Sober Democrats

George Will is looking for a sober Democrat.  We think it would be somebody he could disagree on most policy issues but still vote for in 2020.  Showing the difficulty of George’s search, the 44th President was in the news recently:

The former U.S. President said during a talk at the Obama Foundation summit in Chicago that world leaders must solve problems around climate change, education, agriculture, among others, which according to him are not as hard to deal with as they may seem. As reported by the Daily Mail, [the 44th President] didn’t mention [The Donald] by name, but he did say that the world “badly needs remaking” and that “the reason we don’t do it is because we are still confused, blind, shrouded with hate, anger, racism, mommy issues.”

The joy of being a progressive is that you can attack The Donald and the press will say perhaps it was an attack on … well, it might be somebody else.  So the immediate past president would have a hard time making the list of sober Democrats.  George has identified John Delany, an entrepreneur and a Congressman from Maryland, as a reasonable choice for the Democrat presidential nomination in 2020.  He is, as George demonstrates, a progressive:

He checks various boxes that might mollify all but the most fastidious progressives: He likes early-childhood education, a carbon tax, a $15 minimum wage, and extending the Social Security tax to higher incomes. He dislikes the NRA, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, high interest rates on student loans, and “outrageous” drug prices. He would achieve “universal” health care by offering Medicaid for all, and for those who choose to opt for private programs, as he thinks most people would, there would be federal subsidies for those who need them.

The only point of possible agreement for us in that list is the carbon tax.  We are willing to support a carbon tax at a reasonable level that replaces the gas tax.  It is not much to keep a conservative interested but, according to George, he is pleasingly adult compared to the candidates from the Senate.  George is right but it is an exceeding low bar to clear to be declared adult compared to Cory and Kamala.  George says the Democrats could do much worse and probably will.  We agree with him that it helps The Donald.  We would like to see a sober Democrat leader again in our lifetime but it doesn’t look good.  It is too bad because there is an opening for sober leaders.

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Culture Trying To Change Reality

The press, media, writers, and video makers of all kinds try to distort our reality.  There are two problems with this.  First, the majority runs left and it is a distraction if not an influence on all of us.  Two, if you choose to do so in this fractured world, you can limit your exposure to a very limited area.  We were reminded of this as we started Sue Grafton’s novel W Is For Wasted.  Here is Sue on page three:

This was October 7, 1988 ,and it looked like things were as bad as they were ever going to get.

So we are thinking it is tough times for Sue’s anti-hero Kinsey because this is about as good as things have ever been at the end of Reagan’s second term.  We looked it up to check.  Real economic growth in each of the last four quarters was over four percent.  The Cold War wasn’t over but Reagan had made his Tear Down This Wall speech.  Sure the price of stamps had gone up but otherwise it was as close as we will ever see to perfect on the national level.  Instead, Sue was worried about the deficit, unemployment, and stamp prices.  We’re not sure why Sue mentioned unemployment of 5.5% as an item indicating it was as bad as it gets.  It had come down from double digits in the beginning of the decade (here are annual rates) so unemployment reduction was another positive part of the Reagan Revolution.

For a conservative it is hard, but not impossible, to avoid the left because they are numerous, outspoken, and love to generalize.  We are not starting our novel: It was December 2012 and it looked like things were as bad as they were ever going to get.  It does remind us that we should work on that novel and to try to be a little more subtle than Sue was.

The problem is finding a solution.  Our novel won’t do it.  Posting political stuff on FaceBook does more harm than good.  A check to the National Review might help and don’t be afraid of the left in print, film, or in person.

 

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.