The neoliberal imagination

by Henry on October 31, 2005

It’s all confirmthem.com, all of the time at the Volokhs today; Todd Zywicki chimes in with his little bit.

For those like myself (and I hazard to guess Scalia, Alito, and Thomas) conservatism is attractive because it now seems to be the party of meritocracy where one is judged on your character and ability, and not on your connections or demographics. As the doors of schools such as Princeton and Yale Law School (in Alito’s case), and the professions themselves have been thrown open to Italians, Poles, Irish, etc., individuals such as Scalia and Alito have had the opportunity to prove themselves. Among other things, I think this cultural upbringing reflects itself in a skepticism about racial preferences in college admissions and hiring. It is difficult to say, from what I can tell, that Sam Alito’s ascent to the Supreme Court came about through some sort of unfair advantage, money, or family connections. In the legal arena, I think this cultural temperament may reflect itself in a anti-elitist streak rebelling against the arrogance of the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary and a humility in the face of the common-sense of citizens as reflected through democratically-elected legislatures.

The best rejoinder to this conservatism-as-meritocracy trope that I’ve seen is Walter Benn Michaels’ brilliant little essay on the neoliberal imagination for N+1 magazine (not available online – but see here for a shorter version). Michaels’ essay is devastating as a critique both of liberal and neo-liberal/conservative attempts to brush the issue of class under the carpet. When conservatives claim that in the absence of formal discrimination, merit will out, they’re making a claim that isn’t any better justified by the empirics than the liberal notion that a carefully metered dose of ‘diversity’ makes up in any substantial sense for a system that’s overwhelmingly skewed against the poor.

But of course it’s not really true that there are rich people and poor people at Harvard – there are very few poor people at Harvard or, for that matter, at any of the 146 colleges that count as “selective”: 3 per cent of the students in these institutions come from … the lowest socio-economic quarter of American society; 74 per cent come from the highest. And from this standpoint, we can see that the purpose of objecting to conspicuous displays of wealth at school is not so much to avoid offending the poor people at Harvard as it is to pretend that there are enough poor people at Harvard to offend. …
Schools … loom larger in the neoliberal imagination than they did in the liberal imagination because schools have become our primary mechanism for convincing ourselves that poor people deserve their poverty. Or, to put the point the other way around, schools have become our primary mechanism for convincing us rich people that we deserve our wealth. Everyone gets that people who go to elite schools have a sizable economic advantage over people who don’t; that’s one reason why people want to go to them. And as long as the elite schools are open to anyone who’s smart enough and/or hardworking enough to get into them, we see no injustice in reapoint their benefits. It’s OK if schools are technologies for reproducing inequality as long as there are also technologies for justifying it. But the justification will work only if … there really are rich people and poor people at Harvard.
… For neoliberals, in other words, it’s prejudice not poverty that counts at the problem, and if, at the heart of the liberal imagination, as Trilling understood it, was the desire not to have to think about class difference, then at the heart of the neoliberal imagination is the desire not to have to get rid of class difference. … Almost always it takes the form of insisting that class doesn’t matter … Of course it might be objected that when it comes to being healthier, safer, freer and happier, being rich does indeed make you better … But the politics of the neoliberal imagination involve respecting the poor not getting rid of poverty.

{ 76 comments }

1

snuh 11.01.05 at 1:02 am

i don’t think any excerpt, no matter how long, can do justice to walter benn michaels’ essay. it is likely the best thing ever written in n+1, better even than that hitchens hatchet job from issue 2.

2

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.01.05 at 2:28 am

“When conservatives claim that in the absence of formal discrimination, merit will out, they’re making a claim that isn’t any better justified by the empirics than the liberal notion that a carefully metered dose of ‘diversity’ makes up in any substantial sense for a system that’s overwhelmingly skewed against the poor.”

I think you may be rather overstating Zywicki’s claim. Rich people do indeed tend to do better than poor people (on average–individual exceptions always existing of course). No one plan fixes everything–public schooling was intended to remedy some of it. And some of it has indeed been remedied by pulic schooling. I could overstate things in much the same way and point out that the poor/rich achievment gap has not been eliminated in any large-scale arena. But that doesn’t prove that we shouldn’t bother with trying to help the poor any more than the fact that poor people often don’t do well means that we can’t talk about racial discrimination.

Conservatives are saying that we would be better off without institutionalized racial discrimination. It wouldn’t fix everything in the world. But it would be a good thing.

3

abb1 11.01.05 at 3:31 am

You can’t win here without confronting Murray’s theories: if mostly the rich get to Harvard that’s because they have better genes, they are smarter; the poor just don’t have what it takes – meritocracy rules. Does Mr. Michaels address this argument?

4

luci phyrr 11.01.05 at 4:04 am

conservatism is attractive because it now seems to be the party of meritocracy […] this cultural upbringing reflects itself in a skepticism about racial preferences in college admissions and hiring.

Since Zywicki said, “among other things”, would it be overstating his case to wonder if he believes that “racial preferences in admissions and hiring” are the most significant affronts to our fabled meritocracy?

Why bring them up first, and often exclusively? Because AA programs are more overt? Surely there are more significant failures to Get What We Truly Deserve….Do the conservatives who strive for a “level playing field” apply as much energy to finding, exposing and righting these other, more substantial forms of “unfairness”?

In the universe of unfair advantages obtained *not through merit, does the 3% of total enrollment at, say, UofTexas that was affected by AA programs strike the fair-minded conservatives as the most egregious examples?

Seems an awful like the conservative tendency to point to welfare programs as their first example of free market violations, incentive-distorting policies.

It always seems to me that a wink-wink nudge-nudge thing is going on, whereby the deep thinking, fair minded conservative (though I’m unfamiliar with the Volokh people) provides an “argument” for what is basically just an effective, instrumental use of ethnic appeals for political gain. Just tribal politics, right? Or is it worse?

5

sammler 11.01.05 at 5:26 am

Is this “devastating critique” of conservative ideas accurately summed up by saying that it “isn’t any better justified by the empirics” than the paleo-liberal alternative? That’s not exactly a ringing defense of the liberal establishment.

6

John Quiggin 11.01.05 at 5:37 am

The big empirical issue here is social mobility. It’s well established that the US has lower social mobility than other developed countries.

The Harvard numbers, cited above, illustrate the kinds of reasons why. Most countries have a less stratified higher ed system and less class-based access to the top stratum. On this score, at least until recently, Harvard and other leading universities practised affirmative action for the rich through legacy/alumni preferences.

7

Chris Bertram 11.01.05 at 5:52 am

The big normative issue is wealth redistribution.

There’s now so much focus on widening access to higher education as a putatively egalitarian goal. But giving a wider swathe of people access to the means to enrich themselves (and to a back-story about how they deserve it) doesn’t begin to get at the basic problem. Better social mobility doesn’t do much to mitigate the inequality associated with the positions between which (some) people are mobile.

8

Doug 11.01.05 at 7:40 am

JQ, German radio (SWR3, I think) was reporting yesterday that recent PISA studies had shown that in no other industrialized country were outcomes in school as closely tied to the family’s socio-economic position as in Germany. There was also an article in the European edition of Time magazine from summer 2003 that reported only 8 percent (maybe it was 9 percent, but it was in that ballpark) of the children of German parents without university degrees go on to attain one themselves. (I honestly don’t know where this falls in an international comparison, but it certainly seems low.)

I’m not sure what the ‘top stratum’ of German universities might be. Anyone know?

Also, in re legacies, considering the amount of funding that is expected to come from alumni support, some preference for legacies seems like institutional self-interest. This is difficult to do away with.

9

Michael Rizzo 11.01.05 at 7:41 am

“The big empirical issue here is social mobility. It’s well established that the US has lower social mobility than other developed countries.”

Please provide us with some of this well established evidence. It certainly does not show up from studies of the PSID. It also doesn’t show up in consumption studies. I am curious to know what exactly this evidence is?

-Mike

10

John Quiggin 11.01.05 at 7:41 am

I agree with you on the importance of wealth redistribution, Chris, but equality of outcome vs equality of opportunity is a distinction without a difference.

11

Don Quijote 11.01.05 at 7:47 am

Conservatives are saying that we would be better off without institutionalized racial discrimination. It wouldn’t fix everything in the world. But it would be a good thing.

ROTFLMAO

Conservatives had no problem with racial discrimination when slavery was in effect for a couple of hundred years or when Jim Crow was the law of the land for seventy + years, but now that you have to give back a little to the descendants of the people you so thorougly used, abused and discarded, you have a problem with Affirmative action.

The hypocrisy just blows the f*cken mind.

PS. When will you be enlisting to join in the great crusade against brown people in Iraq?

12

Slocum 11.01.05 at 7:56 am

Everyone gets that people who go to elite schools have a sizable economic advantage over people who don’t; that’s one reason why people want to go to them.

Surprisingly, that is actually false.

Yes, people who graduate from Ivy League schools do, in fact, earn more than those who graduate from middle-of-the-pack state schools, but NOT because of the value added by an Ivy League education or because of the cachet of an Ivy League logo or even because of the connections.

People who graduate from Ivy League universtities earn more only because of characteristics those students possessed before they got there. Those same students would have earned just as much, on average, if they’d chosen to go to their state university.

How do we know? An ingenious study compared students who attended Ivy League schools with students who were accepted but, for whatever reason, chose to go to State U instead. No significant differences showed up between the two groups in terms of later earnings (with the interesting exception of minority students–they were the only ones that showed any benefit):

http://www.nytimes.com/library/financial/columns/042700grads-econoscene.html

It’s odd that these findings are not better known (though, obviously, elite universtities themselves have no reason to want to publicize them).

This both supports and undermines affirmative action. On the one hand, access to elite universities provides no great benefit for any students, so there’s not much point in affirmative action. But on the other hand, white students who are excluded are not harmed by being excluded and having to attend less selective universities (and may actually benefit by earning as much but having much lower student loan payments), so there’s not much point in getting worked up about it. And lastly, the only students who do show any measurable earnings benefit from attending elite colleges are the minority students who are beneficiaries of affirmative action.

13

chris n 11.01.05 at 8:18 am

re German Universities,

I’m currently studying at one of the ‘best’ german universities (although, unlike the US rankings mean much less in Germany — Universities are publicly funded, and I believe the idea is that there be some level of equality), and have often wondered at what seemed to be a lack of lower-class students — especially from, say, immigrant Turkish populations. This is striking, also, because university study is for all intents and purposes free for Germans (there are currently debates raging about whether tuition fees should be raised to the whopping fee of several hundred euros a semester).

I wonder, however, if one can trace the low percentage of children from parents with no university degree to attain one themselves to the way primary education is conducted here. What happens is that after elementary school (or perhaps a little after, I can’t remember exactly), the better students are put into University track, schools, where the poorer students go into more technical track ones. One’s destiny is in large part determined by the time one becomes a teenager.

However, I think maybe only a third or so of Germans end up going to universities in the first place. Not sure what its like in the US.

14

John Quiggin 11.01.05 at 8:20 am

Mike you could look at

Robert E. Goodin, Bruce Headey, Ruud Muffels and Henk-Jan Dirven, The Real Worlds of Welfare Capitalism, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999

I’m not aware of any comparative work done using the PSID, or how consumption studies have been used to assess social mobility. Could you explain further ?

15

Henry 11.01.05 at 8:26 am

Slocum -Michaels addresses this point in the essay – he argues that differences between selective colleges don’t count for muc. It’s getting into one of these colleges in the first place that is important (which college you get into counts for status, not for your paycheck). Krueger’s data, as far as I can make out (NBER’s site seems not to be working for me) addresses differences between 30 quite selective colleges, not, say, the difference, between Princeton and the community college down the road.

16

Steve LaBonne 11.01.05 at 8:28 am

It’s all very well for us to talk here amongst ourselves, but why aren’t prominent Democratic politicans busy constantly debunking this ridiculous conservative “the people are oppressed by the liberal elites” meme for what it is- a smokescreen emitted by those who truly are privileged? Oh, sorry, I guess for a moment there I was expecting Democratic politicans to actually take a principled stand and successfully communicate it to the public- what could I have been thinking?

If thie country gets much crazier I’m going to end up sounding like abb1 one of these days…

17

Chris Bertram 11.01.05 at 9:01 am

John, Not so.

Your view, if I understand (and abbreviate) it correctly is that genuine equality of opportunity requires equality of outcome because inequalities of outcome will necessarily translate into inequalities of opportunity as the better-off pass on their advantages to their children.

That doesn’t show that the two are not distinct ideals, nor that we shouldn’t contemplate some tradeoff between them.

But in any case, I didn’t use the slogan “equality of opportunity”. What I’d support is the notion that careers should be open to talents whilst simultaneously wanting sharply to reduce the income premium associated with the better jobs. If you like: equality of opportunity, but not equality of opportunity for higher incomes.

(Lots more to be said, obviously).

18

Steve 11.01.05 at 9:25 am

“Conservatives had no problem with racial discrimination when slavery was in effect for a couple of hundred years or when Jim Crow was the law of the land for seventy + years, but now that you have to give back a little to the descendants of the people you so thorougly used, abused and discarded, you have a problem with Affirmative action.

The hypocrisy just blows the f*cken mind.”

The inanity of suggesting that the same people who supported slavery are the ones who today oppose affirmative action (apparently, conservatives are all in the ballpark of 200 years old) is only enhanced by the actual, genuine hypocrisy of today’s liberals, who actually ARE the same people that simultaneously oppose racial discrimination but support affirmative action. As a helpful clue: people don’t live 200 or more years. Once you understand that basic fact, your analysis will improve.

Steve

19

Mrs Tilton 11.01.05 at 9:31 am

Doug,

I’m not certain that the concept of ‘top stratum’ has the same importance for German as for American universities. Though I reserve a special spot for the Alma Julia in me black and wizened ould heart, I don’t think it much matters, for career purposes, where one has studied. (Indeed the old German tradition is to shift unis at least once, though most people seem to stay put these days.)

That’s as a general matter. Especially for those who are going to be academics, and to a lesser extent for those non-academics who are doing a higher degree, where you did your work does make some difference. But that’d be less because of the institution, I’d say, than of the individual. What matters is not that you were at the Universität of X but that you were in Prof. Y’s lab or that Prof. Z was your Doktorelternteil.

Certainly there are perceived differences of quality from one uni to another (particularly if one looks at faculties rather than the uni as a whole). But Germany hasn’t anything remotely like America’s distinction between Harvard OT1H and East Bumfuck State Agricultural College OTO.

20

Slocum 11.01.05 at 9:33 am

Krueger’s data, as far as I can make out (NBER’s site seems not to be working for me) addresses differences between 30 quite selective colleges, not, say, the difference, between Princeton and the community college down the road.

I’ve not dug into the original data, but my sense was that there were significant differences between the ivy league schools and the state school alternatives. That’s almost unavoidable, since there aren’t very many state universities that are considsered elite ‘public ivies’.

Penn State, an example used in the NY Times article, is much less selective than Penn in the ivy league (PSU accepts 58% of its applicants, Penn accepts 21%).

What about students who were accepted to ivy league schools but chose to attend lower-tier state schools or community colleges? My suspicion is that there are few such students to study. Such options would be unlikely to be the second choices of student accepted to Harvard.

Michaels addresses this point in the essay – he argues that differences between selective colleges don’t count for muc. It’s getting into one of these colleges in the first place that is important (which college you get into counts for status, not for your paycheck).

Well, to me the study does not suggest that getting into ‘these places’ is what’s important. Quite the reverse–it suggests that what students themselves bring to the table is important. As the Penn State vs Penn acceptance rates show, ‘these places’ are not the same. And why would the difference between Harvard and Michigan State have no effect at all on future earnings, but the difference between Michigan State and Central Michigan be critical? Somebody would need to do a parallel study (comparing students who were accepted to mildly selective state schools like MSU but decided to attend non-selective state schools like CMU instead), but I’d expect the same results — wouldn’t you?

As for status vs income — I’d expect status of graduates to track much more closely with income and professional achievements than undergraduate college in the years and decades after graduations. Around here, anyway, nobody much cares where anybody in their 30’s/40’s/50’s went to school (except when it comes time to deciding what color sweatshirt to wear on Saturdays in the fall)–but then, we’re all several hundred miles distant from the east coast hot-house.

21

Erik 11.01.05 at 9:36 am

A minor point: what is the justification for talking about “class” here rather than “income” or “wealth” inequalities, which motivate all the data examples.

22

Maria 11.01.05 at 9:38 am

ebb1,

Genes may or may not count for much of the intergenerational transmission of status – check out the essays in Meritocracy and Economic Inequality. But it is quite probable that a sizeable part of this inequality in opportunities could be reduced by providing better schools early on in the lives of poor kids.
We are still far from being in a situation where all differences are driven by genetic factors. For what it’s worth, I’m not sure these differences would be acceptable, either, but that’s another issue.

23

Kim 11.01.05 at 9:57 am

Mike —

Classic studies of comparative mobility include Grusky & Hauser’s (1984) “Comparative Social Mobility Revisited” and Erikson & Goldthorpe’s (1992) “Constant Flux.” Citation searches on either of these will bring up more contemporary research. Note, though, that much of this research crunches the same data, since most national economic surveys and census’ do not ask about parent’s occupation).

I’ve posted on this before, but with all due respect to John, it isn’t quite as easy to characterize the US position WRT mobility as his statement implies. You have to differentiate between absolute mobility (which can be affected by changing demand for particular types of labor) and relative mobility / social fluidity (the net association between class of origin and class of destination, after purging out marginal shifts in the demand for particular types of labor and the “supply” of kids from different classes). The US has, at least in the 20th century, had more absolute mobility than most other industrialized countries, but roughly the same levels and patterns of relative mobility as most other industrialized countries. The US has lower relative mobility rates than Sweden (and, presumably, other Scandinavian countries, although I don’t remember for certain).

All the above refers to class mobility. Income and earnings mobility are a different kettle of fish.

24

Hektor Bim 11.01.05 at 10:07 am

Steve,

Many of the people who supported Jim Crow are still alive, though. Let’s look up the careers of some prominent men who voted or spoke against civil rights legislation:

Trent Lott
George H W Bush
Dick Cheney
William Buckley

Note anything interesting about this group of people?

I think it is possible for conservatives to oppose affirmative action out of principle. It is not credible, however, to deny that the Southern strategy existed, or that it was a coincidence that the people who opposed civil rights for black people shifted to the Republican party in the south.

The conservatives were wrong about civil rights, something they really have never admitted to. They want us all to forget it and let them go. I am unwilling to allow it. This isn’t even discussing the conservatives who supported apartheid in South Africa (Dick Cheney, I’m looking at you).

There is a clear correlation between being an old conservative and being against civil rights. These people have forfeited their moral authority when it comes to affirmative action.

25

Richard Bellamy 11.01.05 at 10:18 am

Isn’t the logical conclusion of this that we should provide our highest honors and positions to those 3% of us who came from poverty and raised ourselves to greatness? If social climbing is so hard in America, then the Thomases and his ilk are truly superior than those of us who (a) were rich and went to top schools, or (b) were poor and stayed that way.

26

jet 11.01.05 at 10:21 am

Hecktor Bim,
1964 Civil Rights Act, final draft, 80% yes from Republicans, 56% yes from Democrats. The Republicans voted overwhelmingly to support the Act while the Democrats could barely put together a majority.

27

Uncle Kvetch 11.01.05 at 10:27 am

Somebody please, please explain to me how the ostensibly intelligent folks at Volokh manage to reconcile the two phrases “the party of meritocracy” and “President George W. Bush” without laughing, crying, or throwing up. Please.

It’s beyond parody. The Onion couldn’t do better.

28

Steve 11.01.05 at 10:29 am

Hector-
You forgot Senator (D) Byrd from West Virginia.

Steve

29

paul 11.01.05 at 10:32 am

Any study of people accepted at elite private institutions has an enormous selection bias against the non-rich. Even with financial aid, the costs of attending such universities is potentially crippling, so plently of smart non-rich kids don’t even bother to apply. The ones who do apply have already decided that they’re going to be headed for the highest-paying career sectors they can find, because otherwise they’d have no chance of paying off the loans, so the selection bias becomes even more confounding.

30

JR 11.01.05 at 10:33 am

“conservatism is attractive because it now seems to be the party of meritocracy where one is judged on your character and ability, and not on your connections or demographics.”

Look, this is horseshit. Alito has been nominated for one reason only: he’s a pious Catholic who is willing to impose his religion on the rest of us. The right wing of the court is populated by Catholic believers: Scalia, Roberts, and Thomas. If Alito is confirmed, the right wing will be entirely Catholic, and the new swing voter- Anthony Kennedy- is also an observant Catholic.

On the so-called “left” (there is no left- these are all moderates), there are a moderately observant Jew, a non-practicing Jew, an Episcopalian, and a non-denominational Protestant.

The only non-Catholic justices nominated by a Republican since Ford are Souter (Episcopalian) and O’Connor (Episcopalian),and the fundamentalists HATE them. Miers, a Protestant fundamentalist herself, didn’t make it because she wasn’t wingnutty enough.

It turns out you just can’t find a Protestant or Jew who (a) can do the work and (b) is acceptable to the radical right. The only place you can find someone with a commitment to legal reasoning AND a fierce opposition to women’s rights and gay rights is in the seminary.

Rehnquist, of course, was a Lutheran. But Rehnquist grew up a long time ago. The Protestant churches have moved on in the last half-century- at least, those that can produce individuals committed to legal scholarship have. The Catholic Church hasn’t.

With Alito, the Supreme Court will have five observant Catholics. So please, don’t tell us that Alito wasn’t nominated because of his “demographics.”

31

Ginger Yellow 11.01.05 at 10:33 am

You’ll notice, Jet, that Democrats were socially conservative in 1964. You may just have heard of something called the Southern Strategy.

But I think people are being unfair to Zywicki. So long as you’re a rich white male, conservatism couldn’t care less about your demographics.

32

catfish 11.01.05 at 10:41 am

Jet,

This always come up in these sorts of threads, but it is worth reiterating:

The Republicans who voted for the Civil Rights Act were liberals. They have been driven from the party by the Conservative takeover of the 70s and 80s.

The Democrats who voted against the Civil Rights Act were conservatives, mostly from the South. They too, were driven from the party in the 70s and 80s. They, and their ideological descendents are now Republicans.

33

Hektor Bim 11.01.05 at 10:52 am

Jet,

Ginger yellow also pointed this out, but I’ll reiterate this. Notice that I said “conservatives”, not “Republicans”. There were in fact, plenty of liberal Republicans in the 1960s that supported civil rights, but they are mostly gone now. If you look at the Democrats who voted against civil rights, you’ll notice that most of them were conservatives who later found a home in the conservative wing of the Republican party.

Steve,

Unlike the ones I mentioned, Robert Byrd has actually _apologized_ for his opposition to civil rights. In other words, he changed his mind and acknowledged he was wrong. I don’t see any of the people I listed doing that. Trent Lott apologized for giving offense, but he still gives interviews talking about how great things were in Mississippi in the 50s under Jim Crow, and he clearly still believes in segregation, otherwise why say that to his fellow conservative Democrat-turned-Republican Strom Thurmond? He also still maintains ties with white-supremacist groups like the Council of Conservative Citizens.

Are there any leaders of the now-conservative Republican party who supported the civil rights act when it came up for a vote in Congress?

I’ll reiterate – conservatives lost all moral authority on this issue when they opposed civil rights and refused to apologize or change their ways. That group includes George HW Bush, Dick Cheney, Trent Lott, and many others.

34

praktike 11.01.05 at 11:32 am

I don’t think it’s possible to have a meritocracy without at least a kind of elitism.

35

jet 11.01.05 at 11:59 am

Hector Bim,

…but they are mostly gone now.

I can assure you, they are all gone now (except for Byrd).

I like this convoluted trail of assumptions you’ve woven into your “proof” that Republicans have no moral authority to talk about affirmative action. You go from Republicans are the new Democrats and Democrats are the old Republicans (yeah because the Republicans were all about Johnson’s New Society), and from there some more fuzzy talk, and wa-la, Republicans (conservatives) are a bunch of Southern racists trying to keep the black man down. Your logic is truly astounding, you’re like the next Plato or something.

36

Matt Austern 11.01.05 at 12:21 pm

There’s nothing fuzzy or controversial about the well documented fact that there used to be a segregationist Southern wing of the Democratic Party, that the Democratic Party no longer has a conservative wing, and that the people who used to be segregationist Democrats are now Republicans. It’s easy to name specific politicians who have made the transition from conservative Democrats to conservative Republicans, and people have named lots of them in this thread.

And that is the reason why people who are talking about the politics of civil rights over the last 40 years haven’t talked about “Republicans” and “Democrats”, but about conservatives and liberals. Party affiliation has changed, largely because segregationists have finally reconciled themselves to belonging to a party that opposed slavery, but political philosophy has not.

I’m astonished that anyone is trying to blur this. There’s nothing subtle about it, nothing speculative, nothing controversial. The defection of the conservative Southern wing of the Democratic Party is the very first thing you have to know to understand American politics of the last three decades.

37

bob mcmanus 11.01.05 at 12:22 pm

1964 Civil Rights Act, via Wikipedia

By Party and Region:

The Original House Version:

Southern Democrats: 7-87
Southern Republicans: 0-10
Northern Democrats: 145-9
Northern Republicans: 138-24
The Senate Version:

Southern Democrats: 1-21
Southern Republicans: 0-1
Northern Democrats: 46-1
Northern Republicans: 27-5

Even Northern Republicans were worse on Civil Rights than Northern Democrats. And of course, all who voted for it would now be Democrats, and all who voted against would now be Republicans. I doubt the bill would pass today, and in fact, if trends continue, I expect the present Republican Party to attempt its repeal, on grounds that it is no longer necessary. Some parts of Southern supervision have been brought up for repeal already since 1994.

The GOP literally wants to return to 1890, especially in the South.

38

abb1 11.01.05 at 12:25 pm

Maria,
ebb1,

Genes may or may not count for much of the intergenerational transmission of status – check out the essays in Meritocracy and Economic Inequality. But it is quite probable that a sizeable part of this inequality in opportunities could be reduced by providing better schools early on in the lives of poor kids.

what I was trying to say there is that to a social-darwinism-style conservative the fact that only “3 per cent of the students in these institutions come from … the lowest socio-economic quarter of American society” is not indicative of any problem whatsoever. They’ll just assume that this is exactly the portion of the lowest socio-economic quarter that deserves to be in these institutions.

And…
For what it’s worth, I’m not sure these differences would be acceptable, either, but that’s another issue.

…if what you mean here is that a model with high degree of meritocracy is not necessarily desirable, then I agree with you. Not equality of opportunity should be the ideal goal, but maximizing individual human achievement.

39

Sebastian Holsclaw 11.01.05 at 12:46 pm

“Why bring them up first, and often exclusively? Because AA programs are more overt?”

Because sorting people by race has such an especially damaging historical context in the United States that it ought to be rejected by the government.

I would also like to echo kim’s response regarding the difference between relative mobility and absolute mobility.

Lets posit a society–Swuden–in which the bottom quintile makes $20,000 and the top quintile makes $21,000 in year one. If 1/2 of the bottom and 1/2 of the top switch places in year five, nothing much really changed. Lots of ‘mobility’ very little absolute change.

Lets posit another society–Singapan–in which the bottom quintile makes $15,000 and the top quintile makes $100,000 in year one. In year 5 the bottom quintile makes $40,000 and top quintile makes $180,000. Only 1/5 of them switch places by year 5. Less “social mobility”, but the bottom quintile is much better off than before.

If you were comparing the two countries and you wanted to pretend that Swuden was doing much better than Singapan, you would focus on the “lack of social mobility”. In my view, Singapan is doing much better because I think that relative social mobility is less important than absolute social mobility. That is a typical conservative temperament on the question between the two.

I also suspect that merit is more likely to ‘out’ in societies where both mobility and stratification exist. You don’t have to be statistically freaky in order to go from bottom to top when the difference between the two is small–i.e. your merit difference isn’t likely to be a big deal. If you want to go from bottom to top in the US, you probably have to have lots of merit because the differences are big. If you want to go from bottom to top in a rigid class society like Saudi Arabia, it might be impossible.

This is the long way of pointing out the fact that social rigidity and the ability of high levels of merit to ‘out’ are not perfectly interchangeable ideas. In every society, a large majority of people are of averagish merit (let’s call it within one standard deviation of whater we use as the ‘merit’ measurement). In the US, those people tend to stay in whatever class they are born. In Europe they are also very likely to stay in whatever class they are born, but apparently slightly less likely than in the US. That is the kind of statistic you are measuring. For people of execeptional merit, however, it may well be that it is easier to break through ‘class’ boundaries in one country or another. In fact it seems almost certain that a person of very high merit would likely do better in the US than in Saudi Arabia if he were born in a low class. Maybe it isn’t really true, but quite a few immigrants of high merit but low class seem to think that the US offers them much better chances than their home countries.

This certainly seems to be true in US politics vis-a-vis class compared to European politics. Not many European countries have analogs to Carter, Reagan or Clinton in terms of ‘class’ at the head of their governments.

40

Mona 11.01.05 at 12:52 pm

Some here are painting a very distorted picture about the motives for many who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. There is a vast difference between opposing that sort of legislation, on the one hand, and opposing the repeal of Jim Crow on the other. (It is true that Bill Buckley and National Review, in their early years, defended the latter as being a matter solely up to Southerners who were “merely” wishing to preserve their culture — But NR is not a libertarian organ, and those with a libertarian streak have very seldom favored govt interventions such as Jim Crow.)

Barry Goldwater, and other libertarian-leaning conservatives opposed the ’64 CRA. Noting that he was half-Jewish, Goldwater said on the Senate floor:

“I am unalterably opposed to discrimination of any sort and I believe that, though the problem is fundamentally one of the heart, some law can help–but not law that embodies features like these, provisions which fly in the face of the Constitution and which require for their effective execution the creation of a police state…With the exception of Titles II and VII, I could wholeheartedly support this bill…

“If my vote be misconstrued, let it be, and let me suffer the consequences. Just let me be judged in this by the real concern I have voiced here and not by words that others may speak, or by what others may say about what I think.”

Well, we don’t have a police state (at least not an incipient one due to civil rights laws, but if we were to address drug policy…), but we have a very expensive employment law industry that can make it impossible to be lawsuit proof for any adverse employment action taken against a member of a “suspect class,” no matter how justified.

When the CRA was being debated, Hubert Humphrey declared:

“If the Senator can find in Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act]…any language which provided that an employer would have to hire on the basis of percentage or quota related to color, race, religion, or national origin, I will start eating the pages one after another, because it is not there.”

Such quota requirements began, of course, almost immeidately. They were foreseen by many, and that is why many, in good faith, opposed the CRA of 1964.

My point is not to defend, at this late date, the merits or lack thereof of the ’64 CRA, but rather, to insist that many who opposed it did so for plausible reasons that were not driven by racism.

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Hektor Bim 11.01.05 at 12:56 pm

Jet,

I don’t know what you are talking about. Dick Cheney, George HW Bush, Trent Lott, and William Buckley are most assuredly still with us.

The point is that conservatives were against civil rights and wrong. Essentially none of them have admitted it. So why should I take it at all seriously when the exact same people come out against affirmative action? They clearly have no moral authority on the subject at all.

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Hektor Bim 11.01.05 at 1:05 pm

Mona,

This won’t wash. Barry Goldwater was very specific about his opposition to things like the Civil Rights Act and later legislation: “That’s where the votes are.” Most of these perfectly high-minded individuals were looking for the votes of white racists, and amazingly, they got them.

These amazingly high-minded people who opposed racial preferences never lifted a finger to make sure that the rights of citizens to the vote were respected. But boy, try to pass a civil rights bill and they came out of the woodwork.

I’m sorry, but I don’t see the expensive emplyment law industry that has destroyed America. I don’t see a police state (except for the current administration, which believes it can detain American citizens without charge indefinitely and practice torture without oversight).

There are few no-brainers of the level of the civil rights struggle in American history. The conservative movement in America failed it, and it seems, continues to fail it.

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minnesotaj 11.01.05 at 1:06 pm

A few thoughts…

I had two pals in college (Minnesota), both of whom had been accepted to Yale. One is now an investment banker and the other is a venture capitalist. So, there’s something to be said for the Krueger study… though I should note that, while not selective, Minnesota had, at the time anyway, one of the best Economics departments in the country and its faculty is far-and-away better than its “ranking.” Which is to add–I think, had they gone to BFU rather than a Big Ten school, things would have been much, much different (though as another poster pointed out about the Krueger study–those who don’t get into Harvard/Yale don’t go to BFU, they go to Minnesota and Texas and Oregon State–or Oberlin, Carleton, and Beloit).

I come from a very mixed background (mother’s side: wealthy, very well-educated–including Harvard PhD/father’s side: no one went to college, all worked in/around steel mills of Gary, Indiana [ah, the 60s!]) and can’t stress how strongly Walter Benn Michaels is right-on–but would go further: the lack of any meaningful access to anything like the avenues of success (and the further erosion of any meaningful jobs outside those avenues) for the bottom, oh, say 85% of Americans, is a dark, Kafka-esque joke that I have watched unfold on my own strange trip from West Duluth to the Marines, to college and beyond.

Where I struggle with this, however, is that I now have a daughter whom I intend to give every advantage myself–and that is, I think, the difficulty with WBMs (and my) complaint: it’s just very hard to say, if you have attained a certain success, “fuck it–I’ll just let my kid go to BFU.”

[NB-also, great stuff in Freakonomics on the class/education/kids issue && also Mickey Kaus’ book on inequality should get mention here.]

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Bernard Yomtov 11.01.05 at 1:14 pm

My point is not to defend, at this late date, the merits or lack thereof of the ‘64 CRA, but rather, to insist that many who opposed it did so for plausible reasons that were not driven by racism.

Change “many” to “a tiny fraction of those” and you are right. The vast bulk of the opposition was motivated by racism. Even those who may deny being racist were perfectly prepared to allow state governments to enact and enforce racist legislation, so they were racists in effect.

How many conservatives opposed both the CRA and state level Jim Crow legislation?

45

SamChevre 11.01.05 at 1:27 pm

I know, I know–anecdote is not the singular of data, but sometimes all I have is an anecdote.

My observation in college was that students from working-class backgrounds were FAR more conservative (traditional morals) and libertarian (government is primarily a threat) than either those from the underclass OR those from the upper-middle class. I think Zywicki has a reasonable point; people from working-class backgrounds tend not to have the contacts/clout/network to influence the government, so they see it as allied with those who do have that clout, and so distrust the government.

46

Mona 11.01.05 at 1:43 pm

This won’t wash. Barry Goldwater was very specific about his opposition to things like the Civil Rights Act and later legislation: “That’s where the votes are.” Most of these perfectly high-minded individuals were looking for the votes of white racists, and amazingly, they got them.

I don’t believe that, and I know quite a bit about Barry Goldwater. (He may have said “that’s where the votes are,” so what?) His opposition was principled, as is mine; but I seldom discuss it among educated, professional people exactly to avoid your kind of accusations. Few people enjoy being tarred as racists, which in some quarters renders them more untouchable than if they had been convicted of molesting children.

Further, I have (cyncially) practiced employment discrimination law, and have adivsed clients on how to terminate a minority employee so that the client is not likely to be sued — really impossible to do. Getting rid of an employee who falls into a suspect class takes enormous care, and many poor employees are fully aware of having a bargaining chip in discrimination law. Indeed, I have had inquireis from terminated born again Xians trying to weasel a dismissal into a religious discrimination category. (Whether they eventually found someone willing to help them, I don’t know, but I got tired of all employment discrimination litigation, which I feel is harmful to the culture as well as to individuals.)

As for those who think today’s GOP is poised to repeal the CRA, when I’m tense I could use some of what you are smoking. Bush 41 passed a stronger CRA, including the ADA. NOBODY in the GOP today, of any prominence, is willing to advocate the repeal of the CRA, in any of its portions. Everyone with any political savvy knows that they will be immediately tagged and tarred as a racist, should they take such a PR-foolish step.

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jet 11.01.05 at 1:57 pm

As for those who think today’s GOP is poised to repeal the CRA, when I’m tense I could use some of what you are smoking.

Exactly what I was thinking. Perhaps Hecktor should read the latest Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action to understand that racism isn’t part of the national debate, as much as he obviously wishes it were so.

Kim,

You have to differentiate between absolute mobility (which can be affected by changing demand for particular types of labor) and relative mobility / social fluidity (the net association between class of origin and class of destination, after purging out marginal shifts in the demand for particular types of labor and the “supply” of kids from different classes).

I’m never heard that stated so succinctly. Bravo.

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abb1 11.01.05 at 2:08 pm

I agree that taking care of widespread social ills by force is not a good idea. Had they moved a bit slower, 40 years later we might’ve had a better situation.

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Hektor Bim 11.01.05 at 2:12 pm

Mona and Jet,

You’re attacking a straw man. Nowhere do I state that the current Republican party wants to repeal the CRA. I merely said that the old conservatives of which we are talking have no moral authority on affirmative action, because they opposed civil rights. Do you actually disagree with that?

The point about Barry Goldwater (and the modern conservative wing of the Republican party as a whole) is that they are willing to trade enforcement of the civil rights of US citizens for the votes of racists. I don’t actually care whether Barry Goldwater or you or conservative Republican leaders are racists or not. In fact, it doesn’t matter whether any of these people are racists. It matters what they do. What I care about is the preservation of the civil rights of US citizens. All of these old conservatives, including Barry Goldwater, were not interested in safeguarding the rights of American citizens. So they don’t have any moral credibility to talk about equality under the law re affirmative action, since they weren’t interested in equality under the law before.

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Mona 11.01.05 at 2:39 pm

hektor bim, I was not refering to you when I addressed those who think the GOP was poised to repeal the CRA; I meant bob mcmannus, who posted:I doubt the bill would pass today, and in fact, if trends continue, I expect the present Republican Party to attempt its repeal, on grounds that it is no longer necessary. Some parts of Southern supervision have been brought up for repeal already since 1994.

The GOP literally wants to return to 1890, especially in the South.

You ask: I merely said that the old conservatives of which we are talking have no moral authority on affirmative action, because they opposed civil rights. Do you actually disagree with that?

Not entirely. Some of what, say, National Review published in support of Jim Crow merits at least a retraction, and more properly an apology and repudiation. However, you also make clear that you are closed to any arguments from anyone, even those who do not carry such baggage, on the matter of “civil rights.”

I would add, people can be right even if they are motivated by malignant ideology. For example, the Communist Party USA was in thralldom and service to a murderous tyrant named Joseph Stalin, and supplied him with espionage agents who turned over both state secrets as well as scientific and technological data that gave Stalin weapons systems, including the Atomic bomb, well before he otherwise would have had them.

But the CPUSA was right about the evil of Jim Crow, even if much of their agitation on that score was directed by a Moscow that saw such social and political disruption as being to its advantage. (The CPUSA suspended and opposed such agitation during WWII, when Stalin was our ally and directed that it would disrupt the war effort.)Similarly, even if racists are opposed to the CRA, they are, in my view, nevertheless right about the CRA.

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Hektor Bim 11.01.05 at 3:53 pm

Mona,

I’m glad that you agree with me about old conservatives having no moral authority on affirmative action. That was the substance of the argument.

Now, I don’t see how you infer from that that I am closed to arguments from anyone on the matter of civil rights. In fact, I explicitly stated: “I think it is possible for conservatives to oppose affirmative action out of principle.”

What do you mean here by being right? They weren’t right to justify the denial of civil rights to US citizens. (I’m looking at you, William Buckley.) They weren’t right to oppose federal enforcement of voting rights. They were wrong. They still won’t admit it. I submit that most of the people against the CRA did not want a segment of US citizens to be able to exercise their right to vote. Opposing some small aspects of the CRA due to certain qualms is in this case, the perfect being the enemy of the good. I also believe that it would have been difficult to find many people who passed Bernard Yomtov’s criterion, which is the only honest one. The country needed a civil rights bill, and we got one.

Is your position actually that it would have been better to have no CRA at all, instead of one you consider flawed? How many more years of disenfranchisement were you willing to stomach in this case? How much longer do you think the country should have tolerated Jim Crow, considering that Jim Crow itself represented a backwards march from the relative freedoms of Reconstruction? I think the civil rights bill was way overdue. Since no bill has ever been perfect, I submit that requiring a perfect bill was just a way to delay enfranchisment.

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kincaid 11.01.05 at 4:33 pm

http://novus-ordo-seclorum.us/

I could not understand why Bush would pick someone like Harriet Miers. Even less why Conservative groups were the ones attacking her. I was blind but now I see.It was a case of bait and switch. It was part of the master plan for Harriet Miers to withdraw. Then it would look like Bush treid but had no choice than to pick a hard line Anti-Abortion Conservative like Judge Samuel Alito. Bush will now use the fact, ( after weeks of opposition from both liberals and conservatives Harriet Miers had to withdraw) as the reason why he wants to rush Judge Samuel Alito on to the court. Harriet Miers, not the best choice for a judge on the court. But as a life long pal of Bush, she would be the best person to take a hit for the team.

Bush is not as dumb as some people think. Remember the
best tick the devil ever played was convincing the world he does not exist.

Judge Samuel Alito will be placed on the court. The laws on Abortion and on so many things will change. I hope i am wrong but it looks that way.

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bob mcmanus 11.01.05 at 4:38 pm

“As for those who think today’s GOP is poised to repeal the CRA, when I’m tense I could use some of what you are smoking.”

Well, we will see. My timeline is twenty years or so. Are you admitting that full and active enforcement of the CRA remains necessary, will remain necessary, that the supervision of Southern States by Federal Marshalls should remain in place, and is the position of the Republican Party position the same?

My particular interest is in voting rights. I am thinking of the recent Posner decision, and SCOTUS lukewarm opposition to what I consider the pernicious ghettoization of minority Southern vote via redistricting. The redistricting has ensured that any Democratic congress members from the South will be minority, and very liberal in comparison even to local minority views. Democrat = minority = far left is what a lot of young White Southerners are growing up with.

Perhaps the CRA will not be overturned, but slowly eaten away by conservative justices. I refer you to the Georgian move toward picture ID’s. By some non-activist federalism annd sovereign immunity decisions, the GOP can achieve its aims of minority disenfranchisement without
alerting the media.

Perhaps I am wrong, and the Roberts/Alito court will slap DeLay and Perry down hard in the next few months in the Texas redistricting case.

54

nick s 11.01.05 at 4:48 pm

Perhaps Hecktor should read the latest Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action to understand that racism isn’t part of the national debate, as much as he obviously wishes it were so.

Let me guess, jet: you’re white and male?

Remember, kids: don’t do the brown acid.

55

Donald Johnson 11.01.05 at 4:56 pm

Jet, I don’t know if you conceded the point (I’m skimming this thread very quickly), but I’d like to add my voice to the people who tell you that the Democrats who opposed the civil rights legislation of the 60’s were the conservative types who would, for the most part, later become Republicans. I grew up in the South and my father was always telling me that the South was traditionally Democratic. Which confused the heck out of me, because most of my white friends were conservative, Republican, and racist, and yes, the three things were linked. Democrats and liberals were “n******-lovers” to them. So I don’t need to read the history of what happened in the 60’s and 70’s to the Democratic hold on the Southern states, because I grew up there and saw it for myself. I also remember Reagan using the “state’s rights” phrase at the town in Mississippi where the civil rights workers were murdered during his 1980 campaign.
I’ve seen other conservatives use this point, that Republicans voted for the civil rights legislation and therefore the Republicans are the party of civil rights. It amazes me that anyone could fall for this line.

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Esq. 11.01.05 at 5:02 pm

Is this the same Prof. Zywicki who recently testified that the Bankruptcy Reform Act was perfect as written and therefore required no techical amendments? If so, he is a hack with no intellectual honesty whatsoever. Don’t waste your time.

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Mona 11.01.05 at 7:04 pm

hektor writes: Opposing some small aspects of the CRA due to certain qualms is in this case, the perfect being the enemy of the good. I also believe that it would have been difficult to find many people who passed Bernard Yomtov’s criterion, which is the only honest one.

The difference between us, and Goldwater at the time, is I do not regard the portions of the CRA that I object to as “small aspects.” And if they were, why could Goldwater not get Humphrey et al. to drop them? Would you be willing to see the Act amended now to repeal those “small” aspects?

I was only 8 yrs old in ’64, so I lack a good feel for how many conservatives had moral and principled objections to the CRA, and how many simply wished to perpetuate Jim Crow and interfere with voting rights. I know there were many who were racist, because I was raised by such a person (and he then religiously took National Review, but has now become a paleo-con and thinks that magazine is “liberal.”) But there were conservatives who deeply disapproved of racism, such as Whittaker Chambers, a Buckley hero who wrote for NR before he died in, I believe, ’61.

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Long Sunday 11.01.05 at 8:33 pm

Well we don’t exactly claim to be on the cusp of anything here, when we get around to claiming anything at all, but in this our (well, let’s be honest: my) quest to be the n+1 groupie par excellence, Crooked Pins has lately been providing ample competition…So then: here’s the large and rather crucial bit that the Boston Globe (as well as Crooked Pins) most glaringly ommits (feel free to posit or imply whatever nefarious motives you wish for this odd decision in the comments):

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Don Quijote 11.01.05 at 8:59 pm

This certainly seems to be true in US politics vis-a-vis class compared to European politics. Not many European countries have analogs to Carter, Reagan or Clinton in terms of ‘class’ at the head of their governments.

Gerhard Schroeder

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Jillian 11.01.05 at 9:04 pm

It’s really too bad the Boston Globe saw fit to cut so much, especially right in the middle. Thankfully Long Sunday has the missing chunk.

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Matt 11.01.05 at 9:17 pm

“When conservatives claim that in the absence of formal discrimination, merit will out, they’re making a claim that isn’t any better justified by the empirics than the liberal notion that a carefully metered dose of ‘diversity’ makes up in any substantial sense for a system that’s overwhelmingly skewed against the poor.”

Indeed, the very notion of “diversity” as founded on patronising “tolerance” will never in itself be enough, and most likely much, much less.

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Matt 11.01.05 at 9:18 pm

Thankfully Long Sunday (namely my attention-seeking self) has now posted the largest chunk missing from the Globe abbreviation.

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Hektor Bim 11.01.05 at 9:55 pm

Mona,

How about you be more specific then? Precisely what parts of the civil rights act do you disagree with, and explain why the evil those did outweighed the clear good of enfranchisement that resulted from the CRA.

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Sebastian Holsclaw 11.01.05 at 11:15 pm

Don Quijote, I certainly didn’t say none.

Individual European states have lots more instances to have heads of government than the US does, because there are more countries and thus more heads of government. That alone should make them fairly easy to find if there were lots.

Finding a single low class example does little to change the fact that in the last 29 years, 20 of them in the US have been led by someone not from the upper crust. That is quite a difference.

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Mona 11.01.05 at 11:16 pm

How about you be more specific then?

Sure, but first, can you tell me what portions of the CRA you identify as “small aspects?” That would help me know what I should address.

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Doug 11.02.05 at 6:00 am

re #13: I wonder, however, if one can trace the low percentage of children from parents with no university degree to attain one themselves to the way primary education is conducted here. What happens is that after elementary school (or perhaps a little after, I can’t remember exactly), the better students are put into University track, schools, where the poorer students go into more technical track ones. One’s destiny is in large part determined by the time one becomes a teenager.

However, I think maybe only a third or so of Germans end up going to universities in the first place. Not sure what its like in the US.

Tracking is absolutely a huge issue for Germany. Another issue is the time it takes to attain the first university degree, which is often much longer than in other European countries. Tuition fees are thus less of an issue than the simple fact of supporting a young adult, often in a separate household, for as much as seven or eight years until the degree is done. Fees in Bavaria will, at the start, be less than the deposit on an in-town apartment in Munich.

The share of people in the US with some university education is now, I think, more than half of the relevant age cohort. Many Germans will tell you that the relatively low share of young adults with a university education is a feature, not a bug, of their system. They are wrong.

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Doug 11.02.05 at 6:06 am

re #19: Mrs T, that is very much my point. Where is the German MIT? The German Caltech? The German Stanford? The German Georgetown? (Or even the German Oxbridge, Insead or ENA for that matter?)

There are no recognizably world-class German universities, and this is a significant problem for a leading industrial economy. Humboldt, so to speak, has long since left the building.

The guild-like structures of the upper reaches are another matter entirely. But the lack of recognizable excellence strikes me as a net negative for the whole system.

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Don Quijote 11.02.05 at 7:18 am

This certainly seems to be true in US politics vis-a-vis class compared to European politics. Not many European countries have analogs to Carter, Reagan or Clinton in terms of ‘class’ at the head of their governments.

Thats ‘s at least two over the last quarter century..

Argaret Thatcher

Tomy Blair

Helmut Schmidt

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James Wimberley 11.02.05 at 9:11 am

Someone should also challenge the phrase about “the common-sense of citizens as reflected through democratically-elected legislatures”.
The whole point of representative government for Hamilton and Madison was as a safeguard against democracy. You don’t hav eto agree with their values to agree that their scheme works. Representative democracy filters the raw opinions and attitudes of the citizens through non-representative, co-optative structures like parties, disproprtionately influenced by ideologues, special interests and political junkies. Hence Blair goes to war and Bush gets elected. Direct democracy in the USA would long ago have brought about national health insurance, gun control and strong support of the United Nations. And doesn’t th ecompromise of Roe v. Wade better reflect the views of the Americam electorate than the Republican party does?

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jet 11.02.05 at 9:26 am

James Wimberley,
Heh, I think Hamilton and Madison were vindicated a few years later in a little place called France. (Horrific) Tyranny of the majority and all that. And wasn’t Socrates sentenced to death by the unwashed masses for speaking poorly of those same newly enfranchised unwashed masses?

Either way, I’d hate to be in the 49nth percentile of a pure Democracy.

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Sebastian Holsclaw 11.02.05 at 9:57 am

“And doesn’t th ecompromise of Roe v. Wade better reflect the views of the Americam electorate than the Republican party does?”

In a word, no.

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soru 11.02.05 at 10:20 am

Comparing ‘social mobility’ statistics, especially ones based on quintiles/quartiles/…, always seemed to me to be rather like taking two films, digitising them, and then using some clever algorithm to calculate a single value called ‘cinematic dynamism’ from the pixel values of each frame.

Anyone think that could replace Ebert and Roeper?

Of course, a film is considerably simpler than a society, and more easily digitisable, so that activity would be rather less ludicrously pointless than that current academic fad.

soru

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serial catowner 11.02.05 at 10:25 am

Jeez. The purpose of Affirmative Action is not to give minority individuals a fair chance- it is to procure to society the benefits of a race-blind policy.

Affirmative Action is a crude first attempt at doing that. You got a better idea, put it out there.

It’s all crude metrics and simple thinking. Our society is not set up to recognize racial differences. Like an engine, the society won’t work well if you give it the wrong fuel or oil. When a city is 80% black but the police are 99% white, something’s wrong. You may not know exactly what, but you do know you will pay the price of racial discrimination if you can’t get those numbers more in order.

There’s a lot of stuff AA can’t do and won’t do. It’s just a tool, and one widely used, because other better ideas haven’t worked out yet.

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jet 11.02.05 at 10:49 am

serial catowner,
Even if everyone agrees that making the 99% white police force ~80% black, there are still good faith arguements against AA. For one, AA often involves lowering standards do to including lesser qualified individuals. So one argument is that AA is a poor band-aid when the focus should be on education and training. One could start by asking why some minorities require AA and others don’t. For instance, the US Census Bureau has Asian/Pacific Islander’s earning $3,500 more per yeah than Non-Hispanic Whites.

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Hektor Bim 11.02.05 at 10:58 am

Mona,

I’m not even sure what you mean here. Do you think federal enforcement of civil rights is a small matter?

Since you seem to have such strong views on the CRA, I expect you can reel off what you are opposed to. If you are having trouble deciding, pick the three things you most object to and go from there. Simple as that.

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Sebastian Holsclaw 11.02.05 at 4:09 pm

I object to quota systems because they reinforce the idea that minorities are incapable. I object to the fact that the law is interpreted as mandating quotas even though the debate clearly suggested that the law would not.

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