Heather Mac Donald opines on how UCLA ” decimated its English major” under the banner of ““alternative rubrics of gender, sexuality, race, and class” in our excellent article The Humanities and Us | City Journal:
[T]he UCLA English department—like so many others—is more concerned that its students encounter race, gender, and disability studies than that they plunge headlong into the overflowing riches of actual English literature—whether Milton, Wordsworth, Thackeray, George Eliot, or dozens of other great artists closer to our own day. How is this possible? The UCLA coup represents the characteristic academic traits of our time: narcissism, an obsession with victimhood, and a relentless determination to reduce the stunning complexity of the past to the shallow categories of identity and class politics. Sitting atop an entire civilization of aesthetic wonders, the contemporary academic wants only to study oppression, preferably his own, defined reductively according to gonads and melanin.
W. E. B. Du Bois would have been stunned to learn how narrow is the contemporary multiculturalist’s self-definition and sphere of interest. Du Bois, living during America’s darkest period of hate, nevertheless heartbreakingly affirmed in 1903 his intellectual and spiritual affinity with all of Western civilization: “I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not. Across the color line I move arm in arm with Balzac and Dumas. . . . I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I will, and they come all graciously with no scorn nor condescension.”
[T]he only true justification for the humanities is that they provide the thing that Faust sold his soul for: knowledge. It is knowledge of a particular kind, concerning what men have done and created over the ages. The American Founders drew on an astonishingly wide range of historical sources and an appropriately jaundiced view of human nature to craft the world’s most stable and free republic. They invoked lessons learned from the Greek city-states, the Carolingian Dynasty, and the Ottoman Empire in the Constitution’s defense. And they assumed that the new nation’s citizens would themselves be versed in history and political philosophy. Indeed, a closer knowledge among the electorate of Hobbes and the fragility of social order might have prevented the more brazen social experiments that we’ve undergone in recent years. Ignorance of the intellectual trajectory that led to the rule of law and the West’s astounding prosperity puts those achievements at risk.
For those wish to understand what is wrong with today’s universities The Humanities and Us is a must-read.
Stephen Knott talked about his book, Alexander Hamilton and the Persistence of Myth. In his book, Mr. Knott questions the accuracy of the historical accounts written about Alexander Hamilton and examines the Founder’s legacy. Mr. Knott also highlights the Broadway musical “Hamilton” and its impact on restoring Alexander Hamilton’s reputation.
C. Bradley Thompson, professor of political philosophy and executive director of the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism, explains why Trump won the election in his essay Donald Trump and the Revolt of the Unseen. (Hint: It was not because of the Russians.)
For better or worse, November 8, 2016, will go down in American history as a watershed election. Donald J. Trump’s victory represents a profound realignment in American politics. This much seems certain: the ancien régime is dead.
Our challenge is not to praise Trump’s virtues or to condemn his vices, but to understand why tens of millions of Americans voted for Donald Trump—the unlikeliest of candidates—to become the president of the United States.
In his inaugural address, President Trump voiced a theme that ran throughout his campaign: “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.” Trump’s political genius was to find the lost, the forgotten, the dispossessed, and the invisible.
Ironically, the billionaire from Manhattan became the voice of the Forgotten Man—the man who works hard, pays his taxes, supports his family, and volunteers in his community as a soccer coach and a Boy Scout leader. When Trump said “We will make America great again,” he spoke to the deepest aspirations of ordinary Americans who love their country but see it crumbling all around them. He waged war on their behalf.
And now his supporters have fundamentally altered the traditional left-right political spectrum. A social-political-ideological realignment is underway, transitioning the country to a new party system that has been developing, mostly unseen, for two or three decades. The new political spectrum is less ideological and more cultural. It is divided between the Ruling Elite and the Deplorables. […]
Whistleblowers at the U.S. government’s official keeper of the global warming stats, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), claim their agency doctored temperature data to hide the fact that global temperatures plateaued almost 20 years ago.
None of the billions spent on research amounted to anything — none of the models proved reliable, none of the predictions were borne out, none of the expected effects materialized. The Arctic ice cap hasn’t disappeared, polar bear populations haven’t declined, hurricanes haven’t become more common, malaria hasn’t spread, temperatures haven’t continued to climb. What did materialize was fraud after fraud.
Likewise, a much heralded claim that 97 per cent of scientists believed the planet was overheating came from a 2008 master’s thesis by a student at the University of Illinois who obtained her results by conducting a survey of 10,257 earth scientists, then discarding the views of all but 77 of them. Of those 77 scientists, 75 thought humans contributed to climate change. The ratio 75/77 produced the 97-per-cent figure that global warming activists then touted.
Robots are taking human jobs. But Bill Gates believes that governments should tax companies’ use of them, as a way to at least temporarily slow the spread of automation and to fund other types of employment. It’s a striking position from the world’s richest man and a self-described techno-optimist who co-founded Microsoft, one of the leading players in artificial-intelligence technology.
Quartz: What do you think of a robot tax? This is the idea that in order to generate funds for training of workers, in areas such as manufacturing, who are displaced by automation, one concrete thing that governments could do is tax the installation of a robot in a factory, for example.
Bill Gates: Certainly there will be taxes that relate to automation. Right now, the human worker who does, say, $50,000 worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed and you get income tax, social security tax, all those things. If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level.
A robot is simply a tool — like the wheel, car, computer, etc. that makes humans more productive. Like any tool they must be built, maintained, replaced (and if running Windows software by Mr. Gates constantly updated for ‘bugs’).
Continues Mr. Gates:
Well, at a time when people are saying that the arrival of that robot is a net loss because of displacement, you ought to be willing to raise the tax level and even slow down the speed of that adoption somewhat to figure out, “OK, what about the communities where this has a particularly big impact? Which transition programs have worked and what type of funding do those require?”
And you’re more on the side that government should play an active role rather than rely on businesses to figure this out?
Well, business can’t. If you want to do [something about] inequity, a lot of the excess labor is going to need to go help the people who have lower incomes. And so it means that you can amp up social services for old people and handicapped people and you can take the education sector and put more labor in there. Yes, some of it will go to, “Hey, we’ll be richer and people will buy more things.” But the inequity-solving part, absolutely government’s got a big role to play there. The nice thing about taxation though, is that it really separates the issue: “OK, so that gives you the resources, now how do you want to deploy it?”
Tools which improve human productivity should not be taxed as they reduce the cost of living and increase everyone’s standard of living; rather the profits from the creation of such tools should be reinvested by companies to create even better tools to make human’s even more productive.
Writes Henry Hazlitt on “The Curse of Machinery” in Economics In One Lesson:
AMONG THE MOST viable of all economic delusions is the belief that machines on net balance create unemployment. Destroyed a thousand times, it has risen a thousand times out of its own ashes as hardy and vigorous as ever. Whenever there is long-continued mass unemployment, machines get the blame anew. This fallacy is still the basis of many labor union practices. The public tolerates these practices because it either believes at bottom that the unions are right, or is too confused to see just why they are wrong.
The belief that machines cause unemployment, when held with any logical consistency, leads to preposterous conclusions. Not only must we be causing unemployment with every technological improvement we make today, but primitive man must have started causing it with the first efforts he made to save himself from needless toil and sweat.
Arkwright invented his cotton-spinning machinery in 1760. At that time it was estimated that there were in England 5,200 spinners using spinning wheels, and 2,700 weavers—in all, 7,900 persons engaged in the production of cotton textiles. The introduction of Arkwright’s invention was opposed on the ground that it threatened the livelihood of the workers, and the opposition had to be put down by force. Yet in 1787—twenty-seven years after the invention appeared—a parliamentary inquiry showed that the number of persons actually engaged in the spinning and weaving of cotton had risen from 7,900 to 320,000, an increase of 4,400 percent.
There is also an absolute sense in which machines may be said to have enormously increased the number of jobs. The population of the world today is four times as great as in the middle of the eighteenth century, before the Industrial Revolution had got well under way. Machines may be said to have given birth to this increased population; for without the machines, the world would not have been able to support it. Three out of every four of us, therefore, may be said to owe not only our jobs but our very lives to machines.
Yet it is a misconception to think of the function or result of machines as primarily one of creating jobs. The real result of the machine is to increase production, to raise the standard of living, to increase economic welfare. It is no trick to employ everybody, even (or especially) in the most primitive economy. Full employment—very full employment; long, weary, backbreaking employment—is characteristic of precisely the nations that are most retarded industrially. Where full employment already exists, new machines, inventions and discoveries cannot—until there has been time for an increase in population — bring more employment. They are likely to bring more unemployment (but this time I am speaking of voluntaiy and not involuntary unemployment) because people can now afford to work fewer hours, while children and the overaged no longer need to work.
What machines do, to repeat, is to bring an increase in production and an increase in the standard of living. They may do this in either of two ways. They do it by making goods cheaper for consumers (as in our illustration of the overcoats), or they do it by increasing wages because they increase the productivity of the workers. In other words, they either increase money wages or, by reducing prices, they increase the goods and services that the same money wages will buy. Sometimes they do both. What actually happens will depend in large part upon the monetary policy pursued in a country. But in any case, machines, inventions and discoveries increase real wages.
In gobsmacks me to see that a billionaire who made his money under relative freedom, seeks to prevent others from accumulating capital and building wealth by increasing taxation, and further aims to displace businesses out of markets like education, with government bureaucracy.
“Capitalists,” like Bill Gates, who are utterly ignorant of free-market economics, are politically, capitalism’s worst enemy.
Universities are the cradle of free speech, where ideologies and ideas clash, where academics and activists can agree, disagree, or be disagreeable. This is particularly true in the United States, where the First Amendment zealously guards against government surveillance and intrusion into free speech.
Yet at hundreds of campuses across the country, administrators encourage students to report one another, or their professors, for speech protected by the First Amendment, or even mere political disagreements. The so-called “Bias Response Teams” reviewing these (often anonymous) reports typically include police officers, student conduct administrators and public relations staff who scrutinize the speech of activists and academics.
This sounds like the stuff of Orwell, although even he might have found the name “Bias Response Team” to be over-the-top.
Over the past year, I surveyed more than 230 such reporting systems for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and asked dozens of schools for records about their Bias Response Teams. What I found is detailed in a new report describing how universities broadly define “bias” to include virtually any speech, protected or not, that subjectively offends anyone.
I was a Muslim refugee once. I know what it’s like. I know what it’s like to gamble your entire future on a one-way ticket to a foreign land, what it’s like to fill in the forms, not knowing for sure what the right answers are. I know what it’s like to fear rejection, deportation and the dangers that await you back home.
….it was my high expectations that made last Friday’s executive order on immigration so puzzling. It was, apart from anything else, clumsy. It caught border protection agents and customs officials by surprise. It sowed confusion and fear among travelers, immigrants and legal permanent residents. Its poor execution was a gift to the president’s critics.
In halting the entry of all refugees, and in appearing to be directed against Muslims — including even those who had worked for the U.S. military as interpreters — it was much too broad. In temporarily banning citizens from just seven countries, however, it was also too narrow (citizens from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and several North African countries have also been implicated in terrorism).
True, the president had made clear back in August that this was part of what he intended to do. “We will have to temporarily suspend immigration from some of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism,” he said. “As soon as I take office, I will ask the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to identify a list of regions where adequate screening cannot take place. We will stop processing visas from those areas until such time as it is deemed safe to resume based on new circumstances or new procedures.”
But what got lost in the hysteria that followed last Friday’s announcement was that these are temporary measures, not the foundation for future policy. As Trump said in August, his administration “will establish a clear principle that will govern all decisions pertaining to immigration: we should admit into this country those who share our values and respect our people … In addition to screening out all members or sympathizers of terrorist groups, we must also screen out any who have hostile attitudes towards our country or its principles — or who believe that Sharia law should supplant American law. Those who do not believe in our Constitution, or who support bigotry and hatred, will not be admitted for immigration into the country. Only those who we expect to flourish in our country — and to embrace a tolerant American society — should be issued immigrant visas.”
If that is still the Trump administration’s plan, then it has my support.
One of the most formative courses in my educational history was David Harriman’s “Fundamentals of Physical Science” – formative of my knowledge of science, formative of my views on education, formative of my very ability to think. It taught me what it really means to learn science, and by extension, what it really means to learn.
Let me illustrate the difference between science as it is conventionally taught and science as it is taught by David Harriman, using Newton’s law of universal gravitation as a striking case in point.
If your education was like mine, this law was presented as a commandment to be memorized—as knowledge that, along with Newton’s apple, fell from the sky. You had no knowledge of the prior discoveries that were the “shoulders” on which Newton famously declared he stood, no awareness of the questions that remained and that Newton sought to answer, and therefore no substantive understanding of the meaning, the explanatory power, and the monumental importance of Newton’s achievement.
When, in Harriman’s course, you arrive at Newton’s law of universal gravitation, it comes as a page-turning, climactic chapter in an epic story of discovery.
You will have already learned about Galileo’s principle of inertia, Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, and Newton’s own law of circular acceleration. You will see how these discoveries made possible the question Newton asked himself when the apple fell.
You will have already learned Galileo’s law of fall, Eratosthenes’ calculation of the size of the Earth, and Aristarchus’ calculation of the distance to the moon. You will see how these discoveries made possible Newton’s answer to the question.
When guided through the ingenious process by which Newton integrated this knowledge and built upon it, you are able to thoroughly grasp the principle of universal gravitation: to see that it is true and why it must be true. The law of gravitation becomes connected to and explanatory of the things you see around you every day. It is real knowledge.
Harriman teaches all of the great achievements in the history of physics, from the heliocentric theory, to optics, to electromagnetism and more, in this historical, inductive manner.
The value of a course that takes this approach to teaching science is inestimable. It provided me with a clear filter for distinguishing “knowledge” I had memorized from sincere, independently held, fully-formed knowledge. It helped me to see that complex, abstract principles of science are not the province only of geniuses, but are, if properly taught, accessible to all. It inspired me with epic stories of world-changing discoveries that have made life as we know it possible. And it modeled, and helped me to develop, real intellectual self-discipline.
That is why I cannot recommend this course highly enough.
The Myth: An unregulated free market and unrestricted Wall Street greed caused the Great Depression and only the interventionist policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt got us out.
The Reality: The Great Depression was caused by government intervention, above all a financial system controlled by America’s central bank, the Federal Reserve — and the interventionist policies of Hoover and FDR only made things worse.
One woman, one microphone, one key to the Ayn Rand Institute audio archives — that’s Rise & Fall: How Ideas Move the World, a podcast about the power of philosophic ideas hosted by Ayn Rand Institute research associate Amanda Maxham. “Ideas surround you,” Maxham said. “Ideas shape the way you act, how you feel, what you think is good and what you condemn as evil. Whether it’s the first spark of a new invention or the fall of Rome, ideas shape the world. Rise & Fall illuminates those ideas, one at a time.”
Maxham chooses a theme for each episode and then digs into ARI’s audio archives, where every lecture, radio program, course and Q&A from Objectivist voices that were caught on tape over the past fifty years waits to be uncovered. She weaves these audio gems together with commentary and original interviews to create each episode of Rise & Fall.
The topics vary, from genetically engineered mosquitoes to the use of language, from “Islamophobia” to courtroom justice, but no matter the topic, Rise & Fall looks at the world through the lens of the power of philosophic ideas. Listeners are encouraged to call the toll-free Rise & Fall line (888-673-5553) to leave a message with reactions to the show or questions for the host and guests. Maxham plans to use these reactions in shaping future episodes. Each episode also features an original illustration by former Institute intern Robert Simpson.
Here are summaries of the first three episodes, slated for release next week (available now on YouTube here):
Episode 1: The Four Events That Significantly Emboldened Islamic Totalitarians: The Iranian Hostage Crisis, the Salman Rushdie Affair, September 11th and the Charlie Hebdo Massacre. Are we in the Western world doomed to more and more attacks by Islamic totalitarians? And what can anyone do about it? The answer might surprise you.
Episode 2: Nature’s Deadliest Killer: The recent outbreak of Zika (a mosquito-borne virus) in the United States brings mankind’s battle against mosquitoes and the diseases they carry to the forefront. We have many tools we can use to fight mosquitoes, such as DDT and GMOs (genetically modified organisms), so why aren’t we using them?
Episode 3: Anti-Concepts: “Islamophobia,” “meritocracy” and “extremism.” These three anti-concepts obliterate clear thinking and shut down thoughtful discussion. Have you unwittingly accepted them into your thinking?