Posts Tagged ‘Ron Unz’

A hero of the pandemic

April 2, 2020

Dr. Sara Cody

Nassim Nicholas Taleb once observed that we all honor heroes who save the day in emergencies, but the greater heroes—usually unknown and unsung—are those who prevent an emergency from arising in the first place.

In the coronavirus pandemic, the heroes of foresight are the public officials who take action before the virus becomes established, instead of waiting for the crisis to develop.

With infections doubling every few days, a delay of a week would mean the number  would be at least five times greater, or probably much more, because hospitals would be overwhelmed.

Ron Unz, editor of the online Unz Review, pointed out that one such hero is Dr. Sara Cody, public health officer for Santa Clara County.   She and other public health officers in the San Francisco Bay area issued a “shelter in place” order on March 16, as soon as the virus made its first appearance.

Los Angeles County followed a few days later, and Gov. Gavin Newsome extended the order to the whole state a few days after that.  Public health officials warned him that if he failed to act, 25 million Californiana could have become infected, resulting in up to 1 million deaths.

There was no precedent for the first lockdown.  Somebody had to have the courage to go first.

LINK

The Government Employee Who May Have Saved a Million American Lives by Ron Unz for The Unz Review.

Hispanics and Anglos get along just fine

November 12, 2018

Ron Unz, known as a leader of the campaign against bilingual education in California years ago, wrote a sensible article on his web site about Hispanic immigration into California and the United States as a campaign issue.

Hispanics are now about 60 40 percent of the population of California, so that state is an example of what is likely to happen as they become a larger fraction of the overall U.S. population.  Here are some of his main points: –

  • Anglos and Hispanics in California get along just fine.
  • Most American-born Californians have nothing against immigrants.  Sanctuary cities are popular.
  • Hispanics as a group as law-abiding.  The killing by an illegal immigrant used in recent Republican campaign ads was the result of a firearm accident.  There is no Hispanic immigrant crime wave.
  • Most immigrants, including Hispanic immigrants, want their children educated in the language of their new country.
  • Most immigration into the United States is legal immigration.  Increased border security will do little to reduce net immigration.
  • Immigration of unskilled workers does hurt the wages and job opportunities of existing citizens.  The way to deal with this is (1) a higher minimum wage and (2) lower numbers of legal immigrants.
  • Republicans in California condemned themselves to minority status by being anti-Hispanic and anti-immigrant.  The same thing could happen to Republicans in Texas and the nation as a whole.

HIs article is worth reading in its entirety.

LINK

Racial Politics in America and in California by Ron Unz for The Unz Review.

Can college education be free for everyone?

March 25, 2016

I think it is feasible to provide college education with free or affordable tuition, as Bernie Sanders advocates.  Foreign countries do so, and the United States once did, too.

I have long been in favor of free or affordable college education for everybody who has the desire and ability to do college work, but this is different from providing free tuition for everybody.

collegekids97944673-copyRon Unz, the maverick political editor and writer, has proposed that Harvard University offer free tuition.  As he says, it can easily afford it because of the tax-free revenues of its huge endowment fund.  He also advocates for a fairer admissions process, especially for Asian-American students.

Those are excellent proposals.  But they wouldn’t get everybody who wishes into Harvard.

Sanders’ plan is for the federal government to pay for two-thirds of the cost of college education at state universities that offer free tuition and meet other conditions.  I expect that many state governors would turn down this generous offer.  Most states are cutting the budgets of their state university systems.  And after all, many states refused to expand Medicaid even though the Affordable Care Act offered to cover nine-tenths of the cost.

Germany is frequently cited as an example of a country that provides free college tuition for everyone, including foreigners, who can pass an entrance examination.

But only about 28 percent of young German adults are college graduates, compared to 43 percent of Americans.

During the golden age of American public higher education, college education was much less common.  As recently as 1990, only 23 percent of young American adults were college graduates.

Higher education in Germany also is much more bare bones than it is in the USA.  German colleged generally offer a rigorous academic program without the extra-curricular amenities that Americans typically regard as a part of the college experience.

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The case for a higher minimum wage

December 12, 2012
Double click to enlarge

Double click to enlarge

Click on Raising American Wages … By Raising American Wages for a well-researched, well-thought-out article by Ron Unz, publisher of The American Conservative, on the case for a higher minimum wage, and why this would do more for the U.S. economy than another stimulus spending package, another round of tax cuts or getting more people into higher education.   Indeed, he makes the case that a higher minimum wage would decrease the demand for higher education, and that this would be a good thing.

I first noticed Ron Unz when I read his excellent articles on bias in Ivy League college admissions and the myth of meritocracy.  Click on Ron Unz – Writings and Perspectives | Views, Opinions and Notes for more of his writings.

The Ivy League as gatekeepers for the elite

December 10, 2012

In my previous post, I wrote about an article by Ron Unz in The American Conservative about admissions policies at Ivy League universities, and their disparate impact on different ethnic groups, in particular the seeming unfairness to smart Asian-American applicants.  In this post, I want to write about a broader question, the role of the Ivy League as gatekeepers to the elite.

I remember a remark by President Obama some time back about how he recognized that hedge fund managers, by and large, were smart people because many of them had been his college classmates at Harvard.  It is an illustration of how the top people in Washington, Wall Street and academia form an inner circle.  Part of Obama’s success is due to the fact that, in spite of his middle-class origins, he was able to make a favorable impression on people in top positions.

Ron Unz in 1999

Ron Unz in 1999

I have a problems with the whole idea of an elite group with gatekeepers who decide who gets in.  This goes against what I was brought up to believe that the United States was all about—that an Andrew Jackson or an Abraham Lincoln could become President, a Thomas Edison could become a great inventor or an Andrew Carnegie or Henry Ford could become a great industrialist, without any of them having to produce formal credentials to show their entitlement to a high position.

True, we live in a society in which people in top positions need to have more specialized knowledge than they did in an earlier era.  But that knowledge can be acquired in many places, not just in a few elite universities.  In the past couple of decades, the United States has had an increasing concentration of wealth at the top, a decline in upward mobility among American social classes, and a declining quality of leadership in government and corporate America.   (If you doubt the latter, then you are happier with the American economy and the American position in the world than I am.)   If the elite class and its gatekeepers did indeed produce superior leaders, I wouldn’t be so critical of the process by which they are selected.

The anecdotes in Unz’s article raise the delicate question of “political correctness.”  This does not apply to the sons of privilege, such as Mitt Romney (Brigham Young BA 1971, Harvard MBA & JD 1975) or George W. Bush (Yale BA 1968, Harvard MBA 1975), who are assured an admission no matter what their opinions might be.   But for someone from a more modest background, such as Barack Obama (Columbia BA 1983, Harvard JD 1991) or Bill Clinton (Georgetown BS 1968, Yale JD 1973), a lot would depend on the interviewer’s subjective impression.

I find it easy to imagine, but impossible to prove, that an interviewer could have a political bias that a high school student who campaigned against the death penalty probably was a well-rounded person, but somebody who campaigned in favor of the death penalty was intellectually and morally backward.   I don’t have any direct knowledge of this, and would appreciate comment from anybody who does.  I bring this up only because the comment thread on Unz’s article indicates a widespread perception that this is indeed the case.

Unz proposed a twofold reform:

  • To the extent a university wants to claim that it is highly selective, admissions should be based on test scores.
  • To the extent a university wants to claim that it is diverse and “looks like America,” admissions should be based on a lottery of everyone who meets minimum qualifications.

I don’t think there is any chance the Ivy League universities will accept such a proposal, and I don’t favor the federal government regulating admissions to private universities.  What is needed is a change in attitude, in which people are judged based on their achievements and proved capabilities, rather than their credentials.  This will be a long time coming, because so much of the existing elite was chosen precisely because of their credentials.

Equal opportunity should be provided by state universities, with, as in an earlier era, free or affordable tuition to everyone who can do college work.  And educational and charitable institutions with huge investment portfolios should be required to devote a minimum percentage of those portfolios to their official purposes, or forfeit their tax exemptions.

Click on The Myth of American Meritocracy  for Ron Unz’s full article.

Click on Paying Tuition to a Gigantic Hedge Fund for a sidebar by Ron Unz claiming that Harvard University is more of an investment fund than an educational institution.

Click on Harvard as Hedge Fund: Harvard Replies for Harvard’s reply and Ron Unz’s additional comment.

Click on Quantitative Sources and Methods for Ron Unz’s documentation of his claims.

Click on The claim that Harvard admissions discriminate in favor of Jews? I don’t see it for rebuttal by statistics expert Andrew Gelman [added 2/16/13]

Click on This Man Controls California for a 1999 profile of Ron Unz in The New Republic

Click on Ron Unz – Writings and Perspective | Views, Opinions and Notes for his web log.

Asian-Americans, Jews and Ivy League admissions

December 10, 2012

eliteenrollment-large

Degrees from the Ivy League colleges — Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia and their peers — are passports to elite positions on Wall Street and in Washington.  This month’s issue of The American Conservative carries an important article by its publisher, Ronald K. Unz,  making the case that the Ivy League admissions process is corrupt and arbitrary, and that their student bodies are neither the best and the brightest, nor representative of the nation as a whole.

december-2012Unz, himself a Harvard graduate, said the admissions process at Ivy League universities is a subjective process, based largely on interviews supposedly to determine whether the applicant is a well-rounded person.  This system came into existence as a covert means to cap the numbers of Jewish students without setting explicit quotas, he wrote; now it is used to cap the numbers of Asian-Americans.

A century ago, students of the Ivy League were predominantly the sons and the white Protestant upper class, who attended as much for social life and sports as for academics.  Unz said applicants from such backgrounds, the children of distinguished alumni or large contributors to the college endowment funds, still get in as a matter of course.   Some provision is made to help black and Hispanic students.  The losers are Asian-Americans and non-Jewish working-class whites.

I am uncomfortable with sweeping generalizations about broad racial, religious and ethnic categories.  Each consists of sub-groups which differ from each other, and each group and sub-group consists of unique individuals with a wider range of traits than the averages of the different groups.  You can’t tell anything about an individual’s intellectual attainments, or anything else, based on their demographic characteristics.  But unfortunately, race, religion and ethnicity matter in American life and simplifications and generalizations are necessary for understanding.

The following tables show the relative rise of Asian-American students and the relative decline of Jewish students in high school math and science competitions.

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f2-large

f3-largeThe charts above indicate that Asian-Americans don’t get a fair shake, based on their intellectual attainments.  They indicate, more surprisingly, that average Jewish intellectual attainment has crashed.   The percentage of Jewish high school students who win science competitions has declined dramatically in the past couple of decades, but not the high percentage of Jewish admissions to Ivy League universities—in sharp contrast to admissions to California Institute of Technology (Caltech), where enrollment seems to be based more on intellectual merit or at least on test scores.   Asian-Americans stand in the same position in American academic life that the children of Jewish immigrants stood 75 years ago.

f4-large

The implication of the data is that the reason for large numbers of Jewish students currently at Ivy League colleges is not that so many of them are hard-working, intellectual super-achievers as in previous generations, but that so many of their parents are members of the upper classes.

asians-largeThe Asian-American population is increasing, but their enrollment in elite colleges—except for Caltech—is not.  The most obvious explanation is that there are quotas—explicit or informal—that are holding them back.

I’m uncomfortable with Unz’s article and the information in these charts, especially the implications concerning Jewish enrollment in Ivy League universities versus white Christian working-class people—implications which will be welcomed by racists and anti-Semites.  But facts and logic are the best guide to truth, not my comfort level.

Ron Unz

Ron Unz

One criticism of Unz’s article is that he counts people in different ethnic groups based on their last names.  This may not be valid, especially when so many Americans are of mixed heritage.   My name is Phil Ebersole.   During my lifetime, many people have made wrong assumptions about my race, religion and ethnicity, based on my name and appearance.

Another criticism is that Unz’s claim of declining Jewish intellectual attainment is based on declining high school science prizes, and this doesn’t take into account attainments in literature, philosophy and scholarship.  Maybe Jewish intellectual interests have shifted from the sciences to the humanities.  Maybe smart Jewish students all flock to Harvard, Yale and Princeton and smart Asian-American students flock to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Caltech.

I think both these criticisms have merit, but do not invalidate Unz’s conclusions.  I’ll be interested to see more commentary on his article.  I’m surprised there has been so little criticism so far.   I will have more to say in my next post.

Double click on the charts to enlarge them.

Click on The Myth of American Meritocracy  for Ron Unz’s full article.   All the charts above are from this article.

Click on Paying Tuition to a Gigantic Hedge Fund for a sidebar by Ron Unz claiming that Harvard University is more of an investment fund than an educational institution.

Click on Quantitative Sources and Methods for Ron Unz’s documentation of his claims.

For rebuttal, click on Meritocracy, Jews and the Liberal Arts by Samuel Goldman.

For more comment, click on The Myth of Affirmative Action by Dan McCarthy.

Click on Harvard as Hedge Fund: Harvard’s Reply for Harvard’s rebuttal and Ron Unz’s additional comment.

For more rebuttal, click on The claim that Harvard admissions discriminate in favor of Jews? I don’t see it by Andrew Gelman.  [Added 2/16/13]

Ron Unz was born in 1961 and grew up in California.  He earned a bachelor of science degree in physics from Harvard and studied advanced physics at Stanford University but didn’t get a doctoral degree.  He started a software company called Wall Street Analytics which was bought by Moody’s Investors Service in 2006.  He was active in California politics, and founded English for the Children, an organization opposed to bilingual education.   He became publisher of The American Conservative in 2007.

Click on This Man Controls California for a 1999 profile of Ron Unz in The New Republic

Click on Ron Unz – Writings and Perspective | Views, Opinions and Notes for his web log.