Claudine Gay’s resignation as president of Harvard might seem like a ripe moment for introspection at America’s institutions of higher learning. Alas, they seem to be circling the progressive wagons instead.
That’s the message of Ms. Gay’s essay in the New York Times on Thursday that accuses her critics of racism and know-nothingism. “Those who had relentlessly campaigned to oust me since the fall often trafficked in lies and ad hominem insults, not reasoned argument. They recycled tired racial stereotypes about Black talent and temperament,” she writes.
Public figures these days, no matter their race, are too often targets of invective and lies. Yet Ms. Gay brushed past the substantive criticism of her leadership and failure to punish antisemitism on campus. So did her bosses at the Harvard Corporation, which issued a statement Tuesday lauding her “insight, decisiveness, and empathy.” Jewish students at Harvard might disagree.
She blames “opportunists” for “driving cynicism about our institutions.” But elite institutions—from the press to public-health agencies to social media and big business—have undermined their own credibility and fueled public cynicism.
Like Ms. Gay, they’ve done so by impugning as deplorables half of the country that doesn’t share their views. If you support voter ID laws, you’re a racist. If you oppose modern progressive cultural orthodoxy about gender identity or pronoun use, you’re a bigot. If you question the left’s climate policies, you’re anti-science.
They have sought to shut down intellectual debate on everything from the Palestinian-Israel question to race and Covid lockdowns. The campaign by the press and public-health experts to discredit the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration—which called for focusing Covid protections on the elderly and those at high-risk—was a shocking case in point.
Ms. Gay writes that campaigns against institutions “often start with attacks on education and expertise, because these are the tools that best equip communities to see through propaganda.” Yet elites invoke their education and expertise to enforce ideological conformity. Today’s illiberal progressives vilify and misrepresent their critics’ arguments rather than engage with them, which fuels the public backlash.
In particular, there was no mention of the twin scandals that have plagued Gay and captured the attention of the country in recent weeks. The first: her handling of antisemitism and free expression on Harvard’s campus since October 7, including her appalling appearance before Congress in December.
The second: the ever-growing list of plagiarism allegations against Gay. On Monday night, the dogged journalists over at The Washington Free Beacon reported six more charges of plagiarism. That brought the number of allegations against Gay close to 50 and implicated half of her published works in the scandal. The next day, Gay was gone, making her the shortest-serving president in Harvard’s history: the Kevin McCarthy of higher ed.
Herein lie contradictions never resolved in Wolf’s book. Wolf’s program puts considerable faith in experts and the political class. Yet these are the same elites that Wolf believes have severe credibility problems and who, I would add, are as culpable for the rise of rentier capitalism as business leaders. Much of Wolf’s economic agenda is also reminiscent of the neo-Keynesian arrangements that prevailed in the Western world after 1945. But these policies not only contributed significantly to the stagnation of the 1970s to which many countries seem to have returned today; they also saddled Western societies with expensive welfare states, which even politicians who favor limited government have struggled to restrain in the face of democratic pressures.
The sky-is-falling case—Securities and Exchange Commission v. Jarkesy—raises many interesting and contentious issues about the Constitution’s separation of powers. And Prof. Rosenblum is plenty contentious. But he gets the big picture wrong. In his zeal to show how dumb and simple and misguided “right-wing activists” are, he ignores the “declared purpose” of the separation of powers—to “diffuse power the better to secure liberty,” a point Justice Kavanaugh made during oral argument. Prof. Rosenblum looks only at what the government can (theoretically) do for us; he ignores what it can (in practice) do to us. Prof. Rosenblum’s screed also ignores the biggest issue in the case.
U-Haul published its one-way rental data today, and the results are what one would expect: Texas and Florida are the top two destinations for Americans, while California, Illinois, and Massachusetts continue to reside in the bottom five.
The second claim warranting skepticism is the one about how years of unchecked globalization have eroded America’s industrial foundation. Not only do we Americans still produce an enormous economic output, but the U.S. also continues to be a dominant force in manufacturing. A recent paper by the Cato Institute’s Colin Grabow even reports that American manufacturing surpasses the output of Japan, Germany, and South Korea combined. We are the world’s second-largest manufacturing economy and, better yet, we are a global frontrunner in critical sectors such as automotive and aerospace.
Further, I hope people finally come to understand that the fact that manufacturing now employs fewer workers and contributes less to gross domestic product than in previous decades doesn’t require a change in policy. As Grabow shows, the same thing is happening across all developed countries—and not predominantly due to globalization. It’s more a result of advances in productivity (as workers use more machines and computers, they produce more output) and a change in consumer preferences toward services rather than goods.