer

Mariana Mazzucato was freezing. Outside, it was a humid late-September day in Manhattan, but inside -- in a Columbia University conference space full of scientists, academics and businesspeople advising the United Nations on sustainability -- the air conditioning was on full blast.

For a room full of experts discussing the world's most urgent social and environmental problems, this was not just uncomfortable but off-message. Whatever their dress -- suit, sari, head scarf -- people looked huddled and hunkered down. At a break, Dr. Mazzucato dispatched an assistant to get the A.C. turned off. How will we change anything, she wondered aloud, "if we don't rebel in the everyday?"

Dr. Mazzucato, an economist based at University College London, is trying to change something fundamental: the way society thinks about economic value. While many of her colleagues have been scolding capitalism lately, she has been reimagining its basic premises. Where does growth come from? What is the source of innovation? How can the state and private sector work together to create the dynamic economies we want? She asks questions about capitalism we long ago stopped asking. Her answers might rise to the most difficult challenges of our time.

In two books of modern political economic theory -- "The Entrepreneurial State" (2013) and "The Value of Everything" (2018) -- Dr. Mazzucato argues against the long-accepted binary of an agile private sector and a lumbering, inefficient state. Citing markets and technologies like the internet, the iPhone and clean energy -- all of which were funded at crucial stages by public dollars -- she says the state has been an underappreciated driver of growth and innovation. "Personally, I think the left is losing around the world," she said in an interview, "because they focus too much on redistribution and not enough on the creation of wealth."

Her message has appealed to an array of American politicians. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts and a presidential contender, has incorporated Dr. Mazzucato's thinking into several policy rollouts, including one that would use "federal R & D to create domestic jobs and sustainable investments in the future" and another that would authorize the government to receive a return on its investments in the pharmaceutical industry. Dr. Mazzucato has also consulted with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, and her team on the ways a more active industrial policy might catalyze a Green New Deal.

Even Republicans have found something to like. In May, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida credited Dr. Mazzucato's work several times in "American Investment in the 21st Century," his proposal to jump-start economic growth. "We need to build an economy that can see past the pressure to understand value-creation in narrow and short-run financial terms," he wrote in the introduction, "and instead envision a future worth investing in for the long-term."

Formally, the United Nations event in September was a meeting of the leadership council of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, or S.D.S.N. It's a body of about 90 experts who advise on topics like gender equality, poverty and global warming. Most of the attendees had specific technical expertise -- Dr. Mazzucato greeted a contact at one point with, "You're the ocean guy!" -- but she offers something both broad and scarce: a compelling new story about how to create a desirable future.

'Investor of first resort'

Originally from Italy -- her family left when she was 5 -- Dr. Mazzucato is the daughter of a Princeton nuclear physicist and a stay-at-home mother who couldn't speak English when she moved to the United States. She got her Ph.D. in 1999 from the New School for Social Research and began working on "The Entrepreneurial State" after the 2008 financial crisis. Governments across Europe began to institute austerity policies in the name of fostering innovation -- a rationale she found not only dubious but economically destructive.

"There's a whole neoliberal agenda," she said, referencing the received free-market wisdom that cutting public budgets spurs economic growth. "And then the way that traditional theory has fomented it or not contested it -- there's been kind of a strange symbiosis between mainstream economic thinking and stupid policies."

Dr. Mazzucato takes issue with many of the tenets of the neoclassical economic theory taught in most academic departments: its assumption that the forces of supply and demand lead to market equilibrium, its equation of price with value and -- perhaps most of all -- its relegation of the state to the investor of last resort, tasked with fixing market failure. She has originated and popularized the description of the state as an "investor of first resort," envisioning new markets and providing long-term, or "patient," capital at early stages of development.

In important ways, Dr. Mazzucato's work resembles that of a literary critic or rhetorician as much as an economist. She has written of waging what the historian Tony Judt called a "discursive battle," and scrutinizes descriptive terms -- words like "fix" or "spend" as opposed to "create" and "invest" -- that have been used to undermine the state's appeal as a dynamic economic actor. "If we continue to depict the state as only a facilitator and administrator, and tell it to stop dreaming," she writes, "in the end that is what we get."

As a charismatic figure in a contentious field that does not generate many stars -- she was recently profiled in Wired magazine's United Kingdom edition -- Dr. Mazzucato has her critics. She is a regular guest on nightly news shows in Britain, where she is pitted against proponents of Brexit or skeptics of a market-savvy state.

Alberto Mingardi, an adjunct scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute and director general of Istituto Bruno Leoni, a free-market think tank, has repeatedly criticized Dr. Mazzucato for, in his view, cherry-picking her case studies, underestimating economic trade-offs and defining industrial policy too broadly. In January, in an academic piece written with one of his Cato colleagues, Terence Kealey, he called her "the world's greatest exponent today of public prodigality."

Her ideas, though, are finding a receptive audience around the world. In the United Kingdom, Dr. Mazzucato's work has influenced Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, and Theresa May, a former Prime Minister, and she has counseled the Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon on designing and putting in place a national investment bank. She also advises government entities in Germany, South Africa and elsewhere. "In getting my hands dirty," she said, "I learn and I bring it back to the theory."

The 'Mission Muse'

During a break at the United Nations gathering, Dr. Mazzucato escaped the air conditioning to confer with two colleagues in Italian on a patio. Tall, with a muscular physique, she wore a brightly colored glass necklace that has become something of a trademark on the economics circuit. Having traveled to five countries in eight days, she was fighting off a cough.

"In theory, I'm the 'Mission Muse,'" she joked, lapsing into English. Her signature reference is to the original mission to the moon -- a state-spurred technological revolution consisting of hundreds of individual feeder projects, many of them collaborations between the public and private sectors. Some were successes, some failures, but the sum of them contributed to economic growth and explosive innovation.

Dr. Mazzucato's platform is more complex -- and for some, controversial -- than simply encouraging government investment, however. She has written that governments and state-backed investment entities should "socialize both the risks and rewards." She has suggested the state obtain a return on public investments through royalties or equity stakes, or by including conditions on reinvestment -- for example, a mandate to limit share buybacks.

Emphasizing to policymakers not only the importance of investment, but also the direction of that investment -- "What are we investing in?" she often asks -- Dr. Mazzucato has influenced the way American politicians speak about the state's potential as an economic engine. In her vision, governments would do what so many traditional economists have long told them to avoid: create and shape new markets, embrace uncertainty and take big risks.

... ... ...

Earlier in the day, she pointed at an announcement on her laptop. She had been nominated for the first Not the Nobel Prize, a commendation intended to promote "fresh economic thinking." "Governments have woken up to the fact the mainstream way of thinking isn't helping them," she said, explaining her appeal to politicians and policymakers. A few days later, she won.

Paine -> Paine ... , December 02, 2019 at 08:47 AM
Socialize corporate net cash flow
joe -> anne... , December 05, 2019 at 08:12 AM
Then she would advocate free banking, like Selgin. Better more efficient banking is a huge and profitable investment for government.

So before the leftwards jump on her idea of investment, start here and explain why suddenly, making finance more efficient for everyone is a bad idea.

Or ask our knee jerkers, before they jump on her ideas with all their delusions, why not invest in dumping the primary dealer system? That is obviously inefficient and generates the ATM costs we pay. Why not remove that with a sound investment f some sort?

Everything is through the eye of the beholder, for lelftwards it is the wonder of central planning, for the libertariaturds it is about efficiency via decentralization.

Then comes meetup, and waddya know, each side brings a 200 page insurance contract they want guaranteed before any efficiency changes are made. The meeting selects business as normal. We will select business as normal, our economists will approve.

Mr. Bill -> anne... , December 05, 2019 at 06:21 PM
" the way society thinks about economic value"

I am thrilled / s at the feeling of fulfillment I, well, feel, that an academic deems the obvious. It definitely, indicates that we are approaching, wokeness !

Economists are beginning to evolve, again, almost, but not quite capturing the curl of the real time world.

Mr. Bill -> Mr. Bill... , December 05, 2019 at 06:31 PM
" There's a whole neoliberal agenda," she said, referencing the received free-market wisdom that cutting public budgets spurs economic growth. "And then the way that traditional theory has fomented it or not contested it -- there's been kind of a strange symbiosis between mainstream economic thinking and stupid policies."

That is a deep vision that needs to be unpacked. My impression of traditional theory is that it discourages the neoliberal, market deism.

[Dec 07, 2019] The death of free markets under neoliberalism. Monopolization unhinged

Dec 07, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

Fred C. Dobbs , December 04, 2019 at 06:12 AM

The death of free markets
https://www.bostonglobe.com/2019/11/29/opinion/death-free-markets/?event=event25 via @BostonGlobe

Shaul Amsterdamski - November 29, 2019

In 2012, when economist Thomas Philippon was looking into some data, something odd caught his attention.

His homeland, France, was undergoing another revolution, although a much different one: a revolution in the country's telecommunication market. A new mobile operator, Free, had entered the market and disrupted it almost overnight. The new operator slashed prices, offering plans that hadn't been seen before in France.

France's three legacy mobile operators were forced to react and drop their own prices. It didn't help. In only three months, Free's market share reached 4 percent. At the end of the following year, its market share tripled. Today, Free controls 15 to 16 percent of the market, making it France's third largest mobile operator. (If you add the six virtual operators to the mix -- meaning companies who lease broadband space -- you'll get a total of 10 different mobile operators in a country with a population one-fifth the size of the United States.)

"Digging deeper into that crystallized everything for me," says Philippon. "It was an oligopoly based on three legacy carriers that lobbied very hard to prevent anybody from getting a fourth (mobile) license. For 10 years they were successful. But then, in 2011, the regulator changed and gave a license [to] Free. It wasn't a technological change or a change in consumers' taste. It was purely a regulatory decision."

For French consumers, this one decision changed everything. Instead of paying $55 for a 1-gigabyte plan, the new prices for much better plans cost half that. And prices continued to drop. Today, a Free 60-gigabyte plan costs only $12.

But Philippon wasn't just interested in what the new competition in the French telecom industry said about French markets. Having lived in the United States since 1999, he compared the French telecom revolution to the American market. The numbers blew his mind. While in France the number of mobile operators was rising, in the US the number was getting smaller (and that number might even decline further, if the planned Sprint-T-Mobile merger goes through).

The result was a huge price gap between the two countries.

"France went from being much more expensive to much cheaper in two years," he says. "The change in price was drastic -- a relative price move of 50 percent. In such a big market with gigantic firms, that's a big change. And it was not driven by technology, it was driven by pro-competition regulation." He immediately adds, just to emphasize the irony: "It happened in France of all places, a country that historically had a political system that made sure there wasn't too much competition. This is not the place where we expected this kind of outcome."

The opposite was very surprising too: The level of competition in the United States, the role model of free-market democracy, was declining.

Philippon, an acclaimed professor of finance at the New York University Stern School of Business, kept pulling that thread. He gathered an overwhelming amount of data on various markets, took a few steps back to look at the big picture, and then identified a pattern. The result is "The Great Reversal," his recent book, in which he explores and explains when, why, and how, as his subtitle puts it, "America Gave Up on Free Markets."

The telecom story is just one of many examples Philippon provides throughout the book of non-competitive US markets, in which most or all of the power is concentrated in the hands of a few big companies. It's a situation that makes it almost impossible for new competitors to enter and lower prices for consumers. The airline market is another example, as is the pharmaceutical industry, the banking system, and the big tech companies such as Google and Facebook, who have no real competition in the markets they operate in.

The book's main argument has a refreshing mix of both right- and left-leaning economic thinking. It goes like this: During the last 20 years, while the European Union has become much more competitive, the United States has become a paradise for monopolies and oligopolies -- with a few players holding most of the market share. As US companies grew bigger, they became politically powerful. They then used their influence over politicians and regulators, and their vast resources, to skew regulation in their favor.

The fight over net neutrality, to name one example, demonstrates it well.

"Guess who lobbied for that? It's a simple guess -- the people who benefited from it, the ISP's [internet service providers]. And they are already charging outrageous prices, twice as high [as] any other developed country," Philippon says.

This growing concentration of power in the hands of a few has affected everything and everyone. It has inflated prices because consumers have fewer options. Wages are stagnant because less competition means firms don't have to fight over workers. Financial investment in new machinery and technology has plummeted because when companies have fewer competitors they lose the incentive to invest and improve. It has driven CEO compensation up, and workers' compensation down. It has caused a spike in inequality, which in turn has ignited social unrest.

If all of this is too much to wrap your head around, Philippon puts a price tag on it: $5,000 per year. That's the price the median American household pays every year for the lost competition. That's the cost of the United States becoming a Monopoly Land.

How did this happen? According to Philippon, it's a story with two threads. The European side of this story happened almost by mistake. The American side, on the contrary, was no coincidence.

When the European Union was formed in the early 1990s, there was a lot of suspicion between the member states, namely France and Germany. (Two World Wars tend to have that effect.) This mistrust birthed pan-European regulators who enjoyed an unprecedented amount of freedom, more powerful than any of the member countries' governments.

"We did that mostly because we didn't really trust each other very much," he says. Now, 20 years later, "it turns out that this system we created is just a lot more resilient towards lobbying and bad influences than we thought."

At the same time in the United States, the exact opposite was happening. Adopting a free-market approach, regulators and legislators chose not to intervene. They didn't block mergers and acquisitions, and let big companies get bigger.

This created a positive feedback loop: As companies grew stronger, the regulators got weaker, and more dependent on the companies they are supposed to regulate. Tens of millions of dollars were channeled into lobbying. The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision gave corporate money even more political influence.

At some point, big companies started using regulation itself to prevent new competitors from entering the market.

The result wasn't free markets, but "the opposite -- market capture," says Philippon, referring to a situation in which the regulator is so weak it depends completely on the companies it regulates to design regulation.

Philippon is not the only one who's making these claims. A group of economists from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business holds a similar view. They are called Neo-Brandeisian, after the late Justice Louis Brandeis, who, a century ago, fought to broaden antitrust laws. They believe the big tech companies, for example, managed to rig the system, and fly under current antitrust regulation. They think it is time to break them apart.

But not everyone agrees with Philippon's narrative or his conclusions. Economists like Edward Conard, author of "The Upside of Inequality," thinks Philippon's claim that big companies are evidence of less competition is upside down. According to his criticism, it's exactly the opposite: These companies became big and powerful because they innovate and give a lot of value to consumers. He also argues that the conclusion that Europe is more competitive and innovative than the United States is preposterous, given that the biggest tech companies are American, not European.

Philippon addresses this counterclaim in his book. The United States is one giant market of English speakers. Theoretically, if you have a good idea for a new product and you can finance it, you have more than 300 million potential users on day one. In the EU, on the other hand, there are 28 countries, with residents who speak 24 different languages. It's not as simple.

Philippon, who by the age of 40 was named one of the top 25 promising economists by the International Monetary Fund, also differentiates himself from the Chicago school of thought in one important way: He's not dogmatic, he's pragmatic. Instead of a one-size-fits-all solution to the problem, he suggests a more nuanced approach. This is exactly what makes his case both unique and somewhat tricky to grasp. His approach is neither right nor left.

"The idea that free markets and government intervention are opposites, that's bogus. So half of me agrees with the Chicago School and half disagrees," he says.

"But if you think that you can get to a free market without any scrutiny by the government, that's crazy. That's simply untrue empirically. We need to make entry easier to increase competition, that's the objective," he says. "And the way to do so sometimes means more government intervention."

OK, but how do you do that? According to Philippon, each case is different.

"In some cases it will be by more intervention. Like maybe force Facebook to break from WhatsApp. And sometimes it will be by less intervention. Kill a bunch of regulations and requirements for small companies," he says.

The first idea, at least, has caught a lot of public attention during the last year, and has been a talking point of the presidential campaigns of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg was recorded saying that if Warren wins, it will "suck for us." Warren's plan for the big tech companies, for example, includes "reversing mergers," which means uncoupling WhatsApp and Instagram from Facebook. Her plan would also forbid Amazon being both a marketplace and a vendor at the same time.

But can any of these interventions actually happen? And if so, what would they mean for American consumers? Those are more complicated questions.

If big tech companies were broken up, Philippon estimates that the average American consumer won't be affected financially.

"Since people don't pay these companies directly, it won't change the bottom line for the middle class, it won't have a big impact on people's disposable income," he says.

What would have a tremendous impact on Americans' lives and income is to keep on going beyond the big tech companies. "We should go after the big ticket items -- telecom, transport, energy, and healthcare. That's where you want action, but there is much less bipartisan support for that," he says.

Something similar to the French telecom revolution is still far from happening in the United States, but the fact that the 2020 campaign is already pushing competition-promoting ideas back into the public discourse is a reason for cautious optimism, according to Philippon. Nevertheless, he warns, we should not let this mild optimism mislead us.

"Free markets are like a public good: It is in nobody's interest to protect them. Consumers are too dispersed and businesses love monopolies," he says. "So to take free markets for granted, that's just stupid."

(Shaul Amsterdamski is senior economics editor
for Kan, Israel's public broadcasting corporation.)

(Hmmm. Our largest monthly bill is for 'telecom',
from Comcast, for TV, phone & internet service.
There's no competitive offering in our town.)

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , December 04, 2019 at 10:16 AM
"...Our largest monthly bill is for 'telecom',
from Comcast, for TV, phone & internet service..."

[I got the same information from the service tech doing the annual clean and test on my propane fireplace insert yesterday, in reference to his parents though. They were on Verizon Fios for cable. He thought they should dump cable for a web-TV solution and just use cell phones. Their bill was over $400/month. Mine is a little over $200/month for the same service, which in both cases includes land line. In my zip code Verizon does not bundle Fios with mobile. The only difference that I know is that we have neither any premium channels nor DVR boxes and I assume that his parents must have both to run up a bill that high. When we pony up for Fios Gb, then at least for three years our bill will fall below $100/month, then return to a higher monthly yet if we do not take another new contract after that upgrade contract ends. Verizon only makes new contracts when new services are added or upgraded. Customers get next to no benefit for loyalty/retention. We have both Verizon and Comcast available in our area. I have had both in my present home at different times, but hate Comcast for failures on their part to provide tall vehicle clearance to pass down my driveway until forced to do so by the power company whose poles they must use and for a duplicate billing error where they billed me for two separate addresses and put me into collections for the one that I never resided at since I never saw that bill or knew of it prior to the first collections call.]

Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to RC (Ron) Weakley... , December 06, 2019 at 11:32 AM
(Bernie to the rescue!)

Bernie Sanders unveils plan to boost broadband
access, break up internet and cable titans
https://cnb.cx/34TzaQw
CNBC - Jacob Pramuk - Dec 6

Bernie Sanders unveiled a plan Friday to expand broadband internet access as part of a push to boost the economy and reduce corporate power over Americans.

In his sprawling "High-Speed Internet for All" proposal, the Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate calls to treat internet like a public utility. His campaign argues that the internet should not be a "price gouging profit machine" for companies such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon.

Sanders' plan would create $150 billion in grants and aid for local and state governments to build publicly owned broadband networks as part of the Green New Deal infrastructure initiative. The total would mark a massive increase over current funding for broadband development initiatives. The proposal would also break up what the campaign calls "internet service provider and cable monopolies," stop service providers from offering content and end what it calls "anticompetitive mergers."

Sanders and his rivals for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination have pushed to boost high-speed internet access for rural and low-income Americans, saying it has become a necessity to succeed in school and business. The self-proclaimed democratic socialist has unveiled numerous plans to root out corporate influence as he runs near the top of a jammed primary field. ...

im1dc -> Fred C. Dobbs... , December 04, 2019 at 05:07 PM
Aa excellent article that brings no new ideas to the debate but updates the debate to today.

One thing economist Thomas Philippon did not mention is that voters must turn out the elected and get new ones who will vote to create more and vigorous competition instead of oligopoly.

That is in my Equality, frequently shared here:

Economics = Politics
and
Politics = Economics

[Dec 07, 2019] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/26/business/mariana-mazzucato.html

Notable quotes:
"... "There's a whole neoliberal agenda," she said, referencing the received free-market wisdom that cutting public budgets spurs economic growth. "And then the way that traditional theory has fomented it or not contested it -- there's been kind of a strange symbiosis between mainstream economic thinking and stupid policies." ..."
"... Dr. Mazzucato takes issue with many of the tenets of the neoclassical economic theory taught in most academic departments: its assumption that the forces of supply and demand lead to market equilibrium, its equation of price with value and -- perhaps most of all -- its relegation of the state to the investor of last resort, tasked with fixing market failure. She has originated and popularized the description of the state as an "investor of first resort," envisioning new markets and providing long-term, or "patient," capital at early stages of development. ..."
Dec 07, 2019 | www.nytimes.com

November 26, 2019

Meet the Leftish Economist With a New Story About Capitalism
Mariana Mazzucato wants liberals to talk less about the redistribution of wealth and more about its creation. Politicians around the world are listening.
By Katy Lederer

Mariana Mazzucato was freezing. Outside, it was a humid late-September day in Manhattan, but inside -- in a Columbia University conference space full of scientists, academics and businesspeople advising the United Nations on sustainability -- the air conditioning was on full blast.

For a room full of experts discussing the world's most urgent social and environmental problems, this was not just uncomfortable but off-message. Whatever their dress -- suit, sari, head scarf -- people looked huddled and hunkered down. At a break, Dr. Mazzucato dispatched an assistant to get the A.C. turned off. How will we change anything, she wondered aloud, "if we don't rebel in the everyday?"

Dr. Mazzucato, an economist based at University College London, is trying to change something fundamental: the way society thinks about economic value. While many of her colleagues have been scolding capitalism lately, she has been reimagining its basic premises. Where does growth come from? What is the source of innovation? How can the state and private sector work together to create the dynamic economies we want? She asks questions about capitalism we long ago stopped asking. Her answers might rise to the most difficult challenges of our time.

In two books of modern political economic theory -- "The Entrepreneurial State" (2013) and "The Value of Everything" (2018) -- Dr. Mazzucato argues against the long-accepted binary of an agile private sector and a lumbering, inefficient state. Citing markets and technologies like the internet, the iPhone and clean energy -- all of which were funded at crucial stages by public dollars -- she says the state has been an underappreciated driver of growth and innovation. "Personally, I think the left is losing around the world," she said in an interview, "because they focus too much on redistribution and not enough on the creation of wealth."

Her message has appealed to an array of American politicians. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts and a presidential contender, has incorporated Dr. Mazzucato's thinking into several policy rollouts, including one that would use "federal R & D to create domestic jobs and sustainable investments in the future" and another that would authorize the government to receive a return on its investments in the pharmaceutical industry. Dr. Mazzucato has also consulted with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, and her team on the ways a more active industrial policy might catalyze a Green New Deal.

Even Republicans have found something to like. In May, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida credited Dr. Mazzucato's work several times in "American Investment in the 21st Century," his proposal to jump-start economic growth. "We need to build an economy that can see past the pressure to understand value-creation in narrow and short-run financial terms," he wrote in the introduction, "and instead envision a future worth investing in for the long-term."

Formally, the United Nations event in September was a meeting of the leadership council of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, or S.D.S.N. It's a body of about 90 experts who advise on topics like gender equality, poverty and global warming. Most of the attendees had specific technical expertise -- Dr. Mazzucato greeted a contact at one point with, "You're the ocean guy!" -- but she offers something both broad and scarce: a compelling new story about how to create a desirable future.

'Investor of first resort'

Originally from Italy -- her family left when she was 5 -- Dr. Mazzucato is the daughter of a Princeton nuclear physicist and a stay-at-home mother who couldn't speak English when she moved to the United States. She got her Ph.D. in 1999 from the New School for Social Research and began working on "The Entrepreneurial State" after the 2008 financial crisis. Governments across Europe began to institute austerity policies in the name of fostering innovation -- a rationale she found not only dubious but economically destructive.

"There's a whole neoliberal agenda," she said, referencing the received free-market wisdom that cutting public budgets spurs economic growth. "And then the way that traditional theory has fomented it or not contested it -- there's been kind of a strange symbiosis between mainstream economic thinking and stupid policies."

Dr. Mazzucato takes issue with many of the tenets of the neoclassical economic theory taught in most academic departments: its assumption that the forces of supply and demand lead to market equilibrium, its equation of price with value and -- perhaps most of all -- its relegation of the state to the investor of last resort, tasked with fixing market failure. She has originated and popularized the description of the state as an "investor of first resort," envisioning new markets and providing long-term, or "patient," capital at early stages of development.

In important ways, Dr. Mazzucato's work resembles that of a literary critic or rhetorician as much as an economist. She has written of waging what the historian Tony Judt called a "discursive battle," and scrutinizes descriptive terms -- words like "fix" or "spend" as opposed to "create" and "invest" -- that have been used to undermine the state's appeal as a dynamic economic actor. "If we continue to depict the state as only a facilitator and administrator, and tell it to stop dreaming," she writes, "in the end that is what we get."

As a charismatic figure in a contentious field that does not generate many stars -- she was recently profiled in Wired magazine's United Kingdom edition -- Dr. Mazzucato has her critics. She is a regular guest on nightly news shows in Britain, where she is pitted against proponents of Brexit or skeptics of a market-savvy state.

Alberto Mingardi, an adjunct scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute and director general of Istituto Bruno Leoni, a free-market think tank, has repeatedly criticized Dr. Mazzucato for, in his view, cherry-picking her case studies, underestimating economic trade-offs and defining industrial policy too broadly. In January, in an academic piece written with one of his Cato colleagues, Terence Kealey, he called her "the world's greatest exponent today of public prodigality."

Her ideas, though, are finding a receptive audience around the world. In the United Kingdom, Dr. Mazzucato's work has influenced Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, and Theresa May, a former Prime Minister, and she has counseled the Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon on designing and putting in place a national investment bank. She also advises government entities in Germany, South Africa and elsewhere. "In getting my hands dirty," she said, "I learn and I bring it back to the theory."

The 'Mission Muse'

During a break at the United Nations gathering, Dr. Mazzucato escaped the air conditioning to confer with two colleagues in Italian on a patio. Tall, with a muscular physique, she wore a brightly colored glass necklace that has become something of a trademark on the economics circuit. Having traveled to five countries in eight days, she was fighting off a cough.

"In theory, I'm the 'Mission Muse,'" she joked, lapsing into English. Her signature reference is to the original mission to the moon -- a state-spurred technological revolution consisting of hundreds of individual feeder projects, many of them collaborations between the public and private sectors. Some were successes, some failures, but the sum of them contributed to economic growth and explosive innovation.

Dr. Mazzucato's platform is more complex -- and for some, controversial -- than simply encouraging government investment, however. She has written that governments and state-backed investment entities should "socialize both the risks and rewards." She has suggested the state obtain a return on public investments through royalties or equity stakes, or by including conditions on reinvestment -- for example, a mandate to limit share buybacks.

Emphasizing to policymakers not only the importance of investment, but also the direction of that investment -- "What are we investing in?" she often asks -- Dr. Mazzucato has influenced the way American politicians speak about the state's potential as an economic engine. In her vision, governments would do what so many traditional economists have long told them to avoid: create and shape new markets, embrace uncertainty and take big risks.

Inside the conference, the news was uniformly bleak. Pavel Kabat, the chief scientist of the World Meteorological Organization, lamented the breaking of global temperature records and said that countries would have to triple their current Paris-accord commitments by 2030 to have any hope of staying below a critical warming threshold. A panel on land use and food waste noted that nine species account for two-thirds of the world's crop production, a dangerous lack of agricultural diversity. All the experts appeared dismayed by what Jeffrey Sachs, the S.D.S.N.'s director, described as the "crude nationalism" and "aggressive anti-globalization" ascendant around the world.

"We absolutely need to change both the narrative, but also the theory and the practice on the ground," Dr. Mazzucato told the crowd when she spoke on the final expert panel of the day. "What does it mean, actually, to create markets where you create the demand, and really start directing the investment and the innovation in ways that can help us achieve these goals?"

Earlier in the day, she pointed at an announcement on her laptop. She had been nominated for the first Not the Nobel Prize, a commendation intended to promote "fresh economic thinking." "Governments have woken up to the fact the mainstream way of thinking isn't helping them," she said, explaining her appeal to politicians and policymakers. A few days later, she won. Reply Thursday, November 28, 2019 at 12:05 PM

[Dec 07, 2019] Hidden resentment against criminal neoliberal billionaires looms in 2020 elections

Notable quotes:
"... Writing in the 1830s, as the Industrial Revolution gathered pace, Honoré de Balzac anticipated the broader social concern: "The secret of great fortunes without apparent cause is a crime that has been forgotten, because it was properly carried out." Or, in the more popular paraphrase: behind every great fortune lies a great crime. ..."
"... In recent decades, this corporate lobbying has had two main effects. First, by erecting entry barriers to existing sectors, it protects incumbents and lowers their effective tax rates. This is a deadweight loss – a pure drag on economic growth that limits opportunities for everyone who is not already an oligarch. ..."
"... As U.S. public finances are eroded by oligarchy, so is the ability to fund essential infrastructure, improvements in education, and the kind of breakthrough science that brought America to this point. ..."
Nov 30, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne , November 30, 2019 at 10:52 AM

https://news.cgtn.com/news/2019-11-30/The-billionaire-problem-M2mbVg2rVS/index.html

November 30, 2019

The billionaire problem
By Simon Johnson

Our billionaire problem is getting worse. Any market-oriented economy creates opportunities for new fortunes to be built, including through innovation. More innovation is likely to take place where fewer rules encumber entrepreneurial creativity. Some of this creativity may lead to processes and products that are actually detrimental to public welfare.

Unfortunately, by the time the need for legislation or regulation becomes apparent, the innovators have their billions – and they can use that money to protect their interests.

This billionaire problem is not new. Every epoch, dating at least from Roman times, produces versions of it whenever some shift in market structure or geopolitics creates an opportunity for fortunes to be built quickly.

Writing in the 1830s, as the Industrial Revolution gathered pace, Honoré de Balzac anticipated the broader social concern: "The secret of great fortunes without apparent cause is a crime that has been forgotten, because it was properly carried out." Or, in the more popular paraphrase: behind every great fortune lies a great crime.

Prominent historical examples include the British East India Company, the Europeans who built vast fortunes based on African slave labor in the West Indies, and coal mine owners.

All became rich fast, and then used their political clout to get what they wanted, including impunity for horrendous abuses. At their peak in the nineteenth century, railway interests held sway over many or perhaps even most members of the British parliament.

The United States has long exhibited a particularly potent strain of the billionaire problem. This is partly because America's founders, in their pre-industrial innocence, could not imagine that money would capture politics to the extent that it has (or that was fully apparent just a few decades later). Moreover, U.S. leaders were long willing to let private enterprise take on new projects that elsewhere fell into the hands of the state.

The German post office, for example, built one of the most extensive and efficient telegraph systems in the world. Samuel Morse urged Congress to do the same (or better). But U.S. telegraph communication was instead developed privately – as was the telephone system that followed, all of iron and steel, the entire railroad network, and just about every other component of the early industrial economy.

When the U.S. government did become involved in economic activity, it was mostly to open up new frontiers – creating more opportunity for individuals and private business.

In the aftermath of World War II, Vannevar Bush – a Republican who was also a top adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt – cleverly argued that science represented the next frontier, and hence constructed a winning political argument for the government to act as a catalyst.

As Jonathan Gruber and I have argued recently in our book Jump-Starting America, the post-war federal government's strategic investments in basic science spurred remarkable private-sector innovation – including productivity gains and widely shared increases in wages. Vast new fortunes were created.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. /VCG Photo

The political consequences of America's post-war private-sector boom were felt within a generation, and they were not always positive. From the 1960s, the U.S. experienced growing anti-tax sentiment, strong pressure for deregulation (including for the financial sector), and a lot more corporate money pouring into politics through every possible avenue.

In recent decades, this corporate lobbying has had two main effects. First, by erecting entry barriers to existing sectors, it protects incumbents and lowers their effective tax rates. This is a deadweight loss – a pure drag on economic growth that limits opportunities for everyone who is not already an oligarch.

As U.S. public finances are eroded by oligarchy, so is the ability to fund essential infrastructure, improvements in education, and the kind of breakthrough science that brought America to this point.

Some of America's billionaires earn kudos for their philanthropy. At the same time, most of them adopt a dog-in-the-manger attitude throughout their business operations – digging deeper moats to protect profits or simply destroying smaller business at every opportunity.

There is a second effect, which is more nuanced. In some entirely new sectors, particularly in the digital domain, entry was possible at least during an early phase.

The entrepreneurs who built the first Internet companies were not able to put up effective entry barriers – hence the runaway success (and greater billions) of more recent companies such as Facebook, Amazon, and Uber.

But now the controlling shareholders of these new behemoths operate pretty much in the same way as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and the original J.P. Morgan once did. They use their money to buy influence and resist any kind of reasonable restraint on their anti-competitive and anti-worker behavior – even if it undermines democratic institutions.

We will always have billionaires. Ex post regulation and higher rates of taxation are appealing today but, looking forward, will they prove sufficient in a political system that allows individuals to spend as much as they like to get whatever they want (and repeal whatever they hate)? It's time for a new approach, as Gruber and I propose.

Big profits follow from big new ideas. That's why federal science funding should be designed to include upside participation in the enterprises that will be created. The public deserves much more direct participation in those profits. And the billionaires should have to make do with fewer billions.

Simon Johnson is a professor at MIT Sloan.

point -> anne... , December 01, 2019 at 07:06 AM
"The United States has long exhibited a particularly potent strain of the billionaire problem. This is partly because America's founders, in their pre-industrial innocence, could not imagine that money would capture politics to the extent that it has (or that was fully apparent just a few decades later). "

A romanticization of the founders? I seem to recall their motivation was to counter revolt against the galloping egalitarianism of the States, and incidentally, the guys in the room were basically the billionaires of the day.

His subsequent complaints seem right on though, and pointing out the telegraph situation, which rightly should have been a Post Office operation, is especially appreciated.

anne -> point... , December 01, 2019 at 07:29 AM
A romanticization of the founders? I seem to recall their motivation was to counter revolt against the galloping egalitarianism of the States, and incidentally, the guys in the room were basically the billionaires of the day.

[Simon Johnson's] subsequent complaints seem right on though, and pointing out the telegraph situation, which rightly should have been a Post Office operation, is especially appreciated.

[ Nicely done. ]

Paine -> point... , December 03, 2019 at 07:49 AM
Nonsense

Robert Morris and his ilk
and animatronic operatives of the high fi cliques Alex Hamilton
Were there at the creation

Paine -> Paine... , December 03, 2019 at 07:51 AM
Not points. Johnson's of course

Typical liberal capitalist
Phrase and meme framing

Framing also
as in railroading
to a false verdict

Paine -> anne... , December 03, 2019 at 07:46 AM
Our target must be global corporations
And FIRE SECTOR profiteering outfits
Not simply their billionaire benefiaries

Break oligop corporate power
to state harnessing systems

People's states or corporate states

Which shall we have

Paine -> anne... , December 03, 2019 at 07:59 AM
The spending reforms are probably
A decoy hunt

POTUS races can be effectively
Operated with
Little people funded campaigns
Bernie proved that
And Liz

Yes spreading too thin
fielding 435 house races at once
or 34 Senate races etc
Big bucks will prevail over all
But winn8ng evening enough
It requires sustainable
Solid majorities
And protracted continuity
like the new deal maintained

Why ?

The bigger problem is the pre existing
State system
Progressives might get elected
to change The show
But
Deep Sam will resist mightily

Paine -> anne... , December 03, 2019 at 08:04 AM
Look at corporate history and you see
Mant big oligop outfits
Built and run
without a billionaire driving
the operation

The oligop corporation should be
the real target for policy change
not the billionaires


The billionaires however make great agitational targets

And private wealth taxes are a fantastic
Weapon of struggle even if only a credible threat

Paine -> Paine... , December 03, 2019 at 08:09 AM
Corporations allowed free range
. build billionaires

Not visa versa

Without these modern vehicles such wealth accumulation would certain not occur
let alone funnel to a hand few

Paine -> Paine... , December 03, 2019 at 08:13 AM
Capitalism is a system
.of organized social production
That produces and reproduces
Along with itself
Typical human consequences
Among those typical human consequences

Sociopathic billionaires


And immiserated wage earners

[Dec 07, 2019] Simple Economics that Most Economists Don't Know

Notable quotes:
"... The existence of the bubble and the fact that it was driving the economy could both be easily determined from regularly published government data, yet the vast majority of economists were surprised when the bubble burst and it gave us the Great Recession. This history should lead us to ask what other simple things economists are missing. ..."
Dec 07, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne , December 05, 2019 at 05:46 AM

http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/simple-economics-that-most-economists-don-t-know

December 4, 2019

Simple Economics that Most Economists Don't Know
By Dean Baker

Economists are continually developing new statistical techniques, at least some of which are useful for analyzing data in ways that allow us to learn new things about the world. While developing these new techniques can often be complicated, there are many simple things about the world that economists tend to overlook.

The most important example here is the housing bubble in the last decade. It didn't require any complicated statistical techniques to recognize that house prices had sharply diverged from their long-term pattern, with no plausible explanation in the fundamentals of the housing market.

It also didn't require sophisticated statistical analysis to see the housing market was driving the economy. At its peak in 2005 residential construction accounted for 6.8 percent of GDP. This compares to a long-run average that is close to 4.0 percent. Consumption was also booming, as people spent based on the bubble generated equity in their homes, pushing the savings rate to a record low.

The existence of the bubble and the fact that it was driving the economy could both be easily determined from regularly published government data, yet the vast majority of economists were surprised when the bubble burst and it gave us the Great Recession. This history should lead us to ask what other simple things economists are missing.

For this holiday season, I will give three big items that are apparently too simple for economists to understand.

1) Profit shares have not increased much -- While there has been some redistribution in before-tax income shares from labor to capital, it at most explains a small portion of the upward redistribution of the last four decades. Furthermore, shares have been shifting back towards labor in the last four years.

2) Returns to shareholders have been low by historical standards -- It is often asserted that is an era of shareholder capitalism in which companies are being run to maximize returns to shareholders. In fact, returns to shareholders have been considerably lower on average than they were in the long Golden Age from 1947 to 1973.

3) Patent and copyright rents are equivalent to government debt as a future burden – The burden that we are placing on our children through the debt of the government is a frequent theme in economic reporting. However, we impose a far larger burden with government-granted patent and copyright monopolies, although this literally never gets any attention in the media.

To be clear, none of these points are contestable. All three can all be shown with widely available data and/or basic economic logic. The fact that they are not widely recognized by people in policy debates reflects the laziness of economists and people who write about economic policy.

Profit Shares

It is common to see discussions where it is assumed that there has been a large shift from wages to profits, and then a lot of head-scratching about why this occurred. In fact, the shift from wages to profits has been relatively modest and all of it occurred after 2000, after the bulk of the upward redistribution of income had already taken place.

If we just compare end points, the labor share of net domestic product was 64.0 percent in 2019, a reduction of 1.6 percentage points from its 65.6 percent share in 1979, before the upward redistribution began. If, as a counter-factual, we assume that the labor share was still at its 1979 level it would mean that wages would be 2.5 percent higher than they are now. That is not a trivial effect, but it only explains a relatively small portion of the upward redistribution over the last four decades.

It is also worth noting the timing of this shift in shares. There was no change in shares from 1979 to 2000, the point at which most of the upward redistribution to the richest one percent had already taken place. The shift begins in the recovery from the 2001 recession.

This was the period of the housing bubble. The reason why this matters is that banks and other financial institutions were recording large profits on the issuance of mortgages that subsequently went bad, leading to large losses in the years 2008-09. This means that a substantial portion of the profits that were being booked in the years prior to the Great Recession were not real profits.

It would be as though companies reported profits based on huge sales to a country that didn't exist. Such reporting would make profits look good when the sales were being booked, but then would produce large losses when the payments for the sales did not materialize, since the buyer did not exist. It's not clear that when the financial industry books phony profits it means there was a redistribution from labor to capital.[1]

There clearly was a redistribution from labor to capital in the weak labor market following the Great Recession. Workers did not have enough bargaining power to capture any of the gains from productivity growth in those years. That has been partially reversed in the last four years as the labor share of net domestic income has risen by 2.4 percentage points.[2] This still leaves some room for further increases to make up for the drop in labor share from the Great Recession, but it does look as though the labor market is operating as we would expect.

Returns to Shareholders Lag in the Period of Shareholder Capitalism

It is common for people writing on economics, including economists, to say that companies have been focused on returns to shareholders in the last four decades in a way that was not previously true. The biggest problem with this story is that returns to shareholders have actually been relatively low in the last two decades.

If we take the average real rate of return over the last two decades, it has been 3.9 percent. That compares to rates of more than 8.0 percent in the fifties and sixties. Even this 3.9 percent return required a big helping hand from the government in the form a reduction in the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

The figure for the last two decades is somewhat distorted by the fact that we were reaching the peak of the stock bubble in the late 1990s, but the story is little changed if we adjust for this fact. If we take the average real return from July of 1997, when the price to earnings ratio was roughly the same as it is now, it is still just 5.7 percent, well below the Golden Age average when companies were supposedly not being run to maximize shareholder value.

It is striking that this drop in stock returns is so little noticed and basically does not feature at all in discussions of the economy. Back in the late 1990s, it was nearly universally accepted in public debates that stocks would provide a 7.0 percent real return on average in public debates.

This was most evident in debates on Social Security, where both conservatives and liberals assumed that the stock market would provide 7.0 percent real returns. Conservatives, like Martin Feldstein, made this assumption as part of their privatization plans. Liberal economists made the same assumption in plans put forward by the Clinton administration and others to shore up the Social Security trust fund by putting a portion of it in the stock market. The Congressional Budget Office even adopted the 7.0 percent real stock returns assumption in its analysis of various Social Security reform proposals that called for putting funds in the stock market.

Given the past history on stock returns and the widely held view that returns would continue to average close to 7.0 percent over the long-term, the actual performance of stock returns over the last two decades looks pretty disappointing from shareholders' perspective. It certainly does not look like corporations are being run for their benefit, or if so, top executives are doing a poor job.

One of the obvious factors depressing returns has been the extraordinary run up in price to earnings ratios. A high price to earnings ratio (PE) effectively means that shareholders have to pay a lot of money for a dollar in corporate profits. When PEs were lower, in the 1950s and 1960s, dividends yields were in the range of 3.0 -5.0 percent. In the recent years they have been hovering near 2.0 percent. When the PE is over 30, as is now the case, paying out a dividend of even 3.0 percent would essentially mean paying out all the company's profits as dividends. Clearly that cannot happen, or at least not on a sustained basis.

While shareholders have not done well by historical standards in recent decades, CEO pay has soared, with the ratio of the pay of CEOs to ordinary workers going from 20 or 30 to 1 in the 1960s and 1970s, to 200 or 300 to 1 at present. There is a story that could reconcile soaring CEO pay with historically low stock returns.

Corporations have increasingly turned to share buybacks as an alternative to dividends for paying out money to shareholders. The process of buying back shares would drive up share prices. Part of this is almost definitional, with fewer shares outstanding, the price per share should go up. If buybacks push up share prices enough to raise the price to earnings ratio, then in principle other investors should sell stock to bring the PE back to its prior level. But if this doesn't happen, then buybacks could increase PEs.

That would of course imply huge irrationality in the stock market, but anyone who lived through the 1990s stock bubble and the housing bubble in the last decade knows that large investors can be exceedingly irrational for long periods of time. Anyhow, if share buybacks do raise PEs there would be a clear story whereby CEOs could drive up their own pay, which typically is largely in stock options, to the detriment of future shareholders, which would explain both soaring CEO pay and declining returns to shareholders.

Whether this story of share buybacks raising PE is accurate would require some serious research (I'd welcome references, if anyone has them), but what is beyond dispute is that the last two decades have provided shareholders with relatively low returns. That seems hard to reconcile with the often repeated story about this being a period of shareholder capitalism.

Patents and Copyright Monopolies Are Implicit Government Debt

There is a whole industry dedicated to highlighting the size and growth of the government debt, largely funded by the late private equity billionaire Peter Peterson. The leading news outlets feel a need to regularly turn to the Peterson funded outfits to give us updates on the size of the debt.

When presenting the horror story of a $20 trillion debt and the burden it will impose on our children, there is never any mention of the burden created by patent and copyright monopolies. This is an inexcusable inconsistency.

Patent and copyright monopolies are mechanisms that the government uses to pay for services that are alternatives to direct spending. For example, instead of granting drug companies patent monopolies and software developers copyright monopolies, the government could just pay directly for the research and creative work that was the basis for these monopolies. There are arguments as to why these monopolies might be better mechanisms than direct funding, but these arguments don't change the fact they are mechanisms the government uses for paying for services.

While we keep careful accounting of the direct spending, we pretend the implicit spending by granting patent and copyright monopolies does not exist. This makes zero sense, especially given the size of the rents being created by these monopolies.

In the case of prescription drugs alone, we will spend close to $400 billion (1.8 percent of GDP) this year above the free market price, due to patent protections and other monopolies granted by the federal government. This is considerably more than the $330 billion in interest that the Congressional Budget Office projected we would spend on the $16.6 trillion in publicly held debt in 2019.[3]

And this figure is just a fraction of the total rents from patent and copyright monopolies, which would include most of the payments for medical equipment, computer software and hardware, and recorded music and video material. Since these payments dwarf the size of interest payments on the debt, it is difficult to understand how anyone concerned about the burdens the government was creating could ignore patents and copyrights, while harping on interest on the debt.

As I have often argued there are good reasons, especially in the case of prescription drugs, for thinking that direct funding would be a more efficient mechanism than patent monopolies. In the case of prescription drugs, direct funding would mean that all findings would be immediately available to all researchers worldwide. If drugs were sold at free market prices, it would no longer be a struggle to find ways to pay for them. And, we would take away the incentive to push drugs in contexts where they are not appropriate, as happened with the opioid crisis. (See "Rigged: How Globalization and the Rules of the Modern Economy Were Structured to Make the Rich Richer," for a fuller discussion - it's free. * )

While the relative merits of patent/copyright monopolies and direct funding can be debated, the logical point, that these monopolies are an implicit form of government debt, cannot be. It shows the incredibly low quality of economic debate that this fact is not widely recognized.

The Prospect for Simple Facts and Logic Entering Economic Debate in the Next Decade

The three issues noted here are already pretty huge in terms of our understanding of the economy. The people who write in a wide range of areas should be aware of them, but with few exceptions, they are not.

Unfortunately, that situation is not likely to change any time soon for a simple economic reason, there is no incentive for people who write on economic issues to give these points serious attention. They can continue to draw paychecks and get grants for doing what they are doing. Why should they spend time addressing facts and logic that require they think differently about the world?

As has been noted many times, there is no real consequence to economists and people writing about the economy for being wrong. A custodian who doesn't clean the toilet gets fired, but an economist who missed the housing bubble whose collapse led to the Great Recession gets the "who could have known?" amnesty.

Given this structure of incentives, we should assume that economists and others who write on economics will continue to ignore some of the most basic facts about the economy. That is what economics tells us.

[1] Since income is supposed to be matched by output in the GDP accounts, the corresponding phony entry on the output side would be the loans that subsequently went bad. These loans were counted as a service when they were issued. Arguably, this was not accurate accounting.

[2] This rise in labor share appears in the net domestic income calculation, but not in the net domestic product figure. The reason is that there has been a sharp drop in the size of the statistical discrepancy over the last four years, as output side GDP now exceeds the income side measure. It is common to assume that the true figure lies somewhere in the middle, which would mean the increase in labor share is likely less the 2.4 percentage points calculated on the income side.

[3] This subtracts out the $50 billion in interest payments remitted from the Federal Reserve Board.

* https://deanbaker.net/images/stories/documents/Rigged.pdf

Paine -> anne... , December 05, 2019 at 10:53 AM
Dean over his head ?

The stats on return to capital is anything but simple and straight forward

As to shares

Stat

Break compensation into percentiles

Look at the share of total compensation
Going to
the middle sixty
The bottom twenty
and
The top twenty

and of course
The top one percent
Aka the top ten percent of the top ten percent
And
If possible
the top 10 percent of the top one percent

And the top 10 percent of the top ten percent of the top ten percent of the top ten percent ...of the top ....

Paine -> Paine ... , December 05, 2019 at 11:03 AM
Kalecki way back in thr soup line era

193n

Used the concept Of market power

Defined as the output price mark up

Over input costs


This simple conception generalized deans
Bean hunt for rents

How might one do this

Well first make up a rate of interest

And take a system wide wage snap shot
From mines oceans forests and fields
Thru factories warehouses ultilities
boats and trains
To barber shops malt shops and convenience stores

Mark up the wage cells of your matrix
By your invented rate of interest

Now compare this vector to the 've tor of actual prices

You get a vector of rents aka profits of enterprise and residuals

Now compare a matrix of inputs

Paine -> Paine ... , December 05, 2019 at 11:11 AM
Yes we made up the rate of interest

It's a sky hook

And to be fair
it has an upper and lower limit


Lower limit
Zero interest turns mark up over wages all into firm market power


Upper limit ?

We have several possibles

How about one that leaves all prices
At least at
firm break even operation
Is that possible
No red ink maximum

Nope
We are now in the quick sand

What is a market system without some red ink ...eh ?

How about a rate that would
but for self financed firms
Put am all into the red ?

Fun

Much more fun then trying to
Figure out how to
Best macro manage a real
Market based production system

[Dec 06, 2019] The Myth of Shareholder Primacy by Sahil Jai Dutta

Notable quotes:
"... "Fifty years of shareholder primacy," wrote the Financial Times, "has fostered short-termism and created an environment of popular distrust of big business." ..."
"... The rise of stock options to compensate corporate managers entrenched shareholder value by aligning the interests of managers and shareholders. Companies began sacrificing productive investments, environmental protections, and worker security to ensure shareholder returns were maximised. The fear of stock market verdicts on quarterly reports left them no choice. ..."
"... This account fits a widespread belief that financiers and rentiers mangled the postwar golden era of capitalism. More importantly, it suggests a simple solution: liberate companies from the demands of shareholders. Freed from the short-term pursuit of delivering shareholder returns, companies could then return to long-term plans, productive investments, and higher wages. ..."
"... In the 1960s, a group of firms called the conglomerates were pioneering many of the practices that later became associated with the shareholder revolution: aggressive mergers, divestitures, Leverage buy-outs (LBOs), and stock repurchasing. ..."
"... These firms, such as Litton Industries, Teledyne and LTV revolutionised corporate strategy by developing new techniques to systematically raise money from financial markets. They wheeled and dealed their divisions and used them to tap financial markets to finance further predatory acquisitions. Instead of relying on profits from productive operations, they chased speculative transactions on financial markets to grow. ..."
"... With fortunes to be made and lost, no manager could ignore the stock market. They became increasingly concerned with their position on financial markets. It was in this context that corporate capitalism first spoke of the desire to 'maximise shareholder value'. While sections of the corporate establishment were put on the defensive, the main reason for this was not that shareholders imposed their preferences on management. Instead, it was competitor managers using the shareholder discourse as a resource to expand and gain control over other firms. Capital markets became the foundation of a new form of financialised managerial power. ..."
"... Third, the notion of shareholder primacy helped to offload managerial responsibility. An amorphous and often anonymous 'shareholder pressure' became the explanation for all manner of managerial malpractice. Managers lamented the fact they had no choice but to disregard workers and other stakeholders because of shareholder power. Rhetorically, shareholders were deemed responsible for corporate problems. Yet in practice, managers, more often than not, enrolled shareholders into their own projects, using the newly-formed alliance with shareholders to pocket huge returns for themselves. ..."
"... Amorphous? Anonymous? Anybody who faced one of Milken's raiders, or paid Icahn's Greenmail, would disagree. Nelson Putz, er, Peltz just forced P&G to start eating into the foundation of the business to feed his greed. There's nothing amorphous or anonymous about activist shareholders, especially when they take over a company and start carving it up like a Thanksgiving turkey. ..."
"... Corporations are artificial creations of the state. They exist in their current form under a complex series of laws and regulations, but with certain privileges, such as Limited Liability Corporations. It is assumed that these creatures will enhance economic activity if they are given these privileges, but there is no natural law, such as gravity, that says these laws and regulations need to exist in their current form. They can be changed at will be legislatures. ..."
"... The semantics of "shareholder primacy" are problematic. The word "shareholder" in this formula echoes the kind problems that whirl around a label like "farmer". ..."
"... I believe "shareholder primacy" is just one of many rhetorical tools used to argue for the mechanisms our Elites constructed so they could loot Corporate wealth. There is no misunderstanding involved. ..."
"... This fits within a Marxist analysis as the material conditions spurred the ideological justifications of the conditions, not the ideology spurring the conditions. ..."
"... I think about stock markets as separate from companies and I'm wrong. Each of the stock exchanges I have heard of started off when 4-5 local companies invested a few thousand each in renting a building and a manager to run an exchange hoping it would attract investment, promote their shares and pay for itself. ..."
Nov 06, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

By Sahil Jai Dutta, a lecturer in political economy at the University of Goldsmiths, London and Samuel Knafo, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of International Relations at the University of Sussex. Originally published at the PERC blog

In the late 1960s, a young banker named Joel Stern was working on a project to transform corporate management. Stern's hunch was that the stock market could help managers work out how their strategies were performing. Simply, if management was effective, demand for the firm's stock would be high. A low price would imply bad management.

What sounds obvious now was revolutionary at the time. Until then profits were the key barometer of success. But profits were a crude measure and easy to manipulate. Financial markets, Stern felt, could provide a more precise measure of the value of management because they were based on more 'objective' processes, beyond the firm's direct control. The value of shares, he believed, represented the market's exact validation of management. Because of this, financial markets could help managers determine what was working and what was not.

In doing this, Stern laid the foundation for a 'shareholder value' management that put financial markets at the core of managerial strategy.

Stern would probably never have imagined that these ideas would 50 years later be castigated as a fundamental threat to the future of liberal capitalism. In recent times everyone from the Business Roundtable group of global corporations, to the Financial Times , to the British Labour Party has lined up to condemn the shareholder ideology.

"Fifty years of shareholder primacy," wrote the Financial Times, "has fostered short-termism and created an environment of popular distrust of big business."

It is not the first time Stern's creation has come under fire. A decade ago Jack Welsh, former CEO of General Electric declared shareholder value " probably the dumbest idea in the world ". And 15 years before then, British political commentator Will Hutton, among others, found paperback fame with his book The State We're In preaching much the same message.

To critics, the rise of shareholder value is a straightforward story , that has been told over and over again. Following a general crisis of postwar profitability in the late 1970s, corporate managers came under fire from disappointed shareholders complaining about declining returns. Shareholder revolts forced managers to put market capitalisation first. The rise of stock options to compensate corporate managers entrenched shareholder value by aligning the interests of managers and shareholders. Companies began sacrificing productive investments, environmental protections, and worker security to ensure shareholder returns were maximised. The fear of stock market verdicts on quarterly reports left them no choice.

This account fits a widespread belief that financiers and rentiers mangled the postwar golden era of capitalism. More importantly, it suggests a simple solution: liberate companies from the demands of shareholders. Freed from the short-term pursuit of delivering shareholder returns, companies could then return to long-term plans, productive investments, and higher wages.

In two recent articles , we have argued that this critique of shareholder value has always been based on a misunderstanding. Stern and the shareholder value consultants did not aim to put shareholders first. They worked to empower management. Seen in this light, the history of the shareholder value ideology appears differently. And it calls for alternative political responses.

To better understand Stern's ideas, it is important to grasp the broader context in which he was writing. In the 1960s, a group of firms called the conglomerates were pioneering many of the practices that later became associated with the shareholder revolution: aggressive mergers, divestitures, Leverage buy-outs (LBOs), and stock repurchasing.

These firms, such as Litton Industries, Teledyne and LTV revolutionised corporate strategy by developing new techniques to systematically raise money from financial markets. They wheeled and dealed their divisions and used them to tap financial markets to finance further predatory acquisitions. Instead of relying on profits from productive operations, they chased speculative transactions on financial markets to grow.

These same tactics were later borrowed by the 1980s corporate raiders, many of which were in fact old conglomerators from the 1960s. The growing efficiency with which these raiders captured undervalued firms on the stock market and ruthlessly sold off their assets to finance further acquisitions put corporate America on alert.

With fortunes to be made and lost, no manager could ignore the stock market. They became increasingly concerned with their position on financial markets. It was in this context that corporate capitalism first spoke of the desire to 'maximise shareholder value'. While sections of the corporate establishment were put on the defensive, the main reason for this was not that shareholders imposed their preferences on management. Instead, it was competitor managers using the shareholder discourse as a resource to expand and gain control over other firms. Capital markets became the foundation of a new form of financialised managerial power.

These changes made the approach of management consultants championing shareholder value attractive. The firm founded by Stern and his business partner Bennett Stewart III took advantage of the situation. They sold widely their ideas about financial markets as a guideline for corporate strategy to firms looking to thrive in this new environment.

As the discourse and tools of shareholder value took hold, they served three distinct purposes. First, they provided accounting templates for managerial strategies and a means to manage a firm's standings on financial markets. The first and most famous metric for assessing just how much value was being created for shareholders was one Stern himself helped develop, Economic Value Added (EVA).

Second, they became a powerful justification for the idea that managers should be offered share options. This was in fact an old idea floated in the 1950s by management consultants such as Arch Patton of McKinsey as a means to top-up relatively stagnant managerial pay. Yet it was relaunched in this new context as part of the promise to 'align the interests of managers with shareholders.' Stock options helped managerial pay skyrocket in the 1990s, a curious fact for those who believe that managers were 'disciplined' by shareholders.

Third, the notion of shareholder primacy helped to offload managerial responsibility. An amorphous and often anonymous 'shareholder pressure' became the explanation for all manner of managerial malpractice. Managers lamented the fact they had no choice but to disregard workers and other stakeholders because of shareholder power. Rhetorically, shareholders were deemed responsible for corporate problems. Yet in practice, managers, more often than not, enrolled shareholders into their own projects, using the newly-formed alliance with shareholders to pocket huge returns for themselves.

Though shareholder demands are now depicted as the problem to be solved, the same reformist voices have in the past championed shareholders as the solution to corporate excesses. This was the basis for the hope around the ' shareholder spring ' in 2012, or the recent championing of activist shareholders as ' labour's last weapon' .

By challenging the conventional narrative, we have emphasised how it is instead the financialisation of managerialism , or the way in which corporations have leveraged their operations on financial markets, that has characterised the shareholder value shift. Politically this matters.

If shareholder demands are understood to be the major problem in corporate life, then the solution is to grant executives more space. Yet the history of shareholder value tells us that managers have been leading the way in corporate governance. They do not need shielding from shareholders or anyone else and instead need to be made accountable for their decisions. Critiques of shareholder primacy risk muddying the responsibility of managers who have long put their own interests first. Perhaps the reason why executives are now so ready to abandon shareholder primacy, is because it never really existed.


vlade , November 6, 2019 at 5:11 am

Uber. WeWork. Theranos. I rest my case.

notabanktoadie , November 6, 2019 at 5:51 am

Imagine if all corporations were equally owned by the entire population? Then shareholder primacy would just be representative democracy, no?

But, of course, corporations are not even close to being equally owned by the entire population and part of the blame must lie with government privileges for private credit creation whereby the need to share wealth and power with the entire population is bypassed – in the name of "efficiency", one might suppose.

But what good is the "efficient" creation of wealth if it engenders unjust and therefore dangerous inequality and levies noxious externalities?

Michael , November 6, 2019 at 7:59 am

"An amorphous and often anonymous 'shareholder pressure' became the explanation for all manner of managerial malpractice."

Amorphous? Anonymous? Anybody who faced one of Milken's raiders, or paid Icahn's Greenmail, would disagree. Nelson Putz, er, Peltz just forced P&G to start eating into the foundation of the business to feed his greed. There's nothing amorphous or anonymous about activist shareholders, especially when they take over a company and start carving it up like a Thanksgiving turkey.

Synoia , November 6, 2019 at 8:00 am

Shareholder primacy or Creditor Primacy? Creditors, or bond holders, appear to be the more powerful. Shareholders have no legal recourse to protect their "ownership." Bondholders do have legal recourse. Either way, many corporations more serve up their than serve their customers and the general public. There is this belief that if a corporation is profitable, that's good but does not include a public interest (for example Monsanto and Roundup.)

vlade , November 6, 2019 at 9:48 am

Managers used to fear the creditors more than shareholders, that's very much true.

But that has gone out of the window recently, as debt investors just chase return, so it's seller's world, and few of them (debt investors) want to take losses as they are much harder to recoup than before. So extend and pretend is well and alive.

In other words, one of the byproducts of QE is that the company management fears no-one, and is more than happy to do whatever they want.

The problem is the agency. If we assume that we want publicly traded companies (which IMO is not a given), the current incentives are skewed towards management paying themselves.

The problem with things like supervisory boards, even if they have high worker representation, is that those are few individuals, and often can be (directly or indirectly) corrupted by the management.

The "shares" incentive is just dumb, at least in the way it's currently structured. It literally gives only upside, and often even realisable in short/medium term.

d , November 6, 2019 at 4:23 pm

And thats how we got Boeing and PG&E. Just don't think thats the entire list, don't think there is enough room for that

rd , November 6, 2019 at 5:57 pm

Corporations are artificial creations of the state. They exist in their current form under a complex series of laws and regulations, but with certain privileges, such as Limited Liability Corporations. It is assumed that these creatures will enhance economic activity if they are given these privileges, but there is no natural law, such as gravity, that says these laws and regulations need to exist in their current form. They can be changed at will be legislatures.

This is why I despise the Citizens United decision which effectively gives these artificial creations the same rights as people. I don't believe that Thomas Jefferson would have found that to be "a self-evident truth." I think that Citizens United will be regarded as something akin to the Dred Scott decision a century from now.

Shareholder primacy is an assumption that hasn't been challenged over the past couple of decades, but can be controlled by society if it so desires.

Jeremy Grimm , November 6, 2019 at 11:12 am

The semantics of "shareholder primacy" are problematic. The word "shareholder" in this formula echoes the kind problems that whirl around a label like "farmer".

A shareholder is often characterized in economics texts as an individual who invests money hoping to receive back dividends and capital gains in the value and valuation of a company as it earns income and grows over time. Among other changes -- changes to the US tax laws undermined these quaint notions of investment, and shareholder.

The coincident moves for adding stock options to management's pay packet [threats of firing are supposed to encourage the efforts of other employees -- why do managers needs some kind of special encouragement?], legalizing share buybacks, and other 'financial innovations' -- worked in tandem to make investment synonymous with speculation and shareholders synonymous with speculators, Corporate raiders, and the self-serving Corporate looters replacing Corporate management.

This post follows a twisting road to argue previous "critique of shareholder value has always been based on a misunderstanding" and arrives at a new critique of shareholder value "challenging the conventional narrative." This post begins by sketching Stern's foundation for 'shareholder value' with the assertion imputed to him: "if management was effective, demand for the firm's stock would be high. A low price would imply bad management." The post then claims "What sounds obvious now was revolutionary at the time." But that assertion does not sound at all obvious to me. In terms of the usual framing of the all-knowing Market the assertion sounds like a tautology, built on a shaky ground of Neolilberal economic religious beliefs.

I believe "shareholder primacy" is just one of many rhetorical tools used to argue for the mechanisms our Elites constructed so they could loot Corporate wealth. There is no misunderstanding involved.

xkeyscored , November 6, 2019 at 12:07 pm

"But that assertion does not sound at all obvious to me."

I think you're severely understating this. I'd call it total [family blogging family blog]. As you go on to imply, it takes an act of pure faith, akin to religious faith in Dawkins' sense of belief in the face of evidence to the contrary, to assume or assert this nonsense, except insofar as it's tautological – if the purpose of management is to have a high share price, then obviously the latter reflects the effectiveness of the former.

Susan the Other , November 6, 2019 at 1:06 pm

Well, we're all stakeholders now. There probably isn't much value to merely being a shareholder at this point. First let's ask for a viable definition of "value" because it's pretty hard to financialize an undefined "value" and nobody can financialize an empty isolated thing like the word "management". Things go haywire.

What we can do with this seed of an idea is finance the preservation and protection of some defined value. And we can, in fact, leverage a healthy planet until hell freezes over. No problem.

PKMKII , November 6, 2019 at 2:07 pm

This fits within a Marxist analysis as the material conditions spurred the ideological justifications of the conditions, not the ideology spurring the conditions.

mael colium , November 6, 2019 at 5:15 pm

Easy to bust this open by legislating against limited liability. Corporates were not always limited liability, but it was promoted as a means to encourage formation of risky businesses that would otherwise never develop due to risk averse owners or managers. This was promoted as a social compact, delivering employment and growth that would otherwise be unattainable. Like everything in life, human greed overcomes social benefits.

Governments world wide would and should step up and regulate to regain control, rather than fiddling at the margins with corporate governance regulation. They won't, because powerful vested interests will put in place those politicians who will do their bidding. Another nail in the democracy coffin. The only solution will be a cataclysmic event that unites humanity.

RBHoughton , November 7, 2019 at 12:30 am

I think about stock markets as separate from companies and I'm wrong. Each of the stock exchanges I have heard of started off when 4-5 local companies invested a few thousand each in renting a building and a manager to run an exchange hoping it would attract investment, promote their shares and pay for itself.

I remember when one of the major components of the Hong Kong Exchange, Hutchison, had a bad year and really needed some black magic to satisfy the shareholders, the Deputy Chairman abandoned his daytime job and spent trading hours buying and selling for a fortnight to contribute something respectable for the annual accounts. Somebody paid and never knew it.

This was at the start of creative accounting and the 'anything goes' version of capitalism that the article connects with Litton Industries, Teledyne and LTV but was infecting the entire inner circle of the money.

[Dec 02, 2019] A bunch of neocons in key positions in Trump administration really represents a huge threat to world peace

Notable quotes:
"... No. My point was it's very misleading. Misleading to set the parameters of discussion on U.S. posture toward Russia in such a way as to assume that Putin's actions against a purported Russian "democracy" have anything at all to do with USian antagonism of Russia. I'm sure you'll note current U.S. military cooperation with that boisterous hotbed of democratic activity, Saudi Arabia, in Yemen. Our allies in the house of Saud require help in defending their democratic way of life against the totalitarianism of Yemeni tribes, you see. The U.S. opposes anti-democratic forces whenever and where ever it can, especially in the Middle East. I guess that explains USian antipathy to Russia. ..."
Oct 28, 2016 | crookedtimber.org
Howard Frank in this blog provides a good example of Vichy left thinking...

Howard Frant 10.26.16 at 6:19 am 73

Stephen @58

Howard Frant 10.26.16 at 6:19 am ( )

Stephen @58

Yes, it was late and I was tired, or I wouldn't have said something so foolish. Still, the point is that after centuries of constant war, Europe went 70 years without territorial conquest. That strikes me as a significant achievement, and one whose breach should not be taken lightly.

phenomenal cat @64

So democratic structures have to be robust and transparent before we care about them? I'd give a pretty high value to an independent press and contested elections. Those have been slowly crushed in Russia. The results for transparency have not been great. Personally, I don't believe that Ukraine is governed by fascists, or that Ukraine shot down that jetliner, but I'm sure a lot of Russians do.

Russian leaders have always complained about "encirclement," but we don't have to believe them. Do you really believe Russia's afraid of an attack from Estonia? Clearly what Putin wants is to restore as much of the old Soviet empire as possible. Do you think the independence of the Baltic states would be more secure or less secure if they weren't members of NATO? (Hint: compare to Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova.)

phenomenal cat 10.26.16 at 6:55 pm 84

"So democratic structures have to be robust and transparent before we care about them?"

No. My point was it's very misleading. Misleading to set the parameters of discussion on U.S. posture toward Russia in such a way as to assume that Putin's actions against a purported Russian "democracy" have anything at all to do with USian antagonism of Russia. I'm sure you'll note current U.S. military cooperation with that boisterous hotbed of democratic activity, Saudi Arabia, in Yemen. Our allies in the house of Saud require help in defending their democratic way of life against the totalitarianism of Yemeni tribes, you see. The U.S. opposes anti-democratic forces whenever and where ever it can, especially in the Middle East. I guess that explains USian antipathy to Russia.

"I'd give a pretty high value to an independent press and contested elections."

Yeah, it'd be interesting to see what the U.S. looked like with those dynamics in place.

"Those have been slowly crushed in Russia. The results for transparency have not been great."

If you say so. For now I'll leave any decisions or actions taken on these outcomes to Russian citizens. I would, however, kindly tell Victoria Nuland and her ilk to fuck off with their senile Cold War fantasies, morally bankrupt, third-rate Great Game machinations, and total spectrum dominance sociopathy.

"Personally, I don't believe that Ukraine is governed by fascists, or that Ukraine shot down that jetliner, but I'm sure a lot of Russians do."

There's definitely some of 'em hanging about, but yeah it mostly seems to be a motley assortment of oligarchs, gangsters, and grifters tied into international neoliberal capital and money flows. No doubt Russian believe a lot things. I find Americans tend to believe a lot things as well.

[Dec 02, 2019] The Vichy left – essentially people who are ready to sacrifice all principles to ensure their own prosperity

Notable quotes:
"... Pretty consistent, I agree. IMHO Sanjait might belong to the category that some people call the "Vichy left" – essentially people who are ready to sacrifice all principles to ensure their 'own' prosperity and support the candidate who intends to protect it, everybody else be damned. ..."
"... Very neoliberal approach if you ask me. Ann Rand would probably be proud for this representative of "creative class". ..."
"... Essentially the behavior that we've had for the last 8 years with the king of "bait and switch". ..."
Oct 24, 2016 | economistsview.typepad.com

Sanjait -> Sandwichman ... October 24, 2016 at 10:35 AM

Some paranoid claptrap to go along with your usual anti intellectualism.

Interestingly, with your completely unrelated non sequitur, you've actually illustrated something that does relate to Krugmans post. Namely that there are wingnuts among us. They've taken over the Republican Party, but the left has some too. Fortunately though the Democratic Party hasn't been taken over by them yet, and is still mostly run by grown ups.

Sandwichman -> Sanjait... , October 24, 2016 at 10:42 AM

I am confident that what you say here is consistent with your methods and motivations.
likbez -> Sandwichman ...
"I am confident that what you say here is consistent with your methods and motivations."

Pretty consistent, I agree. IMHO Sanjait might belong to the category that some people call the "Vichy left" – essentially people who are ready to sacrifice all principles to ensure their 'own' prosperity and support the candidate who intends to protect it, everybody else be damned.

Very neoliberal approach if you ask me. Ann Rand would probably be proud for this representative of "creative class".

Essentially the behavior that we've had for the last 8 years with the king of "bait and switch".

[Dec 02, 2019] The Fake Myth of American Meritocracy by Barbara Boland

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... As part of the scam, parents would "donate" money to a fake charity run by Singer. The funds would then be laundered to either pay off an SAT or ACT administrator to take the exams or bribe an employee in college athletics to name the rich, non-athlete children as recruits. Virtually every scenario relied on multiple layers of corruption, all of which eventually allowed wealthy students to masquerade as "deserving" of the merit-based college slots they paid up to half a million dollars to "qualify" for. ..."
"... When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organised interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it. ..."
"... The conclusion of the study? We live in an oligarchy: ..."
Mar 15, 2019 | www.theamericanconservative.com

The college bribery scandal reveals an ugly truth: our society is unjust, dominated by a small elite. Actress Lori Loughlin, who has been implicated in the Operation Varsity Blues scandal. Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency/Shutterstock The most destructive and pervasive myth in America today is that we live in a meritocracy. Our elites, so the myth goes, earned their places at Yale and Harvard, on Wall Street and in Washington -- not because of the accident of their birth, but because they are better, stronger, and smarter than the rest of us. Therefore, they think, they've "earned" their places in the halls of power and "deserve" to lead.

The fervor with which so many believe this enables elites to lord over those worse off than they are. On we slumber, believing that we live in a country that values justice, instead of working towards a more equitable and authentically meritocratic society.

Take the Operation Varsity Blues scandal. On Tuesday, the FBI and federal prosecutors announced that 50 people had been charged in, as Sports Illustrated put it , "a nationwide college admissions scheme that used bribes to help potential students cheat on college entrance exams or to pose as potential athletic recruits to get admitted to high-profile universities." Thirty-three parents, nine collegiate coaches, two SAT/ACT exam administrators, an exam proctor, and a college athletics administrator were among those charged. The man who allegedly ran the scheme, William Rick Singer, pled guilty to four charges of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the U.S., and obstruction of justice.

As part of the scam, parents would "donate" money to a fake charity run by Singer. The funds would then be laundered to either pay off an SAT or ACT administrator to take the exams or bribe an employee in college athletics to name the rich, non-athlete children as recruits. Virtually every scenario relied on multiple layers of corruption, all of which eventually allowed wealthy students to masquerade as "deserving" of the merit-based college slots they paid up to half a million dollars to "qualify" for.

Cheating. Bribery. Lying. The wealthy and privileged buying what was reserved for the deserving. It's all there on vivid display. Modern American society has become increasingly and banally corrupt , both in the ways in which "justice" is meted out and in who is allowed to access elite education and the power that comes with it.

The U.S. is now a country where corruption is rampant and money buys both access and outcomes. We pretend to be better than Russia and other oligarchies, but we too are dominated by a rich and powerful elite.

The average American citizen has very little power, as a 2014 study by Princeton University found. The research reviewed 1,779 public policy questions asked between 1981 and 2002 and the responses by different income levels and interest groups; then calculated the likelihood that certain policies would be adopted.

What they found came as no surprise: How to Fix College Admissions

A proposed policy change with low support among economically elite Americans (one-out-of-five in favor) is adopted only about 18 percent of the time, while a proposed change with high support (four-out-of-five in favor) is adopted about 45% of the time.

That's in stark contrast with policies favored by average Americans:

When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organised interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.

The conclusion of the study? We live in an oligarchy:

our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. [T]he preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.

The belief in the myth of merit hurts the smart kid with great grades who aced his SATs but was still rejected from Yale and Harvard. It hurts talented athletes who have worked their tails off for so many years. It hurts parents who have committed hundreds of school nights and weekends to their children. It hurts HR departments that believe degrees from Ivy League schools mean that graduates are qualified. It hurts all of us who buy into the great myth that America is a democratic meritocracy and that we can achieve whatever we want if only we're willing to expend blood, toil, sweat, and tears.

At least in an outright class system like the British Houses of Lords and Commons, there is not this farcical playacting of equal opportunity. The elites, with their privilege and titles, know the reason they are there and feel some sense of obligation to those less well off than they are. At the very least, they do not engage in the ritual pretense of "deserving" what they "earned" -- quite unlike those who descend on Washington, D.C. believing that they really are better than their compatriots in flyover country.

All societies engage in myth-making about themselves. But the myth of meritocracy may be our most pervasive and destructive belief -- and it mirrors the myth that anything like "justice" is served up in our courts.

Remember the Dupont heir who received no prison time after being convicted for raping his three-year-old daughter because the judge ruled that six-foot-four Robert Richards "wouldn't fare well in prison"? Or the more recent case of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who had connections to both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and faced a 53-page federal indictment for sex-trafficking over two dozens underage girls ? He received instead a sweetheart deal that concealed the extent of his crimes. Rather than the federal life imprisonment term he was facing, Epstein is currently on house arrest after receiving only 13 months in county jail. The lead prosecutor in that case had previously been reprimanded by a federal judge in another underage sex crimes case for concealing victim information, the Miami Herald reports .

While the rich are able to escape consequences for even the most horrific of crimes , the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Approximately 7 million people were under some form of correctional control by the end of 2011, including 2.2 million who were detained in federal, state, and local prisons and jails. One in every 10 black men in his thirties is in prison or jail, and one out of three black men born in 2001 can expect to go to prison in their lifetimes.

While black people make up only 13 percent of the population, they make up 42 percent of death row and 35 percent of those who are executed . There are big racial disparities in charging, sentencing, plea bargaining, and executions, Department of Justice reviews have concluded, and black and brown people are disproportionately found to be innocent after landing on death row. The poor and disadvantaged thereby become grist for a system that cares nothing for them.

Despite all this evidence, most Americans embrace a version of the Calvinist beliefs promulgated by their forebears, believing that the elect deserve their status. We remain confident that when our children apply to college or are questioned by police , they will receive just and fair outcomes. If our neighbors' and friends' kids do not, then we assure ourselves that it is they who are at fault, not the system.

The result has been a gaping chasm through our society. Lives are destroyed because, rather than working for real merit-based systems and justice, we worship at the altar of false promises offered by our institutions. Instead we should be rolling up our sleeves and seeing Operation Varsity Blues for what it is: a call to action.

Barbara Boland is the former weekend editor of the Washington Examiner . Her work has been featured on Fox News, the Drudge Report, HotAir.com, RealClearDefense, RealClearPolitics, and elsewhere. She's the author of Patton Uncovered , a book about General Patton in World War II. Follow her on Twitter @BBatDC .

MORE FROM THIS AUTHOR

The GOP's Laughable Call for a Balanced Budget Amendment Congress's "One Spending Bill to Rule Them All" is a Debt-Fueled Disgrace Hide 11 comments 11 Responses to The Myth of American Meritocracy

Collin March 15, 2019 at 1:46 pm

If conservatives are going to dance the graves of Aunt Beckie, the backlash is going to be big. Sure this is a 'scandal' but it seems these parents weren't rich enough to bribe their kids in college the right way, like Trumps and Kushner, and probably slightly duped into going along with this scheme. (It appears the government got the ring leader to call all defendants to get evidence they participated in a crime.)

Just wait until the mug shot of Aunt Beckie is on the internet and Olivia Jade does 60 minutes doing teary eyed interview of how much she loves her mother. And how many parents are stress that their kids will struggle in the global competitive economy.

Fran Macadam , , March 15, 2019 at 1:52 pm
I fully recall the days of getting government computing contracts. Once a certain threshold was reached, you discovered you had to hire a "lobbyist," and give him a significant amount of money to dole out to various gatekeepers in the bureaucracy for your contracts to be approved. That was the end of our government contracts, and the end was hastened by the reaction to trying to complain about it.
prodigalson , , March 15, 2019 at 1:56 pm
Great article, well done. More of this please TAC.
Kurt Gayle , , March 15, 2019 at 2:17 pm
Thank you, Barbara Boland, for "The Myth of American Meritocracy" and for linking ("Related Articles" box) to the 2012 "The Myth of American Meritocracy" by Ron Unz, then publisher of the American Conservative.

The 26,000-word Ron Unz research masterpiece was the opening salvo in the nation-wide discussion that ultimately led to the federal court case nearing resolution in Boston.

"The Myth of American Meritocracy -- How corrupt are Ivy League admissions?" by Ron Unz, The American Conservative, Nov 28, 2012:

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-myth-of-american-meritocracy/

Kurt Gayle , , March 15, 2019 at 2:18 pm
Barbara Boland "While black people make up only 13 percent of the population, they make up 42 percent of death row and 35 percent of those who are executed."

Ms. Boland: According to the US Department of Justice, African Americans [13 per cent of the population] accounted for 52.5% of all homicide offenders from 1980 to 2008.

JeffK , , March 15, 2019 at 2:46 pm
I agree with prodigalson. This is the type of article that TAC should uphold as a 'gold standard'. One reason I read, and comment on, TAC is that it offers thought provoking, and sometimes contrarian, articles (although the constant harping on transgender BS gets annoying).

America has always been somewhat corrupt. But, to borrow a phrase, wealth corrupts, and uber wealth corrupts absolutely.

As Warren Buffet says "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning".

I have said it before, and I will say it again. During the next severe financial recession, if the rich are protected and coddled and everybody else is left to fend for themselves the ARs will come out of the closets when the sheriff comes to take the house or the pickup truck. My sense is that average Americans have had enough.

Imagine if the digital transfer of money was abolished. Imagine if everybody had to have their money in a local bank instead of on an account in one of the major banks. Imagine if Americans saw, day after day, armored vehicles showing up at local banks to offload sacks of currency that went to only a few individual accounts.

Instead, the elites get their financial statements showing an ever increasing pile of cash at their disposal. They see it, but nobody else does. But, if everybody physically saw the river of wealth flowing to the elites, I believe things would change. Fast. Right now this transfer of wealth is all digital, hidden from the view of 99.99% of Americans. And the elites, the banking industry, and the wealth management cabal prefer it that way.

Mike N in MA , , March 15, 2019 at 2:49 pm
You said it sister. Great article.

I am amazed by the media coverage of this scandal. Was anyone actually under the impression that college admissions were on the level before these Hollywood bozos were caught red handed?

BDavi52 , , March 15, 2019 at 2:49 pm
What total silliness!

No, the meritocracy is not dead; it's not even dying. It is, in fact, alive and well and the absolute best alternative to any other method used to separate wheat from chaff, cream from milk, diamonds from rust.

What else is there that is even half as good?

Are merit-based systems perfect? Heck, no. They've never been perfect; they will never be perfect. They are administered by people and people are flawed. Not just flawed in the way Singer, and Huffman are flawed (and those individuals are not simply flawed, they're corrupt) but flawed in the everyday kind of sense. Yes, we all have tendencies, biases, preferences that will -- inevitably -- leak into our selection process, no matter how objectively strict the process may be structured, no matter how rigorously fair we try to be.

So the fact that -- as with most things -- we can find a trace of corruption here that fact is meaningless. We can find evidence of human corruption, venality, greed, sloth, lust, envy (all of the 7 Deadly Sins) pretty much everywhere. But if we look at the 20M students enrolled in college, the vast majority are successfully & fairly admitted through merit-based filtering systems (which are more or less rigorous) which have been in place forever.

Ms. Boland tells us (with a straight face, no less) that "The U.S. is now a country where corruption is rampant and money buys both access and outcomes." But what does that even mean?

Certainly money can buy access and certainly money can buy outcomes. But that's what money does. She might as well assert that money can buy goods and services, and lions and tigers and bears -- oh my! Of course it can. Equally networks can 'buy' access and outcomes (if my best friend is working as the manager for Adele, I'm betting he could probably arrange my meeting Adele). Equally success & fame can buy access and outcomes. I'm betting Adele can probably arrange a meeting with Gwen Stefani .and both can arrange a meeting with Tom Brady. So what? Does the fact that money can be used to purchase goods & services mean money or the use of money is corrupt or morally degenerate? No, of course not. In truth, we all leverage what we have (whatever that may be) to get what we want. That's how life works. But the fact that we all do that does not mean we are all corrupt.

But yes, corruption does exist and can usually be found, in trace amounts -- as I said -- pretty much everywhere.

So is it rampant? Can I buy my way into the NBA or the NFL? If I go to Clark Hunt and give him $20M and tell him I want to play QB for the Chiefs, will he let me? Can I buy my way into the CEO's position at General Electric, Apple, Microsoft, Google, Sprint, Verizon, General Motors, Toyota or any of the Fortune 500? Heck, can I even buy my way into the Governor's mansion? To become the Mayor of Chicago? Or the Police Commissioner? No -- these things are not possible. But what I can buy is my presence on the media stage.

What happens after cannot be purchased.

So no, by any measure, corruption is not rampant. And though many things are, in fact, for sale -- not everything is. And no matter how much money I give anyone, I'm never gonna QB the Chiefs or play for the Lakers.

She tells us, "we are dominated by a rich and powerful elite." No, we're not. Most of us live our lives making the choices we want to make, given the means that each of us has, without any interference from any so-called "elite". The "elite" didn't tell me where to go to school, or where to get a job, or how to do my job, or when to have kids, or what loaf of bread to buy, or what brand of beer tastes best, or where to go on the family vacation. No one did. The elite obviously did not tell us who to vote for in the last presidential election.

Of course one of the problems with the "it's the fault of the elite" is the weight given institutions by people like Ms.Boland. "Oh, lordy, the Elite used their dominating power to get a brainless twit of a daughter into USC". Now if my kid were cheated out of a position at USC because the Twit got in, I'd be upset but beyond that who really cares if a Twit gets an undergraduate degree from USC or Yale .or Harvard .or wherever. Some of the brightest people I've known earned their degrees at Easter PolyTechnic U (some don't even have college degrees -- oh, the horror!); some of the stupidest have Ivy League credentials. So what?

Only if you care about the exclusivity of such a relatively meaningless thing as a degree from USC, does gaming the exclusivity matter.

She ends with the exhortation: "The result has been a gaping chasm through our society. Lives are destroyed because, rather than working for real merit-based systems and justice, we worship at the altar of false promises offered by our institutions. Instead we should be rolling up our sleeves and seeing Operation Varsity Blues for what it is: a call to action."

To do what, exactly?

Toss the baby and the bathwater? Substitute lottery selection for merit? Flip a coin? What?
Again the very best method is and always will be merit-based. That is the incentive which drives all of us: the hope that if we work hard enough and do well enough, that we will succeed. Anything else is just a lie.

Yes, we can root out this piece of corruption. Yes, we can build better and more rigorously fair systems. But in the end, merit is the only game in town. Far better to roll-up our sleeves and simply buckle down, Winsocki. There isn't anything better.

Sid Finster , , March 15, 2019 at 2:52 pm
Gee, and people wonder why the rubes think that the system is gamed, why the dogs no longer want to eat the dog food.
Jim Jatras , , March 15, 2019 at 3:22 pm
"While black people make up only 13 percent of the population, they make up 42 percent of death row and 35 percent of those who are executed. There are big racial disparities in charging, sentencing, plea bargaining, and executions, Department of Justice reviews have concluded, and black and brown people are disproportionately found to be innocent after landing on death row. The poor and disadvantaged thereby become grist for a system that cares nothing for them."

So to what degree are these "disparities" "disproportionate" in light of actual criminal behavior? To be "proportionate," would we expect criminal behavior to correlate exactly to racial, ethnic, sex, and age demographics of society as a whole?

Put another way, if you are a victim of a violent crime in America, what are the odds your assailant is, say, an elderly, Asian female? Approximately zero.

Conversely, what are the odds your assailant is a young, black male? Rather high, and if you yourself are a young, black male, approaching 100 percent.

Pam , , March 15, 2019 at 3:42 pm

Mostly thumbs up to this article. But why you gotta pick on Calvinism at the end? Anyway, your understanding of Calvinism is entirely upside down. Calvinists believe they are elect by divine grace, and salvation is something given by God through Jesus, which means you can't earn it and you most assuredly don't deserve it. Calvinism also teaches that all people are made in the image of God and worthy of respect, regardless of class or status. There's no "version" of Calvinism that teaches what you claim.

[Dec 02, 2019] The Myth of American Meritocracy by Ron Unz

Notable quotes:
"... Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother ..."
"... Wall Street Journal ..."
"... The Price of Admission ..."
"... And while I am not as focused on the poverty ve wealth dynamic. this century has revealed something very disappointing that you address. That the elites have done a very poor job of leading the ship of state, while still remaining in leadership belies such a bold hypocrisy in accountability, it's jarring. The article could actually be titled: "The Myth of the Best and the Brightest." ..."
"... They are teaching the elite how to drain all value from American companies, as the rich plan their move to China, the new land of opportunity. When 1% of the population controls such a huge portion of the wealth, patriotism becomes a loadstone to them. The elite are global. Places like Harvard cater to them, help train them to rule the world .but first they must remake it. ..."
"... In my high school, there were roughly 15 of us who had been advanced two years ahead in math. Of those, 10 were Jewish; only two of them had a 'Jewish' last name. In my graduate school class, half (7) are Jewish. None has a 'Jewish' last name. So I'm pretty dubious of the counting method that you use. ..."
"... Regarding the declining Jewish achievement, it looks like it can be primarily explained through demographics: "Intermarriage rates have risen from roughly 6% in 1950 to approximately 40–50% in the year 2000.[56][57] This, in combination with the comparatively low birthrate in the Jewish community, has led to a 5% decline in the Jewish population of the United States in the 1990s." ..."
"... Jewish surnames don't mean what they used to. And intermarriage rates are lowest among the low-performing and highly prolific Orthodox. ..."
"... A potentially bigger issue completely ignored by your article is how do colleges differentiate between 'foreign' students (overwhelmingly Asian) and American students. Many students being counted as "Asian American" are in reality wealthy and elite foreign "parachute kids" (an Asian term), dropped onto the generous American education system or into boarding schools to study for US entrance exams, qualify for resident tuition rates and scholarships, and to compete for "American" admissions slots, not for the usually limited 'foreign' admission slots. ..."
"... As some who is Jewish from the former Soviet Union, and who was denied even to take an entrance exam to a Moscow college, I am saddened to see that American educational admission process looks more and more "Soviet" nowadays. Kids are denied opportunities because of their ethnic or social background, in a supposedly free and fair country! ..."
"... Actually, Richard Feynman famously rejected genetic explanations of Jewish achievement (whether he was right or wrong to do so is another story), and aggressively resisted any attempts to list him as a "Jewish scientist" or "Jewish Nobel Prize winner." I am sure he would not cared in the slightest bit how many Jews were participating in the Physics Olympiad, as long as the quality of the students' work continued to be excellent. Here is a letter he wrote to a woman seeking to include him in a book about Jewish achievement in the sciences. ..."
"... It would be interesting to know how well "true WASPS" do in admissions. This could perhaps be estimated by counting Slavic and Italian names, or Puritan New England last names. I would expect this group to do almost as well as Jews (not quite as well, because their ability would be in the lower end of the Legacy group). ..."
"... The missing variable in this analysis is income/class. While Unz states that many elite colleges have the resources to fund every student's education, and in fact practice need-blind admissions, the student bodies are skewed towards the very highest percentile of the income and wealth distribution. SAT scores may also scale with parents' income as well. ..."
"... Having worked with folks from all manner of "elite" and not so elite schools in a technical field, the main conclusion I was able to draw was folks who went to "elite" colleges had a greater degree of entitlement. And that's it. ..."
"... My own position has always been strongly in the former camp, supporting meritocracy over diversity in elite admissions. ..."
"... The Reality of American Mediocrity ..."
"... The central test of fairness in any admissions system is to ask this simple question. Was there anyone admitted under that system admitted over someone else who was denied admission and with better grades and SAT scores and poorer ? If the answer is in the affirmative, then that system is unfair , if it is in the negative then the system is fair. ..."
"... Harvard ranks only 8th after Penn State in the production of undergrads who eventually get Doctorates in Science and Engineering. Of course Berkeley has the bragging rights for that kind of attribute. ..."
"... There is an excellent analysis of this article at The Occidental Observer by Kevin MacDonald, "Ron Unz on the Illusory American Meritocracy". The MSM is ignoring Unz's article for obvious reasons. ..."
"... Could it be that the goal of financial, rather than academic, achievement, makes many young people uninterested in competing in the science and math competitions sought out by the Asian students? I ..."
"... America never promised success through merit or equality. That is the American "dream." ..."
"... Anyone famliar with sociology and the research on social stratification knows that meritocracy is a myth; for example, if one's parents are in the bottom decile of the the income scale, the child has only a 3% chance to reach the top decile in his or her lifetime. In fact, in contrast to the Horatio Alger ideology, the U.S. has lower rates of upward mobility than almost any other developed country. Social classses exist and they tend to reproduce themselves. ..."
"... The rigid class structure of the the U.S. is one of the reasons I support progressive taxation; wealth may not always be inherited, but life outcomes are largely determined by the class position of one's parents. In this manner, it is also a myth to believe that wealth is an individual creation;most financially successful individuals have enjoyed the benefits of class privilege: good and safe schools, two-parent families, tutors, and perhaps most important of all, high expecatations and positive peer socialization (Unz never mentions the importants of peeer groups, which data show exert a strong causal unfluence on academic performance). ..."
"... And I would challenge Unz's assertion that many high-performing Asians come from impovershed backgrounds: many of them may undereport their income as small business owners. I believe that Asian success derives not only from their class background but their culture in which the parents have authority and the success of the child is crucual to the honor of the family. As they assimilate to the more individualist American ethos, I predict that their academic success will level off just as it has with Jews. ..."
"... All I can say is see a book: "Ivy League Fools and Felons"' by Mack Roth. Lots of them are kids of corrupt people in all fields. ..."
Dec 28, 2016 | www.unz.com
November 28, 2012 | The American Conservative •
Just before the Labor Day weekend, a front page New York Times story broke the news of the largest cheating scandal in Harvard University history, in which nearly half the students taking a Government course on the role of Congress had plagiarized or otherwise illegally collaborated on their final exam. [1] Each year, Harvard admits just 1600 freshmen while almost 125 Harvard students now face possible suspension over this single incident. A Harvard dean described the situation as "unprecedented."

But should we really be so surprised at this behavior among the students at America's most prestigious academic institution? In the last generation or two, the funnel of opportunity in American society has drastically narrowed, with a greater and greater proportion of our financial, media, business, and political elites being drawn from a relatively small number of our leading universities, together with their professional schools. The rise of a Henry Ford, from farm boy mechanic to world business tycoon, seems virtually impossible today, as even America's most successful college dropouts such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg often turn out to be extremely well-connected former Harvard students. Indeed, the early success of Facebook was largely due to the powerful imprimatur it enjoyed from its exclusive availability first only at Harvard and later restricted to just the Ivy League.

NetWealth During this period, we have witnessed a huge national decline in well-paid middle class jobs in the manufacturing sector and other sources of employment for those lacking college degrees, with median American wages having been stagnant or declining for the last forty years. Meanwhile, there has been an astonishing concentration of wealth at the top, with America's richest 1 percent now possessing nearly as much net wealth as the bottom 95 percent. [2]

This situation, sometimes described as a "winner take all society," leaves families desperate to maximize the chances that their children will reach the winners' circle, rather than risk failure and poverty or even merely a spot in the rapidly deteriorating middle class. And the best single means of becoming such an economic winner is to gain admission to a top university, which provides an easy ticket to the wealth of Wall Street or similar venues, whose leading firms increasingly restrict their hiring to graduates of the Ivy League or a tiny handful of other top colleges. [3] On the other side, finance remains the favored employment choice for Harvard, Yale or Princeton students after the diplomas are handed out. [4]

The Battle for Elite College Admissions

As a direct consequence, the war over college admissions has become astonishingly fierce, with many middle- or upper-middle class families investing quantities of time and money that would have seemed unimaginable a generation or more ago, leading to an all-against-all arms race that immiserates the student and exhausts the parents. The absurd parental efforts of an Amy Chua, as recounted in her 2010 bestseller Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother , were simply a much more extreme version of widespread behavior among her peer-group, which is why her story resonated so deeply among our educated elites. Over the last thirty years, America's test-prep companies have grown from almost nothing into a $5 billion annual industry, allowing the affluent to provide an admissions edge to their less able children. Similarly, the enormous annual tuition of $35,000 charged by elite private schools such as Dalton or Exeter is less for a superior high school education than for the hope of a greatly increased chance to enter the Ivy League. [5]

Many New York City parents even go to enormous efforts to enroll their children in the best possible pre-Kindergarten program, seeking early placement on the educational conveyer belt which eventually leads to Harvard. [6] Others cut corners in a more direct fashion, as revealed in the huge SAT cheating rings recently uncovered in affluent New York suburbs, in which students were paid thousands of dollars to take SAT exams for their wealthier but dimmer classmates. [7]

But given such massive social and economic value now concentrated in a Harvard or Yale degree, the tiny handful of elite admissions gatekeepers enjoy enormous, almost unprecedented power to shape the leadership of our society by allocating their supply of thick envelopes. Even billionaires, media barons, and U.S. Senators may weigh their words and actions more carefully as their children approach college age. And if such power is used to select our future elites in a corrupt manner, perhaps the inevitable result is the selection of corrupt elites, with terrible consequences for America. Thus, the huge Harvard cheating scandal, and perhaps also the endless series of financial, business, and political scandals which have rocked our country over the last decade or more, even while our national economy has stagnated.

Just a few years ago Pulitzer Prize-winning former Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Golden published The Price of Admission , a devastating account of the corrupt admissions practices at so many of our leading universities, in which every sort of non-academic or financial factor plays a role in privileging the privileged and thereby squeezing out those high-ability, hard-working students who lack any special hook.

In one particularly egregious case, a wealthy New Jersey real estate developer, later sent to Federal prison on political corruption charges, paid Harvard $2.5 million to help ensure admission of his completely under-qualified son. [8] When we consider that Harvard's existing endowment was then at $15 billion and earning almost $7 million each day in investment earnings, we see that a culture of financial corruption has developed an absurd illogic of its own, in which senior Harvard administrators sell their university's honor for just a few hours worth of its regular annual income, the equivalent of a Harvard instructor raising a grade for a hundred dollars in cash.

An admissions system based on non-academic factors often amounting to institutionalized venality would seem strange or even unthinkable among the top universities of most other advanced nations in Europe or Asia, though such practices are widespread in much of the corrupt Third World. The notion of a wealthy family buying their son his entrance into the Grandes Ecoles of France or the top Japanese universities would be an absurdity, and the academic rectitude of Europe's Nordic or Germanic nations is even more severe, with those far more egalitarian societies anyway tending to deemphasize university rankings.

EliteCommInc., November 28, 2012 at 11:09 am GMT

Well, legacy programs are alive and well. According to the read, here's the problem:

"The research certainly supports the widespread perception that non-academic factors play a major role in the process, including athletic ability and "legacy" status. But as we saw earlier, even more significant are racial factors, with black ancestry being worth the equivalent of 310 points, Hispanics gaining 130 points, and Asian students being penalized by 140 points, all relative to white applicants on the 1600 point Math and Reading SAT scale."

These arbitrary point systems while well intended are not a reflection of AA design. School lawyers in a race not be penalized for past practices, implemented their own versions of AA programs. The numbers are easy to challenge because they aren't based on tangible or narrow principles. It's weakneses are almost laughable. Because there redal goal was to thwart any real challenge that institutions were idle in addressing past acts of discrimination. To boost their diversity issues, asians were heavily recruited. Since AA has been in place a lot of faulty measures were egaged in: Quotas for quotas sake. Good for PR, lousy for AA and issues it was designed to address.

I think the statistical data hides a very important factor and practice. Most jews in this country are white as such , and as such only needed to change their names and hide behaviors as a strategy of surviving the entrance gauntlet. That segregation created a black collegiate system with it's own set of elite qualifiers demonstrates that this model isn't limited to the Ivy league.

That an elite system is devised and practiced in members of a certain club networks so as to maintain their elite status, networks and control, this is a human practice. And it once served as something to achieve. It was thought that the avenues of becoming an elite were there if one wanted to strive for it. Hard work, honesty, persistence, results . . . should yield X.

And while I am not as focused on the poverty ve wealth dynamic. this century has revealed something very disappointing that you address. That the elites have done a very poor job of leading the ship of state, while still remaining in leadership belies such a bold hypocrisy in accountability, it's jarring. The article could actually be titled: "The Myth of the Best and the Brightest."

I don't think it's just some vindictive intent. and while Americans have always known and to an extent accepted that for upper income citizens, normal was not the same as normal on the street. Fairness, was not the same jn practice nor sentiment. What may becoming increasing intolerant has been the obvious lack of accountability among elites. TARP looked like the elites looking out for each other as opposed the ship of state. I have read three books on the financials and they do not paint a pretty portrait of Ivy League leadership as to ethics, cheating, lying, covering up, and shamelessly passing the buck. I will be reading this again I am sure.

It's sad to think that we may be seeing te passing of an era. in which one aspired to be an elite not soley for their wealth, but the model they provided od leadership real or imagined. Perhaps, it passed long ago, and we are all not just noticing.
I appreciated you conclusions, not sure that I am comfortable with some of the solutions.

EliteCommInc. November 28, 2012 at 11:21 am GMT

Since I still hanker to be an elite in some manner, It is interesting to note my rather subdued response to the cheating. Sadly, this too may be an open secret of standard fair - and that is very very sad. And disappointing. Angering even.

Russell Seitz November 28, 2012 at 1:51 pm GMT

The shifting social demography of deans, house masters and admissions committees may be a more important metric than the composition of the student body, as it determines the shape of the curriculum, and the underlying culture of the university as a legacy in itself.

If Ron harrows the literary journals of the Jackson era with equal diligence. he may well turn up an essay or two expressing deep shock at Unitarians admitting too many of the Lord's preterite sheep to Harvard, or lamenting the rise of Methodism at Yale and the College of New Jersey.

Sean Gillhoolley November 28, 2012 at 3:06 pm GMT

Harvard is a university, much like Princeton and Yale, that continues based on its reputation, something that was earned in the past. When the present catches up to them people will regard them as nepotistic cauldrons of corruption.

Look at the financial disaster that befell the USA and much of the globe back in 2008. Its genesis can be found in the clever minds of those coming out of their business schools (and, oddly enough, their Physics programs as well).

They are teaching the elite how to drain all value from American companies, as the rich plan their move to China, the new land of opportunity. When 1% of the population controls such a huge portion of the wealth, patriotism becomes a loadstone to them. The elite are global. Places like Harvard cater to them, help train them to rule the world .but first they must remake it.

• Replies: @Part White, Part Native I agree, common people would never think of derivatives , nor make loans based on speculation
Rob in CT November 28, 2012 at 4:05 pm GMT

First, I appreciated the length and depth of your article.

Having said that, to boil it down to its essence:

Subconcious bias/groupthink + affirmative action/diversity focus + corruption + innumeracy = student bodies at elite institutions that are wildly skewed vis-a-vis both: 1) the ethnic makeup of the general population; and 2) the makeup of our top-performing students.

Since these institutions are pipelines to power, this matters.

I rather doubt that wage stagnation (which appears to have begun in ~1970) can be pinned on this – that part stuck out, because there are far more plausible causes. To the extent you're merely arguing that our elite failed to counter the trend, ok, but I'm not sure a "better" elite would have either. The trend, after all, favored the elite.

Anyway, I find your case is plausible.

Your inner/outer circle hybrid option is interesting. One (perhaps minor) thing jumps out at me: kids talk. The innies are going to figure out who they are and who the outies are. The outies might have their arrogance tempered, but the innies? I suspect they'd be even *more* arrogant than such folks are now (all the more so because they'd have better justification for their arrogance), but I could be wrong.

Perhaps more significantly, this:

But if it were explicitly known that the vast majority of Harvard students had merely been winners in the application lottery, top businesses would begin to cast a much wider net in their employment outreach, and while the average Harvard student would probably be academically stronger than the average graduate of a state college, the gap would no longer be seen as so enormous, with individuals being judged more on their own merits and actual achievements

Is a very good reason for Harvard, et al. to resist the idea. I think you're right that this would be a good thing for the country, but it would be bad for Harvard. I think the odds of convincing Harvard to do it out of the goodness of their administrators hearts is unlikely. You are basically asking them to purposefully damage their brand.

All in all, I think you're on to something here. I have my quibbles (the wage stagnation thing, and the graph with Chinese vs USA per capita growth come on, apples and oranges there!), but overall I think I agree that your proposal is likely superior to the status quo.

Bryan November 28, 2012 at 5:12 pm GMT

Don't forget the mess one finds after they ARE admitted to these schools. I dropped out of Columbia University in 2010.

You can "make it" on an Ivy-league campus if you are a conservative-Republican-type with all the rich country-club connections that liberals use to stereotype.

Or you can succeed if you are a poor or working-class type who is willing to toe the Affirmative Action party line and be a good "progressive" Democrat (Obama stickers, "Gay Pride" celebrations, etc.)

If you come from a poor or working-class background and are religious, or culturally conservative or libertarian in any way, you might as well save your time and money. You're not welcome, period. And if you're a military veteran you WILL be actively persecuted, no matter what the news reports claim.

It sucks. Getting accepted to Columbia was a dream come true for me. The reality broke my heart.

Anonymous November 28, 2012 at 5:33 pm GMT

Regarding the overrepresentation of Jewish students compared to their actual academic merit, I think the author overstates the role bias (subjective, or otherwise) plays in this:

1) , a likely explanation is that Jewish applicants are a step ahead in knowing how to "play the admissions game." They therefore constitute a good percentage of applicants that admission committees view as "the total package." (at least a higher percentage than scores alone would yield). Obviously money and connections plays a role in them knowing to say precisely what adcoms want to hear, but in any case, at the end of the day, if adcoms are looking for applicants with >1400 SATs, "meaningful" life experiences/accomplishments, and a personal statement that can weave it all together into a compelling narrative, the middle-upper-class east coast Jewish applicant probably constitutes a good percentage of such "total package" applicants. I will concede however that this explanation only works in explaining the prevalence of jews vs. whites in general. With respect to Asians, however, since they are likely being actively and purposefully discriminated against by adcoms, having the "complete package" would be less helpful to them.

2) Another factor is that, regardless of ethnicity, alumni children get a boost and since in the previous generation Jewish applicants were the highest achieving academic group, many of these lesser qualified jews admitted are children of alumni.

3) That ivy colleges care more about strong verbal scores than mathematics (i.e., they prefer 800V 700M over 700V 800M), and Jewish applicants make up a higher proportion of the high verbal score breakdowns.

4) Last, and perhaps more importantly we do not really know the extent of Jewish representation compared to their academic merit. Unlike admitted Asian applicants, who we know, on average, score higher than white applicants, we have no similar numbers of Jewish applicants. The PSAT numbers are helpful, but hardly dispositive considering those aren't the scores colleges use in making their decision information.

Scott McConnell November 28, 2012 at 5:39 pm GMT

@Bryan– Getting accepted to Columbia was a dream come true for me. The reality broke my heart.

I'm touched by this. I've spent tons of time at Columbia, a generation ago -- and my background fit fine -- the kind of WASP background Jews found exotic and interesting. But I can see your point, sad to say. There are other great schools -- Fordham, where my wife went to law school at night, has incredible esprit de corps - and probably, person for person, has as many lawyers doing good and interesting work as Columbia.

HAR November 28, 2012 at 6:10 pm GMT

"There are other great schools–Fordham, where my wife went to law school at night, has incredible esprit de corps - and probably, person for person, has as many lawyers doing good and interesting work as Columbia."

Someone doesn't know much about the legal market.

KXB November 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm GMT

"Tiffany was also rejected by all her other prestigious college choices, including Yale, Penn, Duke, and Wellsley, an outcome which greatly surprised and disappointed her immigrant father.88″

In the fall of 1990, my parents had me apply to 10 colleges. I had the profile of many Indian kids at the time – ranked in the top 10 of the class, editor of school paper, Boy Scouts. SAT scores could have been better, but still strong. Over 700 in all achievement tests save Bio, which was 670.

Rejected by 5 schools, waitlisted by 3, accepted into 2 – one of them the state univ.

One of my classmates, whose family was from Thailand, wound up in the same predicament as me. His response, "Basketball was designed to keep the Asian man down."

The one black kid in our group – got into MIT, dropped out after one year because he could not hack it. The kid from our school who should have gone, from an Italian-American family, and among the few who did not embrace the guido culture, went to Rennsealer instead, and had professional success after.

Anonymous November 28, 2012 at 6:39 pm GMT

As a University of Chicago alum, I infer that by avoiding the label "elite" on such a nifty chart we can be accurately categorized as "meritocratic" by The American Conservative.

Then again, this article doesn't even purport to ask why elite universities might be in the business of EDUCATING a wider population of students, or how that education takes place.

Perhaps, by ensuring that "the best" students are not concentrated in only 8 universities is why the depth and quality of America's education system remains the envy of the world.

a November 28, 2012 at 6:43 pm GMT

Two comments:

In my high school, there were roughly 15 of us who had been advanced two years ahead in math. Of those, 10 were Jewish; only two of them had a 'Jewish' last name. In my graduate school class, half (7) are Jewish. None has a 'Jewish' last name. So I'm pretty dubious of the counting method that you use.

Also, it's clear that there are Asian quotas at these schools, but it's not clear that Intel Science Fairs, etc, are the best way to estimate what level of talent Asians have relative to other groups.

I was curious so I google High School Poetry Competition, High School Constitution Competition, High School Debating Competition. None of the winners here seem to have an especially high Asian quotient. So maybe a non-technical (liberal arts) university would settle on ~25-30% instead of ~40% asian? And perhaps a (small) part of the problem is a preponderance of Asian applicants excelling in technical fields, leading to competition against each other rather than the general population? Just wonderin'

Weighty Commentary November 28, 2012 at 6:43 pm GMT

Regarding the declining Jewish achievement, it looks like it can be primarily explained through demographics: "Intermarriage rates have risen from roughly 6% in 1950 to approximately 40–50% in the year 2000.[56][57] This, in combination with the comparatively low birthrate in the Jewish community, has led to a 5% decline in the Jewish population of the United States in the 1990s."

Jewish surnames don't mean what they used to. And intermarriage rates are lowest among the low-performing and highly prolific Orthodox.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Jews#Demographics

Jewish birth rates have been falling faster than the white population, especially for the non-Orthodox:

"In contrast to the ongoing trends of assimilation, some communities within American Jewry, such as Orthodox Jews, have significantly higher birth rates and lower intermarriage rates, and are growing rapidly. The proportion of Jewish synagogue members who were Orthodox rose from 11% in 1971 to 21% in 2000, while the overall Jewish community declined in number. [60] In 2000, there were 360,000 so-called "ultra-orthodox" (Haredi) Jews in USA (7.2%).[61] The figure for 2006 is estimated at 468,000 (9.4%).[61]"

http://www.jewishdatabank.org/Reports/RecentTrends_Sheskin_2011.pdf

"a very low fertility rate of 1.9, of which 1.4 will be raised as Jews (2.15 is replacement rate)"

http://www.aish.com/jw/s/48899452.html

"As against the overall average of 1.86 children per Jewish woman, an informed estimate gives figures ranging upward from 3.3 children in "modern Orthodox" families to 6.6 in Haredi or "ultra-Orthodox" families to a whopping 7.9 in families of Hasidim."

These statistics would suggest that half or more of Jewish children are being born into these lower-performing groups. Given their very low intermarriage rates, a huge portion of the secular, Reform, and Conservative Jews must be intermarrying (more than half if the aggregate 43% intermarriage figure is right). And the high-performing groups may now be around 1 child per woman or lower, and worse for the youngest generation.

So a collapse in Jewish representation in youth science prizes can be mostly explained by the collapse of the distinct non-Orthodox Jewish youth.

Incidentally, intermarriage also produces people with Jewish ancestry who get classified as gentiles using last names or self-identification, reducing Jewish-gentile gaps by bringing up nominal gentile scores at the same time as nominal-Jewish scores are lowered.

Adam November 28, 2012 at 6:49 pm GMT

The center of power in this country being located in the Northeast is nothing new. Whether it be in it's Ivy League schools or the ownership of natural resources located in other regions, particularly the South, the Northeast has always had a disproportionate share of influence in the power structures, particularly political and financial, of this nation. This is one of the reasons the definition of "white" when reviewing ethnicity is so laughably inaccurate. There is a huge difference in opportunity between WASP or Jewish in the Northeast, for instance, and those of Scots Irish ancestory in the mountain south. Hopefully statistical analysis such as this can break open that stranglehold, especially as it is directly impacting a minority group in a negative fashion. Doing this exercise using say, white Baptists compared to other white subgroups, while maybe equally valid in the results, would be seen as racist by the very Ivy League system that is essentially practicing a form of racism.

Bryan November 28, 2012 at 6:50 pm GMT

Scott, thanks for your words of commiseration.

Yeah, my ultimate goal was to attend law school, and a big part of the heartbreak for me–or heartburn, the more cynical would call it–was seeing how skewed and absurd the admissions process to law school is.

I have no doubt that I could have eventually entered into a "top tier" law school, and that was a dream of mine also. I met with admissions officers from Duke, Harvard, Stanford, Fordham, etc. I was encouraged. I had the grades and background for it.

But–and I'm really not trying to sound corny 0r self-important here–what does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul? I really don't feel that I'm exaggerating when I say that that's exactly how it felt to me.

The best experience I had while In New York was working as an after-school programs administrator for P.S. 136, but that was only because of the kids. They'll be old and bitter and cynical soon enough.

At one point it occurred to me that I should have just started claiming "Black" as my ethnicity when I first started attending college as an adult. I never attended high-school so it couldn't have been disproved. I'm part Sicilian so I could pass for 1/4 African-American. Then I would have received the preference toward admission that, say, Michael Jordan's kids or Barack Obama's kids will receive when they claim their Ivy-league diplomas. I should have hid the "white privilege" I've enjoyed as the son of a fisherman and a waitress from one of the most economically-depressed states in America.

The bottom line is that those colleges are political brainwashing centers for a country I no longer believe in. I arrived on campus in 2009 and I'm not joking at all when I say I was actively persecuted for being a veteran and a conservative who was not drinking the Obama Kool-aid. Some big fat African-American lady, a back-room "administrator" for Columbia, straight-up threw my VA benefits certification in the garbage, so my money got delayed by almost two months. I had no idea what was going on. I had a wife and children to support.

The fact that technology has enabled us to sit here in real-time and correspond back-and-forth about the state of things doesn't really change the state of things. They are irredeemable. This country is broke and broken.

If Abraham Lincoln were born today in America he would wind up like "Uncle Teardrop" from Winter's Bone. Back then, in order to be an attorney, you simply studied law and starting trying cases. If you were good at it then you were accepted and became a lawyer. Today, something has been lost. There is no fixing it. I don't want to waste my time trying to help by being "productive" to the new tower of Babel or pretending to contribute.

Anonymous November 28, 2012 at 8:44 pm GMT

Perhaps only one thing you left out, which is especially important with regard to Jewish enrollment and applications at Ivy leagues, and other schools as well.
Jewish high school graduates actively look out for campuses with large Jewish populations, where they feel more comfortable.
I don't know the figures, but I believe Dartmouth, for example, has a much smaller Jewish population than Columbia, and it will stay that way because of a positive feedback loop. (i.e. Jews would rather be at Columbia than Dartmouth, or sometimes even rather be at NYU than Dartmouth). This explains some of the difference among different schools (and not solely better admission standards).

This is also especially relevant to your random lottery idea, which will inevitably lead to certain schools being overwhelmingly Asian, others being overwhelmingly Jewish, etc., because the percentage of applicants from every ethnicity is different in every school. This will necessarily eliminate any diversity which may or may not have existed until now.

TM says: • Website November 28, 2012 at 9:51 pm GMT

I like the lottery admissions idea a lot but the real remedy for the US education system would be to abandon the absurd elite cult altogether. There is not a shred of evidence that graduates of so-called elite institutions make good leaders. Many of them are responsible for the economic crash and some of them have brought us the disaster of the Bush presidency.

Many better functioning countries – Germany, the Scandinavians – do not have elite higher education systems. When I enrolled to University in Germany, I showed up at the enrollment office the summer before the academic year started, filled out a form (1), and provided a certified copy of my Abitur certificate proving that I was academically competent to attend University. I never wasted a minute on any of the admissions games that American middle class teenagers and their parents are subjected to. It would surely have hurt my sense of dignity to be forced to jump through all these absurd and arbitrary hoops.

Americans, due to their ignorance of everything happening outside their borders, have no clue that a system in which a person is judged by what "school" they attended is everything but normal. It is part of the reason for American dysfunction.

Luke Lea November 28, 2012 at 10:04 pm GMT

Since they are the pool from which tomorrow's governing elites will be chosen, I'd much rather see Ivy League student bodies which reflected the full ethnic and geographic diversity of the US. Right now rural and small town Americans and those of Catholic and Protestant descent who live in the South and Mid-West - roughly half the population - are woefully under-represented, which explains why their economic interests have been neglected over the last forty years. We live in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic representative democracy and our policy-making elites must reflect that diversity. Else the country will come apart.

Thus I recommend 'affirmative action for all' in our elite liberal arts colleges and universities (though not our technical schools). Student bodies should be represent 'the best and the brightest' of every ethnic group and geographical area of the country. Then the old school ties will truly knit our society together in a way that is simply not happening today.

A side benefit - and I mean this seriously - is that our second and third tier colleges and universities would be improved by an influx of Asian and Ashkenazi students (even though the very best would still go to Harvard).

Jack November 28, 2012 at 10:07 pm GMT

I believe that this article raises – and then inappropriately immediately dismisses – the simplest and most likely reason for the over-representation of Jewish students at Ivy League Schools in the face of their declining bulk academic performance:

They apply to those schools in vastly disproportionate numbers.

Without actual data on the ethnicity of the applicants to these and other schools, we simply cannot rule out this simple and likely explanation.

It is quite clear that a large current of Jewish American culture places a great emphasis on elite college attendance, and among elite colleges, specifically values the Ivy League and its particular cache as opposed to other elite institutions such as MIT. Also, elite Jewish American culture, moreso than elite Asian American culture, encourages children to go far away from home for college, considering such a thing almost a right of passage, while other ethnic groups tend to encourage children to remain closer. A high performing Asian student from, say, California, is much more likely to face familial pressure to stay close to home for undergrad (Berkeley, UCLA, etc) than a high performing Jewish student from the same high school, who will likely be encouraged by his or her family to apply to many universities "back east".

Without being able to systematically compare – with real data – the ethnicities of the applicants to those offered admission, these conclusions simply cannot be accepted.

Pat Boyle November 28, 2012 at 10:30 pm GMT

Different expectations for different races should worry traditional Americans.

If we become comfortable with different academic standards for Asians will we soon be expected to apply different laws to them also? Will we apply different laws or at least different interpretations of the same laws to blacks?

The association of East Asians with CalTech is now as strong as the association of blacks with violent crime. Can not race conscious jurisprudence be far behind?

Around a millenium ago in England it mattered to the court if you were a commoner or a noble. Nobles could exercise 'high justice' with impunity. They were held to different standards. Their testimony counted for more in court. The law was class concious.

Then we had centuries of reform. We had 'Common Law'. By the time of our revolution the idea that all were equal before the law was a very American kind of idea. We were proud that unlike England we did not have a class system.

Today we seem to be on the threshold of a similar sytem of privileges and rights based on race. Let me give an example. If there were a domestic riot of somekind and a breakdown of public order, the authorities might very well impose a cufew. That makes good sense for black male teens but makes little or no sense for elderly Chinese women. I can envision a time when we have race specific policies for curfews and similar measures.

It seems to be starting in schools. It could be that the idea of equality before the law was an idea that only flourished between the fifteenth century and the twenty first.

Anonymous November 28, 2012 at 11:06 pm GMT

"But filling out a few very simple forms and having their test scores and grades scores automatically forwarded to a list of possible universities would give them at least the same chance in the lottery as any other applicant whose academic skills were adequate."

They get a lot of applications. I am guessing they chuck about 1/2 or more due to the application being incomplete, the applicant did not follow instructions, the application was sloppy, or just obviously poor grades/test scores. The interview and perhaps the essay and recommendations are necessary to chuck weirdos and psychopaths you do not want sitting next to King Fahd Jr. So the "byzantine" application process is actually necessary to reduce the number of applicants to be evaluated.

Kelly November 28, 2012 at 11:15 pm GMT

I have a friend who went to Stanford with me in the early 80s. She has two sons who recently applied to Stanford. The older son had slightly better grades and test scores. The younger son is gay. Guess which one got in?

Anonymous November 28, 2012 at 11:31 pm GMT

Bryan,

If you were in Columbia's GS school, (or even if you were CC/SEAS/Barnard) you ought to reach out to some of on-campus and alumni veteran's groups. They can help you maneuver through the school. (I know there's one that meets at a cafe on 122 and Broadway) CU can be a lonely and forbidding place for anyone and that goes double for GSers and quadruple for veterans.

You ought to give it another go. Especially if you aren't going somewhere else that's better. Reach out to your deans and make a fuss. No one in the bureaucracy wants to help but you can force them to their job.

FN November 28, 2012 at 11:44 pm GMT

Mr. Unz, the issues of jewish/gentile intermarriage and the significance of jewish-looking names do indeed merit more consideration than they were given in this otherwise very enlightening article.

What would the percentage of jews in Ivy-League universities look like if the methodology used to determine the percentage of jewish NMS semifinalists were applied to the list of Ivy League students (or some available approximation of it)?

Ben K November 29, 2012 at 12:24 am GMT

For background: I'm an Asian-American who worked briefly in legacy admissions at an Ivy and another non-Ivy top-tier, both while in school (work-study) and as an alum on related committees.

Mendy Finkel's observations are spot on. Re: her 1st point, personal "presentation" or "branding" is often overlooked by Asian applicants. An admission officer at another Ivy joked they drew straws to assign "Night of a 1000 Lee's", so accomplished-but-indistinguishable was that group.

A few points on the Asian analysis:

1. I think this analysis would benefit from expanding beyond HYP/Ivies when considering the broader meritocracy issue. Many Asians esteem technical-leaning schools over academically-comparable liberal arts ones, even if the student isn't a science major. When I was in college in the 90′s, most Asian parents would favor a Carnegie Mellon or Hopkins over Brown, Columbia or Dartmouth (though HYP, of course, had its magnetic appeal). The enrollment percentages reflect this, and while some of this is changing, this is a fairly persistent pattern.

2. Fundraising is crucial. The Harvard Class of '77 example isn't the most telling kind of number. In my experience, Jewish alumni provide a critical mass in both the day-to-day fundraising and the resultant dollars. And they play a key role, both as givers and getters, in the signature capital campaign commitments (univ hospitals, research centers, etc.). This isn't unique to Jewish Ivy alumni; Catholic alumni of ND or Georgetown provide similar support. But it isn't clear what the future overall Asian commitment to the Ivy "culture of fundraising" will be, which will continue to be a net negative in admissions.

Sidenote: While Asians greatly value the particular civic good, they are uneasy with it being so hinged to an opaque private sector, in this case, philanthropy. That distinction, blown out a bit, speaks to some of the Republican "Asian gap".

3. I would not place too much weight on NMS comparisons between Asians and Jews. In my experience, most Asians treat the PSAT seriously, but many established Jews do not – the potential scholarship money isn't a factor, "NMS semifinalist" isn't an admissions distinction, and as Mendy highlighted, colleges don't see the scores.

On a different note, while the "weight" of an Ivy degree is significant, it's prestige is largely concentrated in the Northeast and among some overseas. In terms of facilitating access and mobility, a USC degree might serve you better in SoCal, as would an SMU one in TX.

And like J Harlan, I also hope the recent monopoly of Harvard and Yale grads in the presidency will end. No doubt, places like Whittier College, Southwest Texas State Teachers' College, and Eureka College gave earlier presidents valuable perspectives and experience that informed their governing.

But thank you, Ron, for a great provocative piece. Very well worth the read.

Anonymous November 29, 2012 at 12:28 am GMT

Hey Ron, your next article should be on the military academies, and all those legacies that go back to the Revolutionary War. How do you get into the French military academy, and do the cadets trace their family history back to the soldiers of Napoleon or Charles Martel or whatever?

M_Young November 29, 2012 at 1:46 am GMT

"Thus, there appears to be no evidence for racial bias against Asians, even excluding the race-neutral impact of athletic recruitment, legacy admissions, and geographical diversity."

Yes, at UCLA, at least up to 2004, Asian and white admits had nearly identical SATs and GPAs.

Further, it just isn't the case that Asians are so spectacular as people seem to think. Their average on the SAT Verbal is slightly less than whites, their average on SAT Writing is slightly more. Only in math do they have a significant advantage, 59 points or .59 standard deviation. Total advantage is about .2 over the three tests. Assuming that Harvard or Yale admit students at +3 standard deviations overall, and plugging the relative group quantiles +(3, 2.8) into a normal distribution, we get that .14% of white kids would get admitted, versus .26% of Asian kids. Or, 1.85 Asian kids for every one white kid.

But, last year 4.25 times as many whites as Asians took the SAT, so there still should be about 2.28 times as many white kids being admitted as Asians (4.25/1.85).

On GPA, whites and Asians are also pretty similar on average, 3.52 for Asians who took the SAT, 3.45 for whites who took the SAT. So that shouldn't be much of a factor.

Anonymous November 29, 2012 at 4:04 am GMT

I am a Cadet at the US Military Academy at West Point and generally pretty familiar with trans-national Academy admissions processes. There's an excellent comparative study of worldwide military academy admissions that was done in the late '90′s you might find interesting (IIRC it was done by a group in the NATO Defence College) and I think you will find that although soldiers are often proud of their family histories to a fault, it is not what controls entrance to the officer corps in most countries.

"Legacy" is definitely meaningless in US Military Academy admissions, although can be very helpful in the separate process of securing a political appointment to attend the Academy once accepted for admission and in an Army career. West Point is not comparable to the Ivy League schools in the country, because (ironically) the admissions department that makes those comparisons lets in an inordinate number of unqualified candidates and ensures our student body includes a wide range of candidates, from people who are unquestionably "Ivy League material" to those who don't have the intellect to hack it at any "elite" institution.

Prior the changes in admissions policies and JFK ordering an doubling of the size of the Corps of Cadets in the '60′s, we didn't have this problem. But, I digress. My point is, the Academy admissions system is very meritocratic.

Todd November 29, 2012 at 5:49 am GMT

Thank you for the great article.

I am a Jewish alum of UPenn, and graduated in the late 90s. That puts me almost a generation ago, which may be before the supposed Jewish decline you write about. I was in an 80%+ Jewish fraternity, and at least 2/3 of my overall network of friends at Penn was also Jewish. As was mentioned earlier, I have serious qualms with your methods for counting Jews based upon last name.

Based upon my admittedly non-scientific sample, the percentage of us who had traditionally Jewish last names was well under half and closer to 25%. My own last name is German, and you would never know I am Jewish based solely upon my name (nor would you based upon the surname of 3/4 of my grandparents, despite my family being 100% Jewish with no intermarriages until my sister).

By contrast, Asians are much easier to identify based upon name. You may overcount certain names like Lee that are also Caucasian, but it is highly unlikely that you will miss any Asian students when your criterion is last name.

Admittedly I skimmed parts of the article, but were other criterion used to more accurately identify the groups?

Interesting November 29, 2012 at 7:02 am GMT

Great article.

The Jewish presence is definitely understated by just looking at surnames. As is the American Indian.

My maternal grandfather was Ashkenazi and his wife was 1/2 Ashkenazi and 1/4 Apache. He changed his name to a Scots surname that matched his red hair so as to get ahead as a business man in 20s due to KKK and anti-German feelings at the time. Their kids had two PHDs and a Masters between them despite their parents running a very blue collar firm.

My surname comes from my dad and its a Scottish surname although he was 1/4 Cherokee. On that side we are members of the FF of Virignia. Altogether I am more Jewish and American Indian than anything else yet would be classified as white. I could easily claim to be
Jewish or Indian on admissions forms. I always selected white. I was NMSF.

Both my sister and I have kids. Her husband is a full blood Indian with a common English surname. One of my nieces made NMSF and another might. My sisters kids do not think of themselves as any race and check other.

My wife is 1/4 Indian and 3/4 English. My kids are young yet one has tested to an IQ in the 150s.

Once you get West of the Appalachians, there are a lot of mutts in the non-gentile whites. A lot of Jews and American Indians Anglicized themselves a generation or two ago and they are lumped into that group – as well as occupy the top percentile academically.

A Jew November 29, 2012 at 7:44 am GMT

Interesting article with parts I would agree with but also tinged with bias and conclusions that I would argue are not fully supported by the data.

I think more analysis is needed to confirm your conclusions. As others have mentioned there may be problems with your analysis of NMS scores. I think graduate admissions and achievements especially in the math and sciences would be a better measure of intellectual performance.

Now, I didn't attend an Ivy League school, instead a public university, mainly because I couldn't afford it or so I thought. I was also a NMS finalist.

But I always was of the opinion that except for the most exceptional students admission to the Ivies was based on the wealth of your family and as you mentioned there are quite a few affluent Jews so I imagine they do have a leg up. Harvard's endowment isn't as large as it is by accident.

It is interesting that you didn't discuss the stats for Stanford.

Lastly, I think your solution is wrong. The pure meritocracy is the only fair solution. Admissions should be based upon the entrance exams like in Asia and Europe.

There are plenty of options for those who don't want to compete and if the Asians dominate admissions at the top schools so be it.

Hopefully, all of this will be mute point n a few years as online education options become more popular with Universities specializing in graduate education and research.

Leon November 29, 2012 at 10:24 am GMT

Ron Unz on Asians (ie Asian Americans): "many of them impoverished immigrant families"

Why do you twice repeat this assertion. Asians are the wealthiest race and most of the wealthiest ethnic groups tracked by the Census Bureau, which includes immigrants.

A potentially bigger issue completely ignored by your article is how do colleges differentiate between 'foreign' students (overwhelmingly Asian) and American students. Many students being counted as "Asian American" are in reality wealthy and elite foreign "parachute kids" (an Asian term), dropped onto the generous American education system or into boarding schools to study for US entrance exams, qualify for resident tuition rates and scholarships, and to compete for "American" admissions slots, not for the usually limited 'foreign' admission slots.

Probably people from non-Asian countries are pulling the same stunt, but it seems likely dominated by Asians. And expect many more with the passage of the various "Dream Acts"

So American kids must compete with the offspring of all the worlds corrupt elite for what should be opportunities for US Americans.

Weighty Commentary November 29, 2012 at 12:03 pm GMT

New York PSAT data:

http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/research/NY_12_05_02_01.pdf

In New York Asian-Americans make up 9.5%, whites 50.4%, Latinos 18.3% and African-Americans 15.7%.

California PSAT data:

http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/research/CA_12_05_02_01.pdf

In California Asian-Americans make up 19.7% of PSAT takers, and whites make up 31.9%, with 37% Latino and 5.7% African-American.

Anonymous November 29, 2012 at 2:01 pm GMT

Am I the only one that finds the comparison of Asians (a race) to Jews (a religion) as basis for a case of discrimination completely flawed? I got in at Harvard and don't remember them even asking me what my religion was.

The value of diversity is absolutely key. I have a bunch of very good Asian friends and I love them dearly, but I don't believe a place like CalTech with its 40% demographics cannot truly claim to be a diverse place any more.

nooffensebut says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment November 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm GMT

Regarding the SAT, we do know more than just differences of averages between whites and Asians. We have some years of score distributions . As recently as 1992, 1.2% of whites and 5.1% of Asians scored between 750 and 800 on the math subtest. As recently as 1985, 0.20% of whites and 0.26% of Asians scored in that range on the verbal/critical reading subtest.

On a different form of the writing subtest than is currently used, 5.0% of whites and 3.0% of Asians scored greater than 60 in 1985. We also know that, as the white-Asian average verbal/critical reading gap shrank to almost nothing and the average math gap grew in Asians' favor, the standard deviations on both for Asians have been much higher than every other group but have stayed relatively unchanged and have become, in fact, slightly lower than in 1985.

Therefore, Asians probably greatly increased their share of top performers.

Anonymous November 29, 2012 at 2:44 pm GMT

@Milton F.: "Perhaps, by ensuring that "the best" students are not concentrated in only 8 universities is why the depth and quality of America's education system remains the envy of the world."

Hardly. America's education system is "the envy" because of the ability for minorities to get placement into better schools, not solely for the education they receive. Only a very select few institutions are envied for their education primarily, 90% of the colleges and universities across the country are sub-standard education providers, same with high schools.

I would imagine you're an educator at some level, more than likely, at one of the sub-standard colleges or even perhaps a high school teacher. You're attempting to be defensive of the American education system, when in reality, you're looking at the world through rose colored glasses. Working from within the system, rather than from the private sector looking back, gives you extreme tunnel vision. That, coupled with the average "closed mindedness" of educators in America is a dangerous approach to advancing the structure of the American education system. You and those like you ARE the problem and should be taken out of the equation as quickly as possible. Please retire ASAP or find another career.

Rob Schacter November 29, 2012 at 3:37 pm GMT

Aside from the complete lack of actual ivy league admission data on jewish applicants, a big problem with unz's "jewish affirmative action" claim is how difficult such a policy would be to carry out in complete secrecy.

Now, it would be one thing if Unz was claiming that jews are being admitted with similar numbers to non-jewish whites, but in close cases, admissions staff tend to favor jewish applicants. But he goes much further than that. Unz is claiming that jews, as a group, are being admitted with lower SAT scores than non-jewish whites. Not only that, but this policy is being carried out by virtually every single ivy league college and it has been going on for years. Moreover, this preference is so pervasive, that it allows jews to gain admissions at many times the rate that merit alone would yield, ultimately resulting in entering classes that are over 20% Jewish.

If a preference this deep, consistent and widespread indeed exists, there is no way it could be the result of subjective bias or intentional tribal favoritism on the part of individual decision makers. It would have to be an official, yet unstated, admissions policy in every ivy league school. Over the years, dozens (if not hundreds) of admission staff across the various ivy league colleges would be engaging in this policy, without a single peep ever leaking through about Jewish applicants getting in with subpar SAT scores. We hear insider reports all the time about one group is favored or discriminated against (we even have such an insider account in this comment thread), but we hear nothing about the largest admission preference of them all.

Remember, admissions staffs usually include other ethnic minorities. I couldn't imagine them not wondering why jews need to be given such a big boost so that they make up almost a quarter of the entering class. Even if every member of every admissions committee were Jewish liberals, it would still be almost impossible to keep this under wraps.

Obviously, I have never seen actual admission numbers for Jewish applicants, so I could be wrong, and there could in fact be an unbreakable wall of secrecy regarding the largest and most pervasive affirmative action practice in the country. Or, perhaps, the ivy league application pool contains a disproportionate amount of high scoring jewish applicants.

Anonymous says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment November 29, 2012 at 5:41 pm GMT

As some who is Jewish from the former Soviet Union, and who was denied even to take an entrance exam to a Moscow college, I am saddened to see that American educational admission process looks more and more "Soviet" nowadays. Kids are denied opportunities because of their ethnic or social background, in a supposedly free and fair country!

But this is just a tip of the iceberg. The American groupthink of political correctness, lowest common denominator, and political posturing toward various political/ethnic/religious/sexual orientation groups is rotting this country inside out.

Worse things are yet to come.

Julia November 29, 2012 at 6:13 pm GMT

"Similarly, Jews were over one-quarter of the top students in the Physics Olympiad from 1986 to 1997, but have fallen to just 5 percent over the last decade, a result which must surely send Richard Feynman spinning in his grave."

Actually, Richard Feynman famously rejected genetic explanations of Jewish achievement (whether he was right or wrong to do so is another story), and aggressively resisted any attempts to list him as a "Jewish scientist" or "Jewish Nobel Prize winner." I am sure he would not cared in the slightest bit how many Jews were participating in the Physics Olympiad, as long as the quality of the students' work continued to be excellent. Here is a letter he wrote to a woman seeking to include him in a book about Jewish achievement in the sciences.

Dear Miss Levitan:

In your letter you express the theory that people of Jewish origin have inherited their valuable hereditary elements from their people. It is quite certain that many things are inherited but it is evil and dangerous to maintain, in these days of little knowledge of these matters, that there is a true Jewish race or specific Jewish hereditary character. Many races as well as cultural influences of men of all kinds have mixed into any man. To select, for approbation the peculiar elements that come from some supposedly Jewish heredity is to open the door to all kinds of nonsense on racial theory.

Such theoretical views were used by Hitler. Surely you cannot maintain on the one hand that certain valuable elements can be inherited from the "Jewish people," and deny that other elements which other people may find annoying or worse are not inherited by these same "people." Nor could you then deny that elements that others would consider valuable could be the main virtue of an "Aryan" inheritance.

It is the lesson of the last war not to think of people as having special inherited attributes simply because they are born from particular parents, but to try to teach these "valuable" elements to all men because all men can learn, no matter what their race.

It is the combination of characteristics of the culture of any father and his father plus the learning and ideas and influences of people of all races and backgrounds which make me what I am, good or bad. I appreciate the valuable (and the negative) elements of my background but I feel it to be bad taste and an insult to other peoples to call attention in any direct way to that one element in my composition.

At almost thirteen I dropped out of Sunday school just before confirmation because of differences in religious views but mainly because I suddenly saw that the picture of Jewish history that we were learning, of a marvelous and talented people surrounded by dull and evil strangers was far from the truth. The error of anti-Semitism is not that the Jews are not really bad after all, but that evil, stupidity and grossness is not a monopoly of the Jewish people but a universal characteristic of mankind in general. Most non-Jewish people in America today have understood that. The error of pro-Semitism is not that the Jewish people or Jewish heritage is not really good, but rather the error is that intelligence, good will, and kindness is not, thank God, a monopoly of the Jewish people but a universal characteristic of mankind in general.

Therefore you see at thirteen I was not only converted to other religious views but I also stopped believing that the Jewish people are in any way "the chosen people." This is my other reason for requesting not to be included in your work.

I am expecting that you will respect my wishes.

Sincerely yours,

Richard Feynman

Ben K November 29, 2012 at 6:43 pm GMT

@Rob Schacter – your last point is basically spot-on. The Ivies are fairly unique in the high proportion of Jewish applicants. History, geographical bias, and self-selection all play a role. I think the overall preference distortion is probably not as wide as Unz claims, but you will see similar tilts at Stanford, Northwestern, etc. that reflect different preference distortions.

@Leon, two quick points.

1st – the census tracks by household, which generally overestimates Asian wealth. Many families have three generations and extended members living in one household (this reflects that many of them work together in a small family business).

2nd – most of the time, it's clear in the application (the HS, personal info, other residency info, etc.) which Asian applicants are Asian-American and which are "Parachute Kids". But the numbers are much smaller than one might think, and the implication depends on the school.

At Ivies, parachute kids (both Asian and not) tend to compete with each other in the application pool, and aren't substantially informing the broader admissions thesis in this article. I'm not saying that's right, just saying it's less material than we might think.

They more likely skew the admissions equation in great-but-not-rich liberal arts colleges (like Grinnell) and top public universities (like UCLA), which are both having budget crises and need full fare students, parachute or not. And for the publics, this includes adding more higher-tuition, out-of-state students, which further complicates assertions of just whose opportunities are being lost.

I will bring this back to fundraising and finances again, because the broader point is about who is stewarding and creating access: so long as top universities are essentially run as self-invested feedback loops, and position and resource themselves accordingly (and other universities have to compete with them), we will continue to see large, persistent discrepancies in who can participate.

Eric Rasmusen November 29, 2012 at 7:58 pm GMT

When I applied to Harvard College back in 1976, I was proud of my application essay. In it, I proposed that the US used the Israeli army as a proxy, just as the Russians were using the Cuban army at the time.
Alas, I wasn't admitted (I did get into Yale, which didn't require free-form essay like that).

This, of course, illustrates the point that coming from an Application Hell instead of from central Illinois helps a student know how to write applications. It also illustrates what might help explain the mystery of high Jewish admissions: political bias. Jews are savvier about knowing what admissions officers like to hear (including the black and Latino ones, who as a previous commentor said aren't likely to be pro-semite). They are also politically more liberal, and so don't have to fake it. And their families are more likely to read the New York Times and thus have the right "social graces" as we might call them, of this age.

It would be interesting to know how well "true WASPS" do in admissions. This could perhaps be estimated by counting Slavic and Italian names, or Puritan New England last names. I would expect this group to do almost as well as Jews (not quite as well, because their ability would be in the lower end of the Legacy group).


David in Cali November 29, 2012 at 8:16 pm GMT

The missing variable in this analysis is income/class. While Unz states that many elite colleges have the resources to fund every student's education, and in fact practice need-blind admissions, the student bodies are skewed towards the very highest percentile of the income and wealth distribution. SAT scores may also scale with parents' income as well.

Tuition and fees at these schools have nearly doubled relative to inflation in the last 25-30 years, and with home prices in desirable neighborhoods showing their own hyper-inflationary behavior over the past couple of decades (~15 yrs, especially), the income necessary to pay for these schools without burdening either the student or parents with a lot of debt has been pushed towards the top decile of earners. A big chunk of the upper middle class has been priced out. This could hit Asian professionals who may be self made harder than other groups like Jews who may be the second or third generation of relative affluence, and would thus have advantages in having less debt when starting their families and careers and be less burdened in financing their homes. Would be curious to see the same analysis if $$ could be controlled.


David in Cali November 29, 2012 at 8:19 pm GMT

I would also like to add that I am a late '80′s graduate of Wesleyan who ceased his modest but annual financial contribution to the school after reading The Gatekeepers.


Rebecca November 29, 2012 at 9:33 pm GMT

If I had a penny for every Jewish American I met (including myself) whose first and last name gave no indication of his religion or ethnicity, I'd be rich. Oh–and my brother and I have four Ivy League degrees between us.


Anonymous November 29, 2012 at 10:16 pm GMT

I almost clicked on a different link the instance I came across the word "elite" , but curiosity forced my hand.

Just yesterday my mom was remarking how my cousin had gotten into MIT with an SAT score far below what I scored, and she finished by adding that I should have applied to an ivy-league college after high school. I as always, reminded her, I'm too "black for ivy games".

I always worked hard in school, participated in olympiads and symposiums, and was a star athlete. When it came to applying for college I found myself startled when forced to "quantify" my achievements in an "application package". I did not do or engage in these activities solely to boost my chances of gaining admission into some elite college over similarly-hardworking Henry Wang or Jess Steinberg. I did these things because I loved doing them.

Sports after class was almost a relaxation activity for me. Participating in math olympiads was a way for me to get a scoop on advanced mathematics. Participating in science symposiums was a chance for me to start applying my theoretical education to solve practical problems.

The moment I realized I would have to kneel down before some admissions officer and "present my case", outlining my "blackness", athleticism, hard work, curiosity, and academic ability, in that specific order I should point, in order to have a fighting chance at getting admitted; is the moment all my "black rage" came out in an internal explosion of rebellion and disapproval of "elite colleges".

I instead applied to a college that was blind to all of the above factors. I am a firm believer that hard work and demonstrated ability always win out in the end. I've come across, come up against is a better way to put it, Ivy-league competition in college competitions and applications for co-ops and internships, and despite my lack of "eliteness" I am confident that my sheer ability and track record will put me in the "interview candidate" pool.

Finally, my opinion is: let elite schools keep doing what they are doing. It isn't a problem at all, the "elite" tag has long lost its meaning.


Anonymous November 29, 2012 at 10:52 pm GMT

The difficulty with using Jewish sounding last names to identify Jewish students works poorly in two ways today. Not only, as others have pointed out, do many Jews not have Jewish sounding last names, but there are those, my grandson for example, who have identifiably Jewish last names and not much in the way of Jewish background.


Anonymous November 29, 2012 at 11:34 pm GMT

Interesting reading. The article opens a deceptively simple statistical window into a poorly understood process - a window which I would guess even the key participants have never looked through. I especially appreciated the insights provided by the author's examination of Asian surname-frequencies and their over-representation in NMS databases.

Though this is a long and meticulously argued piece, it would have benefited from a more thorough discussion of the statistical share of legacies and athletic scholarships in elite admissions.

Perhaps, though, it would be better to focus on increasing meritocracy in the broader society, which would inevitably lead to some discounting of the value of educational credentials issued by these less than meritocratic private institutions.

It is precisely because the broader society is also in many key respects non-meritocratic that the non-meritocratic admissions practices of elite institutions are sustainable.


Anon November 29, 2012 at 11:50 pm GMT

Despite the very long and detailed argument, the writer's interpretation of a pro-Jewish admissions bias at Ivy-league schools is worryingly flawed.

First, he uses two very different methods of counting Jews: name recognition for counting various "objective" measures such as NMS semifinalists and Hillel stats for those admitted to Harvard. The first is most likely an underestimate while the latter very possibly inflated (in both cases especially due to the very large numbers of partially-Jewish students, in the many interpretations that has). I wonder how much of his argument would just go away if he simply counted the number of Jews in Harvard using the same method he used to count their numbers in the other cases. Would that really be hard to do?

Second, he overlooks the obvious two sources that can lead to such Asian/Jewish relative gaps in admissions. The first is the different groups' different focus on Science/Math vs. on Writing/Culture. It is very possible that in recent years most Asians emphasize the former while Jews the latter, which would be the natural explanation to the Caltech vs Harvard racial composition (as well as to the other stats). The second is related but different and it is the different group's bias in applications: the same cultural anecdotes would explain why Asians would favor applying to Caltech and Jews to Harvard. A natural interpretation of the data would be that Jews have learned to optimize for whatever criteria the Ivy leagues are using and the Asians are doing so for the Caltech criteria.

Most strange is the author's interpretation of how a pro-Jewish bias in admissions is actually put into effect: the application packets do not have the data of whether the applicant is Jewish or not, and I doubt that most admission officers figure it out in most cases. While it could be possible for admissions officers to have a bias for or against various types of characteristics that they see in the data in front of them (say Asian/Black/White or political activity), a systematic bias on unobserved data is a much more difficult proposition to make. Indeed the author becomes rather confused here combining the low education level of admissions officers, that they are "liberal arts or ethnic-studies majors" (really?), that they are "progressive", and that there sometimes is corruption, all together presumably leading to a bias in favor of Jews?

Finally, the author's suggestion for changing admittance criteria is down-right bizarre for a conservative: The proposal is a centralized solution that he aims to force upon the various private universities, each who can only loose from implementing it.

Despite the long detailed (but extremely flawed) article, I am afraid that it is more a reflection of the author's biases than of admissions biases.


Allan November 30, 2012 at 3:00 am GMT

Both the article and the comments are illuminating. My takeaways:

1) Affirmative action in favor of blacks and Hispanics is acknowledged.

2) Admissions officers in the Ivy League appear to limit Asian admissions somewhat relative to the numbers of qualified applicants.

3) They may also admit somewhat more Jewish applicants than would be warranted relative to their comparative academic qualifications. The degree to which this is true is muddled by the difficulty of identifying Jews by surnames, by extensive intermarriage, by changing demographics within the Jewish population, by geographic factors, and by the propensity to apply in the first place.

4) (My major takeaway.) White Protestants and Catholics are almost certainly the sole groups that are greatly under-represented relative to their qualifications as well as to raw population percentages.

5) This is due partly to subtle or open discrimination.

6) I would hypothesize that a great many of the white Protestants and Catholics who are admitted are legacies, star athletes, and the progeny of celebrities in entertainment, media, politics, and high finance. White Protestant or Catholic applicants, especially from the hinterlands, who don't fit one of these special categories–though they must be a very large component of Mr Unz's pool of top talent–are out of luck.

7) And everyone seems to think this is just fine.

The inner and outer ring idea seems to me an excellent one, though the likelihood of it happening is next to nil, both because some groups would lose disproportionate access and because the schools' imprimatur would be diminished in
value.

The larger point, made by several respondents, is that far too many institutions place far too much weight on the credentials conferred by a small group of screening institutions. The great advantage of the American system is not that it is meritocratic, either objectively or subjectively. It is that it is–or was–Protean in its flexibility. One could rise through luck or effort or brains, with credentials or without them, early in life or after false starts and setbacks. And there were regional elites or local elites rather than, as we increasingly see, a single, homogenized national elite. Success or its equivalent wasn't something institutionally conferred.

The result of the meritocratic process is that we are making a race of arrogant, entitled overlords, extremely skilled at the aggressive and assertive arts required to gain admission to, and to succeed in, a few similar and ideologically skewed universities and colleges; and who spend the remainder of their lives congratulating each other, bestowing themselves on the populace, and destroying the country.

No wonder we are where we are.


WG November 30, 2012 at 11:53 am GMT

This article is the product of careful and thoughtful research, and it identifies a problem hiding in plain sight. As a society, we have invested great trust in higher education as a transformative institution. It is clear that we have been too trusting.

That the admissions policies of elite universities are meritocratic is hardly the only wrong idea that Americans have about higher education. Blind faith in higher education has left too many people with largely worthless degrees and crushing student-loan debt.

Of course, the problems don't end with undergraduate education. The "100 reasons NOT to go to grad school" blog offers some depressing reading:

http://100rsns.blogspot.com/

The higher education establishment has failed to address so many longstanding internal structural problems that it's hard to imagine that much will change anytime soon.


candid_observer November 30, 2012 at 1:25 pm GMT

Jack above makes the following point:

"I believe that this article raises – and then inappropriately immediately dismisses – the simplest and most likely reason for the over-representation of Jewish students at Ivy League Schools in the face of their declining bulk academic performance:

They apply to those schools in vastly disproportionate numbers."

Here's the problem with that point. What Ron Unz demonstrates, quite effectively, is that today's Jews simply don't measure up to either their Asian or their White Gentile counterparts in terms of actual performance when they get into, say, Harvard. The quite massive difference in the proportions of those groups who get into Phi Beta Kappa renders this quite undeniable. What is almost certain is that policies that favored Asians and White Gentiles over the current crop of Jewish students would create a class of higher caliber in terms of academic performance.

If indeed it's true that Jews apply to Harvard in greater numbers, then, if the desire is to produce a class with the greatest academic potential, some appropriate way of correcting for the consequent distortion should be introduced. Certainly when it comes to Asians, college admissions committees have found their ways of reducing the numbers of Asians admitted, despite their intense interest in the Ivies.


candid_observer November 30, 2012 at 1:40 pm GMT

One way of understanding Unz's results here might be not so much that today's Jewish student is far less inclined to hard academic work than those of yesteryear, but rather that others - White Gentiles and Asians - have simply caught up in terms of motivation to get into elite schools and perform to the best of their abilities.

Certainly among members of the upper middle class, there has been great, and likely increasing, emphasis in recent years on the importance of an elite education and strong academic performance for ultimate success. This might well produce a much stronger class of students at the upper end applying to the Ivies.

It may be that not only the Asians, but upper middle class White Gentiles, are "The New Jews".


Howard November 30, 2012 at 5:11 pm GMT

I don't always agree with, Mr. Unz, but his expositions are always provocative and informative. As far as the criticisms of his data set go, he openly admits that they are less than ideal. However, the variances are so large that the margin of error can be excused. Jews are 40 TIMES more likely to be admitted to Harvard than Gentile whites. Asians are 10 times more likely. Of course, it could be possible that Jews, because of higher average IQs, actually produce 40 times as many members in the upper reaches of the cognitive elite.

Given Richard Lynn's various IQ studies of Jews and the relative preponderance of non-Jewish and Jewish whites in the population, however, whites ought to have a 7 to 1 representation vis-a-vis Jews in Ivy League institutions, assuming the IQ cutoff is 130. Their numbers are roughly equivalent instead.

Because Ivy League admissions have been a hotbed of ethnic nepotism in the past, it seems that special care should be taken to avoid these improprieties (or the appearance thereof) in the future. But no such safeguards have been put in place. David Brooks has also struck the alarm about the tendency of elites to shut down meritocratic institutions once they have gained a foothold: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/13/opinion/brooks-why-our-elites-stink.html?_r=1&ref=global-home

Clannish as the WASPs may have been, they were dedicated enough to ideals of fairness and equality that they opened the doors for their own dispossession. I predict that a new Asian elite will eventually eclipse our Jewish elite. Discrimination and repression can restrain a vigorously ascendant people but for so long. When they do, it will be interesting to see if this Asian cohort clings to its longstanding Confucian meritocratic traditions, embodied in the Chinese gaokao or if it too will succumb to the temptation, ever present in a multiethnic polity, of preferring ethnic kinsmen over others.

Does anyone know how a minority such as the Uighurs fares in terms of elite Chinese university admissions?


Daniel November 30, 2012 at 7:39 pm GMT

This may sound like special-pleading, but it's not clear that full-scale IQ measures are meaningful when assessing and predicting Jewish performance. Jewish deficits on g-loaded spatial reasoning task may reflect specific visuo-spatial deficits and not deficits in g. As far as I know, no one doubts that the average Jewish VIQ is at least 112 (and possibly over 120). This score may explain jewish representation which seems to exceed what would be projected by their full-scale iq scores. Despite PIQ's correllation to mathematical ability in most populations, we ought also remember that, at least on the WAIS, it is the VIQ scale that includes the only directly mathematical subtest. We should also note that Jewish mathematicians seem to use little visualization in their reasoning (cf. Seligman

That said, I basically agree that Jews are, by and large, coasting. American Jews want their children to play hockey and join 'greek life' and stuff, not sit in libraries . It's sad for those of us who value the ivory tower, but understandable given their stigmatiziation as a nerdish people.


Nick November 30, 2012 at 9:06 pm GMT

I wonder if it would be at all possible to assess the political biases of admissions counselors at these schools by assessing the rates at which applicants from red states are admitted to the elite universities. I suppose you would have to know how many applied, and those data aren't likely to exist in the public domain.


Alex November 30, 2012 at 9:47 pm GMT

One major flaw with this article's method of determining Jewish representation: distinctive Jewish surnames in no way make up all Jewish surnames. Distinctive Jewish surnames happen to be held by only 10-12% of all American Jews. In fact, the third most common American Jewish surname after Cohen and Levy is Miller. Mr. Unz' methodology does not speak well for itself, given that he's comparing a limited set of last names against a far more carefully scrutinized estimate.

I'm not suggesting his estimate of national merit scholars and the like is off by a full 90%, but he's still ending up with a significant undercount, possibly close to half. That would still mean Jews may be "wrongfully" over-represented are many top colleges and universities, but the disproportion is nowhere near as nefarious as he would suggest.


Ben K November 30, 2012 at 11:18 pm GMT

@Nick – the "red state" application and admission rates isn't useful data.

Short answer: There are many reasons for this, but basically, historical momentum and comfort play a much bigger role in where kids apply than we think. I assure you, far more top Nebraska HS seniors want to be a Cornhusker than a Crimson, even though many would find a very receptive consideration and financial aid package.

Long answer: 1st, although this article and discussion have been framed in broad racial/cultural terms, the mechanics of college admissions are mostly local and a bit like athletic recruiting – coverage (and cultivation) of specific regions and districts, "X" high school historically deliver "X" kinds of candidates, etc. So to the degree we may see broader trends noted in the article and discussion, some of that is rooted at the HS level and lower.

2nd, in "red states", most Ivy applicants come from the few blue or neutral districts. E.g.: the only 2 Utah HS's that consistently have applicants to my Ivy alma mater are in areas that largely mirror other high-income, Dem-leaning areas nationwide rather than the rest of Utah.

3rd, but, with some variation among the schools, the Ivy student body is more politically balanced than usually assumed. Remember, most students are upper-income, Northeastern suburban and those counties' Dem/Rep ratio is often closer to 55/45 than 80/20.

But to wrap up, ideology plays a negligible role in admissions generally (there's always an exception); they have other fish to fry (see below).

@soren in Goldman's post ( http://bit.ly/TrbJSB ) and other commenters here:

"Quota against Asians" is not entirely wrong, but it's too strong because it implies the forward intent is about limiting their numbers.

Put another way, Unz believes the Ivies are failing their meritocractic mission by over-admitting a group that is neither disadvantaged nor has highest technical credentials; and this comes at the expense of a group that is more often disadvantaged and with higher technical credentials. The Ivies would likely reply, "well, we define 'meritocractic mission' differently".

That may be a legitimate counter, but it's also what needs more expansion and sunlight.

But Unz' analysis has a broader causation vs correlation gap. Just because admissions is essentially zero-sum doesn't mean every large discrepancy in it is, even after allowing for soft biases. I've mentioned these earlier in passing, but here are just a couple other factors of note:

Admissions is accountable for selection AND marketing and matriculation – these are not always complementary forces. Essentially, you want to maximize both the number and distribution (racial, geographic, types of accomplishment, etc.) of qualified applicants, but also the number you can safely turn down but without discouraging future applications, upsetting certain stakeholders (specific schools, admissions counselors/consultants, etc.) or "harming" any data in the US News rankings. And you have a very finite time to do this, and – not just your competition, but the entire sector – is essentially doing this at the same time. You can see how an admissions process would develop certain biases over time to limit risks in an unpredictable, high volume market, even if rarely intended to target a specific group. Ivy fixation (but especially around HYP) is particularly concentrated in the Northeast – a sample from several top HS' across America (public and private) would show much larger application and matriculation variations among their top students than would be assumed from Unz's thesis. Different Ivies have different competitors/peers, which influences their diversity breakdowns – to some degree, they all co-compete, but just as often don't. E.g.: Princeton often overlaps with Georgetown and Duke, Columbia with NYU and Cooper Union, Cornell with SUNY honors programs because it has some "in state" public colleges, etc.

There's much more, of course, but returning to Unz's ethnographic thesis, I have this anecdote: we have two friends in finance, whose families think much of their success. The 1st is Asian, went to Carnegie Mellon, and is a big bank's trading CTO; the 2nd is Jewish, went to Wharton, and is in private equity.

Put another way, while both families shared a pretty specific vision of success, they differed a lot in the execution. The upper echelon of universities, and the kinds of elite-level mobility they offer, are much more varied than even 25 years ago. While the relative role of HYP in our country, and their soft biases in admission, are "true enough" to merit discussion, it's probably not the discussion that was in this article.


candid_observer November 30, 2012 at 11:23 pm GMT

Alex,

While you may have a point as to the difficulty in some cases of identifying a Jewish surname, the most important thing methodologically is that the criteria be performed uniformly if one is comparing Jewish representation today vs. that of other periods. I can't think, for example, of any reason that Cohens or Levys or Golds should be any less well represented today as opposed to many years ago if indeed there has not been an underlying shift in numbers of Jews in the relevant categories. (Nor, for that matter, should issues like intermarriage affect the numbers much here - for every mother whose maiden name is Cohen who marries a non-Jew with a non-Jewish surname, and whose half Jewish child will be counted as non-Jewish, there is, on average, going to be a man named Cohen who will marry a non-Jew, and whose half Jewish child will be counted as Jewish.)


Bud Wood November 30, 2012 at 11:43 pm GMT

One might suppose that all this "inequity" and "discrimination" matters if we're keeping score. However, seems to me that too much emphasis is typically placed on equality whereas real criteria in productive and satisfying lives are neglected. Kind'a like some people wanting bragging rights as much, if not more, than wanting positive reality.

I guess I just went about my way and lived a pretty god life (so far). Who knows?; maybe those "bragging rights" are meaningful.

Bud Wood
Grad – Stanford Elec Engrg.


Neil Schipper December 1, 2012 at 4:54 am GMT

Thought provoking article.

Ditto to many comments about the "last name problem", even if its correction weakens but doesn't invalidate the argument. (One imagines, chillingly, a new sub-field: "Jewish last name theory", seeking to determine proportionalities of classic names validated against member/donor lists of synagogues and other Jewish organizations.)

Regarding the 20% inner ring suggestion, it suffers from its harsh transition. Consider a randomized derating scheme: a random number between some lower bound (say 0.90) and 1.00 is applied to each score on the ranked applicant list.

The added noise provides warmth to a cold test scores list. Such an approach nicely captures the directive: "study hard, but it's not all about the grades".

By adjusting the lower bound, you can get whatever degree of representativeness relative to the application base you want.

That it's a "just a number" (rather than a complex subjectivity-laden labyrinth incessantly hacked at by consultants) could allow interesting conversations about how it could relate to the "top 1% / bottom 50%" wealth ratio. The feedback loop wants closure.


Alex December 1, 2012 at 6:12 am GMT

You missed my point, candid. A relatively small proportion of Jews, intermarried or otherwise, have distinctive Jewish names. I didn't make that 10-12% figure up. It's been cited in numerous local Jewish population studies and is used in part (but certainly far from whole) to help estimate those populations. It's also been significantly dragged down over the years as the Jewish population (and hence the surname pool) has diversified, not just from intermarriage, but in-migration from groups who often lack "distinctive Jewish surnames" such as Jews from the former Soviet Union. Consider also that for obvious reasons, Hillel, which maintains Jewish centers on most campus, has an incentive to over-report by a bit. Jewish populations on college campuses in the distant past were easier to gather, given that it was far less un-PC to simply point blank inquire what religious background applicants came from.

Again, I'm not saying there isn't a downward trend in Jewish representation among high achievers (which, even if one were to accept Unz's figures, Jews would still be triple relative to were they "should" be). But Unz has made a pretty significant oversight in doing his calculations. That may happen to further suit his personal agenda, but it's not reality.


Anonymous December 1, 2012 at 3:42 pm GMT

This is interesting, but I suspect mostly bogus, based on your not having a decent algorithm for discovering if someone's Jewish.

I'm not sure what exact mechanism you're using to decide if a name is Jewish, but I'm certain it wouldn't have caught anyone, including myself, in my father's side of the family (Sephardic Jews from Turkey with Turkish surnames), nor my wife's family, an Ellis Island Anglo name. Or probably most of the people in her family. And certainly watching for "Levi, Cohen and Gold*" isn't going to do anything.

And none of us have even intermarried!


conatus December 1, 2012 at 4:10 pm GMT

Isn't the point about Jewish over representation in the Ivy League about absolute numbers?

Yes the Jewish demographic has a higher IQ at 115 to the Goyishe Kop 100 but Jewish people are only 2% of the population so you have 6 million Jewish people vying with 200 million white Goys for admission to the Ivy League and future control of the levers of power. That is a 33 times larger Bell curve so the right tail of the Goys' Bell curve is still much larger than the Jewish Bell curve at IQ levels of 130 and 145, supposedly there are seven times more Goys with IQs of 130 and over 4 times more Goys with IQs of 145. So why the equality of representation, one to one, Jewish to white Goy in the Ivy Leagues?


Andrew says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment December 1, 2012 at 6:29 pm GMT

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-phu-quoc-nguyen/asian-american-students_b_2173993.html I hope everyone can participate in gaining admittance and everyone can improve the system legally. Real repair is needed.


Amanda December 1, 2012 at 6:34 pm GMT

Russell K. Nieli on study by Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Radford (mentioned by Unz):

"When lower-class whites are matched with lower-class blacks and other non-whites the degree of the non-white advantage becomes astronomical: lower-class Asian applicants are seven times as likely to be accepted to the competitive private institutions as similarly qualified whites, lower-class Hispanic applicants eight times as likely, and lower-class blacks ten times as likely. These are enormous differences and reflect the fact that lower-class whites were rarely accepted to the private institutions Espenshade and Radford surveyed. Their diversity-enhancement value was obviously rated very low."

..


Scott Locklin says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment December 1, 2012 at 10:09 pm GMT

Having worked with folks from all manner of "elite" and not so elite schools in a technical field, the main conclusion I was able to draw was folks who went to "elite" colleges had a greater degree of entitlement. And that's it.


Shlomo December 2, 2012 at 4:27 am GMT

If all of the author's suspicions are correct, the most noteworthy takeaway would be that Jewish applicants have absolutely no idea that they are being given preferential treatment when applying to Ivys.

Not that they think they are being discriminated against or anything, but no Jewish high school student or their parents think they have any kind of advantage, let alone such a huge one. Someone should tell all these Jews that they don't need to be so anxious!

Also, I know this is purely anecdotal but having gone to an ivy and knowing the numbers of dozens of other Jews who have also gone, I don't think I have ever witnessed a "surprise" acceptance, where someone got in with a score under the median.


Anonymous December 2, 2012 at 5:22 am GMT

I don't doubt for a minute that it's increasingly difficult for Asian students to get into so-called "elite" universities. Having grown up in that community, I know a lot of people who were pressured into applying at Harvard and Yale but ended up *gasp* going to a very good local school. My sarcasm aside, we can't really deny that having Harvard on your CV can virtually guarantee a ticket to success, regardless of whether or not you were just a C student. It happens.

But what worries me about that is the fact that I know very well how hard Asian families tend to push their children. They do, after all, have one of the highest suicide rates and that's here in the US. If by some means the Asian population at elite universities is being controlled, as I suspect it is, that's only going to make tiger mothers push their children even harder. That's not necessarily a good thing for the child's psyche, so instead of writing a novel here, I'll simply give you this link. Since the author brought up the subject of Amy Chua and her book, I think it's a pretty fitting explanation of the fears I have for my friends and their children if this trend is allowed to continue.

http://www.asianmanwhitewoman.com/jocelyn/editorial/tiger-mother-rebuttal-why-east-west-mothers-are-superior/


Anonymous December 2, 2012 at 9:16 pm GMT

to respond to Alice Zindagi
Asian American does not have higher suicide rate.

http://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/asian-american/suicide.aspx


Anonymous says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment December 2, 2012 at 9:30 pm GMT

As a former admissions staff person at Princeton, I always sigh when I read articles on elite college admissions processes which build cases on data analysis but which fail to consult with admissions experts on the interpretation of that data.

I am neither an expert in sociology, nor am I a statistician, but I have sat in that chair, reading thousands of essays, and I have a few observations:

The most selective part of any college's admissions process is the part where students themselves decides whether or not to apply. Without data on the actual applicant sets, it is, at the least, misleading to attribute incongruities between the overall population's racial/ethnic/income/what-have-you characteristics and the student bodies' make-ups entirely to the admission decisions. The reality is that there is always a struggle in the admission offices to compensate for the inequities that the applicant pool itself delivers to their doorsteps. An experienced admission officer can tell you that applicants from cultures where academics and education are highly valued, and where the emphasis on a single test is quite high, will generally present with very high SAT scores. Race does not seem to be correlated, but immigrant status from such a culture is highly correlated. (This may partially explain Unz's observation of a "decline" in Jewish scores, although I also do not believe that the surname tool for determining which scores are "Jewish" holds much water.) One of the reasons that such students often fare less well in holistic application processes is that the same culture that produces the work ethic and study skills which benefit SAT performance and GPA can also suppress activities and achievement outside of the academic arena. Therefore, to say that these students are being discriminated against because of race is a huge assumption. The true questions is whether the students with higher test scores are presenting activity, leadership and community contributions comparable to other parts of the applicant pool which are "overrepresented". All of these articles seem to miss the point that a freshman class is a fixed size pie chart. Any piece that shrinks or grows will impact the other slices. My first thought upon reading Unz' argument that the Asian slice shrank was, "What other pieces were forced to grow?" Forced growth in another slice of the class is the more likely culprit for this effect, much more likely than the idea that all of the Ivies are systematically discriminating against the latest victim. I could go on and on, but will spare you! My last note is to educate Mr. Unz on what an "Assistant Director" is in college admissions. Generally that position is equivalent to a Senior Admission Officer (one step up from entry level Admission Officer), while the head of the office might be the Dean and the next step down from that would be Associate Deans (not Assistant Directors). So while Michelle Hernandez was an Assistant Director, she was not the second in charge of Admissions, as your article implies. A minor distinction, but one which is important to point out so that her expertise and experience, as well as my own, as AN Assistant Director of Admission at Princeton, are not overstated.

A last personal note: During Princeton's four month reading season, I worked 7 days a week, usually for about 14 hours a day, in order to give the fullest, most human and considerate reading of each and every applicant that I could give. I am sure that the admission profession has its share of incompetents, corruptible people and just plain jerks, and apparently some of us are not intelligent enough to judge the superior applicants . . . . But most of us did it for love of the kids at that age (they are all superstars!), for love of our alma maters and what they did for us, and because we believed in the fairness of our process and the dignity with which we tried to do it.

The sheer numbers of applicants and the fatigue of the long winters lend themselves to making poor jokes such as the "Night of 1000 Lee's", but a good dean of admission will police such disrespect, and encourage the staff, as mine did, to read the last applicant of the day with the same effort, energy and attention paid to the first. We admission folk have our honor, despite being underpaid and playing in a no-win game with regard to media coverage of our activities. I am happy to be able to speak up for the integrity of my former colleagues and the rest of the profession.


Michael O'Hearn says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment December 2, 2012 at 9:43 pm GMT

My own position has always been strongly in the former camp, supporting meritocracy over diversity in elite admissions.

When these Ivy League institutions were first begun in the colonial period, they were not strictly speaking meritocratic. The prevailing idea was that Christocentric education is the right way to go, both from an eschatological and a temporal perspective, and the central focus was on building and strengthening family ties. The Catholic institutions of higher learning took on the vital role of preserving Church tradition from apostolic times and were thus more egalitarian and universalist. The results went far beyond all expectations.

Nothing lasts forever. Your premise misses the essential point that the economy is for man and not vice-versa.


Michael O'Hearn says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment December 3, 2012 at 3:09 am GMT

Perhaps this should have been titled The Reality of American Mediocrity ?


Janet Mertz December 4, 2012 at 12:56 am GMT

Many of the statements in this article relating to Jews are rather misleading: for while the Hillel data regarding percentage of students who self-identify as Jews may be fairly accurate, the numbers the author cites based upon "likely Jewish names" are a gross under-count of the real numbers, leading to the appearance of a large disparity between the two which, in reality, does not exist. The reason for the under-count is that a large percentage of American Jews have either Anglicized their family name or intermarried, resulting in their being mistaken for non-Hispanic whites. Thus, one ends up with incorrect statements such as "since 2000, the percentage (of Jewish Putnam Fellows) has dropped to under 10 percent, without a single likely Jewish name in the last seven years". The reality is that Jews, by Hillel's definition of self-identified students, have continued to be prominent among the Putnam Fellows, US IMO team members, and high scorers in the USA Mathematical Olympiad. I have published a careful analysis of the true ethnic/racial composition of the very top-performing students in these math competitions from recent years (see, Andreescu et al. Notices of the AMS 2008; http://www.ams.org/notices/200810/fea-gallian.pdf ). For example, Daniel Kane, a Putnam Fellow in 2002-2006, is 100% of Jewish ancestry; his family name had been Cohen before it was changed. Brian Lawrence was a Putnam Fellow in 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011; his mother is Jewish. Furthermore, many of the non-Jewish Putnam Fellows in recent years are Eastern European or East-Asian foreigners who matriculated to college in the US; they were not US citizen non-Jewish whites or Asian-Americans, respectively. Rather, my data indicate that in recent years both Jews and Asians have been 10- to 20-over-represented in proportion to their percentage of the US population among the students who excel at the highest level in these math competitions. The authors conclusions based upon data from other types of competitions is likely similarly flawed.


mannning December 4, 2012 at 6:28 am GMT

The title of this piece captured me to read what it was all about. What was discussed was admissions into elite colleges as the only focus on "meritocracy" in America. That leaves the tail of the distribution of high IQ people in America, minus those that make it into elite colleges, to be ignored, especially those that managed to be admitted to Cal Tech, or MIT, or a number of other universities where significant intellectual power is admitted and fostered. this seems to further the meme that only the elite graduates run the nation. They may have an early advantage through connections, but I believe that the Fortune 400 CEO's are fairly evenly spread across the university world.


Eric Rasmusen December 4, 2012 at 4:45 pm GMT

A couple more thoughts:

(1) Jews are better at verbal IQ, Asians at math. Your measures are all math. That woudl be OK if all else were equal across time, but especially because Jews care a lot about admissions to Ivies, what we'd expect is that with growing Asian competition in math/science, Jews would give up and focus their energy on drama/writing/service. I wonder if Jewish kids are doing worse in music competitions too? Or rather- not even entering any more.

(2) For college numbers, adjustment for US/foreign is essential. How many Asians at Yale are foreign? It could well be that Asian-Americans are far more under-represented than it seems, because they face quota competition from a billion Chinese and a billion Indians. Cal Tech might show the same result as the Ivies.

(3) A separate but interesting study would be of humanities and science PhD programs. Different things are going on there, and the contrast with undergrads and with each other might be interseting.

MEH 0910 December 5, 2012 at 1:13 pm GMT

Half Sigma wrote about this Ron Unz article :

I also learned that Jews are no longer as prominent in math and science achievement, and that's not surprising to me at all, because everyone in the elite knows that STEM is for Asians and middle-class kids. Jewish parents have learned that colleges value sports and "leadership" activities more than raw academic achievement and nerdy activities like math olympiads, and that the most prestigious careers are value transference activities which don't require science or high-level math.

You should re-read my critique of Amy Chua's parenting advice . Jews have figured out that's crappy advice for 21st century America.

biaknabato December 6, 2012 at 12:59 am GMT

The higher representation of Jews in the Ivies compared to Asians who have better average academic records compared to Jews (applicants that is ) in the Ivies is due to the greater eligibility of Jews for preferences of every kind in the Ivies. In a typical Ivy school like Harvard, at least 60% of the freshman class will disappear because of the vast system of preferences that exists. There is no doubt that there is racial animus involved despite the denials of the Ivies and other private universities despite the constant denials involved like that of Rosovsky who happens to be a historian by training. Jews are classified as white in this country, hence there would presumably greater affinity for them among the white Board of Trustees and the adcom staff. This is in contrast to Asians who do not share the same culture or body physiogonomy as whites do.

I had read the Unz article and the Andrew Goldman response to it. I just do not agree with Unz with his solutions to this problem. First of all private schools are not going to give legacy preferences and other kinds of preferences for the simple reason that it provides a revenue stream. Harvard is nothing but a business just like your Starbucks or Mcdonald's on the corner.

Around the world private universities regarded as nothing but the dumping ground of the children of the wealthy, the famous and those with connections who cannot compete with others with regards to their talent and ability regardless of what anyone will say from abroad about the private universities in their own country. Bottomline is in other countries , the privates simply do not get the top students in the country, the top public school does. People in other countries will simply look askance at the nonsensical admissions process of the Ivies and other private schools, the system that the Ivies use for admission does not produce more creative people contrary to its claims.

The Goldman response has more to do with the humanities versus math . My simple response to Andrew Goldman would be this : a grade of A in Korean history is different from a grade of A in Jewish history, it is like comparing kiwis and bananas. The fast and decisive way of dealing with this problem is simply to deprive private schools of every single cent of tax money that practices legacy preferences and other kinds repugnant preferences be it for student aid or for research and I had been saying that for a long time. I would like to comment on the many points that had been raised here but I have no time.

Eric Rasmusen December 7, 2012 at 4:16 pm GMT

The solution to a lot of problems would be transparency. I'd love to see the admissions and grade data of even one major university. Public universities should be required to post publicly the names, SAT scores, and transcripts of every student. Allowing such posting should be a requirement for admission.

The public could then investigate further if, for example, it turned out that children of state senators had lower SAT scores. Scholars could then analyze the effect of diversity on student performance.

Of course, already many public universities (including my own, Indiana), post the salaries of their professors on the web, and I haven't seen much analysis or muckraking come out of that.

Anonymous December 8, 2012 at 12:29 am GMT

One factor hinted at in the article, but really needing to be addressed is the "school" that is being attended.

By this, I mean, you need philosophy students to keep the philosophy department going. When I was in college 20 years ago, I was a humanities major. I took 1 class in 4 years with an Asian American student. 1 class. When I walked through the business building, it was about 50% Asian.

Could Asian-American students only wanting to go to Harvard to go into business, science, or math be skewing those numbers? I don't know, but it's just a thought to put out there.

Anonymous says: • Website December 9, 2012 at 12:44 am GMT

You are preaching to the choir! I blog on this extensively on my Asian Blog: JadeLuckClub. This has been going on for the last 30 years or more! All my posts are here under Don't ID as Asian When Applying to College:

http://jadeluckclub.com/category/asian-in-america/dont-id-as-asian-when-applying-to-college/

biaknabato December 12, 2012 at 7:42 am GMT

All private schools basically practice legacy prefrences and other kinds of preferences and this practice has been going on in the Ivies since time immemorial. The income revenue from these gallery of preferences will certainly not encourage the Ivies to give them up.

In many countries around the world, private universiites are basically the dumping ground for the children of the wealthy , the famous and the well connected who could not get into the top public university of their choice in their own country. This no different from the Ivies in this country where these Ivies and other private universities are just a corral or holding pen for the children of the wealthy, the famous and the well connected and the famous who could not compete with others based on their won talent or ability.

Abroad you have basically 3 choices if you could not get into the top public university of that country , they are:

  1. Go to a less competetive public university
  2. Go to a private university
  3. or go abroad to schools like the Ivies or in other countries where the entrance requirements to a public or private university are less competetive compared to the top public universities in your own home country.

You can easily tell a top student from another country, he is the guy who is studying in this country under a government scholarship ( unless of course it was wrangled through corruption ). the one who is studying here through his own funds or through private means is likely to be the one who is a reject from the top public university in his own country. That is how life works.

I am generally satisfied with the data that Ron provided about Jews compared to Asians where Jews are lagging behind Asians at least in grades and SAT scores in the high school level, from the data I had seen posted by specialized schools in NY like Stuy , Bronx Sci, Brook Tech, Lowell (Frisco ) etc.

Ron is correct in asserting that the Ivies little represents the top students in this country. Compare UCLA and for example. For the fall 2011 entering freshman class at UCLA , there were 2391 domestic students at UCLA compared to 1148 at Harvard who scored above 700 in the Math portion of the SAT and there were 439 domestic students who scored a perfect 800 in the Math portion of the SAT at UCLA, more than Harvard or MIT certainly. For the fall 2012 freshman classs at UCLA the figure was 2409 and 447 respectively.

We can devise a freshman class that will use only income, SATS,grades as a basis of admissions that will have many top students like UCLA has using only algorithms.

The central test of fairness in any admissions system is to ask this simple question. Was there anyone admitted under that system admitted over someone else who was denied admission and with better grades and SAT scores and poorer ? If the answer is in the affirmative, then that system is unfair , if it is in the negative then the system is fair.

Anonymous December 12, 2012 at 7:20 pm GMT

I like the comments from Chales Hale. (Nov. 30, 2012) He says: "Welcome to China". It said all in three words. All of these have been experienced in China. They said there is no new things under the sun. History are nothing but repeated, China with its 5000 years experienced them all.

biaknabato December 12, 2012 at 11:01 pm GMT

I meant that there were 439 domestic students in the fall 2011 freshman class at UCLA and 447 domestic students in the fall 2012 freshman class at UCLA who scored a perfect score of 800 in the Math portion of the SAT. In either case it is bigger than what Harvard or MIT has got.

In fact for the fall 2011 of the entire UC system there were more students in the the freshman class of the entire UC system who scored above 700 in the Math portion of the SAT than the entire fall 2011 freshman of the Ivy League (Cornell not included since it is both a public and a private school )'

As I mentioned earlier there were 2409 domestic students in the fall 2012 UCLA freshman class who scored above 700 in the Math portion of the SAT. We know that Harvard had only 1148 domestic students in its fall 2011 freshman class who scored above 700 in the Math portion of the SAT, why would Harvard ever want to have that many top students like Berkeley or UCLA have ? The answer to that is simple , it has to do with money. For every additional student that Harvard will enroll it would mean money being taken out of the endowment .

Since the endowment needs constant replenishment. Where would these replenishment funds come from ? From legacies,from the children of the wealthy and the famous etc. of course . It would mean more legacy admits, more children of the wealthy admitted etc.
That would mean that the admission rate at Harvard will rise, the mean SAT score of the entering class will be no different from the mean SAT scores of the entering freshman classes of Boston University and Boston College
down the road. With rising admission rates and lower mean SAT scores for the entering freshman class that prospect will not prove appetizing or appealing to the applicant pool.

Harvard ranks only 8th after Penn State in the production of undergrads who eventually get Doctorates in Science and Engineering. Of course Berkeley has the bragging rights for that kind of attribute.

biaknabato December 12, 2012 at 11:32 pm GMT

In the scenario I had outlined above, it would mean that the mean SAT score of the Harvard freshman class will actually go down if it tried to increase the size of its freshman class and that kind of prospect ia unpalatable to Harvard and that is the reason as to why it wants to maintain its current " air of exclusivity ".

There is another way of looking at the quality of the Harvard student body. The ACM ICPC computer programming competition is regarded as the best known college competition among students around the world , it is a grueling programming marathon for 2 or 3 days presumably. Teams from universities around the world vie to win the contest that is dubbed the "Battle of the Brains " What is arguably sad is that Ivy schools, Stanford and other private schools teams fielded in the finals of the competition are basically composed of foreign students or foreign born students and foreign born coaches.

The University of Southern California team in this competition in its finals section was made up of nothing but foreign Chinese students and a Chinese coach. The USC team won the Southern California competition to win a slot in the finals. Apparently they could not find a domestic student who could fill the bill. However the USC team was roundly beaten by teams from China and Asia,Russia and Eastern Europe. The last time a US team won this competition was in 1999 by Harvey Mudd, ever since the US had gone downhill in the competition with the competition being dominated by China and Asia and by countries from Eastern Europe and Russia. Well I guess USC's strategy was trying to fight fire with fire (Chinese students studying in the US versus Chinese students from the Mainland ), and it failed.

Been there December 13, 2012 at 5:32 am GMT

Thank you Mr. Unz for scratching the surface of the various forms of corruption surrounding elite college admissions. I hope that your next article further discusses the Harvard Price (and Yale Price and Brown Price etc). The recent press surrounding the Hong Kong couple suing the person they had retained to pave their children's way into Harvard indicates the extent of the problem. This Hong Kong couple just were not savvy enough to lay their money down where it would produce results.
Additionally, a discussion of how at least some North Eastern private schools facilitate the corrupt process would be illuminating.
Finally, a more thorough discussion of whether the Asian students being admitted are US residents or nationals or whether they are foreign citizens would also be worth while and reveal. I suspect, an even lower admit percentage for US resident citizens of Asian ethnicity.
For these schools to state that their acceptances are need blind is patently untrue and further complicates the admissions process for students who are naive enough to believe that. These schools should come clean and just say that after the development admits and the wealthy legacy admits spots are purchased, the remaining few admits are handed out in a need blind fashion remembering that many of admit pools will already be filled by the development and wealthy legacy admits resulting in extraordinarily low rates for certain non-URM type candidates (I estimate in the 1% range).

Anonymous December 13, 2012 at 6:39 pm GMT

"By contrast, a similarly overwhelming domination by a tiny segment of America's current population, one which is completely misaligned in all these respects, seems far less inherently stable, especially when the institutional roots of such domination have continually increased despite the collapse of the supposedly meritocratic justification. This does not seem like a recipe for a healthy and successful society, nor one which will even long survive in anything like its current form."

I completely agree that it is not healthy for one tiny segment of our population to basically hold all the key positions in every major industry in this country. If Asians or Blacks (who look foreign) all of a sudden ran education, media, government, and finance in this country, there would be uproar and resistance. But because Jewish people look like the majority (whites), they've risen to the top without the masses noticing.

But Jewish people consider themselves a minority just like blacks and Asians. They have a tribal mentality that causes stronger ethnic nepotism than most other minority groups. And they can get away with it because no one can say anything to them lest they be branded "jew-hunters" or "anti-semists."

The question is, "where do we go from here?" True race-blind meritocracy will never be instituted on a grand scale in this country both in education and in the work force. One group currently controls most industries and the only way this country will see more balance is if other groups take more control. But if one group already controls them all and controls succession plans, how will there ever be more balance?

Larry Long says: • Website December 14, 2012 at 4:33 am GMT

If Jews become presidents or regents of universities, that's a credit to their ability. Nothing sinister there.

But when Jews (or anyone) buy into an institution to create the 'Goldman School of Business', or when they give large donations, that is not a credit to anyone's ability and there may well be something sinister there.

It is no secret that corporations and individuals look for influence, if not control, in return for cash. The same thinking can easily affect admissions policy.

It's always the same. In spite of all the jingoism about "democracy" and "freedoms" and the "free market capitalist system", the trail of money obfuscates and corrupts. It is still very true that whoever pays the piper, calls the tune. And naive to believe otherwise.

How recent was it that Princeton cancelled its anti-Semitism classes for lack of participation, and at least one Jewish organisation was screaming that Princeton would never get another penny from any Jew, ever.

That is close to absolute control of a curriculum. I give you money, and you teach what I want you to teach.

How far is that from I give you money and you admit whom I want you to admit? Or from I give you money and you hire whom I want?

A university that is properly funded by the government – "the people" – doesn't have these issues because there is nothing you can buy.

Operating educational institutions as a business, just like charities and health care, will always produce this kind of corruption.

Two other points:

1. It occurred to me that the lowly-paid underachiever admissions officers might well have been mostly Jewish, and hired for that reason, and that in itself could skew the results in a desired manner.

2. I think this is a serious criticism of the othewise excellent article:

At the end, Ron Unz wants us to believe that a $30-billion institution, the finest of its kind in the world, the envy of the known universe and beyond, the prime educator of the world's most prime elites, completely abandons its entire admissions procedures, without oversight or supervision, to a bunch of dim-witted losers of "poor human quality" who will now choose the entire next generation of the nation's elites. And may even take cash payments to do so.

Come on. Who are you kidding? Even McDonald's is smarter than this.

Anonymous December 14, 2012 at 3:00 pm GMT

Some of the comments suggest major problems with estimating who is Jewish. But the authors information is underpinned by data collected by Jewish pressure groups for the purpose of ensuring the gravy train keeps flowing. It's either their numbers, or the numbers are consistent with their numbers.

Anonymous December 14, 2012 at 7:54 pm GMT

This article, to me, is shocking and groundbreaking. I don't think anyone has gone this in-depth into this biased and un-meritocratic system. This is real analysis based on real numbers.

Why is this not getting more coverage in the media? Why are people so afraid to talk about this?

Achaean December 15, 2012 at 12:50 pm GMT

There is an excellent analysis of this article at The Occidental Observer by Kevin MacDonald, "Ron Unz on the Illusory American Meritocracy". The MSM is ignoring Unz's article for obvious reasons.

tomo December 15, 2012 at 10:46 pm GMT

I don't know if there's any truth behind the idea that Japanese Americans have become lazy relative to their Korean and Chinese counterparts. I've grew up in Southern California, a part of the country with a relatively high percentage of Japanese Americans, yet I've know very few other Japanese Americans in my life. I can recall one Japanese American classmate in jr. high, and one Japanese classmate in my high school (who returned to Japan upon graduating). Even at the UC school I attended for undergrad, I was always the only Japanese person in the every class, and the Japanese Student Association, already meager in numbers, was almost entirely made up of Japanese International students who were only here for school.

If, in fact, 1% of California is made up of Japanese Americans, I suspect they are an aging population. I also think many 2nd and 3rd generation Japanese Americans are only partially Japanese, since, out of necessity, Japanese Americans have a very high rate of out marriage.

Anonymous December 20, 2012 at 5:04 pm GMT

The carefully researched article makes a strong case that there is some discrimination against Asian-Americans at the Ivy League schools.

On the other hand, I don't see how a percentage of 40-60% Asian-Americans at the selective UC schools, even given the higher percentage of Asian-Americans in California, does not perhaps reflect reverse discrimation, or at least affirmative action on their behalf. To be sure one way or the other, we would have to see their test scores AND GPA, apparently the criteria that the UC schools use for admission, considered as well in the normalization of this statistical data.

Lynn December 20, 2012 at 6:37 pm GMT

The replies to date make some good points but also reflect precisely the biases pointed out in the article as likely causing the discussed distortions.

1) use of name data in achievement vs use of Hillel data for Ivy admits: definitely an issue but is this only one of the measures used in this study. Focusing only on this obscures the fact that Jewish enrollment as measured over time by Hillel numbers (apples to apples) increased significantly over the past decade while the percent of Jewish high school age students relative to other groups declined. One explanation for this surge could be that Jewish students became even more academically successful than they have been in the past. The achievement data using Jewish surnames is used to assess this thesis in the absence of other better data. Rejecting the surname achievement data still leaves a huge enrollment surge over time in Jewish attendance at the Ivies relative to their percentage of the population.

2) many comments accept that the numbers show disproportionate acceptance and enrollment growth but simply then go on to assert that Jewish students really are smarter (absolutely or in gaming the system) relying on anecdotal evidence that is not at all compelling. All definitions of "smarter" contain value judgments". Back in the '20s the argument was that the Ivies should rely more on objective testing to remove bias against the then high testing Jewish students; now the writers argue conveniently wthat the new subjective tests that are applied to disproportionately admit Jewish students over higher scoring Asians and non-Jewish Caucasians are better measures. In both cases, there is still an issue of using a set of factors that disproportionately favors one group. In all such cases of significant disproportionate admits, the choice of the factors used to definemmerit and their application should be carefully evaluated for bias. The burden of proof should shift to those defending the status quo in this situation. In any event, it is clear that given the large applicant pool, there is no shortage of non-Jewish caucasians and Asians who are fully qualified, so if the desire was there for a balanced entering class, the students are available to make it happen

3) the numbers don't break down admissions between men and women. When my child was an athletic recruit to Harvard, we received an ethnic breakdown of the prior year's entering class. I was surprised to discover that the Caucasian population skewed heavily male and the non-white/Asian population skewed heavily female. It seemed that Harvard achieved most of its ethnic diversity that year by admitting female URMs, which made being a Caucasian female the single most underrepresented group relative to its percentage in the school age population. I'm curious if this was an anomaly or another element of bias in the admissions process.

Titanium Dragon December 20, 2012 at 9:59 pm GMT

I will note that there is one flaw in this whole argument, and that flaw is thus:

Harvard and Yale aren't the best universities in the country. As someone who went to Vanderbilt, I knew people who had been to those universities, and their evaluation was that they were no better – and perhaps actually worse – than Vanderbilt, which is "merely" a top 25 university.

While there is a great deal of, shall we say, "insider trading" amongst graduates of those universities, in actuality they aren't actually the best universities in the country today. That honor probably goes to MIT and Caltech, which you note are far more meritocratic. But most of the other best universities are probably very close in overall level, and some of them might have a lot of advantages over those top flight universities.

Or to put it simply, the Ivy League ain't what it used to be. Yeah, it includes some of the best universities in the country, but there are numerous non-Ivy League universities that are probably on par with them. This may indeed be in part a consequence of some of what you have described in the article, as well as a sense of complacency.

I suspect that in twenty or thirty years a lot of Ivy League graduates are going to feel a lot less entitled simply because there has been an expansion of the top while they weren't paying attention.

Anonymous December 21, 2012 at 9:06 am GMT

I'm against the Ivies going up to 30-50% Asian but I'm also against the over-representation of a tiny minority group. This country is going to go downhill if we continue to let one group skirt a fair application process just because they possess money and influence. Who will stand up for fairness and equality?

McRoss December 22, 2012 at 12:49 am GMT

Many of those commenting above don't seem to be picking up on Unz's evidence of bias against white Gentiles, which by meritocratic measures is far worse than the bias against Asian Americans.

A drop of 70 PERCENT??? What's going on? Why is so much of the discussion that this article has spawned focused only on Asian Americans and (secondarily) Jews?

Anonymous December 22, 2012 at 4:11 am GMT

National Merit Scholarship semifinalists are chosen based on per-state percentiles.

What this means is that NMS semifinalist numbers would be skewed _against_ a high-performing demographic group to the extent that group's demographics concentrate geographically. Mr. Unz acknowledges that geographical skewing of Jewish populations is huge. However, he ignores its effect on the NMS semifinalist numbers he uses as a proxy for academic performance on a _national_ level to predict equitable distributions at _national_ universities.

Please somebody explain to me how this oversight isn't fatal to his arguments

Anonymous December 25, 2012 at 3:22 am GMT

Surely the author must be aware that approximately half the children with "Jewish" names are not fully Jewish. Over half of the marriages west of the Mississippi are reportedly mixed. Many non-Jews have last names that start with "Gold". Just these two facts make the entire analysis ridiculous. Hillel does not keep statistics on how Jewish a student is, while many of Levys and Cohens are not actually Jewish. What would we call Amy Chua's daughters? Jewish or Asian? It is therefore impossible to tease out in a multi-racial society who is who.

Anonymous December 25, 2012 at 9:12 am GMT

Mr. Unz,

I am an elementary school teacher at a Title One school in northern California. I supported your "English for the Children" initiative when it was introduced.
However, the law of unintended consequences has kicked in, and what exists now is not at all what you (or anyone else, for that matter) had intended.
The school day was not lengthened to create a time slot for English language instruction. Instead, history and science classes were elbowed aside to make way for mediocre English language instruction. These usually worthless classes have crowded out valuable core academic instruction for English language learners.

To make matters worse, while English language learners are in ESL classes, no academic instruction in science or history can be given to "regular" students because that would lead to issues of "academic inequity." In other words, if the Hispanic kids are missing out on history, the black kids have to miss out on it, too.

As a teacher, I hope you will once again consider bringing your considerable talents to focus on the education of low-income minority children in California.

Sincerely,
Shelly Moore

Anonymous December 25, 2012 at 4:50 pm GMT

Fascinating and disturbing article.

Could it be that the goal of financial, rather than academic, achievement, makes many young people uninterested in competing in the science and math competitions sought out by the Asian students? I wonder about the different percentages of applicants to medical school versus law or business.
I must also add that I am surprised that the author used the word "data" as singular, rather than plural. Shouldn't he be stating that the data ARE, not IS; or SHOW, not SHOWS.

Anonymous December 25, 2012 at 7:18 pm GMT

The author perhaps pays an incredible amount of attention to those with strengths in STEM fields (Science, technology, engineering, and math), even though the proportion of all native-born white students majoring in these fields has plummetted in recent decades. That means that he overlooks a shift in what kinds of training is considered "prestigious," and that this might be reflected in the pursuits of students in high school. Perhaps there is a movement away from Jewish students' focus on Math Olympiad because they are in no way interested in majoring in math or engineering fields, instead preferring economics or business. Is that the fault of the students, or of the rewards system that corporate America has set up?

Jobs in STEM fields pay considerably less than do jobs in numerous professions - investment banking and law. So that is why ~ 40% of the Harvard graduating class - including many of its Jewish students - pursue that route. But to rely on various assessments of math/science/computing as the measure of intelligence fails to incorporate how the rewards structure in our society has changed over time.

I teach at an Ivy League university, and believe that many of the authors' arguments have merit, but there are also many weaknesses in his argument. He sneers at Steinberg and the other sociologists he cites for not quite getting how society has changed - but he clearly doesn' tunderstand how other aspects of our society have changed. Many of our most talented undergrads have no desire to pursue careers in STEM fields. Entrance into STEM jobs even among those who majored in those fields is low, and there is very high attrition from those fields, among both men and women. Young adults and young professionals are voting with their feet. While our society might be better off with more Caltech grads and students interested in creating our way to a better future rather than pursuing riches on wall street, one cannot fault students for seeking to maximize their returns on their expensive education. That's the system we have presented them with, at considerable cost to the students and their families.

Personally, what I found profoundly disturbing is not the overrepresentation of Jewish students or the large presence of Asians who feel they are discriminated against, but the fact that Ivy League schools have not managed to increase their representation of Blacks for the last 3 decades. We all compete for the same talent pool. And until the K-12 system is improved, Black representation won't increase without others screaming favoritism. The other groups - high performing Asians, middle class Jews - will do fine, even if they don't get into Ivy League schools but have to "settle" for elite private schools. But if the Ivy Leagues are the pathway to prestige and power, than we're not broadening our power base enough to adequately reprewsent the demographic shifts reshaping our nation. more focus on that, please.

Anonymous says: • Website December 25, 2012 at 8:23 pm GMT

I've been an SAT tutor for a long time in West Los Angeles (a heavily Asian city), and I feel that at least some of Asians' over-representation in SAT scores and NMS finalists is due to Asian parents putting massive time and money into driving their children's success in those very statistics.

In my experience, Asian parents are more likely than other parents to attempt to ramrod their kids through test prep in order to increase their scores. For example, the few students I've ever had preparing for the PSAT - most students prepare only for the SAT - were all Asian.

Naturally, because it's so strange to be preparing for what is supposed to be a practice test, I asked these parents why their 9th or 10th grade child was in this class, and the answer was that they wanted to do well on the PSAT because of its use in the NMS! Similarly, many Asian immigrants send their children to "cram school" every day after regular school lets out (and I myself have taught SAT at one of these institutions), essentially having their students tutored in every academic subject year-round from early in elementary school.

Because whites are unlikely to do this, it would seem to me that the resulting Asian academic achievement is analogous to baseball players who use steroids having better stats than baseball players who do not.

It seems reasonable that the "merit" in "meritocracy" need not be based solely on test scores and grades, and that therefore a race-based quota system is not the only conclusion that one can draw from a decrease in the attendance rate of hard-driving test-preppers. Maybe the university didn't want to fill its dorms with grade-grubbers who are never seen because they're holed up in the library 20 hours a day, and grade-grubbers just happen to be over-represented in the Asian population?

Unz's piece analyzes only the data that lead up to college - when the Asian parents' academic influence over their children is absolute - whereas the Ivy League schools he criticizes are most concerned with what their students do during and after college. Is the kid who went to cram school his entire life as likely to join student organizations? To continue practicing his four instruments once his mom isn't forcing him to take lessons 4 days a week? To start companies and give money to his university? Or did he just peak early because his parents were working him so hard in order to get him into that college?

That's an article I'd like to read.

Dismalist December 25, 2012 at 10:49 pm GMT

The analysis is a tour de force!

However, the remedies considered are not. It is silly to believe that all abilities can be distilled into a small set of numbers, and anyway, no one knows what abilities will succeed in marketplaces. The source of the problem is the lack of competition in education, including higher education, a situation written in stone by current accreditation procedures. The solution to the problem is entry. Remember Brandeis U? With sufficient competition, colleges could take whomever they pleased, on whatever grounds, and everyone would get a chance.

Anonymous December 25, 2012 at 11:11 pm GMT

Concerning the drop in non-Jewish white enrollment:

I am a recent graduate of a top public high school, where I was a NMS, individual state champion in Academic Decathlon, perfect ACT score, National AP Scholar, etc. etc. Many of my friends – almost exclusively white and Asian – had similar backgrounds and were eminently qualified for Ivy. None of us even applied Ivy, let alone considered going there. Why? At $60,000/yr, the cost is simply not worth it, since none of us would have been offered anything close to substantial financial aid and our parents were unable/unwilling to fully fund our educations. Meanwhile, my Asian friends applied to as many Ivies as they could because it was understood that (a) their parents would foot the bill if they got in or (b) they would take on a large debt load in order to do it.

This article discounts financial self-selection, which (at least based on my own, anecdotal evidence) is more prevalent than we tend to think.

Anonymous December 26, 2012 at 12:18 am GMT

Three points:

  1. The author ignores the role that class plays in setting kids up for success. At one point he notes, "Given that Asians accounted for just 1.5 percent of the population in 1980 and often lived in relatively impoverished immigrant families. . ." When I was at Harvard in the mid-1980s, there were two distinct groups of Asian students: children of doctors, academics, scientists and businesspeople who came from educated families in China, Korea and Vietnam, and therefore grew up with both strong educational values and parental resources to push them; and a much smaller group of kids from Chinatown and Southeast Asian communities, whose parents were usually working class and uneducated. The second group were at a severe disadvantage to the first, who were able to claim "diversity" without really having to suffer for it.
  2. I would expect you'd see the same difference among higher-caste educated South Asian Brahmins and Indians from middle and lower castes or from places like Guyana. It is ridiculous to put South Asians and East Asians in the same category as "Asian." They have different cultural traditions and immigration histories. Ask any Indian parent what race they are and they'll answer "Caucasian." Grouping them without any kind of assessment of how they might be different undermines the credibility of the author.
  3. The takeaway is not that affirmative action is damaging opportunities for whites, but that whites are losing against Asians. The percentage of Hispanic and Black students at leading schools is still tiny. Hence, if invisible quotas for Asians are lifted, there will be far fewer white students at these schools. This isn't because of any conspiracy, but because white students are scoring lower than the competition on the relevant entry requirements. I would love to see an article in this publication titled, "Why White Students Are Deficient." How about some more writing about "The White Student Achievement Gap?"
Simon December 26, 2012 at 2:35 am GMT

As parents of 2 HYP grads, We can tell you from experience that Asian students are not under-represented in the Ivies today. (In fact, I think they are slightly over represented, for the same reasons and stats the author cited).

True, if one looks at stats, such as SAT, scientific competition awards etc, it seems to imply that a +35% enrollment of Asian students is warranted. However, these indicators are just a small part of a "holistc" approach in predicting the success of a candidate not only in the next 4 years, but the individual's success in life and be able to impact and contribute to society later.

I have seen candidates of Asian background, who score almost full mark in SAT but was less than satisfactory in all other aspects of being a potential achiever in life.

Granted, if one wants to be an achiever in science and technology, by all means go with Caltech and MIT. But if one wants an real "education" and be a leader later on in life, one has to have other qualities as well (skin color is NOT one of them). Of course, history, and current cultural and political climate may influence the assessment of such qualities because it is highly subjective. (Is is unfair to pick a pleasant looking candidate over a lesser one, if the rest are the same?)

That is why an interview with the candidates is a good way to assess a potential applicant. I always encourage my children to conduct interviews locally for their alma mater.

I just hope that the Ivies do not use this holistic approach to practice quota policies.

Oh btw I am Asian.

S

Anonymous December 26, 2012 at 2:42 am GMT

Here's a quote from a friend just today about this related topic: "Just like the Catholic church in the middle ages recruited the smartest peasants in order to forestall revolutionary potential, and to learn mind bending religious dogma to befuddle the remaining peasants, current practice is much the same. To twist Billy Clinton's mantra, "its the economy stupid", No ,"its the co opted brains"! "

We can substitute economics dogma to the befuddlement mix. The bottom line is every ruling elite has co-opted the top 1%-5% of high wage earners, to make the pyramid work. Sociology writing is all over this. Veblen, Weber, etc. We can see this little group created everywhere minerals or natural resources are coveted by private empires.

The universities are doing exactly what they are supposed to do to protect the interests of the Trustees and Donors who run them for a reason. They are a tool of, not a cause of, the inequality and over-concentration. It is interesting how the story goes into hairsplitting and comparing Asians to others, etc. But, the real story is a well understood sociology story. This article explains why Napoleon established free public education after the French Revolution.

Anonymous December 26, 2012 at 2:53 am GMT

This is a fascinating article. So much data. So many inferences. It's hardly surprising to any parent of high school students that college admissions are only marginally meritocratic. Whether that's a good a thing or a bad thing is an open question. I think meritocracy has a place in college admissions. But not the only place. Consider athletics, which are themselves almost exclusively meritocratic. Only the best among the best are offered Division I scholarships. The same, I think, applies to engineering schools, the physical sciences, and (to a lesser degree), elite law schools. It also applies to auto-mechanics, plumbers, and electricians. Regarding the humanities (a field in which I hold a PhD), not so much. I think Unz's beef is less with admissions policies per se (which I agree are mind-bogglingly opaque) than with the status of elite institutions. I also think, and I may be wrong, that Unz appears heading down the Bobby Fisher highway, intimating that those pesky Jews are

Anonymous December 26, 2012 at 4:19 am GMT

America never promised success through merit or equality. That is the American "dream." America promises freedom of religious belief and the right to carry a gun.

Anonymous says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment December 26, 2012 at 4:16 pm GMT

This is a fascinating and extremely important article which I am very eager to discuss privately with the author, having spent my whole life in higher education, albeit with a unique perspective. I was flabbergasted the findings about Jewish and non-Jewish white representation, and intrigued, all the more so since my own ancestry is evenly divided between those two groups. I do want to make one criticism, however of something the author said about the 1950s which I do not think is correct.

At one point in the article the author makes the claim that the breakdown of Ivy League Jewish quotas in the 1950s reflected the power of Jews in the media and Hollywood. The statistics he gives about their representation there may be correct, but the inference, I believe, is unsustainable. The Proquest historical database includes the Washington Post, New York Times, and many other major newspapers. I did a search for "Harvard AND Jewish AND quota" for the whole period 1945-65 and it turned up only 20 articles, not one of which specifically addressed the issue of Jewish quotas at Harvard and other Ivy League schools. The powerful Jews of that era had reached their positions by downplaying their origins–often including changes in their last names–and they were not about to use their positions overtly on behalf of their ethnic group. (This could be, incidentally, another parallel with today's Asians.) Those quotas were broken down, in my opinion, because of a general emphasis on real equality among Americans in those decades, which also produced the civil rights movement. The Second World War had been fought on those principles.
I could not agree more that the admissions policies of the last 30 years have produced a pathetic and self-centered elite that has done little if any good for the country as a whole.

Anonymous says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment December 27, 2012 at 4:48 am GMT

It is really refreshing to see in print what we all know by experience, but I have to wonder out loud, what is our higher purpose? Surely, you have a largely goal than merely exposing corruption in the academy. Lastly, I have to wonder out loud, how would the predicament of the working class fit into your analysis? I thank you for this scathing indictment of higher ed that has the potential to offer us a chillingly sobering assessment.

Jordan December 27, 2012 at 5:12 am GMT

This is why we need to reinstate a robust estate tax or "death tax" as conservatives derisively call it. To break the aristocracy described in this article. No less than Alexis de Tocqueville said that the estate tax is what made America great and created a meritocracy (which now is weaker and riddled with loopholes, thus the decline of America). Aristocracies dominated Europe for centuries because they did not tax the inheritance.

Anonymous December 27, 2012 at 9:09 pm GMT

The day when I learned so many Chinese ruling class' offspring are either alumni or current students of Harvard (the latest example being Bo GuaGua), it was clear to me Harvard's admission process is corrupt. How would any ivy college determine "leadership" quality? Does growing up in a leader's family give you more innate leadership skills? Harvard obviously thinks so.

Therefore, it's not surprising that Ron said the following on this subject. " so many sons and daughters of top Chinese leaders attend college in the West ..while our own corrupt admissions practices get them an easy spot at Harvard or Stanford, sitting side by side with the children of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and George W. Bush." I hope world peace will be obtained within reach in this approach.

The chilling factor is a hardworking Chinese immigrant's child in the U.S. would have less chance of getting into ivies than these children of privileged.

It was also very disappointing to see another Asian parent whose children are HYP alumni saying too many Asians in ivies, despite the overwhelming evidence showing otherwise.

Peter December 28, 2012 at 3:37 am GMT

Perhaps it's to be expected given the length of the article (over 22,000 words), but so many of the objections and "oversights" raised in the comments are in fact dealt with – in detail and with a great deal of respect – by Unz in the article itself.

For example, this:

National Merit Scholarship semifinalists are chosen based on per-state percentiles.

What this means is that NMS semifinalist numbers would be skewed _against_ a high-performing demographic group to the extent that group's demographics concentrate geographically. Mr. Unz acknowledges that geographical skewing of Jewish populations is huge. However, he ignores its effect on the NMS semifinalist numbers he uses as a proxy for academic performance on a _national_ level to predict equitable distributions at _national_ universities.

Please somebody explain to me how this oversight isn't fatal to his argument

because geographical skewing of Asian populations is also huge, yet we don't witness the same patterning in admissions data pertaining to Asian students. As the article states: "Geographical diversity would certainly hurt Asian chances since nearly half their population lives in just the three states of California, New York, and Texas."

Unz goes on to note: "Both groups [Jews and Asians] are highly urbanized, generally affluent, and geographically concentrated within a few states, so the 'diversity' factors considered above would hardly seem to apply; yet Jews seem to fare much better at the admissions office."

So there's your answer.

And aside from the fact that your "basic question" has a very simple answer, it's just ludicrous in any case to suggest that the validity of the entire article rests on a single data point.

Anonymous December 28, 2012 at 5:30 pm GMT

There is no doubt this is more of a political issue than the academic one. If only merit is considered then asian american would constitute as much as 50% of the student population in elite universities. Politically and socially this is not a desired outcome. Rationale for affirmative action for the african americans and hispanics is same – leaving a large population is in elite institution is not desired, it smacks of segregation.

But the core issue remains unsolved. Affirmative action resulted in higher representation but not the competitiveness of the blacks. I am afraid whites are going the similar path.

Anonymous December 28, 2012 at 7:47 pm GMT

Anyone famliar with sociology and the research on social stratification knows that meritocracy is a myth; for example, if one's parents are in the bottom decile of the the income scale, the child has only a 3% chance to reach the top decile in his or her lifetime. In fact, in contrast to the Horatio Alger ideology, the U.S. has lower rates of upward mobility than almost any other developed country. Social classses exist and they tend to reproduce themselves.

The rigid class structure of the the U.S. is one of the reasons I support progressive taxation; wealth may not always be inherited, but life outcomes are largely determined by the class position of one's parents. In this manner, it is also a myth to believe that wealth is an individual creation;most financially successful individuals have enjoyed the benefits of class privilege: good and safe schools, two-parent families, tutors, and perhaps most important of all, high expecatations and positive peer socialization (Unz never mentions the importants of peeer groups, which data show exert a strong causal unfluence on academic performance).

And I would challenge Unz's assertion that many high-performing Asians come from impovershed backgrounds: many of them may undereport their income as small business owners. I believe that Asian success derives not only from their class background but their culture in which the parents have authority and the success of the child is crucual to the honor of the family. As they assimilate to the more individualist American ethos, I predict that their academic success will level off just as it has with Jews.

Anonymous December 29, 2012 at 2:31 am GMT

1. HYP are private universities: the success of their alumni verifies the astuteness of their admissions policies.
2. Mr. Unz equates "merit" with "academic". I wonder how many CalTech undergrads would be, or were, admitted, to HYP (and vice-versa).
3. I would like ethnic or racial stats on, for several examples, class officers, first chair musicians*, job holders, actors^, team captains, and other equally valuable (in the sense of contributing to an entering freshman class) high-school pursuits.*By 17, I had been a union trombonist for three years; at Princeton, I played in the concert band, the marching band, the concert orchestra, several jazz ensembles, and the Triangle Club orchestra.^A high school classmate was John Lithgow, the superb Hollywood character actor. Harvard gave him a full scholarship – and they should have.

Rosell December 29, 2012 at 8:00 am GMT

What if we were one homogeneous ethnic group? What dynamic would we set up then?

I suggest taking the top 20% on straight merit, based on SAT scores, whether they crammed for them or not, and take the next 50% from the economically poorest of the qualified applicants (1500 – 1600 on the SAT?) by straight ethnicity percentages to directly reflect population diversity, and 30% at random to promote some humility, and try that for 20 years and see what effects are produced in the quality of our economic and political leadership. And of course, keep them all in the dark as to how they actually got admitted.

Maybe one effect is that more non-ivy league schools will be tapped by the top recruiters.

Anonymous December 29, 2012 at 12:31 pm GMT

Jewish wrote:

"Surely the author must be aware that approximately half the children with "Jewish" names are not fully Jewish. Over half of the marriages west of the Mississippi are reportedly mixed. Many non-Jews have last names that start with "Gold". Just these two facts make the entire analysis ridiculous. Hillel does not keep statistics on how Jewish a student is, while many of Levys and Cohens are not actually Jewish. What would we call Amy Chua's daughters? Jewish or Asian? It is therefore impossible to tease out in a multi-racial society who is who."

Well, there are several arguments to be made. First, unless you are advocating that there has been a mass adoption of words like "Gold" in non-Jewish last names these past 10, 15 years, that argument sinks like a stone. Second, by selecting for specifically Jewish last names, intermarriage can be minimized but not eliminated. How many kids with the lastname "Goldstein" was a non-Jew in the last NMS? Not likely a lot of them.

Intermarriage can account for some fog, but not all, not by a longshot. Your entire argument reeks of bitter defensiveness. You have to come to grips that Jews have become like the old WASPs, rich, not too clever anymore, and blocking the path forward for brighter, underrepresented groups.

Sucks to be you.

Anonymous December 29, 2012 at 6:23 pm GMT

With all due respect, I was worried that I would get an answer that lazily points to the part of the essay that glosses over this point (which mind you I had combed through carefully before posting my question). However, I was hoping that in response someone might respond who had thought a little more carefully about the statistical fallacy in Unz's essay: that far-reaching statements about nation-wide academic performance can be drawn directly from per-state-percentiles.

Yes, Asian Americans, like Jews, have concentrations. But their geographical distributions differ. Yes, it might be possible that upon careful analysis of relative distributions of populations and NMS semifinalists in each state Unz might be able to draw a robust comparison: he might even come up with the same answer. The point that I made is that he doesn't even try.

Given the lengths Unz goes to calculate and re-calculate figures _based_on_ the assumption of _equal_ geographic distributions among Asians and Jews, it is - and I stand by this - a disservice to the reader that no effort (beyond hand-waving) is made to quantitatively show the assumption is at all justified.

Jewess December 30, 2012 at 2:02 am GMT

The statistical analysis used in this article is flawed. The author uses last names to identify the religion (or birth heritage) of NMS semifinalists? Are you serious? My son was a (recent) National Merit Finalist and graduated from an ivy league university. His mother is Jewish; his father is not, thus he has a decidedly WASP surname and according to the author's methods he would have been classified as WASP. With the growing numbers of interfaith and mixed-race children how can anyone draw conclusions about race and religion in the meritocracy or even "IQ" argument? Anecdotally, my son reported that nearly half his classmates at his ivy league were at least one-quarter Jewish (one or more parents or one grandparent). To use last names (in lieu of actual demographic data) to make the conclusion that Jews are being admitted to ivies at higher rates than similarly qualified Asians is irresponsible.

Anonymous January 2, 2013 at 2:49 am GMT

Essentially, the leftist forces in this country are trying to put the squeeze on white gentiles from both directions.

Affirmative action for underachieving minorities to take the place of white applicants.

Meritocracy for highly achieving Asians to push down white applicants, while never mentioning that full meritocracy would push out other minorities as well (that's not politically correct).

The whole thing has become more about political narrative than actual concern for justice. I want you to know that as an Asian man who graduated from Brown, I sympathize with you.

Anonymous January 11, 2013 at 4:40 pm GMT

Very interesting article. The case that East Asian students are significantly underrepresented and Jewish students overrepresented at Ivy League schools is persuasive, although not dispositive. The most glaring flaw in the analysis is the heavy reliance on performance on the PSAT (the discussion of the winners of the various Olympiad and Putnam contests has little informational value relevant to admissions, since those winners are the outliers on the tail of the distribution), which is a test that can be prepped for quite easily. Another flaw is the reliance on last names to determine ethnicity, which I doubt works well for Jews, although it probably works reasonably well for East Asians.

Unfortunately, the article is also peppered with (very) thinly supported (and implausible) claims like Asians are better at visuospatial skills, worse at verbal skills, and that the situation is reversed for Jews. This kind of claim strikes me as racial gobbledygook, and at least anecdotally belied if one considers the overrepresentation of Jews among elite chess players, both in the US and worldwide.

In any event, the fundamental point is that the PSAT (as is the case with all standardized tests) is a fixed target that can be studied for. Whether one chooses to put in 100s of hours studying for the PSAT is not, and should not be, the only criterion used for admissions.

I find the relative percentage of East Asians and Jews at schools like MIT (and also Caltech and Berkeley, although obviously those are in part distorted by the heavy concentration of East Asians in California) as compared to HYP as strong evidence that the admissions process at HYP advantages Jews and disadvantages East Asians.

I suspect, though, that the advantages Jews enjoy in the admissions process are unconscious and unintentional, whereas the disadvantages suffered by East Asians are quite conscious and intentional.

Anonymous January 14, 2013 at 3:30 pm GMT

The graph entitled "Asians Age 18-21 and Elite College Enrollment Trends, 1990-2011″ is misleading. It contrasts percentage of enrolled Asian students vs. the total number of the eligible Asian applicants. Therefore, it led to a flawed argument when comfusing number vs. percentage . For proof, if a similar graph of Hispanic student percentage vs. eligible applicants were drawn, it would appear that they were discriminated against as well. So would be the Black!

Anonymous says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment January 21, 2013 at 5:03 am GMT

Hi

well, even a fair and objective admission criteria can have devastating consequences. here at IIT, we admit about 1 in 100. this has the same effect on student ethics, career options and so on. in fact, even worse, since IIT is an engineering college, the very definition of engineering in India has now distorted as serving international finance or distant masters in a globalized world. our own development problems remain unattended.

see http://www.cse.iitb.ac.in/~sohoni/RD.pdf

also, the above is a part of the current trend of knowledge concentration, i.e., a belief that only a few universities can impart us "true" knowledge or conduct "true" research.
see http://www.cse.iitb.ac.in/~sohoni/kpidc.pdf

regs, milind.

Anonymous January 24, 2013 at 1:21 am GMT

This is a very valuable article. It deals with a subject that has received too little attention. I believe that cultural bias in many cases outweighs the racial bias in the selection program. Time and again, I have seen young people with great potential being selected against because they are culturally different from what the selectors are looking for (often people who are like them culturally). The article's mentioning that students who participated in R.O.T.C., F.F.A. and/or 4H are often passed over is a good illustration.

It was interesting to note that the girl who wrote an essay on how she dealt with being caught in a drug violation found acceptance. I suspect that a student with similar academic qualifications who wrote an essay on the negative aspects of drug use would not be so lucky.

LMM

Thos. January 27, 2013 at 3:39 am GMT

comes news that Yale President Levin's successor will be Peter Salovey, tending to confirm Unz's observations regarding the grossly disproportionate number of Jewish presidents at Ivy League schools.

JF January 29, 2013 at 10:36 am GMT

All very interesting but I am among the National Merit Scholars from California who has a not obviously Jewish name despite having two Jewish parents. It was changed in the 1950s due to anti-Semitism and an urge to assimilate. A lot of other names can be German or Jewish for example. I suspect in light of that and intermarriage cases where the mom is Jewish and the dad is not, not to mention a lot of Russian names, you may be undercounting Jews among other things. Although to be fair, you are probably also undercounting some half-Asians given most of those marriages have a white husband and Asian wife.

Raymond February 4, 2013 at 4:43 pm GMT

I'm an Asian HYP grad. I applaud this article for being so extremely well researched and insightful. It's an excellent indictment of the arbitrariness and cultural favoritism concentrated in the hands of a very small group of unqualified and ideologically driven admissions officers. And I hasten to add that I am a liberal Democratic, an avid Obama supporter, and a strong proponent of correcting income inequality and combating discrimination in the workplace.

To me, the most compelling exhibit was the one towards the end which showed the % relative representation of enrolled students to highly-qualified students (I wish the article labeled the exhibits). This chart shows that in the Ivies, which administer highly subjective admission criteria, Jews are overrepresented by 3-4x, but in the California schools and MIT, which administer more objective criteria, Jews are overrepresented by only 0-50%, a range that can easily be explained by methodology or randomness.

This single exhibit is unequivocal evidence to me of systematic bias in the Ivy League selection process, with Jews as the primary beneficiary. I tend to agree with the author this this bias is unlikely to be explicit, but likely the result of cultural favoritism, with a decision-making body that is heavily Jewish tending to favor the activities, accomplishments, personalities, etc. of Jewish applicants.

The author has effectively endorsed one of the core tenets of modern liberalism – that human beings tend to favor people who look and act like themselves. It's why institutions dominated by white males tend to have pro-white male biases. The only twist here is that the decision-making body in this instance (Ivy League admissions committees) is white-Jewish, not white-Gentile.

So if you're a liberal like me, let's acknowledge that everyone is racist and sexist toward their own group, and what we have here is Jews favoring Jews. We can say that without being anti-semitic, just like we can say that men favor men without being anti-male, or whites favor whites without being anti-white.

Anonymous February 8, 2013 at 4:47 am GMT

Just some puzzling statistics: In p. 32, second paragraph, it is mentioned "The Asian ratio is 63% slightly above the white ratio of 61 percent", then in the third paragraph "However, if we separate out the Jewish students, their
ratio turns out to be 435 percent, while the residual ratio for non-Jewish whites drops to just 28 percent, less than half of even the Asian figure", leading to the conclusion that "As a consequence, Asians appear under-represented relative to Jews by a factor of seven, while non-Jewish whites are by far the most under-represented group of all". Not very clear on the analysis!

Let me try to make a guess on the calculation of this statistics ratio: Assume that all groups in NMS will apply, with mA=Asians, mJ=Jews, mW=Whites be the respective numbers in NMS. Suppose that nA, nJ, and nW are those Asians, Jews, and Whites finally admitted. Then if the statistics ratio for G means ((nG)/(mG))/(mG/mNMS), where mNMS is the total number in the NMS, then the ratio will amplify the admission rate (nG/mG) by (mNMS/mG) times and becomes very large or very small for small group size. For example, for a single person group, being admitted will give a ratio as large as mNMS, and a zero for not being admitted. Why can this ratio be used for comparing under-representation between different groups?

Anonymous February 14, 2013 at 12:29 am GMT

Very well. Loved the fact that the author put a lot into reseaching this piece. But i would like to know how many asians who manage to attend this ivy schools end up as nobel leaurets and professors?? This demonstrates the driving force behind the testscore prowess of the asians-financial motivation. The author talks about asians being under-represented in the ivies but even though they manage to attend then what?? do they eventually become eintiens and great nobel leurets or great cheese players. Also what is the stats like for asian poets, novelist, actors.etc Pls focus should be given on improving other non-ivy schools since we have a lots of high SAT test scores than high running universities.

Al February 23, 2013 at 3:13 pm GMT

Look at Nobel prizes, field medals and all kind of prizes and awards that recognize lifetime original academic contributions. Not many asians there yet. Perfect grades or SAT scores does not guarantee creativity, original thinking, intelectual curiosity or leadership. The problem is that those things are hard to measure and very easy to fake in an application.

Fred February 24, 2013 at 7:11 pm GMT

Loved all the research in the article and I am on board with the idea that moving in the tiger mother direction will kill creativity in young people. And I agree with the observation that our country's top leadership since 1970 or so has been underwhelming and dishonest especially in the financial services industry which draws almost entirely from the Ivies.

However, I am not so convinced that the over representation of Jewish students in the Ivy league is created by intentional bias on the part of Jewish professors or administrators at these institutions. Is it possible that admissions officers select Jewish applicants at such a high rate because they are more likely to actually attend? Once a family of four's income exceeds $160k the net price calculation for a year at Harvard jumps up pretty quickly. By the time you hit annual income of $200k you are looking at $43k/yr or $172k for 4 years. And at the lower income levels, even if a family has to pay just $15k a year, how will they do that if they are struggling to make it as it is? Do they want/does their student want to graduate with $60k worth of debt? Why not choose a great scholarship offer from a state university to pay nothing at all or go to community college for 2 years and then on to the state public institution?

There are many options for top students who can compete at the Ivy level. If I am an admissions officer looking to fill slots left over after minority admissions (ones poor enough to get the education for free and thus to say yes), legacies, athletic recruits, and the few super special candidates, wouldn't I choose those most likely to take me up on the admissions offer and protect my yield number? Might an easy way to get this done be to consult a demographic tool showing net worth by zip code? And to stack the yield odds a little more in my favor might I also choose families with Jewish appearing last names knowing they would be extremely likely to accept my offer since I obviously have recent history to show me that these families say yes to our prices? I think this is a much more plausible explanation then assuming some secret quota in force at these schools.

I am a conservative but I cannot believe Jewish liberals would go that far just to ensure more Jewish liberals attend their institutions or to keep conservative white non Jewish middle income students out. Dollars and cents and the perception a yield number conveys about the desirability of a school are what is at work here in my humble opinion.

Anonymous February 26, 2013 at 8:09 pm GMT

There is a very simple solution. There is no legal definition of race. Simply check the "Negro" (or "African-American" or whatever it is called today) box on the application form. You don't look it? Neither do many others, because your ancestry is really mixed. This may get you in. It won't hurt your chances, which are essentially zero before you check that box. At the very least, it will make it harder for the bigots in the admissions office to exercise their bigotry.

Anonymous March 1, 2013 at 7:13 pm GMT

"Look at Nobel prizes, field medals and all kind of prizes and awards that recognize lifetime original academic contributions. Not many asians there yet. Perfect grades or SAT scores does not guarantee creativity, original thinking, intelectual curiosity or leadership. The problem is that those things are hard to measure and very easy to fake in an application."

Last year, 75% of Ph.D candidates where foreign born, most of which were either Indian or Chinese. You should rely on statistics that are more current and relevant.

Doom March 12, 2013 at 8:45 pm GMT

Wow, another article on how corrupt higher eduation is.

Folks, open your eyes a bit. Online education is growing massively; sharing this growth are websites that write academic papers (even Ph.D. theses) on demands .these websites in toto have nearly as many customers as there are online students.

Harvard is unusual in that they actually banned students for cheating. Every investigation of cheating on campus shows it exists on a massive scale, and reports of half or more of a class cheating are quite common in the news.

The reason for this is simple: administrators care about retention, nothing else. Faculty have long since gotten the message. I've taught in higher education for nearly 25 years now, and I've seen many faculty punished for catching cheaters; not once has there been any reward.

Over 90% of remedial students fail to get a 2-year degree in three years, yet administration sees no issue with talking them into loans that will keep them in debt forever. Admin sees no issue with exploiting the vulnerable for personal gain, of course.

Here's what higher education is today: desperate people take out loans to go to college. They use the money to pay the tuition, and they use the money to buy academic papers because they really aren't there for college, they're there for the checks. Their courses are graded by poorly paid faculty (mostly adjuncts), again paid by those checks. The facutly are watched over by administrators to make sure there is no integrity to the system and again, admin is paid by those checks (in fact, most of the tuition money goes to administrators).

Hmm, what part of this could be changed that would put integrity back into the system?

Anonymous March 12, 2013 at 10:18 pm GMT

I think your sources who claim to be familiar with China are very wrong concerning entrance into Chinese universities, especially those so-called upper tier unis. It is well known amongst most Chinese students who take the gaokao, the all-or-nothing university entrance examination, bribes, guanxi (connections) and just being local, are often better indicators of who will be accepted.

• Replies: @KA Same and some more in India.
In India it is politics of the gutter. Someone can get to medical school and engineering school even if he or she did not qualify,if scored say 3 points out of 1000 points as long as he or she belonged to lower caste of Hindu. The minimum requirements they have to fulfill is to pass the school leaving examinations with science subjects .A passing level is all that matters . The process then continues (in further education -master , training, post doctoral, and in job and in promotion)
While upper caste Hindu or Christian or Muslim may not be allowed despite scoring 999 out of 1000. It is possible and has happened.
Unfortunately the lower caste has not progressed much. Upper caste Hindus have misused this on many occasions and continue to do do by selling themselves as lower caste with legal loopholes .Muslim or Christians can't do that for they can't claim to be Hindu
Bobby March 13, 2013 at 1:57 am GMT

Ron Unz is a brilliant man. He created software that made him rich, and has written articles on all kinds of subjects. But apparently, Ron shares a problem with a very tiny number of humanity. Ron is one of those oddball characters, that, no matter where the truth leads him, he simply has to express it, regardless of political correctness. He did this in California with the debate on English,etc.

Compared to the administrators of these Ivy League Institutions, Ron is a mental giant, not even near being in the same class as these supposedly important but in reality, worthless beurocrats.

Thom March 13, 2013 at 7:04 pm GMT

If ten million Gentile whites and Asians changed their surname to Kaplan, Levy, Golden, Goldstein, Goldman, it obviously would throw a monkey wrench into the process of ethnic favoritism.

To paraphrase Unz - the "shared group biases" of Ivy League college admission officers that have "extreme flexibility and subjectivity", does harm white Gentiles and Asians, but only because the process lacks objective, meritocratic decision making, and in its place is a vile form of corrupt cronyism and favoritism.

Anonymous March 21, 2013 at 4:39 pm GMT

An Asian speaking here, I agree that America isn't a meritocracy, but has it ever been? It seems like this article's falling for the oldest trick in the book - looking back at the "good old days". I'd argue that now more than ever, the barrier to entry is lower than ever, and that every individual can rise to the occasion and innovate for the better. Places like Exeter (my alma mater) aren't just playgrounds for the rich - I'm not extremely wealthy, and neither were my classmates. Most of us were even on financial aid. Don't just point fingers at institutions to account for shortcomings - if you had the stroke of fortune to be born in a nation with such opportunity, with hard work and CREATIVITY and INNOVATION, anything is possible.

Has anyone thought about why the test-prep business has expanded so much? It's to feed into the very same system that you're complaining about. Be the change you wish to see in the world, not a victim of it. To many of the Asians out there, I'd say get over your 4.0 GPA and 2400 SAT score and be unique for once.

Michael N Moore March 28, 2013 at 7:52 pm GMT

To put Unz's findings in social and historical perspective, it is important to understand where Jewish academics come from. The Eastern European Jews who immigrated to Northeast US in the Twentieth Century ran into an immigrant world dominated by Catholics and particularly Irish Catholics. The Irish, who were as "hungry" as the Jews got control over government and its ancillary economic benefits. I wasn't there at the time, but I imagine we Irish did not do much to help Jewish immigrants compared with Catholic immigrants.

One area abandoned by the Catholic Church was public and secular education. The Church formed its own educational Catholic ghetto. Jewish immigrants adopted the public-secular educational world as their own and became strong adherents of education as the key to Americanization. Education became their small piece of turf. The only memorable political conflict between Jews and AfricanAmericans in New York City was over control of the public schools.

Just as the Irish react against affirmative action for non-Irish in government jobs, the descendants of these Jewish immigrants react to the plagiarism of their assimilation plan by the Chinese/Koreans. When you have de facto Irish affirmative action you don't want de jure African American affirmative action. When you have Jewish "meritocracy" you don't want Asian meritocracy.

The result is what you see today. The Irish still have a stranglehold on government related jobs in the Northeast with a smattering of minorities ("New Irish") and the Jews try to protect their secular education turf from the "New Jews". It's just business. Don't take it personally.

marc April 7, 2013 at 4:12 pm GMT

All I can say is see a book: "Ivy League Fools and Felons"' by Mack Roth. Lots of them are kids of corrupt people in all fields.

But I disagree that opportunity is being closed off to most Americans. Here in North Dakota I work for a high school graduate, self made trucking millionaire. Five years ago she was a secretary in Iowa. But she got off her butt and went to where the money is circulating. Just my 2 cents

Anonymous April 7, 2013 at 8:18 pm GMT

Sorry, but quick correction regarding rankings (and I only have to say this because I go to MIT). Technically, MIT and Caltech are *both* ranked the same. The only reason why Caltech appears on the list before MIT is because it come before it alphabetically to suggest otherwise would be untrue. When you look at individual departments, you'll find that MIT consistently ranks higher than that of Caltech in all engineering disciplines and most scientific disciplines. Also, personally speaking, MIT has a far better humanities program that Caltech (especially in the fields of economics, political science, philosophy, and linguisitics). We do have a number of Pulitizer Prize winners who teach here.

Also generally, in academic circle, MIT is usually viewed with higher regard than Caltech, although that isn't to say Caltech isn't a fantastic school (it really and truly is–I loved it there and I wish more people knew more about it)

Rand April 7, 2013 at 10:27 pm GMT

One observation about methodology that struck me while reading this:

The Jewish population of universities is being evaluated based on Hillel statistics, with the "Non-Jewish white" population being based on the white population minus the Jewish population.

This can be problematic when you consider that these population are merging at a pretty high rate. (I don't have much information here, but this is from the header of the wikipedia article: "The 1990 National Jewish Population Survey reported an intermarriage rate of 52 percent among American Jews.")

What percentage of partially Jewish students identify as "Jewish" or does Hillel identify as Jewish? If you're taking a population that would have once identified as "white" and now identifying them as Jewish, obviously you'll see some Jewish inflation, and white deflation. And when a large percentage of this population bears the names "Smith", "Jones", "Roberts" etc., you're obviously not going to see a corresponding increase in NMS scores evaluated on the basis of last names.

Of course, I have no idea what methodology Hillel is using, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it's an inflated one.

NotAmerican April 15, 2013 at 4:56 pm GMT

Thank you Mr. Unz for this provocative article. It isn't the author's first one on Jewish & Asian enrollment at Ivy League colleges. I remember another one, in the 1990s I believe.

According to what I read, less and less American Jews apply for medical school nationwide, and Jewish women are very educated, but it comes also with a low birthrate and high median age. It makes the recent spike in Jewish admissions at Harvard College all the more curious, intriguing.

This month, the NY Times published a list of the highest earners in the hedge fund industry in 2012, and 8 out of 10 were Jewish. Are certain universities aggressively seeking donations from this super rich demographic since the 2000s?

History has a way of repeating itself.

NotAmerican April 15, 2013 at 5:01 pm GMT

I'm referring to HYP(Harvard-Yale-Princeton)'s history, during the Gilded Age for example.

Ira April 21, 2013 at 2:12 pm GMT

The young American Jew is not like his grandparents. They are just as fun loving and lazy as any other. This is the result of a lack of perceived persecution that use to keep the group together. In the major cities, half of the young people leave the tribe through intermarriage. This is human nature. The Rabbis changed the rules some time ago to define a Jew as coming from the mother, so the Jewish man would marry a Jewish woman, instead of a woman outside of the tribe. Read the Bible. In David's time, the men had an eye for good looking women outside of the tribe(like all men). Now days, the young people just laugh at the Rabbi's words.

Instead of the old folks liberal ideas of race and ethnic divisions, let us change it to go by economic class. According to liberal thought, intelligence is equally distributed throughout all economic classes, so higher education admissions should be by economic class, and not the old divisive ideas of race and ethnic background. After all, affirmative action programs are institutionalized racism and racial profiling.

• Replies: @KA Yes . You have points . This is one of the fears that drove the Zionist to plan of Israel in 1880 . It was the fear of secular life free from religious persecution and freedom to enjoy life to its fullest in the post industrial non religious Europe guided by enlightenment that drove them embrace the religious ethnic mix concept of statehood.
N. Joseph Potts April 29, 2013 at 7:43 pm GMT

These and many other ills would be alleviated if government would stop: (a) banning aptitude tests or even outright discrimination as determinants of employment; (b) subsidizing private institutions such as Harvard; and (c) close down all government schools, starting with state institutions of "higher learning."

I know, pie in the sky. But the author's suggestions by comparison are mere Band-Aids.

Clark Coleman May 14, 2013 at 4:13 am GMT

Great analysis, but pie-in-the-sky prescription, which was presumably just intended to be thought provoking. If you want to know why Harvard would never adopt the author's recommendation, just read what he wrote:

"But if it were explicitly known that the vast majority of Harvard students had merely been winners in the application lottery, top businesses would begin to cast a much wider net in their employment outreach, and while the average Harvard student would probably be academically stronger than the average graduate of a state college, the gap would no longer be seen as so enormous, with individuals being judged more on their own merits and actual achievements. A Harvard student who graduated magna cum laude would surely have many doors open before him, but not one who graduated in the bottom half of his class."

I wonder why Harvard officials would desire this outcome?

Anonymous May 23, 2013 at 4:00 am GMT

So a lot of ivy league presidents with Jewish-sounding names somehow influence admissions staff who may not have Jewish-sounding names to favor undeserving applicants because they also have Jewish-sounding names? And this is because of some secret ethnic pride thing going on? And nobody's leaked this conspiracy to the outside world until our whistle blowing author? The guy's a nut job.

foo May 31, 2013 at 5:31 am GMT

Benj Pollock says: [...stuf...]

What a weird ad-hominem attack! One of the weakest I have seen..you should really be calling the author an "anti-semite" shouldn't you ?

Anonymous July 27, 2013 at 5:04 pm GMT

All of your statistics are highly suspect due to the enormous, and rapid annual increase in Jewish intermarriage. I do not have the statistics, but over many years, it certainly appears that Jewish men are far more likely to intermarry than Jewish women (the lure of the antithesis to their Jewish mother??) and to complicate matters further, Jewish men seem to have a predilection for Asian women, at least in the greater NY Metro Area. But that still does not represent the majority of Jewish men marrying Christians. QED. More Jewish last names, for children who are DNA wise only half Jewish than non Jewish names for the intermarried. And if one wanted to get really specific, the rapidly rising intermarriage is diluting the "Jewish" genetic pool's previously demonstrable intelligence superiority., strengthened by the fact that most couples use the Jewish fathers last name.
These observations are in no way associated with how the various Jewish denominations define 'Jewish"

Methinks the statistics are highly flawed.

NB says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment December 5, 2013 at 7:52 pm GMT

I have posted a critique of Unz's article here: http://alum.mit.edu/www/nurit

Columbia statistician Andrew Gelman discusses it here: http://andrewgelman.com/2013/10/22/ivy-jew-update/

In short: Unz substantially overestimated the percentage of Jews at Harvard while grossly underestimating the percentage of Jews among high academic achievers, when, in fact, there is no discrepancy.

In addition, Unz's arguments have proven to be untenable in light of a recent survey of incoming Harvard freshmen conducted by The Harvard Crimson, which found that students who identified as Jewish reported a mean SAT score of 2289, 56 points higher than the average SAT score of white respondents.

Walter Sobchak December 11, 2013 at 3:43 am GMT

I have a couple of thoughts about this article:

First. I was thrilled to see your advocacy of admissions by lottery. I have advocated such a plan on various websites that I participate in, but you have written the first major article advocating it that I have seen. Congratulations.

Just a small quibble with your plan, I would not allow the schools any running room for any alternatives to the lottery. They have not demonstrated any willingness to administer such a system fairly. After a few years of pure lottery it would be time to evaluate it and see if they should be allowed any leeway, but I wouldn't allow any variation before that.

I would hypothesize that one effect of a lottery admissions plan would be a return to more stringent grading in the class rooms. It would be useful to the faculty to weed out the poor performers more quickly, and the students might have less of an attitude of entitlement.

Second, I am glad that you raised the issue of corruption of the admissions staffs. It would be a new chapter in human history if there was no straight out bribe taking of by functionaries in their positions. My guess is that the bag men are the "high priced consultants". Pay them a years worth of tuition money and a sufficient amount will flow to the right places to get your kid in to wherever you want him to go.

Third, three observations about Jewish Students.

First, Jews are subject to mean reversion just like everybody else.

Second, the kids in the millennial generation were, for the most part, born into comfortable middle class and upper class homes. The simply do not have the drive that their immigrant grandparents and great-grandparents had. I see this in my own family. My wife and I had immigrant parents, and we were pretty driven academically (6 degrees between us). Our kids, who are just as bright as we were, did not show that same edge, and it was quite frustrating to us. None of them have gone to a graduate or professional school. They are all working and are happy, but driven they aren't.

Third, Hillel's numbers of Jewish students on their website should be taken cum grano salis. All three of our kids went to Northwestern U. (Evanston, IL) which Hillel claimed was 20% Jewish. Based on our personal observations of kids in their dorms and among their friends, I think the number is probably 10% or less.

Finally, the side bar on Paying Tuition to a Hedge Fund. I too am frustrated with the current situation among the wealthy institutions. I think that it deserves a lot more attention from policy makers than it has received. The Universities have received massive benefits from the government (Federal and state) - not just tax exemptions, but grants for research and to students, subsidized loans, tax deductions for contributions, and on, and on. They have responded to this largess by raising salaries, hiring more administrators, spending billions on construction, and continually raising tuitions far faster than the rate of inflation. I really do not think the tax payers should be carrying this much of a burden at a time when deficits are mounting without limit.

Henry VIII solved a similar problem by confiscating assets. We have constitutional limits on that sort of activity, but I think there a lot of constitutional steps that should be considered. Here a few:

1. There is ample reason to tax the the investment gains of the endowments as "unrelated business taxable income" (UBTI, see IRS Pub 598 and IRC §§ 511-515) defined as income from a business conducted by an exempt organization that is not substantially related to the performance of its exempt purpose. If they do not want to pay tax on their investments, they should purchase treasuries and municipals, and hold them to maturity.

2. The definition of an exempt organization could be narrowed to exclude schools that charge tuition. Charging $50,000/yr and sitting on 30G$ of assets looks a lot more like a business than a charity.

3. Donations to overly rich institutions should be non deductible to the donors. Overly rich should be defined in terms of working capital needs and reserves for depreciation of physical assets.

jholloway August 23, 2014 at 4:40 am GMT

Ron,

Is the proposed mechanism that Jewish university presidents create a bias in the admissions department?

That could be tested by comparing Jewish student percentages between schools with Christian and Jewish presidents. If Christian presidents produce student bodies with a high proportion of Jews, then Jewish ethnocentrism is not the cause. (We'd have to find a way to control for presidents' politics.)

If admissions departments are discriminating in favor of liberals, that will boost the proportion of all liberals, including many Jews, but it will be political discrimination, not ethnic discrimination. (Both are bad, but we should be accurate.)

Liberals see a discrepancy in ethnic outcomes and consider it proof of ethnic discrimination. Are we doing the same thing?

KA October 12, 2014 at 2:34 pm GMT

After Russian emancipation, the Jews from Pale settlement spread out and took up jobs in government services, secured admissions in technical and medical schools, and established positions in trade in just two decades. Then they started interconnecting and networking more aggressively to eliminate competition and deny the non-Jews the opportunities that the non Jews rightfully claimed. This pattern was also evident in Germany after 1880 and in Poland between interwars .

The anti-Jewish sentiment seen in pre revolutionary Russia was the product of this ethnic exclusivisity and of the tremendous in-group behaviors .

KA October 12, 2014 at 2:41 pm GMT
@Ira The young American Jew is not like his grandparents. They are just as fun loving and lazy as any other. This is the result of a lack of perceived persecution that use to keep the group together. In the major cities, half of the young people leave the tribe through intermarriage. This is human nature. The Rabbis changed the rules some time ago to define a Jew as coming from the mother, so the Jewish man would marry a Jewish woman, instead of a woman outside of the tribe. Read the Bible. In David's time, the men had an eye for good looking women outside of the tribe(like all men). Now days, the young people just laugh at the Rabbi's words.

Instead of the old folks liberal ideas of race and ethnic divisions, let us change it to go by economic class. According to liberal thought, intelligence is equally distributed throughout all economic classes, so higher education admissions should be by economic class, and not the old divisive ideas of race and ethnic background. After all, affirmative action programs are institutionalized racism and racial profiling.

Yes . You have points . This is one of the fears that drove the Zionist to plan of Israel in 1880 . It was the fear of secular life free from religious persecution and freedom to enjoy life to its fullest in the post industrial non religious Europe guided by enlightenment that drove them embrace the religious ethnic mix concept of statehood.

KA October 12, 2014 at 2:59 pm GMT
@Anonymous I think your sources who claim to be familiar with China are very wrong concerning entrance into Chinese universities, especially those so-called upper tier unis. It is well known amongst most Chinese students who take the gaokao, the all-or-nothing university entrance examination, bribes, guanxi (connections) and just being local, are often better indicators of who will be accepted.

Same and some more in India. In India it is politics of the gutter. Someone can get to medical school and engineering school even if he or she did not qualify, if scored say 3 points out of 1000 points as long as he or she belonged to lower caste of Hindu. The minimum requirements they have to fulfill is to pass the school leaving examinations with science subjects .A passing level is all that matters . The process then continues (in further education -master , training, post doctoral, and in job and in promotion)

While upper caste Hindu or Christian or Muslim may not be allowed despite scoring 999 out of 1000. It is possible and has happened. Unfortunately the lower caste has not progressed much. Upper caste Hindus have misused this on many occasions and continue to do do by selling themselves as lower caste with legal loopholes .Muslim or Christians can't do that for they can't claim to be Hindu

Ivy October 16, 2014 at 3:20 am GMT

Takeaways:
Jews are really good at networking and in-group activity. They have centuries of practice, and lived a meritocratic existence of self-sorting in the Pale and elsewhere.
That is evident to all who look.

Other groups have different approaches, and different organizational or affiliation bonds, based on their history, culture and other factors.

NE Asians share some traits, and both value education as a way to improve themselves and to some extent their groups.
S Asians will demonstrate their own approach, focusing heavily on STEM.

Expect demographics to win out, given 2.5B Asians versus a smaller NAM or NE European-base populace.

Anonymous November 26, 2014 at 5:06 pm GMT

Thanks for the informative article. Your proposal sounds reasonable. Another option would be to attempt to vastly decrease the significance of these elite private schools. Why should we allow undemocratic little fiefdoms to largely control entry into our country's ruling class? It would probably be considerably more fair, more transparent and more efficient to pour a lot of resources into our public universities. If Berkeley, Michigan, UVA, UMass, etc. were completely free, for instance–or if they provided students with living expenses as well as free tuition, the quality of their students would conceivably surpass that of the Ivy League's, and over time the importance and prestige of Harvard, Stanford, etc. would diminish. Instead, we are subsidizing students at elite private colleges more than those at public colleges–an absurd state of affairs (see this article, whose author is a bit of an ideologue but who is right on this issue: http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Robert-Reich/2014/1014/How-the-government-spends-more-per-student-at-elite-private-universities-than-public ).

Truth December 25, 2014 at 4:04 pm GMT

Mr. Unz; thank you for the long, informational and scholarly article. I read the whole thing, and from Sailer I am familiar with your reputation as a certified genius. I must admit however, after the 5-10,000 words you had written, I was a bit shocked that your answer to how to improve elite University enrollment, was to FLIP A FIGURATIVE COIN.

I expected some chart with differential equations that I would have to consult my much more intelligent brother, the electrical engineer to explain to me. Not that it does not make a lot of sense.

The issue with your solution is that you go from a three class university:
1) Legacy Admits
2) Non athletic, black admits
3) everyone else

to a much-more rigid, two class university:

1) academic admits
2) coin-flip admits

One tier being one of the smartest 15-18 year olds in the world, the other being "somewhat better than good student at Kansas State."

Talk about a hierarchy!

Anonymous March 11, 2015 at 3:34 am GMT

My brother works at a little ivy league school. Well endowed because the parents Dun and Bradstreet reports are at the top of the selection sheets with parents jobs also. Extra points for finance and government jobs at executive levels.

This article was excellent and reinforced everything he has told me over the years. One thing he did mention i would like to add. Asians, which for years were their choice for filling minority quotas, are horrible when it comes to supporting the alma mater financially during the fund drives. This information was confirmed by several other schools in the area when they tried a multi-school drive in the far east and south east asia to canvas funds and returned with a pitiful sum.

Joe Franklin August 20, 2015 at 8:25 pm GMT

Diversity is a scheme that is the opposite of a meritocracy. Diversity is a national victim cult that generally demonizes gentiles, and more specifically demonizes people that conform to a jewish concocted profile of a nazi.

Why would anyone use the word diversity in the same sentence as the word meritocracy?

Joe Franklin August 29, 2015 at 4:42 pm GMT

"Are elite university admissions based on meritocracy and diversity as claimed?" Why would anybody claiming to be intelligent include meritocracy and diversity in the same sentence?

Part White, Part Native September 1, 2015 at 6:45 am GMT

@Sean Gillhoolley Harvard is a university, much like Princeton and Yale, that continues based on its reputation, something that was earned in the past. When the present catches up to them people will regard them as nepotistic cauldrons of corruption.

Look at the financial disaster that befell the USA and much of the globe back in 2008. Its genesis can be found in the clever minds of those coming out of their business schools (and, oddly enough, their Physics programs as well). They are teaching the elite how to drain all value from American companies, as the rich plan their move to China, the new land of opportunity. When 1% of the population controls such a huge portion of the wealth, patriotism becomes a loadstone to them. The elite are global. Places like Harvard cater to them, help train them to rule the world....but first they must remake it.

I agree, common people would never think of derivatives , nor make loans based on speculation .

Gandydancer December 26, 2015 at 1:43 am GMT

"Tiffany Wang['s] SAT scores were over 100 points above the Wesleyan average, and she ranked as a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist "

"Julianna Bentes her SAT scores were somewhat higher than Tiffany's "

Did Ms. Wang underperform on her SATs? NMS semifinalist status depends purely on the score on a very SAT-like test being at a 99.5 percentile level, as I understand it (and I was one, albeit a very long time ago) and I gather from the above that her SAT scores did not correspond to the PSAT one. That is, merely " 100 points above the Wesleyan average" doesn't seem all that exceptional. Or am I wrong?

Mr. Unz several times conflates NMS semifinalist status with being a top student. Which I most definitely was not. It's rather an IQ test. As was the SAT.

[Dec 01, 2019] Academic Conformism is the road to 1984. - Sic Semper Tyrannis

Highly recommended!
Dec 01, 2019 | turcopolier.typepad.com

Academic Conformism is the road to "1984."

Symptoms-of-groupthink-janis-72-l

The world is filled with conformism and groupthink. Most people do not wish to think for themselves. Thinking for oneself is dangerous, requires effort and often leads to rejection by the herd of one's peers.

The profession of arms, the intelligence business, the civil service bureaucracy, the wondrous world of groups like the League of Women Voters, Rotary Club as well as the empire of the thinktanks are all rotten with this sickness, an illness which leads inevitably to stereotyped and unrealistic thinking, thinking that does not reflect reality.

The worst locus of this mentally crippling phenomenon is the world of the academics. I have served on a number of boards that awarded Ph.D and post doctoral grants. I was on the Fulbright Fellowship federal board. I was on the HF Guggenheim program and executive boards for a long time. Those are two examples of my exposure to the individual and collective academic minds.

As a class of people I find them unimpressive. The credentialing exercise in acquiring a doctorate is basically a nepotistic process of sucking up to elders and a crutch for ego support as well as an entrance ticket for various hierarchies, among them the world of the academy. The process of degree acquisition itself requires sponsorship by esteemed academics who recommend candidates who do not stray very far from the corpus of known work in whichever narrow field is involved. The endorsements from RESPECTED academics are often decisive in the award of grants.

This process is continued throughout a career in academic research. PEER REVIEW is the sine qua non for acceptance of a "paper," invitation to career making conferences, or to the Holy of Holies, TENURE.

This life experience forms and creates CONFORMISTS, people who instinctively boot-lick their fellows in a search for the "Good Doggy" moments that make up their lives. These people are for sale. Their price may not be money, but they are still for sale. They want to be accepted as members of their group. Dissent leads to expulsion or effective rejection from the group.

This mentality renders doubtful any assertion that a large group of academics supports any stated conclusion. As a species academics will say or do anything to be included in their caste.

This makes them inherently dangerous. They will support any party or parties, of any political inclination if that group has the money, and the potential or actual power to maintain the academics as a tribe. pl


doug , 01 December 2019 at 01:01 PM

Sir,

That is the nature of tribes and humans are very tribal. At least most of them. Fortunately, there are outliers. I was recently reading "Political Tribes" which was written by a couple who are both law professors that examines this.

Take global warming (aka the rebranded climate change). Good luck getting grants to do any skeptical research. This highly complex subject which posits human impact is a perfect example of tribal bias.

My success in the private sector comes from consistent questioning what I wanted to be true to prevent suboptimal design decisions.

I also instinctively dislike groups that have some idealized view of "What is to be done?"

As Groucho said: "I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member"

J , 01 December 2019 at 01:22 PM
Reminds one of the Borg, doesn't it?

The 'isms' had it, be it Nazism, Fascism, Communism, Totalitarianism, Elitism all demand conformity and adherence to group think. If one does not co-tow to whichever 'ism' is at play, those outside their group think are persecuted, ostracized, jailed, and executed all because they defy their conformity demands, and defy allegiance to them.

One world, one religion, one government, one Borg. all lead down the same road to -- Orwell's 1984.

Factotum , 01 December 2019 at 03:18 PM
David Halberstam: The Best and the Brightest. (Reminder how the heck we got into Vietnam, when the best and the brightest were serving as presidential advisors.)

Also good Halberstam re-read: The Powers that Be - when the conservative media controlled the levers of power; not the uber-liberal one we experience today.

[Dec 01, 2019] Neoliberalism Tells Us We're Selfish Souls How Can We Promote Other Identities by Christine Berry,

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... As the Gramscian theorists Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau observed, our political identities are not a 'given' – something that emerges directly from the objective facts of our situation. We all occupy a series of overlapping identities in our day-to-day lives – as workers or bosses, renters or home-owners, debtors or creditors. Which of these define our politics depends on political struggles for meaning and power. ..."
"... The architects of neoliberalism understood this process of identity creation. By treating people as selfish, rational utility maximisers, they actively encouraged them to become selfish, rational utility maximisers. As the opening article points out, this is not a side effect of neoliberal policy, but a central part of its intention. As Michael Sandel pointed out in his 2012 book 'What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets' , it squeezes out competing values that previously governed non-market spheres of life, such as ethics of public service in the public sector, or mutual care within local communities. But these values remain latent: neoliberalism does not have the power to erase them completely. This is where the hope for the left lies, the crack of light through the doorway that needs to be prised open. ..."
"... More generally, there is some evidence that neoliberalism didn't really succeed in making us see ourselves as selfish rational maximisers – just in making us believe that everybody else was . For example, a 2016 survey found that UK citizens are on average more oriented towards compassionate values than selfish values, but that they perceive others to be significantly more selfish (both than themselves and the actual UK average). Strikingly, those with a high 'self-society gap' were found to be less likely to vote and engage in civic activity, and highly likely to experience feelings of cultural estrangement. ..."
"... Perhaps a rational system is one that accepts selfishness but keeps it within limits. Movements like the Chicago school that pretend to reinvent the wheel with new thinking are by this view a scam. As J.K. Galbraith said: "the problem with their ideas is that they have been tried." ..."
"... They tried running an economy on debt in the 1920s. The 1920s roared with debt based consumption and speculation until it all tipped over into the debt deflation of the Great Depression. No one realised the problems that were building up in the economy as they used an economics that doesn't look at private debt, neoclassical economics. ..."
"... Keynes looked at the problems of the debt based economy and came up with redistribution through taxation to keep the system running in a sustainable way and he dealt with the inherent inequality capitalism produced. ..."
"... Neoliberalism, which has influenced so much of the conventional thinking about money, is adamant that the public sector must not create ('print') money, and so public expenditure must be limited to what the market can 'afford.' Money, in this view, is a limited resource that the market ensures will be used efficiently. Is public money, then, a pipe dream? No, for the financial crisis and the response to it undermined this neoliberal dogma. ..."
"... The financial sector mismanaged its role as a source of money so badly that the state had to step in and provide unlimited monetary backing to rescue it. The creation of money out of thin air by public authorities revealed the inherently political nature of money. But why, then, was the power to create money ceded to the private sector in the first place -- and with so little public accountability? ..."
Nov 01, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Lambert here: Not sure the soul is an identity, but authors don't write the headlines. Read on!

By Christine Berry, a freelance researcher and writer and was previously Director of Policy and Government for the New Economics Foundation. She has also worked at ShareAction and