Glenn Loury Speaks

On a Thursday evening in April, Glenn Loury is talking about race, ethics, and affirmative action. And he’s getting emotional. “Don’t patronize my people,” he told an audience at the College of the Holy Cross, in Massachusetts. “Don’t judge us by a different standard. Don’t lower the bar! Why are you lowering the bar? What’s going on there? Is that about guilt or pity?” He let the question hang in silence for a moment. “Tell me a pathway to equality that is rooted in either one of those things.”

That’s the opening to a sharp and very candid interview of Glenn Loury by Evan Goldstein in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Loury continues on affirmative action:

Equality is the only legitimate long-term goal — racial equality, not head-counting. I’m talking about equality of dignity, respect, standing, accomplishment, achievement, honor. People have to earn these things. What do I want to do? I want to reorient the discussion around the development of African-American capacities to compete.

On his personal life:

Q: By the late 1990s, you’d broken with many former friends on the right. You’d undergone a political conversion. Where did you land?

A: There’s an arc to this thing, and it’s odd. I describe myself today as right of center.

What happened is that I went through a trauma. I was accused of assaulting a woman with whom I was having an extramarital affair. I was publicly humiliated. I had to withdraw an appointment as undersecretary of education in the last years of Reagan’s second term. I was a crack-cocaine addict; it almost killed me. My wife at the time, God bless her, stayed with me, and we subsequently had two fine sons. But at the time, I was dying.

I found Jesus. I got my life together.

Read the whole thing.


I think the IQ results are pretty clear that we cannot developer African-American ability to compete if it is to be on a level playing field.

There’s nothing clear about that you racist cunt

“There’s nothing clear about that you racist cunt”

What is now called "the Great Awokening" is best described as a revitalization of marxist piety that has swept through America in the twenty first century. In our culture a new evangelical Age of Equality has risen to counter the past currents of the Age of Science and to reaffirm the view that being truly woke means trusting the heart rather than the head, prizing feeling more than thinking, and relying on marxist revelation rather than human reason.

Thanks for this!

Perfect solution is to judge everyone on their own merits. If what you say is true, then you've got nothing to worry about. If not, then all is good too.

That was a pretty good comment, TMC.

Though I think we should back up a bit to "judge not." There aren't really all that many times in one's day when it is necessary or appropriate to judge people.

(I support judging "ideas" more frequently.)

You just judged his comment.

Yes I did! It's an IDEA.

What's the correlation between bad ideas and bad people? Strong, or non-existent? Or dumb ideas and intelligence?

In general, don't "correlations" such as those lead to bias, or even closed minds?

FWIW I've tried to lead my life with the idea that anyone I meet might tell me a true thing, and perhaps one I hadn't considered.

Good man.


"two thousand copies that can be each sold for six reales each" and "infinite illumination is needed for so many who unenlightened."

In a lot of ways, correlation is a stronger device for persuasion because it combines patterns. Yet if the opposite of good is better, how to determine the taste of water==there are polar opposites. Correlation can be useful for acceleration. If you know velocity why does accerlation matter? It's the motif, the appearance of for why the truth matters, its hard because its discernable to your subconscious. Chaos is cause, without it, patterns wouldn't emerge, though they exist.

"judging "ideas" Yes, even better.

Sarcasm is hostility disguised as humor.

yours is a poop psychologicy definition of sarcasm that leaves out irony.
sarcasm is the use of irony to mock or convey contempt

Irony is the lowest form of humor; not the same as sarcasm.

In other news: transgender people are suffering because straight people will not date them.

it the Washington post says it can see demons
we wanna see the photos of the demons
we are sorta demon curious

The Washington what?

a couple days ago they said there was a sorta "demonic" aura around the orange bowl!
also the pastor said their were "demons" in the media!

Sarcasm is a useful communication tool to illustrate irony or error that is overlooked. It forces thought and discovery. Often the humor in it will soften the blow when the "target" suddenly realizes their error.

& you sound like the deep surveillance state

Are you being sarcastic???

good point
the demon sightings by
the washington post and the pastor could just be more trolling

Yes, sarcasm is about taking an idea to reductio absurdum, we thus see the bounds of some argument.

Finding bounds is what it is all about, it is the basis of doing economics. When I do reducto absurdum I often find the bounds are not too bad and the original argument close to correct, it is how we test the limits, a crucial step we need.

"equality" was originally an issue of 'equality-before-the- law' -- but leftists pushed it to equality-of-outcomes in life.
Now we're supposed to also view it as equality-of-dignity (whatever that means?),

The "I found Jesus' crowd are people who reject reason and turn to mysticism for intellectual comfort.
Loury should be ignored.

I think you may have missed his "People have to earn these things." comment.

I read it as his suggested goal is to earn - on a reasonable if imperfectly level playing field - "dignity, respect, standing, accomplishment, achievement, honor", i.e. all the traditional markers of success in life. One might achieve that as a mechanic or a surgeon or a gunnery sergeant.

Making one a mechanic, surgeon, or gunnery sergeant by legislative fiat is fundamentally fake, and not the way to achieve that dignity.

"Now we're supposed to also view it as equality-of-dignity (whatever that means?)"

I believe he is saying we should recognize people for their accomplishments without tying it to their race. He is a renowned economist rather than a renowned black economist. The latter example makes it seem like the person is only worthy of notoriety for being black instead of an elite economist.

I'm not religious at all. but if religion and jesus can rescue someone from a life of drugs and crime, by all means, employ it. just don't force it on other people. Live and let live.

What he is saying is that the only way blacks can have equal dignity is if they earn their accomplishments on a level playing field without special privileges or favors.

If i understand him, he is saying more than that. Giving honors or positions to people who haven't earned them wouldn't be necessary if the structures and systems on the way up provided the tools and skills to compete.

In other words it's easy to assuage your request guilt by giving prizes. How about incentivizing fathers to grow up and be responsible, likely one of the most influential acts that can be done for a child. For example. But to do anything like that requires taking on powerful and influential interests that love talking about racism to reflect attention from their pernicious ideologies.

Is that what he's saying or what YOU are saying? The only place in the U.S. where honors and positions are based on merit is in sports. You can either jump or not. You can either score or not. If you can you get rewarded, otherwise you get canned. Even then there are still bad players who make it to the pro leagues and exceptional players who don't.
Anyone who's worked with or for an organization larger than 50 people knows how easy it is to hide mediocrity. Heck, even your HOA is run by mostly a handful of dedicated people while no one else even attends the meetings.

There's too much data that shows bias in hiring practices, firing decisions, promotions, arrests, incarcerations, lending, immigration etc... for this to still be debated in 2019. Even kindergarten teachers show biases that end up influencing their pupils outcomes.

But sure, everyone is treated equally and those who fail and pass do so on their own merits (wink); and those who talk about racism are the REAL problem (RIGHT)

"There's too much data that shows bias in hiring practices, firing decisions, promotions, arrests, incarcerations, lending, immigration etc... for this to still be debated in 2019. Even kindergarten teachers show biases that end up influencing their pupils outcomes. "

Really?? You mean like the Australian study where they race-blinded applicants and found that white men were accepted at much higher rates? The study where they sex-blinded interviews and found that women performed worse when the interviewer did not know their sex?

More like studies in the U.S. that show that applicants with identical resume get a very different response rate depending on whether they have white sounding names or African American sounding names ; or studies that show that minorities get more calls when then « whiten » their resumes ; how about the ones showing that female coders get better ratings when they hide their gender ? The list goes on.
People are human. They’re biased. They have preferences. Pretending they don’t doesn’t do anything other than generate lengthy pointless debates

Do they hold up on replication? I think there are many problems with the "African American names" studies, namely that most African Americans have the same types of names as European Americans, and it's a serious class marker.

How about this one?

Reality matters. We shouldn't waive our hands and say "oh yes, bias against NAM is everywhere" and then set out to solve the problem that we assumed into existence.

For what it's worth, Loury is no longer religious. Does that mean he is now worth taking seriously again, or is the view "if you were ever religious as an adult, then you are never worth taking seriously again"?

The "the 'I found Jesus' crowd are people who reject reason and turn to mysticism for intellectual comfort." crowd are people who reject reason* and turn to mysticism** for intellectual comfort."

McGuirran should be ignored.

*or at least all (historical, philosophical, etc) nuance

**to the extent that particularly empty and pointless platitudes have a certain mystical quality, at least

The man's an accomplished economist with a family background and a domestic life very unlike that of an ordinary academic. He merits a biography just to sort it all out and to try to understand it.

In other words he’s a cuck like me!

Why you little...!!!!

The only difference is, most academics didn't have to trash their lives to learn some basic self-control. I really love how the guy who destroyed his family life is the one to teach us moral value and is better than people who never did it. Why not? Trump is the Evangelicals' favorite.

I really love how the guy who destroyed his family life is the one to teach us moral value

His inclination to claim to be the one to teach you moral value is well below the median for college teachers in the arts and sciences, so I your complaint is misplaced. Of course, he's never been one to trade in lefty cant. If he had been, you'd not have bothered complaining.

Again, the only distinctive thing about Mr. Loury is having destroyed his family and lacking self-control. In the age of Trump, a worhty model for right-wingers.

It was a pretty good story, but it needs a pool boy.

Then, he would be considered a modern saint.

"The only distinctive thing ..."

No. The "distinctive thing" is encapsulated here:

"When I went to my first faculty meeting, everybody at the table was famous. I didn’t know if I belonged there. I choked. I’m not blaming affirmative action for this. I’m not trying to make a political statement. I choked. I lost my way. I was afraid that nothing I could do was going to be good enough."

He was put in a humiliating position by giving him a reward he didn't yet deserve. This was done not as a favor to him, but for the benefit of the institution. Humiliating a few token blacks is not the path to true equality, it just takes the heat and spotlight off the university, at his expense. I think that's the point.

I didn't see him offer an alternative, but that's ok, that would be a lot to expect from any one person, no matter how accomplished.

Affirmative action is a failure, and anyone who points out that the emperor has no clothes will be destroyed - publicly - so that the destroyers can signal their virtue and gain personal advantage at the expense of the speaker of the truth.

And yet, despite all this affirmative action nonsense, black people DO excel.

A friend of mine, observing my music collection, heavily weighted toward jazz, commented, "you only listen to black guys".

Yeah, Coltrane, Miles, Hancock ... I want to listen to what moves me. That said, I heard a white Irish guy play a blistering tenor sax on "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" in the Mingus Orchestra. He was as good as any black jazz player.

I want to listen to the best.

I think that's where we should be, and I think that is his point.

Evidently, if he parrots right-wing talk points, who cares about his morals?

Well, many of us have failed to live up to our moral values at times. So who are we to judge? Though we all judge too, don't we? I suppose that's why many moral codes include warnings to refrain from judging others.

The man has a good personal story, well worth listening to.

Though I suppose ardent believers in affirmative action would be inclined to hate him.

"So who are we to judge?"
It is funny how it is the far-right... when one of them is caught or exposed. The rest of the time... not so much.

Is the far-left any better in this respect?

And you thought he was wrong in both cases. So what has this argument accomplished???

Hypocrite are wrong.

Hypocrites are wrong.

I struggle to see how an addiction to crack cocaine is relevant

I struggle to see how it is not.

What is the relevance then?

I believe he spent a year at the Stanford Institute for Advanced Study working on his autobiography.

I really love the sympathy this guy's shitty decisions has earned him, I'm sure if he was a she, everyone would give her the same outpouring of support right?

Oh sure, let's through some bitter feminist spice into the soup. That'll be good ...

It's like listening to NPR. I like to tune into NPR at random and count how many seconds it takes for them to spout some lefty canard. It's usually well under a minute, then I switch back to the audiobook.

If the guy were a lefty you'd be ripping him for his lifestyle choices and for presuming to tell us how to treat people. In other words, like all partisans, you are a hypocrite.

So the point is that you like to make up lies and assume they are true for no reason except I guess mood affiliation?

Loury is still conflicted. But it's understandable. In the interview he mentions Amy Wax. For those who don't remember, she is a law professor at Penn. In a dialogue with Loury, she said "I don't think I've ever seen a Black student graduate in the top quarter of the class, and rarely, rarely in the top half.... I can think of one or two students who scored in the top half in my required first year course."

I attended law school (at a public university in the South) when women were the minority (about 20% in my class), and blacks almost non-existent. My class (of about 200) had only a few black students, and they struggled. They got together and asked the faculty to tutor them. The faculty refused, arguing that law school was not a place for remedial education. I remember that controversy to this day, and this occurred a very long time ago.

End inequality. Abolish Ivy League universities.

I think (for what that's worth) the problem is lower expectations and lowering the bar. The harm is that when some arrive at the brink, so to speak, they are ill-prepared.

Many years ago, I supervised the work of a contemporary black colleague. I knew he was a capable man. But, his work was lackadaisical. I reviewed it noting he could do much better. He seriously was not happy. Years later, he was a close friend and had advanced in management far ahead of me. Of course, like everyone else I worked with, over the years I gave him everything I could.

I'm so old. I remember times before the "disparate outcomes"/"effects tests" and affirmative action; when the ideal was to treat all fairly and equally. Obviously, that didn't work.

File under "Do-Gooders Doing Damage."

one likely contributing factor for the endless struggles of blacks in America is that many of its successful role models provide poor leadership by perpetuating the focus of young people on entertainment and sports rather than education. Seems like LeBron and Russel Wilson are doing better, but overall there's not nearly enough emphasis on education from black entertainers and sports personalities.

Blacks are not 'endlessly struggling'. They are, by and large, ordinary wage-earners living in a matrix with quality-of-life issues. Their politicians don't care about the quality-of-life issues and the rank-and-file aren't inclined to bounce the non-feasant shmucks, so the result is stasis.

I know that Loury and McWhorter long for black youths to covet education, not just the "dignity accorded to those who work" (although the fact that the latter is sounding better and better all the time for both white and black Americans may be the thing that realigns the two races, here, once and for all). I think from hearing some of their joint podcasts both Loury and McWhorter believe that a return to respect for education will be a return to American blacks' cultural past - which ipso facto means there can be no place for either in the modern left, much as one or both may belong there. Loury (I think) simply wants affirmative action to be treated like any other testable policy - echoing, again, his distaste for the idea of blacks as a forever special class. But I think he might point out the salience of affirmative action in a dog-that-didn't-bark-way with respect to sports and entertainment.

Why wouldn't black kids admire most the accomplishments that no one can question, that can have no taint whatsoever of the patronage or condescension that so often shadows blacks in other fields?

Being, I believe, New Yorkers or part-time New Yorkers, Loury and McWhorter have been been talking about Stuyvesant high school recently. Perhaps they are thinking partly of the kids they themselves once were, or kids like themselves, but the campaign de Blasio is on, they consider not merely cringeworthy but actually disastrous.

*Loury: "I would venture to say that the study of affirmative action has been too much the preserve of lawyers and philosophers, and has too little engaged the interests of economists and other social scientists. It is as if, for this policy, unlike all others, we could determine a priori the wisdom of its application­ as if its practice were always either 'right' or 'wrong,' never simply 'prudent' or 'unwise.'"

I like how on the rare occasions that Ty gives us thoughts from a right-of-center intellectual, he feels the need to mention that the guy was a crack cocaine addict who was accused of assaulting a woman.

It looks like a defining moment in his life: "he found Jesus".

St. Augustine had a dissolute lifestyle before conversion =)

Dissolute only by the standards of Brother Augustine.

Before conversion he was an unmarried schoolteacher with a long-term love interest.


Don't shoot the messenger. Loury often mentions this part of his life and, personally, I admire the man for being so open about it and find it uplifting and empowering, though I don't know too many professions nowadays where a person can have a history of drug abuse and at least two criminal charges - battery and drug possession, with at least one conviction on the drug charges (all of which was made public at the time) - and still advance in his profession. I think academia is one of those exceptions.

Anyway, I think Glenn is an extraordinary man and I admire him for constantly challenging and occasionally changing his views on many issues. I like him a lot more than Thomas Sowell, who is way over the top and hasn't changed his views on anything for the past 35-40 years...and will not engage in any sort of public debate or dialogue with anyone, left or right.

I'm a consultant. You can advance your career in spite of little issues like those

Is this another data point in Tyler's prediction that the most important public intellectuals come from a religious foundation?

It is easy to understand the "don't lower the bar" argument.

My question is how do we level the playing field without lowering the bar? Everything is path dependent. The fact that the playing field was not level 50 years ago means the playing field cannot be level today. Maybe accepting a gradual leveling of the playing field that will never be level is the best we can do.

Americans are funny. They want a level playing field at Harvard, but they don't want an equal start for kids in Beverly Hills and Detroit.

It's a perversion of meritocracy, IMO. The idea is that if your parents bought into a good neighborhood with good schools, *you deserve* a better start in life.

Nobody gets an equal start, primarily due to genetic endowments. An attempt to equalize everyone's position in life would have horrifying consequences and truly result in a living nightmare. I would prefer to maximize human welfare.

I don't know how much effect a good school or a good neighborhood have on your life. I would bet not much.

I have fully adopted the ideals of my birth nation:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness"

YMMV, but I think that aspiration is still good, even if it has been a long road.

How does that line from the D of I apply to equal outcomes? Everyone has the right to their life, liberty, and to PURSUE happiness. No one has a right to be given happiness.

As capitalized Anonymous said, attempting to equalize everyone would be a Harrison Bergeron dystopian nightmare. Affirmative action is complex, and Loury's critique is a good one.

We should switch to class-based vs race-based to start. But there's only so much you can do, no matter what the Declaration says.

I talked about an "equal start," to me that means equal access to good public education.

Maybe someone swapped the goalposts to outcomes?

Hard to argue with that. But even if that were guaranteed, so much of one's trajectory is determined by parental involvement, peer effects, and so on. The lower classes will mostly be doomed to stay that way even if they have a satisfactory school to attend.

"The fact that the playing field was not level 50 years ago means the playing field cannot be level today."

How so?

I listen to all the Glen Lowery talks, he seems to work very hard to remain objective. I disagree with him sometimes but he seems to be a great guy and a great interviewer.

BTW it seems to me that black USAers excel at what certain areas. Football, basketball and some other sports also music. Black USAers have invented most of the worlds most popular styles of music. They seem to do OK in acting, singing and other arts also and some other things.

One other point, most blacks are doing fine in today 2/3 are middle class and above.

One and one other things immigrant blacks are putting more blacks toward the top of educationally and income wise.

"most blacks are doing fine in today 2/3 are middle class and above."

This is from 2003, but other data like the steady white/black income gap, shows it is about the same today:

40% of black households are in the top three quintiles, and it looks like around 57% are in the middle three quintiles. So there are more black families are lower-middle class and more white families are in the upper-middle class.

slides on pp. 8-9

What I would say now, though, is we’re 20-odd years further down the pike, and we’re kind of stuck, and do we really want to bake this into the cake? I think that would be a mistake, because the long-term goal has got to be equality. If we bake affirmative action into the cake, we’re almost by definition making it impossible to achieve that goal.

I agree, but not everyone is ready for my radical proposal, to just end "race" as a recognized category in government and education. We are increasingly held captive by the real actual racists out there and the real actual anti-racists who reinforce the framework.

I mean, I understand that middle America has moved on, but they aren't really the interest groups driving this.

Ending race as France has is a mistake I think. There are racial problems that could be addressed, if many people really cared about them, but you have to measure to solve.

It would be seen by "both" sides as an attempt to sweep the problems under the rug

1) One of our problems in America, the reason we keep finding "racial tension," is that we keep looking for it.

2) You can actually address all the same problems in a non-racial way. You can look at schools where kids have low average SATs, you can look at zip codes where there is high unemployment, etc.

And I think with that you have less built in bounce-back that "you are helping *them* too much." Who them, the kids in weak schools? The people in blighted neighborhoods?

I guess an arch-racist would oppose race-blind affirmative action or transfers because it's still helping "those people," but the vast majority in the United States are beyond that.

We already spend a lot of money on schools for the disadvantaged. For instance, Baltimore spends more per pupil than the surrounding suburban schools.

So what would you propose. Baltimore schools spend double? Triple? What criteria would we use to determine if that money is having any effect? If its not would we cut it off?

Did I say anything about changing spending levels?

I think I talked about the way you allocate spending, which might better be interpreted as re-allocating existing spending.

Oh, maybe you meant this to go up above in the other section, on parents, neighborhoods and schools.

I think if we are going to commit to equal opportunity, we can't *avoid* that public school spending should be normalized across the nation. (Possibly "classroom costs" to adjust for climate or transportation differences.)

Rich parents can still hire tutors or send their kids to private schools, but the government should do its part for a good equal education, starting K-12.

You want to cut funding to LAUSD to redirect funds to Beverly Hills?

Or are you simply making the incorrect assumption that spending is higher in the suburban schools...

Do you have some information that Beverly Hills public schools are actually less funded than poor neighborhoods?

It sounds like a fantasy argument .. "we can't take money from the poor people, who have it all, and give it to the rich, who have less!"


- Beverly Hills spends 55.2% more per student than Compton.

- The Student Teacher Ratio is 25.2% lower in Beverly Hills than in Compton. (lower means fewer students in each classroom).

- Beverly Hills had 56.9% more residents who had graduated High School compared to Compton"

Public funding. Or you’re literally retarded.

So your goal is a law where one can’t donate time or money to their local school?

Okay, but if the problem is actually race-based then pretending it's not is only going to cause the problem to persist.

As we have covered earlier, there is nothing biological foundation to "race," so that's unlikely.

He is right!All races are born equal which is declared by American ancestors. However,he should also be strict with himself.

crack-cocaine addict?

Just be glad it wasn't meth, that drug is nearly unrecoverable.

Seems uncouth to attack a man arguing for common sense.

I doubt it will make much difference though. If we judged everyone based on merit, blacks would coalesce at the bottom of the merit pile, and that's not exactly going to sell for most of them.

When Lowry says he wants to be judge on merit, I think he implicitly assumes that the merit of blacks will eventually improve. I don't know if even he would have the heart to live in a merit based system if he accepted his people will never have any merit. But who knows. At a minimum at least his proposal is good, so leave the guy be.

One of the problems with "we can't fix this with affirmative action, we need to fix this with XYZ". XYZ, doesn't much matter what it is, having already been tried good and hard over the last fifty years. But no results.

We blame high schools for not making people college ready. We blame middle and grammar schools for high schools. We give away free press-school, but it doesn't seem to make a difference long term. We implement common core and this and that and every education fad every 5-10 years. We give away free healthcare, section 8, make-work jobs, etc etc etc. None of it works.

When I hear someone say that we can get rid of affirmative action so long as we "fix X" all I can see is some poor fucking elementary school teacher being blamed for while Jamal can't read to good no matter how hard she tries. Like all those burnt out Teach for America twenty somethings that used to live near me.

Anything other than the acknowledgment that blacks are generally going to be on the bottom of a merit based society due to genetics just ends up passing the buck to someone else whose fault it is for these dismal results.

"I doubt it will make much difference though. If we judged everyone based on merit, blacks would coalesce at the bottom of the merit pile, and that's not exactly going to sell for most of them."

This is MR, where this gets no notice, but a cite to "all men created equal" is a "dystopian nightmare."

Know you silo.

Why? His quote is objectively true. For reasons of slavery and history of racism in my opinion.

From above:

"40% of black households are in the top three quintiles, and it looks like around 57% are in the middle three quintiles. So there are more black families are lower-middle class and more white families are in the upper-middle class."

Three quintiles equals 60%.

So this is saying 40% of black households are already in the top 60%. And 57% are in the middle 60%. There might be room for improvement there, but it certainly isn't "the bottom of the merit pile."

The black middle class is large and middle class.

And that is leaving aside the (terrible) idea that we *should* judge a great swath of Americans as "bottom of the pile" on merit.

Based on skin color no less.

Loury is a master practitioner of one of the best ways to conduct an interview or participate in a discussion: He listens carefully to the other person, then restates what he heard the person say, in a different, more organized way (constantly saying, "I don't want to put words in your mouth ..."). Then he goes into "devil's advocate" mode and states what he sees as the opposing position, in clear, vivid language ("your opponents might counter ..."). Only after getting buy-in on his two Platonic encapsulations does he state his own view.

Half of the time his guest ends up coming around to Loury's position on one or two issues.

Comments for this post are closed