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Robot Love

Republican stalwart Oren Cass ’05 has an interesting new issue brief over at the Manhattan Institute. Apparently, our fears that robots are taking our jobs are largely unmerited, at least when you review how well our species has weathered previous spells of productivity rate increases.

This benign interpretation of our robot overlords means Oren is now in conflict with economic heavy weights like Larry Summers, Obama’s former secretary of the Treasury, who have alarmed us with bleak predictions about the long-term strength of the labor market. As Summers wrote:

This question of technology leading to a reduction in demand for labor is not some hypothetical prospect. . . . It’s one of the defining trends that has shaped the economy and society for the last 40 years.

The gist of Oren’s article is when you look carefully at each job and isolate the elements of that job that might be automated, you will find – according to careful, reputable studies – that resulting forecasts regarding reductions in the demand for labor will most likely be in line with previous historical experience. In other words, we can handle it. Oren’s views seem like common sense when you remember that we’ve benefited from prior technology gains. Besides, I agree with Oren’s observation that there will never be a demand for automated school bus drivers.

Oren Cass ’05 was a guest speaker for the Williams chapter of the American Enterprise Institute and the Society for Conservative Thought on November 5, 2018. If you are not already reading the Manhattan Institute’s quarterly magazine, City Journal, I recommend you start. It is the Economist of our current generation.

John C. Drew, Ph.D., is a former Williams College professor. He received the William Anderson Award from the American Political Science Association for the best doctoral dissertation in the nation in his field in 1989. He contributes to American Thinker, Breitbart, Campus Reform, The College Fix, and WorldNetDaily. He has been an Ephblog regular since 2010. 

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Pish, Posh

Oren Cass ’05 takes a break from being the most important right-wing wonk of his generation to write a movie review.

I’d never sworn in front of my kids, until our drive home from watching Mary Poppins Returns. The real Mary Poppins would have understood—in fact she might have done the same, had she seen what Disney did to one of children’s fiction’s classic characters and most poignant stories.

The important thing to recall from the original movie is that it’s not about the kids. Young Michael and Jane Banks aren’t the problem that Mary Poppins comes to fix—they are stand-ins for a young audience experiencing a story about what it means to be a parent.

Mr. Banks is the one who needs help. He is the overly disciplined, career-focused father with no time for his children. His life is turned upside-down by this strange new nanny who, in partnership with Bert the chimneysweep, guides him to the revelation that he has his priorities wrong. Bert has a lesson for the children too—but not about issues of their own. Are they really in trouble, he asks them, or is their dad? “Who looks after your father?” Bert asks, in Dick Van Dyke’s legendarily terrible Cockney accent. “Tell me that. When something terrible ‘appens, what does ‘e do? Fends for ‘imself, ‘e does. Who does ‘e tell about it? No one! Don’t blab his troubles at ‘ome. ‘E just pushes on at his job, uncomplaining and alone and silent.”

Read the whole thing.

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Milquetoast Wonkery

Ross Douhat writes in the New York Times:

This dilemma is apparent in the vigorous intra-conservative debate over a new book, “The Once and Future Worker,” written by the former Mitt Romney domestic policy director Oren Cass [’05]. In certain ways the book is an extension of the reform-conservative project, an argument for policies that support “a foundation of productive work” as the basis for healthy communities and flourishing families and robust civic life. But Cass is more dramatic in his criticism of Western policymaking since the 1970s, more skeptical of globalization’s benefits to Western workers, and more dire in his diagnosis of the real socioeconomic condition of the working class.

Cass’s bracing tone reads like (among other things) an attempt to fix reform conservatism’s political problem, as it manifested itself in 2016 — a problem of lukewarmness, of milquetoast wonkery, that Trumpism’s more sweeping promises simply steamrolled in political debate.

But that tone, as much as Cass’s specific proposals, has divided the center-right’s wonks. There has been a lot of favorable attention for the book (including from my colleague David Brooks); at the same time, there have been sharp critiques, both from within the reform conservative camp (from Michael Strain and James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute, and from Scott Winship, a policy adviser to Senator Mike Lee) and from more libertarian or classical-liberal types (like Sam Hammond of the Niskanen Center).

The critics’ concerns vary, but a common thread is that Cass’s diagnosis overstates the struggles of American workers and exaggerates the downsides of globalization, and in so doing risks giving aid and comfort to populist policies — or, for that matter, socialist policies, from the Ocasio-Cortezan left — that would ultimately choke off growth.

In a sense the debate reproduces the larger argument about whether a post-Trump conservative politics should seek to learn something from his ascent or simply aim to repudiate him — with Cass offering a reform conservatism that effectively bids against Trump for populist support, and his critics warning that he’s conceding way too much to Trumpist demagogy.

But the argument over Cass’s book also raises a larger question that both right and left are wrestling with in our age of populist discontent: Namely, is the West’s post-1980 economic performance a hard-won achievement and pretty much the best we could have done, or is there another economic path available, populist or social democratic or something else entirely, that doesn’t just lead back to stagnation?

A great deal turns upon the answer. Economic growth since the 1970s has disappointed relative to what many optimists imagined in 1965; at the same time it has been stronger than what many Carter-era pessimists feared we could expect. If you emphasize the disappointment, then experimenting with a different policy orientation — be it Cass’s work-and-family conservatism or an Ocasio-Cortezan democratic socialism or something else — seems like a risk worth taking; after all things aren’t that great under neoliberalism as it is.

But if you focus on the possible fragility of the growth we have achieved, the ease with which left-wing and right-wing populisms can lead to Venezuela, then you’ll share the anxieties of Cass’s conservative critics — who are willing to tinker with work-and-family policy but worry that to make any major concession to globalization’s critics puts far too much at risk.

Perhaps the best reason to bet on Cass’s specific vision is that the social crisis he wants to address is itself a major long-term drag on growth — because a society whose working class doesn’t work or marry or bear children will age, even faster than the West is presently aging, into stagnation and decline.

At the same time it might well be, as some of his critics think, that the working class’s social crisis is mostly or all cultural, a form of late-modern anomie detached from material privation. In which case political-economy schemes to “fix” the problem won’t have social benefits to match their potential economic costs.

So the decision for Cass’s kind of conservative reform would be, necessarily, a real policy gamble, based on the hope that a greater human flourishing and a more mid-20th-century style of growth is still possible in rich societies like ours. And if the first iteration of reform conservatism was defined and limited by its moderation, his version 2.0 may succeed or fail based on the right’s appetite for trying something else immoderate, even radical, after the Donald Trump experiment has run its course.

Note that EphBlog recognized Cass’s potential almost 15 years ago . . .

Also, I hope that James Hitchcock ’15, research assistant to both David Brooks and Ross Douhat, had a hand in bringing Cass’s book to their attention. We members of the vast right-wing conspiracy (Eph Division) need to look out for each other!

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Brooks on Cass

David Brooks in the New York Times writes:

Working-class voters tried to send a message in 2016, and they are still trying to send it. The crucial question is whether America’s leaders will listen and respond.

One way to start doing that is to read Oren Cass’s absolutely brilliant new book, “The Once and Future Worker.” The first part of the book is about how we in the educated class have screwed up labor markets in ways that devalued work and made it harder for people in the working class to find a satisfying job.

Part of the problem is misplaced priorities. For the last several decades, American economic policy has been pinioned on one goal: expanding G.D.P. We measure G.D.P. We talk incessantly about economic growth. Between 1975 and 2015, American G.D.P. increased threefold. But what good is that growth if it means that a thick slice of America is discarded for efficiency reasons?

Similarly, for the last several decades American, welfare policy has focused on consumption — giving money to the poor so they can consume more. Yet we have not successfully helped poor people produce more so that they can take control of their own lives. We now spend more than $20,000 a year in means-tested government spending per person in poverty. And yet the average poverty rate for 2000 to 2015 was higher than it was for 1970 to 1985.

“What if people’s ability to produce matters more than how much they can consume?” Cass asks.

The bulk of his book is a series of ideas for how we can reform labor markets.

For example, Cass supports academic tracking. Right now, we have a one-size-fits-all education system. Everybody should go to college. The problem is that roughly one-fifth of our students fail to graduate high school in four years; roughly one-fifth take no further schooling after high school; roughly one-fifth drop out of college; roughly one-fifth get a job that doesn’t require the degree they just earned; and roughly one-fifth actually navigate the path the system is built around — from school to career.

We build a broken system and then ask people to try to fit into the system instead of tailoring a system around people’s actual needs.

Cass suggests that we instead do what nearly every other affluent nation does: Let students, starting in high school, decide whether they want to be on an apprenticeship track or an academic track. Vocational and technical schools are ubiquitous across the developed world, and yet that model is mostly rejected here.

Cass also supports worker co-ops. Today, we have an old, adversarial labor union model that is inappropriate for the gig economy and uninteresting to most private-sector workers. But co-ops, drawing on more successful models used in several European nations, could represent workers in negotiations, train and retrain workers as they moved from firm to firm and build a safety net for periods of unemployment. Shopping for a worker co-op would be more like buying a gym membership. Each co-op would be a community and service provider to address a range of each worker’s needs.

Cass has many other proposals — wage subsidies, immigration reforms. But he’s really trying to put work, and the dignity of work, at the center of our culture and concern. In the 1970s and 1980s, he points out, the Emmy Award-winning TV shows were about blue-collar families: “All in the Family,” “Taxi,” “Cheers,” “The Wonder Years.” Now the Emmy-winning shows are mostly about white-collar adults working in Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, New York and Washington.
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We in the college-educated sliver have built a culture, an economy and a political system that are all about ourselves. It’s time to pass labor market reforms that will make life decent for everybody.

Indeed. When was the last time an Eph book received such lavish praise on the op-ed page of the Times?

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More Perfect Unions

Interesting Labor Day thoughts from Oren Cass ’05:

Organized labor is neither inherently partisan nor inherently counterproductive economically. In theory, an arrangement by which workers “bargain collectively” and offer “mutual aid,” as the NLRA establishes is their right, can be a neutral or even positive part of a flourishing market economy. Other countries have implemented labor systems sharply different from—and more effective than—the American one. Even within the U.S., examples exist of organized labor’s potential to operate more constructively. A reformed legal framework for labor could help address several critical challenges, including the plight of less skilled workers struggling in the modern economy. It’s time for a new approach.

Effective reform would have four elements. First, the NLRA must no longer have exclusive jurisdiction over relationships between employers and organizations of workers. Its definition of a covered “labor organization” must narrow from all organizations of employees whose purpose is “dealing with employers” to only those established for the purpose of using NLRA-defined rights and processes. The 8(a)(2) prohibition on nonunion collaboration between employers and workers must go. None of these changes affects the ability of a union to operate with its current model—to the extent that workers choose it.

Second, the government should formally recognize the existence of the “labor co-operative”: a nonprofit controlled by its dues-paying members for the purpose of advancing their employment and creating value, rather than merely reallocating it. Co-ops will be held to governance and financial standards appropriate to their potential roles and will be eligible to partner with government in delivering benefits. They will also have the capacity to earn recognition as the collective representative of employees in a given workplace, but their existence will not depend on such recognition.

Read the whole thing, although I doubt that my leftist Eph friends will find Cass’s argument very compelling.

A more concise version of the argument is available in the Wall Street Journal.

It is a shame that Cass was such an obnoxious Never Trumper. The Administration would benefit from his energy and ideas.

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Policy-Based Evidence Making

Latest from Oren Cass ’05:

“Evidence-based policymaking” is the latest trend in expert government. The appeal is obvious: Who, after all, could be against evidence?

Most EBP initiatives seem eminently sensible, testing a plausible policy under conditions that should provide meaningful information about its effectiveness. So it is not surprising to see bipartisan support for the general idea. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray even collaborated on the creation of an Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission that has won praise from both the Urban Institute and the Heritage Foundation.

But the perils of such an approach to lawmaking become clear in practice. Consider, for instance, the “universal basic income” campaign. Faced with the challenge of demonstrating that society will improve if government guarantees to every citizen a livable monthly stipend, basic-income proponents suggest an experiment: Give a group of people free money, give another group no money, and see what happens. Such experiments are underway from the Bay Area to Finland to Kenya to India.

No doubt many well-credentialed social scientists will be doing complex regression analysis for years, but in this case we can safely skip to the last page: People like free money better than no free money. Unfortunately, this inevitable result says next to nothing about whether the basic income is a good public policy.

The flaws most starkly apparent in the basic-income context pervade EBP generally, and its signature method of “controlled” experiments in particular. The standard critique of overreliance on pilot programs, which are difficult to replicate or scale, is relevant but only scratches the surface. Conceptually, the EBP approach typically compares an expensive new program to nothing, instead of to alternative uses of resources — in effect assuming that new resources are costless. It emphasizes immediate effects on program participants as the only relevant outcome, ignoring systemic and cultural effects as well as unintended consequences of government interventions. It places a premium on centralization at the expense of individual choice or local problem-solving.

Politics compounds the methodological shortcomings, imposing a peculiar asymmetry in which positive findings are lauded as an endorsement of government intervention while negative findings are dismissed as irrelevant — or as a basis for more aggressive intervention. Policies that reduce government, when considered at all, receive condemnation if they are anything other than totally painless. Throughout, the presence of evidence itself becomes an argument for empowering bureaucrats, as if the primary explanation for prior government failure was a lack of good information.

The common thread in these shortcomings is an implicit endorsement of the progressive view of the federal government as preferred problem-solver and a disregard for the entire range of concerns that prevent conservatives from sharing that view. Like Charlie Brown with his football, conservatives repeatedly lunge with enthusiasm at the idea that evidence will hold government accountable for results, only to be disappointed. Lauded as a tool of technocratic excellence, EBP more often offers a recipe for creeping statism.

Not that there is anything wrong with “creeping statism,” of course!

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Repealing the ACA is Harmless

The latest from Oren Cass ’05:

The best statistical estimate for the number of lives saved each year by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is zero. Certainly, there are individuals who have benefited from various of its provisions. But attempts to claim broader effects on public health or thousands of lives saved rely upon extrapolation from past studies that focus on the value of private health insurance. The ACA, however, has expanded coverage through Medicaid, a public program that, according to several studies, has failed to improve health outcomes for recipients. In fact, public health trends since the implementation of the ACA have worsened, with 80,000 more deaths in 2015 than had mortality continued declining during 2014–15 at the rate achieved during 2000–2013.

Read the whole thing.

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Carbon Tax

Best debates are the ones that feature Ephs on both sides. The latest proposal for a carbon tax cum dividend is an example. In favor, we have Trustee Mark Tercek ’79:

The plan has four pillars: tax the carbon in fossil fuels at $40 per ton of carbon dioxide for the emissions they will produce; rebate all of the revenue to American households in quarterly dividend payments; repeal federal regulations that will no longer be needed because carbon prices produce greater and more efficient investments in emissions reductions; and assure that the program does not damage U.S. trade by adjusting its impact on exports and imports that are energy intensive.

Against, Oren Cass ’05:

This week, a self-described “who’s-who of conservative elder statesmen” launched a new organization, the Climate Leadership Council (CLC), to make their “Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends.” Lest one be confused, the proposal is yet another carbon tax. Lest one be optimistic, it manages only to weaken an already flawed policy.

None of these objections or challenges is new. Yet, in the marketplace of ideas, the carbon tax behaves increasingly like a government-run utility. It doesn’t care about competition. It ignores complaint with impunity. Its business model depends on the strength of its political connections, not the quality of its product. Elder statesmen often sit on the boards of such entities. Rarely do they achieve positive change.

My take: The politics of this proposal don’t work, not least because of environmentalist who hate it, as you can see from all the progressive’s attacking Tercek from the left. A better plan needs to be more extreme, in order to bring along the right. I recommend a constitutional amendment that would repeal the federal income tax while simultaneously granting Congress the right to tax carbon. Conservatives would go for this because they hate the income tax. The Government’s need to spend would force a carbon tax higher than any other possible plan.

Let’s arrange for a debate at Williams between Tercek and Cass, ideally each paired with a student. Bring back the Williams College Debate Union!

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How to Worry About Climate Change

Oren Cass ’05 argues that we — both the US Government and Williams College — worry too much about climate change.

A more dispassionate placement of climate change alongside a range of worrying problems does not mean there is nothing to worry about. But it points away from sui generis mitigation at all costs and toward an existing model for addressing problems through research, preparation, and adaptation. It suggests that analytical exercises that would never be applied to other worrying problems, like assigning a “social cost” to each marginal unit of carbon-dioxide emissions, are as inappropriate as estimating a “social cost of computing power” as it brings humanity closer to a possible singularity, or a “social cost of international travel” as it elevates the risk of a global pandemic. Taxes on any of them are closer to political statements than efficient corrections of genuine externalities, and each would be more likely to stall meaningful economic and technological progress than to achieve a meaningful reduction of risk.

Lessons might run in the other direction as well: We are not focusing as much on other challenges as we should. And perhaps, if climate change were consigned to its rightful place in the crowd, some additional attention might be available to concentrate elsewhere. If the level of research support, policy focus, and international coordination targeted toward climate change over the past eight years had gone instead toward preventing and managing pandemics, imagine the progress that could have been made. For a fraction of the cost of de-carbonizing an industrial economy, it could be hardened against cyber attacks; with a fraction of the attention corporations pay to their own purported climate vulnerability, they could make real strides in their own technological security.

A little bit of worry provides healthy motivation. Too much is a recipe for paralysis, distraction, and overreaction.

Read the whole thing. Cass’s perspective — like the perspectives of others skeptical that climate change is a major problem that requires special attention from the federal government (or the College) — is not welcome at Williams. As we discussed last summer, Williams believes that only one side of the debate should be heard on campus. Is anyone else concerned that Williams is morphing from a college into a madrassa?

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Reduce the Power of the Presidency

There was an election last night. Interesting stuff! Alas, Ephs are concerned about the results. But is there a political topic that all good Ephs can agree on? I nominate this February essay by Oren Cass ’05.

Our system of government does little to prevent a strongman or a crank from winning the presidency. As long as Electoral College members adhere faithfully to the election results in their states, voters may choose whomever they want, on whatever basis. Recognizing this, the Constitution’s framers tightly circumscribed the president’s role, checking it horizontally with coequal branches that resist sudden change and vertically with the many powers reserved to the states.

The dangerous and novel phenomenon of 2016 is not irresponsible politicians or an inflamed electorate, but rather the unprecedented concentration of power awaiting the election’s ultimate winner. Ironically, many of the now-panicking elites are the very ones who made the presidency so powerful. If they can learn the right lesson from the recent chaos, the specter — even fleeting — of a President Trump or a President Sanders could provide the needed spur to restore balance to our constitutional system. Both parties have done their best to expand the power of the presidency in recent decades — whenever the presidency was theirs. Presidents Reagan and then Clinton established unprecedented White House control over the sprawl of federal agencies. The second President Bush asserted nearly exclusive authority to manage national security and foreign affairs. President Obama, after campaigning against the Bush administration’s excesses, doubled down on most and then applied the same attitude to matters of domestic policy.

Obama described in 2014 his “pen and phone” strategy for governing alone in his second term. At the 2015 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the president informed the audience that he had “something that rhymes with ‘bucket list.’ Take executive action on immigration. Bucket. New climate regulations. Bucket, it’s the right thing to do.”

Read the whole thing.

Cass argues that we ought to dramatically decrease the power of the president. I am a Trump voter, and I agree. Will my fellow Ephs who voted for Clinton join us in this effort? If so, where should Obama start?

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Medicaid Mess

Oren Cass ’05 writes:

In the new print issue, I’ve written about Our Medicaid Mess: the extraordinary misallocation of anti-poverty funds to one of our least effective government programs. Total anti-poverty spending relative to the population in poverty has nearly doubled over the past forty years, from $12,000 per person to $23,000 (2015 dollars). More than 90 percent of that increase has gone to health care – almost entirely Medicaid. Thanks to Obamacare, the spending growth and prioritization of health care will continue in the years to come. Medicaid now costs almost $600B per year, on par with our public education system and our military and responsible for the majority of all anti-poverty spending This overwhelming emphasis on health care would be a questionable approach to alleviating poverty even if it delivered impressive results for the health outcomes of recipients. But the larger problem is that Medicaid fails to achieve even that. Many policy wonks are familiar with the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment, in which low-income residents of the state were randomly assigned to receive or not receive Medicaid coverage. The study’s critical conclusion: “Medicaid coverage generated no significant improvements in measured physical health outcomes in the first 2 years.”

Read the whole thing.

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Debate Rap

Surely all Ephs can agree that tonight’s debate should be a rap battle?! Take it away Oren Cass ’05:

Trump: It was the best of times when we were strong, now it’s the worst
Elites detest America, put D.C. donors first T
hey grease each other’s wheels, spinning globalist ideals
Let’s get back to winning like I do in all my deals

Ah, just look how Clinton panders
Abandoning all standards just to outflank Bernie Sanders
That man had no immigration plan and still La Raza panned hers
Now a promise to ignore the law is all she really stands for

Clinton: Not true.

Trump: Ooh, it’s much too late to pivot
If someone comes illegally why should we forgive it?
The president must take care to provide for law and order
Your job as top cop don’t stop on arrival at the border

Real Americans are sick of all your tricks
We want unity but you play identity politics
I’ll deport, build the wall, track down visa overstays
And once they back down on my crackdown, Mexico pays!

Stand with me in the land of the free
Pray to god we never see Hillary’s amnesty
Her plan to hand out healthcare led a White House to despair
Imagine what gon’ happen when illegals get welfare

Clinton: Donald, you did well in your primary fight
But the general electorate ain’t the alt-right
Race-baiting for your base is rating poorly in the polls
You gotta be swing-stating, not elating Russian trolls
Immigration is what built this nation

If we embrace every race we create a safe space
Show the world a better face You’re a disgrace
You hate on those who immigrate
Seeking freedom, ‘stead you’d lead ’em

Back to some poor, war-torn place
Why this panic, about anyone Hispanic?
Your own forefathers ain’t from this side of the Atlan’ic
“I’ll deport, build the wall,” yeah keep ranting
We know whose really doing all of Mar-e-Lago’s planting

Oh, and speaking of skin color, Mr. Super Self-Important
Your spray-tan’s too orange, no one cares you went to Wharton
You think you impress with your asinine demands I think you’re just compensating for your tiny hands

Will Donald Trump really install a tall border wall or
Is it just an empty promise his supporters all fall for
Reporters say “Deport or stay?” Why won’t he clarify?
Can’t you see, the plan’s only amnesty and e-verify!
To make our country great again let’s not kick out Latinos
Just anyone so dumb he loses money on casinos

Genius! Longtime readers will recall that Cass was a rap battle genius at Williams more than a decade ago.

Got an opinion on the debate? Tell us below.

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Hillary’s Web of Promises

Oren Cass ’05 is not impressed with the Clinton campaign:

When I visited it in early June, Hillary Clinton’s campaign website featured about 30 issue-specific pages focused not on a nation with problems to be solved but on discrete victim groups with wounds to be salved. The site illustrates the Left’s descent into crass identity politics. The federal government is the heaviest of policy equipment, best used sparingly for big jobs; but for Democrats, it has become a courtesy car, always on call to drive chosen constituencies from one point to another. Put me behind the wheel, Clinton seems to promise, and I’ll put you on my route.

Based on an examination of Clinton’s website, “racial justice” is her campaign’s organizing principle. Not only is her racial-justice page the most expansive on the site—longer by half than the entry for the economy—but it also links to nine other sections, including those devoted to criminal-justice reform, LGBT equality, higher education, climate change, and energy. (“African Americans hold only 1.1 percent of energy jobs and receive only 0.01 percent of energy sector profits,” in case you were wondering.)

Wherever racial linkages weaken, gender stands ready to pick up the slack.

Not that there is anything wrong with that!

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Most Pro Trump Eph?

natemergency

Most (70%? 90%?) Ephs would probably agree with Jon Lovett ’04 that Trump would make a very bad president. But who is the most pro-Trump Eph (other than your humble author, of course)?

Andy Grewal ’02, a law school professor, liked Trump’s speech.

gewal

By the way, if you don’t follow Grewal’s twitter feed, you should.grewal

Hah!

But I have not see Grewal endorse Trump. (Yet?) Oren Cass is a proud member of #NeverTrump but he at least recommends that conservatives not destroy themselves over the issue.

Can you ever again support Ayotte or Jindal, given that they are Trump supporters? If not, how about someone who does support them—how far does toxicity spread? And if you declare support for Trump not just incorrect but wrong, then aren’t the protestors shutting down his rallies on the side of justice? If supporting Clinton is wrong, are you prepared to go to bat for The Donald no matter what he says about her?

Disagreement is healthy. It sharpens and strengthens and teaches. Condemnation we should use only with extreme care. By all means, condemn the candidates; they are accountable for themselves. But spare those forced to grapple with the same terrible choice as you. For some, the balance tilts another way.

Mike Needham ’04 has said many kind and insightful things about Trump and, to an even greater extent, Trump’s supporters, but I don’t think he has formally endorsed anyone. I still hope for him to be the Chief of Staff in a Trump Administration.

What other Ephs are (publicly) pro-Trump?

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Why Trump?

cass

A good question when Oren Cass ’05 asked it last month. An even better one after last night’s sweep. What do EphBlog’s readers think?

My opinions now are the same as in December:

1) Who is the most prominent Eph supporter of Trump? I have trouble naming a single person. Help us out readers! It could be that I (David Dudley Field ‘1824) am the most prominent. I am still hopeful that a member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, Eph Division, will sign up for the Trump campaign. How about Mike Needham ’04, Oren Cass ’05 or James Hitchcock ’15?

2) The fact that no one (?) on the Williams faculty thinks that Trump could possibly become President is a sign of intellectual group think.

3) The fact that no one (?) on the faculty will vote for Trump is an indicator of the lack of ideological diversity at Williams.

4) There are probably many Trump supporters among the white working class of Williams employees. The Record ought to interview them.

Trump will be the next President of the United States because a large majority of voters want to end/decrease illegal (and legal) immigration, especially by Muslims and poor people. All good Williams faculty members find such opinions offensive. Adam Falk banned John Derbyshire (at least partially) because he shares Trumps views on these topics. Who will Falk ban next?

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Cass ’05 on Marcus

Oren Cass ’05 reports on the Marcus/D’Souza debate that I commented on previously.

Marcus responed by saying (get ready for this) “I’m not looking to win this debate, I’m looking to win votes.” Ah, get a whiff of the intellectually rarified and pure air up here in the Ivory Tower. I can’t think of anything sufficiently snide to do his comment justice.

I don’t know if these are the only two things that Marcus got wrong. It would seem improbable that the things I happen to know about are the things he got wrong, and everything I don’t know about he got right. The Israel test (which states “if a newspaper messes up coverage on Israel, which I am qualified to notice, then they’re probably messing up on other stuff too”) suggests Marcus was probably fudging the data elsewhere.

But then, to quote him at one point, “The facts never speak for themselves.”

If I want to hear ideologues spout half-truths and non-sequiturs with rhetorical flourish, I’ll turn on cable news. I had hoped for more from a member of the faculty.

We all do.

Of course, without being there, it is tough to know if Cass’s comments are fair and balanced. Does anyone know if a transcript of the debate is available?

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Cocoon of Liberalism

Since not a single member of the faculty will make the case for Bush, the responsibility for educating Record readers about “How the other half lives” falls to Oren Cass ’05. He concludes with:

Appreciating the various positions on various issues, and the room for disagreement, is harder than just reflexively ignoring the other side, hard enough that even our distinguished faculty has declined the opportunity. Simply wrapping oneself in a cocoon of liberalism is comfortable, but also close-minded. There is nothing sophisticated about ignorance.

Indeed.

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Summer Cass

Oren Cass ’05 does not seem to be overly taxed by his summer job or worries over his thesis. Which is good for us, I guess, since there is plenty of new material at his blog.

He asks:

Lots of liberals become conservative (David Horowitz and Mickey Kaus come to mind)… do any conservatives become liberal?

I’m not really talking about the swing-voter spectrum, i.e. changing views on a given issue. I’m talking about the sort of hard-core left wing stuff associated with College campuses. It seems like a one-way street. You can give up those views, but no one takes them on later in life. Doesn’t that sort of suggest that experience and maturity move people away from those views, and those who hold on to them are intellectually stunted (or at least stuffed away in an ivory tower somewhere and not exposed to the world that seems to change a lot of other people)?

Surely David Nickerson ’97 will know about the academic literature on this off the top of his head, although Cass seems to be more interested in folks from a particular slice socio-economic spectrum.

As far as Williams goes, there is probably a small N problem here since the number of out-spoken conservatives at Williams (at least in the late ’80’s) was not — how should I put this? — large.

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Chapin Machismo

Oren Cass ’05 has an excellent post on a rally for a Latino Studies program at Williams.

[I]t is strange that VISTA [Latino group at Williams] would be demanding a Latino Studies department given their reaction to the infamous Machismo Incident of last semester. (Disclaimer: As a member of the Williams College baseball team, I may be biased towards Coach Barnard’s side in order to protect my copious playing time.) At that time, VISTA’s position was that it was outrageous and racist for a faculty member to suggest that there might be cultural roots to some behaviors by Latinos.

Hmmmm… what exactly would a Latino Studies department do? Granted, Barnard was suggesting that the Latino culture might, in this particular instance, have a negative effect. But does VISTA want the Latino Studies department to only discuss the positive aspects of Latino culture and history? (Probably!) What exactly would a Latino Studies program consist of if trying to explain actions through cultural and sociological bases was ruled off-limits?

I blogged on this topic extensively last fall. I thought that I had a great solution to the problem, but, alas Nina Smith ’05 and Lisha Perez ’06 (the student “leaders” on this topic) were too pathetic (stupid? cowardly?) to go anywhere with it.

Cass’s entire post is a good read. I have a lot of faith that Morty Schapiro will deal with these sorts of stunts in a much more intelligent manner than some of his predecessors.
Cass ends with:

More generally, the issue here is with the support for, and creation of, these Ethnic Studies departments in general in a climate where saying anything general about an Ethnic group is off-limits. What do these departments focus on exactly? To justify their existence, don’t they have to at least acknowledge that there is something unique about [Insert Favorite Ethnic/Racial Group Here] literature, or sociology, or politics, or whatever else? And if so, how is that any different from an at least partial endorsement of stereotypes and generalizations as both in theory legitimate and in practice useful for understanding a given group?

Cass should e-mail this question (politely!) to various professors on campus and see what they have to say. With their permission, he could even publish the answers in his blog, along with commentary.

If he doesn’t, perhaps we should.

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Rapper Cass

Oren Cass ’05 takes the Record to task for insensitivity.

Perhaps the Record thinks it is funny to make a “joke” about white people having difficulty rapping. I only wish they had stopped first to consider the damage that such a seemingly innocent jab can do to the delicate relations between races on this campus and the fragile psyches of those caught in the middle.

Cass’s mockery is pitch-perfect precisely because it is indistinguishable from the usual earnest drivel from the typical suspects.

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Open Cass

Although Oren Cass ’04 doesn’t blog enough on Williams, his thesis topic does look interesting.

These two issues: In what ways does Open Source improve an economy through both its production and distribution processes, and how should the state respond, are the topics of my thesis work and will be discussed on this page for the next nine months.

For those not among the tribe of geekdom, “Open Source” refers to software programs whose code is “open” for all to see and modify. The best introduction to the land of Open Source, as Cass no doubt knows, is The Cathedral and The Bazaar by Eric Raymond. I try my hardest to use nothing but open source and to contribute, in a very small way, back to the open source community.

One could also see EphBlog as an open source version of this, this or even this, but I mean that in a good way.

One of the purposes of this blog is to introduce interested alums in work being done by current students (as well as vice versa, of course), so we would be interested in links to other such projects, whether thesis-related or otherwise.

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