Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Long Arc Thinking

Jamelle Bouie is in a sour mood as he reads recent polling analyses:

This isn’t an original thought, but the current environment makes the question much more salient—is it possible to have a multicultural society and a robust welfare state? Or will racial resentment always create a barrier to political solidarity?
I know that a lot of liberals see demographic change as the great hope, but even if the United States becomes a majority-minority country, I’m skeptical that racial resentment will dissipate. Which is to say that if I have a broader question, it’s this: is there room for optimism? Or was the 20th century's period of middle-class prosperity a historical fluke?
So what's case for liberal optimism? It depends a bit on your expectations. Liberals should not expect all their policy hopes fulfilled any time soon.

But at the same time, conservatives are unlikely to have their policy hopes fulfilled either. And that's the case for liberal optimism. Thirty plus years after Ronald Reagan took office and over fifteen years since the Republicans took control of Congress...the major policy setbacks for liberals are, from one point of view, relatively small. There's welfare reform in the 1990s, which some liberals believe was a major setback but others believe was a reasonable policy innovation -- I think there are few liberals who believe that the current system is any good, but few liberals in the 1980s believed AFDC was anything wonderful, either. But I'd count that.

After that, and sticking to Bouie's focus of domestic politics only...there's really not much in terms of policy. Oh, there are plenty of small-scale liberal losses -- but nothing major, and they're balanced out with liberal wins. even ignoring the historic 111th Congress, is there any conservative victory that's as significant since 1980 as the Americans with Disabilities Act?

Now, that's policy; the story is somewhat different when it comes to outcomes. Income stratification and the continuing atrophy of unions are both big losses for liberals. I don't know how to balance that against cleaner air and water, or the preservation of gains such as keeping the elderly out of poverty. A lot of that may depend on the particular priorities of particular liberals.

Meanwhile, on the public opinion front, I don't see major swings there, either. After all, Social Security and Medicare remain as popular as ever (remember that a major source of the unpopularity of ACA is because of the cuts in Medicare it makes, cuts that were perhaps the centerpiece of GOP attack ads in 2010).

And I don't want to minimize anything; some of the policy wins and losses over the last thirty years may not be significant in terms of an overall balance of policy, but they can still matter enormously to the lives of lots of people. It's just that for each gain for conservatives I can think of, it's not hard to come up with one of a similar magnitude for liberals.

Overall, I think most of this has to do with the inherent frustration -- felt by those with strong believes on all sides of the spectrum -- with the incrementalism that's built into the Constitutional system. And it's that frustrating system, rather than any particular partisan outlook, that's the safest bet to continue into the future. It's not certain! It's easy to imagine a future in which conservatives suddenly, whether through legislation or court rulings, finally succeed in repealing large chunks of the New Deal and Great Society programs that are still around and functioning. But it's the safest bet.

109 comments:

  1. Matt Yglesias made this point a couple of years ago: you've got the Social Security reforms of the '80s, the ADA, SCHIP, Medicare Part D, and now Obamacare. If you got rid of all of that, it would be a MASSIVE gutting of the Wellfare State. And yet, those things all came after the Reagan Revolution. Hell, half of it was signed by "small government" Conservatives. That's cause for hope.

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  2. I think the conservative accomplishment since 1980 of lowering the top rate of income tax from 70% to 35% is a more important policy change than the Americans with Disabilities Act. When I was in my 20s in the 1970s, it was very difficult for a talented and hard-working young person to come from the lower middle class and become rich, but with Reagan's massive top bracket tax cuts and the resulting 1980s boom on Wall Street, it became much easier from the 1980s onward. I personally benefitted from this, as my father had a 10th grade education, but I went from being an academic to becoming a Wall Street quant in 1987, at the height of the Reagan boom, and now I'm a multi-millionaire hedge fund research head. For economic coservatives, the opportunity for the smart and hard-working to become really rich is at the heart of our political philosophy, and the measure of success is the top marginal income tax rate. By this measure, economic conservatives have been extremely successful since 1980.

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    1. Anon: you were the exception, both in time and for your time. And the redistributive policies of the government lead to more, not less, income mobility.

      http://www.bos.frb.org/economic/wp/wp2011/wp1110.htm

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    2. Truly refreshing to see someone freely admit that conservatism is nothing but take-no-prisoners greed. For the trifecta, tell me that you are also a fundamentalist Christian.

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    3. When I was in my 20s in the 1970s, it was very difficult for a talented and hard-working young person to come from the lower middle class and become rich.....

      Sorry, this is nonsense. Since we're trading life stories here, I grew up in the lower middle class (income for a family of 4 in 1975: $5,000 and change), but had high SAT scores, and so in the mid-'70s every elite college in the country was waving scholarships in my face. Harvard wrote to me asking me to please consider applying. That's almost certainly less likely today; not only are the costs to be covered much higher, but high SAT scores don't mean what they once did in this era of expensive test-prep courses. Regardless, anecdotes don't tell the story. As Matt and the study he links to says, mobility has not increased in the last 30 years; just the opposite. If conservatives think otherwise, that's just another bit of right-wing mythology, presumably discovered in the same hall of funhouse mirrors in which the earth is cooling, Obama's a radical socialist and Ireland proved that austerity works.

      The question anyway is not whether individuals can get wealthy, which has always been possible, but whether the mechanisms for getting wealthy are scalable so they reach beyond the occasional anomalous case. To get back to the issue raised in the post, the right has managed to convince itself (and too many others) that anomalous cases are enough, and that we don't need broader, shared prosperity or the social solidarity it depends on and reinforces. People like Anon have got theirs, and that's all that matters. But that's an unsustainable way of thinking. The 1% ultimately depends on the other 99%, and if they can't figure out for themselves, they're asking to be rudely reminded of it.

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    4. Jeff:

      I don't know that Harvard is a good example of your thesis. There has been a strong trend over the last 10 years towards increased college affordability for students from the lower half of the economic spectrum, such that many elite colleges and universities offer free rides to low income students or guarantee that low income students graduate debt-free. See list here: http://www.finaid.org/questions/noloansforlowincome.phtml

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    5. Gordon, thanks, that is good to know. I'm just not inclined to follow our friend Anon in crediting this to the Reagan years. It's pretty clear that schools like that have been trying to "de-preppify" themselves for a good long time now. And more power to them.

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  3. For a fair weighting, I really think one needs to add two big things to the domestic policy front, both of which go in the negative column for liberals: financial deregulation (including forms of financial re-regulation that favored the powerful) and tax policy (especially for income tax progressivity, capital gains rates, and enforcement of corporate tax).

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    1. And to be explicit about the connection with the welfare state: I think we've been seeing how losses on the terrain of financial regulation and tax policy can lead to the weakening of the welfare state and to imperiling its political and financial sustainability. One understanding of neoliberalism was that its policy priorities would unleash prosperity which could be put toward securing/helping the less well off, but it's debatable how much sustainable prosperity those neoliberal policies have created and it's debatable if the beneficiaries of those policies have shown themselves willing to support and fund a solid welfare state.

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    2. What has imperiled the welfare state even more is the growth of the expense of the welfare state. Basically, the spending on SS and healthcare is so high as to be unsustainable no matter what the taxation rate of higher incomes is.

      There are a lot of factors that go in to how high those costs are, including sweet deals to Pharma, etc., but that's only going to be part of cost containment, if we try it. There seems to be no faster way to lose an election than to say you want to rein in Medicare spending, and here's your plan to do it.

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    3. PF - Good points, but when it comes to the bubble, liberals have been just as supportive of cheap credit consumerism as conservatives. You make the most important point here -- it's entirely unsustainable.

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    4. ModeratePoli and Couves,
      Yes, I agree that health care spending growth is unsustainable; social security, not so much. And yes, I'd agree that policies supported by the Democratic Party and by a significant portion of liberals within it helped get us into this mess.

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    5. Oops, hit enter too quickly. Meant to add: yes, dynamics of credit-driven consumerism have been exploited by both parties.

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  4. While you can point to conservative victories like reducing capital gains taxes to the point I pay more money to the government that Mitt Romney there are liberal victories in the realm of economic policy that are just as big like continuing the raise the minimum wage and expanding access to SNAP (what used to be food stamps) or things like the earned income tax credit. The point is that there will always be a dynamic political struggle between different ideological factions in our system of government and trying to see an end game, any sort of final conservative or liberal victory, is a fool's errand. Just look at what was predicted after the 04 and 08 presidential races.

    That said I'm a kind of pessimistic person so I find myself more willing to agree with people like PF in what you might call "The Wire Thesis". I've named it after the co-creator of TV show The Wire David Simmon's belief that he's said in interviews and in lectures that in what he calls "postmodern capitalism" or what you might call "neo-liberalism" individual human beings have less and less value. But that's just me.

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    1. longwalk - The ironic thing is, our socioeconomic system has many protections for the individual. But nothing that can be described as "a system" can really value the individual in any meaningful way. Real human connection isn't a need that can be provided for us by business or government (although they can certainly get in the way).

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  5. I think the New Deal and the mid-20th century's period of middle-class prosperity was a historical fluke. The world is run by rich assholes and they win more than they lose. With the Supreme Court holding that money = speech and corporations = people, it will get worse for a long, long time, before it ever gets better.

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  6. @JB you should consider Dan Drezner's review of season 2 of Game of Thrones for a COTD. He called Theon's last big speech "the best rejoinder for the Great Speech Theory of Politics I've ever seen"

    http://drezner.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/06/05/how_game_of_thrones_found_its_political_groove

    (spoiler warning)

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  7. I think it's worth pointing out that Bouie risks running together two distinct issues. One is the issue of pluralism and solidarity: "is it possible to have a multicultural society and a robust welfare state? Or will racial resentment always create a barrier to political solidarity?" The other is about growth and historical contingency: "was the 20th century's period of middle-class prosperity a historical fluke?"

    It's particularly important to disaggregate these because one could argue that the US's post-WW2 global economic position is what secured mid-century middle-class prosperity, not the welfare state back then. And what welfare state there was, wasn't that equitable for minorities. For one such argument, see Ira Katznelson on the mid-century welfare state: http://www.amazon.com/When-Affirmative-Action-White-Twentieth-Century/dp/0393328511/

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  8. I think its more than frustration at the incrementalism in the Constitution that is frustrating liberals. Many liberals are also angry because they believe they lack the tools and resources that conservative advocates possess. Liberals feel that they are basically frozen out of the debate.

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    1. And conservatives envy the institutional support enjoyed by mainstream liberalism. Of course, from the perspective of the left, it often seems like this liberal establishment does more to silence them than to give them voice.

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    2. Yes, what Couves said.

      I think all of these beliefs are exaggerated (we could argue about exactly what the reality is and exactly how strong the perceptions are), but I think that gets it about right.

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  9. "But at the same time, conservatives are unlikely to have their policy hopes fulfilled either. And that's the case for liberal optimism"

    This assumes that politics is a zero-sum game. In fact, it's a less than zero sum game in which both sides think they are losing. The debt-ceiling deal was viewed as a total capitulation by liberals, but did conservatives see it as total victory? Of course not, when they didn't want the debt ceiling to be raised at all. Lots of liberals (and especially left-of-liberals) think that progressivism has been in retreat in the face of deregulatory "neoliberalism" since the Reagan era. But conservatives talk as if there's been this massive explosion of government in the same time frame.

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  10. Many commenters have mentioned deregulation and lowering of marginal tax rates as major victories for conservatives, but these probably don't count for much for the small-government wing of conservatives who want to government to scale back, not just grow slower. For this group, it's just been one disaster after another.

    I didn't know how that felt until I read this piece from RedState. After reading it, I felt like I had walked in their shoes. It's long, but very readable.

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    1. I think that equating liberalism as the philosophy of large government is somewhat, although not totally, simplistic. Same with equating conservatism with small govt. Having said that, I can see how one can make a case for conservative despair. The forces pushing for larger government are myriad and inexorable (everything from military technology to aging baby boomers to decaying infrastructure). Given the changes that seem baked into the cake, I can see how conservatives might panic, since unless radical changes are made the trends will lead automatically to a "liberal" outcome. The case for liberal optimism then, I suppose, is that the constitutional order is designed to prevent the kind of radical changes conservatives need.

      I just don't know if I really buy all this. It all seems much too schematic and reductionist. For one thing, I rather suspect that most people care much more about outcomes than policy. I am not really sure if any side is all that pleased with the outcomes of the past thirty years (or rather all sides have things that they absolutely loathe). And, as Jamelle says, we should not get completely hung up on economic matters when social and cultural and racial factors are also enormous. Still, for what it is worth, there you have it.

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    2. "Small-government conservatism" has indeed failed to make headway, and for a simple reason: The public at large doesn't care about the "size of government," they care about the goods and services they want provided. There is ample historical experience at this point demonstrating that private companies and markets are good at providing some things -- houses, cars, shoes, big-screen TVs -- and generally bad at providing others, notably affordable medical care, education, police and fire protection and national defense. There is also ample evidence that countries can prosper while devoting much larger shares of GDP to public provision of those goods than the US has historically done.

      So to most people, calling for "smaller government" is meaningless. It's like the guy in Spinal Tap who thinks the important thing isn't what his amplifier does but what number he can set it at. Which leads back to Boule's point: to the extent that American conservatism has occasionally managed to mobilize opposition to "government," it's pretty clear that this is code, and what's really being mobilized is people's reluctance to let other (*cough*black*cough*) people in on the goods.

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    3. I should clarify--I don't personally subscribe to small-government conservatism, though I see some merit in it. However, I agree that it hasn't been successful because it's not really what most people want.

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    4. One of the issues here is that small-government conservatives do have some polling results they can point to that, if you only look at them, make it seem as if they're far more popular than they are (and, to a lesser extent, the same applies to liberals).

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  11. "Income stratification and the continuing atrophy of unions are both big losses for liberals."

    http://blogs.jta.org/philanthropy/article/2009/10/05/1008323/at-least-139-of-the-forbes-400-are-jewish

    Why do liberals believe that there will be less racial resentment as soon as enough non-Jewish white people die off and are replaced by "Hispanics?" I haven't noticed much kumbaya between AAs and Mexican immigrants.

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    1. Can I convince you not to post such intentional loathsome statements? Probably not. But I like telling the truth, and your statements are useless and noxious.

      You are nothing but a troll here. If JB ever decides to block you, the rest of us will rejoice. Until then, maybe we'll all just wall off your comments, which will hang on the page as non-sequiturs, just like this one. You might as well be writing about Paris Hilton.

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    2. ModeratePoli,

      Non-loathsome Bouie?:

      "I think you can attribute downscale white skepticism of the Affordable Care Act to the a broader disdain for programs that are perceived as helping minorities."

      "Or will racial resentment always create a barrier to political solidarity?"

      Do you think that it would help the cause if the wrong kind of whites read this stuff?

      And from the SPLC, since you seem unfamiliar with race realities:

      http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2005/summer/the-rift

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    3. backyarddownscalewhiteJune 6, 2012 at 6:35 AM

      I'm imagining Bouie talking to elements of my family who are friends with AAs and choose to work with AAs (unlike John Podesta and Winnie Stachelberg):

      My peeps: I want to shrink the govt because all they do is throw money away, create poverty, create dependence, shaft me with affirmative action, and decide how big my drinking cup can be.

      Bouie: No, no, the reason that downscale whites like you want less govt is because you harbor race resentment and want POCs to suffer.

      M.P.: Well that was very insightful.

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    4. Hey, take it easy on backyard foundry. He doesn't mean to be loathsome, he just doesn't know the first thing about politics, society, ethics, or economics.

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    5. backyarddownscalewhiteJune 6, 2012 at 8:10 AM

      Well, I know that Jamelle Bouie would call me a racist "downscale white" which is why I'm dropping the "foundry" in deference to him and our blog host who finds nothing comment-worthy about "downscale white" or "hanging tree."

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  12. Where has modern 'socialism' been the most successful? Japan, Denmark, Pacific China? Countries/regions that are usually small and always non-diverse. The 'revelation' that a geographically sprawling, culturally diverse nation like the US would struggle with the Great Society feels a bit like the revelation that the sun comes up in the east.

    From this thread I infer that Bouie and the liberals think our difficulties arise from some failing in our moral fiber vis a vis the Danes or Japanese or Pacific Chinese (which, come to think of it, means those Tibetans must be complete assholes for not playing along with the Great Society of their Pacific 'brethren').

    American failing in this regard is inferred from the diagnosis that US as minority-majority country would make things worse. I couldn't disagree more. Say the US evolved to ~15% Hispanic, 15% AA, 15% Old Europe, 15% New Europe, 15% Indian Subcontinent, 15% Other Asian and 10% Other/Mix. Contra everyone else on this thread, for me that would be the best thing that could possibly happen in the US, as it would spread out claims on opportunity enough potentially to diminish imbalances that lead to abuse.

    Or maybe the lefties here are right, maybe we all just need to smarten up and achieve enlightenment like the Danes.

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    1. Actually, I think you are onto something there, CSH. Let me take this a slightly different direction:

      Much of the problem with our current political culture, one might argue, is that we have a group that has historically been dominant that is in the process of losing its dominance. That is never an easy thing. Add to this fact that the group in question (that is, in this case, non-Hispanic whites) still has enormous resources at its disposal, is not yet in a minority overall, and still retains overwhelming majority status through most of the country (geographically speaking). This does not lead members of said group to feel either secure (they are, after all, facing inexorable trends that they can read about or see on TV every single day) or resigned (they are, after all, still in an incredibly strong position and still have actual dominance over most of the landmass). Without feeling either resigned or secure the only chance is, well, to fight.

      Say we reach the situation described in CSH's post. One hopes that if we get there without disaster, all groups will feel more secure. After all, as he points out, opportunity will now no longer be concentrated with one group, but much more diffuse and, one hopes, more available to all groups. Also the very experience of getting there without disaster MAY (big if there) help calm people's dread of living in such a varied society.

      Put a little more cynically, all groups may find that they have no choice. With no clear majority groups. everyone will HAVE to cooperate with people of other groups to get anything done, whether they like it or not. Also there is the ever-rising tide of mixed marriages and multi-racial children. As Arthur Schlessinger , Jr. once put it, "Never fear. In the end, sex will save us all."

      And now I'm going to say something controversial. My mother is 82 years old and has lived all her life in the part of the country that has no use for President Obama whatsoever. When he was running back in 2008 I asked her casually about the presidential race and she said "It frightens me to death." I asked her why, wincing inwardly (remember, she is a small town southerner born in 1930) . What she said surprised me. She said, "He's a good man, I think. But there are a lot of mean hateful white people in the world. If he wins one of them will kill him, and then the black people will want to kill all of us, and I couldn't blame them for it."

      Well, he did win, which is something I think most of us thought we would not see this side of the old-age home. And her fears haven't been realized, for all the hatefulness and obstruction and divisive rhetoric, no bullets have flown. Forty years ago, no one would have believed it. Heck, four years ago a lot of people didn't believe it (my mother is by no means an unintelligent woman, and I suspect a lot of people thought the same as she did, but lacked the nerve to say it).

      So, maybe, just maybe, things won't be so bad after all.

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  13. Very interesting points, CSH. As a sidenote, however, China actually doesn't have much of a welfare state/safety net in health insurance or retirement. That's partly why people strive to save so much there. It's brand of atrophying socialism was always more about public ownership and direction, more than extensive social services. Japan also doesn't have a particularly big welfare state because it's never really collected an exceptional amount in taxes: it's revenue percentage is, as I recall, about equal to a middle-of-the-road European country or similar to the US in some key respects.

    But Denmark, as an example, is much more on the mark: it, along with other Scandinavian countries and several western/central European countries (France, Belgium, Austria, Netherlands, Germany) have the largest, most elaborate welfare states. Doing a very quick search, here's one rough metric to work with, public social expenditure as % of GDP:
    http://www.oecd.org/document/9/0,3746,en_2825_501397_38141385_1_1_1_1,00.html

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  14. Hey PF + Anastasios: thanks for the helpful comments in response to my diatribe. You know what this subthread has impressed upon me, that I hadn't realized previously? Republican indulgence of the xenophobes in the Tea Party is a significant strategic error, in honor of Euro2012, its a potentially disastrous own goal.

    If we got to a demographically balanced society (a big if, as Anastasios accurately notes), you could think of that almost like second-level Marxism ("when all ethnic groups are equal, there's no basis for any ethnic group to exploit another"). In the populace at large, this outcome would then diminish public support for one important tendril of the creeping Great Societification that we conservative-types generally loathe.

    I admit I never noticed this before, but it is an obvious mistake for conservatives. How do we fix it...?

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    1. CSH, I can help a little with that one. American society, at least for the last hundred years or so, has already achieved demographic balance or "majority-minority"-ism, with a distribution of different groups like the one you posit, in the low double digits each. What I mean is that the category we currently call "white" is an amalgam of what were previously seen as minorities, indeed minority "races": the German race, the Irish/Celtic race, the Italian race, the Slavic race, etc. Over time these groups all became "white." This was not always easily achieved, but by the time of the New Deal -- and perhaps helping make the New Deal possible -- these groups by and large no longer saw themselves in competition. Then, they forgot they were groups at all (for most purposes, excepting the occasional ethnic-themed parade or banquet).

      Extending the logic, there will never be a "majority-minority" US any more than there is today. By the time we reach such a point, Hispanic and Asian whites will just be whites like all the others. I'm very confident of that; it would disrupt a very clear pattern of history for things to go any other way. What I wish I could say as confidently is that African-Americans will likewise become "white." I guess I do think that will happen too, and Barack Obama is at the leading edge of that development -- just another politician, for good or ill, in the view of most voters -- but clearly on that one there are still big obstacles ahead.

      Say what you will about the Great Society, but it was one attempt -- our only major effort since Reconstruction -- to get over those obstacles more quickly. It involved using federal power to (a) smash the Jim Crow system and (b) try to enforce and finance equal opportunity. Part (a) largely worked, and conservatives now not only accept those reforms but (hilariously) try to take credit for them. Part (b) is the part that remains divisive. Perhaps it was premature, although if I were ML King, I too would have been saying "We Can't Wait." But I'm open to alternative approaches. Conservatives sometimes claim to have these, but the problem is, they don't really. They think you can just leave this and every other problem to "the market," which didn't work before and isn't going to get it done now. Or they say the problem is already behind us, equal opportunity has been achieved, and all we need to do now is be "color-blind." (They like to quote King on this, opportunistically ignoring the fact that he was describing a goal yet to be achieved in the future.)

      So to finally but incompletely answer your question, I would advise conservatives to think about how we can speed up the "whitening" of all groups without just blithely positing that it's already happened. Failing anything else, Great Society approaches, in some modified form, still seem to me the most likely route, but I'm open to other sincere suggestions, and I think many other liberals would be too.

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    2. CSH,

      Are there extant examples of this racially balanced society?

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    3. Maybe one way for conservatives to fix this, as you say, would be to take very seriously positive efforts to achieve equality of opportunity (as opposed to focusing on this as a mere rhetorical trope and as opposed to focusing on negative efforts to prevent government encroachment). This need not involve repudiating core conservative beliefs, but it would involve acknowledging a few things much more forcefully and explicitly than modern conservatives find congenial. To wit that the problems of racism and xenophobia still persist, that income inequality really is a danger for any number of well-documented reasons, that public health is a national security issue in a very real sense, etc.

      None of this would entail becoming liberals. It would mean convincing people that conservatives take social problems very seriously as a matter of real policy, as opposed to a set of talking points. It runs the danger of a return to Bushism, and would infuriate hard core libertarians and Tea Party types.
      But it would please a lot of other people. In short, when conservatives return to a tradition of saying, "We understand your problems and acknowledge it is our duty to try and fix them -- we just disagree with liberals about the most efficient way to fix them," then the troubles you describe will be largely over. But as long as so many conservatives deny either that the problems exist or that they have a duty to address them, then the troubles will continue.

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    4. Anastasios,

      "Maybe one way for conservatives to fix this, as you say, would be to take very seriously positive efforts to achieve equality of opportunity"

      Why do Asians have a higher median income and longer life expectancy than whites and do steps need to be taken to fix this disparity? Which racial and ethnic disparities matter enough to use force to fix them?

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    5. Which racial and ethnic disparities matter enough to use force to fix them?

      Um, maybe the ones that came about because of force, i.e. generations of slavery, oppression, family and community destruction, and theft of land on an epic scale? Maybe those ones?

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    6. Anastiasios - If Republicans sometimes have trouble acknowledging problems, the Democrats sometimes have trouble acknowledging the failure of their solutions. Treating everything as "a national security issue" does not generally lead to a rational response. Republicans share in this problem, but there are at least some conservatives who see things differently.

      And of course Democrats have their own blind spots -- inflation is no big deal and the government monopoly on education works just great.

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    7. Jeff,

      Does that mean AAs and Elizabeth Warrens, but not "Hispanics?"

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    8. Elizabeth Warren obviously doesn't need our help, but Native Americans were enslaved, had their communities destroyed and most of the continent stolen from them. Today's Hispanics are heirs of groups from which the American Southwest was seized in a war that even many Americans of the time considered illegal. The United States as we know it was built on that act of seizure, and can't very well just ignore the long-term problems it was bound to create. African-Americans -- well, where to begin? The ancestors of most of them were hauled out of Africa by force, put to work at hard labor, legally prohibited even from learning to read, and bought and sold with no regard for their family or community attachments. Then they were politically disenfranchised and held in peonage for a few generations, subject to legalized discrimination in housing and education, and then crowded into urban ghettos in cities whose tax bases fled to the (red-lined) suburbs.

      Gee, why would any of these groups be underperforming whites or Asians? I can't imagine. Must just be their bad DNA.

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    9. Jeff,

      Is their a liberal theory that accounts for the facts that Asians have a higher median wage and longer life expectancy than whites and that Jews (about half of whom were war refugees from Hitler) are monumentally richer and better off than majority whites?

      I take it that you're saying Mexicans and those South of Mexico are to be given priority over poor and middle class people from Europe because of some war against Mexicans in 1845? And that this should hold true if one white grandparent from Cuba is the source of the Hispanicity?

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    10. I'm saying that you can't seize half of Mexico and then be surprised that your population includes large and perhaps increasing numbers of Mexicans. As to a liberal theory, yeah: Asians came here for the most part voluntarily and not as slaves, which meant they could maintain family and community cohesiveness. Similarly for Jewish immigrants, another group that likewise benefited from Old World traditions that included respect for education. African Americans and Native Americans had their old communities destroyed or badly disrupted, and were systematically denied education out of fear that it would lead to "social leveling" -- intermarriage, political rights and other such white nightmare scenarios.

      Those are very different sets of historical experiences. Ironically, conservatives themselves talk about the importance of "cultural capital" when they want to argue that, for instance, the Western countries should maintain their religious commitments (the Protestant work ethic and all that). But then they seem oblivious to the generations of damage that you do when you take a particular existing community and destroy most of its cultural capital as a matter of systematic policy.

      Turning the question back around, what do YOU think makes for higher life expectancy and median wages? Do you suppose that African-Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics just prefer to make less money and die younger? And why would that be? Genetics? If you reject the classic racist explanations, then it seems to me there's no alternative but to grant that all human beings would like long, healthy and prosperous lives, and that if some groups are struggling in that regard, that has to do with the histories of those groups, and specifically with the continuing effects of centuries of mistreatment that, you know, they didn't exactly ask for.

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    11. Wow, this got interesting. First, to Anastasios: I am not, in any official sense, a conservative. My ideology is conservative, I prefer conservative solutions, and I'd be easily identified as much more conservative than most in this community. But is partisan identification an inherent aspect of who we are? For example, if the ship is leering and about to sink but for the ballast of my partisan views - they're going overboard. And I'm not going with them.

      Then to Jeff's observation about assimilation. As is often the case back here, you know a lot more about the topic than I. Disclaimers aside, I'm not convinced about the assimilation you forecast. Its one thing for the Italians and Irish in the North Shore/South Shore split in Boston to come together for the country; it strikes me that its something else entirely to expect substantial intermarriage between the Vietnamese, say, and the Scandinavians.

      Perhaps my view is tainted by my connections to the Canadians, with their proud mosaic (instead of our melting pot) that retains cultural identities. We have friends among the large Ukrainian community in Toronto; I understand that there is a large, Russian-speaking Russian minority in the Ukraine, its been there for years, and the Ukrainian ethnics haven't much use for the Russians. Perhaps without the hostility of proximity, why do we think the Vietnamese and Norwegians will intermix any better?

      A more sobering comparison might be what happened to the Sunni and Shi'a communities in Baghdad after the lid of Saddam's secular society was blown off in favor of a Shi'a regime. As you no doubt know, the Saddam years were characterized by extensive intermingling (and intermarrying) between the kissing cousin Sunni and Shi'a. Once the fascist Shi'a took over, the whole thing blew up overnight - if the Sunnis and Shias can't make it work without external forces (i.e. if a lot of mixed marriages isn't enough), why will the Vietnamese and Norwegians assimilate here?

      Finally, to my embattled friend Backyard: has it ever happened? Probably not. Maybe it never could. But it would be a really really really really good thing if it did, and idealism ain't just for liberals anymore!

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    12. Jeff - Conservatives are very aware of how minorities have been mistreated and how that mistreatment is culturally inherited through the generations, but it doesn't necessarily follow that we can reform people by fiat. Some well-intended policies may even be harmful.

      Regarding Hispanics, that's a group that's much broader that simply Mexicans. Do you really think they're all poor because we took Mexican land? And why should Argentines benefit from minority status but not Brazilians?

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    13. Jeff,

      "I'm saying that you can't seize half of Mexico and then be surprised that your population includes large and perhaps increasing numbers of Mexicans."

      Your story: Mexico lost a war six generations ago from which it couldn't recover (even though Mexico compares well with South and Central America) and this is why downscale whites and downscale Asians should be discriminated against by the federal government and universities in order to raise the median wage of people who had an ancestor who spoke Spanish but may be any race.

      "Similarly for Jewish immigrants, another group that likewise benefited from Old World traditions that included respect for education."

      Hispanics don't respect education but Jews do, which is why war-refugee Jews are massively wealthier and more powerful than gentile whites who... also don't respect education very much?

      Asians maintained their families which is why it takes them one generation to go from ghetto shop-keeper to upper middle class? And then to make more than whites because enslaved whites couldn't maintain their families?

      Hispanics live longer than non-Hispanic whites. Of course, AA women live longer than white men, too.

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    14. This has gotten interesting. CSH, my remarks were just answering the question you posed, to wit "How do we fix it?". If the we in question are outside the bounds of the conservative movement, then I don't think "we" can fix it. The conservatives have to fix this problem themselves.

      Maybe one society moving in the direction CSH mentioned might be Brazil? Here we have a greatly varied and complex culture characterized by a great deal of cultural and genetic mixing but also a great deal of tension. In recent years Brazil has been moving in the direction of more stability and success while maintaining their "rainbow" polity. If you will it has elements of multiculturalism re CSH and assimilation re Jeff. Just a suggestion, and probably an ignorant one.

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    15. OK, here we go.....

      @CSH: .....why will the Vietnamese and Norwegians assimilate here?

      I can't be sure, but put briefly, my reason for optimism is that those communities, unlike the Sunni and Shia, are not led by demagogues that have been stoking ethnic grievances as a political strategy for a long time. Also they find themselves now in a much more robust political culture and society that has a lot more experience assimilating diverse groups and has developed various traditions and institutions conducive to this.

      @Couves: Conservatives are very aware of how minorities have been mistreated and how that mistreatment is culturally inherited through the generations.....

      Really? They could've fooled me. The conservative movement certainly doesn't focus much on this.

      .....but it doesn't necessarily follow that we can reform people by fiat.

      "By fiat" is a caricature. We can make changes through law and policy that encourage new cultural patterns to develop. I think by the '70s and '80s, which are periods I can remember, it was already far less common than it had been a generation earlier for businesses to want to discriminate against customers by race, and it was rapidly becoming socially unacceptable to discriminate against job candidates and tenants and bank-borrowers by race. Why? Because the legal option to do so had been taken away, and the people involved in those various kinds of dealings had to adjust. Before long, you either lost your enthusiasm for seating some people in the "colored section" or at the back of the bus, or you got out of that business and left it to others who didn't care to make those distinctions in the first place.

      Some well-intended policies may even be harmful.

      Absolutely! I was not demanding immediate enactment of a liberal wish-list; I was answering the suggestion that some groups do better than others for no apparent reason (except, by implication, that some are lazy and shiftless or what-have-you). In other words, I'm not in favor of doing just anything, but I'm even more not in favor of doing nothing. Hence:

      Regarding Hispanics, that's a group that's much broader that simply Mexicans. Do you really think they're all poor because we took Mexican land? And why should Argentines benefit from minority status but not Brazilians?

      You have allowed our friend backyard to play his little sleight-of-hand magic trick, where he says something extremely general and then assumes that whatever answer you give must make you an advocate of all kinds of specifics that he didn't previously mention. He asked, "Which racial and ethnic disparities matter enough to use force to fix them?" So I answered that. If anyone can find where, in so doing, I've advocated affirmative action for Argentinians, please do let me know. "Using force," to me, primarily means government enforcement of antidiscrimination laws. I suppose you could say that those don't favor any particular group (and indeed, I favor using the same force on behalf of backyard's "downscale whites"), but their point was obviously to help correct great historical injustices that fell heavily on some groups and less so on others. So yeah, I favor a legal regime that, as backyard would put it, points guns at private businesses and tells them they can't refuse to serve African-Americans. In that I depart from some of today's libertarians, like Sen. Rand Paul, who would very much like to inform us he's actually against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but feels he can't now that he's in active politics.

      Which brings us (*sigh*) to:

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    16. @backyard: I see you refuse to answer your own question when it's turned back on you. So you have no theory of what accounts for disadvantages in some groups. Noted.

      Beyond that, see what I just said to Couves. YOU assumed we were talking about affirmative action; I said nothing about that. What you actually referred to was "using force" and asking which groups. Hispanics -- using that imprecise word within the meaning it normally has in these discussions -- have been historically disadvantaged. The Mexican population is an amalgam that includes the descendants of Indians who were about as badly oppressed by the first European settlers as it's possible for one people to be by another. Lots of those people already lived in the territory the US (*cough*) "acquired" in the 1840s.

      So, guess what? They're still here, and there are strong cultural and regional ties that make it relatively easy for more of them to in-migrate. The conservative movement is based in part on panic about this. I myself reject that panic and favor some sort of accommodation to it ("paths to citizenship" and so forth). These, of course, would involve government policies en-force-able over the objections of those who object. You could call that force deployed on behalf of (some) Hispanics in recognition of the historical realities of the past. And to those who did object, I would say, well, if you don't want your country to be partly Mexico, don't seize part of Mexico. But once it's been seized, it behooves you to figure out a rational way of managing the situation and dealing with the consequences without stigmatizing particular groups.

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    17. Jeff - If all you're talking about is anti-discrimination laws, then I certainly agree with you there. Regarding Hispanics, I'm not sure I follow -- you only consider Mexicans to be minorities?

      Conservatives don't dwell on racial issues, but there is concern that social welfare programs have contributed to social problems and the breakdown of the family in some minority communities. Reservations are another good example of why minorities should avoid government "assistance" as much as possible.

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    18. Couves, not only Mexicans, but it was seizing Mexico, more than any other single event, that made all this America's problem. The term "Hispanic" is confusing, in part because the disadvantages I'm referring to didn't originate in Spain. They're fundamentally a subset of the brutal treatment of Native Americans (including, here, those of Central and South America).

      And with respect, I think you're whitewashing the conservative view of these matters. There are intelligent critiques of the failings of government intervention, but that's not what drives movement conservatism. The prevailing view on the right appears to be that racial disadvantages may have existed once, but they were done away with in 1954-64, and since then, whatever problems people have are their own damn fault.

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    19. Jeff,

      "I see you refuse to answer your own question when it's turned back on you. So you have no theory of what accounts for disadvantages in some groups. Noted."

      I just showed how implausible your arguments are by recontextualizing them slightly. Why would you stick with failed hypotheses just because the person who showed that you're wrong won't offer counters?

      "YOU assumed we were talking about affirmative action; I said nothing about that."

      Are you saying that there should be affirmative action for Hispanics, because that's what I'm talking about... the negative effects on downscale Asians and downscale whites is what interest me, not whether racists are induced to serve lunch to AAs.

      "Hispanics -- using that imprecise word within the meaning it normally has in these discussions -- have been historically disadvantaged."

      I'm talking about how the federal govt defines the word and uses guns to effect policies. Is this a case where you just assume that the govt works the way you think it should?

      And when I show you that you're views don't conform with reality would you show that you recognize? As far as I can tell, you're impervious to argument:

      http://abcnews.go.com/m/story?id=11883156

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    20. Jeff - I really can’t see how Hispanics have been universally victimized by the US. Even with Mexicans, it’s a real stretch to blame their problems on us. To compare them to African Americans and Native Americans is way off base (Of course, both groups were terribly treated in Mexico, by Hispanics, but that’s not our doing). Frankly, I’m in favor of making legal immigration much easier, so we may just be arguing over words here.

      You’re right, the conservative movement primarily treats minorities as individuals, not as groups. That’s probably a very healthy thing -- being told you own your life is much more empowering than being told you are a victim who deserves to be made whole. Gov’t policy can help with that, by ensuring that people aren’t discriminated against, but people ultimately have to make it on their own.

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    21. Jeff,

      The prevailing view of the racist cons I read is that AAs will always be poorer than everyone else (like Africans in every other country are) but that US history means that everyone else will always have to subsidize them. Many call this the "Slavery Tax."

      They believe that this is a surmountable problem, but that the Hispanic situation (as it actually exists) is completely different. That there's no way to have anything but endless strife if upscale whites pander to Hispanics who don't even live here.

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    22. @Couves: ".....You’re right, the conservative movement primarily treats minorities as individuals, not as groups. That’s probably a very healthy thing....."

      And also VERY DAMN CONVENIENT after centuries in which people were disadvantaged on the basis of their membership in groups.

      Obviously, you and I just disagree about the value of government programs. Some have worked; some haven't. A serious discussion gets into the details, evaluates different efforts on their merits and looks to build on the things that worked. "You're all on your own now" is not serious.

      @backyard: "I just showed how implausible your arguments are by recontextualizing them slightly. Why would you stick with failed hypotheses just because the person who showed that you're wrong won't offer counters?

      Sorry, I have no idea what that paragraph means. What is your theory of why certain groups underperform others? You're the one who brought this up.

      .....the negative effects on downscale Asians and downscale whites is what interest me, not whether racists are induced to serve lunch to AAs.

      Different people are interested in different things. Oddly, there are still people in this country who are interested in the appalling treatment that was dealt out to AAs for three centuries. They are not going to stop being interested in that because you aren't.

      Is this a case where you just assume that the govt works the way you think it should?

      Nope.

      .....there's no way to have anything but endless strife if upscale whites pander to Hispanics who don't even live here.

      I agree, and I'm not in favor of "pandering." But let me review some facts that it appears not everyone here fully understands. The Spanish came to the Americas starting around 1500 and subjected the people they found here to absolutely brutal, indefensible treatment -- even some of their own people, particularly the Dominican friars like Las Casas, recognized that they were seeing a historic crime of epic proportions. I mean, we're talking worse abuses, on the whole, even than those of African-American slavery in the American South.

      Contemporary Mexico, like the rest of Latin America, is the product of those events, plus centuries of intermingling of groups that included the Spanish, the Native Americans, and imported African slaves. It's a complex tangle of varying local histories, but that's the unifying theme. For a long time, the Spanish overlords maintained what amounted to a caste system. And then the US engineered the "cession" of large parts of Mexico to itself in the 1840s, in large part at the urging of southern slaveholders who wanted to extend slave territory westward and maintain their advantage in sectional politics.

      So yeah, not surprisingly, Mexico is a mess. And the US, for good or ill, decided that it wanted Mexico to become a large part of its own territory. And so we have an "immigration" problem that persists to this day. Go figure! Who could have foreseen it?!

      My question to conservatives is, do you have any serious answer to all this? Anything specific? Anything that takes account of these facts? Or do you just want to posture over abstractions, like "group rights" and "personal responsibility"? Because if that's the case, there's not much left to talk about.

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    23. I should also mention that Mexico of the past 150 years -- I mean, the part we didn't just take for ourselves -- has been an economic colony of the US, variously used and abused on behalf of oil, mining and banking interests and a source of low-wage labor for agricultural and export industries benefitting American industrialists. These projects occasionally ran into trouble, so Mexican and other Central American nations have been periodically subject to US military intervention. Again, if you're serious, explain to me what you think should be done in light of that history, not just in some ideal world of the conservative imagination in which we've all had the same opportunities and are all starting off in life from the same point.

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    24. Jeff,

      I don't have a theory for why Africans are poorer than approx. everyone else in every European country, every country in the Americas, and that 19 of the 20 poorest countries are African. I've read a lot of reasons and none of them are convincing... especially the standard liberal ones. So I'm not offering one because I don't claim to know. You have plenty of theories that justify progressive gun play and they sound ad hoc to me.

      Because liberals always quote Keynes about "when the facts change" I just assume that they are better able to integrate new ideas when they see them than cons are. So, you wrote "Native Americans and Hispanics just prefer to make less money and die younger?" This makes it seem like you don't follow this stuff closely enough to know that Hispanics live longer than non-Hispanic whites. So, are we now in agreement about this where before you were wrong?

      Why are you trying to give us all the history of the Americas? We already know that slave owners wanted the West for slaves and that Northerners like Lincoln wanted to ship AAs off to Liberia. Every person on Earth is the child of enslaved and conquered people. I don't know why this is a good argument for shafting downscale whites and Asians while upscale whites are unaffected by their own policies concerning Hispanics.

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  16. First, backyard: if you haven't already, check out Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. Does a great, non-partisan job of explaining how Sub-Saharan Africa and the New World came to lag their global peers. Also leaves open the issue of why such differences have persisted 50 years or more after the disappearance of the factors from which they arose.

    Then, Jeff: I used to strongly agree with your assessment that material abuse against African and Native Americans justify collective remedy. It makes a huge difference in my current life that my Great-Grandfather was lucky enough to land at Ellis Island and immediately be plugged into a supportive ethnic community, as opposed to being forced onto a plantation, away from succor or even something as simple as being allowed to save a bit of money. That sort of thing has generational effects, and its appropriate for the polity to attempt to remedy it.

    However, my support began to cool somewhat for two reasons: first, no one dares dimensionalize the issues you raise. Progressive policies are, after all, government policies, and thus (as much as we conservatives are skeptical to the contrary) they are rightly subject to quantification. In this case the quantification is difficult; no doubt - but does anyone try?

    As an illustration, suppose I were lucky enough to be invited to your shindig with your buddies from MoveOn. By stereotype that would be a mixed race crowd. Suppose further I pulled out a spreadsheet and announced that I had attempted to take a cut at the capital loss accruing to AA's from years of abuse, and to net that against the benefits from progressive policies, and by my calculation we're about 78% of the way to making that community whole.

    At that point, would someone ask to see my assumptions and conclude, no your discount rate is not right and you seem to be ignoring Missouri, look, by my calculations we're only 55% of the way there? Of course not. The room would grow as tense as if a small dog took a poop in the punch bowl. Then the crowd might begin to chant, like in those weird scenes from Eyes Wide Shut, that I was a terrible racist....

    The second issue is a more pervasive variant of the first: liberals not only resist quantification, they barely acknowledge the reason for such policies whatsoever! Back to your mixed race party: suppose the topic veers toward the persistence of difficulties in the urban AA community. The legacy of racism, to be sure. What if someone piped in, ok, legacy of racism, but via progressive policies we are trying to remedy that, and maybe you all could pull more of your own weight too? Would a discussion of parameters ensue? Or that weird Eyes Wide Shut thing again?

    As an abstraction, I think we would all agree that policies that exist outside of normal, internal-controls quantification do so for the benefit of a party or group in a party. So for liberals its probably easy to see how the sprawling, unchecked national security state benefits corporatist interests that support right-wing causes.

    Here we have another case of a social policy that exists entirely untethered to traditional boundaries. What is the ulterior motive here? Jamelle Bouie sniffs at the suggestion that its to buy his black vote. Ok. Any alternative theories?

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    1. OK, fellas, I gave you my thumbnail history because it appears to me that the ambiguities in the term "Hispanic" have been (cynically?) resolved in favor of the Argentinian aristrocracy, or some such, and that maybe there are people who get into discussions like this literally not knowing the fact that the poor of Latin America are to substantial degrees descendants of Amerindians, with an admixture from African slaves and from the Spanish plantation overseers who raped their low-caste great-great-grandmothers (at least in some not insignificant number of cases). I mean, if you already know all that, great. But it's the problems of that group we're talking about when we use the term "Hispanics" in this context. If you don't like the term, tell it to the Census Bureau.

      Second, I don't hang out with MoveOn. I mention this just to be clear that to the extent I'm defending a more general view, it's that of contemporary liberals and not the left. Those are allied but not identical groups, and they part company partly on the kinds of issues we're discussing. I agree with you, CSH, that there are those who would reject as racist any attempt to calibrate the extent of historical wrongs and the measures needed to rebalance things so that equal opportunity becomes real and not a right-wing slogan excusing inaction. But I don't think that's the liberal or broadly shared progressive view. As exhibit A, I give you Barack Obama, who regularly exhorts members of the disadvantage groups toward greater personal responsibility and initiative. Well, you say, he can do that because he's black himself. So as exhibit B, I give you Bill Clinton, who did the same.

      The point is, in real-world liberal politics, those sorts of reckonings aren't just permitted, they happen all the time as various measures are proposed, hashed out, and subjected to the usual tradeoffs of campaigning and legislating. It's mostly not done on spreadsheets, with exact percentage figures as in your hypothetical, but that's the upshot of what's going on.

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    2. Although I should add that for the past generation, those reckonings and practical calculations have been done almost entirely within the Democratic coalition. Conservatives have just defaulted on the discussion and are currently led by a guy who thinks that solving social problems via personal responsibility means telling people to just borrow money from their parents to start a business. Yeah, that's the ticket! (This is why historical facts are important. If I believed that everyone in the US grew up in Mitt Romney's circumstances, or even my own, my politics wouldn't be what they are. But unlike Mitt Romney, I am capable of imagining that the situations of others might not be identical to my own.)

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    3. No MoveOn guys? Well, I guess I'd still attend your party, but I'm much more likely to stand awkwardly by the punch bowl - unless of course the dog thing.

      The thing about social policies that are untethered from cost-benefit analysis is that, officially, they don't exist. Talk to my righty buddies who dig them some military-industrial complex, and they'll swear to you that they'll back off the minute the evildoers do. So its tethered to criteria. I guess.

      In fairness, the left isn't quite as untethered, in this regard, as the right. Though if ever you were to be damned with faint praise, this would be it. You're right though that its not as bad as I make it seem.

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    4. Jeff - So we're righting the wrongs of the Spanish against themselves? Or was all of this supposedly caused by American dominion? I'm not sure I understand the argument you're making.

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    5. Make that the "Hispanics" against themselves. I understand that they abused Amerindians and Africans, just as we did.

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    6. Well, we're not really righting wrongs at all, I'd say, although I realize you mean in the hypothetical world of proposed policies.

      But if I still haven't been clear: I think that in deciding on such policies, we need to be cognizant of the fact that Africans and Amerindians were held back (at best) on these continents for centuries, that Mexicans are about half Amerindian and black (somewhat less among those already in the US, somewhat more among those currently still in Mexico), which means we're not talking about heirs of the ruling classes, and that the United States, specifically, while certainly not solely responsible, is complicit in the policies that made Mexico and other friends of ours to the south a caste society (i.e. one in which personal initiative avails you nothing) and a generally ill-governed mess. And these injuries were either profound enough, or recent enough, or both, to make it absurd to expect that the playing field is now level.

      Now, that's not to advocate any particular policy, which is a separate discussion. It is to advocate thinking seriously about the problems, allowing that solutions will involve at least some tradeoffs that many Americans won't welcome, and that one party is too busy talking to itself about nonsense like "self-deportation" to have any useful input on this.

      Also, PS to CSH: I did go to a MoveOn party once, a few years ago. Didn't like the buffet. ;)

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    7. Well, we're not really righting wrongs at all, I'd say, although I realize you mean in the hypothetical world of proposed policies.

      But if I still haven't been clear: I think that in deciding on such policies, we need to be cognizant of the fact that Africans and Amerindians were held back (at best) on these continents for centuries, that Mexicans are about half Amerindian and black (somewhat less among those already in the US, somewhat more among those currently still in Mexico), which means we're not talking about heirs of the ruling classes, and that the United States, specifically, while certainly not solely responsible, is complicit in the policies that made Mexico and other friends of ours to the south a caste society (i.e. one in which personal initiative avails you nothing) and a generally ill-governed mess. And these injuries were either profound enough, or recent enough, or both, to make it absurd to expect that the playing field is now level.

      Now, that's not to advocate any particular policy, which is a separate discussion. It is to advocate thinking seriously about the problems, allowing that solutions will involve at least some tradeoffs that many Americans won't welcome, and that one party is too busy talking to itself about nonsense like "self-deportation" to have any useful input on this.

      PS to CSH: I did attend a MoveOn party once. Didn't like the buffet. ;)

      PS to JB: This comment appeared and then got eaten, so I had to repost. Just FYI, no need to recover it now.

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    8. CSH,

      I've been advised to avoid that book because it's so PC, but maybe I should give it a shot.

      Jeff,

      http://abcnews.go.com/m/story?id=11883156

      Are you saying that the US could transfer enough to AAs in one generation that you would call the debt paid? NOBODY on the right believes this because... what happens when 10 years later the same racial disparities come forth? But did you have an actual number in mind?

      Do you now believe that the term "Hispanic" should be stricken and replaced with something less inclusive and actually genetics-based and is anyone on the left trying to make this happen?

      You seem totally disinterested in the idea that it is downscale whites and Asians who are most harmed by Progressive racial policies where upscale whites and Asians avoid the nasty outcomes (I'm avoiding talking about the economic costs to everyone of HR departments). I've found this to be the case with all liberals; they won't address the concept. Have you at least looked at the racial makeup of CAP that I've referenced to get an idea what I'm talking about?

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    9. Jeff,

      Where are you getting this half black stuff? I must have misunderstood because I and Wikipedia have never heard of it before. Should we just take cheek swabs from everyone in the Americas and transfer wealth to them based on the percentage of West African heritage?

      http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afro-Mexican#section_1

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    10. You got me wrong, backyard. In general, I prefer that whatever is done in the way of affirmative action be class-based rather than race-based, i.e. should aim to help downscale whites along with whomever else is disadvantaged (which doesn't automatically include every member of any given racial group). Over time, I think racial categories themselves need to be dispensed with, and as I noted way, way back upthread, they do eventually make themselves obsolete, as I think will happen with our current classifications as well. I just don't support letting oppressors wield racial concepts as weapons for generations, then cynically and opportunistically insist on their total irrelevance as soon as they might inconvenience the majority.

      I have not studied the specifics of the term "Hispanic" and its origin and destiny. From what little I know, I would suppose that the government adopted it because people in the group itself had come to use it, but this may have been a tactical error -- an attempt on the part of a heavily nonwhite, historically oppressed group to get a leg up by presenting itself as European. I don't know. I have not involved myself in discussions about what Hispanics should say or request in their own interest because I'm not in that group myself. (In fact, by ancestry and current income, I'm a downscale white, and certainly am interested in avoiding harm to people like myself.)

      I did read the report you linked to. In light of what I just said, my comments on it my be irrelevant, because I believe that racial and ethnic categories have at best a very provisional usefulness, and then only if used very carefully. But as long as we're distinguishing different groups and tracking different outcomes among them -- wealth, health, longevity, or whatever -- we're necessarily posing the question, Why would that be? And this question has, in my view, only one of two possible answers:

      1. Some groups are just inferior to others; they are cursed, genetically "weak," descended from (biblical) Ham, bear the "mark of Cain," and/or are products of "4,000 years in the jungle" that unfitted them for modern life while heroic Teutons or Anglo-Saxons were busy building civilization. (Actual racist formulas of the past.) OR:

      2. We are seeing the lingering effects of historical events and arrangements that operated on the level of large communities, and that don't disappear in a single generation or as a result of any one set of reforms.

      See, I'm going with answer #2. What interests me is what other alternative answer (assuming they reject #1 and don't like #2) conservatives think there might be. It sometimes sounds implicitly like this:

      3. Some groups, notably including people of color, just don't want to be successful or get rich or live long or be healthy or live in nice places or have stable marriages and families. Nobody knows why. We know it's not because of anything "we" did wrong, so it's apparently just something wrong with those people. (Uh, but not the wrong things mentioned in #1! Nooooo. So, we just don't know.)

      Obviously, I reject #3 as well.

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    11. Where are you getting this half black stuff?

      Not half black. Some black, and half Amerindian, sometimes more:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican_American#Race_and_ethnicity

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    12. And another comment gets eaten! This is the next best thing to shouting into a tin-can telephone. :)

      Here it is again:

      You got me wrong, backyard. In general, I prefer that whatever is done in the way of affirmative action be class-based rather than race-based, i.e. should aim to help downscale whites along with whomever else is disadvantaged (which doesn't automatically include every member of any given racial group). Over time, I think racial categories themselves need to be dispensed with, and as I noted way, way back upthread, they do eventually make themselves obsolete, as I think will happen with our current classifications as well. I just don't support letting oppressors wield racial concepts as weapons for generations, then cynically and opportunistically insist on their total irrelevance as soon as they might inconvenience the majority.

      I have not studied the specifics of the term "Hispanic" and its origin and destiny. From what little I know, I would suppose that the government adopted it because people in the group itself had come to use it, but this may have been a tactical error -- an attempt on the part of a heavily nonwhite, historically oppressed group to get a leg up by presenting itself as European. I don't know. I have not involved myself in discussions about what Hispanics should say or request in their own interest because I'm not in that group myself. (In fact, by ancestry and current income, I'm a downscale white, and certainly am interested in avoiding harm to people like myself.)

      I did read the report you linked to. In light of what I just said, my comments on it my be irrelevant, because I believe that racial and ethnic categories have at best a very provisional usefulness, and then only if used very carefully. But as long as we're distinguishing different groups and tracking different outcomes among them -- wealth, health, longevity, or whatever -- we're necessarily posing the question, Why would that be? And this question has, in my view, only one of two possible answers:

      1. Some groups are just inferior to others; they are cursed, genetically "weak," descended from (biblical) Ham, bear the "mark of Cain," and/or are products of "4,000 years in the jungle" that unfitted them for modern life while heroic Teutons or Anglo-Saxons were busy building civilization. (Actual racist formulas of the past.) OR:

      2. We are seeing the lingering effects of historical events and arrangements that operated on the level of large communities, and that don't disappear in a single generation or as a result of any one set of reforms.

      See, I'm going with answer #2. What interests me is what other alternative answer (assuming they reject #1 and don't like #2) conservatives think there might be. It sometimes sounds implicitly like this:

      3. Some groups, notably including people of color, just don't want to be successful or get rich or live long or be healthy or live in nice places or have stable marriages and families. Nobody knows why. We know it's not because of anything "we" did wrong, so it's apparently just something wrong with those people. (Uh, but not the wrong things mentioned in #1! Nooooo. So, we just don't know.)

      Obviously, I reject #3 as well.

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    13. Are you saying that the US could transfer enough to AAs in one generation...? etc.

      You got me wrong, backyard. In general, I prefer that whatever is done in the way of affirmative action be class-based rather than race-based, i.e. should aim to help downscale whites along with whomever else is disadvantaged (which doesn't automatically include every member of any given racial group). Over time, I think racial categories themselves need to be dispensed with, and as I noted way, way back upthread, they do eventually make themselves obsolete, as I think will happen with our current classifications as well. I just don't support letting oppressors wield racial concepts as weapons for generations, then cynically and opportunistically insist on their total irrelevance as soon as they might inconvenience the majority.

      I have not studied the specifics of the term "Hispanic" and its origin and destiny. From what little I know, I would suppose that the government adopted it because people in the group itself had come to use it, but this may have been a tactical error -- an attempt on the part of a heavily nonwhite, historically oppressed group to get a leg up by presenting itself as European. I don't know. I have not involved myself in discussions about what Hispanics should say or request in their own interest because I'm not in that group myself. (In fact, by ancestry and current income, I'm a downscale white, and certainly am interested in avoiding harm to people like myself.)

      I did read the report you linked to. In light of what I just said, my comments on it my be irrelevant, because I believe that racial and ethnic categories have at best a very provisional usefulness, and then only if used very carefully. But as long as we're distinguishing different groups and tracking different outcomes among them -- wealth, health, longevity, or whatever -- we're necessarily posing the question, Why would that be? And this question has, in my view, only one of two possible answers:

      1. Some groups are just inferior to others; they are cursed, genetically "weak," descended from (biblical) Ham, bear the "mark of Cain," and/or are products of "4,000 years in the jungle" that unfitted them for modern life while heroic Teutons or Anglo-Saxons were busy building civilization. (Actual racist formulas of the past.) OR:

      2. We are seeing the lingering effects of historical events and arrangements that operated on the level of large communities, and that don't disappear in a single generation or as a result of any one set of reforms.

      See, I'm going with answer #2. What interests me is what other alternative answer (assuming they reject #1 and don't like #2) conservatives think there might be. It sometimes sounds implicitly like this:

      3. Some groups, notably including people of color, just don't want to be successful or get rich or live long or be healthy or live in nice places or have stable marriages and families. Nobody knows why. We know it's not because of anything "we" did wrong, so it's apparently just something wrong with those people. (Uh, but not the wrong things mentioned in #1! Nooooo. So, we just don't know.)

      Obviously, I reject #3 as well.

      Delete
    14. "...and that the United States, specifically, while certainly not solely responsible, is complicit in the policies that made Mexico and other friends of ours to the south a caste society (i.e. one in which personal initiative avails you nothing) and a generally ill-governed mess."

      Jeff - We have no responsibility for the development of Hispanic society. In Latin America, Amerindian civilizations were destroyed and enslaved, plantations were well in place and the slave trade thriving long before we even touched Plymouth Rock. We've meddled quite a bit in Latin America over the years, but their societies have been in place for centuries, long before even our own. I'm happy to talk about the brutal oppression of Amerindians and Africans, both here and in Latin America, and the consequent unlevel playing field, but this doesn't require that we make wild exaggerations.

      Delete
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    1. Couves, how you turn "complicit" and "certainly not solely responsible" into blaming the US for everything is truly a mystery to me.

      The US seized a large part of Mexico, including all the resources that territory contained, and its businsses and investors have benefited in all kinds of ways from the conditions created by the caste economy there. And just to make sure they did, there's been a long history of US military interventions in Central America. The wild exaggeration is suggesting that you can do all that and still have "no responsibility for the development of Hispanic society."

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    2. Jeff,

      Why are you totally avoiding the fact that affirmative action specifically targets downscale whites and Asians because that's the point? Liberals compare race and hispanicitude and note that Asians and whites do better in the US (as with everywhere else) so they decide to tip the scales with something like quotas. In order to get more AAs into desired positions, they need to eschew a bunch of Asians or whites whose exams, scholarship, etc. are better. To do this, do you think they throw out the whites and Asians at the top of the heap? No way! So the distinction between AA and non-AA at an institution is really sharp. This has a lot of consequences for AA failure rates as well as leavlng upscale types confused "Why are these downscale whites and Asians so pissed? I got in." If affirmative action doesn't shaft downscale whites and asians, then it doesn't do anything, because some asians and whites have to lose to make the fractions come out and it's not going to be those at the top.

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    3. backyard, again, I favor class-based over race-based approaches. You need to have this argument with someone who takes the positions you're describing.

      Delete
    4. Jeff,

      "1. Some groups are just inferior to others; they are cursed, genetically "weak," descended from (biblical) Ham, bear the "mark of Cain," and/or are products of "4,000 years in the jungle" that unfitted them for modern life while heroic Teutons or Anglo-Saxons were busy building civilization. (Actual racist formulas of the past.)"

      This is the least reasonable treatment I've seen of an idea in a while. The simple version is:

      1) People who are isolated from each other will become different over time because selection is different in different environments.

      2) Different groups of people whose ancestors were isolated for hundreds of generations diverged. So now people can distinguish with near total accuracy whether a person's ancestors were from Japan or Zimbabwe just by seeing them from 100 meters away. A drop of blood will show the same thing.

      3) Everyone agrees that ALL of the best sprinters are from the West African Diaspora or are west African. Sprinting is easy to learn and requires little work to maintain top form. Anyone could be the best sprinter if genes weren't the key.

      4) Brains are physical and affected by environment (just as are legs.) People whose ancestors came from different isolated regions should have different brains.

      5) If you're going to disagree with someone, showing that you understand their ideas would be helpful in advancing the ball.

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    5. Jeff,

      How do you get class based affirmative action that doesn't target downscale whites and Asians?

      Delete
    6. I don't. "Class-based" means it targets the downscale.

      Delete
    7. This [#1] is the least reasonable treatment I've seen of an idea in a while.

      I agree. And yet it was common currency for a long time.

      So, you grant that "racial" differences are environmental and the result of divergences over time among geographically separated populations. Again, I agree. But then, in assessing those differences, wouldn't we need to take account of the different pressures that the various communities were subjected to -- that some were subject to enslavement, exploitation, subjugation, tyranny, etc., while others weren't? And since people don't typically request those conditions for themselves, these would be historical injustices. Which means that historical injustice is among the reasons for the differing situations of different communities today, yes?

      And IF it were the case that inherited features of the brain were somehow responsible for differing outcomes -- and I think that's the last place we should look, given all the much more obvious social and cultural determinants, but grant it for argument's sake -- wouldn't that itself be one of the historical injuries to the group with the inferior brains? Because again, brain damage or underdevelopment is obviously not a condition that a group would request for itself. Wouldn't having lowered the brain capacity of an entire group be, in fact, one of the worst historical injustices of all?

      And isn't the right response to injustice to try to correct it by delivering justice?

      Delete
    8. Jeff - Yes, Hispanic society was well-established by the time we exerted any influence there. I don't think that's an exaggeration at all.

      Delete
    9. Jeff,

      What should comprise the goals and methods of affirmative action today and going forward?

      Do you have a link for this idea that African slaves were bred for low intelligence? I've never heard of this.

      Delete
  18. Backyard, Couves, et al (if there are any): soapbox time - the eugenics stuff is a huge self-inflicted wound for embattled conservatism in the 21st century.

    Backyard, I think you might like Guns, Germs and Steel, but forget about that: read Talent is Overrated, by Forbes writer Geoff Colvin, instead. I've only shilled it about a dozen times here, its probably my favorite book, and it is very relevant to this conversation.

    What Colvin will convince you is that it doesn't matter how much native intelligence you have, or if you have the right genes, what creates greatness is the performance of 10,000 hours of the right kind of disciplined work. After you read Talent is Overrated, you will no longer be impressed by the familiar 60 Minutes segment about the idiot savant who is a concert-quality violinist. Instead you will wait for the inevitable quote from the parent saying "All Johnny wants to do is practice all day long, and its such a godsend..." - and you'll be like, of course.

    So, have differences arisen in brains of walled-off cultures over the last several dozen generations? Sure. Small ones, maybe even statistically significant ones, but surely not meaningful in the scheme of things. Indeed, to the extent Colvin's argument applies to the idiot savant, no matter which is the culture whose DNA makes you suspicious, surely they are well on the right side of the idiot savant, and thus fully capable of excellence per the Colvin formulation.

    So when you argue that "such-and-such race is inferior cause they spent several generations on the wrong side of the desert", you open yourself to the criticism that the differences, if they even exist, are immaterial...for example, the eugenics crowd may have crowed at research showing that the University of Michigan's famously progressive law school aff. action policies produced black students who significantly underperformed their white peers - in class. In perfect Colvin style, those same black students, aware of the opportunity that came from getting a high-powered law job with a fancy U of M degree, worked just as hard as, and did just as well professionally as, their white peers. There may be differences between the cultures, but whatever they are, they are vastly overwhelmed by the Colvin effects - so I think any practical merits for eugenics arguments are grossly overestimated.

    In fact, before I get off my soapbox, as lovers of liberty we should not be worried about the impact of eugenic-type effects; we should be worried about the fact that they have really little impact at all. Combine the Talent is Overrated finding with Woody Allen's "90% of Life is Showing Up" and you will come to a recipe for perncious defacto apartheid - pernicious cause no one admits to it as its happening. Tying it all together, the problem with Eddie Murphy's character in Trading Places was not that he was of inferior genes or something; its that he didn't try very hard. If he had, per Colvin, he would have done well - which makes eugenics arguments a siren song for already-struggling conservatives.

    The fact that all of us will do pretty well if motivated and provided the right opportunity makes the triaging of opportunity a really touchy subject in society. Don't try to fight it with the eugenics stuff; the opportunity-triagers will love to prove you wrong (and they certainly will).

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    1. CSH,

      I'm not arguing for genetic selection being the cause. I follow lots of smart people who argue some version of 10,000 hours and I find much of it plausible but too many people are confident for little reason. But I don't care about conservative own-goals; I only look like one because I'm commenting here. Conservatism (outside of the smart framework of "don't mess too much with successfully evolved social systems") tends to look as idiotic as liberalism to me. Why do Conservatives care so much about marijuana, gay marriage, maintaining Medicare, and Ronald Reagan?

      Delete
    2. CSH - I didn't say anything about genetics, much less eugenics.

      Delete
    3. Couves, that is really amazing. So, then, nothing that materially bears on the current situation of Central Americans or Central American immigrants has happened in the past 160+ years? Not massive ownership of large parts of Mexico (one-quarter of its territory at the time of the Mexican Revolution) by Americans? Not the policies of US-based plantation owners like the United Fruit Company, or the activities of American agribusinesses and multinationals like Monsanto? Not dozens of armed interventions (I'm talking US warship, US Army, US Marines) in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Haiti, El Salvador and others, often in order to influence political outcomes in those countries? Not the activities, known or unknown, of the CIA throughout the region? Of the American Mafia or drug gangs? Of major-league baseball scouts? Nothing at all?

      Assuming you agree that at least some of those things count as "exerting influence," it sounds like you're saying that when we talk about "Hispanics" or "Mexicans" or "illegals" in current political conversation, we're referring to a population basically unchanged since the early 19th century. OK. I guess that explains why they're always wearing the stiff collars and the big, frilly hoop skirts?

      backyard, how do I link you back to your own comment? You wrote, "Brains are physical and affected by environment (just as are legs.) People whose ancestors came from different isolated regions should have different brains." Was that some sort of devil's advocacy? If so, it looks like you fooled CSH as well as me.

      Delete
    4. Jeff - Yes, there has been a great deal of US influence in Latin America (much of it malign). But their "caste society" was well established hundreds of years before the time period you speak of, or even the birth of our own nation.

      Delete
    5. Jeff,

      I want to understand the strongest arguments of even people I'm sure are wrong because being sure is usually idiotic. If you think this is weird, you're not alone among liberals. Maybe 1% of smart partisan liberals I've come across could name a single smart non-liberal whose work they follow. I don't have to agree with an argument to give a fair telling of it.

      I can't figure out your stance on affirmative action. Can you say it in a few sentences? Here's my version: end it (especially as regards disparate impact lawsuits at work) because it makes it hard to fire poor workers, raises the costs of hiring as businesses grow, leads to hiring doltish tokens, is mostly a transfer to women instead of racial minorities, and mostly harms downscale whites and Asians. Plus it's invasive govt policy, which is bad because low-coercion is better. Use some other mechanism to address history because this isn't effective and guarantees that the weakest person in most organizations will be AA because orgs compete for them to avoid lawsuits (except for CAP, which doesn't do affirmative action) letting in AAs with worse credentials than the rest on purpose.

      Delete
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  19. @Couves: Yes, but that is not the only variable. We're talking about the situation of people in 2012. The US in various ways took advantage of the caste system and its consequences. That doesn't make it responsible for the system's origins, but it does make it complicit in the consequences we're facing today.

    @backyard: Thanks, I will try to state my position. I agree with much of your critique (although maybe less so the part about "invasive government policy"), and in fact I will go further and add this: Affirmative-action policies have a proven record of causing a backlash that cancels out some of their usefulness. Now, you don't always want to condition your policy on whether it will cause a backlash -- there was no good reason, for instance, to delay school integration in the '50s because some yahoos turned out in force to spit on black students -- but in this case, those lashing back have a decent moral argument (i.e. they shouldn't be held responsible as individuals for historic wrongs that they didn't personally commit).

    So I would prefer policies targeted at helping those who actually need help, regardless of race. This is obviously harder to do in some ways, although there have been interesting experiments, like Texas deciding by law 20 years ago that its state universities would admit the top 10% of every high-school class in the state. That meant that poor white communities got the same break as poor black or Hispanic communities. This also has downsides, but it's a less backlash-prone policy, it seems to me.

    Beyond that, this is not a policy area I've studied carefully. You have criticized liberals for taking positions they're not fully informed about, so I want to be careful not to do that. Basically, I think the historical injuries are real and cannot be ignored, but I also agree that race-based policies to address them are highly problematic, and that finding the right solutions needs careful discussion and study.

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    1. Jeff,

      I don't understand. You don't consider federal affirmative action and disparate impact legislation to be invasive policy?
      OR
      You don't think invasive govt policies are bad; freedom from coercion isn't a good on its own?
      OR
      This invasive policy is good so it's OK that it's invasive?

      What is the proper response to an AA who claims that downscale whites prefer some policies because they like for AAs to suffer? Should we just say that What's The Matter With Kansas? was right?

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    2. OR
      This invasive policy is good so it's OK that it's invasive?


      That one.

      What is the proper response to an AA who claims that downscale whites prefer some policies because they like for AAs to suffer?

      I'd say, call me when that becomes an actual problem.

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    3. Jeff,

      What do you think Bouie meant by this?

      "I think you can attribute downscale white skepticism of the Affordable Care Act to the a broader disdain for programs that are perceived as helping minorities."

      Delete
    4. Just a guess, but I think he might mean this:

      "Most people don’t know much about the ACA, and I’m sure that—like welfare—many voters assume that the program will primarily benefit minorities and immigrants. In a world where zero-sum thinking dominates, it’s no surprise that those closest to the margins fear loss."

      Those are his next two sentences after the one you quote.

      Regardless, again, I am failing to see a problem here. Suppose the guy's completely wrong. Suppose he personally has it in for downscale whites like you and me. Well, wow. He's a commentator for The American Prospect, a low-circulation left-liberal magazine. The great thing about this country is, there are lots of people out there with a very wide range of different views. If you don't like his, there are plenty of others to keep you busy. (Also, the blog he wrote that on has a comment thread of its own. Have you thought about taking it up directly with him and his readers?)

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    5. Jeff,

      Most liberal sites expunge my comments before I get anywhere near saying what I want to say. This site is an exception. The Prospect is not. It seems that you're saying white-baiting is OK and linking to it without some disapprobation is fine. Fair enough.

      Delete
  20. Jeff - None of the policies you allude to would make us responsible for the condition of an entire race. I do agree they should be changed however.

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    1. Couves, we seem to be dealing with some black-and-white thinking here. You do know that there can be degrees of responsibility, right? Like, being "responsible" doesn't mean 100%, it might mean 70% or 50% or 20%. Have you ever been on a jury? In civil cases, juries are often asked to make exactly that kind of judgment. This is important because fractional liabilities also create create obligations, even if they're not unqualified or total.

      Delete
    2. Cool, most of my family came here in the early twentieth century as impoverished, benighted Irish. No slave owners (of course there weren't many in the South, either.) What's my percentage of collective racial guilt?

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    3. Early 20th century? Freakin' latecomers, spoiling it all for the rest of us.

      Anyway, based on that, your percentage is 22.734%.

      Delete
  21. Anyway, based on that, your percentage is 22.734%

    I suspect the 'Irish Adjustment Factor' on your calculation tab is too high, it looks like in my workbook the factor is roughly half yours, and so the answer is...is....42.

    I always sort of figured that would happen. With the intellectural firepower in this community, the lingering triple-digit thread was bound to come up with the answer to everything, no?

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    1. (btw - just noticed the typo in the post above, and I was all ready to disavow it, but it may be an accidentally useful new word:

      Intellectural - when reasonably informed folks debate complex matters about which they feel passion, they inevitably lecture each other)

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    2. CSH, it's important to cross-check the algorithm against a fractalized sub-Rabelaisian error coefficient. Otherwise you're liable to be off by as much as one or two hundredths of a point, i.e. you're all over the landscape. But I'm sure you know all this already.

      And yeah, "intellectural," excellent word. :) In the thousand-year history of the English language, I'm surprised it hasn't been invented until now. Although according to this item, you may have to share credit for it with the George W. Bush library:

      http://frontburner.dmagazine.com/2010/11/16/bush-library-gives-dallas-intellectural-dimension/

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    3. Now, now. When fellas like Dubya and I pronounce the word 'library', it sounds an awful lot like 'liberry', and thus we have to be conscious not to get tripped up by extra, sneaky little r's.

      As such, it wouldn't surprise if the Bush press writer errred on the side of the surfeit r.

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    4. What would Yglesias's share be? How does his Hispanic Jewishness and the fact that he got Polar Bear'd affect his score? And does this mean that David Duke is a 6000? If you don't put guys on the other side of the ledger, then the math doesn't work.

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