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E-Pluribus | May 26, 2022
A modern day Tragedy of the Commons, the ever-expanding "diversity" requirements at colleges, and federally funding progressive activism.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Ilya Levine: Woke Capitalism’s Tragedy of the Commons
Many large companies attempt to reflect what they believe the public will interpret as social consciousness in order to improve their images and thus their bottom lines. Ilya Levine at Quillette reaches into the past for a parallel to the current trends in woke corporate America.
[Garrett] Hardin was an ecologist, and he used his theory to explain why rational agents overuse environmental resources despite the high costs this behavior eventually brings. He illustrated the concept by telling a story about medieval peasants who share a field of grass on which they graze their animals. If the animals graze moderately, the commons are able to regenerate and the peasants will have grass for their animals indefinitely. If they overgraze, the commons eventually die and the animals and their owners are forced to go hungry.
The peasants overgraze their animals even so, killing the commons and bringing catastrophe. The individual peasant overgrazes for two reasons: first, because he is tempted by the prospect of fattening up his animals; second, because he fears that other overgrazing peasants will take advantage of his moderation if he practices it alone, fattening their animals while his stock remains thin. It is rational for the peasants as a group to use the commons sustainably, but it is also rational for them to overgraze as individuals. This is because the benefits of overgrazing go directly to those individuals who do so while the costs are shared among all, including those who exercise restraint. Hardin’s story has been used to explain the depletion of other types of commons, such as fish stocks, which collapse if used unsustainably.
Woke capitalism can be understood as another Tragedy of the Commons, in which the commons are represented by public goodwill towards big business. Like the peasants whose herds use and benefit from fresh grass, all large businesses use and benefit from public goodwill. Goodwill helps to shield them from unfavorable government policies and legislation and even provides some perks. For decades, it allowed Disney to benefit from copyright laws and its special legal status in Florida. Like grazing animals, corporate America consumes the public’s goodwill over the course of its normal operations via price rises, layoffs, CEO bonuses, offshoring, and other controversial but routine business decisions.
Read the whole thing.
John D. Sailer: A Bachelor’s in Diversity
While many colleges and universities include “diversity requirements” for students, Northern Arizona University is taking things to a new level. City Journal’s John Sailer notes that the school is explicitly looking for “critical theory” to be incorporated for courses to qualify for inclusion in the program.
NAU’s [Northern Arizona University] new General Studies Program, approved by the Arizona Board of Regents in October 2021, requires students to take four Diversity Perspectives courses, one in each of the following categories: Global Diversity, U.S. Ethnic Diversity, Indigenous Peoples, and Intersectional Identities. Meeting notes for the university’s Diversity Curriculum Committee even acknowledge the boldness of this move. “The 12 credits of diversity requirements,” the notes maintain, “are unprecedented and puts [sic] NAU at the forefront of higher education.”
These Diversity Perspectives courses must, moreover, embrace the philosophical underpinning of identity politics. According to notes from the university’s Liberal Studies Committee, foreign language courses fail to qualify for diversity designation. Why? “Because they do not incorporate critical theory which the [Diversity Curriculum Committee] expects of the courses it approves.”
By all indicators, every one of NAU’s Diversity Perspectives courses accomplishes the goal of “incorporating critical theory.” In addition to Intersectional Movements, Introduction to Queer Studies, and Trans Existence and Resilience, NAU’s fall 2022 diversity courses include such entries as Race, Power and Politics, Introduction to Indigenous Astronomy, and Multicultural Perspectives of Natural Resource Management. The description of Trans Existence and Resilience concludes by declaring, “In a world that says trans folks do not exist we will think about the relationship between art, futurity, expression, survival, freedom, and liberation.”
Read it all here.
Christian Schneider: Feds award $6.6M to liberal college activists through prestigious scholarship program
Christian Schneider of The College Fix makes the case that federally funded scholarships from the Truman Foundation are seriously biased against conservatives. While the root of the problem may be the nominating institutions themselves, the impact is nonetheless dramatic.
But while the award is supposed to be handed out on a nonpartisan basis, “public service” has now, in the eyes of the Truman Foundation, become synonymous with “progressive political activism.”
According to yearly reviews conducted by The College Fix, 305 Truman scholarships have been awarded between 2018 and 2022. Of those, 72 percent went to progressives and Democrats, and a microscopic 3.6 percent to conservatives and Republicans.
That means over $6.6 million has been awarded to liberal activists, while a scant $330,000 has been given to right-leaning students.
Read it all.
Via Jonathan Kay, a university in Canada decides that it’s their party, and they’ll racially segregate it if they want to:
Some good thoughts from Peter Boghossian on anger when disagreeing with someone:
Earlier this month, Elon Musk wrote that when it comes to free speech on Twitter and his potential acquisition, “my preference is to hew close to the laws of countries in which Twitter operates.” But via Persuasion, Marietje Schaake explains why that’s a problem:
And finally, in response to the announcement that “The word ‘chief’ will no longer be used in reference to job titles in the San Francisco Unified School District in an effort, school officials said, to avoid the word’s connotation with Native Americans,” a short etymology lesson from Lulu Cheng Meservey: