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E-Pluribus | March 3, 2022
Honestly facing political contradictions, law student hecklers exercise the veto again, and the real story of the 'diversity dividend.'
A round up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Michael Walzer: The Contradictions of American History
Bashing those in prior generations who held conflicting beliefs or failed to completely live up to their principles has become rather fashionable of late. Michael Walzer at Persuasion writes that while we should not don rose-colored glasses when looking at history, neither should we engage in wholesale condemnation when we encounter such contradictions.
What is the right response to political contradiction? Confronted with the moral indifference or outright bigotry of our former heroes, we might be tempted to search for replacements elsewhere. If the DR won’t do, can’t we turn to those on the other side of the political conflicts of the 1840s and ‘50s, the critics of slavery? The problem is that they too disappoint. Many of the Northern Whigs, who opposed the expansion of slavery, some of them committed abolitionists, were also fierce enemies of Irish Catholic immigrants. Think of them as near-egalitarians with a blind spot when it came to “popery”—they were Protestant bigots. They were also afraid that the immigrants would end up voting for the Democrats, as they did. Their Know-Nothing descendants were even more extreme in their prejudice. But many of these same people became Republican supporters of Abraham Lincoln. Their politics was certainly preferable to that of the Democrats, allied with slave owners, but it was not entirely admirable.
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Even as we give the revisionists their due, we need to be wary of a kind of eliminationist history, which would leave us with nothing to admire in our past. What we should see in the contradictions I’ve described is not simple hypocrisy or self-regard but the common “doubleness” of political action, driven by private interest and public commitment. The desire for power, say, rubs shoulders with the hope for liberty, or democracy, or socialism. That great student of political life, Niccolo Machiavelli, argued that the crucial motive that led political actors to found, sustain, or revive a republic was the desire for personal glory—not for the well-being of the political community. But we can honor the decision to seek glory in founding a republic, even as we condemn the egotism of Great Men.
Read the whole thing.
Nate Hochman: Full Video Shows Law Students Heckling, Shouting Down Ilya Shapiro for 45 Minutes
Pluribus has covered Georgetown Law’s treatment of Ilya Shapiro several times, but the story took a particularly ugly turn this week as Nate Hochman reports at National Review. The incident at University of California, Hastings College of Law is reminiscent of what happened to Charles Murray at Middlebury College in 2017 as students shouted, protested, cursed and otherwise harassed Shapiro, ultimately forcing the event to be cut short. While the UC Hastings administration showed support for Shapiro, it remains to be seen if the students involved will face any consequences for their anti-speech behavior.
Georgetown Law’s cancellation campaign against Ilya Shapiro has gone national. The libertarian-conservative constitutional law scholar, who was placed on administrative leave at the end of January amid an activist-led backlash over his tweets, was shouted down by students at a University of California, Hastings College of Law event on Tuesday.
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Shapiro’s repeated attempts to speak were silenced by yells from the assembled students, who unleashed a stream of profanity and insults as he stood silently at the front of the room. (“When did you start balding? Are you sad that you’re balding? I would be,” one said mockingly to laughter from the audience. “You’re a f***ing coward!” another yelled). Multiple student activists physically confronted Shapiro; one moved to block his access to the lectern and later began clapping in his face as students chanted, “Say it to her face, coward.” Activists began drawing “black lawyers matter” on the whiteboard behind him. At one point, they commandeered the box controlling the Zoom stream of the event and flooded the live comment section.
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To its credit, the UC Hastings administration sent a long email to the student body this morning, reiterating the school’s “commitment to protecting free speech and academic inquiry” and writing that “the act of silencing a speaker is fundamentally contrary to the values of this school as an institution of higher learning; it is contrary to the pedagogical mission of training students for a profession in which they will prevail through the power of analysis and argument.”
Read it all.
William Malcolmson: The Problem with the Diversity Dividend
William Malcolmson has written a 2000-word piece for Quillette examining the so-called “diversity dividend” that businesses ostensibly enjoy for buying into “diversity,” “equity” and other “woke capitalism” concepts. Malcolmson makes the case that often the “success” stories are cases of correlation rather than causation with companies already well-positioned to absorb the extra costs involved in such efforts thus appearing to “benefit.” He notes that “companies with the disposable income necessary to achieve the best ESG [Environmental, Social, and Governance] scores are already in a position of market dominance and ESG initiatives simply allow them to further entrench their advantages.”
The diversity dividend inadvertently demonstrates the presence of a new form of regulatory capture which I call “ESG capture.” [ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance considerations)] By this, I mean the creation of capital burdens and other barriers to entry which undermine smaller players in the market and embed the advantages of incumbents. This phenomenon goes some way towards explaining why woke capitalism has become a “top down” trend, projecting outwards from the largest and most powerful corporations on the planet. One of the great dangers of ESG capture, then, is that it assists the formation of oligopolies.
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The ESG drive is also creating spiralling HR and compliance costs. In some sectors, compliance burdens are so high they resemble taxes. The Risk Management Association found that half of banks surveyed spent more than six percent of their revenue on compliance, which translates to an average cost per employee of around $10,000. It is difficult to disentangle the expense of ESG compliance from other regulatory burdens, but the costs are surely mounting as the risk of ruining a perfect ESG score with an employment dispute increases. The global HR market has been increasing steadily year-on-year, from around $343 billion in 2012 to $476 billion in 2019. Only the pandemic has seen it decline for the first time in decades.
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Recent work by Vincent Harinam casts doubt on the view that woke capitalism is consumer-driven, showing that progressive advertising does not translate into sales revenue. Instead, it works from the top down and can have destructive monopolistic implications. McKinsey may well have been right to declare that “diversity is a competitive differentiator shifting market share toward more diverse companies,” although not for the reasons they adduce. As their report concedes, “the relationship between diversity and performance highlighted in the research is a correlation, not a causal link.” But, in the general run of things, companies with the disposable income necessary to achieve the best ESG scores are already in a position of market dominance and ESG initiatives simply allow them to further entrench their advantages.
Read it all here.
Coming soon from Jane Coaston of The New York Times: guilt by association for thee and not for me?
Is open inquiry… “harmful”? Via the Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism:
More on the UC Hastings student shout down of Ilya Shapiro, via the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education:
And finally, look out, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. (Fortunately, the university backed down.)