Friday Ephemera
No Ego Whatsoever, Just an Urge to Control

Elsewhere (64)

Charlotte Allen and George Leef on why sociology is disreputable

In examining those courses, we found very few indications that students were introduced to ideas about the causes of inequality or policies to deal with it that reflect free-market or public-choice perspectives. (Public-choice theory proposes that the bureaucrats who administer social programs are motivated largely by their own self-interest). Overwhelmingly, the courses take an approach perfectly in keeping with left/progressive beliefs about the causes of and cures for inequality. The textbooks and assigned readings are almost invariably by leftist authors. Students almost never encounter well-known conservative critics of leftist conceptions about inequality such as Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Martin Anderson, or Charles Murray.

Students are, however, likely to encounter the Communist Manifesto and books by devout socialists Barbara Ehrenreich and Frances Fox Piven, of whom more here, here and here

Thomas Sowell on the big lies of politics

The fact that so many successful politicians are such shameless liars is not only a reflection on them; it is also a reflection on us. When the people want the impossible, only liars can satisfy them, and only in the short run. The current outbreaks of riots in Europe show what happens when the truth catches up with both the politicians and the people in the long run. Among the biggest lies of the welfare states on both sides of the Atlantic is the notion that the government can supply the people with things they want but cannot afford. Since the government gets its resources from the people, if the people as a whole cannot afford something, neither can the government. There is, of course, the perennial fallacy that the government can simply raise taxes on “the rich” and use that additional revenue to pay for things that most people cannot afford. What is amazing is the implicit assumption that “the rich” are all such complete fools that they will do nothing to prevent their money from being taxed away. History shows otherwise. 

And maths shows that even if the left could take everything those terrible rich people have, this still wouldn’t balance the books

Sowell again, on class war rhetoric versus tax revenue

After [Secretary of the Treasury Andrew] Mellon finally succeeded in getting Congress to lower the top tax rate from 73 percent to 24 percent, the government actually received more tax revenues at the lower rate than it had at the higher rate. Moreover, it received a higher proportion of all income taxes from the top income earners than before. Something similar happened in later years, after tax rates were cut under Presidents Kennedy, Reagan and G.W. Bush. The record is clear. Barack Obama admitted during the 2008 election campaign that he understood that raising tax rates does not necessarily mean raising tax revenues. Why then is he pushing so hard for higher tax rates on “the rich” this election year? Because class warfare politics can increase votes for his re-election, even if it raises no more tax revenues for the government. 

And relevant to the above: How to optimise your class war rhetoric

As always, feel free to add your own. 



Students are, however, likely to encounter the Communist Manifesto and books by devout socialists Barbara Ehrenreich and Frances Fox Piven

Next: learning economics from Polly Toynbee and Laurie Penny.


“Next: learning economics from Polly Toynbee and Laurie Penny.”

Pretty much. But it’s an inevitable consequence of making large parts of academia an extension of leftist activism. Which is what quite a few educators think academia should be.


Well University is as big a bubble as housing.

Quite a few degrees have negative investment yields, i.e. you earn less after taking it, and that doesn't even include the opportunity cost of 3-4 wasted years, or funding the debt!

It's why I like University fees so much, it makes students think about what they'll be doing rather than spending other peoples money on themselves.


even if the left could take everything those terrible rich people have, this still wouldn’t balance the books.

David, thanks for the link to Bill Whittle's 'Eat the Rich' video. It needs to be seen more widely.



“Quite a few degrees have negative investment yields…”

As noted previously,

The higher education bubble appears unsustainable. This has quite a lot of bearing on assumptions of inter-generational subsidy. For instance, the average lifetime financial return on an arts degree is estimated at around £30,000. Set against the cost of courses, accommodation and lost earnings during the period of study, the net result is most likely a reduction in lifetime earnings. In short, there’s no longer a return for the taxpayer and little economic incentive for inter-generational subsidy. [...] In the UK there are currently around 20,000 students of fine art, 10,000 philosophy students and 27,000 enthusiasts of media studies. But is there a corresponding economic need? If the investment of time, effort and (other people’s) money doesn’t pay off with a lucrative and fascinating career in the private sector and a return via taxation, then how is the process justified in its present form?

But those whose self-righteousness extends to starting fires and throwing rocks at the police didn’t seem at all interested in the actual causes of their grievance. After all, taking an interest in such things might reveal a problem with the egalitarian slogans they shout at other people. And to mock the sense of entitlement and general credulity is apparently a form of “hate” and “bullying.”


Re sociology and previous discussions of politicised academia: readers may be interested to know that the University of Kent has a course on Marxism as part of a 'Social Sciences' degree. No doubt there's a good reason for this but it's puzzling how the course aims to

"enable [students] to assess both the contemporary and historical significance of Marxism in world politics"


"Students are not expected to demonstrate any detailed knowledge of the history of Marxist-inspired governments, regimes or political movements"



Why do I get the feeling that course is not taught by a Cuban. Or a Romanian. Or a Pole. Or a Cambodian. Or a...



Do they mean students needn’t demonstrate any such knowledge at the end of the course? If so, perhaps this is to spare them any, um, dissonance. I suppose some might find Marxism in theory - i.e., bleached of realism - slightly less disgusting than actual Marxism, i.e., Marxism in power, which is harder to sanitise.


Interested in this, the issue of bias in the academies. Yes, there's probably a marked bias in some courses. But then again, truth and opinion are naturally biased; you can either be 'right' or 'wrong', 'perceptive' or 'ignorant'. So left-wing academics (and right-wing ones, for that matter; there are a few) have always got that defence.

One problem with complaints about left-wing bias is that when political solutions do get mooted they're usually so... naff. We saw that a few years back in Australia when the conservative John Howard Government made a study of Australian history mandatory in schools, or when they protested against bias in the ABC (equivalent of the BBC). Doubtless equally naff solutions will be proposed and enforced by our Labor government when they finally finish a media inquiry underway over here at the moment.

Mandate right-wing academics to balance out the left-wing ones? My gosh that would be horrible. Voluntary stooges of the Marxist-Trotskyist left balanced out by compulsory stooges of the right. Withdraw public funding from the unis? Slightly more attractive but that would probably have the effect of destroying institutions that have been with us for centuries, millenia even, because of a few idiots - like wiping out the proverbial ants nest with the proverbial H-bomb. But then that's the problem with political solutions from politicians who profess to believe in free-markets and liberty; you can't enforce people to be free. You can't manipulate them into liberty.

I'm afraid the only way to fight against ideas is with other ideas; so let's have more Sowells, more Dalrymples, more people willing to stand up and argue and contest the rhetoric of the left. You show me your 'studies of inequality', I'll show you my 'politics of envy'. And modesty, humility, courage, and character is required as well; it's perfectly fine to study Marx's ideas - so long as you are also aware of the all-too human failings of people who have, and will, attempt to put those ideas into action.

Just thinking aloud here David, be interested in the response of you and your readers as well.



“Mandate right-wing academics to balance out the left-wing ones? My gosh that would be horrible.”

Agreed, and implausible. I can’t see much merit in airlifting in rival ideologues, who would presumably have to be equally presumptuous and incontinent, even if they could be persuaded to work in hostile territory. (And as we’ve seen, the territory can be quite hostile. Even sinister.) If you’re interested in the subject and want further, rather striking examples, it’s worth reading Horowitz and Laksin’s One-Party Classroom. While fiercely critical, Horowitz doesn’t want ‘affirmative action’ for non-leftist educators or political vetting or any similar measures; he just wants universities to follow their own stated rules of professionalism and academic probity. As Horowitz illustrates repeatedly, the issue isn’t just one of political grooming, question-begging and classroom impropriety; it’s also about incompetence and failure to meet basic standards of professional conduct. When global economics, geopolitics and military history are being taught, badly, by people whose only qualification is in comparative literature, then it seems to me there’s a problem. One might call it fraud.

However, as he concludes in the book’s final chapter:

When we completed our investigations, we sent a copy of our findings to the trustees and top administrators of each of the twelve colleges chronicled in these pages. Aside from the decision of Temple University to restructure its summer freshman reading programme, the response was nil. This reflects the lack of oversight or public intervention. As long as faculties and administrators continue to turn a blind eye to these abuses – and as long as students, alumni, parents and trustees fail to stand up to these abuses – these trends will continue unabated and unaddressed.

Horowitz doesn’t object to the inclusion of quasi-Marxist ideology as part of an – ideally disinterested - course of study. He stresses the importance of intellectual pluralism and the testing of ideas. What Horowitz objects to, vehemently, is the unchallenged propagation of leftist claims as the sole, authoritative explanation for how the world is and how it ought to be – by self-styled “activists” - as if their own far left arguments were self-evidently true and unassailable. And this isn’t just a matter of a few dozen aberrations at fringe institutions. There are hundreds of similar courses at mainstream, supposedly reputable universities. The problem is systemic. These educators don’t exist in a vacuum. You don’t get a Ward Churchill (a department chairman) or a Bill Ayers (Distinguished Professor) or a Wahneema Lubiano (tenured) or a Cornel West (Princeton, Harvard) or a Dana Cloud or a Duke Group of 88 without endorsement and approval by peers and hiring committees.

A recurrent finding is that the worst offenders have a sense of fiefdom, an echo-chamber, and thus a kind of privacy. But what they do in private is much harder to defend in public. So let’s give these people a little publicity. Let them display their conceited overreach to the people footing the bill.

And there is, I suppose, an upside of sorts:

In an odd way, conservatives get a better education than anyone left of centre because their views are getting challenged. If I were a left of centre student, I could spend four years in a college and not once have any of my most basic assumptions challenged.

You can swap the word ‘conservative’ for ‘classical liberal,’ ‘libertarian’ or whatever and the point still stands.

Also recommended, this Horowitz lecture.

John D

why sociology is disreputable

Bias? What bias?


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