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Edward Blum: My battle against affirmative action The legal strategist is on the brink of a Supreme Court victory

Shuran Huang for The Washington Post/Getty Images

Shuran Huang for The Washington Post/Getty Images


May 29, 2023   8 mins

Is it all over for affirmative action? Edward Blum, a 71-year-old conservative legal strategist, has spent decades campaigning against “race-conscious” university admissions policies (also known as positive discrimination) in the United States, which, he has argued, disadvantage high-achieving Asian Americans. And he may finally be on the brink of victory: the US Supreme Court is due to rule on two lawsuits brought by Blum’s organisation, Students for Fair Admission, that could force Harvard and the University of North Carolina to rethink their race-based selection processes.

This week, Blum spoke to me about his fight for legal justice, his enduring faith in colour-blindness, and the importance of family values and “tiger moms” in educational success. Below is an edited transcript of our conversation.

Freddie Sayers: When it comes to your lawsuits against racial affirmative action in education, is there one that is likely to dominate at the US Supreme Court in the coming months?  

Edward Blum: There are two cases pending. “Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard”, and a similar case, “Students for Fair Admissions v. the University of North Carolina”. Students for Fair Admissions is a membership organisation that I founded in 2014. We sued Harvard and the University of North Carolina, arguing that their admissions policies violate the current laws regarding race and ethnicity in college admissions. But more importantly, we argued before the court that allowing race and ethnicity to be a factor at all in college admissions violates the Supreme Court jurisprudence, going back years and year, as well as the US Constitution.

 

FS: Can you explain how affirmative action is affecting admissions to American universities?

EB: The United States law today, as interpreted about 20 years ago by the Supreme Court, allows colleges and universities to put a thumb on the scale — that is, to rig an outcome — based upon a student’s race or ethnicity. In the case of Harvard and other elite universities, that thumb on the scale is now diminishing the opportunity of Asian Americans to be admitted, while boosting that of African Americans, Hispanics and whites. This is not only going on at Harvard, but at Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and dozens of other competitive colleges.

FS: So what you’re saying is that this form of affirmative action actually helps white people? 

EB: It does.

FS: How does that work?

EB: Let me give you an example that we presented in court. Take a typical Asian-American, male applicant to Harvard and assume his grades and test scores give him a 25% likelihood of being admitted. Now change the race of that applicant to white and the likelihood that that white student will be admitted goes up to 36%. If you change their race to Hispanic, the likelihood jumps to 75%. And if you change their race to African American, that student now has a 95% chance of being admitted to Harvard. This is not a light thumb on the scales. This is a dispositive policy that prohibits better-qualified Asian Americans from being admitted.

FS: Is it a sense of unfairness towards the Asian American community that drives you? Or is it a defence of meritocracy from first principles?

EB: There isn’t a simple answer. I think what drives me, and what drives this movement, is the belief that America was born with a terrible scar on its history. And that is the history of slavery that then evolved into a history of Jim Crow racism against African Americans. What came out of that, what was bitterly fought for on the battlefields and in the courthouses of America, is the belief that your race and ethnicity should not be used to help or to harm you in any of your life’s endeavours: whether you’re applying for a job, or to college or medical school. So that’s what drives me and that’s what drives, frankly, the vast majority of Americans, who — when polled about the use of race and ethnicity in college admissions, or employment, or in other areas — believe that race shouldn’t be a part of these decisions.

FS: This reminds me of the famous Martin Luther King quote about being judged on the content of your character, not by the colour of your skin. And yet, the phrase “colourblind” has become controversial in recent years. Do you use it?

EB: I do, just as the founders of the modern Civil Rights Movement did. There are, I think, a small minority of Americans who, in good faith, see colour-blindness as a reversion to white supremacy. However, in poll after poll, going back 30 years, Americans celebrate the idea of colour-blindness. They don’t want their race to be used as an element in whether they’re hired or fired, or whether the police pull them over, or whether they’re selected for jury duty. Americans embrace colour-blindness — and it’s not just white Americans, it’s a vast majority of Hispanics, African Americans, and Asians.

FS: What would the future look like if the Supreme Court revokes affirmative action? The most recent Harvard diversity statistics say that African-American students make up 15.2% of the student population, Asian-American 27.9%, Hispanic or Latino 12.6%, Native American 2.9%, and Native Hawaiian 0.8%. Judging by these figures, I guess it means that roughly half would be white. How would that change if you win the ruling?

EB: We did a study for the courts back in 2018, and the premise was, if Harvard only uses grade point averages and standardised test scores as a metric for admissions, it’s likely that Asian Americans will make up about 50% of the incoming freshman class. The number of Hispanics will go up slightly, while the number of Whites and African Americans will go down slightly.

FS: How far down would they go?

EB: African Americans would drop to about 10% of the incoming freshman class, down from 15% now. And, if I’m not mistaken, I think whites came in at around 30%, with Hispanics about 10% — maybe a little bit more.

I believe Harvard will be compelled to change the entire framework of its admissions policy. Right now, there is a significant boost given to students whose parents also attended Harvard — the legacy status. That may change dramatically. The “tips” [leg up] given to certain athletes or those who play water polo or fencing, that may be changed. And more importantly, Harvard may start to lower the bar a little for students who have come from very modest, or even disadvantaged backgrounds, who are the first in their family to attend college, who are raised by a single parent, whose family income falls below a certain level.

FS: Would you approve of that?

EB: We absolutely would. We’ve advocated for this at the Supreme Court. It is an important element of our argument.

FS: So you’re not entirely opposed to affirmative action? You’re only against it on racial grounds. If it gives preference to students based on social economic group or education, you’re all for it?

EB: That’s perfectly said. This organisation is against race-based affirmative action. However, we encourage Harvard and other universities to use socio-economic affirmative action. They should be trying to attract a truly diverse group of individuals, not just in terms of skin colour, but in terms of their backgrounds.

FS: My gut feeling would be that a lot of conservatives would make a libertarian objection — that these are private institutions, and that they should not be told by the state who they can and can’t admit. What do you say to those people?

EB: We have a solution to those objections, and that is that Harvard can forego receiving federal funds. There are a handful of colleges and universities in the United States that have done exactly that; Hillsdale College is probably the best known. If Harvard chooses to not accept federal funds, then they can shape the class in any way they would like.

FS: How would you respond to the Left-wing critique that, unless you force institutions to accept a certain quota of minority people, they will simply go back to prioritising their preferred groups?

EB: I think they’re wrong for two reasons. For one thing, it assumes that the academic gaps between African Americans, Hispanics, whites, and Asians are intractable; that there is no way, based upon the history of the United States, that they will ever narrow. That’s just not correct. It assumes that there is somehow a system in place that prevents this. Asian Americans are outperforming whites academically, despite having fewer resources, less family wealth, and lower income levels.

FS: The clichĂ© goes that Asian Americans have “tiger moms” who make them do their homework and take academics seriously — and that’s why they are so high-achieving. Is that a fair observation? 

EB: Well, coming from a Jewish background myself, I had a Jewish tiger mom who didn’t let me hang out at the basketball court with my buddies after school or drive around and see girls. We had to study and we had to achieve. The most important educational institution in the United States, and I think, perhaps in the UK as well, is the family. Learning begins at the cradle, and parents within the Asian community realise that. That’s something which can be replicated among whites, Hispanics and African Americans as well.

FS: So rather than implementing defeatist university quotas, society should be getting to the root of the issue by helping and encouraging parents to improve early life education? 

EB: That’s an incredibly important part of the argument, but there is something else that is deeply troubling about race-based affirmative action. That is, in universities that lower the bar for African Americans and Hispanics, we often see students either dropping out because their academic backgrounds are not sufficient to compete, or switching to less competitive courses. This means that students who hope to become doctors, engineers or computer scientists end up graduating with degrees in the humanities or social sciences, which wouldn’t have happened had they gone to a college where their qualifications were better matched. That’s another important element that I think will change.

FS: There’s a practical argument there, that students would reach a better place later in life if they weren’t artificially pushed into places that maybe didn’t suit them.

EB: That’s exactly right, and there’s data and studies to endorse that. Plus, there’s one other element here. We’ve heard it, and we can read it, and we’ve seen it a million times: minority kids on competitive campuses are told that the only reason that they are there is because they are a certain race, not because they were academically qualified. So those kids who truly were academically qualified feel like: “Because the bar is lowered for all African Americans, even though I scored as well as any Asian on this campus, people think I’m here because I’m black.” That’s a terrible burden, too.

FS: Now, I’m not going to try and do a “gotcha”, Mr. Blum, but I do feel like the last couple of arguments would equally apply to affirmative action for people who come from a more deprived background or have had fewer education opportunities — they too would arrive at the college without the necessary preparation and may have to drop out. How is that any different?

EB: That is very true. You may notice that I said “Lower the bar a little bit”. You cannot lower the bar dramatically for kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, just as you cannot lower the bar for kids from ethnic or racial backgrounds. Kids who come from disadvantaged backgrounds don’t walk around campus with signs saying “Family below poverty level”, or “I’m the first in my family to go to college”. You won’t know that just looking at kids from those backgrounds. They may have disclosed it to their friends and others, but you won’t know it.

FS: So there’s less stigma, but is it not similarly defeatist? It puts the onus on these institutions, while, actually, as a society, we need to do better in terms of helping families to look after — and not give up on — their kids. 

EB: Trillions of dollars in this country have been spent trying to narrow the gaps in educational attainment between African Americans and Hispanics on the one hand, and whites and Asians on the other. And it has been only modestly successful. We can spend more money, but I think the bulk of the solution is within the family.

And could resources be put there? Sure, but it’s really up to moms and dads to do this. I have been to the homes of Asian students — one-bedroom, very modest apartments in Queens, New York, where mom is a maid at a Midtown hotel and dad is a doorman at an apartment building on the Upper East Side. They have the bedroom, their two children sleep in the living room. Very modest backgrounds. How is it that these kids have done so well in school? Because mom and dad were there and encouraged them. They put their own limited resources into their education. So that’s what needs to be done more than just about anything else.

FS: So there needs to be some uncomfortable home truths spoken to some of these other communities that are underperforming, saying: “Look, we need you to focus on family life and pay proper attention to education.” Do these communities need to take responsibility for the outcomes?

EB: That’s right.

FS: If your case is successful, do you think it will have ramifications beyond the sphere of higher education?

EB: My great hope is that the opinion that comes out of these two Supreme Court cases provides the US with a legal doctrine that can be applied with regards to employment, to fellowships and scholarships, to voting and contracting issues, and that this doctrine will be the beginning of the restoration of the great colourblind covenant that has held together this country through very difficult periods of history. That’s my hope: that the justices give us something that not only applies to higher education, but also to other, very important areas of American life.


Freddie Sayers is the Editor-in-Chief & CEO of UnHerd. He was previously Editor-in-Chief of YouGov, and founder of PoliticsHome.

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Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Leaving aside the rights or wrongs of the case the interviewee is making, it’s possible to admire the clarity, vision and consistency of the case and the way he’s making it. I feel this is worth remarking upon because it’s far from common. One can sense the application of a seasoned and balanced legal brain at work. Great questioning by Freddie Sayers, too.

Justin Clark
Justin Clark
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

yes very respectful of opposing viewpoints… another cracking interview

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

All true but his statements don’t march statistics quoted.
If Asian-American intake goes up from 27% to 50%, AA goes down by 5% and MA goes slightly up, it is statistically impossible for whites admissions to be slightly down.
Admissions will drop by about 35% for white cohort.

Justin Clark
Justin Clark
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

yes very respectful of opposing viewpoints… another cracking interview

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

All true but his statements don’t march statistics quoted.
If Asian-American intake goes up from 27% to 50%, AA goes down by 5% and MA goes slightly up, it is statistically impossible for whites admissions to be slightly down.
Admissions will drop by about 35% for white cohort.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Leaving aside the rights or wrongs of the case the interviewee is making, it’s possible to admire the clarity, vision and consistency of the case and the way he’s making it. I feel this is worth remarking upon because it’s far from common. One can sense the application of a seasoned and balanced legal brain at work. Great questioning by Freddie Sayers, too.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
1 year ago

I am wholly in agreement with Mr. Blum and hope his strategy prevails. That said, this interview omitted the most interesting – and most controversial – implications of Mr. Blum’s perspective. *Why* do blacks continue to underachieve on average? Blum: “It’s because their mommas didn’t raise them right.” OK, but *why* don’t their mommas raise them right?
This interview doesn’t touch on the great disparities in family formation between blacks and Asians – the incidence of out-of-wedlock births, divorce, single-motherhood, multiple sexual partners, etc. – and what a profound impact this has on outcomes for their respective children. Apparently not every culture is equally good at promoting human flourishing, and not every lifestyle is equally healthy. Reading the historical and demographic record fully reveals that lifelong, monogamous, child-rearing coupling is the best building block for societies, and the first step of any meaningful attempt to improve educational outcomes for disadvantaged children.
So… do Mr. Blum and his interviewer understand that the war he’s waging on affirmative action implies a much deeper and more entrenched enemy, too – the sexual revolution?

Last edited 1 year ago by Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
1 year ago

I am wholly in agreement with Mr. Blum and hope his strategy prevails. That said, this interview omitted the most interesting – and most controversial – implications of Mr. Blum’s perspective. *Why* do blacks continue to underachieve on average? Blum: “It’s because their mommas didn’t raise them right.” OK, but *why* don’t their mommas raise them right?
This interview doesn’t touch on the great disparities in family formation between blacks and Asians – the incidence of out-of-wedlock births, divorce, single-motherhood, multiple sexual partners, etc. – and what a profound impact this has on outcomes for their respective children. Apparently not every culture is equally good at promoting human flourishing, and not every lifestyle is equally healthy. Reading the historical and demographic record fully reveals that lifelong, monogamous, child-rearing coupling is the best building block for societies, and the first step of any meaningful attempt to improve educational outcomes for disadvantaged children.
So… do Mr. Blum and his interviewer understand that the war he’s waging on affirmative action implies a much deeper and more entrenched enemy, too – the sexual revolution?

Last edited 1 year ago by Kirk Susong
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago

Racial or any other kind of affirmative action is an inherently flawed solution, not only on practical and legal grounds but also on moral grounds, to demographic disparities. That’s because those disparities are at due mainly to the cultural forces that drive personal and collective choices. Blum and Sayers agree on the importance of families, which can either encourage or discourage the cultural values that affect educational and economic attainment. Parental attitudes toward education propel some children (notably Asians and Jews), for example, into occupations that require academic achievement and others into occupations that do nothing of the kind.
What the authors don’t add, however, is that family structure itself is reproduced culturally.
The fact is that the children of single parents (no matter how loving and hard working) are at far greater risk than other children for every social, legal, psychological and even medical pathology. And this is true especially for single mothers. Children really do need both parents (for reasons that I’ve discussed elsewhere). More specifically in view of current conditions, boys really do need fathers living at home on an enduring basis (not pop-cultural icons, gang leaders or mom’s transient boyfriends). Trouble is, not all communities effectively encourage that kind of family life.
Worse, some communities actively discourage the cultural values that support academic achievement and economic success (such as the need for hard work, objective standards of merit, diligence, perseverance, delayed gratification, ambition, self-reliance, self-discipline, marriage and so forth) on the false assumption that these are “white” values and therefore not merely alien but shameful or even sinister.
To solve the problem of racial (or other) disparities, therefore, requires an early start. Every community must encourage young children, even preschoolers, to develop the personal skills that they will need later on as mature adults. These include, but are not limited to, verbal competence, literacy and numeracy). That’s much more likely than artificial and morally unsound legal remedies (such as abandoning the merit system and introducing affirmative action) to reduce demographic disparities in the long run. And by providing resources to young children of all communities on the basis of economic need, not arbitrary preference on the basis of innate factors, it would so without aggravating racial or other forms of polarization.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I’m in primary agreement with your expressed views, but I would note that single-parent households are not no-exit expressways to failure. Exhibit A: Barack Obama. One might also suspect that his color made it easier for him to attend Harvard Law School–although I don’t know this for a fact–after which he, in my opinion, proved himself amply capable because no one becomes editor of the Harvard Law Review on a “socially corrective” basis alone.
And when you state that all forms of affirmative action are inherently morally “flawed” do you mean they should never be used in any circumstances, such as right after the passage of the US Civil Right Acts of ’64 and ’65 or the end of Apartheid in South Africa, perhaps in certain color-stratified fields, for 5 or 10 years?
Also: Do you maintain that it would, for example, always be wrong to allow a lower-than-typical GPA in admitting an Appalachian 17-year-old with high SATs and IQ scores (or maybe an exceptional, demonstrated writing ability) who was raised in a shack by alcoholic or meth-addicted parents to an elite college scholarship?(Once in, certain fairly robust achievement and performance minimums are usually required of scholarship recipients). In other words, must the resources or non-arbitrary preferences be provided only to “young children of all communities on the basis of economic need”–never teenagers?

Wim de Vriend
Wim de Vriend
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

You ask if: “all forms of affirmative action are inherently morally ‘flawed’ do you mean they should never be used in any circumstances ..”
Seems to me that is not what people like Mr. Blum are saying; his position appears to be that it’s time to abolish the racial favoritism, bordering on outright corruption, that’s come to dominate university admissions, ever since the Supreme Court left the door open for such shenanigans. In short: Enough IS Enough.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Wim de Vriend

I agree with that position as you’ve stated it. I’m asking a few more nuanced questions of Mr. Nathanson about his own perspective, which I also respect.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Wim de Vriend

I agree with that position as you’ve stated it. I’m asking a few more nuanced questions of Mr. Nathanson about his own perspective, which I also respect.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

It’s true, AJ, of course, that some children of single mothers or single fathers do very well. It’s true also that some children with both mothers and fathers don’t do very well. In both cases, however, those are statistical exceptions. That makes a big difference in connection with laws and public policies, which are very blunt instruments. In democracies, these must serve primarily the needs of most people, if possible without neglecting those of other people. At one time, most children had both mothers and fathers. Some did not, because unusual circumstances prevailed (such as death, divorce or abandonment). These children were exceptions, which is why they could still rely on the resources of extended families, religious or other communities and agencies both private and public. But when unusual circumstances become statistically normal ones, which is now the case in many places, the phenomenon itself becomes very different. Expectations change accordingly and therefore so does society–but not necessarily for the good of everyone.
Within living memory (and throughout human history), everyone understood that marriage in one form or another was the ideal context for children–even though everyone understood that not every married couple was able to meet both the material and psychological needs of children. No-fault divorce originated as a way of helping those few couples to end their unhappy marriages quickly. But its ultimate effect–along with several other social and legal changes–was to undermine the stability of marriage. Moreover, no-fault divorce led to expedient changes in perceptions of children and their needs (while completely ignoring their legal or moral rights). To take only one example, divorced parents usually have less time to spend with their children (hardly any time at all for non-custodial fathers and often no time at all). Experts advised parents not to worry, because it was only “quality time” that their children needed. Not surprisingly, the divorce rate climbed steadily for decades.
So did the rate of unmarried (cohabiting) couples. The advent of same-sex marriage had similar effects by providing children with either two mothers or two fathers but not both mothers and fathers. Experts advised everyone not to worry, because mothers and fathers were virtually interchangeable. Like no-fault divorce, this was and still is an experiment in social engineering. Unfortunately, children are by definition unable to give their informed consent as experimental subjects.
By now, due to a series of changes over several decades, including the movement of single-mothers-by-choice, many millions of children lack either mothers or fathers (usually fathers). And yet the experts know very well that there is, for instance, a statistical correlation between fatherless boys and violent behavior (and other forms of pathology).
Meanwhile, the advent of abortion-on-demand and of some newer reproduction technologies have added to the symbolic decline of children as the bearers of rights. Children have been bystanders, to put it bluntly, in conflicts over the rights of adults.
Now, affirmative action. It’s politically expedient in some cases, to be sure, but still makes no moral sense. For one thing, it solves one problem but replaces it with another. Worse, it relies on the notion of collective guilt, which is inherently dehumanizing and is therefore–think of some horrific historical examples, especially from the twentieth century–a moral dead end.
But no, I would not exclude teenagers or even adults from financial aid based on income. Unlike race or sex, poverty is not innate (let alone an innate defect). The state can remedy that problem, or at least mitigate it, without resorting to solutions that polarize the population. I mentioned the needs of young children only because attending to them is–apart from anything else–the best way to prevent them from entering demographic underclasses later on.
As for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, its goal was to foster equality of opportunity, not “equity.”

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I largely agree, Paul, but there was certainly great poverty and misery within two parent households in previous generations and centuries. Sure the situation was statistically worse for fatherless or motherless or orphan children from otherwise similar backgrounds, but the notion that matrimony alone secured human flourishing–or, to be fair, is so strongly correlated with it–is greatly overstated, in my opinion.
The reason I reference the Civil Rights Acts is because that represents a time when black Americans remained at a sharp, really indisputable disadvantage and segregation and brutal currents of oppression still prevailed in much of the South. Saying “level playing field now, all good, best of luck!” may not be quite enough in such a circumstance, nor at the moment of the lifting of Apartheid, etc. I do agree that the time for the circa 1970 Affirmative Action approach has passed, and that it was not well-handled to begin with,
Should belonging to a class called Untouchable (dalit) be considered a non-prevailing disadvantage? And what of a poor person who comes from a “shabby genteel” background with tons of books and two brilliant parents at home…should they still get preferential treatment/additional help?
I get that you are talking about common, even predominant trends, but your tendency to frame them as absolutes, often drawing upon generalized overviews of history as corroboration–sometimes with examples–frustrates me at times. How many exceptions are needed to make a non-trivial counterweight? One percent, three, ten?
I agree that economic factors should be the prevailing measure for assistance and giving a “hand up”. But I do not think it is sufficient as a mono-metric. Descending from slaves or outcaste people within living memory (while those ancestors are still alive, at a minimum) is not correctly brushed aside or folded into a money box. As you know, single grand narratives always fall short, as do mono-metrics. Now I am not saying we can fix historical or present-day inequality by fiat, but I believe more nuanced and complex considerations should be allowed, or at least entertained.
Even so, I’ll try to afford you an augmented benefit of doubt when it arises and also refrain from taking issue with so many little things I disagree with or find to be incomplete, given that life is only so long and because I usually agree with you for the most part.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

“I get that you are talking about common, even predominant trends, but your tendency to frame them as absolutes, often drawing upon generalized overviews of history as corroboration–sometimes with examples–frustrates me at times. How many exceptions are needed to make a non-trivial counterweight? One percent, three, ten?”
I regret that you, and maybe other readers, focus attention on numbers. I’m not a statistician. Nor am I a social scientist. My focus is on moral or philosophical discourse. I use examples to illustrate intellectual problems, not to prove anything. Moreover, I reject the whole idea of comparative (read: competitive) suffering, because suffering is at least partly subjective, which many comparisons either intellectually illegitimate or morally unacceptable.
I’d never say that “matrimony alone” can “secure human flourishing” or guarantee happy outcomes, AJ, or that any one factor could ever do so. In this case, outcomes depend largely on how people define marriage in the first place. And definitions change, to some extent, according to cultural context. My colleague, Katherine Young, did a major study of the institution and found that many of its features vary considerably both cross-culturally and historically (endogamy or exogamy, monogamy or polygamy, matrilocality or patrilocality, dowry or bride price or neither, divorce or no divorce, extended family or nuclear family and so on), a few are nearly universal (such as economic interdependence and, until now, heterosexuality), but one is universal (not “procreation” per se but fostering an ideal environment for children). The arguments in favor of both no-fault divorce and same-sex marriage almost always rested on the idea that marriage is primarily about the rights of adults, not the rights (let alone the needs) of children.
This remains the default setting in retrospective debates . But that understanding of marriage is very recent in Western societies–and very rare in non-Western ones. And so is its matrix in philosophical, political and academic movements such as liberalism, individualism, social-constructionism, feminism and other forms of identitarianism. To answer your first question, therefore, I’d say that the continuing erosion of marriage itself due to lack of cultural support or even cultural hostility (except in very traditional or religious communities) is one important cause of “dysfunctional” families even within the context of marriage. There are no guarantees in this world, AJ. All we can do, in this case, is keep trying to put children first by rearranging our institutions accordingly. Sometimes, however, this begins to look like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
Back now to affirmative action. I understand that merely saying “’level playing field now, all good, best of luck!’ may not be quite enough.” And that’s not what the Civil Rights Act intended, because the playing field was not level in 1964. Kennedy and Johnson understood that making it level would require serious government intervention. But the goal (in those days) was equality of opportunity, not equity. The Act made it illegal to prevent anyone from being refused opportunities (mainly in education or employment) due to racial (and later sexual) prejudice. This was not affirmative action as that is now understood–which is to say, a quota system. The Act’s explicit goal was to establish and enforce legal equality for all people who qualified on personal merit for opportunities–and therefore to undermine practices that fostered racial (and later sexual) inequality. The Act had nothing to do with proportional representation, although many people did assume, perhaps naively, that something approximating proportional representation would eventually emerge.
The system actually worked very well for a while. Black people, in particular, were doing much better than they ever had, which led to the rise of a large black middle class. What changed all that was the sudden repudiation of Martin Luther’s King’s civil-rights movement (which had inspired the Civil Rights Act) and the rise of wokism (which replaced the demand for equality of opportunity with the demand for equity and the glorification of victimology on biological grounds–even though they deny biology in connection with transgenderism). Among its many lamentable results, I would include infantilizing and re-segregating black people (along with other “protected” minorities); undermining their competence (by destroying meritocracy in the interest of “compassion”); and increasing demographic polarization. In short, I see no evidence that affirmative action (on the basis of race, sex or any other innate characteristic), actually works.
Now, consider a very different society. Since independence, India has used legislation to set aside educational and employment “reservations” for low-caste Hindus and dalits. In a way, this has worked. They have indeed gained much from this version of affirmative action–so much that higher castes, including Brahmins in some parts of the country, have petitioned the government to lower their official status and thus allow them to take advantage of the opportunities.
But an underlying problem with this system is both ironic and notable. Caste is hereditary, although the place of every caste in the hierarchy can change. The reservation system itself, however, might as well be hereditary. Every politician in democratic countries and every government bureaucrat knows, after all, that advantages quickly become rights. Once given, therefore, they can never be rescinded no matter how circumstances have changed.
And that last principle applies everywhere, not only in India. Once American women gained the “right” to abortion, to take only one current example, no decision of the Supreme Court could convince many of them that this right had always been both politically expedient and federally unconstitutional or that new policies would be up to each state. My point here is that women are now an official victim class (no matter what their actual conditions) and men an official oppressor class (no matter what their actual conditions). I just used the word “class,” but I could have used the word “caste.”
You say that “Descending from slaves or outcaste people within living memory (while those ancestors are still alive, at a minimum) is not correctly brushed aside or folded into a money box.” That’s true, AJ, as long as you keep repeating “within living memory.” This reminds me of another example of reparations. After World War II, West Germany decided that victims of the Nazi regime deserved both financial reparations and restitution of stolen property. Some Germans must have resented this, but no one seriously challenged it on moral or legal grounds. What mattered was that the perps–those who had personally supported the Nazi regime–paid for doing so (if not by serving time in jail then at least by paying their taxes).
One key feature of “making things good again” (Wiedergutmachung) was that the policy applied to the (surviving) victims themselves and their immediate descendants (most of whom were no longer German citizens or residents by that time). The policy applied also to diplomatic and economic relations with the State of Israel (as distinct from Jewish victims who migrated there as individuals). In short, the German state did everything but raise the dead in order to restore its national honor and promote reconciliation. I have no moral problem with that.
But reparations for American slavery would be much more complicated, both morally and legally, than reparations for Nazi persecution. For one thing, it’s way beyond living memory. Both the perps and the victims are long gone. In any case, not all descendants of the victims, by any means, are still picking cotton. And of those who still remain impoverished, not all by any means can legitimately blame slavery or even segregation for their woes. Never mind the practical problems of what to do for mixed-race people (quadroons and octoroons, again, anyone?) or what to do for the many other Americans who experienced collective traumas either before or after immigration. Never mind that the ancestors of those who would be forced to pay these reparations were not necessarily even in the United States during slavery or that many of those who were had actually fought against slavery during the bloody civil war that ended it. Never mind even whether reparations would actually achieve anything but provide rich Americans with a reason for virtue-signaling. I don’t see how to make any of this “good again,” frankly, except by continuing to insist that racism must never again be institutionalized. And frankly, woke rhetoric notwithstanding, Americans had been doing precisely that, effectively, until the wokers began to de-legitimate the country, restore segregation, reverse the civil-rights movement and dismantle or destroy every institution.

Last edited 1 year ago by Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

AJ, I tried to reply more than 12 hours ago, but my comment went MIA. I’ll try again.
*
“I get that you are talking about common, even predominant trends, but your tendency to frame them as absolutes, often drawing upon generalized overviews of history as corroboration–sometimes with examples–frustrates me at times. How many exceptions are needed to make a non-trivial counterweight? One percent, three, ten?”
I regret that you, and maybe other readers, focus attention on numbers. I’m not a statistician. Nor am I a social scientist. My focus is on moral or philosophical discourse. I use examples to illustrate intellectual problems, not to prove anything. Moreover, I reject the whole idea of comparative (read: competitive) suffering, because suffering is at least partly subjective, which many comparisons either intellectually illegitimate or morally unacceptable.
I’d never say that “matrimony alone” can “secure human flourishing” or guarantee happy outcomes, AJ, or that any one factor could ever do so. In this case, outcomes depend largely on how people define marriage in the first place. And definitions change, to some extent, according to cultural context. My colleague, Katherine Young, did a major study of the institution and found that many of its features vary considerably both cross-culturally and historically (endogamy or exogamy, monogamy or polygamy, matrilocality or patrilocality, dowry or bride price or neither, divorce or no divorce, extended family or nuclear family and so on), a few are nearly universal (such as economic interdependence and, until now, heterosexuality), but one is universal (not “procreation” per se but fostering an ideal environment for children). The arguments in favor of both no-fault divorce and same-sex marriage almost always rested on the idea that marriage is primarily about the rights of adults, not the rights (let alone the needs) of children.
This remains the default setting in retrospective debates. But that understanding of marriage is very recent in Western societies–and very rare in non-Western ones. And so is its matrix in philosophical, political and academic movements such as liberalism, individualism, social-constructionism, feminism and other forms of identitarianism. To answer your first question, therefore, I’d say that the continuing erosion of marriage itself due to lack of cultural support or even cultural hostility (except in very traditional or religious communities) is one important cause of “dysfunctional” families even within the context of marriage. There are no guarantees in this world, AJ. All we can do, in this case, is keep trying to put children first by rearranging our institutions accordingly. Sometimes, however, this begins to look like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
Back now to affirmative action. I understand that merely saying “’level playing field now, all good, best of luck!’ may not be quite enough.” And that’s not what the Civil Rights Act intended, because the playing field was not level in 1964. Kennedy and Johnson understood that making it level would require serious government intervention. But the goal (in those days) was equality of opportunity, not equity. The Act made it illegal to prevent anyone from being refused opportunities (mainly in education or employment) due to racial (and later sexual) prejudice. This was not affirmative action as that is now understood–which is to say, a quota system. The Act’s explicit goal was to establish and enforce legal equality for all people who qualified on personal merit for opportunities–and therefore to undermine practices that fostered racial (and later sexual) inequality. The Act had nothing to do with proportional representation, although many people did assume, perhaps naively, that something approximating proportional representation would eventually emerge.
The system actually worked very well for a while. Black people, in particular, were doing much better than they ever had, which led to the rise of a large black middle class. What changed all that was the sudden repudiation of Martin Luther’s King’s civil-rights movement (which had inspired the Civil Rights Act) and the rise of wokism (which replaced the demand for equality of opportunity with the demand for equity and the glorification of victimology on biological grounds–even though they deny biology in connection with transgenderism). Among its many lamentable results, I would include infantilizing and re-segregating black people (along with other “protected” minorities); undermining their competence (by destroying meritocracy in the interest of “compassion”); and increasing demographic polarization. In short, I see no evidence that affirmative action (on the basis of race, sex or any other innate characteristic), actually works.
Now, consider a very different society. Since independence, India has used legislation to set aside educational and employment “reservations” for low-caste Hindus and dalits. In a way, this has worked. They have indeed gained much from this version of affirmative action–so much that higher castes, including Brahmins in some parts of the country, have petitioned the government to lower their official status and thus allow them to take advantage of the opportunities.
But an underlying problem with this system is both ironic and notable. Caste is hereditary, although the place of every caste in the hierarchy can change. The reservation system itself, however, might as well be hereditary. Every politician in democratic countries and every government bureaucrat knows, after all, that advantages quickly become rights. Once given, therefore, they can never be rescinded no matter how circumstances have changed.
And that last principle applies everywhere, not only in India. Once American women gained the “right” to abortion, to take only one current example, no decision of the Supreme Court could convince many of them that this right had been always been both politically expedient and federally unconstitutional or that new policies would be up to each state. My point here is that women are now an official victim class (no matter what their actual conditions) and men an official oppressor class (no matter what their actual conditions). I just used the word “class,” but I could have used the word “caste.”
You say that “Descending from slaves or outcaste people within living memory (while those ancestors are still alive, at a minimum) is not correctly brushed aside or folded into a money box.” That’s true, AJ, as long as you keep repeating “within living memory.” This reminds me of another example of reparations. After World War II, West Germany decided that victims of the Nazi regime deserved both financial reparations and restitution of stolen property. Some Germans must have resented this, but no one seriously challenged it on moral or legal grounds. What mattered was that the perps–those who had personally supported the Nazi regime–paid for doing so (if not by serving time in jail then at least by paying their taxes).
One key feature of “making things good again” (Wiedergutmachung) was that the policy applied to the (surviving) victims themselves and their immediate descendants (most of whom were no longer German citizens or residents by that time). The policy applied also to diplomatic and economic relations with the State of Israel (as distinct from Jewish victims who migrated there as individuals). In short, the German state did everything but raise the dead in order to restore its national honor and promote reconciliation. I have no moral problem with that.
But reparations for American slavery would be much more complicated, both morally and legally, than reparations for Nazi persecution. For one thing, it’s way beyond living memory. Both the perps and the victims are long gone. In any case, not all descendants of the victims, by any means, are still picking cotton. And of those who still remain impoverished, not all by any means can legitimately blame slavery or even segregation for their woes. Never mind the practical problems of what to do for mixed-race people (quadroons and octoroons, again, anyone?) or what to do for the many other Americans who experienced collective traumas either before or after immigration. Never mind that the ancestors of those who would be forced to pay these reparations were not necessarily even in the United States during slavery or that many of those who were had actually fought against slavery during the bloody civil war that ended it. Never mind even whether reparations would actually achieve anything but provide rich Americans with a reason for virtue-signaling. I don’t see how to make any of this “good again,” frankly, except by continuing to insist that racism must never again be institutionalized. And frankly, woke rhetoric notwithstanding, Americans had been doing precisely that, effectively, until the wokers began to de-legitimate the country, restore segregation, reverse the civil-rights movement and dismantle or destroy every institution.
 

Last edited 1 year ago by Paul Nathanson
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

That’s all sensible and persuasive enough, Paul, especially as a moral or sociological argument that doesn’t pretend to be the final or complete truth of the matter. (Digital thumbs-up, incidentally).
I disagree that the wokesters ruined a society that was working well–because things like crime and incarceration and functional illiteracy, etc, have been bad since well before the Wokistanis breached academic and protest-circle borders–but rabid wokism has made things worse, for sure, as has the predictable overreaction on the far-far right (no mention of Rosa Parks being black in a grade school Civil Rights lesson, because that’s too negative or down on America? Readiness to secede and fight a Second Civil War?).
And I don’t think it requires a fixation on numbers to point out the situation is more nuanced than you sometimes assert, especially since you make recourse to probabilities and tendencies to make your case(s) yourself. Clarifications and actual numbers over rules-of-thumb and general trends, when known, are certainly a valid part of the discussion. As you know, a one-percent divergence in a group of a billion people totals 10 million souls. Not trivial or minor. Also, I will endeavor to afford you augmented latitude since I know your approach and fundamental fairmindedness. A like courtesy is requested. (Although I understand that it’s usually me questioning you.)
I agree that slavery reparations are a Pandora’s box, especially if cash payments are involved. Some rental assistance or tuition relief, etc. would be different, I think (and some of that already exists, of course). We need a long moment of national healing, but nobody not living in a pollyannaish pipe dream would hold their breath for that at present. I refuse to resign myself to picking one bellicose side in a cultural or (hope not) actual war, but it is a mess, no doubt.
And I agree that race-based college-admissions are a mistake, although considering parental educational level and other non-strictly-economic factors in awarding scholarships (without relaxed standards for entry) makes more sense to me. Thanks for the exchange.
You mentioned elsewhere that you are gay (correct?). On another board in the near future, I would like to hear what time you thought was better than today or might prefer to return to from your own standpoint given that fact. And do you think same-sex marriage should be illegal or just discouraged?

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

You make my day, AJ, really you do. It’s because you actually care about ideas (which affect people’s lives) and enjoy debating them (not ranting about them). Once again, I don’t know how much longer we can continue on one thread, so I hope that you’ll continue reading for this round.
I would never say that everything was working well until the sudden ascent of wokism. Far from it. I spent thirty years on research about one problem that that had already been growing for half a century: misandry (the sexist counterpart of misogyny). And wokism didn’t overtake ideological forms of feminism. On the contrary, it added, absorbed or incorporated them as variants of its own racial ideology, thus increasing (not inventing) polarization. The underlying problem from my point of view is not this or that form of ideological hatred but hatred itself. And that, of course, is as old as human history.
As I’ve said, moreover, many or even most institutions—marriage, public education, the university (including law schools and departments of humanities), journalism, organized religions, political discourse and so on—were already in deep trouble by the time that wokism arrived. But this is not to say that I look back at the world before 1960 as a lost paradise. There is no lost paradise within history, which includes the past, the present and the future.
Full disclosure: most people would classify me as conservative, although many conservatives would denounce me for a few of my opinions. My frame of reference is conservatism by default, in other words, not nostalgia. I’ll pause here to make that as clear as I can in moral or philosophical terms.
Like most people at all times and in all places, I’d like to return to the familiar and therefore comforting world of my own childhood. After all, I was always encouraged and protected by my parents. But that memory has nothing to do with the 1950s as history and everything to do with nostalgia (and, given memories of many unhappy events beyond my home, not entirely attractive even as nostalgia). Moreover, most religious traditions see the present as an interlude between a primeval paradise and an eschatological paradise. But that notion, too, has nothing to do with history and everything to do with myth. I can explain that if you like, but I won’t do so here.
History, per se, is not a series of episodes, some good (characterized by prosperity, confidence, hope) and others bad (characterized by crime waves, depressions, wars, chaos). Nor is history a straight line either from bad to good (which amounts to naĂŻve optimism) or from good to bad (which amounts to cynical pessimism). At any one time, after all, life is good for some people (or in some ways) but bad for other people (or in other ways). You could see history is a field that is littered, therefore, with the scattered memories of collective dreams and nightmares.
Nostalgia evaluates history on the basis of subjective sentiment. Conservatism, on the other hand, considers objective historical reality in order to distinguish between what is valuable enough to conserve or at least to build on and what is not. I can’t think of any conservative leader who would want to re-establish slavery, by the way, let alone to fight a new civil war. And I can’t think of any conservative leader who would ignore the story of Rosa Parks and the struggle against segregation. They want people, including grade-school students, to learn about those ugly crimes but also to set them within a larger context of the nation’s ultimate ideals and achievements.
Some historical contrasts are relatively easy to see. During the early and mid-twentieth century, marriage and the family were much stronger institutions, on the whole, than they are now—and in ways that were generally helpful (though not, of course, perfect) for children. But relatively recent medical breakthroughs have meant that we are much healthier and live much longer now, on the whole, than in those days. How many people would want to go back in time and watch their children die of polio or diphtheria? And even if returning to the past were desirable, it would still be impossible.
Other historical contrasts are somewhat harder to see—partly because many people don’t want to see anything that would require recognition of the corruption or evil within themselves. During the early twentieth century, one country after another succumbed to totalitarianism, whether of the Left or the Right. But in our time, one country after another is succumbing to new—or thinly disguised—forms of totalitarianism. In both cases, the problem has been dualism—which has a very long history, once within organized religions—Jewish and Christian scriptural texts, for example, have preserved dualistic tendencies in some places but denounced it in others—and now within all secular political ideologies. The only antidote to dualism (“us” vs. “them”), no matter when or where, is recognition that the source of evil or suffering isn’t only “out there,” in other words, but also “in here.” This is why justice refers not to revenge but to forgiveness and reconciliation.
Yes, I’m gay. And yes, I did oppose gay marriage (although I did and still do support gay relationships). I can hardly oppose what is now legal, of course, so I merely hope that society as a whole thinks more carefully about gay marriage, no-fault and single-parents-by-choice in connection with the needs (and rights) of children). Instead of re-writing what I’ve already written elsewhere, here’s a link to one series of my comments on the topic: Kathleen Stock, “Can the NatCon Revolution Escape the Past?” UnHerd, 19 May 2023; unherd.com/2023/05/can-the-natcon-revolution-escape-the-past/?tl_inbound=1&tl_groups[0]=18743&tl_period_type=3&mc_cid=d6309d6476&mc_eid=f2fa9eee10
To conclude, AJ, I admire your refusal to “pick one bellicose side” over the other, which might be all that anyone can do about very ambiguous conflicts. But I also think that we do need to make choices in some situations—even if a choice amounts to the lesser of two evils. Doing nothing while everything of value in our civilization is being destroyed by people who openly advocate its destruction in the name of “compassion” or “progress,” is not what this particular moment demands.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Very fair and well-elaborated remarks, Paul. Thank you both for the compliments and personal background you shared. I do care about ideas (not mainly in the abstract, as you say) and while I’m not above ranting I prefer not to and I’ve tried to cut down on it. You tend to bring out my calmer and more polite side.
I’m more of an advocate for incremental progress (but cannot accept “progressive” these days given its associations and key proponents), but with significant strains of traditionalism. For instance: I love many very-old books and pieces of music and oppose efforts to label and dismiss them for their various “isms”, as if the Greeks, for example, should have had a 21st-century notion of fairness or whatever. (However, a few “classic” authors seem prevailingly bad–I’m tempted to mention a few but I don’t think it’s helpful–not to the point of deserving cancellation, but more “context” and critical examination, which is something I think the lefties are right to advocate, within reason–would that they were more reasonable more often!).
I’m not a burn-it-down-and-start-over revolutionary, nor a things-were fine-once-upon-a-time nostalgist. I’d estimate I lean a little to the left of you overall, but I agree with you on many things and trust your sincerity altogether. While the terms are often misused I don’t think bleeding-heart pity or laxity of standards is synonymous with “compassion”, nor chaos and violent revolt with “progress”. I can envision possible cases for revolution, but I’d be very hard to convince when it comes to any avoidable bloodshed, however just or inspired the cause might seem, or even be in Reality–which is something I don’t regard as purely power-controlled or relative but very elusive from a human perspective, in its “capital R” version anyway.
I have a bit of a libertarian streak I guess, though I’m not a wild-west free-marketeer or no-safety-net bootstrapper. I think both the left and right are unusually overrepresented by extremists and war-like perspectives right now.
I fully agree that we often need to make choices between imperfect things. But I will continue to try and love my enemies–though that is a toweringly high bar and I won’t be able to like them or let them hit me on the cheek a second time–and refrain from believing everything I think. Writing this, it occurs to me that I could be doing a much better job of adhering to my own stated ideals.
I’ve really enjoyed this digital chat and I’ll see you on the next board.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Very fair and well-elaborated remarks, Paul. Thank you both for the compliments and personal background you shared. I do care about ideas (not mainly in the abstract, as you say) and while I’m not above ranting I prefer not to and I’ve tried to cut down on it. You tend to bring out my calmer and more polite side.
I’m more of an advocate for incremental progress (but cannot accept “progressive” these days given its associations and key proponents), but with significant strains of traditionalism. For instance: I love many very-old books and pieces of music and oppose efforts to label and dismiss them for their various “isms”, as if the Greeks, for example, should have had a 21st-century notion of fairness or whatever. (However, a few “classic” authors seem prevailingly bad–I’m tempted to mention a few but I don’t think it’s helpful–not to the point of deserving cancellation, but more “context” and critical examination, which is something I think the lefties are right to advocate, within reason–would that they were more reasonable more often!).
I’m not a burn-it-down-and-start-over revolutionary, nor a things-were fine-once-upon-a-time nostalgist. I’d estimate I lean a little to the left of you overall, but I agree with you on many things and trust your sincerity altogether. While the terms are often misused I don’t think bleeding-heart pity or laxity of standards is synonymous with “compassion”, nor chaos and violent revolt with “progress”. I can envision possible cases for revolution, but I’d be very hard to convince when it comes to any avoidable bloodshed, however just or inspired the cause might seem, or even be in Reality–which is something I don’t regard as purely power-controlled or relative but very elusive from a human perspective, in its “capital R” version anyway.
I have a bit of a libertarian streak I guess, though I’m not a wild-west free-marketeer or no-safety-net bootstrapper. I think both the left and right are unusually overrepresented by extremists and war-like perspectives right now.
I fully agree that we often need to make choices between imperfect things. But I will continue to try and love my enemies–though that is a toweringly high bar and I won’t be able to like them or let them hit me on the cheek a second time–and refrain from believing everything I think. Writing this, it occurs to me that I could be doing a much better job of adhering to my own stated ideals.
I’ve really enjoyed this digital chat and I’ll see you on the next board.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

You make my day, AJ, really you do. It’s because you actually care about ideas (which affect people’s lives) and enjoy debating them (not ranting about them). Once again, I don’t know how much longer we can continue on one thread, so I hope that you’ll continue reading for this round.
I would never say that everything was working well until the sudden ascent of wokism. Far from it. I spent thirty years on research about one problem that that had already been growing for half a century: misandry (the sexist counterpart of misogyny). And wokism didn’t overtake ideological forms of feminism. On the contrary, it added, absorbed or incorporated them as variants of its own racial ideology, thus increasing (not inventing) polarization. The underlying problem from my point of view is not this or that form of ideological hatred but hatred itself. And that, of course, is as old as human history.
As I’ve said, moreover, many or even most institutions—marriage, public education, the university (including law schools and departments of humanities), journalism, organized religions, political discourse and so on—were already in deep trouble by the time that wokism arrived. But this is not to say that I look back at the world before 1960 as a lost paradise. There is no lost paradise within history, which includes the past, the present and the future.
Full disclosure: most people would classify me as conservative, although many conservatives would denounce me for a few of my opinions. My frame of reference is conservatism by default, in other words, not nostalgia. I’ll pause here to make that as clear as I can in moral or philosophical terms.
Like most people at all times and in all places, I’d like to return to the familiar and therefore comforting world of my own childhood. After all, I was always encouraged and protected by my parents. But that memory has nothing to do with the 1950s as history and everything to do with nostalgia (and, given memories of many unhappy events beyond my home, not entirely attractive even as nostalgia). Moreover, most religious traditions see the present as an interlude between a primeval paradise and an eschatological paradise. But that notion, too, has nothing to do with history and everything to do with myth. I can explain that if you like, but I won’t do so here.
History, per se, is not a series of episodes, some good (characterized by prosperity, confidence, hope) and others bad (characterized by crime waves, depressions, wars, chaos). Nor is history a straight line either from bad to good (which amounts to naĂŻve optimism) or from good to bad (which amounts to cynical pessimism). At any one time, after all, life is good for some people (or in some ways) but bad for other people (or in other ways). You could see history is a field that is littered, therefore, with the scattered memories of collective dreams and nightmares.
Nostalgia evaluates history on the basis of subjective sentiment. Conservatism, on the other hand, considers objective historical reality in order to distinguish between what is valuable enough to conserve or at least to build on and what is not. I can’t think of any conservative leader who would want to re-establish slavery, by the way, let alone to fight a new civil war. And I can’t think of any conservative leader who would ignore the story of Rosa Parks and the struggle against segregation. They want people, including grade-school students, to learn about those ugly crimes but also to set them within a larger context of the nation’s ultimate ideals and achievements.
Some historical contrasts are relatively easy to see. During the early and mid-twentieth century, marriage and the family were much stronger institutions, on the whole, than they are now—and in ways that were generally helpful (though not, of course, perfect) for children. But relatively recent medical breakthroughs have meant that we are much healthier and live much longer now, on the whole, than in those days. How many people would want to go back in time and watch their children die of polio or diphtheria? And even if returning to the past were desirable, it would still be impossible.
Other historical contrasts are somewhat harder to see—partly because many people don’t want to see anything that would require recognition of the corruption or evil within themselves. During the early twentieth century, one country after another succumbed to totalitarianism, whether of the Left or the Right. But in our time, one country after another is succumbing to new—or thinly disguised—forms of totalitarianism. In both cases, the problem has been dualism—which has a very long history, once within organized religions—Jewish and Christian scriptural texts, for example, have preserved dualistic tendencies in some places but denounced it in others—and now within all secular political ideologies. The only antidote to dualism (“us” vs. “them”), no matter when or where, is recognition that the source of evil or suffering isn’t only “out there,” in other words, but also “in here.” This is why justice refers not to revenge but to forgiveness and reconciliation.
Yes, I’m gay. And yes, I did oppose gay marriage (although I did and still do support gay relationships). I can hardly oppose what is now legal, of course, so I merely hope that society as a whole thinks more carefully about gay marriage, no-fault and single-parents-by-choice in connection with the needs (and rights) of children). Instead of re-writing what I’ve already written elsewhere, here’s a link to one series of my comments on the topic: Kathleen Stock, “Can the NatCon Revolution Escape the Past?” UnHerd, 19 May 2023; unherd.com/2023/05/can-the-natcon-revolution-escape-the-past/?tl_inbound=1&tl_groups[0]=18743&tl_period_type=3&mc_cid=d6309d6476&mc_eid=f2fa9eee10
To conclude, AJ, I admire your refusal to “pick one bellicose side” over the other, which might be all that anyone can do about very ambiguous conflicts. But I also think that we do need to make choices in some situations—even if a choice amounts to the lesser of two evils. Doing nothing while everything of value in our civilization is being destroyed by people who openly advocate its destruction in the name of “compassion” or “progress,” is not what this particular moment demands.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

That’s all sensible and persuasive enough, Paul, especially as a moral or sociological argument that doesn’t pretend to be the final or complete truth of the matter. (Digital thumbs-up, incidentally).
I disagree that the wokesters ruined a society that was working well–because things like crime and incarceration and functional illiteracy, etc, have been bad since well before the Wokistanis breached academic and protest-circle borders–but rabid wokism has made things worse, for sure, as has the predictable overreaction on the far-far right (no mention of Rosa Parks being black in a grade school Civil Rights lesson, because that’s too negative or down on America? Readiness to secede and fight a Second Civil War?).
And I don’t think it requires a fixation on numbers to point out the situation is more nuanced than you sometimes assert, especially since you make recourse to probabilities and tendencies to make your case(s) yourself. Clarifications and actual numbers over rules-of-thumb and general trends, when known, are certainly a valid part of the discussion. As you know, a one-percent divergence in a group of a billion people totals 10 million souls. Not trivial or minor. Also, I will endeavor to afford you augmented latitude since I know your approach and fundamental fairmindedness. A like courtesy is requested. (Although I understand that it’s usually me questioning you.)
I agree that slavery reparations are a Pandora’s box, especially if cash payments are involved. Some rental assistance or tuition relief, etc. would be different, I think (and some of that already exists, of course). We need a long moment of national healing, but nobody not living in a pollyannaish pipe dream would hold their breath for that at present. I refuse to resign myself to picking one bellicose side in a cultural or (hope not) actual war, but it is a mess, no doubt.
And I agree that race-based college-admissions are a mistake, although considering parental educational level and other non-strictly-economic factors in awarding scholarships (without relaxed standards for entry) makes more sense to me. Thanks for the exchange.
You mentioned elsewhere that you are gay (correct?). On another board in the near future, I would like to hear what time you thought was better than today or might prefer to return to from your own standpoint given that fact. And do you think same-sex marriage should be illegal or just discouraged?

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

“I get that you are talking about common, even predominant trends, but your tendency to frame them as absolutes, often drawing upon generalized overviews of history as corroboration–sometimes with examples–frustrates me at times. How many exceptions are needed to make a non-trivial counterweight? One percent, three, ten?”
I regret that you, and maybe other readers, focus attention on numbers. I’m not a statistician. Nor am I a social scientist. My focus is on moral or philosophical discourse. I use examples to illustrate intellectual problems, not to prove anything. Moreover, I reject the whole idea of comparative (read: competitive) suffering, because suffering is at least partly subjective, which many comparisons either intellectually illegitimate or morally unacceptable.
I’d never say that “matrimony alone” can “secure human flourishing” or guarantee happy outcomes, AJ, or that any one factor could ever do so. In this case, outcomes depend largely on how people define marriage in the first place. And definitions change, to some extent, according to cultural context. My colleague, Katherine Young, did a major study of the institution and found that many of its features vary considerably both cross-culturally and historically (endogamy or exogamy, monogamy or polygamy, matrilocality or patrilocality, dowry or bride price or neither, divorce or no divorce, extended family or nuclear family and so on), a few are nearly universal (such as economic interdependence and, until now, heterosexuality), but one is universal (not “procreation” per se but fostering an ideal environment for children). The arguments in favor of both no-fault divorce and same-sex marriage almost always rested on the idea that marriage is primarily about the rights of adults, not the rights (let alone the needs) of children.
This remains the default setting in retrospective debates . But that understanding of marriage is very recent in Western societies–and very rare in non-Western ones. And so is its matrix in philosophical, political and academic movements such as liberalism, individualism, social-constructionism, feminism and other forms of identitarianism. To answer your first question, therefore, I’d say that the continuing erosion of marriage itself due to lack of cultural support or even cultural hostility (except in very traditional or religious communities) is one important cause of “dysfunctional” families even within the context of marriage. There are no guarantees in this world, AJ. All we can do, in this case, is keep trying to put children first by rearranging our institutions accordingly. Sometimes, however, this begins to look like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
Back now to affirmative action. I understand that merely saying “’level playing field now, all good, best of luck!’ may not be quite enough.” And that’s not what the Civil Rights Act intended, because the playing field was not level in 1964. Kennedy and Johnson understood that making it level would require serious government intervention. But the goal (in those days) was equality of opportunity, not equity. The Act made it illegal to prevent anyone from being refused opportunities (mainly in education or employment) due to racial (and later sexual) prejudice. This was not affirmative action as that is now understood–which is to say, a quota system. The Act’s explicit goal was to establish and enforce legal equality for all people who qualified on personal merit for opportunities–and therefore to undermine practices that fostered racial (and later sexual) inequality. The Act had nothing to do with proportional representation, although many people did assume, perhaps naively, that something approximating proportional representation would eventually emerge.
The system actually worked very well for a while. Black people, in particular, were doing much better than they ever had, which led to the rise of a large black middle class. What changed all that was the sudden repudiation of Martin Luther’s King’s civil-rights movement (which had inspired the Civil Rights Act) and the rise of wokism (which replaced the demand for equality of opportunity with the demand for equity and the glorification of victimology on biological grounds–even though they deny biology in connection with transgenderism). Among its many lamentable results, I would include infantilizing and re-segregating black people (along with other “protected” minorities); undermining their competence (by destroying meritocracy in the interest of “compassion”); and increasing demographic polarization. In short, I see no evidence that affirmative action (on the basis of race, sex or any other innate characteristic), actually works.
Now, consider a very different society. Since independence, India has used legislation to set aside educational and employment “reservations” for low-caste Hindus and dalits. In a way, this has worked. They have indeed gained much from this version of affirmative action–so much that higher castes, including Brahmins in some parts of the country, have petitioned the government to lower their official status and thus allow them to take advantage of the opportunities.
But an underlying problem with this system is both ironic and notable. Caste is hereditary, although the place of every caste in the hierarchy can change. The reservation system itself, however, might as well be hereditary. Every politician in democratic countries and every government bureaucrat knows, after all, that advantages quickly become rights. Once given, therefore, they can never be rescinded no matter how circumstances have changed.
And that last principle applies everywhere, not only in India. Once American women gained the “right” to abortion, to take only one current example, no decision of the Supreme Court could convince many of them that this right had always been both politically expedient and federally unconstitutional or that new policies would be up to each state. My point here is that women are now an official victim class (no matter what their actual conditions) and men an official oppressor class (no matter what their actual conditions). I just used the word “class,” but I could have used the word “caste.”
You say that “Descending from slaves or outcaste people within living memory (while those ancestors are still alive, at a minimum) is not correctly brushed aside or folded into a money box.” That’s true, AJ, as long as you keep repeating “within living memory.” This reminds me of another example of reparations. After World War II, West Germany decided that victims of the Nazi regime deserved both financial reparations and restitution of stolen property. Some Germans must have resented this, but no one seriously challenged it on moral or legal grounds. What mattered was that the perps–those who had personally supported the Nazi regime–paid for doing so (if not by serving time in jail then at least by paying their taxes).
One key feature of “making things good again” (Wiedergutmachung) was that the policy applied to the (surviving) victims themselves and their immediate descendants (most of whom were no longer German citizens or residents by that time). The policy applied also to diplomatic and economic relations with the State of Israel (as distinct from Jewish victims who migrated there as individuals). In short, the German state did everything but raise the dead in order to restore its national honor and promote reconciliation. I have no moral problem with that.
But reparations for American slavery would be much more complicated, both morally and legally, than reparations for Nazi persecution. For one thing, it’s way beyond living memory. Both the perps and the victims are long gone. In any case, not all descendants of the victims, by any means, are still picking cotton. And of those who still remain impoverished, not all by any means can legitimately blame slavery or even segregation for their woes. Never mind the practical problems of what to do for mixed-race people (quadroons and octoroons, again, anyone?) or what to do for the many other Americans who experienced collective traumas either before or after immigration. Never mind that the ancestors of those who would be forced to pay these reparations were not necessarily even in the United States during slavery or that many of those who were had actually fought against slavery during the bloody civil war that ended it. Never mind even whether reparations would actually achieve anything but provide rich Americans with a reason for virtue-signaling. I don’t see how to make any of this “good again,” frankly, except by continuing to insist that racism must never again be institutionalized. And frankly, woke rhetoric notwithstanding, Americans had been doing precisely that, effectively, until the wokers began to de-legitimate the country, restore segregation, reverse the civil-rights movement and dismantle or destroy every institution.

Last edited 1 year ago by Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

AJ, I tried to reply more than 12 hours ago, but my comment went MIA. I’ll try again.
*
“I get that you are talking about common, even predominant trends, but your tendency to frame them as absolutes, often drawing upon generalized overviews of history as corroboration–sometimes with examples–frustrates me at times. How many exceptions are needed to make a non-trivial counterweight? One percent, three, ten?”
I regret that you, and maybe other readers, focus attention on numbers. I’m not a statistician. Nor am I a social scientist. My focus is on moral or philosophical discourse. I use examples to illustrate intellectual problems, not to prove anything. Moreover, I reject the whole idea of comparative (read: competitive) suffering, because suffering is at least partly subjective, which many comparisons either intellectually illegitimate or morally unacceptable.
I’d never say that “matrimony alone” can “secure human flourishing” or guarantee happy outcomes, AJ, or that any one factor could ever do so. In this case, outcomes depend largely on how people define marriage in the first place. And definitions change, to some extent, according to cultural context. My colleague, Katherine Young, did a major study of the institution and found that many of its features vary considerably both cross-culturally and historically (endogamy or exogamy, monogamy or polygamy, matrilocality or patrilocality, dowry or bride price or neither, divorce or no divorce, extended family or nuclear family and so on), a few are nearly universal (such as economic interdependence and, until now, heterosexuality), but one is universal (not “procreation” per se but fostering an ideal environment for children). The arguments in favor of both no-fault divorce and same-sex marriage almost always rested on the idea that marriage is primarily about the rights of adults, not the rights (let alone the needs) of children.
This remains the default setting in retrospective debates. But that understanding of marriage is very recent in Western societies–and very rare in non-Western ones. And so is its matrix in philosophical, political and academic movements such as liberalism, individualism, social-constructionism, feminism and other forms of identitarianism. To answer your first question, therefore, I’d say that the continuing erosion of marriage itself due to lack of cultural support or even cultural hostility (except in very traditional or religious communities) is one important cause of “dysfunctional” families even within the context of marriage. There are no guarantees in this world, AJ. All we can do, in this case, is keep trying to put children first by rearranging our institutions accordingly. Sometimes, however, this begins to look like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
Back now to affirmative action. I understand that merely saying “’level playing field now, all good, best of luck!’ may not be quite enough.” And that’s not what the Civil Rights Act intended, because the playing field was not level in 1964. Kennedy and Johnson understood that making it level would require serious government intervention. But the goal (in those days) was equality of opportunity, not equity. The Act made it illegal to prevent anyone from being refused opportunities (mainly in education or employment) due to racial (and later sexual) prejudice. This was not affirmative action as that is now understood–which is to say, a quota system. The Act’s explicit goal was to establish and enforce legal equality for all people who qualified on personal merit for opportunities–and therefore to undermine practices that fostered racial (and later sexual) inequality. The Act had nothing to do with proportional representation, although many people did assume, perhaps naively, that something approximating proportional representation would eventually emerge.
The system actually worked very well for a while. Black people, in particular, were doing much better than they ever had, which led to the rise of a large black middle class. What changed all that was the sudden repudiation of Martin Luther’s King’s civil-rights movement (which had inspired the Civil Rights Act) and the rise of wokism (which replaced the demand for equality of opportunity with the demand for equity and the glorification of victimology on biological grounds–even though they deny biology in connection with transgenderism). Among its many lamentable results, I would include infantilizing and re-segregating black people (along with other “protected” minorities); undermining their competence (by destroying meritocracy in the interest of “compassion”); and increasing demographic polarization. In short, I see no evidence that affirmative action (on the basis of race, sex or any other innate characteristic), actually works.
Now, consider a very different society. Since independence, India has used legislation to set aside educational and employment “reservations” for low-caste Hindus and dalits. In a way, this has worked. They have indeed gained much from this version of affirmative action–so much that higher castes, including Brahmins in some parts of the country, have petitioned the government to lower their official status and thus allow them to take advantage of the opportunities.
But an underlying problem with this system is both ironic and notable. Caste is hereditary, although the place of every caste in the hierarchy can change. The reservation system itself, however, might as well be hereditary. Every politician in democratic countries and every government bureaucrat knows, after all, that advantages quickly become rights. Once given, therefore, they can never be rescinded no matter how circumstances have changed.
And that last principle applies everywhere, not only in India. Once American women gained the “right” to abortion, to take only one current example, no decision of the Supreme Court could convince many of them that this right had been always been both politically expedient and federally unconstitutional or that new policies would be up to each state. My point here is that women are now an official victim class (no matter what their actual conditions) and men an official oppressor class (no matter what their actual conditions). I just used the word “class,” but I could have used the word “caste.”
You say that “Descending from slaves or outcaste people within living memory (while those ancestors are still alive, at a minimum) is not correctly brushed aside or folded into a money box.” That’s true, AJ, as long as you keep repeating “within living memory.” This reminds me of another example of reparations. After World War II, West Germany decided that victims of the Nazi regime deserved both financial reparations and restitution of stolen property. Some Germans must have resented this, but no one seriously challenged it on moral or legal grounds. What mattered was that the perps–those who had personally supported the Nazi regime–paid for doing so (if not by serving time in jail then at least by paying their taxes).
One key feature of “making things good again” (Wiedergutmachung) was that the policy applied to the (surviving) victims themselves and their immediate descendants (most of whom were no longer German citizens or residents by that time). The policy applied also to diplomatic and economic relations with the State of Israel (as distinct from Jewish victims who migrated there as individuals). In short, the German state did everything but raise the dead in order to restore its national honor and promote reconciliation. I have no moral problem with that.
But reparations for American slavery would be much more complicated, both morally and legally, than reparations for Nazi persecution. For one thing, it’s way beyond living memory. Both the perps and the victims are long gone. In any case, not all descendants of the victims, by any means, are still picking cotton. And of those who still remain impoverished, not all by any means can legitimately blame slavery or even segregation for their woes. Never mind the practical problems of what to do for mixed-race people (quadroons and octoroons, again, anyone?) or what to do for the many other Americans who experienced collective traumas either before or after immigration. Never mind that the ancestors of those who would be forced to pay these reparations were not necessarily even in the United States during slavery or that many of those who were had actually fought against slavery during the bloody civil war that ended it. Never mind even whether reparations would actually achieve anything but provide rich Americans with a reason for virtue-signaling. I don’t see how to make any of this “good again,” frankly, except by continuing to insist that racism must never again be institutionalized. And frankly, woke rhetoric notwithstanding, Americans had been doing precisely that, effectively, until the wokers began to de-legitimate the country, restore segregation, reverse the civil-rights movement and dismantle or destroy every institution.
 

Last edited 1 year ago by Paul Nathanson
Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Fantastic posts, thank you.
Problem is, views like yours (never mind mine) are not allowed in MSM or education in order not to stigmatise some “diverse and vibrant” communities.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I largely agree, Paul, but there was certainly great poverty and misery within two parent households in previous generations and centuries. Sure the situation was statistically worse for fatherless or motherless or orphan children from otherwise similar backgrounds, but the notion that matrimony alone secured human flourishing–or, to be fair, is so strongly correlated with it–is greatly overstated, in my opinion.
The reason I reference the Civil Rights Acts is because that represents a time when black Americans remained at a sharp, really indisputable disadvantage and segregation and brutal currents of oppression still prevailed in much of the South. Saying “level playing field now, all good, best of luck!” may not be quite enough in such a circumstance, nor at the moment of the lifting of Apartheid, etc. I do agree that the time for the circa 1970 Affirmative Action approach has passed, and that it was not well-handled to begin with,
Should belonging to a class called Untouchable (dalit) be considered a non-prevailing disadvantage? And what of a poor person who comes from a “shabby genteel” background with tons of books and two brilliant parents at home…should they still get preferential treatment/additional help?
I get that you are talking about common, even predominant trends, but your tendency to frame them as absolutes, often drawing upon generalized overviews of history as corroboration–sometimes with examples–frustrates me at times. How many exceptions are needed to make a non-trivial counterweight? One percent, three, ten?
I agree that economic factors should be the prevailing measure for assistance and giving a “hand up”. But I do not think it is sufficient as a mono-metric. Descending from slaves or outcaste people within living memory (while those ancestors are still alive, at a minimum) is not correctly brushed aside or folded into a money box. As you know, single grand narratives always fall short, as do mono-metrics. Now I am not saying we can fix historical or present-day inequality by fiat, but I believe more nuanced and complex considerations should be allowed, or at least entertained.
Even so, I’ll try to afford you an augmented benefit of doubt when it arises and also refrain from taking issue with so many little things I disagree with or find to be incomplete, given that life is only so long and because I usually agree with you for the most part.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Fantastic posts, thank you.
Problem is, views like yours (never mind mine) are not allowed in MSM or education in order not to stigmatise some “diverse and vibrant” communities.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Your argument about Obama is not relevant statistically.
No one claims that no one from single parent family can succeed academically.
It is just less likely.
Anyway this myth of Obama is based on many lies.
For a start he is not black. He is mixed race.
And he was brought up by white side of his family while his black father left.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

In America, he is considered black, according to our stupid binaries. He would have to be much lighter and less African-looking to change that.
His success is major and important and not as anomalous as you imply. A quick search shows that five other presidents grew up in a single-parent household, beginning with George Washington. So did Elon Musk.
I am not saying this is the norm, I am saying that a reductive focus on mommy and daddy in the home as some magic, near-complete solution is unwarranted. If you’re inclined to directly equate probabilities with sociological or moral truth: Which home is likelier to contain a violent alcoholic, one with or without a father present? (After adjusting for the doubling of parents involved).
It’s true that Obama’s “white upbringing” informed his ability to understand and appeal to people across color-divides, though now some frame him as a Divider-in -Chief or whatever–which I think is very unfair.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

In America, he is considered black, according to our stupid binaries. He would have to be much lighter and less African-looking to change that.
His success is major and important and not as anomalous as you imply. A quick search shows that five other presidents grew up in a single-parent household, beginning with George Washington. So did Elon Musk.
I am not saying this is the norm, I am saying that a reductive focus on mommy and daddy in the home as some magic, near-complete solution is unwarranted. If you’re inclined to directly equate probabilities with sociological or moral truth: Which home is likelier to contain a violent alcoholic, one with or without a father present? (After adjusting for the doubling of parents involved).
It’s true that Obama’s “white upbringing” informed his ability to understand and appeal to people across color-divides, though now some frame him as a Divider-in -Chief or whatever–which I think is very unfair.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Your observations regarding Barak Obama are based on certain false assumptions. There is no question that the only reason he got into Harvard Law school was because of the color of his skin. He was an average student. Likewise he became editor of the law review by doing absolutely nothing. When he was appointed an adjunct professor in Chicago, he also did absolutely nothing and never published a single scholarly piece of work. That is not what is expected of constitutional law professors. On other words Obama was not a great intellect, unlike, for example, Thomas Sowell. What Obama did have in spades was charm and charisma, and he managed to fool slightly over half the American people. But his legacy, eventually, will be one that marks the decline of the American century, which is rapidly going the way of Ancient Rome.

Last edited 1 year ago by Johann Strauss
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

He mightn’t be a great intellect, but I’m not sure why you assert his averageness as an established fact, or how magna cum laude isn’t above average, even with grade inflation. What is your evidence of his middling performance? He was a “senior lecturer”, not quite a law professor, and I would think it’s fairly common not to publish during a brief stint such as his. [Correction: Not brief, 12 years, so maybe that is more unusual. What are the publishing rates of non-faculty law professors? And how many can write a serious book–in the sense that it is nonfictional and mostly non-comical–that credible critics praise and general readers buy and read?] True, he’s not an dedicated academic or hardcore scholar. I don’t think there’s been a president who was for several generations, maybe since Wilson (it’s not the norm, anyway).
I’m convinced he is smarter than Trump (who is also a bad man), GW Bush (good enough) or Reagan (good)–right? Maybe not smarter than/as smart as GHW Bush (good) and probably a little less smart than Carter (good) or Clinton (not very good/bad). That’s my casual assessment of the presidents during the time I’ve lived in the U.S.; Obama seems near the middle for a recent president.
Have you read any of the books he wrote himself? His intelligence, eloquence and self-awareness are substantial; it is not mere empty charisma. You might not like him for legitimate reasons, but in my view making him into a signature failure or emblem of underqualification/affirmative action indicates some bias or ulterior motive on your part.
I grant that he’s not an intellectual outlier like Sowell (or Glenn Loury and James Baldwin, in my estimation). That’s not required of a president, and is actually pretty uncommon over more than two centuries–although two of the first three probably were (not Washington).
[Actually, four of the first six probably were–leaving out Monroe too–but times have changed. Also, I don’t claim that I can infallibly assess the intelligence of any person, living or dead–no one can].

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

If your claim is that he was handed his success because of his color and gift for gab, perhaps you’re partly correct, although I think he did good job as president overall, especially on a global stage.
I guess you also object to the ready-made way GW Bush, Trump, and Boris Johnson came into their fame and prominence?

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

He mightn’t be a great intellect, but I’m not sure why you assert his averageness as an established fact, or how magna cum laude isn’t above average, even with grade inflation. What is your evidence of his middling performance? He was a “senior lecturer”, not quite a law professor, and I would think it’s fairly common not to publish during a brief stint such as his. [Correction: Not brief, 12 years, so maybe that is more unusual. What are the publishing rates of non-faculty law professors? And how many can write a serious book–in the sense that it is nonfictional and mostly non-comical–that credible critics praise and general readers buy and read?] True, he’s not an dedicated academic or hardcore scholar. I don’t think there’s been a president who was for several generations, maybe since Wilson (it’s not the norm, anyway).
I’m convinced he is smarter than Trump (who is also a bad man), GW Bush (good enough) or Reagan (good)–right? Maybe not smarter than/as smart as GHW Bush (good) and probably a little less smart than Carter (good) or Clinton (not very good/bad). That’s my casual assessment of the presidents during the time I’ve lived in the U.S.; Obama seems near the middle for a recent president.
Have you read any of the books he wrote himself? His intelligence, eloquence and self-awareness are substantial; it is not mere empty charisma. You might not like him for legitimate reasons, but in my view making him into a signature failure or emblem of underqualification/affirmative action indicates some bias or ulterior motive on your part.
I grant that he’s not an intellectual outlier like Sowell (or Glenn Loury and James Baldwin, in my estimation). That’s not required of a president, and is actually pretty uncommon over more than two centuries–although two of the first three probably were (not Washington).
[Actually, four of the first six probably were–leaving out Monroe too–but times have changed. Also, I don’t claim that I can infallibly assess the intelligence of any person, living or dead–no one can].

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

If your claim is that he was handed his success because of his color and gift for gab, perhaps you’re partly correct, although I think he did good job as president overall, especially on a global stage.
I guess you also object to the ready-made way GW Bush, Trump, and Boris Johnson came into their fame and prominence?

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I’ve already replied to your comment below, AJ, but I want to add one more thing. Millions of American children need not only financial help but also pedagogical help. By now, the public educational system has become so degraded due to a combination of political expediency and pedagogical or ideological fashion. One error was to replace the demonstrably effective “phonics” method to teach reading, for instance, with the trendier but demonstrably less effective “whole language” method. Other problems include the replacement of merit with race as the standard of measuring academic success. As a result of these and other problems, American children in general are far behind children in other countries (although many middle-class children are likely to get more help from their parents than other children).
My point is that it will take more than affirmative action to make equality of opportunity (let alone equity) work . It will take the acquisition of academic skills by black children long before they reach college age. To attain that goal, in turn, will require (a) stronger black families and (b) better public schools.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Yes I agree with that, Paul, and I appreciate your detailed knowledge of the subject. I know the American education system is a mess overall, although that has seemed true at least since I emigrated from Canada in the late 70s to start 2nd grade.
I wonder how reading was successfully taught before phonics, which was itself an upstart trend at one time as I remember it. I have a practical interest in the topic as I may be starting a second career (post carpentry/construction) as a teacher, having lately gone back to school and completed two master degrees in my middle age.
I’ve already overindulged myself and engaged in pointless exchanges (not this one) on this board so I’ll just leave at that. [Except I didn’t, I replied to your other post too, quite agreeably I think] . See you next time.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Yes I agree with that, Paul, and I appreciate your detailed knowledge of the subject. I know the American education system is a mess overall, although that has seemed true at least since I emigrated from Canada in the late 70s to start 2nd grade.
I wonder how reading was successfully taught before phonics, which was itself an upstart trend at one time as I remember it. I have a practical interest in the topic as I may be starting a second career (post carpentry/construction) as a teacher, having lately gone back to school and completed two master degrees in my middle age.
I’ve already overindulged myself and engaged in pointless exchanges (not this one) on this board so I’ll just leave at that. [Except I didn’t, I replied to your other post too, quite agreeably I think] . See you next time.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Wim de Vriend
Wim de Vriend
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

You ask if: “all forms of affirmative action are inherently morally ‘flawed’ do you mean they should never be used in any circumstances ..”
Seems to me that is not what people like Mr. Blum are saying; his position appears to be that it’s time to abolish the racial favoritism, bordering on outright corruption, that’s come to dominate university admissions, ever since the Supreme Court left the door open for such shenanigans. In short: Enough IS Enough.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

It’s true, AJ, of course, that some children of single mothers or single fathers do very well. It’s true also that some children with both mothers and fathers don’t do very well. In both cases, however, those are statistical exceptions. That makes a big difference in connection with laws and public policies, which are very blunt instruments. In democracies, these must serve primarily the needs of most people, if possible without neglecting those of other people. At one time, most children had both mothers and fathers. Some did not, because unusual circumstances prevailed (such as death, divorce or abandonment). These children were exceptions, which is why they could still rely on the resources of extended families, religious or other communities and agencies both private and public. But when unusual circumstances become statistically normal ones, which is now the case in many places, the phenomenon itself becomes very different. Expectations change accordingly and therefore so does society–but not necessarily for the good of everyone.
Within living memory (and throughout human history), everyone understood that marriage in one form or another was the ideal context for children–even though everyone understood that not every married couple was able to meet both the material and psychological needs of children. No-fault divorce originated as a way of helping those few couples to end their unhappy marriages quickly. But its ultimate effect–along with several other social and legal changes–was to undermine the stability of marriage. Moreover, no-fault divorce led to expedient changes in perceptions of children and their needs (while completely ignoring their legal or moral rights). To take only one example, divorced parents usually have less time to spend with their children (hardly any time at all for non-custodial fathers and often no time at all). Experts advised parents not to worry, because it was only “quality time” that their children needed. Not surprisingly, the divorce rate climbed steadily for decades.
So did the rate of unmarried (cohabiting) couples. The advent of same-sex marriage had similar effects by providing children with either two mothers or two fathers but not both mothers and fathers. Experts advised everyone not to worry, because mothers and fathers were virtually interchangeable. Like no-fault divorce, this was and still is an experiment in social engineering. Unfortunately, children are by definition unable to give their informed consent as experimental subjects.
By now, due to a series of changes over several decades, including the movement of single-mothers-by-choice, many millions of children lack either mothers or fathers (usually fathers). And yet the experts know very well that there is, for instance, a statistical correlation between fatherless boys and violent behavior (and other forms of pathology).
Meanwhile, the advent of abortion-on-demand and of some newer reproduction technologies have added to the symbolic decline of children as the bearers of rights. Children have been bystanders, to put it bluntly, in conflicts over the rights of adults.
Now, affirmative action. It’s politically expedient in some cases, to be sure, but still makes no moral sense. For one thing, it solves one problem but replaces it with another. Worse, it relies on the notion of collective guilt, which is inherently dehumanizing and is therefore–think of some horrific historical examples, especially from the twentieth century–a moral dead end.
But no, I would not exclude teenagers or even adults from financial aid based on income. Unlike race or sex, poverty is not innate (let alone an innate defect). The state can remedy that problem, or at least mitigate it, without resorting to solutions that polarize the population. I mentioned the needs of young children only because attending to them is–apart from anything else–the best way to prevent them from entering demographic underclasses later on.
As for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, its goal was to foster equality of opportunity, not “equity.”

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Your argument about Obama is not relevant statistically.
No one claims that no one from single parent family can succeed academically.
It is just less likely.
Anyway this myth of Obama is based on many lies.
For a start he is not black. He is mixed race.
And he was brought up by white side of his family while his black father left.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Your observations regarding Barak Obama are based on certain false assumptions. There is no question that the only reason he got into Harvard Law school was because of the color of his skin. He was an average student. Likewise he became editor of the law review by doing absolutely nothing. When he was appointed an adjunct professor in Chicago, he also did absolutely nothing and never published a single scholarly piece of work. That is not what is expected of constitutional law professors. On other words Obama was not a great intellect, unlike, for example, Thomas Sowell. What Obama did have in spades was charm and charisma, and he managed to fool slightly over half the American people. But his legacy, eventually, will be one that marks the decline of the American century, which is rapidly going the way of Ancient Rome.

Last edited 1 year ago by Johann Strauss
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I’ve already replied to your comment below, AJ, but I want to add one more thing. Millions of American children need not only financial help but also pedagogical help. By now, the public educational system has become so degraded due to a combination of political expediency and pedagogical or ideological fashion. One error was to replace the demonstrably effective “phonics” method to teach reading, for instance, with the trendier but demonstrably less effective “whole language” method. Other problems include the replacement of merit with race as the standard of measuring academic success. As a result of these and other problems, American children in general are far behind children in other countries (although many middle-class children are likely to get more help from their parents than other children).
My point is that it will take more than affirmative action to make equality of opportunity (let alone equity) work . It will take the acquisition of academic skills by black children long before they reach college age. To attain that goal, in turn, will require (a) stronger black families and (b) better public schools.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

People claiming that family formation etc are they key are only partially correct.
Muslims have strong family formation but so what?
The starting point is low IQ.
Look at IQ map of Africa and you can see why there is not a single functioning country.
It is the same for African-Americans as confirmed by testing over many decades.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

So your argument is that they have a proven, innate inferiority? If so, that’s pseudo-scientific racism, 21st-century edition. IQ tests, even-rigorously administered ones, can improve significantly with study and preparation.
And intelligence a few standard deviations above the mean doesn’t lead directly to family stability or a cooperative society, does it? Some intellectual geniuses are selfish jerks, often high in psychopathology or narcissism, like Sigmund Freud or Friedrich Nietzsche (in my non-professional opinion).
Societies that enforce greater social conformity, like China, tend to be more orderly, more “functional”–but at what cost?

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Yes, they have proven innate inferiority.
How do you explain total lack of success of ALL African nations?
This is the big lie of all grievance policies.
Europeans did not conquer Africa till mid 19th century.
Before that what scientific or cultural achievements Africa produced?
Nothing of significant value as development of humanity is concerned.
I am happy for you to provide examples comparable to achievements of European culture, science or engineering.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew F
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Poverty and social and political turmoil. They were behind in terms of average technological advancement and they still are. That does not establish anything concerning their innate intelligence. I guess you also believe that Indigenous people are dumber to their core. And that the several countries of Europe that have achieved less on their own, such as the Baltic States, are also inhabited by dumber people than Western Europe or much of Asia.
And there are major exceptions. Many Nigerians, for example, have great success at elite world universities. That could probably be extended to huge additional populations in Africa that are currently way behind the average global level of education. This is true of poor whites in Appalachia too, in my strong belief. (Yeah, not proven, just clear based on the rising up of other rusticated or “backward” populations of immigrants to America such as Irish, Italians, Polish. and Vietnamese after a few generations–when they live in cities or have so-called upward mobility and opportunity). There is often a huge disparity in the IQ scores of grandparents and grandchildren. This is not innate, but a gradual and environmentally assisted ascent.
Are the European achievements you refer to owing to individual brilliance alone, or a focus on group problem-solving that is related to complex factors that include climate and social openness? A remote village with animistic religion and severe traditionalism need not have any intellectual deficit to stay simple and unchanged. Again, that does not get to innate intelligence in any demonstrated way.
Perhaps you think nationwide IQ metrics provide a true picture of intelligence. If so I guess you consider people from the following nations to be superior to Europeans: Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, South Korea. They all have a higher average IQ totals than any European country. And what happened with Serbia (ranked 59th) or Bulgaria (76th) or Georgia (85th)…not white enough?
India is in the bottom third of the distribution at 143 (76 IQ). Do you think that Indians are stupid as a group or that the subcontinental average is truly that of near retardation? Is the intellectual potential of Guatemalans accurately reflected in their national IQ of 47.72? The average Guatemalan is severely retarded? That’s ridiculous. It is hugely impacted by poverty and lack of opportunity, leading to bad health, less education, and more functional illiteracy.
Be careful with your pseudoscientific racism and white supremacy. With the exception of Estonia (12th), no formerly-communist European nation is in the top 30 for IQ. Your ancestral people could end up dominated by Asian and European so-called superiors.
I acknowledge some average differences between nations, but they are not as binding as you claim, and they certainly don’t make anyone lesser or greater in their basic humanity let alone the sight of their creator.
I agree with you that race based preference is an unfair and mistaken policy, but not with your confident biological determinism and especially not your assertion that Africans are literally too stupid to handle their own affairs better due to an inherent, color-coded mental defect.
(Here’s my source page if you’re interested: https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/average-iq-by-country)

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

(earlier reply posted; have a good day; enough said…removed again, whatever that’s still enough)

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
james goater
james goater
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Largely agree with your devastating critique of African nation-building although with one caveat, Botswana. I urge you to take a look at this southern African nation’s achievements in contrast to the general failures across the rest of the continent. You might be surprised.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Poverty and social and political turmoil. They were behind in terms of average technological advancement and they still are. That does not establish anything concerning their innate intelligence. I guess you also believe that Indigenous people are dumber to their core. And that the several countries of Europe that have achieved less on their own, such as the Baltic States, are also inhabited by dumber people than Western Europe or much of Asia.
And there are major exceptions. Many Nigerians, for example, have great success at elite world universities. That could probably be extended to huge additional populations in Africa that are currently way behind the average global level of education. This is true of poor whites in Appalachia too, in my strong belief. (Yeah, not proven, just clear based on the rising up of other rusticated or “backward” populations of immigrants to America such as Irish, Italians, Polish. and Vietnamese after a few generations–when they live in cities or have so-called upward mobility and opportunity). There is often a huge disparity in the IQ scores of grandparents and grandchildren. This is not innate, but a gradual and environmentally assisted ascent.
Are the European achievements you refer to owing to individual brilliance alone, or a focus on group problem-solving that is related to complex factors that include climate and social openness? A remote village with animistic religion and severe traditionalism need not have any intellectual deficit to stay simple and unchanged. Again, that does not get to innate intelligence in any demonstrated way.
Perhaps you think nationwide IQ metrics provide a true picture of intelligence. If so I guess you consider people from the following nations to be superior to Europeans: Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, South Korea. They all have a higher average IQ totals than any European country. And what happened with Serbia (ranked 59th) or Bulgaria (76th) or Georgia (85th)…not white enough?
India is in the bottom third of the distribution at 143 (76 IQ). Do you think that Indians are stupid as a group or that the subcontinental average is truly that of near retardation? Is the intellectual potential of Guatemalans accurately reflected in their national IQ of 47.72? The average Guatemalan is severely retarded? That’s ridiculous. It is hugely impacted by poverty and lack of opportunity, leading to bad health, less education, and more functional illiteracy.
Be careful with your pseudoscientific racism and white supremacy. With the exception of Estonia (12th), no formerly-communist European nation is in the top 30 for IQ. Your ancestral people could end up dominated by Asian and European so-called superiors.
I acknowledge some average differences between nations, but they are not as binding as you claim, and they certainly don’t make anyone lesser or greater in their basic humanity let alone the sight of their creator.
I agree with you that race based preference is an unfair and mistaken policy, but not with your confident biological determinism and especially not your assertion that Africans are literally too stupid to handle their own affairs better due to an inherent, color-coded mental defect.
(Here’s my source page if you’re interested: https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/average-iq-by-country)

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

(earlier reply posted; have a good day; enough said…removed again, whatever that’s still enough)

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
james goater
james goater
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Largely agree with your devastating critique of African nation-building although with one caveat, Botswana. I urge you to take a look at this southern African nation’s achievements in contrast to the general failures across the rest of the continent. You might be surprised.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

You basically don’t understand meaning of “standard deviation above the mean” as far as IQ is concerned.
Two standar deviations above mean shows IQ of 130 or above (with 100 being average across inteligent races). Only about 3.14% of people have it.
IQ is not the only factor in predicting success in later life.
As Head of Ampleforth school explained.
Most of our students get A grades.
And what do they do?
Work for students who got C grades.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

I do understand it. One standard deviation (in either direction) is about two thirds of a normal distribution, 2 is about 95% and 3 is about 99%. Therefore, three standard deviations above average is about 1 in 200. But I’d guess you’d know that as a member of one of the “intelligent races”–I have to assume you’re a white dude of middling intellect at this point. I’m a white dude who tests about two-plus SD above normal (sometimes more, sometimes less depending on the type of test; it isn’t a unvarying metric)–for whatever that is or isn’t worth, and I agree it isn’t worth everything, to say the least. Nor does it fully measure intellect, let alone capability or capacity for wisdom and understanding. And it doesn’t circumscribe your success in life, as you say.
Your racialized hierarchy of intellectual worth–which you seem to equate with human worth–is some self-serving bullshit on your part, in my opinion.
I’d like to give you the benefit of the doubt, so please tell me how I’m wrong about what I’ve written in this post. But maybe as someone with a measured IQ about 140 (125-160 depending) I won’t be able to understand you. [This was an unhelpful and self-important thing to type, especially for someone arguing against IQ-as-destiny; I apologize]. Take care.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

I do understand it. One standard deviation (in either direction) is about two thirds of a normal distribution, 2 is about 95% and 3 is about 99%. Therefore, three standard deviations above average is about 1 in 200. But I’d guess you’d know that as a member of one of the “intelligent races”–I have to assume you’re a white dude of middling intellect at this point. I’m a white dude who tests about two-plus SD above normal (sometimes more, sometimes less depending on the type of test; it isn’t a unvarying metric)–for whatever that is or isn’t worth, and I agree it isn’t worth everything, to say the least. Nor does it fully measure intellect, let alone capability or capacity for wisdom and understanding. And it doesn’t circumscribe your success in life, as you say.
Your racialized hierarchy of intellectual worth–which you seem to equate with human worth–is some self-serving bullshit on your part, in my opinion.
I’d like to give you the benefit of the doubt, so please tell me how I’m wrong about what I’ve written in this post. But maybe as someone with a measured IQ about 140 (125-160 depending) I won’t be able to understand you. [This was an unhelpful and self-important thing to type, especially for someone arguing against IQ-as-destiny; I apologize]. Take care.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Yes, they have proven innate inferiority.
How do you explain total lack of success of ALL African nations?
This is the big lie of all grievance policies.
Europeans did not conquer Africa till mid 19th century.
Before that what scientific or cultural achievements Africa produced?
Nothing of significant value as development of humanity is concerned.
I am happy for you to provide examples comparable to achievements of European culture, science or engineering.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew F
Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

You basically don’t understand meaning of “standard deviation above the mean” as far as IQ is concerned.
Two standar deviations above mean shows IQ of 130 or above (with 100 being average across inteligent races). Only about 3.14% of people have it.
IQ is not the only factor in predicting success in later life.
As Head of Ampleforth school explained.
Most of our students get A grades.
And what do they do?
Work for students who got C grades.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

So your argument is that they have a proven, innate inferiority? If so, that’s pseudo-scientific racism, 21st-century edition. IQ tests, even-rigorously administered ones, can improve significantly with study and preparation.
And intelligence a few standard deviations above the mean doesn’t lead directly to family stability or a cooperative society, does it? Some intellectual geniuses are selfish jerks, often high in psychopathology or narcissism, like Sigmund Freud or Friedrich Nietzsche (in my non-professional opinion).
Societies that enforce greater social conformity, like China, tend to be more orderly, more “functional”–but at what cost?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

global society has its own racial affirmative action… a quick look at how many Indian Hindu and Jewish peoples appear at the top of any rich list confirms this: its called ” inherent brains and ability”….

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago

It is called in-group preference

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
1 year ago

Or perhaps it’s that smart people tend to marry smart people, and therefore the likelihood of producing smart children (regression to the mean notwithstanding) is increased. Sort of like animal breeding whether for speed (race horses) or milk production (cows).

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
1 year ago

Or perhaps it’s that smart people tend to marry smart people, and therefore the likelihood of producing smart children (regression to the mean notwithstanding) is increased. Sort of like animal breeding whether for speed (race horses) or milk production (cows).

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago

It is called in-group preference

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I’m in primary agreement with your expressed views, but I would note that single-parent households are not no-exit expressways to failure. Exhibit A: Barack Obama. One might also suspect that his color made it easier for him to attend Harvard Law School–although I don’t know this for a fact–after which he, in my opinion, proved himself amply capable because no one becomes editor of the Harvard Law Review on a “socially corrective” basis alone.
And when you state that all forms of affirmative action are inherently morally “flawed” do you mean they should never be used in any circumstances, such as right after the passage of the US Civil Right Acts of ’64 and ’65 or the end of Apartheid in South Africa, perhaps in certain color-stratified fields, for 5 or 10 years?
Also: Do you maintain that it would, for example, always be wrong to allow a lower-than-typical GPA in admitting an Appalachian 17-year-old with high SATs and IQ scores (or maybe an exceptional, demonstrated writing ability) who was raised in a shack by alcoholic or meth-addicted parents to an elite college scholarship?(Once in, certain fairly robust achievement and performance minimums are usually required of scholarship recipients). In other words, must the resources or non-arbitrary preferences be provided only to “young children of all communities on the basis of economic need”–never teenagers?

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

People claiming that family formation etc are they key are only partially correct.
Muslims have strong family formation but so what?
The starting point is low IQ.
Look at IQ map of Africa and you can see why there is not a single functioning country.
It is the same for African-Americans as confirmed by testing over many decades.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

global society has its own racial affirmative action… a quick look at how many Indian Hindu and Jewish peoples appear at the top of any rich list confirms this: its called ” inherent brains and ability”….

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago

Racial or any other kind of affirmative action is an inherently flawed solution, not only on practical and legal grounds but also on moral grounds, to demographic disparities. That’s because those disparities are at due mainly to the cultural forces that drive personal and collective choices. Blum and Sayers agree on the importance of families, which can either encourage or discourage the cultural values that affect educational and economic attainment. Parental attitudes toward education propel some children (notably Asians and Jews), for example, into occupations that require academic achievement and others into occupations that do nothing of the kind.
What the authors don’t add, however, is that family structure itself is reproduced culturally.
The fact is that the children of single parents (no matter how loving and hard working) are at far greater risk than other children for every social, legal, psychological and even medical pathology. And this is true especially for single mothers. Children really do need both parents (for reasons that I’ve discussed elsewhere). More specifically in view of current conditions, boys really do need fathers living at home on an enduring basis (not pop-cultural icons, gang leaders or mom’s transient boyfriends). Trouble is, not all communities effectively encourage that kind of family life.
Worse, some communities actively discourage the cultural values that support academic achievement and economic success (such as the need for hard work, objective standards of merit, diligence, perseverance, delayed gratification, ambition, self-reliance, self-discipline, marriage and so forth) on the false assumption that these are “white” values and therefore not merely alien but shameful or even sinister.
To solve the problem of racial (or other) disparities, therefore, requires an early start. Every community must encourage young children, even preschoolers, to develop the personal skills that they will need later on as mature adults. These include, but are not limited to, verbal competence, literacy and numeracy). That’s much more likely than artificial and morally unsound legal remedies (such as abandoning the merit system and introducing affirmative action) to reduce demographic disparities in the long run. And by providing resources to young children of all communities on the basis of economic need, not arbitrary preference on the basis of innate factors, it would so without aggravating racial or other forms of polarization.

Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
1 year ago

One big difference between economic-based and race-based affirmative action (besides the sign in the face with race), is that smart poor kids are in disadvantage at selection time but can catch up rather quickly once admitted because they are smart. On the other hand if a rich kid from a minority group is admitted because of race despite not being very smart, this person will not ever catch up.

This is why I also think that moderate economic-based affirmative action is a reasonable strategy, while race based is not.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
1 year ago
Reply to  Fran Martinez

Yes, Blum doesn’t really make the point that under the current system as I understand it a poor white or Asian kid is disadvantaged compared with a middle class or wealthy kid boosted by affirmative action.

Last edited 1 year ago by Judy Englander
Judy Englander
Judy Englander
1 year ago
Reply to  Fran Martinez

Yes, Blum doesn’t really make the point that under the current system as I understand it a poor white or Asian kid is disadvantaged compared with a middle class or wealthy kid boosted by affirmative action.

Last edited 1 year ago by Judy Englander
Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
1 year ago

One big difference between economic-based and race-based affirmative action (besides the sign in the face with race), is that smart poor kids are in disadvantage at selection time but can catch up rather quickly once admitted because they are smart. On the other hand if a rich kid from a minority group is admitted because of race despite not being very smart, this person will not ever catch up.

This is why I also think that moderate economic-based affirmative action is a reasonable strategy, while race based is not.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
1 year ago

I wish Bum had explained better what he would do to help people from poorer backgrounds to get into Harvard and such places. As Freddie pointed up it seems to be the same thing as before, under a different guise, and certainly a slippery slope.
I can’t believe that at harvard you get e “leg up” if your parents went to harvard. I wonder what the reasons for that is.

James Jenkin
James Jenkin
1 year ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

Doesn’t getting people into Harvard happen long before Harvard?

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

Legacy admissions – accepting children of prior graduates – promotes historical continuity of the institution, which in turn encourages allegiance to agenda and further monetary donations. If I am not mistaken, about 10 to 12 percent are legacy admissions at Harvard. Not every legacy gets in; academic performance or special talent (sport, writing, etc) is key.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
1 year ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

Legacy admissions in more ways than one. Historical continuity and ensuring financial legacies.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

From admission sight.com:

What percent of Harvard students are legacies? According to the released Harvard legacy acceptance rate, more than 36 percent of the students in the Harvard Class of 2022 are descendants of previous Harvard students. As of the year 2015, applicants who did not have any relatives who attended the prestigious university had a five times lower chance of being accepted than those who came from a Harvard family. The previous year, the proportion of first-year students accounted for just over 29% of the class. Harvard legacy acceptance rate also revealed that 43 percent of Harvard’s white students are either recruited athletes, legacy students, on the dean’s interest list (which indicates that their parents have donated to the school), or children of faculty and staff (students admitted based on these criteria are referred to as ‘ALDCs,’ which stands for ‘athletes,’ ‘legacies,’ and ‘children’ of Harvard employees). Roughly three-quarters of these students’ applications would have been denied admission if it weren’t for the fact that either their parents were wealthy or connected to Harvard or that they were athletes. [italics added]

I don’t discount the point about continuity, other talent, or financial concerns, but wanted to provide these numbers and details.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Arkadian X
Arkadian X
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

That is quite incredible.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

These numbers were a surprise to me too.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

These numbers were a surprise to me too.

Justin Clark
Justin Clark
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

…and don’t legacies typically make the highest donations to Harvard…? As always we follow the money

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

You are perfectly correct to provide this numbers.
They just say that world is not fair.
I was born under communist system.
Do you think that moronic children of communist party senior officials did not get helping hand in universities?
This is one example.
Lecturer failed useless son of senior party official in science exam.
He was told to think again.
So he wrote in “indeks” (book which had all exam results of your university studies):
Knowledge of the subject zero.
On orders of communist party secretary C grade.
It was late communism of the 80s, so he kept his job instead of being shot or send to gulag like in 50s.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Ok, This is interesting information to me and it makes me partly regret the contentious reply to you that I just posted elsewhere on this board. Very true that is is easy to advocate courage and integrity from an armchair, when your own life is not in danger. Cheers.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Ok, This is interesting information to me and it makes me partly regret the contentious reply to you that I just posted elsewhere on this board. Very true that is is easy to advocate courage and integrity from an armchair, when your own life is not in danger. Cheers.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

That is quite incredible.

Justin Clark
Justin Clark
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

…and don’t legacies typically make the highest donations to Harvard…? As always we follow the money

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

You are perfectly correct to provide this numbers.
They just say that world is not fair.
I was born under communist system.
Do you think that moronic children of communist party senior officials did not get helping hand in universities?
This is one example.
Lecturer failed useless son of senior party official in science exam.
He was told to think again.
So he wrote in “indeks” (book which had all exam results of your university studies):
Knowledge of the subject zero.
On orders of communist party secretary C grade.
It was late communism of the 80s, so he kept his job instead of being shot or send to gulag like in 50s.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
1 year ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

Legacy admissions in more ways than one. Historical continuity and ensuring financial legacies.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

From admission sight.com:

What percent of Harvard students are legacies? According to the released Harvard legacy acceptance rate, more than 36 percent of the students in the Harvard Class of 2022 are descendants of previous Harvard students. As of the year 2015, applicants who did not have any relatives who attended the prestigious university had a five times lower chance of being accepted than those who came from a Harvard family. The previous year, the proportion of first-year students accounted for just over 29% of the class. Harvard legacy acceptance rate also revealed that 43 percent of Harvard’s white students are either recruited athletes, legacy students, on the dean’s interest list (which indicates that their parents have donated to the school), or children of faculty and staff (students admitted based on these criteria are referred to as ‘ALDCs,’ which stands for ‘athletes,’ ‘legacies,’ and ‘children’ of Harvard employees). Roughly three-quarters of these students’ applications would have been denied admission if it weren’t for the fact that either their parents were wealthy or connected to Harvard or that they were athletes. [italics added]

I don’t discount the point about continuity, other talent, or financial concerns, but wanted to provide these numbers and details.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

It is class system.
How do you think moron like Gorge Bush younger got his gig in top university?
Research by Lampl Trust shows that education at top public school gives you about 3/4 of a grade advantage over equally clever pupil from disadvantage background.
So someone with borderline A in Eaton is nothing more then overpriviliged B grade in most schools.
This is unfortunate result of Labour government destroying Grammar Schools.
Without that, most public schools would die.
Yes some top ones like Eaton would survive. As remnants of of English class structure.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

Basically idea is that many former graduates of Harvard are successful people in financial terms.
So they give legacies to Harward University.
Therefore, it makes sense for Harvard University to continue with this system.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Harvard University is one of the best endowed universities in the world. You need money and not just brain power to succeed in research.
Just look at AI.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Harvard University is one of the best endowed universities in the world. You need money and not just brain power to succeed in research.
Just look at AI.

James Jenkin
James Jenkin
1 year ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

Doesn’t getting people into Harvard happen long before Harvard?

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

Legacy admissions – accepting children of prior graduates – promotes historical continuity of the institution, which in turn encourages allegiance to agenda and further monetary donations. If I am not mistaken, about 10 to 12 percent are legacy admissions at Harvard. Not every legacy gets in; academic performance or special talent (sport, writing, etc) is key.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

It is class system.
How do you think moron like Gorge Bush younger got his gig in top university?
Research by Lampl Trust shows that education at top public school gives you about 3/4 of a grade advantage over equally clever pupil from disadvantage background.
So someone with borderline A in Eaton is nothing more then overpriviliged B grade in most schools.
This is unfortunate result of Labour government destroying Grammar Schools.
Without that, most public schools would die.
Yes some top ones like Eaton would survive. As remnants of of English class structure.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

Basically idea is that many former graduates of Harvard are successful people in financial terms.
So they give legacies to Harward University.
Therefore, it makes sense for Harvard University to continue with this system.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
1 year ago

I wish Bum had explained better what he would do to help people from poorer backgrounds to get into Harvard and such places. As Freddie pointed up it seems to be the same thing as before, under a different guise, and certainly a slippery slope.
I can’t believe that at harvard you get e “leg up” if your parents went to harvard. I wonder what the reasons for that is.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
1 year ago

I wonder how the three liberal women on the court will vote and write their opinion.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 year ago

Do you suggest that liberal women should write opinion supporting discrimination against people based on colour?
Because admitting low IQ African-Americans in preference to clever children of other races is pure racism.
Btw, I don’t have children and I don’t live in USA.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Would you at least acknowledge that many tens of thousands of African Americans, and more sub-Saharan Africans, have IQs well above the global average? In my estimation there are at least a million “exceptions” to your convenient “rule”.
(Again, I agree that “corrective injustice” of this sort a form of racism, but object to your fatalistic and deterministic claims about all Africans. Statistics and trends are not unadulterated truths. History is not indelible destiny).

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

One up the Blum for LGBTQ+ too?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

One up the Blum for LGBTQ+ too?