That Strange Tribe

Mark Sherman of the Associated Press was on the front page of the local paper with an unmarked opinion piece on the outcome of Brett on the Supreme Court.  As we and many others have noticed progressives like Mark approach conservatives like they have never met one.  Whatever the reason, Mark’s discussion seems very odd to a conservative because it is not how we think.

Sidebar: Deciding who is a “true” conservative is a difficult task.  Yes, we are aware of the no true Scotsman problem and that conservative are a small part of the big Republican tent.  We think the critical demarcation for conservatives is process.  To oversimplify, conservatives think about process while progressives think about outcomes.  End Sidebar.

We know it is a long quote but here are Mark’s first three paragraphs:

The moment conservatives have dreamed about for decades has arrived with Brett Kavanaugh joining the Supreme Court. But with it comes the shadow of a bitter confirmation fight that is likely to hang over the court as it takes on divisive issues, especially those dealing with politics and women’s rights.

With Kavanaugh taking the place of the more moderate Anthony Kennedy, conservatives should have a working majority of five justices to restrict abortion rights, limit the use of race in college admissions and rein in federal regulators.

The newly constituted court also might broaden gun rights, further relax campaign finance laws and halt the expansion of the rights of LGBT people, who three years ago won the right to marry nationwide with Kennedy in the majority.

Mark has a whole list of outcomes that he is concerned about.  For most of the rest of the article he tries to convince the majority that to use the majority would erode the court’s legitimacy.  We read that part so you don’t need to.

Conservatives are happy because there appears to be an originalist Supreme Court majority.  That majority may lead to some outcomes that conservatives prefer as well as some they don’t.  It will be interesting to see if the progressives continue to vote as a block or will  try to influences outcomes by being part of the majority.  Legal scholarship is not our area but we expect less predictable patterns from the new court.  Perhaps when we have an unhappy outcome we can commiserate with a progressive like Mark.


Research Basics

After we commented on Cass Sunstein’s article about The Problem Of All Those Liberal Professors we recognized that we failed one of the standards of archival research.  You should aways check the original document(s).  The original document that Cass referred to is: Homogenous: The Political Affiliation of Elite Liberal Arts College Faculty by Mitchell Langbert.  It was posted on the National Association of Scholars (NAS) website.  NAS is:

[A] network of scholars and citizens united by our commitment to academic freedom, disinterested scholarship, and excellence in American higher education. Membership in NAS is open to all who share our commitment to these broad principles. We publish a journal and have state and regional affiliates.

Yup, that basically makes them conservatives. It is not a surprise that Mitchell’s article showed up at NAS.  Other outlets might not be interested.

We were concerned that Cass understated the impact of the lack of conservatives on faculty because the faculty run the place.  They set the curriculum and the related courses.  They determine the research standards.  They hire (sometimes with a little help) administrators.  Most administrators were former faculty.  These administrators set accreditation standards.  In short, faculty run the place although not all faculty are equally involved in such activities.

So let’s see what Mitchell said about the impact of the lack of ideological balance in colleges and universities:

So pervasive is the lack of balance in academia that more than 1,000 professors and graduate students have started Heterodox Academy, an organization committed to increasing “viewpoint diversity” in higher education.4The end result is that objective science becomes problematic, and where research is problematic, teaching is more so. [Site added]

To an academic it is reasonable to include curriculum development in teaching but we don’t think that the general public does.  We think it is important to understand that faculty have somewhere between an extensive to exclusive say about what classes are taught and how, what research is acceptable, what outside speakers come to campus, and almost everything else that happens on campus.

Mitchell notes that West Point and Annapolis are two outliers in that they are more balanced that almost all the other schools.  We took a look at the history curriculum for Annapolis (US Naval Academy) and a local school that we have access to.  It should give you a feel for the differences between a school with balance (Annapolis) and one without balance.

Examples of history themes from the US Naval Academy:

Examples of topics include piracy, the development of national identities and the growth of capitalism.

Sidebar: We really, really want to take the course on the history of pirates.  Especially on International Talk Like a Pirate Day.  End Sidebar

Here are some selected history course titles from a regional state school (yes we are aware that Mitchell was surveying Liberal Arts schools):

Women in the Modern United States: 1890-Present

History of Motherhood in the United States

U.S. Reform Movements

You can check the sites and see if you agree with us that the curriculums are very different.  Even when the titles are similar, Peace and War versus History of The Technology of Peace And War, we are willing to wager that the courses are very different.  Mitchell recognizes the connection of balance to research.  Without approved research a faculty member is highly unlikely to earn tenure.  If Military History is not part of the curriculum then military historians need not apply.  Too bad Victor Davis Hanson.  But the impact of the lack of balance is even more.  It is what happens in the classroom.  But it is also the classes that get taught, the speakers that come to campus, and the other services offered by the university.

Cass and Mitchell are right to identify the problem.  It is just bigger than they think.  It has an impact on every student in every major in every way.



Academia And Politics

We know that the the vast majority of college professors are on the left.  Cass R. Sunstein, who at various times in his career has been a professor, is discussing a recent survey of faculty:

A few months ago, Mitchell Langbert, an associate professor of business at Brooklyn College, published a study of the political affiliations of faculty members at 51 of the 66 liberal-arts colleges ranked highest by U.S. News in 2017.

Of course, it comes up with the expected results that almost everyone, everywhere is a Democrat.  Cass says they don’t really mean it:

Such discrimination might take the form of unconscious devaluation of people whose views do not fit with the dominant perspective. For example, young historians who cast Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in a terrible light might not get a lot of job offers.

And says it only matters sometimes:

It is true that in some fields, political affiliations do not matter. In chemistry, math, physics and engineering, students should not care about the party affiliations of their professors. Sure, it’s conceivable that Democratic chemistry professors want to hire fellow Democrats. But that would be surprising. In all likelihood, they are looking for good chemistry professors.

He is wrong on both counts.  What is disappointing is that he has been in academia but did not seem to pay attention to the influence of faculty.

They, the folks on the left, mean it.  They set up curriculum, e.g., Woman’s Studies, and courses, e.g., Women and The US Economy, to attract fellow travelers.  Research works the same way as they create outlets for these areas.  Accreditation and hiring senior administrators happens in a similar manner.

Political affiliation matters in every field for at least three reasons.  First, folks on the left need the support of all faculty to create a leftist environment.  All faculty are involved in running the university.  Curriculum, courses, outside speakers, and senior administrators are largely to entirely selected by faculty.  Second, a big part of picking faculty is collegiality.  Of the folks that can do the job who do you want to spend the next twenty years with?  This is another way they do it on purpose.  Third, the scientists don’t just talk about science in classes.  Students should, as Cass says, be exposed to the joys of markets as well as market failure.  We commonly heard about the latter when scientists made research proposals at the university level.  We are certain that those comments made it to the classroom too.

We are glad that Cass recognizes that the political tilt of academia is a problem.  We wish he realized how serious it really is.





A Modest Nike Success?

Kevin Williamson and Jim Geraghty at NRO are on the advantages of being a progressive or a Democrat.  Here is Jim:

The concept of membership in the Democratic party being the modern equivalent of an indulgence, instantly washing away sin, is going to be appealing to some citizens and repellent to others.

Kevin has a similar but slightly different take:

Because they think of themselves as a special enlightened caste, progressives care almost nothing about process. Process is for the little people. Elizabeth Warren wouldn’t care if a Supreme Court opinion read “Ooo eee, ooo ah ah, ting, tang, walla walla bing bang” so long as it provided the result she wanted. But, of course, process matters. It is a bulwark against both anarchy and tyranny. [Emphasis added]

Sidebar One: When we read Kevin’s article we thought that the lyric that we noted in bold were great but so obscure that there should be a cite.  We checked Wikipedia and concluded that it is less obscure (Family Guy, Jonathan Creek, Muppets, etc.) than we had thought.  End Sidebar Two.

We like progressive rather than Democrat although the Venn Diagrams have a large overlap.  Social Justice Warriors [SJW] have another similar Venn Diagram.  It is fun to be a progressive.  It is why so many folks who are not progressives enjoy The Donald and other folks who behave like progressives.

Our point is to evaluate Nike.  About 10 days ago they embraced Colin Kaepernick with an ad campaign.  Some conservatives were delighted that Nike market capitalization went down by almost $4 billion.  We were not as enthusiastic.

Sidebar Two: The Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH) says the market reacts instantly to all new information in an unbiased manner.  We believe in EMH.  The question is what is new information.  The Colin campaign is one piece of information but other information comes out too.  You also need to look at the direction of the whole market to evaluate an individual stock.  Fortunately the whole market hasn’t made any big moves recently.  End Sidebar Two.

The market gives us prices.  We interpret those prices but there are many possible interpretations.  What has happened is that Nike stock did drop the day Colin was announced but it has rebounded since.  Today it is reaching record highs.  Our interpretation of Nike is consistent with Jim and Kevin’s point on individuals.  Because of the differences in behavior of the left and right, Nike’s biggest risk is with the SJW on the left.  Nike has bought on of the indulgences that Jim talked about.  By supporting Colin Nike has reduced the risk of SJW exposure from its overseas activities.  Nike isn’t home free as Harvey shows but, in our view, the market has concluded that Nike has reduced its biggest risk.  Most information is forthcoming every day.  We shall see.

A Significant Step?

Bernie Sanders has proposed as stop Bezos bill to get employers to fire employees on public assistance.  We have already weighed in on the what is Bernie thinking side.  Catherine Rampell describes the bill:

The bill, introduced Wednesday by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., would establish a “corporate welfare tax” on firms with at least 500 employees. Companies would pay a tax equal to 100 percent of the value of safety-net benefits their employees receive, including Medicaid, housing subsidies, food stamps and subsidized school lunches.

It is an astoundingly bad idea.  The shocking part is Catherine’s conclusion as to why she doesn’t support the bill:

As economists repeat ad nauseam: Incentives matter. No number of strident news conferences vilifying billionaires and big corporations will ever change that. [Emphasis added]

Catherine now on record as saying incentives matter.  It is just a small step from embracing markets.  Her conversion, however, is incomplete on the issue of incentives.  In the previous paragraph she says:

If you want to help workers, there are lots of alternatives less likely to backfire than this. Raise the minimum wage. Eliminate noncompete clauses. Increase other kinds of benefits (such as paid family leave). Make it easier for workers to unionize. Of course, these proposals need to be designed carefully, too, to make sure they help more workers than they hurt.

She hasn’t yet internalized incentives matter because it doesn’t matter how careful you are in design of higher prices for employees because, well, incentives matter.   We like her description of “less likely to backfire” so she seems to know the is a likelihood of bad outcomes from increasing the cost of employees.  That outcome is less employees.   Perhaps she can add one that is really less likely to backfire like less regulation for hair cutting and the like.

We are delighted to see Catherine taking small economic steps.  We don’t hold out much hope for Bernie but Catherine might be progressing from being so progressive.  It might help that her mom is an accountant. We wish her a good journey.



Risky Business

Nike (NKE) has decided to make Colin Kaepernick its new poster boy.  We thought making a failed player Nike’s guy seemed risky at best.  Add his, at best, confusing politics made it seem like a bad choice.  The Morning Jolt trusts the suits:

And now, for the cost of a few million — remember Nike had nearly $10 billion in revenue last quarter — the company bought the loyalty of the woke Social Justice Warrior crowd. Sure, some folks on the right will announce they’re boycotting, but nobody collects and analyzes marketing research data like Nike. They’ve no doubt run the numbers on this and concluded that the controversy was worth it.

Instapundit and Debra Heine are less sanguine:

Nike (NKE.N) stock dropped 2.7 percent today, amid calls on social media for a boycott of the sportswear giant, according to Reuters.

The headline says plunged but the text is closer at dropped and Debra is with us that the final outcome is unclear so far.  MWG trusts the market more than the suits but this is only the first day.  We have added NKE to our watch list.  It is at 79.60 now after a 2.60 drop that reduced its market capitalization by $3.75 billion.  Let’s watch.

Literary Trade-offs

We are currently reading Thomas Keneally’s novel, Napoleon’s Last Island.  It is an engaging book and Tom has a wonderful turn of phrase  We haven’t finished it yet but we would encourage you to read it.

Napoleon’s exile on St. Helena has increased the population on the small island because of his entourage and those guarding him and that has increased the demand for various things.  That leads to a phrase is particularly apropos for today.  On p. 160 he says, “There is nothing like improved vegetable prices to make an Englishman into a true admirer of the French republican imperial system.”  It is thought provoking because, like today, the Englishman has not entirely abandoned his principles to make monetary or political progress.

We recognize that there are some folks who have completely abandoned there principles (or never had them) but most of the folks in our current contentious times have been willing bend their principles for what they perceived as political gain.  Thus the left ignored and ignores behavior of many (e.g., Bill, Hillary, Elizabeth) in much the same way the right ignores The Donald’s behavior.  Tom’s overt overstatement reminds us that the Englishman has not really become a true admirer but he has given up a little of what makes him English.  Supporting The Donald doesn’t make you an ogre (a pet name for Napoleon) but it could.