Friday, April 17, 2020

Walter Williams

Fixing College Corruption

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By Walter E. Williams | April 16, 2020 3:10 PM EDT

America's colleges are rife with corruption. The financial squeeze resulting from COVID-19 offers opportunities for a bit of remediation. Let's first examine what might be the root of academic corruption, suggested by the title of a recent study, "Academic Grievance Studies and the Corruption of Scholarship." The study was done by Areo, an opinion and analysis digital magazine. By the way, Areo is short for Areopagitica, a speech delivered by John Milton in defense of free speech.
Authors Helen Pluckrose, James A. Lindsay and Peter Boghossian say that something has gone drastically wrong in academia, especially within certain fields within the humanities. They call these fields "grievance studies," where scholarship is not so much based upon finding truth but upon attending to social grievances. Grievance scholars bully students, administrators and other departments into adhering to their worldview. The worldview they promote is neither scientific nor rigorous. Grievance studies consist of disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, gender studies, queer, sexuality and critical race studies.
In 2017 and 2018, authors Pluckrose, Lindsay and Boghossian started submitting bogus academic papers to academic journals in cultural, queer, race, gender, fat and sexuality studies to determine if they would pass peer review and be accepted for publication. Acceptance of dubious research that journal editors found sympathetic to their intersectional or postmodern leftist vision of the world proves the problem of low academic standards.

Several of the fake research papers were accepted for publication. The Fat Studies journal published a hoax paper that argued the term bodybuilding was exclusionary and should be replaced with "fat bodybuilding, as a fat-inclusive politicized performance." One reviewer said, "I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article and believe it has an important contribution to make to the field and this journal." "Our Struggle Is My Struggle: Solidarity Feminism as an Intersectional Reply to Neoliberal and Choice Feminism," was accepted for publication by Affilia, a feminist journal for social workers. The paper consisted in part of a rewritten passage from Mein Kampf. Two other hoax papers were published, including "Rape Culture and Queer Performativity at Urban Dog Parks." This paper's subject was dog-on-dog rape. But the dog rape paper eventually forced Boghossian, Pluckrose and Lindsay to prematurely out themselves. A Wall Street Journal writer had figured out what they were doing.
Some papers accepted for publication in academic journals advocated training men like dogs and punishing white male college students for historical slavery by asking them to sit in silence in the floor in chains during class and to be expected to learn from the discomfort. Other papers celebrated morbid obesity as a healthy life choice and advocated treating privately conducted masturbation as a form of sexual violence against women. Typically, academic journal editors send submitted papers out to referees for review. In recommending acceptance for publication, many reviewers gave these papers glowing praise.
Political scientist Zach Goldberg ran certain grievance studies concepts through the Lexis/Nexis database, to see how often they appeared in our press over the years. He found huge increases in the usages of "white privilege," "unconscious bias," "critical race theory" and "whiteness." All of this is being taught to college students, many of whom become primary and secondary school teachers who then indoctrinate our young people.

I doubt whether the coronavirus-caused financial crunch will give college and university administrators, who are a crossbreed between a parrot and jellyfish, the guts and backbone to restore academic respectability. Far too often, they get much of their political support from campus grievance people who are members of the faculty and diversity and multicultural administrative offices. The best hope lies with boards of trustees, though many serve as yes men for the university president. I think that a good start would be to find 1950s or 1960s catalogs. Look at the course offerings at a time when college graduates knew how to read, write and compute, and make them today's curricula. Another helpful tool would be to give careful consideration to eliminating all classes/majors/minors containing the word "studies," such as women, Asian, black or queer studies. I'd bet that by restoring the traditional academic mission to colleges, they would put a serious dent into the COVID-19 budget shortfall.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Walter Williams

By Walter E. Williams | April 2, 2020 2:23 PM EDT

I'm not sure whether COVID-19, first identified in Wuhan, China, in the U.S. qualifies as a true disaster. Putting the disease in perspective, we might look at current influenza illnesses. According to Centers for Disease Control estimates, between Oct. 1, 2019, and March 14, 2020, there have been 390,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations as a result of the flu, 38,000,000 to 54,000,000 flu illnesses and 23,000 to 59,000 flu deaths. That's compared with, as of March 27, a total of 85,356 cases of COVID-19 resulting in the deaths of 1,246 people.

But let's agree that COVID-19 is a disaster and ask what the appropriate steps are to deal with it. One of the first observations about any disaster is that the quantity demanded of many goods greatly exceeds the supply. There is a shortage. The natural market response when there is a shortage is for prices to rise. Rising prices produce several beneficial effects. They reduce the incentive for people to hoard while suppliers, motivated by the prospect of higher profits, are incentivized to produce more of the good in short supply.
Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have anti-price gouging laws that prohibit "excessive and unjustified" increases in prices of essential consumer goods and services during a federal, state or local declared emergency. Price gouging is legally defined as charging 10 to 25% more for something than you charged for it during the month before an emergency. Sellers convicted of price gouging face stiff fines and perhaps prison terms.

But what about hoarding? Often hoarding creates the shortage. In uncertain times, people may purchase three dozen eggs instead of one dozen. They may want to maintain stockpiles of canned goods and buy up large quantities of cleaners, paper towels and toilet paper. This kind of behavior has left some with overflowing freezers, shelves of sanitizers and garages full of toilet paper while their neighbors are left either wanting for the same items or paying what some call "excessive and unjustified" prices.
While it's difficult to get beyond emotions, the fact is that consumers are not forced to buy products for the higher (gouged) price. If they pay, it is likely because they see themselves as being better off acquiring the good than the alternative - keeping their money in their pocket. Higher prices charged have a couple of unappreciated benefits. First, they get people to economize on the use of the good whose price has risen. That is higher prices reduce demand and encourage conservation. That helps with the disaster.
With higher prices, profit-seeking suppliers know that they can make more money by bringing additional quantities of the goods to the market. This increases the supply of goods, which helps to drive prices back down. Anti-price gouging laws disrupt these two very important functions of the marketplace and enhance and prolong a disaster. In other words, in a disaster, we want people to economize their use of goods and services and we want suppliers of these goods and services to produce more. Rising prices encourage these actions. Anti-price gouging laws stymy those incentives and create the pretense that a disaster does not exist.

Some people might reluctantly agree that allowing prices to rise during a disaster helps allocate resources. But they'll complain that's not the intention of greedy sellers who are out to profit. I say, so what? It's not sellers' intentions that count but what their actions accomplish that's important -- namely, getting people to conserve more and suppliers to produce more.
Many of the problems associated with a disaster would be eliminated if people's buying behavior were the same as it was before the disaster. To get people to behave nicely and consider their neighbors is the ultimate challenge. I think rising prices are the best and most dependable way to get people to be considerate of their fellow man.