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E-Pluribus | July 29, 2021
Don't call leftists "liberals," the University of California drops the SAT in the name of diversity and fairness, and Constitutional concerns about another Biden nominee.
A round up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
ICYMI: Daniel B Klein: 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Call Leftists “Liberal”
Writing at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute in 2019 (and recently reprinted by the American Institute for Economic Research), Daniel Klein makes the case for reclaiming “liberal” from the left. Klein, a professor at George Mason University where he leads an Adam Smith program, harkens back to Smith and the political origins of “liberalism,” but also addresses more recent developments here in the United States. A couple of his reasons are excerpted below, but click through for all ten.
“Liberal” first obtained a political meaning from British writers, most importantly Adam Smith, who published The Wealth of Nations in 1776. Smith adopted “liberal” as the name for his “system of natural liberty.” The Wealth of Nations propounded “the liberal plan of equality, liberty, and justice,” and “the liberal system” of free enterprise. The book was immediately highly influential, and other thought leaders followed suit in adopting “liberal.”
“Liberal” suggested allegiance to the liberty principle. Still today we speak of removing restrictions as liberalization. Throughout much of the world today, “liberal economics” means economics favorable to freer markets.
From the political use of “liberal” arose “liberalism,” beginning in the 1820s. Some historians say it’s wrong to say that Smith advocated liberalism, because in his time the word liberalism wasn’t in use. But that’s like saying because the word racism was not used until after World War II, racism didn’t exist until then.
When we call leftists “liberal,” we relinquish the term. We then have difficulty claiming Smith and his tradition, because that was the liberal tradition.
The idea of “a liberal society” is the idea of a limited, constitutional government, which is necessary to uphold “the liberal plan of equality, liberty, and justice.” Liberalism 1.0 is the soul of Western civilization. (Larry Siedentop suggests that such emergence was the child of Christianity.)
Here in North America, “liberal” is used in the regrettable way. But around the world we see many political regimes that are theocratic, clientistic, tribalistic, or socialistic—usually coming in some combination thereof. Over against those repressive and despotic systems, we defend “liberal society” or “liberal democracy.”
Read it all here.
John McWhorter: Racist Antiracism at the University of California is Back
At his It Bears Mentioning Substack, John McWhorter addresses the University of California’s recent decision to drop consideration of SAT scores for admissions and scholarships. McWhorter recalls the bad old days when he taught at UC Berkeley in the 1990s where race-based admissions policies created a two-tier student body where less prepared students struggled to keep up. Though Proposition 209 in 1998 ended those policies, McWhorter says there were some in the university system that never gave up, and that ending use of the SAT is a de facto victory for that contingent, to the detriment on the very students they claim to want to help.
For one, as my colleague at the Atlantic Caitlin Flanagan has noted, the SAT was helping brown applicants in many ways. Contrary to common wisdom, the SAT has not been proven to be irrelevant to predicting students’ performance. A study of UC, specifically, showed that the SAT nicely predicts who will graduate and even tracks with GPA. Also, for students at schools not offering enough Advanced Placement courses to qualify for UC schools – and such students are disproportionately brown: systemic racism, anyone? – the SAT was a way of qualifying anyway.
How antiracist to pull the test out of the equation.
More to the point, the idea that if you don’t get into Berkeley or UCLA you’re doomed to a life selling apples on the street is fantasy. Here’s a type of story you don’t hear much – at the University of California, San Diego the year before the preferences ban, one black student out of 3,268 freshmen made honors. A few years later, after students who once would have gotten into Berkeley or UCLA were now admitted to schools such as UCSD, one in five black freshmen were making honors, the same proportion as white ones.
That kids do better at schools that their grades and test scores prepared them for is 1) intuitive and 2) proven by this study by Peter Arcidiacono, Esteban Ausejo and Joseph Hotz, as well as another two I am aware of. Brown kids mismatched to their schools tend not to do well and to be unhappy.
How antiracist to pretend this isn’t true.
Read it all here.
David Harsanyi: Apparently David Chipman Isn’t Crazy About the First Amendment, Either
Last week, Pluribus highlighted some concerns with Biden nominee Catherine Lhamon over her lack of respect for Constitutional due process. Now Biden’s nominee for the ATF (Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) David Chipman is under fire, not just for 2nd Amendment concerns, but 1st Amendment as well. David Harsanyi writes at National Review:
Chipman, like most would-be censors, frames speech restrictions as a public-safety issue. “The FBI, other federal agencies, have a tough job responding to these threats when they don’t currently have the authority to remove weaponry just because people are saying hateful things,” he explained.
First off, thousands of Americans have had their guns taken from them via red-flag and other laws — usually after police and courts determine that the owners are putting themselves or others in danger. Just today, Florida’s agriculture commissioner Nikki Fried stripped the concealed-carry licenses of 22 people who have yet to be convicted of any crime. Authorities already have too much leeway in limiting Second Amendment rights.
There’s of surplus of historical evidence demonstrating why such power should never be afforded the state. And one need only listen to Chipman conflate conservatism and “white supremacy” — and exaggerate the prevalence of gun violence and domestic terrorism — during his BBC interview to understand how quickly that power would be abused.
Read the whole thing.
The politicization of everything continues apace. Via Michael Tracey and Glenn Greenwald:
More on CRT from Christopher Rufo:
Finally, Wesley Yang on Bishop Talbert Swan’s comment on white supremacy and racism: