Undergraduates are being exposed to this stuff as well. Rice University offers a course called “Afrochemistry: The Study of Black-Life Matter,” in which “students will apply chemical tools and analysis to understand Black life in the U.S. and students will implement African American sensibilities to analyze chemistry.” The course catalog notes that “no prior knowledge of chemistry or African American studies is required for engagement in this course.”
Such ideas haven’t totally colonized scientific journals and pedagogy, but they are beginning to appear almost everywhere and are getting support and encouragement from the scientific establishment. There are also indications that dissent isn’t welcome. When a group of physicists led by Charles Reichhardtwrote to the American Physical Society, publisher of the Physics Education Research journal, to object to the “observing whiteness” article, APS invited a response, then refused to publish it on the grounds that its arguments, which were scientific and quantitative, were based on “the perspective of a research paradigm that is different from the one of the research being critiqued.”
“This is akin to stating that an astronomer must first accept astrology as true before critiquing it,” the dissenters wrote in the final version of their critique, which they had to publish in a different journal, European Review.
That sounds like an exaggeration, but in 2021 Mount Royal University in Canada fired a tenured professor, Frances Widdowson, for questioning whether indigenous “star knowledge” belonged in an astronomy curriculum. The same year, New Zealand‘s Education Ministry decreed that Māori indigenous “ways of knowing” would have equal standing with science in science classes. The Royal Society of New Zealand investigated two scientists for questioning this policy; they were exculpated but resigned. The University of Auckland removed another scientist who questioned the policy from teaching two biology classes.
Even if you completely agree with the importance of DEI, there really isn’t any reason to ask a potential physics professor, for example, to discuss their prior, past, and future “intellectual commitments” to “social justice.” That is, unless you’re looking to test their political outlook as a condition for their employment. The purpose of DEI statements is obvious, and professors themselves know it.
A whopping 91 percent of professors said they were at least somewhat likely to self-censor in their speech on social media, in class, in their publications, or online. (Compare this with the 9 percent of social science faculty during the Joseph McCarthy era who answered yes to the question, “Have you toned down anything you have written lately because you were worried that it might cause too much controversy?”)
Contemporary Americans could be witnessing an escalating breakdown in societal norms, with each loss feeding the breakdown of others, like the spread of a contagious disease. Hayek didn’t dwell on this prospect, but I will in this short essay. My arguments rest on a well-worn conceptual foundation in economics, that of the “tragedy of the commons,” which is inherently unstable, because of the role of widespread volition in norms’ value and survival. The theme of this essay is that a breakdown in societal norms shares the same economic foundations as a run on a bank, although perhaps at a slower pace.
When there’s a current account deficit, there’s necessarily an offsetting capital account surplus. When foreigners sell us goods and services, they have basically five things to do with the money that they don’t spend on our goods and services: (1) buy U.S. dollar-denominated debt, typically U.S. government Treasury bills and bonds; (2) buy stock in U.S. companies; (3) buy land in the United States; (4) directly invest in the United States; and (5) hold on to the actual currency because it’s still the world’s leading currency. In only one of those cases, case (1), does the current account deficit translate into debt.
It’s understandable that [Oren] Cass makes that mistake because many bona fide economists do. They often talk about the capital account surplus as if it’s all debt, even though they know (or should know) better.
I wrote about some of this in 1988, when many observers, not including me, were worried that Japanese people would take an outsize share of U.S. capital assets. It’s titled “America for Sale?” Reason, July 1988.
Electric-vehicle mandates aren’t cost-free. They come packaged with environmental, social and policy implications that sensible legislators in every state would be wise to consider. EVs require many times the amount of minerals to manufacture as traditional cars. The cobalt used in many lithium-ion batteries is mined with child and near-slave labor in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The majority of mineral processing occurs in China, the world’s largest carbon emitter.
Electric vehicles are heavier than regular cars and trucks, which increases costs and burdens on roads, bridges and tires. Heavier cars are more dangerous—they increase accident fatality rates. In Connecticut, there is also the strange reality that consumers can’t buy cars directly from manufacturers, so anyone who wants to purchase a Tesla, the world’s most popular EV, can do so on only sovereign tribal land at Mohegan Sun Casino and Resort. The state is simultaneously trying to tell people what to buy and make it difficult for them to acquire.
Policy makers across the country have convinced themselves that electric vehicles are the future—that there’s a market for these cars and trucks. If that’s the case, why are we mandating these regulations instead of letting the market work?