Does Immigration Threaten Western Civilization?
A conversation with Amy Wax
I’m generally unimpressed with most academic and liberal anti-wokes. They usually concede so much to their opponents that their critiques end up not only intellectually shallow but probably ineffective. Political movements have a spirit and an aesthetic of “always in a defensive crouch” inspires nobody. It’s certainly inadequate to meet the challenges posed by a fanatical faith.
You know who doesn’t have that problem? Amy Wax. She really doesn’t have that problem. For that reason, I was excited to have her on the CSPI podcast this week. A lightly edited transcript of our conversation is below. You can read that, listen to the audio, or watch on YouTube.
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The important thing is not whether I always agree with Amy. It’s that when she is right, she presents necessary truths that others would rather hide from, and when she goes astray, she’s still taking a brave position and contributing something to the discourse. As I tell her during our conversation, I never bothered asking whether she’s thought about trying to be a bit less provocative, because I don’t think it’s an option for her. Some people just have a compulsion to tell the truth.
Our conversation begins with the effort to fire her from Penn. This leads to a discussion about what to do about the universities.
Most people will probably find the second half of the conversation the most interesting part. Amy and I agree on affirmative action, universities, and the cultural influence of women on institutions. Although we didn’t get to it in our talk, she is the author of a fantastic piece on the disparate impact standard, and how it ignores real performance differences between population and harms productivity. We depart quite a bit on immigration. It’s a topic I might write more about at some point, but for now I’ll let readers take away what they will from our conversation. I appreciate that Amy makes the cultural argument, because the economic argument for restriction is basically just left-wing economics, and so not really about anything specific to immigration. In other words, I think your view on whether it makes economic sense to place government restrictions on the labor market should be tied to your view on government regulation of goods and services more generally. Amy focuses mostly on what makes immigration unique as an issue – that is, its influence on our culture and politics. She thinks it’s a negative, while I disagree, or at least remain agnostic on the question.
Trouble at Penn
Richard: Hi everyone. Welcome to the CSPI Podcast. I’m here today with Amy Wax. Amy, can you introduce yourself, just a short introduction for the audience?
Amy: Okay. Well I’ll make it short since you can look me up and learn everything you need to know and more. I’m the Robert Mundheim Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where I’ve taught for more than 20 years. I teach litigation-related subjects, including remedies. I used to teach civil procedure until the Dean took that away from me. I teach a course in conservative political and legal thought, and law and neuroscience, and I’ve taught various other things at Penn. And before that I was at UVA, then I was at the Justice Department under Reagan and Bush, and I graduated from Columbia Law School. So those are the salient facts.
Richard: What did you do in the Justice Department? I didn’t know that part.
Amy: I was in an office called the Office of the Solicitor General, which represents the United States for the US Supreme Court. So that was a dream job, obviously. Worked with some great people and argued 15 cases before the United States Supreme Court while I was there. Really exciting.
Richard: Yeah. That does sound exciting. You also have a PhD in neuroscience, right?
Amy: Actually, I have an MD. I have an MD from Harvard Medical School where I focused on neuroscience. In my long life, I did a residency in neurology. So I was on my way to practicing neurology, but then I spent a year in law school and that sort of turned me in a different direction.
Richard: Did you just fall in love with the law? [laughs]
Amy: Well, I think the law was probably more suited to my temperament and interests all along. Every Jewish girl who even thinks the thought of becoming a doctor is… As a friend of mine said, you can’t take that back. So I decided to go to medical school, and medicine, I think, was just a poor fit for me. Law was a much better fit for me. So I came to law a little bit later, but I really felt very comfortable in that profession.
Richard: Yeah. And so, you’ve obviously done well for yourself, but there’s been some controversy and I’ve been covering it on Twitter, and some people have probably been reading about it. Where are we? We’ll post the link to this, but they wrote a letter, I think, from the Dean to the Faculty Senate at Penn, right? Or whatever faculty, whatever they have. Is it the Senate? They were asking for some kind of severe sanction. I forget the terminology.
Amy: Major sanctions they’re called.
Richard: Yes. And that’s a euphemism for firing you. Is that right?
Amy: Euphemism for “you might get fired.” There’s at least a chance, perhaps a good chance, that you’ll be fired. But because this is sort of terra incognita, and it’s very rare at a place like Penn that a school will try to strip someone of tenure, it’s kind of an unknown area. So it’s very hard to make predictions. But that’s part of the saga here. Over the past few years I have said things and expressed opinions and taken positions that have incurred the wrath of an increasingly intolerant university community. And you’ve probably been following the progress of this growing intolerance.
And a number of people, instead of trying to refute me or take on my arguments, the final common pathway these days is fire her, get rid of her, she’s a racist. The Dean initially resisted that, but as the calls grew louder, he folded and said, no. We’re going to try to sanction her. She doesn’t belong here. We don’t like her views. That was essentially it. Her opinions piss people off and make people upset and unhappy. So I am officially going to file a complaint against her. And then I am going to refer this complaint to the Senate committee that is in charge of deciding what to do when university actors seek major sanctions against university members.
And I’m actually a tenured professor. So I’m supposed to have protection for my views and opinions and positions. That’s the whole tradition of academic freedom. So this represents a very bold move on their part. There have been a lot of attempts to cancel professors recently. This is one of the pure attempts to cancel someone, namely me, just for speech.
Richard: Yeah. That’s what’s noticeable when you read the letter. Usually, sometimes they can find some kind... Like I think the Katz guy at Princeton, what did they get him for? Was it a relationship with a student or was it plagiarism? It’s usually something like that, right? They will find something that arguably... It’s a pretext, but it’s usually because they did something unwoke or un-PC. But your case, I mean, it’s pure. I mean, you read this, it’s like, she said something hurtful to this homosexual. She said something hurtful to this African-American student. I mean, it is really just pure speech. I mean, did you ever have the impression that they were maybe thinking about trying to advance some kind of pretext beyond this? Because I just found it remarkable that they don’t even feel the need to do that, they just feel like the words are basically enough to at least make a case.
Amy: Well, there is this principle, show me the man and I’ll show you the crime. They really had a hard time coming up with a crime in my case. Yeah, it’s true. Josh Katz did have a relationship with an undergrad. Many believe that’s just a pretext for dumping him because of his views. You’re right, they often look at plagiarism or other academic misconduct. In my case there’s really nothing like that.
Now they have tried to engage in this strange and sinister rhetorical legerdemain where they say, well, her speech is really behavior and it’s behavior that’s hurtful and harmful and traumatizing for our students and it’s contrary to the mission and the values of the university. So they’re trying to transmogrify my speech, my political views, my positions, into a form of behavior that now becomes sanctionable. As you can imagine, this is a really awkward move.
They’re feeling very insecure about it because they keep tacking on all these allegations. Many recent ones are just plain false, that I’ve insulted students in class or said things in class that are presumably offensive. I mean, we could talk about particulars. Number one, I didn’t say a number of things they said I said. These are the products of the fertile imaginations of students, but also, it’s questionable whether these are sanctionable remarks.
They just keep piling on because they know that there is a duplicity at the heart of what they’re trying to do to me. On the one hand, they profess to be believers in and defenders of academic freedom and diversity of thought and all of that. There’s a lot of rhetoric out there on their websites and all sorts of informal commitments to the Woodward Report and the American university guidelines on the one hand. On the other hand, they file this long indictment of me for saying offensive stuff. So how do you reconcile these two? I mean, frankly, Richard, they can’t be reconciled, okay? They’re just completely inconsistent.
But there’s a broader agenda here that’s very interesting, and that is the desire to totally eviscerate tenure so that people who have unapproved and non-PC opinions like me will be utterly eliminated and purged from the elite academy. This is a bold move for a totally woke takeover of the academy. And especially the private academy where the First Amendment doesn’t apply. They’re just basically seeing what they can get away with. This is kind of a trial balloon here with me, and it’s very unclear how far they’ll go. I don’t think even they know how far they’ll go, because at the end of the day, it’s a question of power and politics that’s going to govern this, not principle.
Richard: Yeah. Well, my thought on this was that they never would go after tenure because it wouldn’t really be necessary. I mean, I think after the next generation that they’re thinking that basically there’s enough in the system to sort of weed out anyone with dissident thoughts. So if you apply for a job today, you have to take a diversity pledge, people are watching you. So I’d like to see the kind of person who can be right-wing or be un-woke and actually get through and get actual tenure today. I think it’s much less possible than it was decades before.
Amy: Yeah. I think you’re absolutely right about that. We’re kind of in a liminal period. We’re in a transitional period where there are a few cuckoos left in the nest, people like me, and that just enrages them. Like, how did you get through the filter? And now, how do you dare speak up given that all of these horrific sanctions will be brought down on your head? I mean, everything you can think of – student boycotts, social ostracism, name calling by your Dean, people ignoring you completely – you become a total pariah in the academy. There’s so many ways.
The process, which is punishment, I mean, what they’re putting me through, which is ridiculous. You’re right. Now they have all these other tools for keeping people like me out ab initio. You have to take these diversity pledges. If there’s any hint that you’re not with the program, the sort of DEI song that you have to sing and all of the principles that go with it, you’re not going to make it through the filters. I mean, you have to survive six, seven years of graduate school, postdoc, junior professorship. It really takes a special person to be able to suppress their views for that long. Maybe there are a few people out there who are still doing it. I know of a few that are out there and they’re very disciplined people. But yeah. There is going to be this mono-academy in the future, and it’s a pretty scary prospect.
Richard: Yeah. So just before we move on to other things, what are you doing now? Are they going to have hearings or are they going to have a report? What’s the Faculty Senate going to do?
Amy: Well, they’re trying to convene a committee to hear my case. I’ve asked for all of this information and discovery, and facts that are in their possession that are relevant to my defense. I’m about to file a big memo asking for things like, and I’ve discussed this with you, a forensic examination of the grades of students from different racial groups. Because one of the things that they keep indicting me about over and over again is that I spoke falsely about the performance of minority students under affirmative action, which is kind of a joke because there are a number of datasets that show that in other schools what I said is true and valid. And everybody I’ve spoken to who teaches in an elite law school has experienced the same thing that I’ve experienced, although they won’t speak up about it.
And so, the school is in the position of insisting that our black and white students do equally well but refusing to produce the data that shows that. That just violates every rule of fairness, Richard. There are other things that they’ve said that require further proof and evidence, or are just preposterous. There are names that they’ve called me and labels they’ve slapped on me, and I’m just asking for some basic definitions for some sources in the rules for, “you can’t say this, you can’t say that.” I’m asking for a lot of information. So that is the stage at which we’re at. And I’ll be waiting for their response on that to see if I’m going to be allowed to defend myself or whether this is going to be a deck-stacked one-sided star chamber.
As you can imagine, for a private institution like Penn, the rules, when you start looking at them, are completely tilted in the institution’s favor. They are a party to the case, but they’re also the decision maker in the case. They have very few obligations to you. You have very, very few rights. They say that you’re entitled to fairness, but they get to be the judge in their own case and decide what fairness is. So it’s going to be interesting to see how all this plays out, I think.
Very few people are ever challenged on tenure. If you look back at the history of Penn, I think they’ve taken tenure away from a handful of people. One murdered his wife, the other one failed to show up for class. I mean, there’s very little track record here. So as I said, this is unknown territory.
Richard: And we want to help you. There’s the GoFundMe page. Is it still up? They’re often taking stuff down. Is it still up? And how’s that going?
Amy: No, they’ve reactivated it. It’s still good, but there’s now a new fund called AmyWaxDefense.org. It’s actually tax-deductible, which a friend of mine has helped set up in DC. You can give money through that. You can give money through my GoFundMe page, which is the Amy Wax Legal Defense Fund. Or if people are interested in helping me out, they can just email me, and I have another fund down with the Palm Beach Freedom Institute. So I have a number of fundraising mechanisms in place here.
Let me just say that I’m committed to seeing through this case to the bitter end. There’s a reason why most people in my position retire or give up or withdraw, or just throw up their hands and leave academia, and that is what happens to most people. It’s very expensive. It’s very bruising to go through this. Josh Katz at Princeton, who you mentioned, he is someone who stayed the course, he ended up being fired. But someone like Ilya Shapiro just gives up. I don’t blame him for that, not at all. I mean, he’s a lot younger than I am. He has his family to think about. So as you can see, the academy is very good at driving people out who aren’t with the program.
Richard: So are you indifferent whether people go to GoFundMe or the Amy Wax Fund? Is it just the tax-deductibility issue? If people want tax-deductible, they should go to the Amy Wax Foundation. Is that the only difference?
Amy: Do either. GoFundMe was hung up briefly, and I’m sure they lied to me about why, someone accused me of being a racist, but they’ve released my funds and the GoFundMe page is up and running.
Richard: They won’t be able to deduct it from their taxes from GoFundMe? That’s the only reason….
Amy: Right. And there’s actually a small fee for GoFundMe.
Richard: I see. Okay.
Amy: So AmyWaxDefense.org might be a better place to contribute.
Richard: Yeah. I think some might want GoFundMe for the convenience of it. You’re right. But it’s good to give people those options.
The Implications of Affirmative Action
Richard: One of the things I really like about you Amy is… Like Shapiro, I mean, he apologized. I mean, these people, they will often... It’s both the substance of what they say and then their sort of reaction when the mob comes after them. One of the things you keep getting in trouble for is, it’s like not that risky to – I mean, I guess it is to a certain extent – to oppose affirmative action. A lot of people will say they’re against affirmative action. This is not that strange. But for someone to actually say, look, affirmative action has a natural implication that whenever you see black people at top universities, they’re not going to be as capable as the white students and they’re not going to do as well. And you say you see that from your experience. I’ve had professors say that to me when I was in law school too, this is sort of a kind of common knowledge.
But this strikes people as mean, right? They want to oppose affirmative action. Forget the liberals. I mean, look at the people who actually oppose affirmative action. They want to say merit is important, everyone should be judged as an individual. But at the same time they want to say, well, this doesn’t tell me anything about any particular black person and you shouldn’t have any thought in your head that a black Harvard grad is less intelligent than a white Harvard grad. Isn’t this sort of weaselly?
Amy: Well, first of all things are moving very rapidly. I would say that it might have been forgivable to voice opposition to affirmative action maybe five years ago, or certainly 10 years ago in the abstract within academia. I would say today, it’s a very risky thing to do. It has become less and less acceptable. You really have to adopt the dogma of affirmative action is great, it’s wonderful, it’s necessary, we can’t do without it, diversity is our paramount value. So I’m not sure I will agree with you that within academia it’s okay to say that.
Richard: Relative to the stuff you say…
Amy: Okay. Well, now we get outside academia and yes, in the think tanks and the like, it is okay to oppose affirmative action. But you’re absolutely right. When it gets down to what are the implications of affirmative action, what does it really mean? People get very shy and kind of skittish. They don’t want to say, well, here’s the problem. The reason we need affirmative action is that we still have a pretty significant achievement gap, IQ gap, test score gap, proficiency gap. And what does that mean? That means that when you admit people through affirmative action – which, not a hundred percent of blacks are admitted, but a very significant number are admitted through affirmative action – chances are they are not going to do as well, by and large, as other people. So if you assume that they’re not as proficient or if they turn out not to do as well academically or get as high grades, I mean, that’s to be expected. People just don’t want to get down to details like that.
And it results in a very interesting and bizarre paradox, which is, it’s kind of an example of Michael Anton’s parallax celebration, right? I mean, on the one hand, affirmative action is fantastic, it’s great, we have to have it, every good person is in favor of it, right? And if you read the Harvard briefs, you can see this in action. We need it for diversity. If we don’t have it, we won’t have this wonderful diversity on the one hand. On the other hand, if you even dare to suggest that any given person is the beneficiary of affirmative action, that they got where they are in large part because of affirmative action, you’ve just insulted them, right? And that’s grounds to fire you. I mean, that’s one of the indictments against me, that I said to some student 10 years ago, you only got into the schools you got into because of affirmative action. Now I never said that actually. That’s one of the allegations that’s totally made up. But even if I had said it, right, why is that an insult? And how am I supposed to know that it is when everybody around me tells me that affirmative action is the greatest thing since sliced bread?
Richard: Well, they can say that about themselves, I got in through affirmative... Sotomayor and Obama can say things like, I benefited from affirmative action. If you say it and you’re opposed to affirmative action, right, then it’s a problem.
Amy: Right. That’s parallax celebration. It depends on whose mouth it comes out of, sort of like replacement theory, right? If Democrats say it, isn’t it wonderful? We’re going to be a majority-minority nation in 15 years. That’s progress. That’s great. Whites will be in the minority. That’s something to be proud of and celebrated. But if a white person says, “we’re being replaced, I’m not sure that’s such a great thing.” Well, they are racist and a white supremacist. So it’s this idea that if the wrong person says it, then it’s bad.
So we have these sorts of bizarre paradoxes and contradictions. But of course, Richard, the whole point here, and this is a broader point, the whole point is to impose these kinds of hyper-emotional, contradictory, illogical, factually ill-founded irrational ideas on the academy because rationality, evidence, reason, logic, these are whiteness. This is the stuff we want to get rid of, okay? And the students are taught from day one to be suspicious of all of these standards and these strictures. So the fact that we’re contradicting ourselves, saying inconsistent things, saying stuff that’s against the evidence, not supplying evidence, this is not objectionable according to the reigning ideology.
Richard: [laughs] I remember one of the funniest, speaking of emotionality, one of the funniest accusations… There’s a gay professor who said that you said that somebody should not be forced to have a gay roommate if they don’t want one, right? And he says he was extremely distressed. First, did this happen? And can you talk about this? Because it’s strange that some of these accusations are from fellow faculty.
Amy: Well, I mean, first of all, I don’t know who this professor is. I’ve not been given any sense of when I said this.
Richard: Oh, no. It says his name. It’s right here. “Stating while on a panel with openly gay faculty colleague Tobias Wolff, that…”
Amy: Tobias Wolff, right. Well, here was the thing. Before Obergefell, this was years and years ago, I was invited to a number of panels in which my brief was to give the best arguments against recognizing gay marriage and a broad sense of gay rights. That’s what I was asked to do, right? I mean, that may be ancient history but it’s true. And some of the things I said, which I had written about because I had written an article about the secular case against gay marriage, would today, fast forward, be regarded as offensive and hurtful and all this sort of thing. But at the time, people were actually engaging in a give and take on the pros and cons of a lot of these issues that are now kind of regarded as completely closed and slam dunk.
It is childish, it is immature, and it is primitive to judge an argument by whether you personally find it hurtful and offensive. I mean, is that the sole criterion by which we judge the merits of any given objection, position, policy? No. I mean, that’s absurd. Why was that an indictment of what someone says? I would just question that.
Richard: Yeah. Well, according to this, it made him feel distressed and, it was “striking she would choose to hold forth that way with me sitting there.” That’s the core of his argument. They quote this guy. There’s quotation marks. Did you read the whole letter that they sent about you?
Amy: Well, yes. I don’t remember every detail. I mean, I find most of it absurd because here’s what it boils down to, Richard. “I was upset by what she said.” That is the only criterion that needs to be considered. Fire her. I mean, that is, in sum, what this letter is about. And as I’ve said to certain people, I’m upset all the time by what people say to me, by what I read in Pravda, aka The New York Times, by what gets said in presentations at the law school. But it never occurs to me to say, well, the person who said it needs to be fired. Why does my offense not count for anything?
Richard: Yeah. You’re absolutely right.
Amy: I never would contend that my offense is the sole criterion by which we judge whether someone is employable in the academy. Of course people are going to be offended by positions that they don’t agree with.
The Feminization of Academia
Richard: I had an essay called Women’s Tears Win in the Marketplace of Ideas. I don’t know if you saw it.
Amy: I’ve read it.
Richard: Yeah. So how much do you think this is sort of... Because I would go with these cases and I would look at videos of these people coming after professors, and you’d see the headline, “Students do X.” It’s like, it’s not students, it’s 10 women. It’s just women, right? You’re blaming all students. To what extent do you see sort of the shift in the sort of the atmosphere in the universities resulting from female activism versus the student body as a whole?
Amy: Well, I mean, I’m on the record saying that the feminization of the academy has been a total disaster, okay? Because what it has meant is that the values of the nursery and the kindergarten have now been elevated to the paramount considerations and the old traditional and traditionally masculine values of truth-seeking, of argumentation, of reason, evidence, and objectivity have been downgraded. I mean, it’s one thing to say, well, we need to open these institutions to women, and I think fundamental fairness provides a very strong basis for doing that. We should open these institutions to talent, whatever form it takes, and that applies also to different ethnicities and different races. But it’s quite another to say, well now we’re going to let the interests of women or the values that women elevate, we’re going to sort of let those become the paramount guiding values. We’re going to displace all of the old practices and all of the old touchstones in favor of these. I mean, that wasn’t part of the deal, that shouldn’t be part of the deal.
And you say, well, women’s tears rule the day. Well, that just begs the question of why men let women’s tears rule the day. There was a time, wasn’t that long ago, alright, where men said to women, I’m sorry, but if you think that the values of the nursery and the kindergarten, of making everybody feel good and included and warm and yummy, that those are going to become the paramount values, the reigning values of the academy, I’m sorry, but no, we are not going to give in to that. We are going to resist that. We have good and sufficient reason for pushing back. Because over hundreds and hundreds of years of struggle and analysis and effort, we have developed these post-Enlightenment standards and we have them for good and sufficient reason. They have yielded all the great achievements and accomplishments of civilization. We believe in them. We are willing to defend them, and we’re not going to let you defeat them. In other words, why are men not standing up to women? They used to.
Richard: Yeah. It’s an interesting question and one I’ve thought a lot about. Yeah. I see these men and they just live in fear. I mean, I feel guilty…
Amy: Why are you afraid of women? I ask the same question. Why are we afraid of black students?
Amy: Why are we not willing to take charge and do our job and say to them, no, you cannot engage in emotional blackmail? Emotional blackmail is degrading and debasing, and it’s decadent. And you’re trying to destroy what we’ve built over hundreds of years. We’re not going to let you.
Richard: Yeah. I mean, if you went up to a group of men, say, I don’t know, a long time ago, decades ago, and you are a woman and you started crying, I think the natural instinct, even at the time, say the 1950s, would’ve been to feel some kind of sympathy and say, okay. Whatever you want. You win the argument. I think it’s a trope of sort of popular culture that women complain or women nag, women cry. Men sort of just let them get their way. But you couldn’t imagine someone from the 1950s say... Well, you couldn’t imagine the women, I think, having the nerve to say, okay. Now you can’t have free speech. Now these people can’t express their ideas. Maybe men would’ve always submitted to women, women just had never had the nerve to say, “everything we think, however we feel should basically govern every institution in the country.”
Amy: Right. “And we’re going to change the standards, we’re going to change the touchstones in the criteria because we have this kind of alternative feminist way of knowing,” or whatever that nonsense is. “And you have to accept it. We are going to impose it on you.” Well, you can only impose something on people that they allow to be imposed upon them. And that is the part that I just have never understood, why men don’t fight back. I mean, it’s one thing to let tears rule in the private realm or in the family or whatever, but it’s quite another to sanction this kind of invasion in what were traditionally masculine realms in which men built something very valuable that they ought to be defending.
Richard: Yeah. I had a review for Claremont Review of Books by this guy named... I forget his name. He wrote a book called... I can’t remember. I’m just going to Google myself and see. It was by a famous journalist named Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge. And so, this guy, he’s a liberal, he used to write or still writes for The New Republic. And his book was about how we have to stand up for Western civilization, Western values.
Amy: I know him well. He’s a very smart guy.
Richard: Oh yeah. I’m sure he is. So my critique of the book was... I mean, it’s basically that he’ll say things like, these institutions like science and capitalism have been handed down to us. They come from these people who happened to be white, and they happened to be men, right? That has nothing to do with it. Now it’s open to everybody, and others should partake in it and not have these leftist Marxist values or whatever. I just found that such a cop-out. Because if you take that perspective, you’re going to be very confused. If Jonathan Rauch gets his way and these institutions uphold free speech and uphold meritocracy, there’s not going to be gender balance, there’s not going to be racial balance. And then what do you say to that? You’re always vulnerable if you’re afraid of acknowledging these differences and the whole thing just falls apart. You just have to reject the paradigm that you expect or need or want representation. If it happens, great. If there’s some ethnic group that does particularly well and can compete on equal terms, fine. But there’s no reason to expect that between every group and especially the sexes. I mean, I find there’s just something sort of empty about people who go halfway. When I look at you, you’re like me, you’re sort of willing to go all the way and say, no. We have to acknowledge these differences and be okay with them.
Amy: Yeah. Well, I think you’re making a related point. I mean, the first point we were exploring was when women and minorities come in, are the people who previously controlled these institutions, should they acquiesce? Why do they acquiesce in the transformation of the standards and understandings and protocols that govern these institutions, which are now considered white male supremacy and somehow suspect? But I think you’ve now segued to another interesting point, which is related, which is one of the reasons in which there’s been an attempt to change the standards and the meritocracy and the protocols, is because if we retain those old touchstones, we will not have equal outcomes and we will not have equal representation either of women or minorities for different reasons.
I mean, for minorities, the problem is, once again, this achievement gap, this ability gap, which is very awkward and embarrassing. For example, if we maintain an objective meritocracy to the extent that we can, it’s never perfect, but my position is we should try to do it to the maximum extent possible, then we are not going to have proportional representation of all groups. Because as things currently stand, groups are differently-abled, so to speak, for whatever reason, without even going into the reason, this is just the way it is. So that’s the problem when it comes to racial representation.
When it comes to women, ability isn’t as big a factor, although on the right tail of the bell curve I think it does become a factor and that’s a sensitive subject in itself. There are more male geniuses than there are female geniuses for, I think, a mixture of cognitive and personality-related reasons, drive-related reasons, ambition-related reasons. But you’re going to have institutions and standards, and activities that are not as attractive to women, where women don’t feel as comfortable or as included as men do. And you’re not going to get proportional representation of women. So women are adamant that they want it to be 50/50, or even more than 50/50 – they have no problem with the idea of women being an outsized presence in the academy. But in order to make that happen spontaneously, they believe that the academy has to change, that the kind of rigorous hierarchical conventions, so to speak, of the academy are keeping women out somehow or driving women out.
Is it Time to Give Up on Academia?
Richard: I have somebody I talk to, who’s a tenured professor at a major university, Ivy League… Not Ivy League, no. It’s on the West Coast. Not Ivy League, but very elite school.
Amy: Maybe Stanford.
Richard: Yeah. Something like that.
Amy: One of those.
Richard: Okay. Yeah. Very well-regarded school on the West Coast. And I was having sort of a debate with him because he wants to organize faculty, try to sort of fight the university from within. And my attitude is more, I think you just have to sort of give up on it. Now I wouldn’t give up on the law schools. The law schools are very important because federal judges and regulators come from the law schools. Economics, I probably wouldn’t give that up either, but most of the rest of the academy, I just think it’s too far gone. And if you want to do good research and you want to get your ideas out there, there’s ways to do that. There’s think tanks, there’s private funders. I’ve made the independent path work. What thoughts do you have about how much the academy is worth fighting for and worth saving, and how much people should just give up on it?
Amy: Well, I can certainly understand the impulse of giving up on the academy because it is terribly far gone. I was just talking to a very prominent attorney the other day, and he was talking about the legal profession. He says it is so bad now, the kind of woke takeover. He says, it’s even worse than you think. I said it couldn’t possibly be worse than I think, because as bad as it is, I know how bad it is, okay? But I feel that way about the academy. But there are sort of two problems with giving up on the academy and it may be that we have to give up on it and have to circumvent it, but that’s a whole nother discussion.
One is that when you say, well, we can’t give up on the law schools and we can’t give up on economics, you’re leaving out “and we can’t give up on science.” I mean, the whole scientific establishment is going woke so rapidly it will make your head spin. Especially the medical research academy is just... What’s happened there is stunning and frightening, okay? I have family members who are professors in medical schools, and the takeover has been absolute. The prioritization of diversity, equity, and inclusion over things like curing disease, doing basic scientific investigation, as shown in funding, in grant getting and grantsmanship, in who they’re hiring and who they’re promoting, and who they’re admitting to medical schools.
I mean, so many medical schools now have these blatantly illegal special tracks for minority students. Penn, my own medical school, just announced that for historically black college students, the MCAT, they don’t have to take it. They don’t have to submit it. I’m not kidding. This is really happening, alright. I mean, if anybody would challenge this in court, I think the result should be obvious. So it’s very hard to cabin and hive off that part of the academy that’s supposedly innocuous and leave the rest of it intact. That’s not happening.
The second reason that what’s happening in the university should be of great concern and have the alarm bells ringing, and here I am very disappointed with Republicans, Republican legislators, to not see this as a national emergency because it is, is that these elite schools seed the economy. What happens in the university does not stay there, right? They are now in control of entertainment, of publishing, of corporations, of nonprofits, of journalism, of the media. I mean, every sector in the economy that you can think of is being seeded by these young people that have been indoctrinated in woke precepts and many of them have never heard an alternative point of view.
Richard: What about containment? I mean, you have fewer people go to college, starve them of resources. I saw an optimistic article, it’s on NBC. It was NBC News. It was portraying it as a very bad development, but fewer and fewer young people, particularly in Red States, are going to college. Not just controlling for population, but looking at the number of 18- to 20-year-olds who are enrolling in college, it’s down from where it was five, 10 years ago, apparently. Why not sort of try to accelerate those trends? I think Tennessee did something, like they would not give you student aid. They would if you wanted to study STEM, but not if you wanted to study, I think, social science or something like that. What about just trying to just make the universities less important?
Amy: Well, I mean, that is already happening, and it’s got a gender inflection to it, in that most schools now, except for the very, very elite who have the pick of the litter, they are predominantly female. Of course, I’m about to write a piece that shows that this is a disaster, not only for the university, but for family formation, because women really like to marry up and there are fewer and fewer men to marry. So that’s not a good thing.
But, yeah, I think the way to do that, to circumvent these institutions, is to starve them, starve the beast, I mean, to defund them. But in order to do that, you really need two things to happen. One is the alumni need to stop giving money and there is no sign that they’re doing that. And that is just so frustrating because these universities’ PR establishments are just diabolical. They are making out like, “Everything’s just fine, it’s really wonderful. We’re producing these terrific people who are versed in diversity and they’re creative, and they’re innovative, and they’re competent, and they’re smart.” All of that, people buy into it. So the alumni are shoveling money and rich people and donors at these elite institutions. Until that stops, I don’t know how much progress we’re going to make.
The second thing is, this is why, with all their flaws, we need Republican administrations and Republican control of Congress, and we need leadership, alright? People like Youngkin and DeSantis who are going to take charge of the Department of Education and say, we know that you’re discriminating on the basis of race like crazy. No more money. We’re cutting it off tomorrow until you prove that you’re not doing that. I mean, wouldn’t that be a bold move? The second thing I’m in favor of is Congress passing a law like Title VI, which says no race discrimination if you accept federal money, that says you have to adhere to First Amendment principles if you’re going to accept federal money. And I think if that were enforced and taken seriously, once again, by the Department of Education, then that would work wonders, that would really help. It wouldn’t solve the problem, but it would help.
Richard: Yeah. I mean, I worry about the implications for religious schools. So if religious schools have this doctrinal…
Amy: I mean, there are ways around all of this. I think there are ways to sort of deal with this. You could design laws that would help. I’m not saying they would solve the problem, because the problem with universities is that the people in charge are self-perpetuating, they are the gatekeepers for the next generation. So as you pointed out earlier, they are going to be very vigilant in not hiring people who have the wrong opinions. They want to keep conservatives out. But think about it. That means that the views that most people hold are now banned from the academy. I mean, we have the academy as this enclave of the opinions held by 8% of the population. Well, you know because you generate some of this data, right? So there’s no magical solution, but I think starving the beast, cutting off the funding, finding ways around needing a university degree…
Now I think the real hard nut to crack here is the elite universities, who only graduate about 4, 5% – the so-called selective or competitive universities – of the people who get a four-year degree. So schools that accept, let’s say, less than a third of their applicants, are a remarkably tiny percentage just in terms of the number of college graduates. So these schools have enormous cachet, enormous, outsized power for entrée to the upper middle class and the ruling class. And as long as there is this fetish among high-flying finance firms and corporations, and prestigious positions in journalism and the like for Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, it’s very, very hard to make inroads into the power of these institutions. It’s interesting, because I just read a brief in the Harvard case, this is the Harvard affirmative action case that’s going to be heard before the Supreme Court next term…
Richard: Yeah. I was just going to ask you, how important is... Because what you sound like you want to do with the First Amendment, that seems like you could get an interpretation of Title VI that says no more racial discrimination.
Amy: So the question is, how much good would that do, right? I have a contingent of friends who say no good whatsoever. I mean, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton will find a way around it. They will drop the SATs. They will dilute the meritocracy. They will obscure the fact that they have blatant double standards, academic double standards for different groups. They will get what they want. So there is that contingent. There are other people who think that this will actually have bite, but apart from whether the Harvard case will really make a difference, there is this interesting brief that was filed in the Harvard case by a group of prominent businesses, and here’s what it said. It said, we need affirmative action because we need to recruit from schools that have a diverse student body because they make better decisions, make better employees. They’re trying to beef up this whole notion that diversity doesn’t just have pedagogical value, but it has business value, it has economic value. Well, they’re trying to soften the Court up for the idea that diversity in hiring is okay too, which their educational affirmative action cases don’t imply at all, but leaving that aside, and therefore you should retain affirmative action for these elite institutions.
Well, what’s the answer to that, Richard? The answer is very simple. If you want a more diverse workforce, if we abolish affirmative action, just go to other schools. So you can’t recruit at Harvard, Yale and Princeton, big frigging deal. I mean, why do you have to have those institutions be your HR department? The students are what they are, they’re as able as they are. The fact that they’re going to university of North Carolina at Greensboro or whatever, as opposed to Yale, how does that make a difference? Go to Howard. Go to other places. Go to the places where blacks would get in on a colorblind basis and recruit them there. Now of course they would say, well, we need the white students at Harvard and Yale, and we need to expose them to diversity because that makes them better employees. Well, you can get white students at these other places too. I mean, the snob value here is just unbelievable. And of course the implicit myth is that if you take a given student of given ability and you send them to Harvard, that they’ll somehow come out smarter and better and more capable than if they go to a school where they’re well-matched. There’s zero evidence for that. Zero.
In fact there’s evidence of the opposite. Because there’s data from Duke that suggests that if minority students are overplaced, they go to a school where they wouldn’t get in otherwise, that they tend to drop out of hardcore majors more often. They learn less at these schools where they’re overplaced through affirmative action than they would if they went to a school they would otherwise get into. We have all of these kinds of myths, these preening assumptions that make it very hard to undermine the power of these institutions. I mean, your ideas are as good as mine about how we’re going to do that.
The Virtues and Dangers of Immigration
Richard: Let me just switch gears a little bit because I was listening this morning to your conversation with Glenn Loury, the one I think that got you in the most trouble from late 2021. And it’s interesting, a lot of people will... You make an argument that, I think, some people think but not a lot of people say. So you’re worried about Asian immigration and it’s different from other sort of minority problems that people are used to talking about. Can you talk about that a little bit? What’s the concern with Asian immigration if they’re doing socioeconomically well?
Amy: Well yeah, they are doing socioeconomically well, that’s for sure. I mean, low crime rates, high educational achievement, strong families, and all that sort of thing. I had had an interchange with George Lee, who’s a friend of mine, on Substack, that’s what got me in trouble. The first topic we took up is why do Asians vote for Democrats given that Democrats are pledged to destroy the meritocracy, which creates the ladder that enables Asians to rise and succeed? Why would they want to pull that ladder down? I have no ready explanation for that. I think that the Democrats are advancing all sorts of pernicious and destructive policies. And so, I’m not too keen on seeing more Democratic voters coming into the country. So one of the things I said is, if Asians continue to vote overwhelmingly for Democrats... I mean, there has been a little bit of a move away from that, but not much, you know the data. That’s one reason to not be in favor of this sort of vast influx of Asians. I mean, I really would rather see Republicans elected, frankly.
Richard: What if Hispanics keep moving Republican now that they’re almost even? Some polls, they disapprove of Biden more than whites. What if that shift continues and they become Republican? Would that be a good reason to support Hispanic immigration?
Amy: Well, there is some movement in that direction. But if you step back and look overall at the percentage of Asians that vote Democrat versus Republican, it is still overwhelmingly Democrat. You have a very long way to go, a very, very long way to go. And on Tucker, I was also criticizing what I think is a very opportunistic attitude that some Asians have, especially South Asians for some reason, who tend to be at the barricades supporting diversity, inclusion, and equity programs, when in fact they’re wildly successful. I don’t know why they keep trying to paint the United States as some kind of racist country when there’s no evidence that they’ve been victimized by racism. So that’s a little bit disturbing too.
But also, the fact is, Asian culture is very different from our culture. It just is. It’s not a post-Enlightenment culture, it’s not a Western culture, it is not a sort of liberty-focused culture. It is a conformist culture. These are broad generalizations, I understand that, and there are, of course, exceptions in every population. But critical masses of people from certain backgrounds do change the culture. It’s interesting. I don’t know if you follow a website called Education Realist?
Richard: I’ve seen it. Yeah.
Amy: A teacher who writes a lot about education and he says, well, I can tell you one thing, a huge influx of Asians into a particular school changes the educational culture. It results in a laser focus on test scores. And I’m all for tests, and I think tests are significant, but a laser focus on test scores, and gaming tests, and doing well on tests, that does shift the culture of a school. And ironically, we now see white flight out of schools that are dominated by Asians because whites don’t necessarily share the mix of values about education that Asians do.
Now we can argue all day about which is better, which is good, which is bad, what the upsides are and the downsides. But the point I’m making is, there are culturally distinct traits for people from different countries, cultures, backgrounds, and when you have a large number of people coming in from a particular culture, it does shift the existing culture. I mean, that’s just a fact. And people ought to be talking about that.
I mean, it is not illegitimate to say we want to go slow on immigration because we don’t want drastic changes. We like the culture that we have. We like the country the way it is. We don’t want to see it change. Those people are not presumptively evil people. I mean, that’s kind of like what Trump was saying in a way. That’s what he appealed to. Well, we can’t say anything good about Trump now. I understand that. That’s forbidden. But there are a lot of people who like to be around people like themselves, who don’t want to see their country turn into a polyglot boarding house. Those people deserve to be heard.
Richard: Amy, but what about… When you talk about the school change, I mean, I’m a big fan of school choice, I’m a big fan of freedom of association. Asians, I think you have to sort of break them up into different categories. I see the Indian representation in DEI. East Asians seem to punch massively below their weight as far as cultural influence, given their socioeconomic status. I think you’re right, they are conformists, but that makes them sort of not as culturally relevant. So I sort of see a lot of groups like this, especially East Asians, as sort of able to go in any direction. But I mean, what about just the old sort of conservative ideas of school choice, freedom of association? I think that goes a long way to solving a lot of these problems, doesn’t it?
Amy: Well, I’m all for freedom of association. I’m a big freedom of association fan just as you are. And I would deregulate all the laws that force people together who don’t want to be together, as you might. But here’s the problem, Richard. Our culture is moving in exactly the opposite direction. The ruling class, the people in power, especially the sort of people with cultural power on the left, the lefties who control all the opinion-shaping institutions, they hate freedom of association except when they’re summering in Nantucket or whatever. They never talk about it. They in fact, of course, are fleeing diversity even more than anyone else, but they profess to love it and to see it as the paramount value. And therefore, any rules for the little people, right, that allow them to choose, self-segregate, get away from the people they want to get away from, be with the people they want to be with, those are not going to fly. So you’re really asking for a very countercultural project here and I just don’t see it happening.
Richard: Yeah. I mean, stopping the flow of people across borders, given the economic incentives, I think, is also a sort of very difficult thing too. And I think the freedom of association thing is good to do anyway because I think it solves a lot of these problems.
Amy: Now we clearly see that issue differently. I mean, from having read your stuff and followed your Twitter and your Substack, I know that you’re not as enamored of national identity borders, nationhood, as I am for sure. And I get that, I understand that. But I really think that the ordinary people, the little people, the common people, they care about this stuff. They really care about it.
Richard: I’m sure they do, but I mean, if you look at sort of where the antagonisms are in this country, I mean, I think of people like rural white Americans, I think they hate liberal elites more than they dislike being around any immigrant groups. So I get that people want to be around those who are like themselves, but we have this... To sort of to talk about this common American culture, I mean, I don’t have much in common with liberals. I think they’re the craziest people on earth. I mean, give me a person who just arrived here from Guatemala, as far as my values, they do not believe in gender fluidity, they don’t believe that criminals are good. So to me, I mean, I agree, we’re sort of on the same page with a lot of these cultural critiques. I just see the people who are running this culture as the most distant people in the world from me. So it’s hard for me to get sort of concerned about these immigrants arriving, who in many ways seem better actually.
Amy: I understand that and there are a lot of people who agree with you. I see the country as, and this is both a positive point and a normative point, less and less, I think, a positive point, because our country has become so much more diverse very, very rapidly – which by the way, is a choice, not an inevitability – but I see the importance of the kind of Western European stamp in this country, and especially the kind of Anglo-European stamp and our traditions as incredibly important to our character, to our success, to why our government works, why our country works.
I’ll mention a factor I think is routinely underestimated, low corruption. Low corruption is almost exclusively a Northern European and Anglo phenomenon, okay? It virtually doesn’t exist in any other part of the globe. I mean, a little bit in central Europe, it’s kind of Teutonic as well as Nordic and Anglo. And it is of outsized importance in why those countries are as wonderful as they are, and why those countries can have nice things, and why they’re so successful, and why everybody wants to go to them, okay? And we, of course, inherited that low corruption trait. That doesn’t mean we were perfect and had no corruption, but relatively speaking until recently, we’ve done pretty well with good government and civically-minded, other-directed government, because we’ve inherited that. Those are the traditions that we’ve taken from our founding and our origins. And to see those diluted… I am very frightened that they are going to be diluted when we have large influxes of people from places where corruption is endemic.
I already see it happening. We are turning from a first-world country into a third-world country in so many ways that nobody wants to talk about. And it’s suspect to talk about, you can get into trouble for talking about it. I get into trouble. But I really think that this is a really important thing, and it means preserving, protecting, and defending what we have, keeping a tight lid on immigration, not letting any one group, or any third-world group certainly, get too large and all of that sort of thing.
Does Western Civilization Still Exist?
Richard: Yeah. So I was thinking about this when I was listening to you talk to Glenn Loury. And when you talk about sort of the continuity of Western civilization, a thought that popped into my head is, you say things like, well, this is why Western countries are so great. And a part of me thinks, maybe there was this culture that produced the Industrial Revolution and brought America, say, up to the 1950s. But maybe the people who live here now, the legacy Americans, are just sort of chugging along based on what these much wiser and better people built long ago.
So I’ll give you an example. My family are Middle Eastern immigrants, the extended family. The idea that anyone would have a child out of wedlock, unthinkable, right? I look at how my friends grew up. They all grew up with divorced parents or parents who never married or at least a lot of them did. And a lot of my older relatives, their idea of America was Westerns and Elvis, and they really like this stuff. And they’re like, oh, this is great. And they came to America, they saw some of their younger people, the different generations get into drugs, and they were like, what is this?
So a part of me thinks that if you look at something like out of wedlock birth rates, right? If you look at something like divorce rates, if you look at something like attitudes towards sexuality, a lot of immigrants are closer to the America of the 1950s than Americans of the 2020s are to the Americans of the 1950s. So maybe the Western…maybe it’s gone, maybe this great thing… We’re living off 3% growth based on those old institutions, but there’s got to be something new because the continuity has just been broken.
Amy: Well, there’s so much to what you’re saying. Maybe my problem is I just don’t know what time it is, right? [laughter] I mean, we’ve just passed the peak, and of course, the people in charge have let it happen. There are people like Patrick Deneen who say, the seeds of destruction are sewn in our very kind of liberal commitments that we’ve allowed this decadence to occur. And it is definitely occurring.
What you say about, it’s unthinkable to have a child out of wedlock, I mean, that’s the way it used to be in my Jewish upbringing. Literally the word is unthinkable. I mean you would just never do it, right? And to a certain extent, that’s still true. That’s one aspect of our traditional culture, but there are others. There’s this weird mix of kind of creativity and stability, of dynamism and traditionalism, this wonderful, delicate balance that we had during our heyday. And I’m very nostalgic about the 40s, the 50s, the 60s. Maybe that period has passed and the West is not what it used to be, and it’s not going to be what it used to be for all sorts of reasons, and we are going to have to accept some kind of successor population, to kind of riff off Wesley Yang’s successor ideology. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be as good or better. I think it’s going to be worse, frankly, because I think this was kind of a unique, magical moment in the history of the world that we achieved these pinnacles, and I don’t know how we’re going to reproduce that. I’m very worried that we won’t.
The Jews have a saying, pushcart to pushcart in three generations. And there is that. I think the Jews are emblematic of that. I mean, they really had their heyday and now they’ve faded from the professions, they’re gone from academia, where are they? I mean, maybe they’re just not reproducing or as I said, I’m indicted for saying they diluted their brand by intermarrying.
Richard: Some of them are reproducing a lot. I mean, some of them in these Orthodox communities are really off the charts. Yeah. It’s hard to control these things. Like immigration restriction, I think I could be more open to it in a country like Hungary or Japan. What is the saying? Where the horse hasn’t left the barn. Whatever they say.
Amy: The reed hasn’t been turned into the boat, as the Chinese say. But listen to what you’re saying. I mean, this is very interesting. You’re saying, well, it’s too late for the United States to be like Hungary or Israel, or Austria, or Denmark, or Japan, of course. Keep them out, preserve your culture, preserve your demographic and all of that. But just 30 years ago, 40 years ago, our country was literally more than 90% white. I mean, it’s the 1964 immigration act, the Hart-Celler Act that opened the floodgates, and that act was catastrophic. I mean, this was something people did.
We can differ in our opinion of whether this was a good thing or a bad thing. I don’t think, on balance, what that immigration act ended up doing, which was never anticipated, is at the end of the day going to be good for our country on balance. There are good aspects. There’s a certain economic dynamism that has been introduced, but you have to ask yourself, is that dynamism just the dynamism of certain people displacing others? Would we have that dynamism if we’d never had that immigration act? I mean our salad days, our heyday was from 1924 to 1964 when we had almost no immigration. And I think it’s unfair to say that those were bad years for our country.
Richard: Well, I mean the Hart-Celler thing is interesting because you think about the distinction between the US and these other countries. And I think the battles that were going on with the South, they stayed dormant for a while. I mean, you had the Civil War, but you were getting a replay of the Civil War again, I think, over the civil rights movement. I mean, I think that the whites in the North were very excited about doing something about the plight of blacks. And I think there were going to be inevitable tensions there.
So you’re right. I mean, I think that it was already sort of a divided country. I think you had these north-south, urban-rural differences that were bound to blow up anyway. But then the immigration, they opened the borders and even though this country was 90% white 50 years ago, I mean, now it’s... I mean, it doesn’t matter, the temporal distance, right? If it was a hundred years ago. Now I think half of kids born are nonwhite in this country. In immigration, you’re arguing over whether you’re going to be 50.2% white or 41.6% white in 50 years. I don’t think it’s as big of a question, those demographic questions, than if Japan opens its border, Japan goes from 99% Japanese to 90, to 85%. That’s a much bigger deal than the US goes from 48 to 38%, because it’s already a polyglot. I mean, it’s already a diverse nation and we’re sort of going to have to figure out how to make it work.
Amy: Well, I mean, sure, I get your point. I take your point. It’s like the horse is out of the barn, but the thing is, are you saying that diversity is good, or diversity is something we have to accept? And I mean if you say it’s something we have to accept... Well, let me go back. If you say diversity is a good in itself, why not impose it on Japan? Why not say, well, Denmark, you should open your borders? If you believe in open borders, why are you making exceptions for these places? You can’t have it both ways.
Richard: Yeah. Well I’m not for open borders. I’m more pragmatic and I sort of take every country on its own terms. As far as whether diversity is good or bad, I don’t like that framing because it really depends on the context. So Ron Unz has written about, there were some cities in the San Francisco Bay area where they became more diverse because the Hispanics displaced African Americans, and the crime rate plummeted. So in certain situations, the places became diverse and they became better. If it’s a swing state and I want the Republicans to win, an influx of Asians might be bad, an influx of Asians might be good in another situation. I mean, I think the group matters, and I think the context matters. I think to break it down into diversity is good or diversity is bad, I think it’s too simplistic in either direction. There’s going to be some continuum of diversity we’re going to have, depending on what immigration is going to be in 20, 30 years.
When you talk about these Asians and their wokeness, it’s not the first generation, right? It’s the second generation. And so, an immigrant who comes here today is going to have a kid. Maybe when they’re 30, 30 years down the line, they will become a DEI commissar. Well, if 30 years down the line we still have DEI commissars, I mean, we’re in trouble. I think we need to be focused on how to sort of displace these evil ideas. And I think the immigrants will go along with whatever.
I mean, it’s amazing. You look at Europe and you look at these places that have BLM rallies who don’t have any black people, and I just am in awe of American cultural hegemony. So I’m not worried about immigrants are not going to become more like Americans. I think they are. I think we need to sort of think about how they don’t assimilate into bad stuff and just bring out what’s best in our culture.
Amy: Well, of course they are assimilating to the bad stuff. The first generation of Hispanics have low crime rates, the second generation not so much, third generation less. So you have to sort of follow people out for the generations. But I think stepping back on this issue, as you concede, and you’re 100% right, to talk about diversity, generally, is kind of stupid because the devil is in the details, right? But that’s the problem. What we have now is a ruling class ideology, which is absolutely committed to this dogma from which there is no dissent, which is diversity is always good, it’s an unalloyed good, it’s a wonderful, just a glorious thing. We all have to embrace it. We all have to love it. And there can be no such thing as, hey. Can we just hit the pause button? Can we kind of step back and maybe try to deal with the immigration surge that we’ve had over the past few years, try to keep things the way they are more or less? Nobody is advocating for that position, even though it’s one that appeals to a fair number of people in this country. I mean, that’s just shut out of received opinion.
It’s certainly shut out of the universities. If you participate in any discussions on this topic in universities, there is one and only one point of view. So I would actually question that because I think there are downsides as well as upsides unquestionably. And I think ordinary people’s feelings and intuitions, their oikophilia, as opposed to oikophobia, their desire for familiarity, stability, sameness, traditional cultural touchstones, and understandings that those shouldn’t be denigrated, they deserve some hearing. That’s all. I understand we’re not completely in agreement on this and it’s a matter of degree. And it’s also hard to know, and I get kind of confused about this, now that all this has happened and we have a polyglot boarding house, what next? What do we do next? Do we shut it down? Do we pull back? Do we just allow it to continue? It’s hard to know.
Assimilationist and Anti-Assimilationist Messaging
Richard: Yeah. Well, I mean, I would like to see conservatives... I mean, I would like to see them make more of an effort. I mean, people don’t like…
Amy: More of an effort to do what?
Richard: Okay. I mean, they’ve tried to do this outreach, but the outreach is basically some kind of cargo cult of the Democratic thing. They would appoint some black guy to something, talk about “our community,” say the Democrats are the real racists. There’s a way to do this. For example, the discrimination against Asian-Americans. People don’t like being discriminated against. People will flip out on that if they know and that is raised in salience. So the fact that’s not more salient, that Republicans don’t talk about, they don’t talk about affirmative action, period. They should defend whites too, of course, but the fact that the RNC isn’t buying Chinese language ads. The Asians are going even without that effort. I mean, they voted out the San Francisco School Board.
And then you have these things like gender identity. I’ll tell you, I have an elderly relative who liked Hillary Clinton for a while. And then I would tell her at some point, around 2010, you know she supports gay rights? She supports gay marriage, or something like that. And my relative would say, no. She has a husband and daughter. She’s a normal human being. Well, five years later, now there’s no ambiguity about sort of the Democrats and the kind of identity politics they support. This person watches Fox News now and is just buying everything that’s being sold by Tucker and Hannity. And so, the Republicans, they’ll say, protect girls’ sports, protect Title IX. But you really can... There are some wedge issues here and they’re good, they’re not demagoguery. I mean, I think they’re appealing to conservative principles and positions that are true, that they could lean into, but they don’t. I’d like to see that effort being made. You teach a class on conservatism, so this is something you’ve thought about.
Amy: Let me ask you this. I mean, do you think the Republicans could succeed in winning over a lot of immigrant ethnic types from various backgrounds by effectively going back to a kind of 1950s, 1960s assimilation to a dominant culture expectation? The kind that I grew up with, which was this notion that you come here and you take us as you find us. You’re expected to adapt, not just in deed but also in word, to our fundamental commitments to capitalism, to strong families, to conventional behaviors, to bourgeois values, to the whole kind of Anglo-Protestant legacy that’s at the core of our identity, to the whole European identity, you have to try and be as much like us as you can. You don’t have to stamp out every aspect of your cultural individuality, but you can’t make a big deal out of them. In other words, just to put it more succinctly, we reject multiculturalism. I mean, do you think it’s feasible for the Republican Party to really go back to that?
Richard: Well, Amy, I mean, I would do the opposite. I would say, no, don’t assimilate. You stay like yourself. You believe in two genders, you hate criminals, you don’t want your daughters to be sluts or have kids out of wedlock, you don’t want your kids to be gender fluid. Become more like us? I think we’re the problem. I think this is the fundamental thing. So I think there’s an alliance to be built by saying “No. Keep your culture. Be like white conservative people who are like every other group in the world against these freaks who run society.” So I would almost do the opposite and see if that works. I think the assimilation message is sort of incoherent because when people sort of assimilate, they say, what’s the difference between my immigrant background and America? The biggest difference is sexuality, is the fact that drugs and tattoos, and divorce, and homosexuality, and out of wedlock childbirth, all that stuff is accepted. When you say assimilate, but be conservative, it’s almost incoherent because that’s just not what we are anymore.
Amy: Yeah. You’re mostly talking about the whole gender, sexuality valance, right?
Richard: It’s attitudes towards differences between men and women. It’s marriage, it’s sexual morality, it’s criminality. I mean, it’s the idea that you don’t fetishize criminals. I mean, I said my family being out of wedlock, having an out of wedlock child. Being a criminal, it was like something shameful and people just…
Amy: Law and order values, you think is one parameter.
Amy: I mean, another one would be racial politics, and that’s where I think the waters get really muddy, right? How supportive will these immigrants be of the strong meritocratic colorblind principles? They ought to be strongly supportive of it, but I think there’s a certain degree of ambivalence about it because many of them come from very statist backgrounds where they think the government ought to ensure good outcomes and even equal outcomes and provide a very, very strong safety net and provide for their population. So there are a lot of different parameters and a lot of different issues on which the Republicans are not necessarily going to succeed in attracting these groups.
Richard: But Amy, the white working class base of the Republicans does not like free markets either. I mean, they don’t like the…
Amy: I understand. They love government handouts and support for local industries and that sort of stuff. That’s definitely out there. So anyway, very complicated. I don’t know the answer. [laughs] My preference for nostalgia is probably not terribly productive at this point.
“I Can’t Guarantee That They Won’t Get Hurt”
Richard: Yeah. Well, I appreciate that you say you can’t talk about it. I think it should be all on the table. Yeah. You can have a different opinion on immigration. I mean, you can have a different opinion on... I would be fine. Affirmative action, I would prefer quotas to... I think there’s something so corrosive about sort of not just shutting down the speech, but then leading it in a dishonest direction. “We’re not doing quotas, we’re doing diversity.” I mean, it’s just like you have to do so much in order to avoid having the conversation. Sometimes it’s better just to have the conversation. If you disagree, fine, but this is, I think, an underrated aspect of just how unhealthy this wokeness is.
Amy: Yeah. No, I think we’re coming round to the beginning again, because the conversation you and I just had, right, could not be had in academia today. I mean, there’s this kind of pull of orthodoxy, this gray, grim, arid pull of orthodoxy that’s descended on the classroom and the extracurricular activities in where there’s this stylized way that you talk about everything. And it’s just really sterile and awful.
And the students know it, they notice it. I mean, I have students regularly reaching out to me saying, what do we do about this one-sided tilted education that we’re getting? Especially if they take my conservatism class or whatever, they’ll say things like, I can’t believe I spent 16 expensive years not hearing the names that you have on your syllabus. Never having heard of Michael Oakeshott or Edmund Burke, or Friedrich Hayek or anything. I mean, it’s really unbelievable. Not only have they not read this stuff in many cases, they don’t even recognize the names. That’s educational malpractice as far as I’m concerned.
But when they ask me like, what should we do about the culture war? I really don’t have an answer for them because anybody who speaks up is taking a huge risk, I think. I mean, that’s why it’s called a war. What about war don’t you understand? People get hurt. And I can’t guarantee that they won’t get hurt.
Richard: Yeah. And also in war, I mean, there is institutions and power, but there’s also a thing called morale. And sometimes groups that are badly outmatched, if they believe in what they’re doing and they keep going forward, they can do amazing things. And I get the feeling that you couldn’t act differently if you tried.
I was going to ask you, have you ever thought about toning it down a little? I didn’t want to ask the question because, I think I’m the same way, that the answer would be it’s never an option because I just can’t. I sort of have to express myself on these issues. I feel the same way. Maybe it’s the right strategy, maybe it’s not, but the morale factor matters a lot. And if we can inspire other people to think the same way, behave the same way, I think we can do great things.
Yeah. I think that’s about it, Amy. Besides donating to your fund, we’ll put a link to that, is there anything else people can do? You don’t have a Substack or anything, do you?
Amy: No. I really appreciate you having me on, and you’ve given me a lot to think about. This has been a great conversation. I’m following you. I’m a cheapo, so I haven’t signed up for your Substack, but now I have to, especially these polls that you’re taking, I’m very disappointed by the way that you didn’t have Margaret Thatcher on your list. Did you have Margaret Thatcher on your list?
Richard: No, I didn’t. But Amy, it’s free. You don’t have to pay.
Amy: Oh, it’s free. Okay.
Richard: You have an option of paying but you don’t have to. You can read everything.
Amy: I will then visit it. And I would’ve liked to participate in the poll. I saw some really interesting things in that poll, I have to say. Yeah. So thank you for what you do, and thank you for running CSPI. I follow all the people. Philippe Lemoine, actually, I recently met him in Paris, had a very nice long conversation with him, so.
Richard: Oh, beautiful.
Amy: He’s a great guy.
Richard: Yeah. Great talking to you, Amy, and until next time.
Amy: Okay. Thank you.
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