Softpanorama

Home Switchboard Unix Administration Red Hat TCP/IP Networks Neoliberalism Toxic Managers
May the source be with you, but remember the KISS principle ;-)
Skepticism and critical thinking is not panacea, but can help to understand the world better

Redistribution of wealth up as the essence of neoliberalism

Decline of middle class in the USA under neoliberal regime
and rise of Economic Royalists ("Let them eat cake ")

News Swimming in Fiat Currency Waters Selected Reviews Recommended books Recommended Links The Decline of the Middle Class
Pope Francis on danger of neoliberalism Systemic Fraud under Clinton-Bush-Obama Regime Neoliberalism Invisible Hand Hypothesis Numbers racket Over 50 and unemployed
The Occupy Wall Street protest Casino Capitalism Notes on Republican Economic Policy Supply Side or Trickle down economics Critique of neoclassical economics Lawrence Summers
Andrew Bacevich Views on American Exceptionalism Principal agent problem Short Introduction to Lysenkoism Famous quotes of John Kenneth Galbraith Financial Humor Etc

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."

-- Abraham Lincoln

Isn’t inequality merely the price of America being No. 1? ... That’s almost certainly false... Prior to about 20 years ago, most economists thought that inequality greased the wheels of progress. Wealth Inequality in America Overwhelmingly now, people who study it empirically think that it’s sand in the wheels. ... Inequality breeds conflict, and conflict breeds wasted resources”

Samuel Bowles,
cited from Economist's View: Inequality and Guard Labor

From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent.

Nicholas D. Kristof, NYT, November 6, 2010

Roughly 1 in 4 Americans is employed to keep fellow citizens in line and protect private wealth from would-be Robin Hoods

Guard Labor Why is Inequality Bad

If labor is a commodity like any other, who is the idiot in charge of inventory management?.

Economist's View '


Introduction

As aptly noted Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems ( The Guardian,  April 15, 2016)

Imagine if the people of the Soviet Union had never heard of communism. The ideology that dominates our lives has, for most of us, no name. Mention it in conversation and you'll be rewarded with a shrug. Even if your listeners have heard the term before, they will struggle to define it. Neoliberalism: do you know what it is?

Its anonymity is both a symptom and cause of its power. It has played a major role in a remarkable variety of crises: the financial meltdown of 2007‑8, the offshoring of wealth and power, of which the Panama Papers offer us merely a glimpse, the slow collapse of public health and education, resurgent child poverty, the epidemic of loneliness , the collapse of ecosystems, rejection of the current neoliberal elite by majority of American people and the rise of candidates like Donald Trump . But we respond to these developments as if they emerge in isolation, apparently unaware that they have all been either catalyzed or exacerbated by the same coherent philosophy; a philosophy that has – or had – a name. What greater power can there be than to operate namelessly? 

One of the key property of neoliberalism is that it recasts inequality as virtuous. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve. If you deserve to die, so be it. Of course. that does not apply to the financial oligarchy which is above the law and remains unpunished even for very serious crimes. This fate is reserved for bottom 99% of population.

One of the key property of neoliberalism is that it recasts inequality as virtuous. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve. If you deserve to die, so be it. Of course. that does not apply to the financial oligarchy which is above the law and remains unpunished even for very serious crimes.

Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations, In other words neoliberal economic model uses "unable to compete in the labor market" label for poor people in the same way Nazi used concept of Untermensch for Slavic people.

That also mean that for those outside top 20% of population the destiny is brutal exploitation not that different then in slave societies. It victimizes and artfully creates complex of inferiority among poor people trying to brainwash that they themselves are guilty in their status and that their children do not deserve better. This is why subsidies for colleges are cut. Unfortunately now even lower middle class is coming under tremendous pressure and essentially is moved into poverty. Disappearance of well-paid middle class "white collar" jobs such as IT jobs and recently oil sector jobs  and conversion of many jobs to temp or to outsourcing/off-shoring model is a fact that can't be denied. Rise in inequality in the USA for that last twenty years of neoliberalism domination is simply dramatic and medial income per family actually dropped.

Everything is moving in the direction of a pretty brutal joke: poor Americans just got a new slave-owners. And now slaves are not distinguished by  the color of their skin.

The economic status of Wal Mart employees (as well as employees of many other retailers, who are predominantly women) are not that different from slaves. In "rich" states like NY and NJ Wal-Mart cashiers are paid around $9 an hour. That's around $18K a year if you can get 40hours a week (big if),  You can't survive on those money living alone and renting an apartment. Two people might be able to survive if they share the apartment costs.  And forget about that if you have a child (aka "single mothers"  as a new face of the US poverty). You can survive only with additional social programs like food stamps. In other words the federal state subsidizes Wal-Mart, increasing their revenue at taxpayers expense.

Piketty thinks a rentier society (which is another definition of neoliberal society) contradicts the meritocratic worldview of democratic societies and is toxic for democracy as it enforces "one dollar one vote" election process (corporation buy politicians; ordinary people just legitimize with their votes pre-selected by elite candidates, see Two Party System as Polyarchy):

 “…no ineluctable force standing in the way to extreme concentration of wealth…if growth slows and the return on capital increases [as] tax competition between nations heats up…Our democratic societies rest on a meritocratic worldview, or at any rate, a meritocratic hope, by which I mean a belief in a society in which inequality is based more on merit and effort than on kinship and rents. This belief and hope play a very crucial role in modern society, for a simple reason: in a democracy the professed equality of rights of all citizens contrasts sharply with the very real inequality of living conditions, and in order to overcome this contradiction it is vital to make sure that social inequalities derive from ration and universal principles rather than arbitrary contingencies. Inequalities must therefore be just and useful to all, at least in the realm of discourse and as far as possible in reality as well…Durkheim predicted that modern democratic society would not put for long with the existence of inherited wealth and would ultimately see to it that the ownership of property ended at death.” p. 422

A neo-liberal point discussed in Raymond Plant's book on neo-liberalism is that if a fortune has been made through no injustice, then it is OK. So we should not condemn the resulting distribution of wealth, as fantastically concentrated as it may be. That that's not true, as such cases always involve some level of injustice, if only by exploiting some loophole in the current laws. Piketty is correct that to the extent that citizens understood the nature of a rentier society they would rise in opposition to it. The astronomical pay of "super-managers" cannot be justified in meritocratic terms. CEO's can capture boards and force their incentive to grow faster then  company profits. Manipulations with shares buyback are used to meet "targets". So neoliberal extreme is definitely bad.

At the same time we now know the equality if not achievable and communism was a pipe dream that actually inflicted cruelty on a lot of people in the name of unachievable utopia. But does this means that inequality, any level of inequality, is OK. It does not look this way and we can actually argue that extremes meet.

But collapse of the USSR lead to triumph of neoliberalism which is all about rising inequality. Under neoliberalism the wealthy and their academic servants, see inequality as a noble outcome. They want to further enrich top 1%, shrink middle class making it less secure, and impoverish poor. In other words they promote under the disguise of "free market" Newspeak a type of economy which can be called a plantation economy. In this type of the economy all the resources and power are in the hands of a wealthy planter class who then gives preference for easy jobs and the easy life to their loyal toadies. The wealthy elites like cheap labor. And it's much easier to dictate their conditions of employment when unemployment is high. Keynesian economics values the middle class and does not value unemployment or cheap labor. Neoliberals like a system that rewards them for their loyalty to the top 1% with an easier life than they otherwise merit. In a meritocracy where individuals receive public goods and services that allow them to compete on a level playing field, many neoliberal toadies would be losers who cannot compete.

In a 2005 report to investors three analysts at Citigroup advised that “the World is dividing into two blocs—the Plutonomy and the rest … In a plutonomy there is no such animal as “the U.S. consumer” or “the UK consumer", or indeed the “Russian consumer”.

In other words there are analysts that believe that we are moving to a replay of Middle Ages on a new, global level, were there are only rich who do the lion share of the total consumption and poor, who does not matter.

We can also state, that under neoliberal regime the sources of American economic inequality are largely political. In other words they are the result of deliberate political decision of the US elite to shape markets in neoliberal ways, and dismantle New Deal.

Part of this "shaping the markets in neoliberal ways" was corruption of academic economists. Under neoliberalism most economists are engaged in what John Kenneth Galbraith called "the economics of innocent fraud." With the important correction that there is nothing innocent in their activities. Most of them, especially "neoclassical" economists are prostitutes for financial oligarchy. So their prescription and analysis as for the reasons of high unemployment should be taken with due skepticism.

We also know that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That means that existence of aristocracy might not be optimal for society "at large". But without moderating influence of the existence of the USSR on appetites of the US elite, they engage is audacious struggle for accumulation as much power and wealth as possible. In a way that situation matches the situation in 1920th, which was known to be toxic.

But society slowly but steadily moves in this direction since mid 80th. According to the official wage statistics for 2012 http://www.ssa.gov , 40% of the US work force earned less than $20,000, 53% earned less than $30,000, and 73% earned less than $50,000. The median US wage or salary was $27,519 per year. The amounts are in current dollars and they are "total" compensation amounts subject to state and federal income taxes and to Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes. In other words, the take home pay is less.

In other word the USA is now entered an inequality bubble, the bubble with the financial oligarchy as new aristocracy, which strives for absolute control of all layers of the government. The corruption has a systemic character. It take not only traditional form of the intermarriage between Wall street and DC power brokers (aka revolving doors). It also create a caste of guard labor to protect oligarchy.

Redistribution of wealth up as the goal of neoliberalism makes it unsustainable social system

As George H.W. Bush once  said (can't find exact quote):   Neoliberalism is about redistribution of wealth into fewer, higher and tighter hands. Until approximately 2008  the increasing disparity between rich and poor has, largely been non-disruptive in the USA because the lower 90% have been placated enough, by way of the proverbial bread and circuses, not to cause any waves. Sure, there have been little movements here and there, such as Occupy Wall Street, but they were quickly crashed by enormous national security state intelligence agencies.

But just imagine another financial crisis and its consequences

The public mindset might quickly turn against the neoliberal "The New Class" -- neoliberal nomenklatura. Even under Trump with his fake promises social tension had risen significantly because:

Can you imagine the backlash against the Neoliberalism in such circumstances? I suspect it might be larger then in 2008 despite the power of national security state and the fact that the Americans are too dumbed down and drugged to revolt.

As one ZeroHedge commenter put it: "It's not rich against poor. It's FIRE sector parasites vs. earned income hosts."

New global caste structure and stratification of the US society

Some researchers point out that neoliberal world is increasingly characterized by a three-tiered social structure(net4dem.org):

This process of stratification and fossilization of "haves" and "haves-not" is now pretty much established in the USA. The US population can be partitioned into five distinct classes, or strata:

  1. Lower class (poor) bottom 20%. Those folks have income close to official poverty line, which varies from state to state. In "expensive states" like NJ and NY this category ranks much higher then national level, up to 40%. Official figures from a Census Bureau that state that in 2010 twelve states had poverty rates above 17%, up from five in 2009, while ten metropolitan areas had poverty rates over 18%. Texas had the highest poverty rate, at 33.4%, followed by Fresno, California, at 26.8%.

    According to figures published by the Social Security Administration in October 2011, the median income for American workers in 2010 was $26,364, just slightly above the official poverty level of $22,025 for a family of four. Most single parent families with children fall into this category. Many single earner families belong to this category too.

    The median income figure reflects the fact that salaries of 50% of all workers are less then $26,364 and gives a much truer picture of the real social conditions in the United States than the more widely publicized average income, which was $39,959 in 2010. This figure is considerably higher than median income because the distribution of income is so unequal—a relative handful of ultra-high income individuals pulls up the average.

  2. Lower middle class (60%). Depending on class model used, the middle class may constitute anywhere from 25% to 66% of households. Typically includes households with incomes above $46,326 (all households) or $67,348 (dual earners households) per year. The latter is more realistic. In order for two earners family to qualify each earner should get approximately $34K a year or more ($17 per hour wage with 40 hours workweek). Per household member income is around $23.5K
    The lower middle class... these are people in technical and lower-level management positions who work for those in the upper middle class as lower managers, craftspeople, and the like. They enjoy a reasonably comfortable standard of living, although it is constantly threatened by taxes and inflation. Generally, they have a Bachelor's and sometimes Masters college degree.

    —Brian K. William, Stacy C. Sawyer and Carl M. Wahlstrom, Marriages, Families & Intimate Relationships, 2006 (Adapted from Dennis Gilbert 1997; and Joseph Kahl 1993)[4]

  3. Upper middle class (top 20%). The includes households with incomes above 91K per year.
  4. Upper class (elite): top 1%. Annual comes (AGI) for this group exceed $380K per year. Commonly called multimillionaires (net worth two millions or more). In 2010 controlled at least 25% of total nation income (23.5% in 2007, 8.9% in 1979) . Top 1% owns more than 90% of combined or 33.8% of the nation private wealth.
  5. Super rich (top 0.01%, oligarchs, super-elite, or top 1000 families). A close to this category of super-rich are billionaires. US is home of 425 billionaires, while Russia and China have 95 and 96 correspondingly. The average worth of the world's billionaires is now $3.5 billion, or $500 million more than last year.( Forbes)

Share of consumption for families outside upper middle class (with income, say, below $91K per year (80% of US households) is much less then commonly assumed. That means that in the USA consumer spending are driven by upper class and as such is pretty much isolated from decline of wages of lower 80% of population. The median household income in the United States is around $50K.

Possibility of the return to the clan society

The danger of high level of inequality might be revival of nationalism and return to clan (mafia) society in the form of corporatism or even some form of national socialism. Mark S. Weine made this point in his book The Rule of the Clan. What an Ancient Form of Social Organization Reveals About the Future of Individual Freedom . From one Amazon review:

Weiner's book is more than worth its price simply as an armchair tour of interesting places and cultures and mores, deftly and briefly described. But he has a more serious and important point to make. While the social cohesion that the values of the clan promote is alluring, they are ultimately at odds with the values of individual autonomy that only the much-maligned modern liberal state can offer.

Even the state's modern defenders tend to view it, at best, as a necessary evil. It keeps the peace, upholds (somewhat) international order, and manages the complexity of modern life in ways that allow individuals to get on with their journeys of personal fulfillment.

Weiner shows (in too brief but nevertheless eloquent ways) that this reductive view of the state is insufficient to resist the seductive appeal of the clan, and that it will be for the worse if we can't find ways to combat this allure within the legal structures of modern liberalism.

Read alongside James Ault's masterful participant study of fundamentalist Baptism, Spirit and Flesh, and draw your own conclusions.

Dramatic increase in the use of guard labor and conversion of the state into National Security State

Of course the elite is worried about security of their ill-gotten gains. And that's partially why the USA need such huge totally militarized police force and outsize military. Police and military are typical guard labor, that protects private wealth of the US plutocrats. Add to this equally strong private army of security contractors.

Other suggested that not only the USA, but the global neoliberal society is deeply sick with the same disease that the US society expected in 20th (and like previously with globalism of robber barons age, the triumph of neoliberalism in 1990th was and is a global phenomenon).

High inequality logically leads to dramatic increase of guard labor and inevitable conversion of state into National Security State. Which entail total surveillance over the citizens as a defining factor. Ruling elite is always paranoid, but neoliberal elite proved to be borderline psychopathic. They do not want merely security, they want to crush all the resistance.

Butler Shaffer wrote recently that the old state system in the United States is dying before our very eyes:

A system that insists on controlling others through increasing levels of systematic violence; that loots the many for the aggrandizement of the few; that regulates any expressions of human behavior that are not of service to the rulers; that presumes the power to wage wars against any nation of its choosing, a principle that got a number of men hanged at the Nuremberg trials; and finally, criminalizes those who would speak the truth to its victims, has no moral energy remaining with which to sustain itself.

Low mobility created potential for the degeneration of the elite

It is pretty clear that the USA became a society where there is de facto royalty. In the form of the strata which Roosevelt called "Economic royalists". Jut look at third generation of Walton family or Rocafeller family.

Remember the degenerative Soviet Politburo, or, for a change, unforgettable dyslexic President George W Bush ? The painful truth is that in the most unequal nations including the UK and the US – the intergenerational transmission of income is very strong (in plain language they have a heredity-based aristocracy). See Let them eat cake. In more equal societies such as Denmark, the tendency of privilege to breed privilege is much lower but also exists and is on the rise. As Roosevelt observed in a similar situation of 30th:

These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power.

High inequality undermines social cohesion

Neoliberalism and its ideology(Randism) undermined social cohesion, making society members more hostile to each other and as such less willing to defend the country in case of real danger. Betrayal of the country is no longer an unspeakable crime.

The purpose of government should be to foster a "civil society". The slogan of the "oligarchic right" is "me first", or, as in Paul Ryan's adoration of Ayn Rand, greed is good. Objectivism became kind of new civic religion, with the goal of maximizing the wealth of a single individual at the expense of the civil society is a virtue. And those new social norms (instilled by MSM) allow the fat cats simply to stole from everybody else without fear of punishment. See an outburst from Stephen Schwarzman. If there are two societies inside of the country with bridges burned, the bottom part is less willing to spill blood for the upper part. And having a contractual army has its own set of dangers, as it spirals into high level of militarism (being in war is a new normal for the USA during the last 30 years or so), which while enriching part of the elite bankrupts the country. The quality of roads is a testament of this process.

Countervailing mechanisms and forces are destroyed. Plutocrats now can shape the conversation by buying up newspapers and television channels as well as funding political campaigns. The mousetrap of high inequality became irreversible without external shocks. The more unequal our societies become, the more we all become prisoners of that inequality. The key question is: Has our political system been so degraded by misinformation and disinformation that it can no longer function because it lost the touch with reality? The stream of outright falsehoods that MSM feed the lemmings (aka society members) is clearly politically motivated. But a side effect (externality) of all that brainwashing efforts is that nobody including players at the top of the government now understands what's going on. Look at Obama and Joe Biden.

As the growth of manufacturing base slowed down and return on capital dropped, the elite wants less government social spending. They wants to end popular government programs such as Social Security, no matter how much such cuts would cause economic dislocation and strains in the current social safety net. The claims are that these programs are "Waste" and could be cut without anyone, but the "moochers" noticing the effects. They use the economic strain felt by many in the economy to promote these cuts. They promise that cuts to vital programs will leave more money in the pockets of the average person. In reality, the increase in money will be marginal, but the effects on security and loss of "group purchasing power" economy of scale will make the cuts worse than worthless (Economist's View Paul Krugman Moment of Truthiness)

Two party system makes the mousetrap complete

The US system of voting (winner take all) leads inexorably to Two party system. Third parties are only spoilers. Protest votes in the current system are COUNTERPRODUCTIVE (i.e. they help the evil, not the merely bad). Deliberate and grotesque gerrymandering further dilutes protest votes.

Again, I would like to stress that rich consumers, few in number, getting the gigantic slice of income and the most of consumption (that's why the US consumption was so resilient during two last financial crises). There are the rest, the “non-rich”, accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie.

The question arise "Why we should care?". Most of the readers of this page are not at the bottom bracket anyway. Many are pretty high up. Here is one possible answer:

But should we care? There are two reasons we might: process and outcome.

Creating a strata of the outcasts aka permanently unemployed

It is very difficult to understand the real situation with inequality in the USA today without experiencing long term unemployed.

Or if you forced into job of a WalMart cashier or other low paid employee. Job that does not provide a living minimum wage. You need to watch this YouTube video Wealth Inequality in America to understand the reality. The video was posted anonymously by someone using the YouTube handle politizane. It is pretty clear that not only the USA became a society where there is de facto royalty, economic royalty but also a strata of people completely deprived. An Outcaste.

And the royalty became recklessly like it should promoting to the top the likes of recovered alcoholic Bush II or "private equity shark" Romney (and remember who Romney father was).

See Over 50 and unemployed

Education is no longer the answer to rising inequality

In the current circumstances education is no longer the answer to rising inequality. Instead of serving as a social lift it, at least in some cases, became more of a social trap. This is connected with neoliberal transformation of education. With the collapse of post-war public funded educational model and privatization of the University education students face a pretty cruel world. World in which they are cows to milk. Now universities became institutions very similar to McDonalds ( or, in less politically correct terms, Bordellos of Higher Learning). Like McDonalds they need to price their services so that to receive nice profit and they to make themselves more attractive to industry they intentionally feed students with overspecialized curriculum instead of concentrating on fundamentals and the developing the ability to understand the world. Which was a hallmark of university education of the past.

Since 1970th Neo-Liberal University model replaced public funded university model (Dewey model). It is now collapsing as there are not that many students, who are able (and now with lower job prospects and tale of graduates working as bartender, willing) to pay infated tuition fees. That means that higher education again by-and-large became privilege of the rich and upper middle class.

Lower student enrollment first hit minted during dot-com boom expensive private colleges, who hunt for people with government support (such a former members of Arm forces). It remains viable only in elite universities, which traditionally serve the top 1% and rich foreigners. As David Schultz wrote in his article (Logos, 2012):

Yet the Dewey model began to collapse in middle of the 1970s. Perhaps it was the retrenchment of the SUNY and CUNY systems in New York under Governor Hugh Carey in 1976 that began the end of the democratic university. What caused its retrenchment was the fiscal crisis of the 1970s.

The fiscal crisis of the 1970s was born of numerous problems. Inflationary pressures caused by Vietnam and the energy embargoes of the 1970s, and recessionary forces from relative declines in American economic productivity produced significant economic shocks, including to the public sector where many state and local governments edged toward bankruptcy.

Efforts to relieve declining corporate profits and productivity initiated efforts to restructure the economy, including cutting back on government services. The response, first in England under Margaret Thatcher and then in the United States under Ronald Reagan, was an effort to retrench the state by a package that included decreases in government expenditures for social welfare programs, cutbacks on business regulations, resistance to labor rights, and tax cuts. Collectively these proposals are referred to as Neo-liberalism and their aim was to restore profitability and autonomy to free markets with the belief that unfettered by the government that would restore productivity.

Neo-liberalism had a major impact on higher education. First beginning under President Carter and then more so under Ronald Reagan, the federal and state governments cut taxes and public expenditures. The combination of the two meant a halt to the Dewey business model as support for public institutions decreased and federal money dried up.

From a high in the 1960s and early 70s when states and the federal government provided generous funding to expand their public systems to educate the Baby Boomers, state universities now receive only a small percentage of their money from the government. As I pointed out in my 2005 Logos “The Corporate University in American Society” article in 1991, 74% of the funding for public universities came from states, in 2004; it was down to 64%, with state systems in Illinois, Michigan and Virginia down to 25%, 18%, and 8% respectively. Since then, the percentages have shrunk even more, rendering state universities public institutions more in name than in funding.

Higher education under Neo-liberalism needed a new business model and it found it in the corporate university. The corporate university is one where colleges increasingly use corporate structures and management styles to run the university. This includes abandoning the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) shared governance model where faculty had an equal voice in the running of the school, including over curriculum, selection of department chairs, deans, and presidents, and determination of many of the other policies affecting the academy. The corporate university replaced the shared governance model with one more typical of a business corporation.

For the corporate university, many decisions, including increasingly those affecting curriculum, are determined by a top-down pyramid style of authority. University administration often composed not of typical academics but those with business or corporate backgrounds had pre-empted many of the decisions faculty used to make. Under a corporate model, the trustees, increasingly composed of more business leaders than before, select, often with minimal input from the faculty, the president who, in turn, again with minimal or no faculty voice, select the deans, department heads, and other administrative personnel.

University presidents became way too greedy

Neoliberalism professes the idea the personal greed can serve positive society goals, which is reflected in famous neoliberal slogan "greed is good". And university presidents listen. Now presidents of neoliberal universities do not want to get $100K per year salary, they want one, or better several, million dollar salary of the CEO of major corporation (Student Debt Grows Faster at Universities With Highest-Paid Leaders, Study Finds - NYTimes.com)

At the 25 public universities with the highest-paid presidents, both student debt and the use of part-time adjunct faculty grew far faster than at the average state university from 2005 to 2012, according to a new study by the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-leaning Washington research group.

The study, “The One Percent at State U: How University Presidents Profit from Rising Student Debt and Low-Wage Faculty Labor,” examined the relationship between executive pay, student debt and low-wage faculty labor at the 25 top-paying public universities.

The co-authors, Andrew Erwin and Marjorie Wood, found that administrative expenditures at the highest-paying universities outpaced spending on scholarships by more than two to one. And while adjunct faculty members became more numerous at the 25 universities, the share of permanent faculty declined drastically.

“The high executive pay obviously isn’t the direct cause of higher student debt, or cuts in labor spending,” Ms. Wood said. “But if you think about it in terms of the allocation of resources, it does seem to be the tip of a very large iceberg, with universities that have top-heavy executive spending also having more adjuncts, more tuition increases and more administrative spending.”

... ... ...

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s annual survey of public university presidents’ compensation, also released Sunday, found that nine chief executives earned more than $1 million in total compensation in 2012-13, up from four the previous year, and three in 2010-11. The median total compensation of the 256 presidents in the survey was $478,896, a 5 percent increase over the previous year.

... ... ...

As in several past years, the highest-compensated president, at $6,057,615 in this period, was E. Gordon Gee, who resigned from Ohio State last summer amid trustee complaints about frequent gaffes. He has since become the president of West Virginia University.

This trick requires dramatic raising of tuition costs. University bureaucracy also got taste for better salaries and all those deans, etc want to be remunerated like vice presidents. So raising the tuition costs became the key existential idea of neoliberal university. Not quality of education, but tuition costs now are the key criteria of success. And if you can charge students $40K per semester it is very, very good. If does not matter that most population get less then $20 an hour.

The same is true for professors, who proved to be no less corruptible. And some of them, such as economic departments, simply serve as prostitutes for financial oligarchy. So they were corrupted even before that rat race for profit. Of course there are exceptions. But they only prove the rule.

As the result university tuition inflation outpaced inflation by leaps and bounds. At some point amount that you pay (and the level of debt after graduation) becomes an important factor in choosing the university. So children of "have" and "have nots" get into different educational institutions and do not meet each other. In a way aristocracy returned via back door.

Neoliberal university professes "deep specialization" to create "ready for the market" graduates. And that creates another problem: education became more like stock market game and that makes more difficult for you to change you specialization late in the education cycle. But early choice entail typical stock market problem: you might miss the peak of the market or worse get into prolonged slump as graduates in finance learned all too well in 2008. That's why it is important not to accumulate too much debt: this is a kind of "all in" play in poker. You essentially bet that in a particular specialty there will be open positions with high salary, when you graduate. If you lose this bet you are done.

As a result of this "reaction to the market trends" by neoliberal universities, when universities bacem appendixes of HR of large corporations students need to be more aware of real university machinery then students in 50th or 60th of the last century. And first of all assume that it is functioning not to their benefits.

One problem for a student is that there are now way too many variables that you do not control. Among them:

On the deep level neoliberal university is not interested to help you to find specialization and place in life where can unleash your talents. You are just a paying customers much like in McDonalds, and university interests are such they might try to push you in wrong direction or load you with too much debt.

If there is deep mismatch as was with computer science graduates after crash of dot-com boom, or simply bad job market due to economy stagnation and you can't find the job for your new specialty (or if you got "junk" specialty with inherent high level of unemployment among professionals) and you have substantial education debt, then waiting tables or having some other MacJob is a real disaster for you. As with such selaries you simply can't pay it back. So controlling the level of debt is very important and in this sence parents financial help is now necessary. In other words education became more and more "rich kids game".

That does not mean that university education should be avoided for those from families with modest means. On the contrary it provides unique experience and help a person to mature in multiple ways difficult to achieve without it. It is still one of the best ways to get vertical mobility. But unless parents can support you you need to try to find the most economical way to obtain it without acquiring too much debt. This is you first university exam. And if you fail it you are in trouble.

For example, computer science education is a great way to learn quite a few things necessary for a modern life. But the price does matter and prestige of the university institution that you attend is just one of the factors you should consider in your evaluation. It should not be the major factor ("vanity fair") unless your parents are rich and can support you. If you are good you can get later a master degree in a prestigious university after graduation from a regular college. Or even Ph.D.

County colleges are greatly underappreciated and generally provide pretty high standard of education, giving ability to students to save money for the first two years before transferring to a four year college. They also smooth the transition as finding yourself among people who are only equal or superior then you (and have access to financial respource that you don't have) is a huge stress. The proverb say that it is better to be first in the village then last in the town has some truth in it. Prestigious universities might provide a career boost (high fly companies usually accept resumes only from Ivy League members), but they cost so much that you need to be a son or daughter of well-to-do parents to feel comfortably in them. Or extremely talented. Also amount of career boost that elite universities provide depends on whom your parents are and what connections they have. It does not depend solely on you and the university. Again, I would like to stress that you should resist "vanity fair" approach to your education: a much better way is to try to obtain BS in a regular university and them try to obtain MS and then, if you are good, PHD, in a prestigious university. Here is a fragment of an interesting discussion that covers this topic (Low Mobility Is Not a Social Tragedy?, Feb 13, 2013 ; I recommend you to read the whole discussion ):

kievite:

I would like to defend Greg Clack.

I think that Greg Clack point is that the number of gifted children is limited and that exceptionally gifted children have some chance for upper move in almost all, even the most hierarchical societies (story of Alexander Hamilton was really fascinating for me, the story of Mikhail Lomonosov http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Lomonosov was another one -- he went from the very bottom to the top of Russian aristocracy just on the strength of his abilities as a scientist). In no way the ability to "hold its own" (typical for rich families kids) against which many here expressed some resentment represents social mobility. But the number of kids who went down is low -- that's actually proves Greg Clack point:

(1) Studies of social mobility using surnames suggest two things. Social mobility rates are much lower than conventionally estimated. And social mobility rates estimated in this way vary little across societies and time periods. Sweden is no more mobile than contemporary England and the USA, or even than medieval England. Social mobility rates seem to be independent of social institutions (see the other studies on China, India, Japan and the USA now linked here).

Francisco Ferreira rejects this interpretation, and restates the idea that there is a strong link between social mobility rates and inequality in his interesting post.

What is wrong with the data Ferreira cites? Conventional estimates of social mobility, which look at just single aspects of social status such as income, are contaminated by noise. If we measure mobility on one aspect of status such as income, it will seem rapid.

But this is because income is a very noisy measure of the underlying status of families. The status of families is a combination of their education, occupation, income, wealth, health, and residence. They will often trade off income for some other aspect of status such as occupation. A child can be as socially successful as a low paid philosophy professor as a high paid car salesman. Thus if we measure just one aspect of status such as income we are going to confuse the random fluctuations of income across generations, influenced by such things as career choices between business and philosophy, with true generalised social mobility.

If these estimates of social mobility were anywhere near correct as indicating true underlying rates of social mobility, then we would not find that the aristocrats of 1700 in Sweden are still overrepresented in all elite occupations of Sweden. Further, the more equal is income in a society, the less signal will income give of the true social status of families. In a society such as Sweden, where the difference in income between bus drivers and philosophy professors is modest, income tells us little about the social status of families. It is contaminated much more by random noise. Thus it will appear if we measure social status just by income that mobility is much greater in Sweden than in the USA, because in the USA income is a much better indicator of the true overall status of families.

The last two paragraphs of Greg Clark article cited by Mark Thoma are badly written and actually are somewhat disconnected with his line of thinking as I understand it as well as with the general line of argumentation of the paper.

Again, I would like to stress that a low intergenerational mobility includes the ability of kids with silver spoon in their mouth to keep a status close to their parent. The fact that they a have different starting point then kids from lower strata of society does not change that.

I think that the key argument that needs testing is that the number of challengers from lower strata of the society is always pretty low and is to a large extent accommodated by the societies we know (of course some societies are better then others).

Actually it would be interesting to look at the social mobility data of the USSR from this point of view.

But in no way, say, Mark Thoma was a regular kid, although circumstances for vertical mobility at this time were definitely better then now. He did possessed some qualities which made possible his upward move although his choice of economics was probably a mistake ;-).

Whether those qualities were enough in more restrictive environments we simply don't know, but circumstances for him were difficult enough as they were.

EC -> kievite...

"the number of gifted children is limited"

I stopped reading after that. I teach at a high school in a town with a real mix of highly elite families, working class families, and poor families, and I can tell you that the children of affluent parents are not obviously more gifted than the children of poor families. They do, however, have a lot more social capital, and they have vastly more success. But the limitations on being "gifted" are irrelevant.

According to an extensive study (Turkheimer et al., 2003) of 50,000 pregnant women and the children they went on to have (including enough sets of twins to be able to study the role of innate genetic differences), variation in IQ among the affluent seems to be largely genetic.

Among the poor, however, IQ has very little to do with genes -- probably because the genetic differences are swamped and suppressed by the environmental differences, as few poor kids are able to develop as fully as they would in less constrained circumstances.

kievite -> EC...

All you said is true. I completely agree that "...few poor kids are able to develop as fully as they would in less constrained circumstances." So there are losses here and we should openly talk about them.

Also it goes without saying that social capital is extremely important for a child. That's why downward mobility of children from upper classes is suppressed, despite the fact that some of them are plain vanilla stupid.

But how this disproves the point made that "exceptionally gifted children have some chance for upper move in almost all, even the most hierarchical societies"? I think you just jumped the gun...

mrrunangun:

The early boomers benefitted from the happy confluence of the postwar boom, LBJ's Great Society efforts toward financial assistance for those seeking to advance their educations, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act which opened opportunities for marginalized social groups in institutions largely closed to them under the prewar social customs in the US.

The US Supreme Court is made up of only Jews and Catholics as of this writing, a circumstance inconceivable in the prewar America. Catholics were largely relegated to separate and unequal institutions. Jews' opportunities were limited by quotas and had a separate set of institutions of their own where their numbers could support such. Where their numbers were not sufficient, they were often relegated to second rate institutions.

Jewish doctors frequently became the leading men in the Catholic hospitals in Midwestern industrial towns where they were unwelcome in the towns' main hospitals. Schools, clubs, hospitals, professional and commercial organizations often had quota or exclusionary policies. Meritocracy has its drawbacks, but we've seen worse in living memory.

College textbook publishing became a racket with the growth of neoliberalism. That means at least since 1980. And it is pretty dirty racket with willing accomplishes in form of so called professors like Greg Mankiw. For instance, you can find a used 5th edition Mankiw introductory to Microeconomics for under $4.00, while a new 7th edition costs over $200. An interesting discussion of this problem can be found at Thoughts on High-Priced Textbooks'

See Slightly Skeptical View on University Education

New generation of robber barons: US oligarchy never was so audacious

As Jesse aptly noted at his blog post Echoes of the Past In The Economist - The Return of the Übermenschen the US oligarchy never was so audacious.

And it is as isolated as the aristocracies of bygone days, isolation reinforced by newly minted royalty withdrawal into gated estates, Ivy League Universities, and private planes.

They are not openly suggesting that no child should rise above the status of parents, presumably in terms of wealth, education, and opportunity. But their policies are directed toward this goal. If you are born to poor parents in the USA, all bets are off -- your success is highly unlikely, and your servile status, if not poverty is supposedly pre-destined by poor generic material that you got.

This is of course not because the children of the elite inherit the talent, energy, drive, and resilience to overcome the many obstacles they will face in life from their parents. Whatever abilities they have (and regression to the mean is applicable to royalty children too), they are greatly supplemented, of course, by the easy opportunities, valuable connections, and access to power. That's why the result of SAT in the USA so strongly correlated with the wealth of parents. And a virtual freedom from prosecution does not hurt either, in case they have inherited a penchant for sociopathy, or something worse, along with their many gifts.

The view that the children of the poor will not do well, because they are genetically inferior became kind of hidden agenda. These are the pesky 99% just deserve to be cheated and robbed by the elite, because of the inherent superiority of the top one percent. There is no fraud in the system, only good and bad breeding, natural predators and prey.

This line of thinking rests on the assumption that I succeed, therefore I am. And if you do not, well, so be it. You will be low-paid office slave or waiter in McDonalds with a college diploma as it is necessary for the maximization of profits of the elite. There is no space at the top for everybody. Enjoy the ride... Here is an typical expression of such views:

"Many commentators automatically assume that low intergenerational mobility rates represent a social tragedy. I do not understand this reflexive wailing and beating of breasts in response to the finding of slow mobility rates.

The fact that the social competence of children is highly predictable once we know the status of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents is not a threat to the American Way of Life and the ideals of the open society

The children of earlier elites will not succeed because they are born with a silver spoon in their mouth, and an automatic ticket to the Ivy League.

They will succeed because they have inherited the talent, energy, drive, and resilience to overcome the many obstacles they will face in life. Life is still a struggle for all who hope to have economic and social success. It is just that we can predict who will be likely to possess the necessary characteristics from their ancestry."

Greg Clark, The Economist, 13 Feb. 2013

Mr. Clark is now a professor of economics and was the department chair until 2013 at the University of California, Davis. His areas of research are long term economic growth, the wealth of nations, and the economic history of England and India.

And another one:

"During this time, a growing professional class believed that scientific progress could be used to cure all social ills, and many educated people accepted that humans, like all animals, were subject to natural selection.

Darwinian evolution viewed humans as a flawed species that required pruning to maintain its health. Therefore negative eugenics seemed to offer a rational solution to certain age-old social problems."

David Micklos, Elof Carlson, Engineering American Society: The Lesson of Eugenics

If we compare this like of thinking with the thinking of eightieth century and you will see that the progress is really limited:

“With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment.

There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man.

It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, if so urged by hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with a certain and great present evil.

Hence we must bear without complaining the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind; but there appears to be at least one check in steady action, namely the weaker and inferior members of society not marrying so freely as the sound; and this check might be indefinitely increased, though this is more to be hoped for than expected, by the weak in body or mind refraining from marriage.”

Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man

So all this screams of MSM about dropping consumer spending is just a smoke screen. In oligarchic republic which USA represents, consumption is heavily shifted to top 20% and as such is much less dependent of the conditions of the economy. And top 20% can afford $8 per gallon gas (European price) without any problems.

John Barkley Rosser, Jr. With Marina V. Rosser and Ehsan Ahmed, argued for a two-way positive link between income inequality (economic inequality) and the size of an underground economy in a nation (Rosser, Rosser, and Ahmed, 2000).

Globally in 2005, top fifth (20%) of the world accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption (20:80 Pareto rule). The poorest fifth just 1.5%. I do not think the USA differs that much from the rest of the world.

Citigroup Plutonomy Research reports

There was two famous Citigroup Plutonomy research reports (2005 and 2006) featured in in Capitalism: A Love Story . Here is how Yves Smith summarized the findings (in her post High Income Disparity Leads to Low Savings Rates)

On the one hand, the authors, Ajay Kapur, Niall Macleod, and Narendra Singh get some credit for addressing a topic surprisingly ignored by mainstream economists. There have been some noteworthy efforts to measure the increase in concentration of income and wealth in the US most notably by Thomas Piketty and Edmund Saez. But while there have been some efforts to dispute their findings (that the rich, particularly the top 1%, have gotten relatively MUCH richer in the last 20 years), for the most part discussions of what to make of it (as least in the US) have rapidly descended into theological debates. One camp laments the fall in economic mobility (a predictable side effect), the corrosive impact of perceived unfairness, and the public health costs (even the richest in high income disparity countries suffer from shortened life spans). The other camp tends to focus on the Darwinian aspects, that rising income disparity is the result of a vibrant, open economy, and the higher growth rates that allegedly result will lift help all workers.

Yet as far as I can tell, there has been virtually no discussion of the macroeconomy effects of rising income and wealth disparities, or to look into what the implications for investment strategies might be. One interesting effect is that with rising inequality the share of "guard labor" grows very quickly and that puts an upper limit on the further growth of inequality (half of the citizens cannot be guards protecting few billionaires from the other half).

Now the fact that the Citi team asked a worthwhile question does not mean they came up with a sound answer. In fact, he reports are almost ludicrously funny in the way they attempt to depict what they call plutonomy as not merely a tradeable trend (as in leading to some useful investment ideas), but as a Brave New Economy development. I haven't recalled such Panglossian prose since the most delirious days of the dot-com bubble:

We will posit that:

1) the world is dividing into two blocs – the plutonomies, where economic growth is powered by and largely consumed by the wealthy few, and the rest. Plutonomies have occurred before in sixteenth century Spain, in seventeenth century Holland, the Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties in the U.S.

What are the common drivers of Plutonomy? Disruptive technology-driven productivity gains, creative financial innovation, capitalist-friendly cooperative governments, an international dimension of immigrants and overseas conquests invigorating wealth creation, the rule of law, and patenting inventions. Often these wealth waves involve great complexity, exploited best by the rich and educated of the time…..Most “Global Imbalances” (high current account deficits and low savings rates, high consumer debt levels in the Anglo-Saxon world, etc) that continue to (unprofitably) preoccupy the world’s intelligentsia look a lot less threatening when examined through the prism of plutonomy. The risk premium on equities that might derive from the dyspeptic “global imbalance” school is unwarranted – the earth is not going to be shaken off its axis, and sucked into the cosmos by these “imbalances”. The earth is being held up by the muscular arms of its entrepreneur-plutocrats, like it, or not..

Yves here. Translation: plutonomy is such a great thing that the entire stock market would be valued higher if everyone understood it. And the hoops the reports go through to defend it are impressive. The plutomony countries (the notorious Anglo-Saxon model, the US, UK, Canada and Australia) even have unusually risk-seeking populations (and that is a Good Thing):

…a new, rather out-of-the box hypothesis suggests that dopamine differentials can explain differences in risk-taking between societies. John Mauldin, the author of “Bulls-Eye Investing” in an email last month cited this work. The thesis: Dopamine, a pleasure-inducing brain chemical, is linked with curiosity, adventure, entrepreneurship, and helps drive results in uncertain environments. Populations generally have about 2% of their members with high enough dopamine levels with the curiosity to emigrate. Ergo, immigrant nations like the U.S. and Canada, and increasingly the UK, have high dopamine-intensity populations.

Yves here. What happened to “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore”? Were the Puritans a high dopamine population? Doubtful. How about the Irish emigration to the US, which peaked during its great famine?

Despite a good deal of romanticization standing in for analysis, the report does have one intriguing, and well documented finding: that the plutonomies have low savings rates. Consider an fictional pep rally chant:

We’re from Greenwich
We’re invincible
Living off our income
Never touch the principal

Think about that. If you are rich, you can afford to spend all your income. You don’t need to save, because your existing wealth provides you with a more than sufficient cushion.

The ramifications when you have a high wealth concentration are profound. From the October 2005 report:

In a plutonomy, the rich drop their savings rate, consume a larger fraction of their bloated, very large share of the economy. This behavior overshadows the decisions of everybody else. The behavior of the exceptionally rich drives the national numbers – the “appallingly low” overall savings rates, the “over-extended consumer”, and the “unsustainable” current accounts that accompany this phenomenon….

Feeling wealthier, the rich decide to consume a part of their capital gains right away. In other words, they save less from their income, the wellknown wealth effect. The key point though is that this new lower savings rate is applied to their newer massive income. Remember they got a much bigger chunk of the economy, that’s how it became a plutonomy. The consequent decline in absolute savings for them (and the country) is huge when this happens. They just account for too large a part of the national economy; even a small fall in their savings rate overwhelms the decisions of all the rest.

Yves here. This account rather cheerily dismisses the notion that there might be overextended consumers on the other end of the food chain. Unprecedented credit card delinquencies and mortgage defaults suggest otherwise. But behaviors on both ends of the income spectrum no doubt played into the low-savings dynamic: wealthy who spend heavily, and struggling average consumers who increasingly came to rely on borrowings to improve or merely maintain their lifestyle. And let us not forget: were encouraged to monetize their home equity, so they actually aped the behavior of their betters, treating appreciated assets as savings. Before you chide people who did that as profligate (naive might be a better characterization), recall that no one less than Ben Bernanke was untroubled by rising consumer debt levels because they also showed rising asset levels. Bernanke ignored the fact that debt needs to be serviced out of incomes, and households for the most part were not borrowing to acquire income-producing assets. So unless the rising tide of consumer debt was matched by rising incomes, this process was bound to come to an ugly end.

Also under Bush country definitely moved from oligarchy to plutocracy. Bush openly claimed that "have more" is his base. The top 1% of earners have captured four-fifths of all new income.

An interesting question is whether the extremely unequal income distribution like we have now make the broader society unstable. Or plebs is satisfied with "Bread and circuses" (aka house, SUV, boat, Daytona 500 and 500 channels on cable) as long as loot from the other parts of the world is still coming...

What is the upper limit of inequality?

Martin Bento in his response to Risk Pollution, Market Failure & Social Justice — Crooked Timber made the following point:

Donald made a point I was going to. I would go a bit further though. It’s not clear to me that economic inequality is not desired for its own sake by the some of the elite. After all, studies suggest that once you get past the level of income needed for a reasonably comfortable life – about $40K for a single person in the US - the quest for money is mostly about status.

Meeting your needs is not necessarily zero sum, but status is: my status can only be higher than yours to the extent that yours is lower than mine.

The more inequality there is, the more status differentiation there is. Of course, there are other sources of status than money, but I’m talking specifically about people who value money for the status it confers. This is in addition to the “Donner Party Conservatism” calls to make sure the incentives to work are as strong as possible (to be fair, I think tolerating some inequality for the sake of incentives is worthwhile, but we seem to be well beyond that).

For example currently the USA is No.3 in Gini measured inequality (cyeahoo, Oct 16, 2009), but still the society is reasonably stable:

Gini score: 40.8
GDP 2007 (US$ billions): 13,751.4
Share of income or expenditure (%)
Poorest 10%: 1.9
Richest 10%: 29.9
Ratio of income or expenditure, share of top 10% to lowest 10%: 15.9

What is really surprising is how low the average American salary is: just $26,352 or ~$2,200 a month. This is equal approximately to $13 an hour.

At the same time:

Some interesting facts about upper class (top 1% of the US population). First of all this is pretty self-isolated group (a nation within a nation). They associate almost exclusively with members of their own social and economic standing, few members of the bottom 90% of Americans have ever even personally met a member of the upper class.

Now about top 400:

Here are some interesting hypothesis about affect of inequality of the society:

Higher inequality is somewhat connected with imperial outreach. As Kevin de Bruxelles noted in comment to What collapsing empire looks like - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com

I’m surprised a thoughtful guy like Glenn Greenwald would make such an unsubstantiated link between collapsing public services for American peasants and a collapse of America’s global (indirect) imperial realm. Is there really a historic link between the quality of a nation’s services to its citizens and its global power? If so the Scandinavian countries would have been ruling the world for the past fifty years. If anything there is probably a reverse correlation. None of the great historic imperial powers, such as the British, Roman, Spanish, Russian, Ottoman, Mongolian, Chinese, Islamic, or Persian, were associated with egalitarian living conditions for anyone outside of the elite. So from a historic point of view, the ability to divert resources away from the peasants and towards the national security state is a sign of elite power and should be seen as a sign increased American imperial potential.

Now if America’s global power was still based on economic production then an argument could be made that closing libraries and cancelling the 12th grade would lower America’s power potential. But as we all know that is no longer the case and now America’s power is as the global consumer of excess production. Will a dumber peasantry consume even more? I think there is a good chance that the answer is yes.

Now a limit could be reached to how far the elite can lower their peasant’s standard of living if these changes actually resulted in civil disorder that demanded much energy for American elites to quell. But so far that is far from the case. Even a facile gesture such as voting for any other political party except the ruling Republicrats seems like a bridge too far for 95% of the peasants to attempt. No, the sad truth is that American elites, thanks to their exceptional ability to deliver an ever increasing amount of diverting bread and circuses, have plenty of room to further cut standards of living and are nowhere near reaching any limits.

What the reductions in economic and educational options will result in are higher quality volunteers into America’s security machinery, which again obviously raise America’s global power potential. This, along with an increasingly ruthless elite, should assure that into the medium term America’s powerful position will remain unchallenged. If one colors in blue on a world map all the countries under de facto indirect US control then one will start to realize the extent of US power. The only major countries outside of US control are Iran, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, and Venezuela. Iraq and Afghanistan are recent converts to the blue column but it far from certain whether they will stay that way. American elites will resist to the bitter end any country falling from the blue category. But this colored world map is the best metric for judging US global power.

In the end it’s just wishful thinking to link the declining of the American peasant’s standard of living with a declining of the American elite’s global power. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this proven in an attack on Iran in the near future.

High inequality and organized crime

Higher pay inequality feeds organized crime (and here we assume that banksters are different from the organized crime, which is probably a very weak hypothesis ;-). That's why Peter Drucker was probably right. He thought that top execs shouldn't get more than 25 times the average salary in the company (which would cap it around $2 millions). I would suggest a metric based on multiple from the average of lower 50% full time jobs for a particular firm (for example in Wal Mart that would cashers and cleaners, people who are living in Latin American style poverty, if they are single mothers as many are). One of the particular strengths of the idea of the maximum wage base on average of lower 50% of salaries is that if senior managers want to increase their own pay, they have to increase that of the lower-paid employees too.

And in a way financial industry itself became an organized crime. The notion of exorbitant wages prevalent in financial industry (and, before it, pioneered by in high-tech companies during dot-com boom via stock options) is based on the idea that some people are at least hundred times more productive then the others. In some professions like programming this is true and such people do exists. But any sufficiently large company is about team work. No matter what job a person does and no matter how many hours they work, there is no possible way that an single individual will create a whole product. It's a team effort. That means that neither skill nor expertise or intelligence can justify the payment of 200, 300 or even 400 times the wages of the lowest-paid 20% workers in any large organization.

This is especially questionable for financial professionals because by and large they are engaged in non-productive. often harmful for the society as whole redistribution activities, the same activities that organized crime performs. Moreover, modern traders are actually play a tremendously destructive role as subprime crisis (and before it saving and loans debacle) aptly demonstrated. which make them indistinguishable in this societal roles from cocaine pushers on the streets.

Drucker's views on the subject are probably worth revisiting. Rick Wartzman wrote in his Business Week article Put a Cap on CEO Pay' that "those who understand that what comes with their authority is the weight of responsibility, not "the mantle of privilege," as writer and editor Thomas Stewart described Drucker's view. It's their job "to do what is right for the enterprise—not for shareholders alone, and certainly not for themselves alone."

Large pay also attracts sociopathic personalities. Sociopathic personalities at the top of modern organizations is another important but rarely discussed danger.

"I'm not talking about the bitter feelings of the people on the plant floor," Drucker told a reporter in 2004. "They're convinced that their bosses are crooks anyway. It's the mid-level management that is incredibly disillusioned" by CEO compensation that seems to have no bounds. " This is especially true, Drucker explained in an earlier interview, when CEOs pocket huge sums while laying off workers. That kind of action, he said, is "morally unforgivable." There can be exceptions but they should be in middle management not in top management ranks.

Put it all together, and the picture became really discouraging. We have an ill-informed or misinformed electorate, politicians who gleefully add to the misinformation, watchdogs who are afraid to bark and guards on each and every corner. Mousetrap is complete.

Recommended Books

Winner-Take-All Politics How Washington Made the Rich Richer -- and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class by Paul Pierson, Jacob S. Hacker

Henry J. Farrell

Transforming American politics, September 16, 2010

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover) This is a transformative book. It's the best book on American politics that I've read since Rick Perlstein's Before the Storm. Not all of it is original (the authors seek to synthesize others' work as well as present their own, but provide due credit where credit is due). Not all of its arguments are fully supported (the authors provide a strong circumstantial case to support their argument, but don't have smoking gun evidence on many of the relevant causal relations). But it should transform the ways in which we think about and debate the political economy of the US.

The underlying argument is straightforward. The sources of American economic inequality are largely political - the result of deliberate political decisions to shape markets in ways that benefit the already-privileged at the expense of a more-or-less unaware public. The authors weave a historical narrative which Kevin Drum (who says the same things that I am saying about the book's importance) summarizes cogently here. This is not necessarily original - a lot of leftwing and left-of-center writers have been making similar claims for a long time. What is new is both the specific evidence that the authors use, and their conscious and deliberate effort to reframe what is important about American politics.

First - the evidence. Hacker and Pierson draw on work by economists like Picketty and Saez on the substantial growth in US inequality (and on comparisons between the US and other countries), but argue that many of the explanations preferred by economists (the effects of technological change on demand for skills) simply don't explain what is going on. First, they do not explain why inequality is so top-heavy - that is, why so many of the economic benefits go to a tiny, tiny minority of individuals among those with apparently similar skills. Second, they do not explain cross national variation - why the differences in the level of inequality among advanced industrialized countries, all of which have gone through more-or-less similar technological shocks, are so stark. While Hacker and Pierson agree that technological change is part of the story, they suggest that the ways in which this is channeled in different national contexts is crucial. And it is here that politics plays a key role.

Many economists are skeptical that politics explains the outcome, suggesting that conventional forms of political intervention are not big enough to have such dramatic consequences. Hacker and Pierson's reply implicitly points to a blind spot of many economists - they argue that markets are not `natural,' but instead are constituted by government policy and political institutions. If institutions are designed one way, they result in one form of market activity, whereas if they are designed another way, they will result in very different outcomes. Hence, results that appear like `natural' market operations to a neo-classical economist may in fact be the result of political decisions, or indeed of deliberate political inaction. Hacker and Pierson cite e.g. the decision of the Clinton administration not to police derivatives as an example of how political coalitions may block reforms in ways that have dramatic economic consequences.

Hence, Hacker and Pierson turn to the lessons of ongoing political science research. This is both a strength and a weakness. I'll talk about the weakness below - but I found the account of the current research convincing, readable and accurate. It builds on both Hacker and Pierson's own work and the work of others (e.g. the revisionist account of American party structures from Zaller et al. and the work of Bartels). This original body of work is not written in ways that make it easily accessible to non-professionals - while Bartels' book was both excellent and influential, it was not an easy read. Winner-Take-All Politics pulls off the tricky task of both presenting the key arguments underlying work without distorting them and integrating them into a highly readable narrative.

As noted above, the book sets out (in my view quite successfully) to reframe how we should think about American politics. It downplays the importance of electoral politics, without dismissing it, in favor of a focus on policy-setting, institutions, and organization.

In Hacker and Pierson's account, these three together account for the systematic political bias towards greater inequality. In simplified form: Organizations - and battles between organizations over policy as well as elections - are the structuring conflicts of American politics. The interests of the rich are represented by far more powerful organizations than the interests of the poor and middle class. The institutions of the US provide these organizations and their political allies with a variety of tools to promote new policies that reshape markets in their interests. This account is in some ways neo-Galbraithian (Hacker and Pierson refer in passing to the notion of `countervailing powers'). But while it lacks Galbraith's magisterial and mellifluous prose style, it is much better than he was on the details.

Even so (and here begin the criticisms) - it is not detailed enough. The authors set the book up as a whodunit: Who or what is responsible for the gross inequalities of American economic life? They show that the other major suspects have decent alibis (they may inadvertently have helped the culprit, but they did not carry out the crime itself. They show that their preferred culprit had the motive and, apparently, the means. They find good circumstantial evidence that he did it. But they do not find a smoking gun. For me, the culprit (the American political system) is like OJ. As matters stand, I'm pretty sure that he committed the crime. But I'm not sure that he could be convicted in a court of law, and I could be convinced that I was wrong, if major new exculpatory evidence was uncovered.

The lack of any smoking gun (or, alternatively, good evidence against a smoking gun) is the direct result of a major failure of American intellectual life. As the authors observe elsewhere, there is no field of American political economy. Economists have typically treated the economy as non-political. Political scientists have typically not concerned themselves with the American economy. There are recent efforts to change this, coming from economists like Paul Krugman and political scientists like Larry Bartels, but they are still in their infancy. We do not have the kinds of detailed and systematic accounts of the relationship between political institutions and economic order for the US that we have e.g. for most mainland European countries. We will need a decade or more of research to build the foundations of one.

Hence, while Hacker and Pierson show that political science can get us a large part of the way, it cannot get us as far as they would like us to go, for the simple reason that political science is not well developed enough yet. We can identify the causal mechanisms intervening between some specific political decisions and non-decisions and observed outcomes in the economy. We cannot yet provide a really satisfactory account of how these particular mechanisms work across a wider variety of settings and hence produce the general forms of inequality that they point to. Nor do we yet have a really good account of the precise interactions between these mechanisms and other mechanisms.

None of this is to discount the importance of this book. If it has the impact it deserves, it will transform American public arguments about politics and policymaking. I cannot see how someone who was fair minded could come away from reading this book and not be convinced that politics plays a key role in the enormous economic inequality that we see. And even if it is aimed at a general audience, it also challenges academics and researchers in economics, political science and economic sociology both to re-examine their assumptions about how economics and politics work, and to figure out ways better to engage with the key political debates of our time as Hacker and Pierson have done. If you can, buy it.

Great Faulkner's Ghost (Washington, DC)

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover) Many people have observed that American politics and the American economy reached some kind of turning point around 1980, which conveniently marks the election of Ronald Reagan. Some also pointed to other factors such as the deregulation of stock brokerage commissions in 1975 and the high inflation of the 1970s. Other analysts have put the turning point back in 1968, when Richard Nixon became President on the back of a wave of white, middle-class resentment against the 1960s. Hacker and Pierson, however, point the finger at the 1970s. As they describe in Chapter 4, the Nixon presidency saw the high-water market of the regulatory state; the demise of traditional liberalism occurred during the Carter administration, despite Democratic control of Washington, when highly organized business interests were able to torpedo the Democratic agenda and begin the era of cutting taxes for the rich that apparently has not yet ended today.

Why then? Not, as popular commentary would have it, because public opinion shifted. Hacker and Pierson cite studies showing that public opinion on issues such as inequality has not shifted over the past thirty years; most people still think society is too unequal and that taxes should be used to reduce inequality. What has shifted is that Congressmen are now much more receptive to the opinions of the rich, and there is actually a negative correlation between their positions and the preferences of their poor constituents (p. 111). Citing Martin Gilens, they write, "When well-off people strongly supported a policy change, it had almost three times the chance of becoming law as when they strongly opposed it. When median-income people strongly supported a policy change, it had hardly any greater chance of becoming law than when they strongly opposed it" (p. 112). In other words, it isn't public opinion, or the median voter, that matters; it's what the rich want.

That shift occurred in the 1970s because businesses and the super-rich began a process of political organization in the early 1970s that enabled them to pool their wealth and contacts to achieve dominant political influence (described in Chapter 5). To take one of the many statistics they provide, the number of companies with registered lobbyists in Washington grew from 175 in 1971 to nearly 2,500 in 1982 (p. 118). Money pouring into lobbying firms, political campaigns, and ideological think tanks created the organizational muscle that gave the Republicans a formidable institutional advantage by the 1980s. The Democrats have only reduced that advantage in the past two decades by becoming more like Republicans-more business-friendly, more anti-tax, and more dependent on money from the super-rich. And that dependency has severely limited both their ability and their desire to fight back on behalf of the middle class (let alone the poor), which has few defenders in Washington.

At a high level, the lesson of Winner-Take-All Politics is similar to that of 13 Bankers: when looking at economic phenomena, be they the financial crisis or the vast increase in inequality of the past thirty years, it's politics that matters, not just abstract economic forces. One of the singular victories of the rich has been convincing the rest of us that their disproportionate success has been due to abstract economic forces beyond anyone's control (technology, globalization, etc.), not old-fashioned power politics. Hopefully the financial crisis and the recession that has ended only on paper (if that) will provide the opportunity to teach people that there is no such thing as abstract economic forces; instead, there are different groups using the political system to fight for larger shares of society's wealth. And one group has been winning for over thirty years.

Citizen John (USA)

In Winner-Take-All Politics, two political science professors explain what caused the Middle Class to become vulnerable. Understanding this phenomenon is the Holy Grail of contemporary economics in the U.S.

Some may feel this book is just as polarizing as the current state of politics and media in America. The decades-long decline in income taxes of wealthy individuals is cited in detail. Wage earners are usually subjected to the FICA taxes against all their ordinary income (all or almost their entire total income). But the top wealthy Americans may have only a small percentage (or none) of their income subjected to FICA taxes. Thus Warren Buffett announced that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. Buffett has cited income inequality for "poisoning democracy."

When you search the Net for Buffett quotes on inequality, you get a lot of results showing how controversial he became for stating the obvious. Drawing attention to the inequity of the tax regime won him powerful enemies. Those same people are not going to like the authors for writing Winner-Take-All. They say these political science people are condescending because they presume to tell people their political interests.

Many of studies of poverty show how economic and political policies generally favor the rich throughout the world, some of which are cited in this book. Military spending and financial bailouts in particular favor the wealthy. Authors Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson document a long U.S. policy trend favoring wealthy Americans. This trend resulted in diminished middle class access to quality healthcare and education, making it harder to keep up with the wealthy in relative terms. Further, once people have lost basic foundations of security, they are less willing and able to take on more risk in terms of investing or starting a business.

The rise of special interests has been at the expense of the middle class, according to the authors. Former President Carter talked about this and was ridiculed. Since then government has grown further from most of us. Even federal employees are not like most of us anymore. In its August 10, 2010 issue, USA Today discussed government salaries: "At a time when workers' pay and benefits have stagnated, federal employees' average compensation has grown to more than double what private sector workers earn, a USA TODAY analysis finds."

An excellent documentary showing how difficult it is to address income inequality is One Percent, by Jamie Johnson of the Johnson & Johnson family. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Pulitzer Prize-winner Jared Diamond Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed shows examples of what can happen when a society disregards a coming disaster until too late. I hope that Winner-Take-All will prompt people to demand more of elected officials and to arrest the growing income gap for the sake of our democracy.

Michael Emmett Brady "mandmbrady" (Bellflower, California ,United States)

4.5 stars-Wall Street speculators control both parties, September 19, 2010 See all my reviews

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover)

This book basically argues that Wall Street controls both political parties through the use of massive campaign contributions and lobbyists who buy off both the Republicans and Democrats in the White House,Senate and House.This is essentially correct but obvious.Anyone can go back to the 1976 Jimmy Carter campaign and simply verify that the majority of his campaign funds and advisors came from Wall Street.This identical conclusion also holds with respect to Ronald Reagan,George H W Bush,Bill Clinton,George W Bush and Barack Obama. The only Presidents/Presidential candidates not dominated by Wall Street since 1976 were Gerald Ford, Walter Mondale, Ross Perot, Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan.

For instance,it is common knowledge to anyone who carefully checks to see where the money is coming from that Wall Street financiers, hedgefunds, private equity firms and giant commercial banks are calling the shots. For example, one could simply read the July 9,2007 issue of FORTUNE magazine to discover who the major backers of John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were. One could also have read Business Week(2-25-2008) or the Los Angeles Times of 3-21-2008.Through February, 2008 the major donors to the McCain campaign were 1)Merrill Lynch, 2) Citigroup, 3)Goldman Sachs, 4)J P Morgan Chase and 5)Credit Suisse

The major donors to the Hillary Clinton campaign were 1)Goldman Sachs, 2)Morgan Stanley, 3)Citigroup, 4)Lehman Brothers and 5)J P Morgan Chase.

Guess who were the major donors to the Obama campaign ? If you guessed 1)Goldman Sachs,2)UBS Ag,3)J P Morgan Chase ,4)Lehman Brothers and 5)Citigroup, then you are correct.

It didn't matter who became President-Hillary Clinton,Barack Obama or John McCain.All three had been thoroughly vetted by Wall Street. The campaign staffs of all three candidates ,especially their economic and finance advisors, were all Wall Street connected. Wall Street would have been bailed out regardless of which party won the 2008 election.

Obama is not going to change anything substantially in the financial markets. Neither is Rep. Barney Frank, Sen. Chris Dodd, Sen. Kerry or Sen. Schumer, etc. Nor is any Republican candidate going to make any changes, simply because the Republican Party is dominated even more so by Wall Street(100%) than the Democratic Party(80%). The logical solution would be to support a Third Party candidate, for example, Ross Perot .

One aspect of the book is deficient. True conservatives like Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan and Lou Dobbs have been warning about the grave dangers of hallowing out and downsizing the American Manufacturing -Industrial sector, with the consequent offshoring and/or loss of many millions of American jobs, for about 20 years at the same time that the " financial services " sector has exploded from 3% of the total service sector in 1972 to just under 40% by 2007. This is what is causing the great shrinkage in the middle class in America .

Matt Milholland (California)

An Important Book, October 9, 2010 See all my reviews

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover)

This is a phenomenal book and everyone interested in how American politics works (or more accurately, doesn't work) should pick it up. It's both really smart and really accessible to a lay audience, which is rare for a political science book.

Extreme economic inequality and the near paralysis of our governing institutions has lead to a status-quo that is almost entirely indifferent to the needs of working families. Hacker & Pierson chronicle the rise of this corrupt system and the dual, yet distinct, roles the Republican and Democratic Parties have played in abetting it.

Seriously, it's top-notch. Read this book.

Loyd E. Eskildson "Pragmatist" By(Phoenix, AZ.)

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Timely, but Also Off-Base in Some Regards, September 15, 2010 See all my reviews

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover) The thirty-eight biggest Wall Street companies earned $140 billion in 2009, a record that all taxpayers who contributed to their bailouts can be proud of. Among those, Goldman Sachs paid its employees an average $600,000, also a record, and at least partially attributable to our bailout of AIG, which promptly gave much of the money to Goldman. Prior to that, the top 25 hedge fund managers earned an average of $892 million in 2007. "Winner-Take-All Politics" is framed as a detective story about how we got to inequality levels where the top 300,000 (0.1%) receive over 20% of national income, vs. 13.5% for the bottom 180 million (60% of the population).

Between 1947 and 1973, real family median income essentially doubled, and the growth percentage was virtually the same for all income levels. In the mid-1970s, however, economic inequality began to increase sharply and middle-incomes lagged. Increased female workforce participation rates and more overtime helped cushion the stagnation or decline for many (they also increased the risk of layoffs/family), then growing credit card debt shielded many families from reality. Unfortunately, expectations of stable full-time employment also began shrinking, part-time, temporary, and economic risk-bearing (eg. taxi drivers leasing vehicles and paying the fuel costs; deliverymen 'buying' routes and trucks) work increased, workers covered by employer-sponsored health insurance fell from 69% in 1979 to 56% in 2004, and retirement coverage was either been dropped entirely or mostly converted to much less valuable fix-contribution plans for private sector employees. Some exceptions have occurred that benefit the middle and lower-income segments - Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Medicaid, and Medicare were initiated or expanded, but these have not blunted the overall trend. Conversely, welfare reform, incarceration rates rising 6X between 1970 and 2000, bankruptcy reform, and increased tax audits for EITC recipients have also added to their burden, Social Security is being challenged again (despite stock market declines, enormous transition costs, and vastly increased overhead costs and fraud opportunity), and 2009's universal health care reform will be aggressively challenged both in the courts and Washington.

Authors Hacker and Pierson contend that growing inequality is not the 'natural' product of market rewards, but mostly the artificial result of deliberate government policies, strongly influenced by industry lobbyists and donations, new and expanded conservative 'think tanks,' and inadequate media coverage that focused more on the 'horse race' aspects of various initiatives than their content and impact. First came the capital gains tax cuts under President Carter, then deregulation of the financial industry under Clinton, the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, and the financial bailouts in 2008-09. The authors contend that if the 1970 tax structure remained today, the top gains would be considerably less.

But what about the fact that in 1965 CEOs of large corporations only earned about 24X the average worker, compared to 300+X now? Hacker and Pierson largely ignore the role of board-room politics and malfeasance that have mostly allowed managers to serve themselves with payment without regard to performance and out of proportion to other nations. In 2006, the 20 highest-paid European managers made an average $12.5 million, only one-third as much as the 20 highest-earning U.S. executives. Yet, the Europeans led larger firms - $65.5 billion in sales vs. $46.5 billion for the U.S. Asian CEOs commonly make only 10X-15X what their base level employees make. Jiang Jianqing, Chairman of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (world's largest), made $234,700 in 2008, less than 2% of the $19.6 million awarded Jamie Dimon, CEO of the world's fourth-largest bank, JPMorgan Chase.

"Winner-Take-All Politics" also provides readers with the composition of 2004 taxpayers in the top 0.1% of earners (including capital gains). Non-finance executives comprised 41% of the group, finance professionals 18.4%, lawyers 6%, real estate personages 5%, physicians 4%, entrepreneurs 4%, and arts and sports stars 3%. The authors assert that this shows education and skills levels are not the great dividers most everyone credits them to be - the vast majority of Americans losing ground to the super-rich includes many well-educated individuals, while the super-rich includes many without a college education (Sheldon Adelson, Paul Allen, Edgar Bronfman, Jack Kent Cook, Michael Dell, Walt Disney, Larry Ellison, Bill Gates, Wayne Huizenga, Steve Jobs, Rush Limbaugh, Steve Wozniak, and Mark Zuckerberg).

Authors Hacker and Pierson are political science professors and it is understandable that they emphasize political causes (PACs, greater recruitment of evangelical voters, lobbying - eg. $500 million on health care lobbying in 2009, filibusters that allow senators representing just 10% of the population to stop legislation and make the other side look incompetent, etc.) for today's income inequality. However, their claim that foreign trade is "largely innocent" as a cause is neither substantiated nor logical. Foreign trade as practiced today pads corporate profits and executive bonuses while destroying/threatening millions of American jobs and lowering/holding down the incomes of those affected. Worse yet, the authors don't even mention the impact of millions of illegal aliens depressing wage rates while taking jobs from Americans, nor do they address the canard that tax cuts for and spending by the super-wealthy are essential to our economic success (refuted by Moody's Analytics and Austan Goolsbee, Business Week - 9/13/2010). They're also annoyingly biased towards unions, ignoring their constant strikes and abuses in the 1960s and 1970s, major contributions to G.M., Chrysler, and legacy airline bankruptcies, and current school district, local, and state financial difficulties.

Bottom-Line: It is a sad commentary on the American political system that growing and record levels of inequality are being met by populist backlash against income redistribution and expanding trust in government, currently evidenced by those supporting extending tax cuts for the rich and railing against reforming health care to reduce expenditures from 17.3+% of GDP to more internationally competitive levels (4-6%) while improving patient outcomes. "Winner-Take-All Politics" is interesting reading, provides some essential data, and point out some evidence of the inadequacy of many voters. However, the authors miss the 'elephant in the room' - American-style democracy is not viable when at most 10% of citizens are 'proficient' per functional literacy tests ([...]), and only a small proportion of them have the time and access required to sift through the flood of half-truths, lies, and irrelevancies to objectively evaluate 2,000+ page bills and other political activity. (Ideology-dominated economic professionals and short-term thinking human rights advocates are two others.) Comments (2)

Brian Kodi

"Americans live in Russia, but they think they live in Sweden." - Chrystia Freeland, March 26, 2011 See all my reviews

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover)

No one should doubt the rising income inequality in America, which the authors trace back to the late 1970s since the latter part of Carter's presidency in what they call the "30 Year War". Zachary Roth, in a March 4th Time magazine article stated "A slew of conservative economists of unimpeachable academic credentials--including Martin Feldstein of Harvard, Glenn Hubbard, who was President Bush's top economic adviser, and Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke--have all acknowledged that inequality is on the rise."

And why should we care that most of the after tax income growth since 30 years ago has gone the way of the richest Americans in a "winner-take-all" economy? Because as Supreme Court justice biographer Melvin Urofsky stated, "in a democratic society the existence of large centers of private power is dangerous to the continuing vitality of a free people." (p. 81) Because if unchecked, a new economic aristocracy may replace the old hereditary aristocracy America's Founders fought to defeat (p. 298). Because unequal societies are unhappy societies, and inequality can foster individual resentment that may lead to a pervasive decline in civility and erosion of culture.

And why should we be concerned that this trend in rising inequality may not experience the period of renewal the authors are optimistic about? Because unlike the shock of the 1930s' Great Depression that served as the impetus for the politics of middle class democracy, the potential shockwaves of the 2008 Great Recession were tempered by massive government stimulus, resulting in no meaningful financial reform, and an extension of the tax cuts for the wealthy. And because of the lottery mentality of a large swath of the population which opposes tax increases on the rich. One day, they or their children too can share in the American dream. According to an October 2000 Time-CNN poll, 19 percent of Americans were convinced they belonged to the richest 1 percent. Another 20 percent thought they'd make the rank of the top 1 percent at some point in their lives. That's quite a turnover in the top 1 percent category to accommodate 20 percent of the population passing through.

Mr. Hacker and Mr. Pierson have put together powerful arguments on the root causes of income inequality in the U.S., its political and economic ramifications, and to a lesser extent, a roadmap to returning democracy to the masses. This is an eye opening and disturbing, yet informative book, even for readers who may disagree with their opinions.

J. Strauss (NYC)

3.0 out of 5 stars great history of big money influence on policy but needs more analysis of the ways policy affects the winner-take-all economy, September 21, 2011 See all my reviews

Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)

This review is from: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Hardcover)

Writing:

A bit hokey and repetitive for the first couple chapters. Much better after that. Stick with it if you're interested in the subject.

Content:

This book does a very good job explaining how and why certain special interest groups (notably those that represent the wealthiest .1%) have come to have such a stranglehold on government, particularly Congress. I come away with a clear understanding of how the wealthiest citizens are able to exert their influence over legislative policy and enforcement at the federal level.

What I would have liked more of are better explanations of the mechanisms through which government policies exacerbate the winner-take-all economy. Tax policy (rates and loopholes) is the most obvious answer, and the book provides plenty of stats on the regression of tax policy over the past 30 years.

But complicated, interesting, and largely missing from public discourse is why PRE-TAX incomes have become so much more radically skewed during that time. This is certainly touched on - the authors are deliberate in saying it's not JUST tax policy that's contributing to increased inequality - but I would've liked much more analysis of the other policy-driven factors. "Deregulation" is too general an explanation to paint a clear picture.

The authors make it clear that they believe the increasing divide in pre-tax incomes (the winner-take-all economy) is not the inevitable result of technological changes and of differences in education ("the usual suspects"), but of policy decisions made at the state and, especially, federal levels. Personally, I wasn't fully convinced that technological change has little or nothing to do with the skew (though I agree that while education goes a long way toward explaining the gap between poor and middle class, it doesn't explain much of the gap between middle class and super rich). But I do believe, as they do, that public policy plays a large role in influencing the extent of inequality in pre-tax incomes, even beyond more obvious market-impacting factors like union influence, and mandates including the minimum wage, restrictions on pollution, workplace safety and fairness laws, etc.

Off the top of my head, here are some regulatory issues that affect market outcomes and can influence the extent of winner-take-all effects in the marketplace (a few of these may have been mentioned in the book, but none were discussed in detail):

And many more. I know regulatory issues like that play huge roles in the distribution of pre-tax "market" incomes, but I'd like to have a better understanding of how, and also to be better able to articulate how in response to those who seem to believe taxes (and perhaps obvious restrictions, such as on pollution or the minimum wage) are the only significant means through which governments influence wealth disparities.

There wasn't a whole lot of discussion of these or similar regulatory issues in the book. I would like to see another edition, or perhaps another book entirely, that does. Please let me know if you have any recommendations.


Top Visited
Switchboard
Latest
Past week
Past month

NEWS CONTENTS

Old News ;-)

2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006

"You load 16 tons and whaddaya get??
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don'tcha call me 'Cause-I can't go…
I owe my soul to the Company Store"

-- "Sixteen Tons"

[Jan 19, 2020] Inequality in the USA has reached an 100-year record high

Jan 19, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

vk , Jan 18 2020 13:29 utc | 135

@ Posted by: V | Jan 18 2020 9:49 utc | 118

Inequality in the USA has reached an 100-year record high:

It's not the 1% anymore but the 0.1%!

The top 0.1% of US wealth holders now have as much wealth (property, financial assets) as the bottom 90% for the first time since the 'roaring 20s'.

It's not the 1% anymore but the 0.1%!

[Jan 19, 2020] Death and Neglect in the 7th Fleet

Jan 19, 2020 | www.propublica.org

. A firsthand account from a U.S. Naval officer is eye opening (emphasis mine).

He'd seen his ship, one of the Navy's fleet of 11 minesweepers, sidelined by repairs and maintenance for more than 20 months. Once the ship, based in Japan, returned to action, its crew was only able to conduct its most essential training -- how to identify and defuse underwater mines -- for fewer than 10 days the entire next year . During those training missions, the officer said, the crew found it hard to trust the ship's faulty navigation system: It ran on Windows 2000.

Sonar which identifies dishwashers, crab traps and cars as possible mines, can hardly be considered a rebuilt military. The Navy's eleven minesweepers built more than 25 years ago, have had their decommissioning continually delayed because no replacement plan was implemented. I'll await the deeper understanding of 'deterrence' from b, even as I consider willingness to commit and brag about war crimes as beyond the point of no return.

Posted by: psychedelicatessen | Jan 19 2020 9:14 utc | 98

[Jan 19, 2020] Comparing the American to the former Soviet educational system

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... There was nothing particularly great in the Soviet educational system. Other than students, who were selected very competitively (often more than 10-30 people for one place in ordinary universities and 100-1000 in elite; yes, 1000 or more per one place was observed in theater specialties). ..."
"... Also, the motivation for study was pretty high: if you fail two times to be admitted to the university, you were drafted into the Red Army. If you were expelled for the bad academic rating (which was, I think, to fail more then two exams in one semester) -- the same call from the Red Army was waiting for you. ..."
"... translation of foreign books in the USSR was the only first-class enterprise (despite outdated equipment). It was first-class both in the selection and the speed of translation. For example, as Knuth mentioned, all three volumes of his books were translated into Russian within a very short interval. ..."
"... But I think students learn as much from each other as from professors, and if the level of the class was extremely high, the results were corresponding. In other words, poor university teachers did not harm them that much, and a lot what they learn, they learn on their own (except fundamental disciplines) -- kind of self-education buried within ;-). ..."
"... Also, rigid soviet system (you have a zero opportunity to select your own set of subjects for a degree) has one important advantage. It schools you to be determined and persisting, no matter what subject you were assigned. To be a real fighter, in some academic or non-academic sense. ..."
"... I think that the main reason for the high quality of Soviet engineers of this period was not the education the got, but the fact that talented people were nowhere to go; there was no "business path." That's why Berezovsky became an academic scholar and even reached the level of the Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Science ..."
"... The level of backwardness of computer science education in the 90th in the USSR was staggering. So the fact that there were so many talented programmers in the country, many of whom later found a well-paid job in the Western countries, was mostly due to the level of the talent of those few who managed to get into universities. ..."
"... Many problems with Soviet education persist in Russia. Andrei Martyanov looks at many problems of Russian society via rose glasses. Taking into account the current level of Russophobia, that's a noble stance, and I do not object to his exaggerations. ..."
Dec 09, 2019 | www.unz.com

refl says: Next New Comment December 8, 2019 at 6:30 am GMT 200 Words

@RadicalCenter

The question even to compare the American to the Russian or former Soviet educational system is delusional.

However, the US has understood something that the Russians and any decent people don't get: The people are consumers. They should not be educated beyond the needed to use the most recent applications on their electronic devices. Anything further carries the danger of having them discontent and thus an inroad to the Western entity.

Also, a military is not there to win wars and subsequently have a headache about how to deal with the conquered people. It is about wrecking far away places and providing opportunities to claim invoices from the federal government.

Modern, hybrid warfare is not about applying this or that military means, but about occupying the universities, courts and parliaments of the subdued people – finally occupying their minds. And yes, to do so includes that the weaponry should look cool and provide job opportunities for the hopeless youngsters of that amorphous mass formerly called the nation.

The Russians, Chinese, Iranians will have to stay alert 24/7/365 not to fall into the abyss of depravity that the Great Western Civilisation is offering to them. I am afraid, that the threat is very real that in the end they will be worn down.

likbez says: December 9, 2019 at 5:47 am GMT 800 Words @refl refl,

The question even to compare the American to the Russian or former Soviet educational system is delusional.

Believe me or not, I would prefer the USA system of education (with all its warts) to the Soviet system in the 70-90th without any hesitation. And with the same quality of students, the USA would achive the same or better results.

There was nothing particularly great in the Soviet educational system. Other than students, who were selected very competitively (often more than 10-30 people for one place in ordinary universities and 100-1000 in elite; yes, 1000 or more per one place was observed in theater specialties).

Soviet universities were as poor as church rats, which has one good side effect that they were forced to concentrate more on classic subjects like physics and math, which do not require expensive labs. So students got a solid background in math and physics. But that's about it.

Also, the motivation for study was pretty high: if you fail two times to be admitted to the university, you were drafted into the Red Army. If you were expelled for the bad academic rating (which was, I think, to fail more then two exams in one semester) -- the same call from the Red Army was waiting for you.

As emigrants from the USSR told me, programming courses were simply dismal, and graduates essentially learned the craft of the jobs, not at universities.

Even math books were the second rate in comparison with the USA textbooks of the same period.

They were written by a representative of so-called axiomatic schools and were extremely boring and uninformative. But many good math books were translated (for example, Polia writings) Actually, as I understand, translation of foreign books in the USSR was the only first-class enterprise (despite outdated equipment). It was first-class both in the selection and the speed of translation. For example, as Knuth mentioned, all three volumes of his books were translated into Russian within a very short interval.

Academic degrees were also mostly fake (much like they are in the USA now ;-): one of my friends told me that his Ph.D. from top Ukrainian University was counted only as a master degree in the USA by the commission which studied his thesis (I believe in NYU)

But again, most good western books on tech subjects were translated and were somewhat available. And if you compare Feynman lectures (which were also translated) to Soviet physics textbooks, Soviet textbooks were not even competitive. Some "cutting edge" books was OK. But very few.

The professors and lectures (including professors large part of which were just incompetent jerks, promoted due to nepotism or Communist party activities) deteriorated to the level that was simply painful to watch. Some came to lectures completely unprepared or drank, or tried to teach some completely bogus theories of their own invention. Many did not come at all sending assistants.

My impression is that essentially, in 1990, Soviet science and education experienced the same crisis as the Communist social system as a whole.

But I think students learn as much from each other as from professors, and if the level of the class was extremely high, the results were corresponding. In other words, poor university teachers did not harm them that much, and a lot what they learn, they learn on their own (except fundamental disciplines) -- kind of self-education buried within ;-).

Also, rigid soviet system (you have a zero opportunity to select your own set of subjects for a degree) has one important advantage. It schools you to be determined and persisting, no matter what subject you were assigned. To be a real fighter, in some academic or non-academic sense.

That was especially true as you also need to pass exams in Marxism philosophy and Political economy to get a degree. Those subjects were frown upon, but in retrospect were useful: students were forced to read classics, not junk like in neo-classical economics courses in the USA.

I think that the main reason for the high quality of Soviet engineers of this period was not the education the got, but the fact that talented people were nowhere to go; there was no "business path." That's why Berezovsky became an academic scholar and even reached the level of the Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Science

The level of backwardness of computer science education in the 90th in the USSR was staggering. So the fact that there were so many talented programmers in the country, many of whom later found a well-paid job in the Western countries, was mostly due to the level of the talent of those few who managed to get into universities.

Many problems with Soviet education persist in Russia. Andrei Martyanov looks at many problems of Russian society via rose glasses. Taking into account the current level of Russophobia, that's a noble stance, and I do not object to his exaggerations.

But the reality is more complex.

[Jan 11, 2020] Atomization of workforce as a part of atomization of society under neoliberalism

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... a friend of mine, born in Venice and a long-time resident of Rome, pointed out to me that dogs are a sign of loneliness. ..."
"... And the cafes and restaurants on weekends in Chicago–chockfull of people, each on his or her own Powerbook, surfing the WWW all by themselves. ..."
"... The preaching of self-reliance by those who have never had to practice it is galling. ..."
"... Katherine: Agreed. It is also one of the reasons why I am skeptical of various evangelical / fundi pastors, who are living at the expense of their churches, preaching about individual salvation. ..."
"... So you have the upper crust (often with inheritances and trust funds) preaching economic self-reliances, and you have divines preaching individual salvation as they go back to the house provided by the members of the church. ..."
Apr 18, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
DJG , April 17, 2017 at 11:09 am
Neoliberalism is creating loneliness. That's what's wrenching society apart George Monbiot, Guardian

George Monbiot on human loneliness and its toll. I agree with his observations. I have been cataloguing them in my head for years, especially after a friend of mine, born in Venice and a long-time resident of Rome, pointed out to me that dogs are a sign of loneliness.

A couple of recent trips to Rome have made that point ever more obvious to me: Compared to my North Side neighborhood in Chicago, where every other person seems to have a dog, and on weekends Clark Street is awash in dogs (on their way to the dog boutiques and the dog food truck), Rome has few dogs. Rome is much more densely populated, and the Italians still have each other, for good or for ill. And Americans use the dog as an odd means of making human contact, at least with other dog owners.

But Americanization advances: I was surprised to see people bring dogs into the dining room of a fairly upscale restaurant in Turin. I haven't seen that before. (Most Italian cafes and restaurants are just too small to accommodate a dog, and the owners don't have much patience for disruptions.) The dogs barked at each other for while–violating a cardinal rule in Italy that mealtime is sacred and tranquil. Loneliness rules.

And the cafes and restaurants on weekends in Chicago–chockfull of people, each on his or her own Powerbook, surfing the WWW all by themselves.

That's why the comments about March on Everywhere in Harper's, recommended by Lambert, fascinated me. Maybe, to be less lonely, you just have to attend the occasional march, no matter how disorganized (and the Chicago Women's March organizers made a few big logistical mistakes), no matter how incoherent. Safety in numbers? (And as Monbiot points out, overeating at home alone is a sign of loneliness: Another argument for a walk with a placard.)

Katharine , April 17, 2017 at 11:39 am

I particularly liked this point:

In Britain, men who have spent their entire lives in quadrangles – at school, at college, at the bar, in parliament – instruct us to stand on our own two feet.

With different imagery, the same is true in this country. The preaching of self-reliance by those who have never had to practice it is galling.

DJG , April 17, 2017 at 11:48 am

Katherine: Agreed. It is also one of the reasons why I am skeptical of various evangelical / fundi pastors, who are living at the expense of their churches, preaching about individual salvation.

So you have the upper crust (often with inheritances and trust funds) preaching economic self-reliances, and you have divines preaching individual salvation as they go back to the house provided by the members of the church.

[Jan 10, 2020] America's Hamster Wheel of 'Career Advancement' by Casey Chalk

Notable quotes:
"... Getting Work Right: Labor and Leisure in a Fragmented World ..."
"... The problem is further compounded by the fact that much of the labor Americans perform isn't actually good ..."
Jan 09, 2020 | www.theamericanconservative.com

We're told that getting ahead at work and reorienting our lives around our jobs will make us happy. So why hasn't it? Many of those who work in the corporate world are constantly peppered with questions about their " career progression ." The Internet is saturated with articles providing tips and tricks on how to develop a never-fail game plan for professional development. Millions of Americans are engaged in a never-ending cycle of résumé-padding that mimics the accumulation of Boy Scout merit badges or A's on report cards except we never seem to get our Eagle Scout certificates or academic diplomas. We're told to just keep going until we run out of gas or reach retirement, at which point we fade into the peripheral oblivion of retirement communities, morning tee-times, and long midweek lunches at beach restaurants.

The idealistic Chris McCandless in Jon Krakauer's bestselling book Into the Wild defiantly declares, "I think careers are a 20th century invention and I don't want one." Anyone who has spent enough time in the career hamster wheel can relate to this sentiment. Is 21st-century careerism -- with its promotion cycles, yearly feedback, and little wooden plaques commemorating our accomplishments -- really the summit of human existence, the paramount paradigm of human flourishing?

Michael J. Noughton, director of the Center for Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota, and board chair for Reel Precision Manufacturing, doesn't think so. In his Getting Work Right: Labor and Leisure in a Fragmented World , Noughton provides a sobering statistic: approximately two thirds of employees in the United States are "either indifferent or hostile to their work." That's not just an indicator of professional dissatisfaction; it's economically disastrous. The same survey estimates that employee disengagement is costing the U.S. economy "somewhere between 450-550 billion dollars annually."

The origin of this problem, says Naughton, is an error in how Americans conceive of work and leisure. We seem to err in one of two ways. One is to label our work as strictly a job, a nine-to-five that pays the bills. In this paradigm, leisure is an amusement, an escape from the drudgery of boring, purposeless labor. The other way is that we label our work as a career that provides the essential fulfillment in our lives. Through this lens, leisure is a utility, simply another means to serve our work. Outside of work, we exercise to maintain our health in order to work harder and longer. We read books that help maximize our utility at work and get ahead of our competitors. We "continue our education" largely to further our careers.

Whichever error we fall into, we inevitably end up dissatisfied. The more we view work as a painful, boring chore, the less effective we are at it, and the more complacent and discouraged. Our leisure activities, in turn, no matter how distracting, only compound our sadness, because no amount of games can ever satisfy our souls. Or, if we see our meaning in our work and leisure as only another means of increasing productivity, we inevitably burn out, wondering, perhaps too late in life, what exactly we were working for . As Augustine of Hippo noted, our hearts are restless for God. More recently, C.S. Lewis noted that we yearn to be fulfilled by something that nothing in this world can satisfy. We need both our work and our leisure to be oriented to the transcendent in order to give our lives meaning and purpose.

The problem is further compounded by the fact that much of the labor Americans perform isn't actually good . There are "bad goods" that are detrimental to society and human flourishing. Naughton suggests some examples: violent video games, pornography, adultery dating sites, cigarettes, high-octane alcohol, abortifacients, gambling, usury, certain types of weapons, cheat sheet websites, "gentlemen's clubs," and so on. Though not as clear-cut as the above, one might also add working for the kinds of businesses that contribute to the impoverishment or destruction of our communities, as Tucker Carlson has recently argued .

Why does this matter for professional satisfaction? Because if our work doesn't offer goods and services that contribute to our communities and the common good -- and especially if we are unable to perceive how our labor plays into that common good -- then it will fundamentally undermine our happiness. We will perceive our work primarily in a utilitarian sense, shrugging our shoulders and saying, "it's just a paycheck," ignoring or disregarding the fact that as rational animals we need to feel like our efforts matter.

Economic liberalism -- at least in its purest free-market expression -- is based on a paradigm with nominalist and utilitarian origins that promote "freedom of indifference." In rudimentary terms, this means that we need not be interested in the moral quality of our economic output. If we produce goods that satisfy people's wants, increasing their "utils," as my Econ 101 professor used to say, then we are achieving business success. In this paradigm, we desire an economy that maximizes access to free choice regardless of the content of that choice, because the more choices we have, the more we can maximize our utils, or sensory satisfaction.

The freedom of indifference paradigm is in contrast to a more ancient understanding of economic and civic engagement: a freedom for excellence. In this worldview, "we are made for something," and participation in public acts of virtue is essential both to our own well-being and that of our society. By creating goods and services that objectively benefit others and contributing to an order beyond the maximization of profit, we bless both ourselves and the polis . Alternatively, goods that increase "utils" but undermine the common good are rejected.

Returning to Naughton's distinction between work and leisure, we need to perceive the latter not as an escape from work or a means of enhancing our work, but as a true time of rest. This means uniting ourselves with the transcendent reality from which we originate and to which we will return, through prayer, meditation, and worship. By practicing this kind of true leisure, well treated in a book by Josef Pieper , we find ourselves refreshed, and discover renewed motivation and inspiration to contribute to the common good.

Americans are increasingly aware of the problems with Wall Street conservatism and globalist economics. We perceive that our post-Cold War policies are hurting our nation. Naughton's treatise on work and leisure offers the beginnings of a game plan for what might replace them.

Casey Chalk covers religion and other issues for The American Conservative and is a senior writer for Crisis Magazine. He has degrees in history and teaching from the University of Virginia, and a masters in theology from Christendom College.

[Jan 02, 2020] The Purpose Of Life Is Not Happiness: It s Usefulness Happiness as an achievable goal is an illusion, but that doesn t mean happiness itself is not attainable by Darius Foroux

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... "The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well." ..."
"... Recently I read Not Fade Away by Laurence Shames and Peter Barton. It's about Peter Barton, the founder of Liberty Media, who shares his thoughts about dying from cancer. ..."
Aug 22, 2019 | getpocket.com

For the longest time, I believed that there's only one purpose of life: And that is to be happy. Right? Why else go through all the pain and hardship? It's to achieve happiness in some way. And I'm not the only person who believed that. In fact, if you look around you, most people are pursuing happiness in their lives.

That's why we collectively buy shit we don't need, go to bed with people we don't love, and try to work hard to get approval of people we don't like.

Why do we do these things? To be honest, I don't care what the exact reason is. I'm not a scientist. All I know is that it has something to do with history, culture, media, economy, psychology, politics, the information era, and you name it. The list is endless.

We are who are.

Let's just accept that. Most people love to analyze why people are not happy or don't live fulfilling lives. I don't necessarily care about the why .

I care more about how we can change.

Just a few short years ago, I did everything to chase happiness.

But at the end of the day, you're lying in your bed (alone or next to your spouse), and you think: "What's next in this endless pursuit of happiness?"

Well, I can tell you what's next: You, chasing something random that you believe makes you happy.

It's all a façade. A hoax. A story that's been made up.

Did Aristotle lie to us when he said:

"Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence."

I think we have to look at that quote from a different angle. Because when you read it, you think that happiness is the main goal. And that's kind of what the quote says as well.

But here's the thing: How do you achieve happiness?

Happiness can't be a goal in itself. Therefore, it's not something that's achievable. I believe that happiness is merely a byproduct of usefulness. When I talk about this concept with friends, family, and colleagues, I always find it difficult to put this into words. But I'll give it a try here. Most things we do in life are just activities and experiences.

Those things should make you happy, right? But they are not useful. You're not creating anything. You're just consuming or doing something. And that's great.

Don't get me wrong. I love to go on holiday, or go shopping sometimes. But to be honest, it's not what gives meaning to life.

What really makes me happy is when I'm useful. When I create something that others can use. Or even when I create something I can use.

For the longest time I foud it difficult to explain the concept of usefulness and happiness. But when I recently ran into a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the dots connected.

Emerson says:

"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well."

And I didn't get that before I became more conscious of what I'm doing with my life. And that always sounds heavy and all. But it's actually really simple.

It comes down to this: What are you DOING that's making a difference?

Did you do useful things in your lifetime? You don't have to change the world or anything. Just make it a little bit better than you were born.

If you don't know how, here are some ideas.

That's just some stuff I like to do. You can make up your own useful activities.

You see? It's not anything big. But when you do little useful things every day, it adds up to a life that is well lived. A life that mattered.

The last thing I want is to be on my deathbed and realize there's zero evidence that I ever existed.

Recently I read Not Fade Away by Laurence Shames and Peter Barton. It's about Peter Barton, the founder of Liberty Media, who shares his thoughts about dying from cancer.

It's a very powerful book and it will definitely bring tears to your eyes. In the book, he writes about how he lived his life and how he found his calling. He also went to business school, and this is what he thought of his fellow MBA candidates:

"Bottom line: they were extremely bright people who would never really anything, would never add much to society, would leave no legacy behind. I found this terribly sad, in the way that wasted potential is always sad."

You can say that about all of us. And after he realized that in his thirties, he founded a company that turned him into a multi-millionaire.

Another person who always makes himself useful is Casey Neistat . I've been following him for a year and a half now, and every time I watch his YouTube show , he's doing something.

He also talks about how he always wants to do and create something. He even has a tattoo on his forearm that says "Do More."

Most people would say, "why would you work more?" And then they turn on Netflix and watch back to back episodes of Daredevil.

A different mindset.

Being useful is a mindset. And like with any mindset, it starts with a decision. One day I woke up and thought to myself: What am I doing for this world? The answer was nothing.

And that same day I started writing. For you it can be painting, creating a product, helping elderly, or anything you feel like doing.

Don't take it too seriously. Don't overthink it. Just DO something that's useful. Anything.

Darius Foroux writes about productivity, habits, decision making, and personal finance. His ideas and work have been featured in TIME, NBC, Fast Company, Inc., Observer, and many more publications. Join his free weekly newsletter.

More from Darius Foroux

This article was originally published on October 3, 2016, by Darius Foroux, and is republished here with permission. Darius Foroux writes about productivity, habits, decision making, and personal finance.

Join his newsletter.


[Jan 02, 2020] Since 2008, we've been witnessing a "reverse stagflation", i.e. low unemployment with low wages (a phenomenon which is impossible according to modern bourgeois economic theory).

Jan 02, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

vk , Dec 31 2019 18:38 utc | 32

Here's another evidence capitalism has reached a stagnant level of both technological progress and birth rates:

Over-65s to account for over half of employment growth in next 10 years

Workers aged 65 and older will be responsible for more than half of all UK employment growth over the next 10 years and almost two-thirds of employment growth by 2060, according to new figures.

Since 2008, we've been witnessing a "reverse stagflation", i.e. low unemployment with low wages (a phenomenon which is impossible according to modern bourgeois economic theory).

The reason for this is what I mentioned earlier: no more technological progress and negative birth rates. The USA is still benefitting from mass immigration from Central America, but this demographic bonus won't last for much: now even the Third World countries are barely above the minimum 2 children per woman (including most of Latin American nations). Only a bunch of African nations (which have high mortality rates either way, so it doesn't matter) and India still have the "demographic bonus" in a level such as to be capitalistically viable.

This problem is not new in cotemporary history. It happened once: in the USSR.

In the 1970s, only 6% of the Soviet population was necessary to produce everything the USSR needed, so the only solution available was to expand the economy extensively, i.e. by reproducing the same infrastructure more times over.

The problem with that is that the USSR had reached its limits demographically. Its population growth entered into stagnant to negative territory. Decades passed until the point where it didn't even matter if they came up with a revolutionary technology, since there were simply not enough children to teach and train to such new tech. Add to that the pressure from the Cold War (which drained its R&D to the military sector), and it begun to wither away.

Now we can predict the same thing is happening to capitalism. Contrary to the USSR, the capitalist nations had the advantage of having available the demographic bonuses of the Third World - specially China - to maintain their dynamism even when some countries like Japan and Germany reached negative birth rates. Now China's demographic bonus is over and also much of Latin America. To make things even worse for the capitalists, China managed to scape the "middle income trap" and go to the route of becoming a superpower, thus adding to the demographic strains of the capitalist center.

The solution, it seems, is to do pension reforms and force the old people back to work. France is going to destroy its pension system; Brazil already did that; the USA was a pioneer in forcing its old population to work to the death; Italy destroyed its pension system after 2008; the UK is preparing the terrain now that its social-democracy is definitely destroyed.

Patroklos , Jan 1 2020 2:49 utc | 65

Posted by: vk | Dec 31 2019 18:38 utc | 32

As always I find your application of Marxist critique succinct and correct. This coming decade, with its unravelling of the financialization phase of our current phase of capitalism (i.e the US consolidation phase following British imperialism, c.1914-2020s), will be its terminal decade. The signal that we had entered the financialization phase were the shocks of 1970-73, and the replacement of industrial manufacture (i.e. money>commodity>money+x, or M-C-M') with finance/speculation (i.e. money>money+x, M-M') has unfolded more or less according to Marx's analysis in Capital vol.3. This is as much a crisis of value creation as anything else. In Australia (where I am) the process is particularly transparent: we have almost no manufacturing sector left and so we exchange labour-value created in China for mineral resources and engage in the ponzi-scheme of banking and property speculation, which produces no value whatsoever. Either way the M-C-M' phase in Australia has vanished and government dedicates itself to full-spectrum protection of the finance economy and mining. All the while a veneer of productivity is created by immigration, which destroys cities (because there's no infrastructure to accomodate them), inflates prices and creates the illusion of 'growth'. This is propped up by a media who perpetuate xenophobia by creating panic about refugees (5%) while saying zip about the fact that Australia only has economic growth at all because we bring in 250K new consumers every year. This collapsing financialization phase will only accelerate this decade and we will wake to find we don't make anything and have crumbling 1980s-era infrastructure: Australia will suffer badly as the phase plays out, not least because of a colonial-settler looting mentality around the 'economy' that persists at every level of government.

What I like about the point you're making in your post (#32) is the wider expansive question of productivity -- or, how do we continue to produce value? It is often overlooked that Marx sought to liberate human beings from expropriative labour of every kind (which occurred as much under the Soviets as it does today); this means that capital's aorta connecting labour to value via money must be severed (rather than the endless attempts to reform capitalism to make it 'fairer' etc, a sell-out for which Gramsci savaged the union movement). The relation between work and value must be critiqued relentlessly. To salvage any kind of optimism about the future we need to invest all our intellectual energy in this critique and find a radically new way of construing the link between time, labour and value that does not include social domination.

In the meantime the scenario to which you have drawn our attention -- the parasitic vampirism now attacking the elderly and the retired -- is an inevitable consequence of our particular moment in late capitalism, hurtling at speed toward a social catastrophe of debt, wealth inequality, neo-feudalism and biopolitical police state, all characterized by an image of 70-year-olds trudging to work in an agony of physical suffering and mental meaninglessness which will end in a forgotten grave.

[Jan 01, 2020] FDA Failed to Police Opioids Makers, Thus Fueling Opioids Crisis

Jan 01, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

FDA Failed to Police Opioids Makers, Thus Fueling Opioids Crisis Posted on January 1, 2020 by Jerri-Lynn Scofield By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

I had hoped to welcome 2020 with a optimistic post.

Alas, the current news cycle has thrown up little cause for optimism.

Instead, what has caught my eye today: 2019 closes with release of a new study showing the FDA's failure to police opioids manufacturers fueled the opioids crisis.

This is yet another example of a familiar theme: inadequate regulation kills people: e.g. think Boeing. Or, on a longer term, less immediate scale, consider the failure of the Environmental Protection Agency, in so many realms, including the failure to curb emissions so as to slow the pace of climate change.

In the opioids case, we're talking about thousands and thousands of people.

On Monday, Jama Internal Medicine published research concerning the US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) program to reduce opioids abuse. The FDA launched its risk evaluation and mitigation strategy – REMS – in 2012. Researchers examined nearly 10,000 documents, released in response to a Freedom of Information ACT (FOA) request, to generate the conclusions published by JAMA.

As the Gray Lady tells the story in As Tens of Thousands Died, F.D.A. Failed to Police Opioids :

In 2011, the F.D.A. began asking the makers of OxyContin and other addictive long-acting opioids to pay for safety training for more than half the physicians prescribing the drugs, and to track the effectiveness of the training and other measures in reducing addiction, overdoses and deaths.

But the F.D.A. was never able to determine whether the program worked, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found in a new review, because the manufacturers did not gather the right kind of data. Although the agency's approval of OxyContin in 1995 has long come under fire, its efforts to ensure the safe use of opioids since then have not been scrutinized nearly as much.

The documents show that even when deficiencies in these efforts became obvious through the F.D.A.'s own review process, the agency never insisted on improvements to the program, [called a REMS]. . .

The FDA's regulatory failure had serious public health consequences, according to critics of US opioids policy, as reported by the NYT:

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, the co-director of opioid policy research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis, said the safety program was a missed opportunity. He is a leader of a group of physicians who had encouraged the F.D.A. to adopt stronger controls, and a frequent critic of the government's response to the epidemic.

Dr. Kolodny, who was not involved in the study, called the program "a really good example of the way F.D.A. has failed to regulate opioid manufacturers. If F.D.A. had really been doing its job properly, I don't believe we'd have an opioid crisis today."

Now, as readers frequently emphasize in comments: pain management is a considerable problem – one I am all too well aware of, as I watched my father succumb to cancer. He ultimately passed away at my parents' home.

That being said, as CNN tells the story in The FDA can't prove its opioid strategy actually worked, study says :

Although these drugs "can be clinically useful among appropriately selected patients, they have also been widely oversupplied, are commonly used nonmedically, and account for a disproportionate number of fatal overdoses," the authors write.

The FDA was unable, more than 5 years after it had instituted its study of the opioids program's effectiveness, to determine whether it had met its objectives, and this may have been because prior assessments were not objective, according to CNN:

Prior analyses had largely been funded by drug companies, and a 2016 FDA advisory committee "noted methodological concerns regarding these studies," according to the authors. An inspector general report also concluded in 2013 that the agency "lacks comprehensive data to determine whether risk evaluation and mitigation strategies improve drug safety."

In addition to failing to evaluate the effective of the limited steps it had taken, the FDA neglected to take more aggressive steps that were within the ambit of its regulatory authority. According to CNN:

"FDA has tools that could mitigate opioid risks more effectively if the agency would be more assertive in using its power to control opioid prescribing, manufacturing, and distribution," said retired FDA senior executive William K. Hubbard in an editorial that accompanied the study. "Instead of bold, effective action, the FDA has implemented the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy programs that do not even meet the limited criteria set out by the FDA."

One measure the FDA could have taken, according to Hubbard: putting restrictions on opioid distribution.

"Restricting opioid distribution would be a major decision for the FDA, but it is also likely to be the most effective policy for reducing the harm of opioids," said Hubbard, who spent more than three decades at the agency and oversaw initiatives in areas such as regulation, policy and economic evaluation.

The Trump administration has made cleaning up the opioids crisis – which it inherited – a policy priority. To little seeming effect so far. although to be fair, this is not a simple problem to solve. And litigation to apportion various costs of the damages various prescription drugmakers, distributors, and doctors caused it far from over – despite some settlements, and judgements (see Federal Prosecutors Initiate Criminal Probe of Six Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors ; Four Companies Settle Just Before Bellwether Opioids Trial Was to Begin Today in Ohio ; Purdue Files for Bankruptcy, Agrees to Settle Some Pending Opioids Litigation: Sacklers on Hook for Billions? and Judge Issues $572 Million Verdict Against J & J in Oklahoma Opioids Trial: Settlements to Follow? )

Perhaps the Johns Hopkins study will spark moves to reform the broken FDA, so that it can once again serve as an effective regulator. This could perhaps be something we can look forward to achieving in 2020 (although I won't hold my breath).

Or, perhaps if enacting comprehensive reform is too overwhelming, especially with a divided government, as a starting point: can we agree to stop allowing self-interested industries to finance studies meant to assess the effectiveness of programs to regulate that very same industry? Please?

This is a concern in so many areas, with such self-interested considerations shaping not only regulation, but distorting academic research (see Virginia Supreme Court Upholds Ruling that George Mason University Foundation Is Not Subject to State FOIA Statute, Leaving Koch Funding Details Undisclosed ).

What madness!

[Jan 01, 2020] Gig workers getting screwed

Jan 01, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

c1ue , Dec 29 2019 16:19 utc | 3

Gig workers getting screwed. Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it - the modern gig economy is nothing more than the "putting out" system redux from the early days of the industrial revolution.
And much like the looms and thread from the putting out system, the owners control pricing for gig workers as well as cut off any possibility of upward advancement.
Vice article on gig workers
Note this isn't one company - it is all of them. When Uber first started, they were paying over $1/mile for drivers - it is now down to $0.60. Equally, the various other gig startups pay more to lure workers in, then cut when they need/want to.
When she initially joined Instacart a year ago, Dorton says she could earn up to $800 during a 40 hour workweek picking up groceries at Costco and Sam's Club and dropping them off at customers' homes. But in recent months, her weekly income has fallen to $400 for 60 hours of grocery shopping. "I made more delivering pizza and waiting tables," Dorton told Motherboard.

Yes, but with the delivery services contributing to the everlasting restaurant crunch, there are fewer jobs delivering pizza and waiting tables. That's a feature.

[Jan 01, 2020] Time for PhD supervision

Jan 01, 2020 | crookedtimber.org

by Ingrid Robeyns on December 29, 2019 Some aspects of academia show great international variation. There is one on which I haven't found any good data, and hence thought I'll ask the crowd here so that we can gather our own data, even if it will be not very scientifically collected.

The question is this: if you are a university teacher/professor and your department awards PhD-degrees, do you get any official time allocated (or time-compensation) for PhD supervision? If it is part of a teaching load model, how many hours (or % teaching load) is it equivalent to? Or is there an expectation that you take on PhD-students but that this does not lead to a reduction in other tasks?

How do international practices of the conditions for PhD-supervisors compare?

In my faculty (Humanities at Utrecht University, the Netherlands), all supervisors together (which generally are two, sometimes three) are collectively given a teaching load reduction of 132 hours in the year follow the graduation of the PhD-candidate. So your teaching reduction upon successful graduation of a PhD-candidate tends to be 66 hours. For the supervisory work you effectively do in the four years prior to graduation, there is no time allocated; so you effectively do this in your research or your leisure time.

To put this into perspective: most (assistant/associate/full) professors teach 50-70% of their time, and a fulltime workload is 1670 hours, or 1750 hours if you are saving for a sabbatical. This can be reduced if you have major managerial tasks (e.g. Head of Department) or if a large part of your wage is paid by a research grant. So without reductions, we teach about 835-1190 hours a year (this includes the time for preparation and examination, but frankly, one always needs more than the teaching load models allocate for a given course. And in general there are no TAs or other support staff to help with the practical sides of teaching).

For writing the grants that are almost always needed to create the jobs for PhD students (with success rates now around 15%), and for supervising those who in the end do not get their PhD degree, there is no time put aside for the supervisor/applicants. That time also goes, effectively, from our research time, or, more realistically, from our leisure time.

Recently, I heard from a British colleague and a Swedish colleague their models for PhD-supervision, which were way more generous (and rightly so in my view), so thought I'll throw the question on the table here: what, if any, time-compensation/teachingreduction do you get for supervising PhD students?

I am not trying to suggest here that without adequate time set aside for doing this work, it would not be worthwhile supervising PhDs. There are in many cases other forms of rewards for the work one does as a PhD supervisor. One might be the honor of supervising PhDs, and in most cases the intrinsic rewards of the supervisory process – the satisfaction of seeing a young person take their first steps as a scholar, and being able to play a crucial role in this process. There is , after all, a reason why the Germans call their PhD-supervisor mein Doktorvater or meine Doktormutter – since yes, there is this element of helping someone to grow, in a cognitive and professional sense. Professionally, there are few people who had so much influence on me as my PhD-supervisor, and I am hoping that some of my (former) PhD-students will think the same at some point in their lives. So it would be wrong to frame it merely as a burden, since there is the intrinsic value of the rather unique professional relationship. But that cannot be a reason to not give PhDsupervisors the time they need to properly supervise, given how severe time pressure in academia is. I see this as a real tension.

In some academic fields, there may be professional research benefits for the supervisors, such as becoming co-authors on the publications the PhD-students write under your supervision. I recently examined a PhD-thesis in medical ethics, and all chapters (being articles published or under review) had been co-written with several members of the supervisory team. Even raising the funds to hire the PhD is sometimes seen as sufficient reason to be listed as a co-author. In the humanities there is no such a thing: we don't put our names on articles of our PhDstudents, even if we contributed significantly to the development of that piece (rightly so in my view).

I'm posting this because I am interested in the international comparison in its own right, but also because of its relevance in discussions on higher education policies which are currently very intense in the Netherlands, on which I'll write another blogpost later.

Share this: { 24 comments read them below or add one }

Chris Bertram 12.29.19 at 9:45 am ( 1 )

In my part of my university each PhD student earns her supervisors around 60 notional hours/1600 total per annum, but that's usually divided 5/1 between two supervisors, so that the person actually doing the work has about 50 hours, so slightly over an hour/week given annual leave etc. My greatest beef with this is when we admit non-anglophone PhD students. Since they officially have a level of competence in English as a condition of their admission, they do not get any extra time for supervision. But in practice, their work takes much longer to read and you have to put a lot of work into improving their English.
Mike Beggs 12.29.19 at 10:18 am ( 2 )
In my faculty (Arts and Social Sciences at Sydney) the primary supervisor gets 40 hours per year and an auxiliary supervisor gets ten. (There is some flexibility for the 50 total hours to be divided differently.)

In a recent survey of faculty staff with a response rate of around 30%, most reported spending longer per primary supervision: the median was 50 hours.

There's actually a growing literature on academic time use. Kenny and Fluck have published a series of papers based on a large survey of Australian academics. The median reported time spent supervising a higher degree student per year was 60 hours over all discipline groups, 50 hours for Arts, Law and Humanities. (Kenny and Fluck 2018 'Research workloads in Australian universities', _Australian Universities Review_ -- and the companion papers on teaching and admin workloads are also worth googling for the full results over lots of tasks.)

Matt Matravers 12.29.19 at 10:31 am ( 3 )
When we tried to establish a "norm" at the University of York, it turned out that practice varied widely not only across faculties, but within the arts and humanities and social sciences. Some departments simply included it in "research time" and gave zero extra time, others gave a (more-or-less generous) "teaching" allocation. So, I am not sure you can get any useful comparisons even at an institutional level let alone internationally.
Currently, in the Law School at York, a PhD student – during the period of registration (i.e., only for the first 3 years) – earns her supervisors around 80 notional hours of teaching per year. This is split across the supervisory team in proportion to their involvement.
Many colleagues think this is insufficient, in particular with non-anglophone students and it can be particularly galling if one is putting a lot of work into the final "writing up" year.
For what it is worth, I found this very hard to manage when I was Head of Department (and so responsible for workloads). The issue for me was that in many cases senior colleagues had several PhD students and (some) junior colleagues none (or very little involvement. This was back in the day of most students have one supervisor.). Modelling a system where PhD supervision was "properly" rewarded (that is, where I tried to allocate hours in accordance to the amount of time it actually took) resulted in a very hierarchical department where (roughly) senior colleagues did PhD supervision and junior colleagues taught undergraduates. So, I didn't do it.
For what it is worth (addressing the wider issues of workload), it seems to me that there is an inevitable gap between a workload system conceived of as a mechanism of "counting" (how many hours does this job actually take?) and conceived of as a mechanism of "distribution" (how much work is there to be done and how many people to do it?). Of course, the distributive principles cannot stray too far from the realities revealed in counting, but it (seems to me at least) perfectly okay to think that the distributive principles include other considerations like the "shape" of the department, individual "goals" (having PhD students is good for promotion at York) and personal development, gender, and so on.
Finally, this problem does not seem to be unique to PhD supervision (the current "hot topic" at York is how to count/distribute time for research grant writing, which at the moment is simply included in individual research in most, but not all, departments). York tried to introduce a workload model across the university and never managed it because departmental variations were so huge (in everything from whether/how to include teaching preparation time to how to rank administrative tasks). That said, this may be the result of our particular institutional history (until recently, we had a very flat structure with only relatively autonomous departments and no faculties).
Faustusnotes 12.29.19 at 10:48 am ( 4 )
In Japan as far as I know there is no allowance at all, and senior staff (the professor who is the official supervisor) often dump all supervisory responsibility on the most junior staff. There is also often no limit on how many PhD students the professor can take on (and dump on their assistant prof). This is particularly bad with masters students, whose theses are much more time limited and challenging to supervise.

I don't know if it's a general thing but my colleagues in China tell me they are only allowed a PhD student if they publish above a certain level – PhD students are treated as a valuable asset you need to struggle to get. (I think they are paid by the uni but don't quote me). In the universities I know of in China the PhD student has to publish to graduate (sometimes like 3 papers) so the benefits to the supervisor are obvious.

I'm in public health where publication is relatively easy and quick. I don't know how it is in other disciplines (but the Japanese professor dumping his responsibilities on junior staff is quite common across disciplines as far as I can tell).

Harry 12.29.19 at 12:34 pm ( 5 )
It's not part of a workload model for us. We're expected to teach 2 classes a semester (8 contact hours a week total), then research, service, and graduate supervision on top, but the only thing that is specified is the 2 classes. So no compensation for PhD students. In practice the number of PhD supervisions varies greatly across faculty (as you'd expect), as does the amount of service work we do (if you're good at it you get asked to do more, if you're tenured and responsible you generally try to say yes), as does the amount of time we actually spend on the courses we teach.

As do our salaries, to be fair, which reflect years of service, perceived quality of research, how much the people elected to the department budget value the other things we do, and, to some extent, market forces.

What I've described is my own department. There's huge variation across campus, including variation in numbers of courses we're expected to teach.

Possibly worth mentioning that from what I have gathered expectations of how many courses we teach have fallen dramatically (across campus) over the past 50 years, and the number of course releases granted have increased dramatically: I estimate faculty in the humanities teach 30% less than 50 years ago, and in the sciences 50% less. I imagine this is similar across public research universities and SLACs.

notGoodenough 12.29.19 at 1:47 pm ( 6 )
So, purely anecdotal and from the perspective of a PhD and post-doc in Science at 2 different, fairly well thought of UK Universities (Russel group, etc. etc.).

PhD students are highly valuable. This is because a Masters or summer student are necessarily short term, and it is difficult to fulfil much breakthrough research (sometimes you need a few years of banging your head against a wall ). Post-docs are phenomenally expensive as in the UK as the University charges a huge amount just to have them – e.g. a rough breakdown (from some years ago, so a little out of date) is to just have a post-doc (i.e. no equipment, materials, etc.) is in excess of £110K per year. Some 31000 is for salary, the rest goes to the University to keep the lights on. Having more than a few post-docs, for all but the most successful labs, became prohibitively expensive.

However, as a PhD most of my time was with my post-docs (in my first year I saw my professor once, for 1hr, in later years maybe a few times more, so approximately 15 hr over 3.5 years). As a post-doc, the PhD students had regular meetings in a group format once per month (so, more or less 2-3 hr per month). In both cases it, in principle, was possible to go and meet the supervisor if you felt the need, but generally speaking your post-doc was the point of contact on a day-by-day, week-by-week basis.

I've not been a lecturer, so this is very speculative, but my impression is that supervising PhD students is generally considered a research activity, and thus you are not budgeted time for it specifically.

Not sure if any of this is useful, but feel free to hit me up for more details if you think it is useful/interesting.

Karen Anderson 12.29.19 at 2:03 pm ( 7 )
I taught for 15 years at 3 Dutch universities, 3 years at a Russell Group university in England, and am now at an Irish university. I did my PhD in the United States. Like the other posters, I have experienced wide variation in 'compensation' for PhD supervision. One of the reasons I left my position at a British university was the bizarre (and I thought, unfair) model for workload allocation. PhD supervision was highly 'compensated', and actual classroom teaching of undergrads was not. I had colleagues who met all or most of their teaching obligations with PhD supervision and did not teach undergrads.
I don't know what the best way to compensate PhD supervision is, but there are a couple of aspects I think need more attention. The first is wide variation in the number of PhD students in any given department and the rules/norms governing who is (de facto) permitted to supervise PhDs. Dutch departments have fewer PhD students than UK/Irish departments (for complicated reasons), and only full (and now associate?) profs are permitted to supervise. PhD supervision is important for promotion (as it is in the UK and IE), so everyone wants to do it, but not everyone has access. I am not sure that an activity that is so important for career progression should be generously compensated.
The second issue concerns co-authoring with a PhD student. I can see the advantages of this (which Ingrid mentions), but the proliferation of the article-based PhD where the supervisors co-author all articles is a cause for concern. Again, I am not convinced that a PhD supervisor should be generously compensated for something (publications) that strongly advances their own career. And it is not clear to me that the supervisor's contribution to the publication (in many cases, at least) amounts to more than what would be considered 'normal' PhD supervision in the US, Canada, and many European universities. This makes it very difficult to evaluate a newly minted PhD's CV, and it inflates the publication list of more senior academics.
A couple of ideas: 1) cap the number of PhD students that staff can supervise, or at least cap the number for which teaching points are earned. 2) ensure that all academic staff have access to PhD supervision.
praisegod barbones 12.29.19 at 4:32 pm ( 8 )
Private university in Turkey : the basic assumption here is that supervising PhD students and MA theses takes zero time (although people typically budget an hour per week per student.
Neville Morley 12.29.19 at 4:50 pm ( 9 )
The workload allocation for Humanities at the University of Exeter is similar to Chris's account of Bristol (where I worked previously), though it's more common for the hours to be divided 70/30, 60/40 or even 50/50 between first and second supervisors, with the latter playing a much more active role. The biggest difference, however, is that you continue to receive an allowance when the student is writing up, and even if they're revising after a first examination, whereas the Bristol practice was, at least, that you get a workload allowance for the first three years and then nothing for the period which in my experience often required the greatest amount of work
Phil 12.29.19 at 5:50 pm ( 10 )
I haven't – yet – supervised a doctoral student, but I did examine a viva this year & was surprised to find that this carried no workload allowance at all, which seems odd given the amount of reading time involved. (Fortunately I wasn't mad busy.)
likbez 12.29.19 at 7:10 pm ( 11 )
40-60 hours are typical. They do not compensate for the effort but still.
oldster 12.29.19 at 7:16 pm ( 12 )
Former US academic; taught at a few R1 uni's from 80s to aughts.

To echo the doughty Puritan: " the basic assumption here is that supervising PhD students and MA theses takes zero time."

We had a standard teaching load, and expectations for research and service. But there was no calculation of supervisory load -- it simply was not tracked, budgeted, or accounted for. As Harry says above, there were wide disparities from person to person, since some people attract a lot of grad students and some do not (and some repel them, either for strategic purposes, or because they are repellent no matter what they try).

No one cared whether you supervised 15 PhD students or zero. Not quite true -- there was some unofficial awareness among colleagues who thought collegially about things. And you might get some private thanks or informal kudos for doing more than your share. But there was absolutely no official account of it. And this was true at all 3 R1s I taught at over several decades.

That's partly because -- in a Humanities field -- the funding of grad students does not follow the prof, but the program as a whole. So, Central Admin knows that your department is training 25 PhDs, because Central Admin has to figure their tuition, stipends, etc. But the money then flows to your department as a whole, with no closer investigation of who in your department is doing the work.

The picture must be radically different in the Sciences, where there is literal accounting of PhD students, since they are supported by the professor's grant-money.

hix 12.29.19 at 8:08 pm ( 13 )
Surely there are other ways to offload work to PhD students one would otherwise have to do oneself besides getting research recognition for their thesis. How much of that is possible should also vary across countries. So a comparsion of alocated supervision time only seems a bit one sided.
John Quiggin 12.29.19 at 10:07 pm ( 14 )
As regards co-authorship, my PhD students and postdocs are often keen to include me on the theory that a paper with a more senior author will have a better chance of acceptance. My impression is that, in economics, the expectation is that the main job market paper will be sole-authored or else co-authored with another junior researcher, but that others are likely to be co-authored with the supervisor.

To complicate things further, economics (like philosophy, I believe) works on average quality rather than total contribution. So, a publication with a student in a journal lower ranked than my average paper is actually a negative for me.

Matt 12.29.19 at 10:38 pm ( 15 )
I assume that "Harry" above is Harry B of the blog. If so, he's showing why comparisons w/ the US on this will be hard, if not impossible. In many countries, there is a weird fantasy that academics can and should be treated like hourly employees, with "hours" assigned to things. (This is certainly so in Australia.) Of course, it's a fantasy in that, if it in fact takes a lot more "hours" to do the things you're assigned, you don't get over-time, comp time, or paid more. The other down-side is that this system leads, in my experience, to more micro-managing – being expected to "account" for your time to a much greater degree. The US system treats academics more like salaried employees – you get paid a certain amount, you have certain tasks to do, and you must do them (some of them at particular times, like teaching classes) but otherwise you're not dealing with "hours" for things. The down-side is that there can be lots of variation in how much work people actually do – even teaching the same "number" of classes can vary a lot depending on the number of preps, size, how often you've taught it, if you have TAs, etc., and having more advisees may not lead to more recognition on its own. The plus side is that less time is spent on being mico-managed and bureaucratic nonsense. The relevant point here, though, is that it's really hard to make a comparison like the one asked for between systems where one treats academics more like hourly employees and the other more like salaried employees.
Gabriel 12.29.19 at 10:52 pm ( 16 )
My wife (a New Zealand academic with confirmation) is allocated a. 24 hours per year for supervising PhD students. She trusts that the ludicrousness of this number is not lost on those present.
billcinsd 12.30.19 at 1:39 am ( 17 )
I am a Professor in an Engineering discipline at a small, state engineering school in the US. Our workload is departmentally determined. My department is fairly small, ~100 undergrads, but does quite a bit of research. My nominal workload is 40% teaching, 40% research and 20% service. This is based on 40 working hours per week. My effective workload is 46% teaching, 8% advising (both undergrad and grad), 23% overseeing my funded research projects and about 25% service. This is more than 100%, which is true for almost all faculty at my school.

Thus, I estimate how much time I spend doing various things and then convert that to credit hours, as my contract is specified in terms of 18 credit hours of work per semester, making a credit hour about 2 hours and 40 minutes

Kevin 12.30.19 at 2:11 pm ( 18 )
In Technological University Dublin (formerly Dublin Institute of Technology), supervision of a full-time PhD student attracts a time allowance of 2 hours per week (48 hours per annum), from a weekly teaching load of 16 contact hours for lecturers (18 hours for assistant lecturers). So, for example, a lecturer with two full-time PhD students will allocate 25% (4 hours) of his / her weekly contact teaching duties to this role.
Michael Dunn 12.30.19 at 2:45 pm ( 19 )
In my department (at Uppsala University, Sweden) the workload norm is 88 hours per year supervisory time for the main supervisor and 20 for the assistant supervisor. This time includes the face-to-face hours, as well as reading, commenting, etc. The split can be done differently to reflect other kinds of co-supervisory arrangements. This seems very generous compared to what others are reporting, which is sad, since an average of 1 hour meeting, 1 hour reading per week for 44 weeks in a year would work out as very minimal supervision -- and supervisors typically spend much more time on supervision related tasks than this.
Johan Karlsson Schaffer 12.30.19 at 4:44 pm ( 20 )
A couple of years ago, I did a survey of the formal teaching duties at polisci departments at Scandinavian universities for a report published by the Swedish Institute for Labour Market Evaluation. The survey looked at the formal percentage of teaching duty for senior lecturers and full professors, and the formal compensation in terms of hours allotted for various teaching activities (e.g., lectures, supervision at different levels, examination and so on).

We found, first, that the formal teaching duty varied quite a lot across Scandinavian universities, but that all Swedish universities had less generous conditions than Danish and Norwegian universities, which came closer to the Humboldtian ideal of unity of teaching and research.

Second, by multiplying teaching duty and compensation for a standard set of teaching activities, we found that the consequences for the individual lecturer could be quite drastic: over a hypothetical career from age 35 to retirement at 67, a lecturer at the least generous university could have ten whole years more of teaching duty than their colleague at the most generous university.

The report is, unfortunately, only available in Swedish, but the graphs and tables (which also includes detailed information on the compensation for PhD supervision) should be rather self-explanatory.
https://www.ifau.se/sv/Forskning/Publikationer/Rapporter/2016/att-mota-den-hogre-utbildningens-utmaningar/

Here's a blog post summary of these findings that include the most important graphs:
https://politologerna.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/att-mota-den-hogre-utbildningens-utmaningar/

Sam Tobin-Hochstadt 12.30.19 at 6:53 pm ( 21 )
I'm an Associate Professor in Computer Science at a US R1 university.

As Matt says, the description in Ingrid's post is totally unlike how things are thought of at all in US universities. My load is 40% research, 40% teaching, 20% service, which is standard for tenure-track faculty in my department (and I think across departments here). The standard teaching load is 3 courses per year (2 in one semester, 1 in the other). However, there are several exceptions to this: before tenure, faculty are assigned only 2 courses per year. Also, if you support (with external grant funding) 3 PhD students or post-docs in the previous year then you only teach 2 courses the next year. Additionally, pre-tenure faculty are asked to do considerably less service.

Furthermore, there are several additional differences that are relevant. First, and most importantly, the distinction between "research" and "PhD supervision" does not exist in science. Effectively all of my research is joint with PhD students, although sometimes they are not "my" students, but those of my collaborators. Second, not all students are funded by grants; PhD students can also be funded by teaching. So it's possible to have one or two students without bringing in funding. Third, there's a strong expectation that training PhD students is part of the job, you wouldn't get tenure/promotion/etc if you just didn't do it.

Z 12.30.19 at 8:33 pm ( 22 )
In my institution, you don't get any teaching load reduction, whereas you do get a tiny but non-zero reduction for supervising a master thesis, or even an undergraduate research project. I believe that is the norm in France in science in general, and most likely overall. The logic behind that choice is that supervising a PhD student is supposed to bring its own benefits: the student will do a lot of lab work for the superviser, the superviser will cosign the research papers etc.

In math (my own field), there is no lab work to be done and the French tradition is that papers drawn from the PhD should be signed by the student alone, so the arrangement is quite unfavorable to us.

On the other hand

So without reductions, we teach about 835-1190 hours a year

Did I read that right? Can you clarify how many hours are counted for one hour in front of the students? That number looks like madness to me (and I have a heavy teaching load myself).

CdnNew 12.30.19 at 9:11 pm ( 23 )
Canadian math prof:

"Highly research-active" profs teach one fewer course per year. There is some flexibility as to how to maintain this designation, but typically you must have at least 2 active graduate students at any given time (and meet various other requirements).

Going through our standard courseload: if you ignore the other work related to maintaining status, your first two Ph.D. students are worth about 90 hours/year, and the remainder are worth nothing.

likbez 12.31.19 at 12:57 am ( 24 )
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

John Quiggin 12.29.19 at 10:07 pm @14

As regards co-authorship, my Ph.D. students and postdocs are often keen to include me on the theory that a paper with a more senior author will have a better chance of acceptance.

This is an important point. I agree that it is somewhat dishonest to use your post-grad students to increase you number of publications. But it should be weighted against the real difficulties of young researchers to get their papers published. And the fact that sometimes brilliant papers from them are rejected. Nobody can abolish clan behavior in the academy. And the "academic kitchen" is pretty dirty, and takes years to understand ;-).

Sometimes publishing oversees helps here, and young researchers should keep this in mind. For many foreign journals, just the fact that you are a foreigner from a prestigious university is a plus that weights on the acceptance.

[Dec 31, 2019] Time for PhD supervision -- Crooked Timber

Dec 31, 2019 | crookedtimber.org
Time for PhD supervision

by Ingrid Robeyns on December 29, 2019 Some aspects of academia show great international variation. There is one on which I haven't found any good data, and hence thought I'll ask the crowd here so that we can gather our own data, even if it will be not very scientifically collected.

The question is this: if you are a university teacher/professor and your department awards PhD-degrees, do you get any official time allocated (or time-compensation) for PhD supervision? If it is part of a teaching load model, how many hours (or % teaching load) is it equivalent to? Or is there an expectation that you take on PhD-students but that this does not lead to a reduction in other tasks?

How do international practices of the conditions for PhD-supervisors compare?

In my faculty (Humanities at Utrecht University, the Netherlands), all supervisors together (which generally are two, sometimes three) are collectively given a teaching load reduction of 132 hours in the year follow the graduation of the PhD-candidate. So your teaching reduction upon successful graduation of a PhD-candidate tends to be 66 hours. For the supervisory work you effectively do in the four years prior to graduation, there is no time allocated; so you effectively do this in your research or your leisure time.

To put this into perspective: most (assistant/associate/full) professors teach 50-70% of their time, and a fulltime workload is 1670 hours, or 1750 hours if you are saving for a sabbatical. This can be reduced if you have major managerial tasks (e.g. Head of Department) or if a large part of your wage is paid by a research grant. So without reductions, we teach about 835-1190 hours a year (this includes the time for preparation and examination, but frankly, one always needs more than the teaching load models allocate for a given course. And in general there are no TAs or other support staff to help with the practical sides of teaching).

For writing the grants that are almost always needed to create the jobs for PhD students (with success rates now around 15%), and for supervising those who in the end do not get their PhD degree, there is no time put aside for the supervisor/applicants. That time also goes, effectively, from our research time, or, more realistically, from our leisure time.

Recently, I heard from a British colleague and a Swedish colleague their models for PhD-supervision, which were way more generous (and rightly so in my view), so thought I'll throw the question on the table here: what, if any, time-compensation/teachingreduction do you get for supervising PhD students?

I am not trying to suggest here that without adequate time set aside for doing this work, it would not be worthwhile supervising PhDs. There are in many cases other forms of rewards for the work one does as a PhD supervisor. One might be the honor of supervising PhDs, and in most cases the intrinsic rewards of the supervisory process – the satisfaction of seeing a young person take their first steps as a scholar, and being able to play a crucial role in this process. There is , after all, a reason why the Germans call their PhD-supervisor mein Doktorvater or meine Doktormutter – since yes, there is this element of helping someone to grow, in a cognitive and professional sense. Professionally, there are few people who had so much influence on me as my PhD-supervisor, and I am hoping that some of my (former) PhD-students will think the same at some point in their lives. So it would be wrong to frame it merely as a burden, since there is the intrinsic value of the rather unique professional relationship. But that cannot be a reason to not give PhDsupervisors the time they need to properly supervise, given how severe time pressure in academia is. I see this as a real tension.

In some academic fields, there may be professional research benefits for the supervisors, such as becoming co-authors on the publications the PhD-students write under your supervision. I recently examined a PhD-thesis in medical ethics, and all chapters (being articles published or under review) had been co-written with several members of the supervisory team. Even raising the funds to hire the PhD is sometimes seen as sufficient reason to be listed as a co-author. In the humanities there is no such a thing: we don't put our names on articles of our PhDstudents, even if we contributed significantly to the development of that piece (rightly so in my view).

I'm posting this because I am interested in the international comparison in its own right, but also because of its relevance in discussions on higher education policies which are currently very intense in the Netherlands, on which I'll write another blogpost later.

Share this: { 24 comments read them below or add one }

Chris Bertram 12.29.19 at 9:45 am ( 1 )

In my part of my university each PhD student earns her supervisors around 60 notional hours/1600 total per annum, but that's usually divided 5/1 between two supervisors, so that the person actually doing the work has about 50 hours, so slightly over an hour/week given annual leave etc. My greatest beef with this is when we admit non-anglophone PhD students. Since they officially have a level of competence in English as a condition of their admission, they do not get any extra time for supervision. But in practice, their work takes much longer to read and you have to put a lot of work into improving their English.
Mike Beggs 12.29.19 at 10:18 am ( 2 )
In my faculty (Arts and Social Sciences at Sydney) the primary supervisor gets 40 hours per year and an auxiliary supervisor gets ten. (There is some flexibility for the 50 total hours to be divided differently.)

In a recent survey of faculty staff with a response rate of around 30%, most reported spending longer per primary supervision: the median was 50 hours.

There's actually a growing literature on academic time use. Kenny and Fluck have published a series of papers based on a large survey of Australian academics. The median reported time spent supervising a higher degree student per year was 60 hours over all discipline groups, 50 hours for Arts, Law and Humanities. (Kenny and Fluck 2018 'Research workloads in Australian universities', _Australian Universities Review_ -- and the companion papers on teaching and admin workloads are also worth googling for the full results over lots of tasks.)

Matt Matravers 12.29.19 at 10:31 am ( 3 )
When we tried to establish a "norm" at the University of York, it turned out that practice varied widely not only across faculties, but within the arts and humanities and social sciences. Some departments simply included it in "research time" and gave zero extra time, others gave a (more-or-less generous) "teaching" allocation. So, I am not sure you can get any useful comparisons even at an institutional level let alone internationally.
Currently, in the Law School at York, a PhD student – during the period of registration (i.e., only for the first 3 years) – earns her supervisors around 80 notional hours of teaching per year. This is split across the supervisory team in proportion to their involvement.
Many colleagues think this is insufficient, in particular with non-anglophone students and it can be particularly galling if one is putting a lot of work into the final "writing up" year.
For what it is worth, I found this very hard to manage when I was Head of Department (and so responsible for workloads). The issue for me was that in many cases senior colleagues had several PhD students and (some) junior colleagues none (or very little involvement. This was back in the day of most students have one supervisor.). Modelling a system where PhD supervision was "properly" rewarded (that is, where I tried to allocate hours in accordance to the amount of time it actually took) resulted in a very hierarchical department where (roughly) senior colleagues did PhD supervision and junior colleagues taught undergraduates. So, I didn't do it.
For what it is worth (addressing the wider issues of workload), it seems to me that there is an inevitable gap between a workload system conceived of as a mechanism of "counting" (how many hours does this job actually take?) and conceived of as a mechanism of "distribution" (how much work is there to be done and how many people to do it?). Of course, the distributive principles cannot stray too far from the realities revealed in counting, but it (seems to me at least) perfectly okay to think that the distributive principles include other considerations like the "shape" of the department, individual "goals" (having PhD students is good for promotion at York) and personal development, gender, and so on.
Finally, this problem does not seem to be unique to PhD supervision (the current "hot topic" at York is how to count/distribute time for research grant writing, which at the moment is simply included in individual research in most, but not all, departments). York tried to introduce a workload model across the university and never managed it because departmental variations were so huge (in everything from whether/how to include teaching preparation time to how to rank administrative tasks). That said, this may be the result of our particular institutional history (until recently, we had a very flat structure with only relatively autonomous departments and no faculties).
Faustusnotes 12.29.19 at 10:48 am ( 4 )
In Japan as far as I know there is no allowance at all, and senior staff (the professor who is the official supervisor) often dump all supervisory responsibility on the most junior staff. There is also often no limit on how many PhD students the professor can take on (and dump on their assistant prof). This is particularly bad with masters students, whose theses are much more time limited and challenging to supervise.

I don't know if it's a general thing but my colleagues in China tell me they are only allowed a PhD student if they publish above a certain level – PhD students are treated as a valuable asset you need to struggle to get. (I think they are paid by the uni but don't quote me). In the universities I know of in China the PhD student has to publish to graduate (sometimes like 3 papers) so the benefits to the supervisor are obvious.

I'm in public health where publication is relatively easy and quick. I don't know how it is in other disciplines (but the Japanese professor dumping his responsibilities on junior staff is quite common across disciplines as far as I can tell).

Harry 12.29.19 at 12:34 pm ( 5 )
It's not part of a workload model for us. We're expected to teach 2 classes a semester (8 contact hours a week total), then research, service, and graduate supervision on top, but the only thing that is specified is the 2 classes. So no compensation for PhD students. In practice the number of PhD supervisions varies greatly across faculty (as you'd expect), as does the amount of service work we do (if you're good at it you get asked to do more, if you're tenured and responsible you generally try to say yes), as does the amount of time we actually spend on the courses we teach.

As do our salaries, to be fair, which reflect years of service, perceived quality of research, how much the people elected to the department budget value the other things we do, and, to some extent, market forces.

What I've described is my own department. There's huge variation across campus, including variation in numbers of courses we're expected to teach.

Possibly worth mentioning that from what I have gathered expectations of how many courses we teach have fallen dramatically (across campus) over the past 50 years, and the number of course releases granted have increased dramatically: I estimate faculty in the humanities teach 30% less than 50 years ago, and in the sciences 50% less. I imagine this is similar across public research universities and SLACs.

notGoodenough 12.29.19 at 1:47 pm ( 6 )
So, purely anecdotal and from the perspective of a PhD and post-doc in Science at 2 different, fairly well thought of UK Universities (Russel group, etc. etc.).

PhD students are highly valuable. This is because a Masters or summer student are necessarily short term, and it is difficult to fulfil much breakthrough research (sometimes you need a few years of banging your head against a wall ). Post-docs are phenomenally expensive as in the UK as the University charges a huge amount just to have them – e.g. a rough breakdown (from some years ago, so a little out of date) is to just have a post-doc (i.e. no equipment, materials, etc.) is in excess of £110K per year. Some 31000 is for salary, the rest goes to the University to keep the lights on. Having more than a few post-docs, for all but the most successful labs, became prohibitively expensive.

However, as a PhD most of my time was with my post-docs (in my first year I saw my professor once, for 1hr, in later years maybe a few times more, so approximately 15 hr over 3.5 years). As a post-doc, the PhD students had regular meetings in a group format once per month (so, more or less 2-3 hr per month). In both cases it, in principle, was possible to go and meet the supervisor if you felt the need, but generally speaking your post-doc was the point of contact on a day-by-day, week-by-week basis.

I've not been a lecturer, so this is very speculative, but my impression is that supervising PhD students is generally considered a research activity, and thus you are not budgeted time for it specifically.

Not sure if any of this is useful, but feel free to hit me up for more details if you think it is useful/interesting.

Karen Anderson 12.29.19 at 2:03 pm ( 7 )
I taught for 15 years at 3 Dutch universities, 3 years at a Russell Group university in England, and am now at an Irish university. I did my PhD in the United States. Like the other posters, I have experienced wide variation in 'compensation' for PhD supervision. One of the reasons I left my position at a British university was the bizarre (and I thought, unfair) model for workload allocation. PhD supervision was highly 'compensated', and actual classroom teaching of undergrads was not. I had colleagues who met all or most of their teaching obligations with PhD supervision and did not teach undergrads.
I don't know what the best way to compensate PhD supervision is, but there are a couple of aspects I think need more attention. The first is wide variation in the number of PhD students in any given department and the rules/norms governing who is (de facto) permitted to supervise PhDs. Dutch departments have fewer PhD students than UK/Irish departments (for complicated reasons), and only full (and now associate?) profs are permitted to supervise. PhD supervision is important for promotion (as it is in the UK and IE), so everyone wants to do it, but not everyone has access. I am not sure that an activity that is so important for career progression should be generously compensated.
The second issue concerns co-authoring with a PhD student. I can see the advantages of this (which Ingrid mentions), but the proliferation of the article-based PhD where the supervisors co-author all articles is a cause for concern. Again, I am not convinced that a PhD supervisor should be generously compensated for something (publications) that strongly advances their own career. And it is not clear to me that the supervisor's contribution to the publication (in many cases, at least) amounts to more than what would be considered 'normal' PhD supervision in the US, Canada, and many European universities. This makes it very difficult to evaluate a newly minted PhD's CV, and it inflates the publication list of more senior academics.
A couple of ideas: 1) cap the number of PhD students that staff can supervise, or at least cap the number for which teaching points are earned. 2) ensure that all academic staff have access to PhD supervision.
praisegod barbones 12.29.19 at 4:32 pm ( 8 )
Private university in Turkey : the basic assumption here is that supervising PhD students and MA theses takes zero time (although people typically budget an hour per week per student.
Neville Morley 12.29.19 at 4:50 pm ( 9 )
The workload allocation for Humanities at the University of Exeter is similar to Chris's account of Bristol (where I worked previously), though it's more common for the hours to be divided 70/30, 60/40 or even 50/50 between first and second supervisors, with the latter playing a much more active role. The biggest difference, however, is that you continue to receive an allowance when the student is writing up, and even if they're revising after a first examination, whereas the Bristol practice was, at least, that you get a workload allowance for the first three years and then nothing for the period which in my experience often required the greatest amount of work
Phil 12.29.19 at 5:50 pm ( 10 )
I haven't – yet – supervised a doctoral student, but I did examine a viva this year & was surprised to find that this carried no workload allowance at all, which seems odd given the amount of reading time involved. (Fortunately I wasn't mad busy.)
likbez 12.29.19 at 7:10 pm ( 11 )
40-60 hours are typical. They do not compensate for the effort but still.
oldster 12.29.19 at 7:16 pm ( 12 )
Former US academic; taught at a few R1 uni's from 80s to aughts.

To echo the doughty Puritan: " the basic assumption here is that supervising PhD students and MA theses takes zero time."

We had a standard teaching load, and expectations for research and service. But there was no calculation of supervisory load -- it simply was not tracked, budgeted, or accounted for. As Harry says above, there were wide disparities from person to person, since some people attract a lot of grad students and some do not (and some repel them, either for strategic purposes, or because they are repellent no matter what they try).

No one cared whether you supervised 15 PhD students or zero. Not quite true -- there was some unofficial awareness among colleagues who thought collegially about things. And you might get some private thanks or informal kudos for doing more than your share. But there was absolutely no official account of it. And this was true at all 3 R1s I taught at over several decades.

That's partly because -- in a Humanities field -- the funding of grad students does not follow the prof, but the program as a whole. So, Central Admin knows that your department is training 25 PhDs, because Central Admin has to figure their tuition, stipends, etc. But the money then flows to your department as a whole, with no closer investigation of who in your department is doing the work.

The picture must be radically different in the Sciences, where there is literal accounting of PhD students, since they are supported by the professor's grant-money.

hix 12.29.19 at 8:08 pm ( 13 )
Surely there are other ways to offload work to PhD students one would otherwise have to do oneself besides getting research recognition for their thesis. How much of that is possible should also vary across countries. So a comparsion of alocated supervision time only seems a bit one sided.
John Quiggin 12.29.19 at 10:07 pm ( 14 )
As regards co-authorship, my PhD students and postdocs are often keen to include me on the theory that a paper with a more senior author will have a better chance of acceptance. My impression is that, in economics, the expectation is that the main job market paper will be sole-authored or else co-authored with another junior researcher, but that others are likely to be co-authored with the supervisor.

To complicate things further, economics (like philosophy, I believe) works on average quality rather than total contribution. So, a publication with a student in a journal lower ranked than my average paper is actually a negative for me.

Matt 12.29.19 at 10:38 pm ( 15 )
I assume that "Harry" above is Harry B of the blog. If so, he's showing why comparisons w/ the US on this will be hard, if not impossible. In many countries, there is a weird fantasy that academics can and should be treated like hourly employees, with "hours" assigned to things. (This is certainly so in Australia.) Of course, it's a fantasy in that, if it in fact takes a lot more "hours" to do the things you're assigned, you don't get over-time, comp time, or paid more. The other down-side is that this system leads, in my experience, to more micro-managing – being expected to "account" for your time to a much greater degree. The US system treats academics more like salaried employees – you get paid a certain amount, you have certain tasks to do, and you must do them (some of them at particular times, like teaching classes) but otherwise you're not dealing with "hours" for things. The down-side is that there can be lots of variation in how much work people actually do – even teaching the same "number" of classes can vary a lot depending on the number of preps, size, how often you've taught it, if you have TAs, etc., and having more advisees may not lead to more recognition on its own. The plus side is that less time is spent on being mico-managed and bureaucratic nonsense. The relevant point here, though, is that it's really hard to make a comparison like the one asked for between systems where one treats academics more like hourly employees and the other more like salaried employees.
Gabriel 12.29.19 at 10:52 pm ( 16 )
My wife (a New Zealand academic with confirmation) is allocated a. 24 hours per year for supervising PhD students. She trusts that the ludicrousness of this number is not lost on those present.
billcinsd 12.30.19 at 1:39 am ( 17 )
I am a Professor in an Engineering discipline at a small, state engineering school in the US. Our workload is departmentally determined. My department is fairly small, ~100 undergrads, but does quite a bit of research. My nominal workload is 40% teaching, 40% research and 20% service. This is based on 40 working hours per week. My effective workload is 46% teaching, 8% advising (both undergrad and grad), 23% overseeing my funded research projects and about 25% service. This is more than 100%, which is true for almost all faculty at my school.

Thus, I estimate how much time I spend doing various things and then convert that to credit hours, as my contract is specified in terms of 18 credit hours of work per semester, making a credit hour about 2 hours and 40 minutes

Kevin 12.30.19 at 2:11 pm ( 18 )
In Technological University Dublin (formerly Dublin Institute of Technology), supervision of a full-time PhD student attracts a time allowance of 2 hours per week (48 hours per annum), from a weekly teaching load of 16 contact hours for lecturers (18 hours for assistant lecturers). So, for example, a lecturer with two full-time PhD students will allocate 25% (4 hours) of his / her weekly contact teaching duties to this role.
Michael Dunn 12.30.19 at 2:45 pm ( 19 )
In my department (at Uppsala University, Sweden) the workload norm is 88 hours per year supervisory time for the main supervisor and 20 for the assistant supervisor. This time includes the face-to-face hours, as well as reading, commenting, etc. The split can be done differently to reflect other kinds of co-supervisory arrangements. This seems very generous compared to what others are reporting, which is sad, since an average of 1 hour meeting, 1 hour reading per week for 44 weeks in a year would work out as very minimal supervision -- and supervisors typically spend much more time on supervision related tasks than this.
Johan Karlsson Schaffer 12.30.19 at 4:44 pm ( 20 )
A couple of years ago, I did a survey of the formal teaching duties at polisci departments at Scandinavian universities for a report published by the Swedish Institute for Labour Market Evaluation. The survey looked at the formal percentage of teaching duty for senior lecturers and full professors, and the formal compensation in terms of hours allotted for various teaching activities (e.g., lectures, supervision at different levels, examination and so on).

We found, first, that the formal teaching duty varied quite a lot across Scandinavian universities, but that all Swedish universities had less generous conditions than Danish and Norwegian universities, which came closer to the Humboldtian ideal of unity of teaching and research.

Second, by multiplying teaching duty and compensation for a standard set of teaching activities, we found that the consequences for the individual lecturer could be quite drastic: over a hypothetical career from age 35 to retirement at 67, a lecturer at the least generous university could have ten whole years more of teaching duty than their colleague at the most generous university.

The report is, unfortunately, only available in Swedish, but the graphs and tables (which also includes detailed information on the compensation for PhD supervision) should be rather self-explanatory.
https://www.ifau.se/sv/Forskning/Publikationer/Rapporter/2016/att-mota-den-hogre-utbildningens-utmaningar/

Here's a blog post summary of these findings that include the most important graphs:
https://politologerna.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/att-mota-den-hogre-utbildningens-utmaningar/

Sam Tobin-Hochstadt 12.30.19 at 6:53 pm ( 21 )
I'm an Associate Professor in Computer Science at a US R1 university.

As Matt says, the description in Ingrid's post is totally unlike how things are thought of at all in US universities. My load is 40% research, 40% teaching, 20% service, which is standard for tenure-track faculty in my department (and I think across departments here). The standard teaching load is 3 courses per year (2 in one semester, 1 in the other). However, there are several exceptions to this: before tenure, faculty are assigned only 2 courses per year. Also, if you support (with external grant funding) 3 PhD students or post-docs in the previous year then you only teach 2 courses the next year. Additionally, pre-tenure faculty are asked to do considerably less service.

Furthermore, there are several additional differences that are relevant. First, and most importantly, the distinction between "research" and "PhD supervision" does not exist in science. Effectively all of my research is joint with PhD students, although sometimes they are not "my" students, but those of my collaborators. Second, not all students are funded by grants; PhD students can also be funded by teaching. So it's possible to have one or two students without bringing in funding. Third, there's a strong expectation that training PhD students is part of the job, you wouldn't get tenure/promotion/etc if you just didn't do it.

Z 12.30.19 at 8:33 pm ( 22 )
In my institution, you don't get any teaching load reduction, whereas you do get a tiny but non-zero reduction for supervising a master thesis, or even an undergraduate research project. I believe that is the norm in France in science in general, and most likely overall. The logic behind that choice is that supervising a PhD student is supposed to bring its own benefits: the student will do a lot of lab work for the superviser, the superviser will cosign the research papers etc.

In math (my own field), there is no lab work to be done and the French tradition is that papers drawn from the PhD should be signed by the student alone, so the arrangement is quite unfavorable to us.

On the other hand

So without reductions, we teach about 835-1190 hours a year

Did I read that right? Can you clarify how many hours are counted for one hour in front of the students? That number looks like madness to me (and I have a heavy teaching load myself).

CdnNew 12.30.19 at 9:11 pm ( 23 )
Canadian math prof:

"Highly research-active" profs teach one fewer course per year. There is some flexibility as to how to maintain this designation, but typically you must have at least 2 active graduate students at any given time (and meet various other requirements).

Going through our standard courseload: if you ignore the other work related to maintaining status, your first two Ph.D. students are worth about 90 hours/year, and the remainder are worth nothing.

likbez 12.31.19 at 12:57 am ( 24 )
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

John Quiggin 12.29.19 at 10:07 pm @14

As regards co-authorship, my Ph.D. students and postdocs are often keen to include me on the theory that a paper with a more senior author will have a better chance of acceptance.

This is an important point. I agree that it is somewhat dishonest to use your post-grad students to increase you number of publications. But it should be weighted against the real difficulties of young researchers to get their papers published. And the fact that sometimes brilliant papers from them are rejected. Nobody can abolish clan behavior in the academy. And the "academic kitchen" is pretty dirty, and takes years to understand ;-).

Sometimes publishing oversees helps here, and young researchers should keep this in mind. For many foreign journals, just the fact that you are a foreigner from a prestigious university is a plus that weights on the acceptance.

[Dec 30, 2019] Economic Possibilities for Ourselves by Robert Skidelsky

Notable quotes:
"... In Praise of Idleness ..."
"... Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained ..."
"... Project Syndicate ..."
"... Rise of the Robots ..."
"... ad infinitum ..."
Dec 30, 2019 | robertskidelsky.com

The most depressing feature of the current explosion in robot-apocalypse literature is that it rarely transcends the world of work. Almost every day, news articles appear detailing some new round of layoffs. In the broader debate, there are apparently only two camps: those who believe that automation will usher in a world of enriched jobs for all, and those who fear it will make most of the workforce redundant.

This bifurcation reflects the fact that "working for a living" has been the main occupation of humankind throughout history. The thought of a cessation of work fills people with dread, for which the only antidote seems to be the promise of better work. Few have been willing to take the cheerful view of Bertrand Russell's provocative 1932 essay In Praise of Idleness . Why is it so difficult for people to accept that the end of necessary labor could mean barely imaginable opportunities to live, in John Maynard Keynes's words, "wisely, agreeably, and well"?

The fear of labor-saving technology dates back to the start of the Industrial Revolution, but two factors in our own time have heightened it. The first is that the new generation of machines seems poised to replace not only human muscles but also human brains. Owing to advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence, we are said to be entering an era of thinking robots; and those robots will soon be able to think even better than we do. The worry is that teaching machines to perform most of the tasks previously carried out by humans will make most human labor redundant. In that scenario, what will humans do?

The other fear factor is the increasing precariousness of wage labor – though this concern is seemingly belied by headline statistics suggesting that unemployment is at a historic low. The problem is that an economy at "full employment" now contains a large penumbra of what economist Guy Standing calls the "precariat": under-employed people who work less and for lower pay than they would like. A growing number of workers, seeming to lack any kind of job (and pay) security, are thus forced to work well below their ability.

It is natural that one would interpret the onset of precariousness as the first stage in a broader trend toward workforce redundancy, especially if one pays attention to alarmist predictions of the next category of "jobs at risk." But this conclusion is premature. The penetration of robotics into the world of work has not yet been sufficient to explain the rise of the precariat. So far, "cost cutting" in the West has largely taken the form of offshoring to the East, where labor is cheaper, rather than replacing humans with machines. But "onshoring" work that was previously offshored will offer cold comfort to workers if machines get most of the jobs.

ROBO-RAPTURE

According to the first view – let us call it "job enrichment" – technology will eventually create more, better human jobs than it destroys, as has always been the case in the past. Simple, mundane tasks may increasingly be automated, but human labor will then be freed up for more "interesting" and "creative" cognitive work.

In late 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) published Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained , which claimed that as much as 50% of working hours in the global economy could theoretically be automated; the authors suggested, however, that not more than 30% actually would be. Further, they estimated that less than 5% of occupations could be fully automated; but that in 60% of occupations, at least 30% of the required tasks could be.

In line with the usual mainstream assessment, MGI believes that while there will be no net loss of jobs in the long run, the "transition may include a period of higher unemployment and wage adjustments." It all depends, the authors say, on the rate at which displaced workers are re-employed: a low re-employment rate will lead to a higher medium-term unemployment rate, and vice versa .

MGI's proposal for massive investment in education to lower the unemployment cost of the transition is also conventional. The faster the labor reabsorption, the higher the wage growth. Lower re-employment levels will cause wages to fall, with a greater share of the gains from automation accruing to capital, not labor. But the authors hasten to add:

"Even if the particulars of historical experience turn out to differ from conditions today, one lesson seems pertinent: although economies adjust to technological shocks, the transition period is measured in decades, not years, and the rising prosperity may not be shared by all."

This assessment is typical, and it has led many to call on governments to invest heavily in so-called "upskilling" programs. In a commentary for Project Syndicate , Zia Qureshi of the Brookings Institution argues that, "with smart, forward-looking policies, we can ensure that the future of work is a better job." In this view, automation is simply the continuation of the move toward more, higher-quality jobs that has characterized capitalist growth since the Industrial Revolution.

History is on the optimists' side. Mechanization has been the durable engine of productivity and wage growth as well as reductions in working hours, albeit usually with a considerable lag. Although the Roberts loom cost hundreds of thousands of handloom weavers their jobs in the nineteenth century, the broader wave of new industrial technologies enabled a much larger population to be maintained at a higher standard of living.

ROBO-REDUNDANCY

But, according to the second view – call it "job destruction" – this time is different. The programming of machines to perform ever more complex tasks with ever-increasing speed, accuracy, precision, and reliability will result in mass unemployment. In Rise of the Robots , author and entrepreneur Martin Ford addresses the techno-optimists head-on. "There is a widely held belief – based on historical evidence stretching back at least as far as the industrial revolution – that while technology may certainly destroy jobs, businesses, and even entire industries, it will also create entirely new occupations often in areas that we can't yet imagine." The problem, Ford argues, is that information technology has now reached the point where it can be considered a true utility, much like electricity.

It stands to reason that the successful new industries that will emerge in the years ahead will have taken full advantage of this powerful new utility and the distributed machine intelligence that accompanies it. That means they will rarely – if ever – be highly labor-intensive. The threat is that as creative destruction unfolds, the "destruction" will fall primarily on labor-intensive businesses in traditional areas like retail and food preparation, whereas the "creation" will generate new industries that simply don't employ many people.

On this view, the economy is heading for a tipping point where job creation will begin to fall consistently short of what is required to employ the workforce fully. We will soon reach the stage where the machine-driven destruction of existing human jobs far outpaces the creation of new human jobs, resulting in inexorably rising mass "technological unemployment."

THE UPSKILLING MIRAGE

Optimists' response to such concerns is that the workforce simply needs to be trained or upskilled in order to "race with the machines." Typical of this outlook is the following headline on a commentary published by the World Economic Forum: "How new technologies can create huge numbers of meaningful jobs." According to the author, concerns about "the looming devastation that self-driving technology will have on the 3.5 million truck drivers in the US" are "misdirected." Augmented-reality technology, we are told, can create loads of new jobs by enabling people to work from home. All that will be needed is training of the kind offered by "Upskill, an augmented reality company in the manufacturing and field services sectors," which "uses wearable technologies to provide step-by-step instructions to industrial workers."

The author, himself the co-founder of an augmented-reality company, goes on to argue that, "With the pace of technological progress only accelerating and with increasing specialization becoming the norm in every industry, reducing the time necessary to retrain workers is pivotal to maintaining the competitiveness of industrialized economies." There is no mention of the wages that will be offered to these "upskilled" workers in their "meaningful" new jobs. We are simply told that they will be relocated to "lower cost areas more in need of job creation." Only at the very end of the commentary does the author acknowledge that, in fact, "Technology is a force that has the potential to eliminate entire industries through robotics and automation, and for that we should be concerned."

The retraining argument should give us pause. In portraying upskilling as the solution to the labor displacement caused by new technologies, optimists rarely admit that if predictions about "thinking robots" turn out to be anywhere near true, workers would need to be trained in technical skills to an extent that is unprecedented in human history.

Moreover, the time it takes to upgrade the skills of the workforce will inevitably exceed the time it takes to automate the economy. This will be true even if claims about an imminent deluge of automation are greatly exaggerated. In the interval, there will be under- and unemployment. In fact, this has already been happening. Although automation is not yet bearing down on workers to the extent that has been predicted, it has nonetheless pushed more of them into less-skilled jobs; and its mere possibility may be exerting downward pressure on wages. There are already signs of the new class structure envisioned by the pessimists: "lovely jobs at the top, lousy jobs at the bottom."

A more fundamental question is what we mean by upskilling, and what its consequences might be. Often, heavy emphasis is placed on the importance of better technological education at all levels of society, as if all people will need to succeed in the future is to be taught how to write and understand computer code.

As the technology writer James Bridle has shown , this line of argument has a number of limitations. While encouraging people to take up computer programming might be a good start, such training offers only a functional understanding of technological systems. It does not equip people to ask higher-level questions along the lines of, "Where did these systems come from, who designed them and what for, and which of these intentions still lurk within them today?" Bridle also points out that arguments for technological education and upskilling are usually offered in "nakedly pro-market terms," following a simple equation: "the information economy needs more programmers, and young people need jobs in the future."

THE MISSING DIMENSION

More to the point, the upskilling discourse totally ignores the possibility that automation could also allow people simply to work less. The reason for this neglect is twofold: it is commonly assumed that human wants are insatiable, and that we will thus work ad infinitum to satisfy them; and it is simply taken for granted that work is the primary source of meaning in human lives. 1

Historically, neither of these claims holds true. The consumption race is a rather recent phenomenon, dating no earlier than the late nineteenth century. And the possibility that we might one day liberate ourselves from the "curse of work" has fascinated thinkers from Aristotle to Russell. Many visions of Utopia betray a longing for leisure and liberation from toil. Even today, surveys show that people in most developed countries would prefer to work less, even in the workaholic United States, and might even accept less pay if it meant logging fewer hours on the clock.

The deeply economistic nature of the current debate excludes the possibility of a life beyond work . Yet if we want to meet the challenges of the future, it is not enough to know how to code, analyze data, and invent algorithms. We need to start thinking seriously and at a systemic level about the operational logic of consumer capitalism and the possibility of de-growth.

In this process, we must abandon the false dichotomy between "jobs" and "idleness." Full employment need not mean full-time employment, and leisure time need not be spent idly. (Education can play an important role in ensuring that it is not.) Above all, wealth and income will need to be distributed in such a way that machine-enabled productivity gains do not accrue disproportionately to a small minority of owners, managers, and technicians.

[Dec 29, 2019] The process of imbecilization of the West

Dec 29, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

vk , Dec 28 2019 15:28 utc | 4

One more example of the process of imbecilization of the West:

Millennials are turning to magic & astrology for 'empowerment' because liberal ideology failed them

Imbecilization is a normal historical process where intellectual declines follows the economic decline of a given empire. There's growing evidence the West is going through the same process.

A with any composite, complex historical process, imbecilization doesn't happen in a uniform and linear way. Economics was the first science that descended into pseudo-science in the capitalist world (after Marx dismantled Classic Economics). Philosophy followed. Erudite art degenerated after the fall of Modernism somewhere in the 1950s. Human sciences in general became fragmented and little more than a constelation of esoterism and pseudo-sciences - a condition they still enjoy today (e.g. the dismembering of History into Sociology, Behavioral Economics and others).

Meanwhile, the so-called STEM or "Hard Sciences" continued to prosper for some decades, until they also hit a ceiling in the 1990s. The fall of the profitability of the capitalist world led it to resort to "financialization" to keep the system going, which resulted in the most brilliant capitalist mathematicians to be hosed to Wall Street instead to the likes of NASA. Those MIT mathematicians and rocket scientists created the algorithms Wall Street still uses today, but they did not stop the 2008 meltdown.

Nowadays, those brilliant STEM minds are nothing more than fraudsters who keep their careers going by creating meaningless experiments (because they need the funding) only to publish articles and keep their production quotas or self-censuring bootlickers for Wall Street and Big Pharma. When they get to work for a big corporation, they are mere architects of planned obsolescence or patent renewing. There's a new book I strongly recommend all of you to read:

Silent Conflict: A Hidden History of Early Soviet-Western Relations , by Michael Jabara Carley

Here's an interview with him in Sputnik News , in the occasion of this book's release.


[Dec 26, 2019] The Decade in Retirement: Wealthy Americans Moved Further Ahead

Dec 26, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

Fred C. Dobbs , December 15, 2019 at 06:54 AM

The Decade in Retirement: Wealthy
Americans Moved Further Ahead
https://nyti.ms/34pZAbD
NYT - Mark Miller - Dec. 14

... In 2010, the economy was just beginning to recover from the worst recession and financial crisis in recent memory. The unemployment rate was high, the stock market was coming back and millions of workers were worried that their retirement plans were ruined.

Since then, a robust economic rebound has put some Americans back on solid footing for retirement, but progress has been uneven. Despite the gains made in employment, wage growth has only recently begun to recover -- and remained flat for older workers. Retirement wealth has accumulated almost exclusively among higher-income households, while middle- and lower-income households have only held steady or lost ground, Federal Reserve data shows.

Trends in Social Security and Medicare also are troubling. The value of Social Security benefits -- measured by the share of pre-retirement income they replace -- is falling, and the cost of Medicare is rising.

For members of the baby boomer and Gen X generations, the odds of success are mixed. The Employee Benefit Research Institute has developed a model that simulates the percentage of households likely to have adequate resources to meet retirement expenses, considering household savings, home equity and income from Social Security and pensions.

The model shows that the highest-income households have seen their odds of a successful retirement improve sharply during this decade, and have very high odds of success. Middle-income households, meanwhile, have seen some gains, but still have only 50-50 odds of success. And the lowest-income households have seen their retirement prospects diminish sharply -- among these boomers approaching retirement, their odds of success have fallen during the decade from 26 percent to 11 percent.

"Retirement prospects improved significantly for higher-income workers who were fortunate enough to work for employers that sponsor retirement plans," says Jack VanDerhei, the organization's research director.

Let's consider how the retirement landscape has changed during the decade now ending.

Retirement savings: Up for the affluent

The stock market bottomed out in March 2009 -- and it has more than quadrupled since then. Most retirement savers did not abandon equity markets during the crash, says Jean Young, senior research associate with the Vanguard Center for Investor Research. "Some did, but the vast majority stayed the course."

But the recovery has seen retirement wealth accumulate almost exclusively among affluent households that had access to workplace retirement plans and the means to make contributions. For example, Vanguard reports that the average balance for plan participants with incomes over $150,000 in 2018 was $193,130, compared with just $22,679 for workers with income of $30,000 to $50,000. ...

[Dec 22, 2019] After the Eviction Notice

Dec 22, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

smoker , December 21, 2019 at 1:31 pm

Re: After the Eviction Notice

So disturbing, and this problem is only going to increase in the US as people realize they can no longer afford to rent anywhere, and there are millions of Boomers who rent, with no available affordable housing to move into, and no livable wage jobs (despite education) for those who would gladly continue working – due to an as yet to be headlined age discrimination which started during the dot.com boom Clinton/Gore ushered in, and exploded during Obama's reign. Sickeningly, in Silicon Valley, 35 year olds feel over the hill.

None of the candidates want to even address this rental housing issue (for all ages) with Federal Tax Policy even? Renters are the only ones who invest major sums of money into housing, with no equity whatsoever?

newcatty , December 21, 2019 at 3:38 pm

Yes, it is the canary growing fainter and struggling for life in the dark gloom of the coal mine. The most basic human requirement for survival is shelter, after food and water. Clothing is also in that category. The poor and homeless ( absolutely including the working poor) at first , when attention started to be given to the " national crisis and (in some people's minds) and national disgrace", was just, you know, the usual suspects. From hobos ( whom many saw as romanticized free spirits or stubborn old guys) to including the abandoned mentally ill, drug addicts, criminals, people with "something to hide", teens on the run from neglect or abuse to? The numbers of people who are essentially w/o shelter is not going to remain out of sight, out of mind. Now, we know that mothers, fathers, grandparents, children and grandchildren are homeless. And, if they are not, many are living in what , once upon a time, poor or desolate housing. Many are living in ,what was once called a boarding house, in a room with their kids. They supposedly have access to "common areas". This is not people who often even have more than a casual aquaintanceship with their "landlords". This is not the "Golden Girls" living the high life in sunny Florida with the owner, who is an adorable rascal. No doubt, some examples of older, single women housing together is a good fit for some.

Most older people on limited incomes don't live in a golden fantasy world. Besides young people not being able to afford outrageous rents, now include the older people. Couple this with the "reports" that there are people hungry in this country. Age has become no restrictor on this tragic fact. This can not stand. Trickle down the ,as was mentioned , breads and circuses in all of their guises. Cheap, junk fast food will become not so cheap when in dire poverty. Housing is just cold, hearted cash for the owners. Who gets to watch the circuses and gladiators ? Got cable tv( even if you personally choose not to not the point)? Afford the cost of any pro sports tickets ? Attend any cultural events that include paying for tickets? Yep, am not going to include the all American past time of watching a game at the local pub. Many people can not afford the luxury of the food and drinks OK, it's time to stop now with my pov. I am fortunate to not be in the above circumstances. Too many are, though.

smoker , December 21, 2019 at 5:40 pm

Your point of view seems valid to me.

God knows what's being planned behind closed doors for this increasing tragedy, the reality is too clear for Congress not to be aware of it. Meanwhile, I'm fully sure that amoral predators who are investing in those areas they're betting the homeless will be forced to dwell and die in, or choose to be euthanized at.

Meanwhile, Congress does absolutely nothing about putting a stop to obscenely biased, corrupted and deadly in its blatant discrimination AI, which is increasingly decimating millions of jobs, and virtually tagging people with social scores they'll never get out from under, no matter how false. This, ever since Obama glibly announced there would be many jobs lost, and some pain, due to technology The Technocracy . A Bipartisan, Horrid Congress accepted it as a necessary reality.

The Rev Kev , December 21, 2019 at 5:43 pm

The only thing missing was a police officer going in after with a drawn gun. When millions of people were being kicked out of their homes about a decade a go, I saw a photo that won an award at the time. It showed a cop, with pistol drawn, going into a house that had the family kicked out from it. Surrounding him was all the left overs from a family's life and it was very sad.

smoker , December 21, 2019 at 7:29 pm

It is heart rending. Even watching renters who leave before being evicted is heart rending, they're forced to throw away many belongings, like perfectly good mattresses and basic necessities. Lived at an apartment complex turned into ratty ass condos for mostly foreign property 'flippers' who continued renting them out, then 'flipping' them. The despair, fear, and loss during a huge job downturn was horrid to witness, as many had lived there over ten years. I was lucky to be on my feet somewhat at the time, no longer.

Every fricking sign, particularly in Silicon Valley, that advertises Apartment Homes ™ should be torn down and destroyed. The average US renters have always been treated as second class leechers, I've witnessed it my entire adult life, now they're being treated even worse.

Thanks Clinton/Gore, Obomber/Biden, Nanny Pelosi , et al; and we thought that was only the mark of Republicans busy at work.

smoker , December 21, 2019 at 9:12 pm

Thinking on this subject even more, it occurs to me why the powers that be are so invested in pitting each generation against the other. An empowered US renters' 'lobby' could be enormous. It would cross all age – along with race, gender, religion, and geographic – spectrums. Renters, along with the homeless are increasing in vast numbers of all ages. The last thing the powers that be would want, is for those vast millions to stick together against them, and age is the easiest barrier for the powers that be to keep renters separated by.

[Dec 20, 2019] Is College 'Worth It' One Study Says Maybe Not

Level of talent is another important factor. Especially difficult people are able to succeed in fields which are absolutely closed for others. Think about the level of competition in middle ages when a single academic position needed to be waited until previous holder retires. Still it did not prevented rising people like Euler to the top.
You should take the results from Clever.com published below with a grain of slat.
Dec 20, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

by Tyler Durden Fri, 12/20/2019 - 17:25 0 SHARES

The unjustifiably high cost of college tuition in the US has dragged a whole generation into debt slavery. The average cost of a 4-year degree in the US is 3x higher than it was in 1990. Even tuition at in-state schools is climbing more quickly than incomes.

As more people are forced to go into deep levels of debt to afford an education, more would-be students are being forced to take a hard look and reevaluate the ROI on a college degree.

And as college tuition continues to outpace wage growth, for a growing number of people, the answer to 'is college worth it?' is going to be no.

A reporter at Clever.com did some digging, and tabulated the ROI on different types of degrees: the bachelor's, master's and doctorate.

Generally speaking, people with at least a bachelor's degree typically earn more money over their lifetime than those who never attended college, and it's also easier to get a job with a degree.

But while Americans with a bachelor's degree might be on to something, those who earn a Master's and PHD-level degrees can't say the same.

While nearly half the population has a bachelor's degree, only 13% of Americans have a master's or Phd-level degree.

And according to Clever's analysis, many higher-level degrees may not be worth the time and money that students spend.

In fact, the longer someone spends in school, the more the value of their degrees diminishes.

Of course, ROI changes depending on the subject that an individual studies. Clever found that the best bachelor's degrees, unsurprisingly, tend to be in the STEM area: operations research, petroleum engineering, biological and physical sciences, biopsychology and gerontology.

Here, the data are showing us something that we find to be very interesting. Namely, that those who spend more money on a low-ROI bachelor's degree often find their careers to be more 'meaningful' than your average engineer. Does this mean there's an inverse relationship between spiritual fulfillment and monetary compensation when it comes to ones' career path? Possibly. But would like to suggest another possible explanation.

The children of America's wealthy often choose low-yield fields like journalism and English, since they don't face as much pressure to maximize earnings (their parents very often cover the cost of their education and living expenses) they can enjoy finding 'meaning' in low-paying careers like being a social media manager or writing for Gawker Media - careers that also don't require the hard work and dedication required of, say, a mechanical engineer at Boeing.

[Dec 07, 2019] Fake goverment statistics as interpreted by Dean baker

Dec 07, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne , December 06, 2019 at 08:34 AM

http://cepr.net/data-bytes/jobs-bytes/jobs-2019-12
December 6, 2019

Economy Adds 266,000 Jobs in November, Unemployment Edges Down to 3.5 Percent
By Dean Baker

The share of women in payroll employment is likely to exceed 50 percent in December.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the economy added 266,000 jobs in November. While this figure is inflated by the return of roughly 50,000 striking GM autoworkers, upward revisions to the prior two months' data brought the three-month average to a solid 205,000. The unemployment rate edged down to 3.5 percent, returning to a 50-year low.

The job growth was widely spread across industries. Manufacturing added 54,000 jobs, somewhat more than the number of returning strikers. It appears that the sector may again be on a modest growth path, with the number of jobs up 13,000 from its level three months ago and 76,000 from its year-ago level. Food manufacturing is providing the bulk of these gains, adding 19,300 jobs in the last three months and 25,900 over the last year.

Health care added 45,200 jobs in November after adding just 11,900 in October. Job growth for the two months together falls slightly below the 34,500 average for the last year. Restaurants added 25,300 jobs, roughly its average for the last year. The high-paying professional and technical services sector added 30,600 jobs, after three months of weak growth.

Construction employment remains weak, with the sector adding just 1,000 jobs in November. Job growth has averaged just 5,600 a month since June. Support activities for mining, which has been losing jobs since February, lost another 5,700 jobs in November. Employment in that sector is now down 23,700 (6.6 percent) over the last year. Retail added 2,000 jobs for the month, but employment is still down 31,400 (0.2 percent) over the last year.

In spite of the strong job growth and low unemployment rate, there continues to be no evidence of accelerating wage growth. The average hourly wage increased 3.1 percent over the last year. The annual rate of growth over the last three months (September, October, and November), compared to the prior three months (June, July, August), was just 3 percent.

Women's share of payroll employment edged closer to 50 percent in November, with the figure now standing at 49.992 percent, up from 49.977 percent in October. This should mean that the share will cross 50 percent in December.

The data in the household survey was generally positive. The overall employment-to-population ratio (EPOP) remained at a recovery high of 61.0 percent for the third straight month. The EPOP for prime-age workers (ages 25 to 54) also remained at its recovery high of 80.3 percent. The EPOP for prime-age men edged up 0.2 percent to 86.7 percent, a high reached in March, while the EPOP for women slipped 0.1 percentage point to 74.1 percent, which is still a full percentage point above its year-ago level.

The average duration of unemployment spells fell in November, as did the share of the long-term unemployed. There was a modest increase of 0.1 weeks in the median duration.

Perhaps the most disturbing item in this report was the dip in the share of unemployment due to voluntary quits from 14.5 percent to 13.3 percent. This is extraordinarily low, given the 3.5 percent unemployment rate. On the other hand, it is consistent with what we're seeing with wage growth, which remains modest, and with no evidence of acceleration.

Another discouraging item in the household data is the decline in the share of the workforce that chooses to work part-time. This fell by 15,000 in November. For the year average to date, this figure is up by less than 0.5 percent, meaning that it is dropping as a share of total employment. The share of voluntary part-time employment had increased sharply after the Affordable Care Act took effect, the recent decline is likely an indication of the increasing difficulty of getting health care coverage outside of employment.
[Graph]

This should be seen as a mostly positive report. The pace of job growth clearly has slowed some from its 2018 rate, but with the economy presumably approaching full employment, this was inevitable. The major downside is that workers seem to remain insecure about their employment prospects, as evidenced by the low quit rates and the relatively modest pace of wage growth.

anne -> anne... , December 06, 2019 at 08:40 AM
https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=mRhq

January 4, 2018

United States Employment-Population Ratio for Women, * 2007-2018

* Employment age 25-54


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

January 4, 2018

United States Employment-Population Ratio for Men, * 2007-2018

* Employment age 25-54

anne -> anne... , December 06, 2019 at 08:41 AM
https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=lMlh

January 15, 2018

Real Median Weekly Earnings for men and women, * 2007-2018

* Full time wage and salary workers

(Percent change)


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

January 15, 2018

Real Median Weekly Earnings for men and women, * 2007-2018

* Full time wage and salary workers

(Indexed to 2007)

likbez -> anne... , December 07, 2019 at 01:39 AM
Anne,

The truth is that good, middle class jobs are very difficult to get. Almost impossible. You are very lucky being a retiree with Vanguard funds chest ;-)

Recent graduates are in a very bad position, with only graduates from Ivy league colleges resume not being instantly tossed into waist basket.

McJobs, Amazon warehouse jobs, Home Depot jobs, low level construction jobs (in $15-$20 per hour range), etc are available for graduates. But that's it. Looks like the USA is looking now like a big amazon warehouse.

People over 50 are actually doomed, if they lost the job, to much lower standard of living. Even if they are professionals.

likbez -> likbez... , December 07, 2019 at 01:43 AM
And please understand that this a period when baby boomer leave workforce. So theoretically this should be a very low unemployment period.

[Dec 07, 2019] What students know and can do in mathematics

Dec 07, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne , December 05, 2019 at 11:52 AM

http://www.oecd.org/pisa/publications/PISA2018_CN_QCI.pdf

December, 2019

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial survey of 15-year-old students that assesses the extent to which they have acquired the key knowledge and skills essential for full participation in society. The assessment focuses on proficiency in reading, mathematics, science and an innovative domain (in 2018, the innovative domain was global competence), and on students' well-being.

Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang (China)

What 15-year-old students in B-S-J-Z (China) know and can do

Figure 1. Snapshot of performance in reading, mathematics and science

[Graph]

• Students in B-S-J-Z (China) scored higher than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average in reading, mathematics and science.

• Compared to the OECD average, a larger proportion of students in B-S-J-Z (China) performed at the highest levels of proficiency (Level 5 or 6) in at least one subject; at the same time a larger proportion of students achieved a minimum level of proficiency (Level 2 or higher) in at least one subject.

What students know and can do in reading

• In B-S-J-Z (China), 95% of students attained at least Level 2 proficiency in reading, significantly more than on average across OECD countries (OECD average: 77%). At a minimum, these students can identify the main idea in a text of moderate length, find information based on explicit, though sometimes complex criteria, and can reflect on the purpose and form of texts when explicitly directed to do so. Over 85% of students in Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang (China), Canada, Estonia, Finland, Hong Kong (China), Ireland, Macao (China), Poland and Singapore performed at this level or above.

• Some 22% of students in B-S-J-Z (China) were top performers in reading, meaning that they attained Level 5 or 6 in the PISA reading test (OECD average: 9%). At these levels, students can comprehend lengthy texts, deal with concepts that are abstract or counterintuitive, and establish distinctions between fact and opinion, based on implicit cues pertaining to the content or source of the information. In 20 education systems, including those of 15 OECD countries, more than 10% of 15-year-old students were top performers.

What students know and can do in mathematics

• Some 98% of students in B-S-J-Z (China) attained Level 2 or higher in mathematics (OECD average: 76%). At a minimum, these students can interpret and recognise, without direct instructions, how a (simple) situation can be represented mathematically (e.g. comparing the total distance across two alternative routes, or converting prices into a different currency). The share of 15-year-old students who attained minimum levels of proficiency in mathematics (Level 2 or higher) varied widely – from 98% in Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang (China) to 2% in Zambia, which participated in the PISA for Development assessment in 2017. On average across OECD countries, 76% of students attained at least Level 2 proficiency in mathematics.

• In B-S-J-Z (China), 44% of students scored at Level 5 or higher in mathematics (OECD average: 11%). Six Asian countries and economies had the largest shares of students who did so: Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang (China) (44%), Singapore (37%), Hong Kong (China) (29%), Macao (China) (28%), Chinese Taipei (23%) and Korea (21%). These students can model complex situations mathematically, and can select, compare and evaluate appropriate problem-solving strategies for dealing with them.

What students know and can do in science

• Some 98% of students in B-S-J-Z (China) attained Level 2 or higher in science significantly more than on average across OECD countries (OECD average: 78%). At a minimum, these students can recognise the correct explanation for familiar scientific phenomena and can use such knowledge to identify, in simple cases, whether a conclusion is valid based on the data provided.

• In B-S-J-Z (China), 32% of students were top performers in science, meaning that they were proficient at Level 5 or 6 (OECD average: 7%). These students can creatively and autonomously apply their knowledge of and about science to a wide variety of situations, including unfamiliar ones.

Paine -> anne... , December 05, 2019 at 01:07 PM
Massively impressive

[Dec 06, 2019] Academic Conformism is the road to 1984. - Sic Semper Tyrannis

Dec 06, 2019 | turcopolier.typepad.com

01 December 2019 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

1984-Novel

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conformity

Posted at 11:59 AM in Whatever | Permalink

Reblog (0) Comments


A. Pols , 01 December 2019 at 12:58 PM

Climate change: "scientific consensus"
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.

artemesia said in reply to J ... , 01 December 2019 at 08:18 PM
Gotta laugh or you'll cry
Talk about group-think:
First comment: 12:58 pm
Second comment: 1:01 pm
Third comment: 1:22 pm

24 minutes and WE HAVE A WINNER: "Nazism & Fascism are . . ."

Gee Mr. Wilson, what stunningly independent thinking. How 'thinking-outside-the-History-Channel-box"ish.

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.

fotokemist , 01 December 2019 at 05:16 PM
Col.,

You nailed it. Just as spontaneous natural processes tend toward disorder, human activity seems to tend toward corruption. Keep up the good work.

J , 01 December 2019 at 05:39 PM
Colonel

What do you think about this one

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/federal-court-oks-virginia-redistricting-plan/2019/02/14/2c2832a0-3090-11e9-813a-0ab2f17e305b_story.html

J , 01 December 2019 at 05:45 PM
Appears that NYC's Michael Bloomberg bought Virginia politics

https://www.nraila.org/articles/20191125/bloomberg-bought-virginia-legislators-introduce-confiscatory-gun-ban

J , 01 December 2019 at 05:51 PM
Virginia rural areas are rushing to protect themselves from the leftist Democrats legislation against them

https://www.virginiamercury.com/2019/11/20/were-going-to-have-to-defend-ourselves-after-democratic-victories-rural-virginia-counties-rush-to-declare-themselves-gun-sanctuaries/

turcopolier , 01 December 2019 at 06:43 PM
J

One more indication that Virginia is gone forever into the Blue group.

Babak Makkinejad , 01 December 2019 at 07:30 PM
If you are mediocre, in any place, you will prosper since you are not a threat to anyone.

If you are a genious, you will propser as you are untouchable by the ocean of mediocrity.

If you are brilliant, but not genious, you will not prosper.

Babak Makkinejad , 01 December 2019 at 07:32 PM
Happy is the man who has no imagination, for he is saved, as the Medieval Christians believed.
Diana C said in reply to Babak Makkinejad... , 01 December 2019 at 09:50 PM
I'm not sure I agree with you about the Medieval Christians having no imagination. Chaucer's pilgrims were all interesting characters. Perhaps they weren't all brilliant or virtuous, but they were, as Chaucer created them, all INDIVIDUALS.

I try not to make judgments about medieval Muslims. I simply have had not chance to learn much about them; so I try not to lump them all together in my mind.

Babak Makkinejad -> Diana C... , 02 December 2019 at 12:06 AM
After 1200, Muslims ran out of steam, encouraged & advised by their so-called Thinkers to conform the Law and thus guarantee their After Life. What is more important: Knowledge or Faith? Athens or zJerusalem? If your innovation causes you to go astray, discard it.
Elora Danan said in reply to Diana C... , 02 December 2019 at 02:06 PM
May be Makkinejad refers to this issue...

From Wiki on Liberal Arts...

Due to the negative opinion that some Fathers of the Church expressed in relation to ancient culture, all-medieval Christianity did not consider the teaching of liberal arts a priority. Initially, in the monastic and episcopal schools the essential rudiments were taught to understand the Bible and the chant, leaving aside the "subtleties" of grammar and oratory. It will not be until the educational design of Alcuino when the liberal arts became the central part of the curriculum.
Diana C said in reply to Elora Danan... , 02 December 2019 at 09:36 PM
I guess I was thinking of the common people, who did count themselves as Christian, and not the people in the "schools," though some of Chaucer's characters were in the church--e.g., a prioress, a friar, and so on. But these characters certainly knew how they were "supposed" to live their lives but clearly weren't living their lives as the church would have them live.

In that regard, perhaps there was a group of Christians who were IN the church. What I am saying is that almost all people in England at that time were--or at least considered themselves as Christians. However, they were indeed not living their lives as a member of the "Borg."

Perhaps, since I am a Protestant Christian, I am also not part of the group of people who are Christian and who are "accepted" in this Borg-like group.

I often feel dismissed and diminished when my Christian beliefs, which I have held since childhood, seem not to be worthy of consideration in the discussion.

Vegetius , 01 December 2019 at 08:11 PM
How long ago was your last academic experience? My understanding is that in the liberal arts it has basically become a long struggle session. Basically if you are a straight white male you keep your head down and think in secret, like Winston Smith.

The answer to a lot of this is simple: end all federal funding to any public institution any part of which has speech codes more restrictive than settled law with regard to the First Amendment.

Trump could have done this his first day in office, and he actually tweeted about it once. But no.

Patrick Armstrong -> Vegetius... , 01 December 2019 at 09:10 PM
Requirements, IMO are 1) a certain amount of intelligence but not all that much 2) some luck (your supervisor shouldn't die, someone else shouldn't beat you to it, your examiners shouldn't take a scunner to you or your supervisor) 3, and probably most important, sitzfleisch: the ability to nail your bum to the chair and plow through it. And, also important, to know when to stop.

(an absurdly long process in N American it seems, years and years and years. I got mine in the UK -- write the thesis and that's it)

Babak Makkinejad -> Vegetius... , 02 December 2019 at 12:09 AM
Liberal Arts education has been made available to the masses: they do not understand it, appreciate, need it, or can even use it. A very small percentage of mankind is suited for that kind of education. It is almost criminal negligence to have expanded it so much.
Babak Makkinejad -> Vegetius... , 02 December 2019 at 12:12 AM
See here please for an example

https://youtu.be/uRIKJCKWla4

Vegetius said in reply to Babak Makkinejad... , 02 December 2019 at 10:20 AM
Remember, Weinstein was fine with the anti-white, anti-western, anti-Christian agenda at Evergreen until it inconvenienced him. Then he learned to his shock that pulling his J-card would not give him a pass. At which point the pathetic attempt at gatekeeping called the "intellectual dark web" was declared.

Taleb and Weinstein have had an interesting back-and-forth on twitter lately over the latter's statement:

"We are going to have to figure out how to govern the Earth. That requires us to agree on values, ground rules and assumptions. I don't care about private faith. I care that all populations maintain compatibility with a common belief system that prioritizes no one's sacred book."

The test for whether Weinstein is lying or not is simple: will he support a global ban on infant genital mutilation?

wtofd , 01 December 2019 at 08:15 PM
Nassim Taleb, of Black Swan fame, talks about this phenomenon in Skin in the Game. He also writes convincingly, if briefly, about the radical Sunni threat and Americans confusing the Shia as the global threat. Worthwhile.
Patrick Armstrong , 01 December 2019 at 09:06 PM
The best description of a PhD that I can think of came from a tailor. He had learned his trade in Germany and, when he was ready to become a master, the local guild gave him a task -- to make a morning suit from start to finish, every bit done by him. Then they tore it apart checking everything and decided that he had the ability to be ranked as a master tailor. That's all a PhD thesis is: proof that you can do the whole research and writing thing.
However, I believe that of late it has more and more become an exercise in showing that you are a loyal acolyte of whatever school your supervisor belongs to. I conclude this from younger PhDs I met at work.
Mine dates, BTW, from 1976 and I am amused to see (everything's on the Net these days) that there has been a (modest) uptick in demand. But an exercise that, when I started work for the govt, probably got me more starting money and gave a useful title in a military-dominated world where everyone had a title. "Doctor" being impressive enough but usefully vague.
All irrelevant these days and no relation, BTW, to Russia (Just as well since most Russia/Soviet teachers in the English-speaking world seem to hate Russia and all that it has ever done.)
Terence Gore , 01 December 2019 at 09:38 PM

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/attack-on-1619-project-socialists/

Dreher's article on the 1619 project of the NY TIMES where there is an effort to re frame the history of the US in the context of slavery. He quotes World Socialist Web Site's view on the 'movement'. From the WSWS editorial

"Despite the pretense of establishing the United States' "true" foundation, the 1619 Project is a politically motivated falsification of history. Its aim is to create a historical narrative that legitimizes the effort of the Democratic Party to construct an electoral coalition based on the prioritizing of personal "identities" -- i.e., gender, sexual preference, ethnicity, and, above all, race."

Dreher picks out a part of an interview that relates to the new academic conformity

"The reflection of identity politics in the curriculum is the primacy of cultural history. There was a time, a long, long time ago, when a "diverse history faculty" meant that you had an economic historian, a political historian, a social historian, a historian of the American Revolution, of the Civil War, and so on. And now a diverse history faculty means a women's historian, a gay historian, a Chinese-American historian, a Latino historian. So it's a completely different kind of diversity.

On a global scale the benefit of this has been tremendous. We have more -- and we should have more -- African history, Latin American history, Asian history, than we ever have. Within US history it has produced narrow faculties in which everybody is basically writing the same thing. And so you don't bump into the economic historian at the mailbox and say "Is it true that all the wealth came from slavery," and have them say, "that's ridiculous," and explain why it can't be true."

Those who control the past...

Diana C , 01 December 2019 at 10:14 PM
I am sad to agree with the points made in this post.

I find it a little frightening to think about what might happen to our country if academia continues on this course.

However, as a person who dropped out of a doctoral program because it just wasn't in me to interpret all assigned readings as a Marxist or a totally wacky feminist who feels men and women might not be of the same species, I just decided not to get a doctorate and dropped out of the program. I've been happier for it.

Later, I watched as friends, family members, and their various friends and family members who realized the absolute worthlessness of public education nowadays in NEA controlled schools turned to home schooling, charter schools, and various other alternate ways of providing an actual education for their children.

I've met many of the children of these parents and am often quite pleased with the fact that for the most part they are individuals who can speak and think freely and are happy to be finding their way in the world doing what they want to do.

I hope more and more parents like these young people's parents break away from the public NEA option. There are many very good choices for educating our children to become real individual people who contribute in their individual ways to a vial economy and society.

I am counting on God, Who is Good and Loving to make this current state of affairs temporary in the long lifetime of this world. I give it to God, as they say, and I do not mourn my not ever getting that doctorate--a dream I had as a young girl. Not having it doesn't mean I can't still read and study and think on my own.

Mathias Alexander , 02 December 2019 at 03:27 AM
I expect group think works out fine for hunter-gatherers.
Paul Robinson , 02 December 2019 at 09:17 AM
Much of what I write could well be considered 'non-conformist', but I've never encountered any problems in academia because of it. In fact, being a professor gives one the security which makes one confident enough to be non-conformist. Sweeping generalizations are unhelpful.
Fred -> Paul Robinson ... , 02 December 2019 at 11:05 AM
Paul,

" being a professor gives one the security"

Sounds like you got yours are sure don't want to lose it.

Diana C said in reply to Fred ... , 02 December 2019 at 04:18 PM
During my years as a student and my years as an adjunct instructor in several undergrad and community college programs, I also had no problems. I was teaching required undergrad classes such as research writing and essay writing.

It was easy in those classes to set my own standards. No full professors want to teach those classes because it requires much time and effort to plan lessons and to grade papers. For argumentation essays and argumentation research papers it was my right to insist that the student research all views of the research question they chose, though many students tried hard not to have to report the opinions they did not like and to have to explain exactly why they felt that side was invalid.

I was lucky in the fact that when I taught those classes, "political correctness" had not yet developed a firm foothold in the universities.

I left teaching those classes at about the time "political correctness" was beginning.

The only time I was reported to the Dean was by a student who wanted to research the question of whether Elvis was dead or not. I told her that if her source list included the National Enquirer or and other grocery store "news" magazine, I would not accept her paper. My department chairman didn't laugh at her complaint, but he did back me up and smiled when he told me he had said she had to follow my rule.

And sadly, the journalism majors were also hard to deal with. They didn't want to research at all. They felt all they had to do was call people they felt were important sources to provide quotes for their essays or papers. They didn't feel it was necessary to do any in-depth research on the issue they had chosen, usually an issue that was important at the time in the state or local community. It made them angry that I felt they should do some background research in order to balance quoted opinions.

turcopolier , 02 December 2019 at 09:22 AM
Paul Robinson

No. Sweeping generalizations are quite helpful because they express opinions about behavior in general. As for you, you may have tenure but if you start saying things like, "Bigfoot is real," you will find yourself largely ostracized. Actually academics prefer extremely narrow foci for studies because the possibility of conflict among them is thereby reduced,

vig said in reply to turcopolier ... , 04 December 2019 at 08:23 AM
As for you, you may have tenure but if you start saying things like, "Bigfoot is real," you will find yourself largely ostracized.

You feel the Bigfoot and related para-normal phenomena should matter in Public and International Affair studies? Since comparable phenomena are reported all over the world? In the context of what larger topic/theme/course could/should it be considered?

Or are you suggesting a Prof in international relations couldn't even mention privately he feels Bigfoot is an interesting phenomenon? Suggesting it would get him into troubles no matter how solid his research in his own field?

I was careful to include a wide diversity of groups in my critique of humanity.

Yes, you were. But you also spent a considerable amount of digital ink on academics more generally and academia.

Paul Robinson , 02 December 2019 at 09:44 AM
All I can say is that I have never in 20 years in academia felt the slightest pressure from other academics to bend my research or writing to fit their will. Pressure to conform has, however, come from outside the university - my one experience writing a report for a think tank did not end well. On the whole, in my own field of study, I find academics much more reasonable, nuanced, and willing to discuss and consider alternatives, than politicians, journalists, and think tank types. Of course, that is just one person's experience, and I wouldn't generalize from it, any more than you should from yours. But there it is.
Fred -> Paul Robinson ... , 02 December 2019 at 08:35 PM
Paul,


They are pushing the envelope in Cambridge. Got a couple students killed, rather ironic that,. But I'm sure they are not responsible nor will they adjust their theory based on the new evidence. Video here:
http://www.unz.com/isteve/london-bridge-victims-professors-now-getting-some-unwanted-attention/

Elora Danan , 02 December 2019 at 10:12 AM
Once Elora thought of studying Social Sciences in University at Distance...but, after seeing the cadre of professors, being one a member of CFR who, moreover, got lately involveded in the Integrity Initiative scandal as a one of the cluster in charge of spreading maledicence through their columns in MSM on certain respectable colonel they deemed too much pro-Russian to be head of national intelligence...she certainly desisted...and decided that she would better learn on her own...

After all, it was "highly likely" he was going to catearme de plano, sin ni siquiera leer lo que escribo ....only because Elora is so....

J , 02 December 2019 at 10:28 AM
It looks like Soylent Green is a not too far off possibility. Washington State has thrown out the dignity of the human death and subsequent corpse with their Washington State's bath water. They'll be composting dead human beings like they would compost rotting food or rotting garbage. With burial or cremation, there is some dignity given to the life of the individual who life has passed, whereas with composting, they'll be throwing the human corpse with its decaying fluids and all into basically a sewage pit to rot. With them composting human dead like a rotting cabbage, basic human dignity will have been cast into the trash heap. The Elites are now coming out in the open and calling for human cannibalism, and there could be legislation enacted like what Washington State did with human composting, legislation to make human cannibalism a reality. And a step further is turning the human corpse into a palatable food item, which is what Soylent Green was in the movie. The humanity of that movie thought they were eating vegetable crackers, unbeknownst to them they were eating their next of kin, or their neighbor down the street. In the movie, garbage trucks gathered up the dead corpses like they were cord-wood, and took them to a processing station, much like what the human composting will have -- processing stations.

Remember that Orwell's 1984 was poo poo'd as never happening just a few short years ago. And the 1973 movie Soylent Green was poo poo'd as science fiction when it was released.

World's First Human Composting Facility is Coming to Seattle in 2021

https://themindunleashed.com/2019/12/human-composting-facility-seattle-2021.html

fredw , 02 December 2019 at 11:00 AM
Academics make easy targets for this crew, but, as noted above, they they are far from unique in their tribal instincts. The thing that appalled me most after my Vietnam experience (apart from the fact that William Calley's entire chain of command did not go to prison) was the discovery of how many people had figured out that our cause was all but unwinnable and how little influence that discovery had. When the preparatory simulation exercises showed us consistently losing, the pentagon stopped the war gaming. Etc. all the way through the war. In fact even the catastrophe they suffered in Tet '68 did not shift the balance in our favor.

John Maynard Keynes made the academics' ultimate response to the notion that people in more "practical" pursuits are more realistic: "Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually slaves of some defunct economist."

And no, Keynes was not that much an advocate for academics either: " Education: the inculcation of the incomprehensible into the indifferent by the incompetent."

Fred -> fredw... , 02 December 2019 at 03:31 PM
Fredw,

Then why did North Vietnam sign the Paris peace accords?

fredw said in reply to Fred ... , 02 December 2019 at 07:27 PM
Because they thought the accords meant that we agreed to let them win the war. That interpretation doesn't mesh with Nixon's ferocious rhetoric about the Christmas bombing, but that was the truth. And they were pretty shrewd about that sort of thing.

I can't prove it and they would never say it, but I thought at the time that the Christmas bombing sent a message that we needed an end to it more than they did. So they reached out and sure enough we were willing to settle on terms similar to what they had offered in 1968.

That is not to say that they were anything other than horrible brutal people. But they were not stupid horrible brutal people, and they had the commitment to see it through. And we did not. It was their country.

Fred -> fredw... , 02 December 2019 at 08:30 PM
Fredw,

A few million South Vietnamese would disagree.

fredw said in reply to Fred ... , 03 December 2019 at 08:01 AM
"A few million South Vietnamese would disagree."

I doubt it. The ones I have spoken with about it saw it pretty much the same way at the time. They spent a couple years hoping against hope that they were wrong - that the US did have the commitment to see it through. Their hopes were disappointed.

Fred -> fredw... , 03 December 2019 at 08:47 AM
Fredw,


Would that be the ones who fled communism after the NV army invaded the the Republic of Vietnam or the fine people of the Socialist Republic who brought freedom from the barrels of all those guns?

TonyL said in reply to fredw... , 03 December 2019 at 04:52 AM
"Because they thought the accords meant that we agreed to let them win the war."

No fredw. That's a naive (or simplistic, should I say) thinking. They had no illlusion like that, they just practiced age old Sun Tzu's teaching. In other words, if you know you can win with diplomacy why spend the blood and treasure to achieve the same thing? Demonstrate to your enemy that you are really willing to fight to the end no matter it takes, and then negotiate the peace to your favor.

turcopolier -> fredw... , 02 December 2019 at 08:34 PM
All

I was careful to include a wide diversity of groups in my critique of humanity.

fredw said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 07:57 AM
Indeed you did. The commenters seem more focused on academics.
Serge , 02 December 2019 at 11:21 AM
This conformism is not only limited to the humanities, it has crept insidiously into the physical and natural sciences. Pharmaceutical companies can now depend on an endless supply of conformist Scientists who will advocate for the drugging up of children in order to treat imaginary first world diseases.
PeterVE , 02 December 2019 at 11:45 AM
Yesterday, we had a guest Minister at my Unitarian church (I can feel the eye rolls from the commentariat already....). She has an economics degree from Princeton, a business degree from MIT, and an M.Div from Meadville Lombard Theological School. She comes to ministry after a career in high tech and slow food. She is of European and Native American ancestry, and practices the Hawaiian culture with her Big Island ohana. (Isn't that cultural appropriation? /snark)

She opened with two sweeping proclamations:
"I am here today to help you all break the habit of referring to Native People in the past tense..."
"We are standing on stolen land..."

She then followed those with an incoherent sermon, which I hesitate to even try to summarize.
One of her points was that Governor Bradford, who wrote the famous sermon speaking the shining city on the hill, believed in the righteousness of his cause, including treating the Natives as lesser beings. She did note that the Unitarian Church is a descendant of those original Congregational churches, but she missed the part where we still believe in the righteousness of our cause, and the right to treat the lesser orders as we wish.

Back to her two opening remarks:
I fully know that there are still descendants of the original settlers of our area still here.
The particular land where the First Unitarian Church of Providence stands is part of the land conveyed by deed from the Narragansett tribe to Roger Williams, and the deed is in the Providence City Hall Archives, signed by the Sachems Cononicus and Miantonomi.
I can hardly think of a better example of the product of group think, where the particulars of your audience don't matter.

J , 02 December 2019 at 03:04 PM
Colonel,

Democrat Presidential hopeful just stepped into a bog without his waders on.


https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2019/12/01/pete-buttigieg-nods-as-pastor-says-illegal-aliens-just-reclaiming-stolen-land/

jdledell , 02 December 2019 at 07:35 PM
Pat is probably going to toss me out of here for this comment. Conformity and "Group Think" is a human characteristic that is probably hard wired into our brains. It is not just academics who are subject to this trait but every group, poliitcal, religious or otherwise. That is how we got into Iraq. I got a kick out of an article in the Hill this morning about Trump's trillion dollar annual defcits. The comment section was almost universal in " it was Obama's fault". There was "group think' at work since anyone who disagreed was roundly booed and the fact that not a single Republican congresscritter has raised their voice on our annual deficits when if it was a Democrat President the hue and cry would drown out normal reporting. Don't get me wrong, the Democrats are not any better but group think is very widespread.
J -> jdledell... , 03 December 2019 at 09:13 AM
Both Democrats and Republicans have taken their brains and are using them to wipe their arses. The expression 'Sh*t for brains' fits them to a tee.

If they're not using their brains as basketballs and dribbling with them, they're converting what little grey matter they have into toliet paper.

Makes me fear for my fellow human beings.

turcopolier , 02 December 2019 at 08:15 PM
jdledell

You are a brave non-conformist soul. I hope I am your friend.

jdledell said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 06:17 PM
Pat - Yes you are, That is why I'm on your site every day.
turcopolier , 02 December 2019 at 08:19 PM
fredw

Contemptibly disrespectful to the brave men who carried out Linebacker II. It would seem that you were a communist sympathizer. No sympathy for all the Vietnamese who did not want to be ruled by the communists?

fredw said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 12:49 PM
The men who carried out Linebacker II were American soldiers (and sailors and airmen) who as usual gave it their all. I don't disrespect even Richard Nixon or the military brass who ordered it. They faced seriously tough problems with no good solutions. I am just reporting the signalling I perceived with whatever insight I had picked up from a year of interacting with Vietnamese.

And whatever my words might "seem" to imply, I have no sympathy at all for Communism or the Dang Lao Dong Viet Nam. But facing them day after day takes you beyond the abstraction of "enemy". You get some insight into how they interpret the world. I don't claim any real expertise. I didn't do that long enough to get a really deep understanding. And the people I dealt with were low level. I am just reporting how I thought they might have reacted to events as they unfolded. The Vietnamese I knew(both sides) were very logical calculating people. They wouldn't underestimate the effects of what we did, but they would always be looking for the motivation behind it.

I was heartbroken for the Vietnamese who put their lives on the line in the expectation that we would somehow pull it out. We owed them. We copped out on that debt. I don't believe we could have saved their war, but we should have done a lot better for them when it was lost.

fredw said in reply to fredw... , 03 December 2019 at 01:49 PM
"I was heartbroken for the Vietnamese who put their lives on the line in the expectation that we would somehow pull it out."

"Heartbroken" is true, but when I think of those days the overwhelming emotion is shame.

turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 08:25 AM
fredw

"A couple of years?" Our involvement started before the French left and lasted until 1975.

fredw said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 11:58 AM
A couple of years after the accords. US commitment didn't last much longer than that. That was the point. The accords signaled to many Vietnamese that we were played out. Yes, we had been there for a long time, but we had come to the point of accepting that we could not have the outcome we had fought for.
turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 08:46 AM
tonyl

you seem to have missed the fact that between the armistice agreement and the onslaught in 1975 there were two + years. In that period of time they watched and waited until the US Congress cut off all aid to SVN and then they overran the country.

TonyL said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 07:55 PM
Colonel,

No sir. I did not missed that fact. I merely disagreed with fredw's opinion about the reason why the North Vietnamese came to the negotiating table. Vietnamese people are pragmatic. Being a small country, they always do that regardless of of the situation.

turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 08:50 AM
Fred

The NVA invaded SVN in 1964. That is why we brought major forces into the country in 1965.

J , 03 December 2019 at 09:09 AM
I feel sorry for the children of Britain

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-11-29/british-government-decide-how-children-can-decorate-their-bedrooms

turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 01:42 PM
fredw

Blame the American people. They gave up, influenced by NVN IO and its American Left allies. The US Congress of the day reflected that.

turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 01:45 PM
fredw

The American people betrayed the Vietnamese, not the military. And truth be told most of the SVN people were lukewarm participants in their own defense.

fredw said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 02:02 PM
I don't see that you are disagreeing with my account of commitment levels. That said, there were both deeply committed south Vietnamese and many more who put their lives on the line betting that we could keep them from the bloody hell promised by a Communist victory. We took that bargain on that basis. Morally, I find it similar to the situation that you have described for the Kurds in Syria. It could only end ugly.
fredw , 03 December 2019 at 02:23 PM
Perhaps the most shocking revelation that interrogators received was the realization that it wasn't primarily us the enemy were worried about. Most of their anxieties were directed toward the lukewarm ARVNs who despite their many many many failings were perceived as the more dangerous enemy. We were a known (if lethal) factor. We did not represent an alternative to them. We rarely had the knowledge or understanding of local conditions to be really effective. The ARVNs did, and suffered four times our casualty rates trying to make their alternative happen.

This is not a judgement of military or social effectiveness, just an observation of what their levels of concern seemed to be.

turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 02:25 PM
fredw

You are mighty certain for someone who was not there. Yes, there were Vietnamese who fought well and hard but not enough of them. You don't seem to understand that we were there to help them. We did not run their government, leftist beliefs about that not withstanding. We did not command their army.

fredw said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 02:50 PM
"Not there"? Where was I in 1970? Sure looked like Viet Nam. Sure was hot.
There sure were a lot people speaking tieng Viet Nam. Mine had to improve really fast. I think you may have lost the thread.
turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 02:30 PM
fredw

I am sure they were afraid of being turned over to the ARVN who were likely to torture and kill them if they were in the mood. The NVA and VC main force troops wre just as liely to do the same. You sound like John Vann who once rebuked me for not loving the Vietnamese. He was right.

fredw said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 02:52 PM
Agreed that they are pretty hard to love.
turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 04:53 PM
fredw

"I think you may have lost the thread." Why would I know anything about you?

fredw said in reply to turcopolier ... , 03 December 2019 at 05:03 PM
All right granted. The contents of my prior posts are much more present in my mind than in yours. In any case, I don't see that we actually disagree that much. I think that we just have different reactions to similar sets of acts. Not my purpose to annoy you for no reason. Good luck with your roofing. I would probably fall the roof, even when I was young.
turcopolier , 03 December 2019 at 05:38 PM
fredw

We have Fred, Freds, fredw. How many more Fred? " The contents of my prior posts are much more present in my mind than in yours" Duh! Vann asked why I did not love the Vietnamese. My answer wa something like "Why should I? I am here to fight a war on their behalf. That does not require me to love them."

turcopolier , 04 December 2019 at 08:27 AM
vig

Professors are generally people who prefer the catfights in the academy to actual work in industry, finance, engineering, etc. does that mean that I generally think they are drones? Yes, I do.

Turcopolier , 04 December 2019 at 01:38 PM

I received this comment from DMR, presumab;y a member of the professoriat.

"Mr Robinson's remarks are spot on. In my experience most academics worth their salt are absorbed in their research area however microscopic the focus, and delight above all in lively exchange of ideas with colleagues and students when afforded the opportunity to do so in the classroom, at conferences, in published research. Conformism, some of it timid, and competition, often cut-throat, there certainly are. Who would deny this? But as in any profession or walk of life they are par for the course. Forty years as a university teacher encourage me to say that these deformations professionelles are far from definitive, still less all-encompassing. Most unusually for you, Col. Lang, and pace your vaunted experience on boards of award-granting bodies/degree committees, your judgements in this instance smack of personal animus and bespeak an unwarrantedly generalized contempt. I say this with respect and no wish to annoy." It is a characteristic of the academy that its members wish to be thought independent thinkers. They are united in that thought. Professor, i will seek to conform to your "professional" mores. My most personal animus is reserved for social "scientists.

[Dec 04, 2019] Trump and Trade: He s Not All Wrong by Dean Baker

Notable quotes:
"... "Employment in the United States has increased steadily over the last seven years, one of the longest periods of economic growth in American history. There are about 10 million more working Americans today than when President Obama took office. ..."
"... "David Autor, an economist at M.I.T., estimated in a famous paper that increased trade with China did eliminate roughly one million factory jobs in the United States between 2000 and 2007. However, an important implication of his findings is that such job losses largely ended almost a decade ago. ..."
"... It is also worth noting that even though our trade deficit has declined from its 2006 peak (the non-oil deficit has recently been rising again), workers are constantly being displaced by imports. The Bureau of Labor Statistic reports there have been an average of 110,000 layoffs or discharges a month in manufacturing thus far this year. If just a quarter of these are trade-related, it would imply that more than 300,000 workers a year are losing their jobs due to trade. ..."
"... The second point is the wage effect, which can go beyond the direct impact of job loss. The oil market can give us a useful way of thinking about this issue. Suppose that Saudi Arabia or some other major producer ramps up its oil production by 1 million barrels of oil a day. This will put downward pressure on world prices, which will have the effect of lowering prices in the United States as well. This could mean, for example, that instead of getting $50 for a barrel of oil, producers in North Dakota will only get $40 a barrel. This will mean less money for workers and companies in the oil industry. In the case of workers, it will mean fewer jobs and lower pay. ..."
"... This can happen even if there is very little direct impact of trade. The increased supply of Saudi oil may result in some modest reduction in U.S. exports of oil, but the impact on price will be much larger. The analogous story with trade in manufactured goods is that the potential to import low cost goods from Mexico, China, or other countries can have the effect of lowering wages in the United States, even if the goods are not actually imported. ..."
"... Finally, the balance of trade will have an impact on the overall level of employment in the economy when the economy is below its full employment level of output. Until the Great Recession, most economists did not think that trade could affect the overall level of employment, but only the composition. This meant that trade could cause us to lose manufacturing jobs in the Midwest, but these job losses would be offset by gains in Silicon Valley and other tech centers. This could still mean bad news for the manufacturing workers who lost their jobs, but the net effect for the country as a whole would still be positive. ..."
"... The Great Recession changed this view, as many economists came to believe that the United States is facing a period of secular stagnation: a sustained period in which lack of demand in the economy constrains growth and employment. In this context, the trade deficit is a major cause of the lack of demand since it is spending that is creating demand in other countries rather than the United States. If we could reduce the annual trade deficit by $100 billion then as a first approximation it will have the same impact on the economy as a stimulus of $100 billion. ..."
"... There is no generally accepted explanation as to why so many prime age workers would suddenly decide they didn't feel like working, but one often invoked candidate is the loss of manufacturing jobs. The argument in this story is that the manufacturing sector provided relatively good paying jobs for people without college degrees. With so many of these jobs now gone, these workers can't find jobs. If this argument is true, then it means that trade has cost the country a large number of jobs even if the economy is back at full employment. ..."
Oct 11, 2016 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne : October 11, 2016 at 06:46 AM , October 11, 2016 at 06:46 AM

http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/trump-and-trade-he-s-not-all-wrong

October 11, 2016

Trump and Trade: He's Not All Wrong

Given his history of promoting racism, xenophobia, sexism and his recently exposed boasts about sexual assaults, not many people want to be associated with Donald Trump. However that doesn't mean everything that comes out of his mouth is wrong.

In the debate on Sunday Donald Trump made a comment to the effect that because of the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade deals, "we lost our jobs." The New York Times was quick to say * this was wrong.

"We didn't.

"Employment in the United States has increased steadily over the last seven years, one of the longest periods of economic growth in American history. There are about 10 million more working Americans today than when President Obama took office.

"David Autor, an economist at M.I.T., estimated in a famous paper that increased trade with China did eliminate roughly one million factory jobs in the United States between 2000 and 2007. However, an important implication of his findings is that such job losses largely ended almost a decade ago.

"And there's no evidence the North American Free Trade Agreement caused similar job losses.

"The Congressional Research Service concluded in 2015 that the 'net overall effect of Nafta on the U.S. economy appears to have been relatively modest.' "

There are a few things to sort out here. First, the basic point in the first paragraph is absolutely true, although it's not clear that it's relevant to the trade debate. The United States economy typically grows and adds jobs, around 1.6 million a year for the last quarter century. So any claim that trade has kept the U.S. from creating jobs is absurd on its face. The actual issue is the rate of job creation and the quality of the jobs.

Here there are three issues to consider.

1) The direct job loss – the jobs that were displaced due to imports substituting for domestically produced goods and services;

2) The wage effects – the downward pressure on the wages of workers that retain their jobs that can result from job loss and also the threat of job loss;

3) The impact of a trade deficit on the level of demand in the economy.

Taking these in turn we now have some pretty solid evidence on some of the job loss attributable to trade. David Autor's work ** found that imports from China cost the economy more than 2 million jobs in the years from 2000-2007.

"Estimates of the net impact of aggregate demand and reallocation effects imply that import growth from China between 1999 and 2011 led to an employment reduction of 2.4 million workers" (page 29).

These are workers who are directly displaced by import competition. In addition, as the article goes on to note, there were more workers who likely lost their jobs to the multiplier effect in the local economies most directly affected by imports.

The impact of trade with China was more dramatic than trade with Mexico and other countries because of the huge growth in imports over a short period of time. However, even if the impact from trade with other countries was smaller, it still would have a substantial effect on the communities affected.

It is also worth noting that even though our trade deficit has declined from its 2006 peak (the non-oil deficit has recently been rising again), workers are constantly being displaced by imports. The Bureau of Labor Statistic reports there have been an average of 110,000 layoffs or discharges a month in manufacturing thus far this year. If just a quarter of these are trade-related, it would imply that more than 300,000 workers a year are losing their jobs due to trade.

Of course people lose jobs for other reasons also, like increased productivity. So the fact there is job loss associated with trade doesn't make it bad, but it is not wrong to see this as a serious problem.

The second point is the wage effect, which can go beyond the direct impact of job loss. The oil market can give us a useful way of thinking about this issue. Suppose that Saudi Arabia or some other major producer ramps up its oil production by 1 million barrels of oil a day. This will put downward pressure on world prices, which will have the effect of lowering prices in the United States as well. This could mean, for example, that instead of getting $50 for a barrel of oil, producers in North Dakota will only get $40 a barrel. This will mean less money for workers and companies in the oil industry. In the case of workers, it will mean fewer jobs and lower pay.

This can happen even if there is very little direct impact of trade. The increased supply of Saudi oil may result in some modest reduction in U.S. exports of oil, but the impact on price will be much larger. The analogous story with trade in manufactured goods is that the potential to import low cost goods from Mexico, China, or other countries can have the effect of lowering wages in the United States, even if the goods are not actually imported.

Kate Bronfenbrenner, a professor of industrial relations at Cornell, documented one way in which the potential to import can have the effect of lowering wages. She found *** that employers regularly used the threat of moving operations to Mexico as a way to thwart unionization drives. While most workers are not typically involved in unionization drives, it is easy to imagine this dynamic playing out in other contexts where employers use the real or imagined threat from import competition as a reason for holding down wages. The implication is the impact of trade on wages is likely to be even larger than the direct effect of the goods actually brought into the country.

Finally, the balance of trade will have an impact on the overall level of employment in the economy when the economy is below its full employment level of output. Until the Great Recession, most economists did not think that trade could affect the overall level of employment, but only the composition. This meant that trade could cause us to lose manufacturing jobs in the Midwest, but these job losses would be offset by gains in Silicon Valley and other tech centers. This could still mean bad news for the manufacturing workers who lost their jobs, but the net effect for the country as a whole would still be positive.

The Great Recession changed this view, as many economists came to believe that the United States is facing a period of secular stagnation: a sustained period in which lack of demand in the economy constrains growth and employment. In this context, the trade deficit is a major cause of the lack of demand since it is spending that is creating demand in other countries rather than the United States. If we could reduce the annual trade deficit by $100 billion then as a first approximation it will have the same impact on the economy as a stimulus of $100 billion.

From this perspective, the trade deficit is a major source of job loss. Our current trade deficit of $500 billion a year (@2.8 percent of GDP) is a major drag on demand and employment. For this reason, a politician would be absolutely right to cite trade as a big factor in the weakness of the labor market.

It is worth noting that many economists (including many at the Federal Reserve Board) now believe that the economy is close to its full employment level of output, in which case trade is not now a net cause of job loss even if it had been earlier in the recovery. There are two points to be made on this view.

First, there are many prominent economists, such as Paul Krugman and Larry Summers, who argue that the economy is still well below its full employment level of output. So this is at least a debatable position.

Second, if we accept that the economy is near full employment it implies that close to 2 million prime age workers (ages 25-54) have permanently left the labor market compared to 2007 levels of labor force participation. (The gap is close to 4 million if we use 2000 as our comparison year.)

There is no generally accepted explanation as to why so many prime age workers would suddenly decide they didn't feel like working, but one often invoked candidate is the loss of manufacturing jobs. The argument in this story is that the manufacturing sector provided relatively good paying jobs for people without college degrees. With so many of these jobs now gone, these workers can't find jobs. If this argument is true, then it means that trade has cost the country a large number of jobs even if the economy is back at full employment.

In short, there are good reasons for a politician to complain about trade as a major source of our economic problems. There is much research and economic theory that supports this position.

* http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/10/09/us/elections/fact-check-debate.html#/factcheck-25

** http://www.ddorn.net/papers/Autor-Dorn-Hanson-ChinaShock.pdf

*** http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1018&context=cbpubs

-- Dean Baker

[Dec 04, 2019] Perfect Storm Trump Admin To Cut 750,000 From Food Stamps Ahead Of Recession

First they cut unemployment benefits. Now they are cutting food stamps. Great...
Dec 04, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

In a bid to end the massive welfare state, the Trump administration is expected to announce new measures Wednesday that would end food stamp benefits for nearly 750,000 low-income folks. The new rules will make it difficult for "states to gain waivers from a requirement that beneficiaries work or participate in a vocational training program," according to Bloomberg sources.

Republicans have long attempted to abolish the welfare state, claiming that the redistribution of wealth for poor people keeps them in a state of perpetual poverty. They also claim the welfare state is a system of command and control and has been used by Democrats for decades as a political weapon against conservatives, hence why most inner cities vote Democrat.

House Republicans tried to cut parts of the federal food assistance program last year, but it was quickly rejected in the Senate.

The new requirements by the Trump administration would only target "able-bodied" recipients who aren't caring for children under six.

Sources said the measure would be one of three enacted by the Trump administration to wind down the massive federal food assistance program.

The measures are expected to boot nearly 3.7 million recipients from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Though it comes at a time when employment is in a downturn, manufacturing has stumbled into a recession , and the US economy could be entering a mild recession in the year ahead. As to why President Trump wants hundreds of thousands of low-income folks off SNAP ahead of an election year while the economy is rapidly decelerating could be an administrative error that may lead to social instabilities in specific regions that will be affected the hardest. Then again, no turmoil could come out of it, and it's hailed as a success during the election year.

The Department of Agriculture estimates that the new measures could save the agency $1.1 billion in year one, and $7.9 billion by year five.

Nearly 36.4 million Americans in the "greatest economy ever" are on food stamps. At least half of all Americans have low-wage jobs, barely enough to cover living expenses, nevertheless, service their credit cards with record-high interest rates . The economy as a whole is undergoing profound structural changes with automation and artificial intelligence. Tens of millions of jobs will be lost by 2030. It's likely the collision of these forces means the welfare state is going nowhere and will only grow in size when the next recession strikes.

Cutting food stamps for low-income folks is the right move into creating a more leaner government, but there are severe social implications that could be triggered if the new measures are passed.

And while President Trump wants to slash the welfare state for poor people, his supply-side policies and bailouts of corporate America have been record-setting in some respects.

Actions by the administration clearly show that corporate welfare for Wall Street elites is more important than welfare for low-income folks. Perfect Storm: Trump Admin To Cut 750,000 From Food Stamps Ahead Of Recession


naps8906 , 23 seconds ago link

this is one of the most shameful acts for any president, especially a billionaire. If he wants to save a billion/year, cut it from military. Or increase staff at SNAP to check for fraud, but this is really shameful. I think it would've been better to raise tariff on China and use that money to increase SNAP not decrease it

cheka , 1 minute ago link

i have a better way. over BMI = no taxpayer funded food handouts

taking money from the working class, at the point of a gun....to give free food to fat *****.....clown world

Wild Bill Steamcock , 4 minutes ago link

What's the need in cutting foodstamps? You can take every able-bodied recipient and have them work a reasonable number of hours per week in a fair exchange. Plenty of work to be had and you could do it WPA style where those of certain skills could apply them.

And if you want to cut welfare, START WITH CORPORATE WELFARE

Dr Anon , 4 minutes ago link

This is a positive development in terms of the nuclear family. Women can't just abscond with the kids and her husband's alimony if she knows she will have to actually get a job to pay for her own food. I'm sick of paying taxes to support whore women and their bastard children.

Zeusky Babarusky , 6 minutes ago link

"The Department of Agriculture estimates that the new measures could save the agency $1.1 billion in year one, and $7.9 billion by year five."

Today's Repo operation by the Fed is $70.1 Billion. The $1.1 Billion in annual savings due to this cut is about 1.5% of what the Fed pumped into the Repo market just today. I'm all for cutting out the fraud. If you can work, then you should work. Don't work? Don't eat! But our economy is a Service Sector for the most part now, and the wages suck for a big part in the Service Sector. Wages overall have been nearly flat for about 30 years. How about we cut the welfare **** to the banks, Wall Street? That would save trillions not just billions. Typical DC. Fix problems while ******* over the little people, and continuing corporate welfare all the while. This **** so needs to burn up!

same2u , 7 minutes ago link

In the meantime, the Fed keeps on giving to the billionaires and banksters...

Stock market is the food stamp program for the super rich...

Omega_Man , 6 minutes ago link

great... outsource manufacturing, sign new trade deals to off shore more jobs, ramp up the stock market for the rich, waste trillions on destabilizing other nations, give israel all they want, print money to infinity, ask for zero interest rate.. and a billion per year to feed poor people is too much.. Trump is in touch with the little guy

Trump will lose 2020... give the 750,000 guns and ammo and some food and water... and a map to DC... Soros can provide the buses...

Rusticus2.0 , 7 minutes ago link

In a bid to end the massive welfare state, the Trump administration is expected to announce new measures Wednesday that would end food stamp benefits for nearly 750,000 low-income folks

and yet Trump is crying for negative interest rates so the 0.1% can continue getting the welfare they deserve ?

Just Take It All , 7 minutes ago link

Do lampposts dream of central bankers?

Fishthatlived , 10 minutes ago link

A Bloomberg story? Isn't that guy running for President? What a coincidence.

NoDebt , 4 minutes ago link

The new rules will make it difficult for "states to gain waivers from a requirement that beneficiaries work or participate in a vocational training program," according to Bloomberg sources.

And... those are actually the OLD rules, which are still on the books, but which Obama waived by EO. I'm glad 750,00 are being cut from the roles.

NoDebt , 1 minute ago link

Trump Admin To Cut 750,000 From Food Stamps Ahead Of Recession

OK, so I have to ask: What recession? Well, the coming one, obviously! So let's logic this out. You wouldn't cut food stamps IN a recession (political suicide), so what's your alternative? You're either in a recession or you're on your way to the next one which will happen eventually, right? So, when would you be able to cut food stamps? I guess never by that logic.

RiskyBidness , 7 minutes ago link

If you like your foodstamps .You can't keep your foodstamps

[Dec 04, 2019] Your Uber Driver Is 'Retired' You Shouldn't Be Surprised by Paula Span

In other words older people are pushed to the boom of the ladder. To thankless jobs like Uber, and janitorial type of jobs.
Oct 25, 2019 | www.nytimes.com

Despite spending 40 to 60 hours a week picking up riders in his 2015 Subaru Forester, Mr. Ellenbogen is barely surviving financially. He had to give up his apartment and move into his mother's condo in Verona, N.J. He relies on Medicaid for health care.

"It's something I'm accepting because I'm in need of money," he said of his Lyft gig. "I'm capable of better things, but this is what's available to me."

Economists debate how to define this kind of employment, often categorized as "nontraditional jobs" or "alternative work arrangements," and how to calculate the proportion of the older work force engaged in it.

Popularly seen as the province of the young, it now provides work for a growing number of people in their 50s, 60s and beyond.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics includes independent contractors (who may be self-employed but well compensated) and estimates that 11.4 percent of those aged 50 to 62 have nontraditional jobs. The Government Accountability Office, using an even broader definition including part-timers, says the figure is 31.2 percent.

Among workers over 62, economists at The New School's Retirement Equity Lab have found that 9 percent were in "on-call, temp, contract or gig jobs" in 2015; the researchers believe the percentage has grown since then .

In a just-published report, the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College put the number of nontraditional job holders at about 20 percent of 50- to 62-year-old workers , using data from the national Health and Retirement Study.

Their study defines nontraditional jobs as those that provide no health insurance or retirement benefits. "They're probably low-paid," said Alicia Munnell, director of the center. "Some have erratic schedules."

... ... ...

The majority of those in nontraditional jobs at ages 50 to 62 rely on them for most of their employment, and their retirement income at 62 is 26 percent lower than that of employees holding traditional jobs. (Nontraditional jobholders have somewhat higher rates of depression, as well.)

... ... ...

Nontraditional jobs include food service and retail, as well as gig jobs; among the fastest growing categories are janitorial work, and personal care and health aide positions. "They're not easy on older bodies," Dr. Ghilarducci pointed out. "They require a lot of physical stamina."

... ... ...

Mr. Ellenbogen, for instance, has a master's degree in social psychology from the University of Vermont. After getting laid off from sales positions and finding a return to business coaching unprofitable, he became a commission-only sales rep for Home Depot, with no base salary or benefits.

The company let him go, he said, when retina surgery left him unable to drive for two months. After he recovered, the only work he could find was with Lyft, where about a quarter of drivers are over 50, the company reported last year.

Mr. Ellenbogen has searched for jobs on LinkedIn, on Indeed, in local newspapers. The New Start Career Network at Rutgers University has provided free weekly sessions with a coach.

Nothing has materialized, so Mr. Ellenbogen keeps driving, trying to delay claiming Social Security to maximize his benefits.

[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 the