As many may know, I have spent most of the last decade or more producing a content-archiving website that provides convenient, readable access to over 500,000 print articles from the 19th and 20th centuries, together with hundreds of thousands of books.
Most of these articles are drawn from what were once America’s leading journals of intellectual thought and influence, but which eventually vanished so completely that their very names have long been forgotten. Studying our history of the last century or two without giving full consideration to these periodicals would be similar to analyzing the domestic politics of the Vietnam War while ignoring CBS, NBC, ABC, and The New York Times.
Resurrecting long dead publications is nearly as difficult as resurrecting people, and merely putting those millions of scanned pages on the Internet does not necessarily mean that anyone will notice or read them. Therefore, as a means of promoting awareness of this valuable intellectual resource, I announced last year a historical research competition, offering prizes to the best original project produced from this material, with the requirement that Wikipedia accept the work for publication. Continue reading
For reasons best known to himself, Columbia University statistics professor Andrew Gelman has now seen fit to publish his sixth(!) lengthy blogsite column discussing or sharply critiquing my analysis of Ivy League university admissions. Just like most of his previous ones, he seeks to rebut my particular claim that there is a highly suspicious degree of Jewish over-representation in elite college enrollment.
Unfortunately, this latest 3,100 word piece contains new little substance beneath the paired photos of President Obama and House Speaker Boehner. He continues to avoid the overwhelming bulk of the quantitative evidence I had provided in my 30,000 word Meritocracy analysis, instead producing a mass of obfuscatory verbiage mostly disputing the accuracy of a couple of my scattered sentences here and there, while characterizing my motivation as that of an ideological “political activist” following a pattern of “stubbornness” rather than “scholarly discourse.” I’m no expert in psychoanalysis, but I believe Gelman’s reaction might be a classic example of what I think Freud called “psychological projection.”
As I had previously mentioned, after our initial blogsite debate became heated I sent Gelman a detailed private note outlining my own quantitative framework and suggesting that he do the same, thereby allowing us to determine exactly where we agreed and disagreed and narrowing down the scope of our dispute. His response was that he hadn’t really investigated the issue himself and therefore didn’t have any contrasting estimates of his own. But he asked for permission to publish our private exchange on his blogsite, which I readily granted.
I suggest that neutral observers read this Unz/Gelman exchange for themselves, and decide whether his response is as vacuous as it seems to me, even with the substantial P.S. he afterwards appended. I believe it also provides a good indication of which of us is playing the role of the dispassionate researcher. Indeed, Gelman’s complete refusal to engage with my data alarmed one of his agitated and anonymous commenters, who accused Gelman of pursuing an “escape route,” adding “Now that you’ve gotten into the fight don’t run away.” Perhaps this sort of angry accusation from his erstwhile supporters helps to explain Gelman’s added P.S., plus his two subsequent columns on the subject.
Under normal circumstances it would be perfectly reasonable for Gelman to claim that he is just too busy or uninterested in the topic to produce his own quantitative estimates to compare against my own. But given that he’s now written well over 10,000 words about my article across six separate postings, that claim begins to grow rather doubtful. Continue reading
The front page of this morning’s New York Times carried a story highlighting the growing discontent of working-class Americans whose “wages have floundered” over the last few years despite the “record levels” of corporate profits.
Although this discontent may seem somewhat mysterious to many American politicians, who spend their time closely cosseted with affluent lobbyists or attending lavish fund-raisers organized by the wealthy, it hardly shocks me. Most ordinary people don’t like being poor or getting steadily poorer as the years and decades go by.
As it happens, I will be in DC next week, addressing this very topic at an Aspen Institute panel focused on raising the minimum wage. According to most news accounts, leading members of Congress were somewhat surprised when President Obama decided to include mention of the topic in his State of the Union address a couple of weeks ago, proposing an increase to $9.00 per hour. After all, he’d originally been elected on a promise to raise the level to $9.50, and had then spent the next four years focused on the far more urgent need to bail out our Wall Street firms and restore the business confidence of the wealthiest and most parasitical elements of our suffering society. But I suppose that low and late is better than nothing and never. Continue reading
In publishing a 30,000 word article covering such a broad range of complex and controversial topics, I was certain that my work would necessarily contain at least a few factual errors or omissions. The hundreds of individuals examining my material over the last three months have located several, and being from an academic background, I am happy to recognize these:
- On p. 20, I carelessly described America’s yearly Math Olympiad teams as having 5 members, and a sharp-eyed former Olympian noted this was incorrect. Indeed, over the last 40-odd years, the teams have ranged from 6 to 8 members. My actual calculations used the correct figures and remain unchanged.
- A central core of my analysis relied upon state NMS semifinalist lists, of which I managed to locate 43 on the Internet. The legion of commentators who reviewed my findings subsequently managed to locate a 44th, a Massachusetts list that was published in the Boston Globe during 2008. I have analyzed this additional list and appended the results as an addendum to my Appendix E. Incorporating this additional data produces no significant change in any of my national estimates.
- On p. 22, I described the five most selective UC Campuses as being Berkeley, UCLA, San Diego, Davis and Irvine, and analyzed their aggregate ethnic distribution. Commenters have persuasively argued that the Santa Barbara campus is at least as selective as Davis and Irvine, so it should have been included in my analysis. Doing so produces no significant change in my overall results.
- Near the beginning of my article I had noted that although complaints about official corruption of every sort are a leading topic on the Chinese Internet and also in Western media coverage, I had never once heard such a claim about admissions to elite Chinese universities. This led me to conclude that the process was entirely meritocratic, and a couple of individuals with good knowledge of China confirmed this. However, during one of my recent Yale Law events, a student from China stated that he and his friends were firmly convinced that any of China’s 350 Central Committee members could easily obtain an admissions slot for his friends or relatives, so my claim was incorrect. This conflicting evidence may be reconciled if the number of such corrupt admissions each year is so tiny—perhaps a few hundred out of over eight million—that it is completely invisible to the general public. I should note that the New York Times just ran another major story on colleges in China, emphasizing every possible unfair aspect of the system, but nonetheless indicating that admissions were entirely meritocratic and objective.
I fully acknowledge all these unavoidable errors in my work. But the recent, widely-distributed criticism presented in the main post and lengthy comment-thread of Prof. Andrew Gelman, a prominent Ivy League statistics professor, falls into an entirely different category. Continue reading
One noticeable disappointment in the ongoing discussion of my Meritocracy article has been the relative lack of critical commentary. Both my previous Hispanic Crime and Race/IQ series had unleashed vast outpouring of harsh attacks, thereby assisting me in sharpening and refining my analysis. But I think that so far the overwhelming majority of the many published responses to my recent research have either been favorable or at least neutral and descriptive. Fortunately, this somewhat lopsided state of affairs has now begun to change.
Early yesterday morning, Prof. Andrew Gelman, a statistics expert, published a sharp 3,500 word critique of my Jewish results, apparently based almost entirely on the critical analysis provided him by Prof. Jane Mertz and Nurit Baytch. As it happens, their material has been floating around the Internet for at least the last couple of weeks, and one or two people had previously forwarded it to me; I also discovered that Mertz had left a couple of hostile comments on the TAC website. Since I found their work confused and specious and they never made any effort to publish it anywhere—even if only on a personal blogsite—I never bothered to directly refute it. But now that Prof. Gelman has published major portions of it backed by his own imprimatur, I will undertake to do so.
I had actually already addressed some of these issues less than two weeks ago in a previous 1900 word column defending my techniques of Jewish surname analysis, but since neither Mertz, Baytch, nor Gelman seems to have bothered reading the piece, I must apologize for being forced to partly repeat myself. Continue reading
Earlier this week Washington Post Columnist Matt Miller published an excellent piece making the case for a large increase in the federal minimum wage, including arguments drawn from a wide range of prominent business and political figures, as well as mention of my own recent New America article on that issue.
Given the importance of the topic, it is hardly unexpected that the column attracted some 600 comments. But far more surprising was the overwhelmingly negative response of those readers. Given that the Post is a centrist-liberal newspaper and Miller a centrist-liberal columnist, one suspects that the vast majority of the commenters were similarly of the centrist-liberal orientation. But I suspect that most of their hostile remarks would have been indistinguishable from what would have greeted a similar suggestion posted on National Review or FoxNews or the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity; and therein lies a tale. Continue reading
Racial Quotas, Harvard, and the Legacy of Bakke
National Review Online, February 5, 2013
For almost 35 years, college-admissions decisions in America have been governed by the continuing legacy of University of California v. Bakke, in which a fragmented U.S. Supreme Court struck down the use of racial quotas but affirmed the legitimacy of considering race as one factor among several. The justices are now revisiting these crucial national issues in the pending Fisher v. University of Texas decision.
According to many observers, a crucial factor in the original 1978 ruling may have been the amicus brief filed by Harvard University. America’s oldest and most prestigious academic institution emphasized that its “holistic” admissions process allowed for the creation of a racially diversified student body while avoiding any “quota system.” In fact, Justice Lewis Powell’s majority opinion cited Harvard’s approach as exemplary, suggesting it demonstrated that well-intentioned and determined university administrators could achieve ethnic diversity without using quotas. Continue reading
I just returned from attending a couple of events at Yale University, all in connection with the controversial issues raised by my Meritocracy article.
On Tuesday, I participated in a large public debate organized by the Yale Political Union on the somewhat related question of whether Affirmative Action on college admissions should be ended. The audience was narrowly divided on the question, and often loud and boisterous in expressing their sentiments, thus resulting in a lively evening, as reported in the Yale Daily News.
One of the most interesting moments came when a girl from the audience declared she was a Southern Baptist, and that she sometimes wondered whether she was nearly the only one at Yale. America contains some 16 million Southern Baptists, who constitute our nation’s largest Protestant group, so if Yale does indeed only enroll a negligible number of such individuals among its 5500 students, this might raise troubling questions of exactly how the university administrators define their vaunted public commitment to “diversity” and also the nature of their recruitment and admissions policies. Continue reading
As all writers know, a good title should be both descriptive and provocative, and both these considerations certainly apply to Russell Nieli’s very detailed 2200 word review of my Meritocracy article “Asians as the New Jews, Jews as the New WASPs,” recently published on Minding the Campus, a prominent education-oriented webzine affiliated with The Manhattan Institute.
Dr. Nieli, a Senior Preceptor and Lecturer at Princeton, has written widely about these same issues of the apparent unfairness and institutional biases in current elite college admissions, and his book, Wounds That Will Not Heal: Affirmative Action and Our Continuing Racial Divide was published late last year by Encounter Books, to considerable critical acclaim. During the preparation of my own article, I found his numerous reviews and columns an invaluable resource, and I would highly recommend his current review as the best single summary of my own research findings, and one provided in a format far more accessible than my own 30,000 word exposition. Continue reading
Although my Meritocracy article focused primarily on public policy issues—the admissions systems of our elite academic institutions—it necessarily touched on some scientific ones as well. Therefore, it is quite heartening to see that a detailed 1500 word summary and discussion of the piece has now been published by the Genetic Literary Project, affiliated with George Mason University, and written by its Executive Director, Jon Entine. Entine, an award-winning former broadcast and print science journalist, has previously authored several prominent books focusing on the interplay between genetic and ethnic issues, including Taboo in 2001 and Abraham’s Children in 2007.
And as someone who has been a continuous subscriber to The Economist since 1979, I was extremely gratified at the very generous remarks made by one of its current top editors, who also went on to describe TAC as “the most interesting conservative mag in America.” Continue reading
As I had previously mentioned, the length and range of topics covered in my Meritocracy package resulted in a wide dispersion of responses, many of which seemed to contain almost no overlap in their discussions. Just as in the fable of the Blind Men and the Elephant, a casual reader might almost assume that the reviews were referencing entirely different articles, with some of the writers focusing exclusively on my statistical evidence for the existence of Asian quotas, others on my claims that our top schools had become “hedgefundiversities,” and still others on my proposal for an admissions lottery to balance the competing goals of meritocracy and diversity while reducing favoritism and corruption.
For exactly these reasons, it is hardly surprising that many Jewish writers should focus primarily upon my findings regarding the recent trajectory of Jewish academic performance, and the evidence of its decline or even collapse over the last couple of decades. This certainly constituted the biggest personal surprise I had encountered in my research, and others seem just as shocked as I had been.
Just yesterday, Rabbi Benjamin Blech, a professor of Talmud Studies at Yeshiva University, published a thousand word column entitled “Endangered Jewish Genius,” which has already attracted almost 400 Facebook Likes in just 24 hours. Unsurprisingly, he finds evidence of a Jewish intellectual decline to be “so depressing,” and reasonably attributes much of this dismal result to the replacement of a traditional focus on learning by American popular culture, seeing “Maimonides give way to Madonna” and “the people of the book” become the “people of the buck.” Continue reading
Given the enormous length of my Meritocracy package—over 35,000 words including sidebar, endnotes, and appendices—it’s hardly surprising that certain parts have received a great deal of discussion, while others have not.
For example, my suggestion that our top universities now operated more as hedge-funds than as educational institutions was widely distributed and discussed, as was my analysis of the strong statistical evidence pointing to the existence of “Asian quotas.” However, I more generally characterized our current elite admissions system as “a complex mixture of diversity, meritocracy, favoritism, and corruption,” and proposed a possible replacement, which has received very little attention at all. Continue reading
Late Monday night I received a most remarkable and unexpected Christmas present delivered straight from august offices of the New York Times, as David Brooks, one of America’s most prominent center-right journalists, named my recent piece “The Myth of American Meritocracy” as one of the winners of his annual Sidney Awards for outstanding articles of 2012.
Just days earlier, the New York Times had run a major op-ed by Prof. Carolyn Chen of Northwestern calling attention to evidence of racial discrimination against Asian-Americans in elite admissions and a six-sided forum discussing the same topic, with the former ranking as the #1 most emailed Times article of the day and the latter having already attracted nearly 800 comments. It does appear that the Great Gray Lady of New York City is now turning a highly skeptical gaze to the selection policies of America’s leading universities, and I suspect that many Ivy League admissions departments may have a busy holiday season beginning to answer the worried questions of their various presidents and provosts.
Over the last couple of weeks, other prominent publication such as Forbes, The Atlantic, The Washington Monthly, and Business Insider have also focused their attention on the strong statistical evidence I found for the existence of “Asian Quotas” across the Ivy League, as did AEI’s Charles Murray, and quite a number of individual bloggers and pundits. Continue reading
The New York Times, America’s national newspaper of record, has published a forum debating the existence of Asian-American quotas in the Ivy League. My own contribution, drawn from my recent article The Myth of American Meritocracy, focused on the statistical evidence:
Statistics Indicate an Ivy League Asian Quota
Ron Unz, The New York Times, December 19, 2012 Continue reading
Statistics Indicate an Ivy League Asian Quota by Ron Unz
The New York Times, Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Just as their predecessors of the 1920s always denied the existence of “Jewish quotas,” top officials at Harvard, Yale, Princeton and the other Ivy League schools today strongly deny the existence of “Asian quotas.” But there exists powerful statistical evidence to the contrary. Continue reading
The reaction to my long Meritocracy cover story followed a very unusual pattern.
On the one hand, the piece received just a fraction of the major links and web discussions which several of my previous articles have attracted, and many of these seemed curiously abbreviated or oblique, sometimes describing my article as being quite important without explaining why it was important or even indicating what it said. Perhaps the 30,000 word article was just too long for most people to have fully read, causing them to focus merely on the points I made in the first few sections, and they will eventually get around to reading the rest.
But although the links and commentary were few, the traffic itself was enormous, at least for me. During just its first week, my Meritocracy piece attracted several times the total pageviews that my influential Hispanic Crime article had received during its first full year, along with over 2000 Facebook Likes and many hundreds of Tweets. There were also numerous comments, and some of the commenters described it as “the article which everyone is talking about” and presumably reading. But apparently few people are writing about it, at least in other than anonymous commenter fashion.
I will reserve further discussion of my Meritocracy article for the future. For now, the more immediate story is the remarkable sudden response to my 1300 word Harvard as Hedge Fund sidebar. Continue reading
From its 1636 foundation Harvard had always ranked as America’s oldest and most prestigious college, even as it gradually grew in size and academic quality during the first three centuries of its existence. The widespread destruction brought about by the Second World War laid low its traditional European rivals, and not long after celebrating its third centennial, Harvard had become the world’s greatest university.
Harvard only improved its standing during the successful American postwar decades, and by its 350th anniversary in 1986 was almost universally recognized as the leader of the world’s academic community. But over the decade or two which followed, it quietly embarked upon a late-life career change, transforming itself into one of the world’s largest hedge funds, with some sort of school or college or something attached off to one side for tax reasons. Continue reading
The Myth of American Meritocracy
The American Conservative, December 2012, Cover Story
Just before the Labor Day weekend, a front page New York Times story broke the news of the largest cheating scandal in Harvard University history, in which nearly half the students taking a Government course on the role of Congress had plagiarized or otherwise illegally collaborated on their final exam.1 Each year, Harvard admits just 1600 freshmen while almost 125 Harvard students now face possible suspension over this single incident. A Harvard dean described the situation as “unprecedented.”
But should we really be so surprised at this behavior among the students at America’s most prestigious academic institution? In the last generation or two, the funnel of opportunity in American society has drastically narrowed, with a greater and greater proportion of our financial, media, business, and political elites being drawn from a relatively small number of our leading universities, together with their professional schools. The rise of a Henry Ford, from farm boy mechanic to world business tycoon, seems virtually impossible today, as even America’s most successful college dropouts such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg often turn out to be extremely well-connected former Harvard students. Indeed, the early success of Facebook was largely due to the powerful imprimatur it enjoyed from its exclusive availability first only at Harvard and later restricted to just the Ivy League.
During this period, we have witnessed a huge national decline in well-paid middle class jobs in the manufacturing sector and other sources of employment for those lacking college degrees, with median American wages having been stagnant or declining for the last forty years. Meanwhile, there has been an astonishing concentration of wealth at the top, with America’s richest 1 percent now possessing nearly as much net wealth as the bottom 95 percent.2 This situation, sometimes described as a “winner take all society,” leaves families desperate to maximize the chances that their children will reach the winners’ circle, rather than risk failure and poverty or even merely a spot in the rapidly deteriorating middle class. And the best single means of becoming such an economic winner is to gain admission to a top university, which provides an easy ticket to the wealth of Wall Street or similar venues, whose leading firms increasingly restrict their hiring to graduates of the Ivy League or a tiny handful of other top colleges.3 On the other side, finance remains the favored employment choice for Harvard, Yale or Princeton students after the diplomas are handed out.4 Continue reading
Earlier this summer, we ran a Historical Research Competition to help promote and publicize our UNZ.org content-archiving website, and the results were very satisfactory. Numerous excellent submissions were received, the prizes were awarded, and probably as a consequence our daily pageviews doubled and unique visitors nearly tripled. Continue reading
With Americans still trapped in the fifth year of our Great Recession, and median personal income having been essentially stagnant for forty years, perhaps we should finally admit that decades of economic policies have largely failed.
The last two years of our supposed recovery have seen American growth rates averaging well under 2 percent.[i] Although our media often pays greater attention to the recent gains in stock market and asset prices, such paltry growth means that many of the millions of jobs lost in 2008 and 2009 will never be regained, and the broadest measures of American unemployment and underemployment will remain stuck in the vicinity of 15%.[ii] Meanwhile, an astonishing 93% of the total increase in income during the recovery period has been captured by the top one percent of earners, who now hold almost as much net wealth as the bottom 95 percent of our society.[iii] This polarized situation does not bode well for our future, and unless broader social trends in jobs and incomes soon improve, dark days surely lie ahead. Continue reading
The surprisingly wide national victory of President Barack Obama over his Republican challenger has occasioned quite a lot of political second-guessing, including among the GOP donors who contributed well over one billion dollars in cash to their candidate, only to be crushed on Election Day despite record-high national unemployment.
To reverse JFK’s famous phrase, it is true that “defeat has a thousand fathers” and one could certainly point to many factors behind this wide Democratic victory. But certainly one of these is the remarkable demographic tilt of the American electorate, with the share of Hispanic voters having now finally crossed the double-digit mark, and favoring the Democratic incumbent by a huge 44 point margin. Meanwhile, Asian voters increased their numbers at even a faster relative pace and tilted even more in the Democratic direction, 73% to 26%.
These grim facts for future Republican prospects have been highlighted in front page stories this morning in the Wall Street Journal and the San Jose Mercury News, as well as on Bloomberg:
Vote Data Show Changing Nation, Neil King Jr.,
The Wall Street Journal, November 8, 2012, Front Page
The GOP Challenge, Patrick May and Matt O’Brien,
San Jose Mercury News, November 8, 2012, Front Page
Asian Voters Send a Message to Republicans, Francis Wilkinson,
Bloomberg News, November 8, 2010 Continue reading
No Quotas, No Elite Public High School
The American Conservative, November 2012
In late September I attended a memorial service for William M. Fitz-Gibbon, a retired public school teacher who had passed away a few weeks earlier, just short of his 78th birthday.
Without doubt Bill Fitz-Gibbon—“Fitz” to everyone—was the individual who had the greatest academic influence on my life, and my feelings were shared by many others, with hundreds of his former students from the last 35 years attending the service, held at Walter Reed Junior High in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. But what made his achievement so remarkable is that his decades of teaching had almost entirely been spent—with only mixed success—trying to climb up the down escalator of American education. Continue reading
Even as the front pages of America’s top newspapers were debating the vital question of whether Obama’s raised eyebrow had overcome Romney’s clenched jaw, and which of our two ideologically-polar-opposite candidates was more sincere in his pledge of undying loyalty to Israel, a story of perhaps greater significance was reaching our shores from across the stormy Atlantic Ocean.
It appears that Britain’s tabloid press, irritated that so many of its journalists are headed off to prison for celebrity phone-hacking, has decided to repay the media establishment in kind, by bringing to wide public awareness the details of a different scandal centered on the august BBC.
The facts are hardly complex. It seems that the late and longtime BBC media celebrity Jimmy Savile—”a British icon”, “a national treasure”, knighted by the Queen and enormously popular television host of “Top of the Pops” and “Jim’ll Fix It”—indulged in certain slight personal foibles. In the words of the this morning’s always restrained New York Times, he was “an insatiable pedophile.” Over 200 of his victims have already come forward, with more surely being on the way. Continue reading
Posted in Media, UnzColumn
With my long sequence of articles and columns on Race/IQ having now apparently wound to a close, I thought I’d provide a full collection of the entire series and accompanying debate for convenient future access, not least for myself.
Running almost a dozen separate items across nine weeks and totalling some 23,000 words, the pieces certainly helped to expand my own limited knowledge of the topic in question, and also brought me into contact with a wide variety of (overwhelmingly hostile) websites and bloggers of which I’d previously been unaware. The thousands of (overwhelmingly hostile) comments I received were also quite enlightening.
Normally, I would include a very brief summary of every item, but in this particular case the list was so enormously long, interested readers will be forced to rely upon the usually self-descriptive titles instead. In one or two cases, my critics later realized they’d made a simple calculational mistake and after insulting and attacking me, later “disappeared” their rebuttals, rather than admit their error—those links are currently broken. I also apologize in advance for the numerous hostile responses I’m sure I missed…but there were an awful lot!
Meanwhile, I’ve spent most of the last month working on a new and somewhat related research topic, namely the contours of America’s current “meritocracy” and especially the college admissions system by which it is largely created. The subject is actually much less innocuous than it might sound.
Race, IQ, and Wealth
Ron Unz/The American Conservative, July 18, 2012
The endless pace of change in our media landscape regularly plays tricks upon all of us.
Many have seen the amusing web video in which a very young child repeatedly attempts to click or swipe the colorful pages of a magazine, before finally declaring it “broken” to his smiling father, who finally hands him an “unbroken” iPad. Similarly, for over half a century US News and World Report ranked as one of America’s most influential weekly newsmagazines, but teenagers today probably consider it as just being some sort of website guide to colleges. And Newsweek, once even a more powerful and influential publication, with many millions of worldwide subscribers less than a decade ago, was sold in late 2010 ago for a single dollar, and is even now in the process of disappearing into a web-upstart calling itself “The Daily Beast.”
All these recent developments should be kept in mind when we consider the proper place in history of Encounter, a London-based magazine which was published for nearly forty years before finally closing at the beginning of the 1990s, soon after the Fall of the Berlin War. I suspect that for 95% of American intellectuals under the age of 40, the name means almost nothing, while for those over the age of 60, it carries enormous weight and significance. The founding co-editors were American journalist Irving Kristol and British poet Stephen Spender, with European intellectual Melvin Lasky later serving as the primary editor for the last thirty-odd years of Encounter’s existence. Continue reading