Episodes

  • This week on The Glenn Show, John McWhorter and I are joined by Richard Wolff, Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Visiting Professor of International Affairs at the the New School. Richard is Marxian in his orientation and I am not, so we do some debating here. And while we may not agree on much as far as economics goes, we do share some concerns about the direction of the left in this country.

    Before the conversation, I make an important announcement: Beginning today, I’m partnering with the Manhattan Institute to bring you The Glenn Show and this newsletter. I lay out what this means in my introduction and in conversation with John at the end of the show, but here are two important takeaways. First, I will maintain full editorial independence over all the content on the podcast and at the newsletter. And second, we’re lowering the cost of the newsletter. For monthly subscribers, fees will drop from $7/month to $6/month. The price of an annual subscription will drop even more substantially, from $70/year to $50/year. For those of you who already have an annual subscription, we’ll extend it by three months to make up the difference. I’m having success here at TGS, and I want to share it with you.

    And with that, let’s get into it.

    Richard begins by describing his student days and early career, when he was relatively quiet about his Marxism, the post-Occupy Wall Street environment that made him into a public intellectual, and his origins in Youngstown, Ohio, where the flight of capital devastated the formerly thriving industrial city. He argues that capitalism is not only bad for democracy but inherently anti-democratic, since it allows unelected CEOs and boards of directors to determine the economic fate of huge swathes of the populace.

    I take some issue with this. First, I ask Richard to respond to Friedrich von Hayek’s claim that markets will always allocate information and resources more efficiently than centrally planned economies. Second, I raise the point that business owners are entering into a contract with employees. It’s a standard exchange of goods and services. Why should employees have any right to the business owner’s property beyond an agreed-upon wage or salary? There is also the matter of socialism’s historical track record, which Richard defends. Richard and I do find some common ground in our skepticism toward the contemporary left, which sometimes seems to have abandoned the working class in favor of identity politics.

    Once Richard departs, John and I discuss my new partnership with the Manhattan Institute. He and I both want to make clear that John himself is not employed by the Manhattan Institute, though he used to be, and he still respects what they do.

    There’s a lot happening in this episode and in TGS World. As always, I look forward to reading your comments.

    This post is free and available to the public. To receive early access to TGS episodes, an ad-free podcast feed, Q&As, and other exclusive content and benefits, click below.

    0:00 A special announcement from Glenn

    3:47 Richard’s journey from quiet Marxist to public intellectual

    9:08 Why Youngstown, Ohio was left behind 

    12:04 Richard: Capitalist ownership is inherently anti-democratic

    15:41 Richard’s critique of Hayekian libertarianism   

    21:44 Pecuniary externalities vs. objective externalities 

    23:49 Socialism’s historical track record 

    31:07 Employees as stakeholders 

    34:36 The rise of the right in the wake of the New Deal and WWII

    42:00 The Glenn Show’s new partnership with the Manhattan Institute

    Links and Readings

    The Manhattan Institute

    Richard’s book (with Stephen Resnick), Class Theory and History: Capitalism and Communism in the USSR

    Glenn and John on Herschel Walker

    Clifton Roscoe’s critique of Glenn and John on Herschel Walker

    John’s NYT column about Walker

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit glennloury.substack.com/subscribe

  • This week, we’re getting into cosmic terrain here on The Glenn Show with my guest and Brown University colleague, theoretical physicist Stephon Alexander.

    Steph takes his inspiration not just from other physicists but from artists and musicians as well. And I can report from personal experience that he is a tremendous jazz saxophonist. For him, there’s nothing superficial about the relationship between science and art. His first book, The Jazz of Physics, explores the connection between music and the elemental forces that hold our universe together. Steph’s project reminds me of one of my favorite books, Douglas Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, which explores the role of self-reference in science, art, and music. Apparently I’m on the money, and Steph explains the central role of self-reference in his books.

    Steph and I both work in quantitative fields that demand measurable excellence of their participants, so I ask Steph what he thinks of racial and ethnic disparities in math-heavy areas of study. He describes his own experience as a teacher and as an undergrad, and how he learned that he would not only have to master the material but overcome lowered expectations that would only have held him back. Steph takes us through his latest book, Fear of a Black Universe: An Outsider’s Guide to the Future of Physics, which looks at the role of innovative “outsiders” (among whom Steph counts himself).

    Blacks may be “outsiders” in physics now, but the same was once true of Jews, and Steph talks about the inspiration he takes from the great Jewish physicists. This leads us to discuss some of my own ideas about stigma, and we have a good laugh about the times when stigma has led people to underestimate us. And finally, the question you’ve all been waiting for: What exactly is the Higgs boson, and why is its discovery such a big deal?

    I’ve learned a ton from talking to Steph, and I hope you will, too. I’m sure this isn’t the last time you’ll see him on TGS.

    This post is free and available to the public. To receive early access to TGS episodes, an ad-free podcast feed, Q&As, and other exclusive content and benefits, click below.

    0:00 Glenn and Steph’s jam session

    2:29 Steph’s adventures in the multiverse

    6:40 The parallels between black art and physics

    12:34 The centrality of self-reference in Steph’s work

    18:26 Is there a racial dimension to how excellence reveals itself in students?

    32:34 How Steph learned to level up

    41:04 Steph’s new book, Fear of a Black Universe: An Outsider’s Guide to the Future of Physics

    48:50 Steph’s admiration for prior generations of Jewish physicists

    56:48 How Glenn and Steph navigate stigma

    1:10:43 What is the Higgs boson?

    Links and Readings

    Steph’s first book, The Jazz of Physics: The Secret Link between Music and the Structure of the Universe

    Steph’s latest book, Fear of a Black Universe: An Outsider’s Guide to the Future of Physics

    Ultramagnetic MCs’ “Watch Me Now”

    Douglas Hofstadter’s book, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

    Glenn’s book, The Anatomy of Racial Inequality

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit glennloury.substack.com/subscribe

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  • John McWhorter is back again for one of our twice-monthly conversations. This is a hot one, so let’s get into it.

    In this week’s episode, we discuss three controversial figures: Herschel Walker, Clarence Thomas, and Amy Wax. We begin with John’s outstanding column about Walker, the Republican candidate for Senate in Georgia. John pulls no punches. He sees Walker as an insultingly underqualified contender meant solely to attract Georgia’s sizable black vote. John argues that Walker seems to have no meaningful knowledge of any relevant policy issue, and he’s apparently uninterested in trying to make it seem like he does. I do my best to present the case for Walker, but John does have a point.

    Robert Woodson and I wrote an open letter decrying recent ugly, racist (let me say again, racist) attacks on Justice Clarence Thomas, and John has signed on. I argue that, no matter what you think of Thomas’s conservatism, he is undeniably a towering figure in American jurisprudence. His influence and ideas will be felt for generations, and his life story as an African American born under Jim Crow who has risen to the pinnacle of the legal system is iconic. The attempt to write him out of black history just because he’s a conservative is disgraceful.

    It’s hard to find someone who has been the subject of more controversy than Thomas, but my friend Amy Wax has got to be in the running for second place. John is disturbed by reports that Amy allegedly brings some of her edgier ideas about race into the classroom when she teaches. I certainly don’t endorse all of Amy’s positions, and I think that one must be especially thoughtful when speaking in front of a classroom. But I can’t abide the idea that Amy would be punished simply for holding views that some people don’t like. That’s why I’m inviting her back to The Glenn Show.

    I’m sure everyone’s going to have a lot to say about this one. I can’t wait to read your comments, so fire away!

    This post is free and available to the public. To receive early access to TGS episodes, an ad-free podcast feed, Q&As, and other exclusive content and benefits, click below.

    0:00 John: Republicans’ elevation of Herschel Walker is an insult

    9:43 If Walker is so inept, why does he have so much support? 

    15:16 Where’s the outrage over racist attacks on Clarence Thomas?

    24:55 Thomas’s historical significance 

    36:03 The Clarence Thomas (and Al Sharpton) we don’t see

    41:31 Are Amy Wax’s views beyond the pale? 

    53:59 John: “Amy should know better”

    1:09:13 Amy Wax’s return to The Glenn Show 

    Links and Readings

    John’s NYT column, “When Republicans Backed Herschel Walker, They Embraced a Double Standard”

    Glenn and Robert Woodson’s open letter on Clarence Thomas

    Thurgood Marshall’s Bicentennial Speech 

    Gerald Early’s Common Reader essay, “Black Conservatives Explain It All! or Princes and Powers 2.0”

    Glenn’s most recent conversation with Amy Wax

    Amy Wax’s book, Race, Wrongs, and Remedies: Group Justice in the 21st Century

    Glenn’s Daily Pennsylvanian column in support of Amy Wax

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit glennloury.substack.com/subscribe

  • My guest this week is my friend Rajiv Sethi. Rajiv is Professor of Economics at Barnard College, Columbia University and External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute, and he writes an occasional newsletter at Imperfect Information. He’s published widely on problems of crime and segregation, among many other topics, and as you’ll hear in this conversation, he’s done some deep thinking about an area that is sadly pertinent to our society today: gun violence.

    I first ask Rajiv to catch me up on how economists are thinking about the state of financial markets today, and in short, things aren’t looking good. You don’t need a PhD in economics to know that. Just look at your stock portfolio. But Rajiv makes an interesting connection between the economist John Kenneth Galbraith’s analysis of the stock market crash of 1929 and the ongoing, much-publicized cryptocurrency crash. Rajiv talks about his blogging and his Substack, including his critique of Sundhil Mullainathan’s analysis of bias and police violence. We move on to the recent Supreme Court gun ruling and attempts by gun control advocates to float policies intended to reduce gun violence. Rajiv is critical of many of these policies, not because he doesn’t want to reduce gun violence but because he thinks the policies won’t be consequential enough. Much gun violence takes place amongst African Americans, but Rajiv wants to separate, to de-essentialize, race and violence. He draws on some of my own work on these issues to ask how we can look at the conditions that render acts of violence in high-crime areas, in some sense, rational. Certain conditions must make violence seem like the right solution to a given problem. Rajiv argues that we’re all—all Americans—involved in creating those conditions, and so we cannot simply say that the problems of high-crime black communities are their problems and not ours. I’m very much against racial essentialism, but we see it everywhere, including in our school with CRT-influenced policies and practices. While Rajiv acknowledges the excesses, he sees an equal threat coming from the anti-CRT backlash, and points to the case of Cecilia Lewis as an example. Along the same lines, he thinks that many critiques of the 1619 Project miss something important about the true depth and length of American history. And finally, we return to the problem of gun violence and bias in policing. Rajiv’s got an interesting idea to disincentivize illegal gun sales and some theories about why we see such stark racial disparities in the commission of gun crimes.

    Yesterday, I posted a conversation with John McWhorter that addressed civil and constructive disagreement. Rajiv and I certainly disagree about some things, but his arguments can’t simply be brushed aside. I’m quite interested to know what you all think of this one. Let me know!

    This post is free and available to the public. To receive early access to TGS episodes, an ad-free podcast feed, Q&As, and other exclusive content and benefits, click below.

    0:00 The cryptocurrency bezzle 

    6:52 Rajiv’s critique of the contact hypothesis

    12:53 Will popular proposed gun control measures meaningfully reduce homicides? 

    19:08 Can we talk about culture without becoming essentialists?

    30:19 Rajiv: I find self-censorship and anti-CRT mobs equally disturbing

    43:28 Debating the 1619 Project

    51:00 Rajiv’s idea to reduce illegal firearm sales: gun insurance 

    1:02:35 Why do we see such racial disparities in gun violence? Rajiv has some theories

    1:11:02 What did we learn from the second Justice Department investigation in Ferguson? 

    Links and Readings

    John Kenneth Galbraith’s book, The Great Crash 1929

    Rajiv’s Substack, Imperfect Information

    Rajiv’s post about The Anatomy of Racial Inequality

    Sendhil Mullainathan’s NYT piece, “Police Killings of Blacks: Here Is What the Data Say”

    Rajiv’s post about Mullainathan’s claims

    Rajiv and Brendan O’Flaherty’s book, Shadows of Doubt: Stereotypes, Crime, and the Pursuit of Justice

    Rajiv’s conversation about guns with Bari Weiss and David French 

    Glenn and Hanming Fang’s paper, “‘Dysfunctional Identities’ Can Be Rational”

    Glenn’s Cato Unbound essay, “A Nation of Jailers” and responses

    Nicole Carr’s ProPublica piece, “White Parents Rallied to Chase a Black Educator Out of Town. Then, They Followed Her to the Next One.”

    Ralph Ellison’s essay, “What America Would Be Like Without Blacks”

    Albert Murray, The Omni-Americans: Some Alternatives to the Folklore of White Supremacy

    Jill Leovy’s book, Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America

    Glenn’s conversation with Robert Woodson and Sylvia Bennett-Stone 

    Voices of Black Mothers United

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit glennloury.substack.com/subscribe

  • Last month, John McWhorter and I participated in Heterodox Academy’s 2022 conference in Denver, Colorado. We spoke in front of an audience and discussed how to model constructive disagreement. But before that, we had a bit of a warm-up session with Zach Rausch, host of the Heterodox Out Loud podcast. Zach had us in to talk about our long relationship as conversation partners, civil discourse, and the purpose of the university. Newer listeners may be interested to hear about my “origin story” with John. While we’re good friends now, that wasn’t always the case. We’ve had our ups and downs, and we’ve switched sides on some issues. (Here’s our first recorded conversation, from November 2007.) But we keep coming back because we enjoy talking to each other too much to quit, and because we believe if we don’t have the kind of conversations we have, they might not happen at all.

    This post is free and available to the public. To receive early access to TGS episodes, an ad-free podcast feed, Q&As, and other exclusive content and benefits, click below.

    JOHN MCWHORTER: There's another thing actually, which is, you should distrust if you can look into yourself, a feeling that you're arguing for a point because doing so is what makes you a good person. You should strive to get away from the belly and stick with the head.

    GLENN LOURY: We come to the university as black or white or Latino or gay or trans. That's not who we are. Our essence is much broader and finer and deeper and richer and human than that.

    ZACH RAUSCH: Glenn Loury and John McWhorter on Heterodox Out Loud. I'm Zach Rausch. Today, a special conversation with both of them. This was recorded at Heterodox Academy's 2022 Conference in Denver. For those who could not be at the conference, we got your back. We recorded a few exclusive conversations with our featured speakers to give you a taste of the extraordinary conversations that were had.

    Our guests today are Glenn Loury, professor of the Social Sciences and Economics at Brown University, and John McWhorter, professor of Linguistics at Columbia University. John has authored over 20 books on issues of race and language and writes a widely read biweekly newsletter for the New York Times. Glenn has published numerous influential books on race, inequality, and economics. He's also the well-known host of the podcast The Glenn Show on BloggingheadsTV, where John is a regular guest.

    In our interview, we discuss the future of higher education and how we can improve our collective discourse. It was recorded on the morning of their talk at the conference. I asked Glenn what they'd be discussing.

    GLENN LOURY: I haven't got any idea. All I know is that the subject matter is how do you have productive conversations? I take it that John and I, in our podcast practice, model productive conversation. And so we're going to be reviewing the nuts and bolts and the foundation of how it is that we're able to discuss contentious matters with one another productively. In 2007, a guy called Josh Cohen, a philosopher at Stanford, invited me onto Robert Wright's platform Bloggingheads to discuss some lectures that I had given on mass incarceration at Stanford that year. That was my first exposure to any kind of podcasting. I came on. I had a couple of conversations with Josh. They were well received.

    Bob Wright invited me to be a regular contributor to his platform, hosting a variety of people of my choosing, and John was one of those people. This is 2007, at the height of the Democratic Party primary contest, which Barack Obama ultimately won. So John and I started having conversations prompted by the events of the day around questions of race. And my association with Bloggingheads developed such that I was doing a post once a week or so at Bloggingheads, and John would be a guest once a month or so on the platform that I was developing with Robert Wright at Bloggingheads. And that went on from 2007 continuously until the present day. We've expanded our reach, moved from the Bloggingheads platform to Patreon to Substack, and talk now every other week on a regularly scheduled basis, John and I, the black guys.

    JOHN MCWHORTER: Glenn and I were not exactly chummy for a lot of the aughts, and, not enemies, but we were not warm and fuzzy. And when we had our first conversation, it was amidst that context, and I think both of us knew it. And in terms of the fact that apparently Glenn and I have conversations that somebody might want to model their own after, which is something that I don't think either one of us ever thought about consciously, but that's what people seem to see, I think part of the way that probably we may have something to offer in that is that for our first session, it's not like it was two friends talking. We were coming from different places, and yet neither one of us were angry. It didn't get ugly.

    And so, for example, to take an instructive contrast—and this has nothing to do with settling scores—during that same era, I had a Bloggingheads exchange with Ta-Nehisi Coates, and this is before he was as famous as he would become. But Ta-Nehisi Coates and I have very different views on things, and the way it ended was a little bit unpleasant. And I would have to say that I was the person who initiated that, not him. But that was the way that you don't do it. You don't let the feelings get into the discussion. Glenn and I have never had that. There is an equipoise that many people could master where you could learn to converse about things that touch you in your gut.

    ZACH RAUSCH: And do you consider yourselves friends?

    JOHN and GLENN: Yeah.

    ZACH RAUSCH: Where do you think your strongest disagreements are between the both of you?

    JOHN MCWHORTER: Moralism, the morality of these issues. We seem to really hit a wall on that in that there's a part of you, Glenn, who is appalled at the way certain people behave, both rioters and, say, Nikole Hannah-Jones. Whereas there's a part of me that is annoyed but is always trying to think, are they capable of thinking out of their box? How angry can we be at them? We have an issue there.

    GLENN LOURY: Yeah. The way John once put it was, Omar makes me mad, but Omar makes him sad. Now, Omar is one of these characters that John has invented. This is part of his modus operandi. He creates these names for people, these types, these stereotypes or prototypes, and we kind of know who he's talking about. And Omar is a ruffian and ghetto bound, miscreant, messes up, commits crimes, doesn't take care of his kids, is standing on top of a car saying, “Burn this town,” and things of this kind. This is Omar. And I'm mad as hell at Omar. He pisses me off, and he makes John sad. And John wants to understand the Omar's of the world.

    JOHN MCWHORTER: I do, because I think Omar is a very parochial figure. I think Omar, just, it’s the only language he ever knew. I have a recoil in terms of Omar, if I was standing there watching him climbing up on the car. Omar is not my friend, but I look at him and I think, how could he know otherwise? And maybe in that I'm being too forgiving, maybe change doesn't happen when you think that way. Because what I'm doing is basically falling for the whole root causes bit, which has created so much harm. But I honestly think that a little bit of it is a way of avoiding the anger, which I'm afraid could also get in the way of constructive policy. I feel sorry for Omar, somehow.

    GLENN LOURY: He calls it moralism, and I would call it judgment. Yes, there is a certain right and wrong motivation to the anger that I have toward the bad acting ghetto dweller, but I'm going to argue that we need to set and give voice to standards of judgment about what is a right and wrong way of living. And I'm not afraid to say that this is the right way to live. Call it moralism, if you will. I'm not apologizing for that.

    JOHN MCWHORTER: You know, another thing, actually, that we ran up against, it's not as relevant now, but I was in love with Obama before he got in. I was really caught up in that romance. You refused to be. You were for Hillary. You thought she seemed like she would be the better president. In that you're probably right. But you weren't caught up in that idea of, “Oh, we're going to have the first black American president in the White House.” That was very logical of you. I could not summon logic to that extent.

    GLENN LOURY: It's generous of him to admit that I was right and he was wrong about something. I think that he was right and I was wrong about Donald Trump. Not that I was ever a Trump supporter, but I would say, man, lighten up on Trump. The people elected him president. If you don't like him, vote him out of office. The Trump derangement syndrome is unbecoming of you. Trump's an idiot. Trump whatever. I'm saying you're showing contempt for the 40 or 45% of your fellow countrymen who support Trump. Those are the people that you need to be having an argument, et cetera. So ultimately, when Trump tried to seize the presidency after having lost an election, I had to admit I was wrong about Trump.

    ZACH RAUSCH: Why do we need to have conversations between people who disagree with each other? Even if you don't change each other's minds?

    JOHN MCWHORTER: The soul of being an educated or enlightened person is to have come to realize that life and the world around us are complex if they don't lend themselves to easy answers. My mother once said, when I asked her when I was about ten, why do people go to college because even at that age I could tell unless they were techies they weren't coming out with any skill or they didn't seem to know the state capitals any better than anybody else. And I was saying, why are they in college? And she said, what you come out with in college is a sense that the answer to interesting things is not “Well, all I know is” and a snap of the fingers. And she's right about that.

    And what that means is that anything that's interesting is subject to different views about which there will be discussions where you learn about what the different views are. If you can't do that, you're not an enlightened person. And I think there's a tacit sense that you can be an enlightened person, but when it comes to race issues in particular, suddenly everything is very easy and no one else is to be listened to. No, it's the same with race, despite the injustice of black history. And so yeah, to be able to have a civil discussion even about polarizing issues is part of seeing further and having learned what the world is like. Many people who can't do that think that they are the enlightened ones and that they have a higher wisdom. But actually they are the blind man looking at the elephant. Their lens isn't wide enough. That's what I think.

    GLENN LOURY: Yeah, I think that's right. I think they're epistemic. How do you know something? Well, you know, by honing the precision and depth of your own argument, which is what you do in response to someone who has a different point of view. That's what the back and forth is about. You think this? I think that I think you're wrong. Here's why I think you're wrong. No, no, no, actually this is the reason that you're wrong. And that give and take and back and forth allows one to have a greater, deeper command of one's own position.

    But the other reason I think it's fundamentally important that we talk across the line is the health of our democratic order. We have to be able to deliberate about matters peacefully. The alternative to civil argument ultimately is violence. I don't think we want to go down that road.

    ZACH RAUSCH: Okay, let's switch to the academy. In higher ed, what are the conversations that are not happening and that you think need to happen more often?

    GLENN LOURY: Well, I would say the purpose of the university as an institution to foster research and search for truth and the development of the intellectual depth of the students and not a political platform for this or that enthusiasm where the university has to stand on the right side of history. So what is the university about ultimately? That's the way I would put it.

    JOHN MCWHORTER: Yeah. Or the tacit sense that the university is the university when it comes to physics or teaching French irregular verbs, but that when it comes to the tenants of early twenty-first century leftist social justice orthodoxy, there's only one thing to be taught and that there's no discussion to be had. The idea that the university is supposed to stand for that is extremely narrow and parochial. It won't look good in the future. And that needs to be questioned, although it's difficult because it's getting to the point where everybody who runs the show is steeped in that tacit sense of what it is to teach. But it isn't. And we need to go back to the original idea.

    ZACH RAUSCH: So how do we do it? How do we have better conversations? Where do we start on an individual level?

    GLENN LOURY: I’d offer a couple of things. One is, listen to your interlocutor. Listen. Don't be so much in a hurry to try to get your point across that you don't hear what's being said to you from the other side. That's a skill that one can develop. It requires patience and a certain amount of discipline. Listen. Actually, John taught me a lot about that, because he and I had a minor falling out over the fact that I interrupted him in the midst of it. I had developed this habit of cutting him off. And the reason I was cutting him off is because I was in such a hurry to say what I was thinking that I wasn't listening to what he was saying. So that's one thing.

    JOHN MCWHORTER: You know, there's another thing, actually, which is you should distrust, if you can look into yourself, a feeling that you're arguing for a point because doing so is what makes you a good person. You should strive to get away from the belly and stick with the head. You should be able to see that just saying, “Are you in favor of racism? Isn't that racism? How does that battle racism?,” that's so very vague, that sort of reasoning. It would also apply with sexism or any number of other isms. That will only make sense to you if what you're trying to do is validate your sense of being a good person as opposed to operating on the level of logic.

    The whole social justice argument is based on a notion that feelings are key and definitive when it comes to engaging in certain issues. And nobody said that that's true. And frankly, if you think about it, it isn't. There is never a justification for thinking you use logic except with a certain range of topics where suddenly feelings are logic. No, not even when you're talking about racism. And so that's something that people should avoid. Are you arguing in order to show God or the social justice gods that you're a good person? Or are you making a point? And I think most people are capable of understanding that if it's put that way to them. But it's very easy to go down a rabbit hole and forget.

    GLENN LOURY: Let me add something to that, because I think this is really important. Avoid ad hominem argument. It's about the issue not about the person. So the temptation, “Oh, you're the kind of person who thinks that,” to try to refute based upon a character assassination. You know, “How could you possibly think that?” That's no way to cultivate civil discourse. The other thing I would say is try to put the other guy's argument in your own words. Restate his argument. What did he actually say?

    JOHN MCWHORTER: Glenn is very good at that.

    GLENN LOURY: Not to believe it, but just to understand it.

    JOHN MCWHORTER: Which gives you a sense that a person can be a reasonable human being and have that view exactly. As opposed to demonizing other people, which is so easy to do, but it's primitive. And not to be repetitious, but I think there's a sense that when it comes to social justice issues, that primitive instinct is the proper one. You dehumanize the other side because there is evil in the world. But no, that makes no more sense there than it does when you're five years old and you think of the whole world that way. Life is not a Maurice Sendak book. And that's something that it's very easy to fall into when you're thinking more about what makes you a good person than what makes you a rational person. So, yeah, that demonizing has to go.

    ZACH RAUSCH: So before we go, I have one more question for you both. Our conference theme this year is, how do we restore trust in particularly higher education? What do you think about that?

    GLENN LOURY: Well, I understand this session this morning, the brunch session, is university presidents talking about leadership in the academy. And I think that's where the buck stops at the end of the day. I think it stops in the front office. I think that we are dependent on administrative leadership for making a stand. I mean, for embracing the Chicago principles, for example, about free inquiry and open discourse and whatnot. For insisting that the discussion of difficult and sensitive issues be balanced in the context of university, not one-sided. For avoiding the temptation to wave banners, which is often what I find university administrators doing, these letters expressing our values in the wake of whatever the particular crisis might be, if it's a George Floyd crisis or if it's a Ukraine crisis or if it's a COVID crisis. Giving voice to a particular way of looking at a difficult set of questions, which are arguable, but in effect, taking one side of that discussion and then putting the institution's weight behind the one side of that discussion. I think that's a practice that a university administrator should avoid.

    JOHN MCWHORTER: One of the things that I think people miss, from the outside. A lot of people think that it's not only administrators and professors who think this way, but there's this whiny, helicopter-parented student body, all of whom are right behind all of these excesses. Nothing could be further from the truth. On campuses, it's maybe one in 15 students who have the hyper-woke kind of politics ,if you're talking about undergraduates. Almost all of them can see through it. Some of them cower in fear of it. Some of them are brave enough to mock it, although it's getting harder to be that person these days.

    But this is not about the student body. And the student body are hungry for professors who can give them views from other places. And not the hyper-right wing, for better or for worse, but people who are standing outside. And if you're asking whether I mean partly myself, yes. I'm in a position to see that acgreat many students, and not ones from conservative white Utah families, are interested in hearing something different. And so it's not that the students are impervious to the truth. They see the problem among the faculty, too. That always gives me hope. I don't worry about the kids, I worry about the grownups.

    GLENN LOURY: Diversity, equity, and inclusion, okay? That's a plague, and we could have an argument about that. I think it's a disaster. I think the institutionalization of the diversity, equity, and inclusion imperatives threatened the integrity of the enterprise. I'm prepared to defend that position. Title IX. Way out of control in terms of due process and the way in which these kinds of incidents are handled by universities. The Roland Fryer case at Harvard. I give a case. We could give 100 cases.

    There's stuff that has to be fought over, I want to say. This is where Jon Haidt and I don't think see the world quite the same way. I don't want to just talk about process. Keep things open. Let's have diversity of viewpoints. I want to talk about some of the substantive judgments that I think are wrongheaded and need to be rebutted on their own terms. And I think the DEI stuff is a disaster. I think it lowers standards. I think it reifies identity, which we should be trying to rise above. We come to the university as black or white or Latino or gay or trans. That's not who we are. Our essence is much broader and finer and deeper and richer and human than that. The university sells its students short and betrays its own mission if it gets mired in this identitarian, small-minded, narrow way of looking at their charges, our students.

    ZACH RAUSCH: John McWhorter and Glenn Loury at Heterodox Academy's 2022 Conference in Denver. Keep your eyes peeled for full conference event footage on our YouTube channel at youtube.com/HeterodoxAcademy. Thanks to Davies Content for producing this podcast and to Kara Boyer on our communications team. I'm Zach Rausch. Until next time.

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit glennloury.substack.com/subscribe

  • A couple weeks ago, The Glenn Show returned to New York’s Comedy Cellar. This time I was joined by John McWhorter and a trio of fantastic comics: Sherrod Small, Jon Laster, and Nimesh Patel. There were a lot of laughs and a lot big questions addressed, so let’s get into it.

    John and I begin with a comment left on one of our previous conversations from an economically disadvantaged white man who recounted his frustrated attempts to get into law school. Affirmative action helps elevate women and racial minorities, but shouldn’t it focus more on socioeconomic factors than “diversity”? John and I are always trying to move the needle on issues like this, and it’s sometimes hard to tell whether our conversations are having an effect. The crowd seems to think they are! John brings up charter schools, and I advance an argument in favor of more school choice. We then move onto racial disparities. I think that most people know on some level that “systemic racism” is not really the cause of racial disparities in the commission of violent crimes, and yet it’s so hard to have an honest conversation about it in casual circumstances. John argues that the real core of the race debate in America has to do with the relationship between black people and the police, at which point Sherrod, Nimesh, and Jon come out to join us. Laster tells us about the Jon Laster Challenge, in which he asked black men he knew to recount bad run-ins with the police and his app, which promotes black-owned businesses. Next, Sherrod shows off his crowd work chops and riffs with the audience. One audience member asks what draws the people who become police to the job, and I ask Jon what he really thinks we should do about violent crime in black communities. Finally, we end the event with some questions from the audience.

    I had a a lot of fun up there onstage, and I was so happy to meet the subscribers who came up to say hello afterward. If you missed us this time around, don’t worry. You’ll have another chance. Watch this space for more.

    Note: There were some slight technical difficulties with the recording. As a consequence, the first minute or so of the conversation is missing. Many apologies.

    This post is free and available to the public. To receive early access to TGS episodes, an ad-free podcast feed, Q&As, and other exclusive content and benefits, click below.

    0:00 Why do race and gender trump socioeconomics in affirmative action considerations? 

    9:03 Are Glenn and John making a difference in the race debate? 

    11:30 The argument for charter schools

    19:54 Glenn: Nobody really believes that racism is the cause of racial disparities in crime

    23:05 The difficulty of having an honest conversation about race and crime

    28:15 Seizing the possibilities of our freedom 

    38:22 John: The race debate is about the cops

    40:02 The Jon Laster Challenge

    45:00 Sherrod talks to the crowd 

    47:27 Why do cops become cops? 

    54:41 Jon: Money is the biggest problem in black communities 

    1:03:16 Can poverty account for violence in black communities? 

    1:08:49 Q&A: Do we need more black police?

    1:10:45 Q&A: Have Glenn and John gotten credit for highlighting The Trayvon Hoax?

    1:16:59 Q&A: John clarifies his position on the Georgia voting law 

    Links and Readings

    Ian Rowe’s book, Agency: The Four Point Plan (F.R.E.E.) for ALL Children to Overcome the Victimhood Narrative and Discover Their Pathway to Power

    Jon’s app, Blapp

    Sherrod’s podcast, Race Wars

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit glennloury.substack.com/subscribe

  • As many of you know, Nikita Petrov, Creative Director of The Glenn Show and this newsletter, is Russian. He left his country after the invasion of Ukraine.

    Since then, the war and the role of Russian individuals in it have been weighing heavily on his mind, along with broader questions about responsibility and belonging. In this episode of The Glenn Show, Nikita and I discuss the problems of group affiliation and government action. When large-scale political and civil conflict fragments a society, how do we decide who “our people” are? And relatedly, how much responsibility do we bear for the actions of “our people” and our governments? This leads us to discuss racial and ethnic group belonging. I’m black, but how does that affect how I regard my relations with others of my race? One of “the people with three names” seems to think I’m not “authentically black” because I no longer live on the South Side of Chicago. But what does “authenticity” even mean in this case? From there we move into a broader historical register to consider the long and the unfinished work of emancipation, both that of African Americans and Russians (the serfs were freed in 1861). While, in my view, many blacks are still grappling with American democracy, Nikita notes that Russia experienced only a brief window of democracy between the Cold War and Putin’s rise. We conclude with a discussion of Russian and American wars, and the US’s role in amplifying executive power under Boris Yeltsin.

    Nikita is wrestling with some complicated questions, and I enjoyed talking them through with him. We’re both interested to hear your thoughts, so let us know in the comments.

    Want to keep the TGS talk going? We’ve had a Discord server for a while, but it was previously available only to paying Substack subscribers. Now we’re opening it up to everyone. So if you want to connect with other TGS fans to talk about the show or any topic related to it, click the button below to get in on the conversation.

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    0:00 Nikita asks: Who are “my people”?

    14:09 How much responsibility do we bear for the actions of our governments?

    21:53 The problem of racial affiliation 

    26:39 The use and abuse of group identity

    35:00 Is Glenn “authentically black”?

    40:39 The incomplete project of emancipation 

    50:28 Why was Russia’s period of true democracy so brief? 

    56:36 Democracy and “the Russian soul” 

    1:03:55 Can we compare antiwar Americans and antiwar Russians? 

    1:14:38 Glenn: Why would the US risk nuclear war with Russia over Ukraine? 

    1:20:09 The US’s involvement in drafting Russia’s constitution  

    Links and Readings

    Nikita’s Substack, Psychopolitica

    Glenn’s essay in City Journal, “The Case for Black Patriotism”

    Glenn’s speech at the National Conservatism Conference

    The Woodson Center

    Glenn’s conversation with Sylvia Bennett-Stone and Robert Woodson

    Voices of Black Mothers United

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit glennloury.substack.com/subscribe

  • John McWhorter is back again for the latest installment in our ongoing, nearly decade-and-a-half-long conversation. Let’s get into it.

    John starts out telling us about his current whereabouts: a Dirty Dancing-style bungalow in the Catskills. We move on to a developing story out of Princeton, New Jersey, where a group of parents has written an open letter protesting the school district’s “dumbing down” of the math curriculum in the name of DEI. John and I are on the same page on this one: How much longer are we going to pretend that this is doing any good for the students? The way that the Princeton school district went about implementing these curriculum standards was, at best, deceptive. Don’t parents have the right to know how decisions that affect their kids are being made? Of course, DEI is a business, one that has created thousands of jobs for administrators and consultants who spend their days rooting out racism. And as John points out, if someone’s job depends on finding instances of racism, they’re going to “find racism,” whether it’s really there or not. This incentive structure makes John despair. He also suggests that my theory of social capital may provide the conceptual underpinnings for some present-day arguments in favor of affirmative action. But I point out that, while social capital may partially explain disparities in outcome, it doesn’t excuse disparities in outcome. After all, we can see that, some historically disadvantaged groups regularly over-perform when high academic performance is incentivized within their community. But incentives for middling academic performance tend to produce middling academic performance, and I fear that we’re incentivizing middling academic performance in our young black students. Is there a way out of this mess? Is John right to despair? I close on a note of hope from my Brown University and Heterodox Academy colleague John Tomasi.

    This post is free and available to the public. To receive early access to TGS episodes, an ad-free podcast feed, Q&As, and other exclusive content and benefits, click below.

    0:00 John reports on his rustic Catskills bungalow

    2:40 Parents protest Princeton public schools “dumbing down” their math curriculum 

    17:11 How much educational transparency is owed to parents? 

    25:07 How many DEI initiatives and administrators do we actually need? 

    33:50 John: I don’t think we can fix what’s broken in DEI

    40:49 Glenn’s theory of social capital may explain (but does not excuse) some disparities

    48:56 Cultures of achievement vs. disincentive effects of affirmative action

    58:19 What do we know about what kids know about the world? 

    1:04:46 Glenn offers some reason for hope from John Tomasi

    Links and Readings

    John’s NYT piece, “Sometimes ‘Proper’ Speech Isn’t Correct Speech”

    The open letter from Princeton, New Jersey parents

    Bard College at Simon’s Rock

    John’s book, Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America

    Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou’s book, The Asian American Achievement Paradox

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit glennloury.substack.com/subscribe

  • For this week’s episode, I’m joined by NYU psychologist Jonathan Haidt, author of several books, including (with Greg Lukianoff) The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure and The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Jonathan is also the co-founder of Heterodox Academy, where I serve on the advisory council. Despite that connection, this is our first extended public conversation.

    This is not, however, the first time I’ve engaged with Jon. After a talk some years ago, I asked Jon a question during the Q&A session, which I reintroduce here. Heterodox Academy’s mission is very important, but does focusing exclusively on viewpoint diversity prevent us from acknowledging that some viewpoints are more cogent than others? Jon’s recent Atlantic article “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid” generated a lot of discussion, and he elaborates on his theory of “structural stupidity” here. He claims that, at the national level, the Republican Party’s hostility to moderation has made it structurally stupid and unable to examine its own premises, while left-dominated “epistemic institutions,” like journalism and academia, are mired in their own kind of structural stupidity. I find the structural analysis compelling, but I think it elides the fact that some of the Republicans’ policy position are not, in themselves, stupid at all. Jon is concerned that increasing intolerance on the left, especially on college campuses, may be caused by generational changes in child development. Gen Z is the first generation to have had access to social media as children, and they also had far less unsupervised free play than previous generations. I ask Jon whether this shift can account for groupthink around COVID-induced school shutdowns and drastic changes in attitudes toward trans and racial issues in the US. While the academy no doubt leans left, there is much more viewpoint diversity in economics departments than other areas. Jon has some interesting ideas about why. And finally, I ask Jon whether religion could play a role in increasing viewpoint diversity.

    It was great to finally connect with Jon. I hope and suspect it won’t be the last time we sit down for one of these conversations.

    This post is free and available to the public. To receive early access to TGS episodes, an ad-free podcast feed, Q&As, and other exclusive content and benefits, click below.

    0:00 Glenn asks: Is Jon’s heterodoxy insufficiently pugilistic? 

    5:23 Jon’s theory of social media-driven “structural stupidity”

    16:18 Do the Republican Party’s structural flaws negate its policies?

    26:53 The rise of social media and the disappearance of free play for kids

    35:42 Race, trans issues, and the future of the country

    45:34 Why are economists uniquely heterodox thinkers in the academy?

    48:08 What fills the “God-shaped hole” in the hearts of putatively secular Americans?

    Links and Readings

    Heterodox Academy

    Jon’s Atlantic article, “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid” 

    Jon’s book, with Greg Lukianoff, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure

    Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann’s book, The Spiral of Silence: Public Opinion—Our Social Skin

    Brown University President Christina Paxson’s letter about racial justice

    Glenn’s rebuttal to Paxson in City Journal

    Jon’s childhood independence advocacy organization, Let Grow

    Jon’s social media research

    James A. Morone’s book, Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History

    John Tierney and Roy F. Baumeister’s book, The Power of Bad: How the Negativity Effect Rules Us and How We Can Rule It

    John McWhorter’s book, Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit glennloury.substack.com/subscribe

  • John McWhorter is back once more for an episode of The Glenn Show, so let’s get into it.

    I begin by reporting on my current “European Tour.” Last week I spoke at the London School of Economics, and I’m currently headed from Toulouse, France to Marseille to deliver the keynote address at the International Conference on Public Economic Theory. It’s been quite an enlightening experience so far, as I’ve gotten a look at how young black European economists are thinking about inequities within and without their profession. John and I discuss a recent report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which offers a picture of racial disparities in the UK that differs greatly from that of the US. But as John notes, the impression that people abroad have of our problems is often distorted. One of our real problems is our tendency to filter all thinking about race and ethnicity through “blacks and whites.” The US is a much more diverse place that that, and John and I ask how long the concerns of African Americans will determine the national agenda for all “people of color.” Next, John asks a big question: What is the real cause of racial disparities in the commission of violent crime? We know that black perpetrators are responsible for a disproportionate amount of violent crime, but we need to understand why. I gently chide John for missing the recent Old Parkland Conference, but he’s got a good excuse: He was busy recording a series of lectures about the history of the alphabet for the Great Courses! I am utterly fascinated by this project, and I convince John to give us a preview. And finally, I offer a critique of John’s recent column, which addresses school shootings.

    This one is buoyant and weighty in equal measure. As always, I want to hear your thoughts. Let me know in the comments!

    This post is free and available to the public. To receive early access to TGS episodes, an ad-free podcast feed, Q&As, and other exclusive content and benefits, click below.

    0:00 Race and economics in the UK

    14:26 How long will the concerns of native-born black Americans drive the race conversation?

    23:15 The shaky “people of color” coalition

    27:51 Trying to account for racial disparities in the commission of violent crime

    39:44 Reclaiming moral agency from white people

    42:37 The Old Parkland conference

    44:37 John’s forthcoming lectures on the alphabet

    51:47 Glenn’s critique of John’s school shooting column

    Links and Readings

    The “Sewell Report” from the UK’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities

    Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld’s book, The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America

    Ezra Klein’s interview with Reihan Salam

    Glenn and John’s conversation with Randall Kennedy

    Ian Rowe’s book, Agency: The Four Point Plan (F.R.E.E.) for ALL Children to Overcome the Victimhood Narrative and Discover Their Pathway to Power

    John’s recent NYT column, “Gun Violence Is Like What Segregation Was. An Unaddressed Moral Stain.”

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit glennloury.substack.com/subscribe

  • Earlier this year, I announced that I would be donating 10% of the net income from this newsletter to the Woodson Center to support the vital work that they do. I also want to use the newsletter and TGS as a platform to promote the work of Woodson Center-affiliated organizations that are making change on the ground in communities around the country. My first guest in what I hope will be a long ongoing series is Sylvia Bennett-Stone, Director of Voices of Black Mothers United, who is joined by Robert Woodson himself. Sylvia and Bob were on hand at the recent Old Parkland Conference, where I had the honor of speaking, so we sat down for an in-person discussion. (You can also read the great essayist Gerald Early’s account of the conference). I had Sylvia on the show last year, but VBMU’s work supporting mothers who have lost children to violent crime is so powerful and so important that I thought it appropriate to have her back.

    Bob begins by introducing the mission of the Woodson Center, which provides support to “social entrepreneurs” who work within communities to help solve the toughest problems facing them today: crime, poverty, academic achievement, and many others. Sylvia then talks about a recent five-city tour that she undertook with VBMU to support victims of violence and to raise awareness for victims’ rights. Sylvia recounts how the loss of her daughter moved her to reach out to help other mothers who are suffering. Sylvia is clear that, in order to prevent more deaths, more police are needed in black communities, and good relations need to be maintained between law enforcement and the people they serve. As Bob points out, contrary to what many progressive activists claim, efforts to defund the police are unpopular in black communities with high crime rates. The subject of forgiveness comes up more than once in this conversation. Sylvia and Bob tell me about instances in which the mothers of slain children not only forgive the perpetrators but sometimes reach out to them in prison. This remarkable fact suggests to me that there is a strong Christian influence in VBMU, which Sylvia and Bob affirm, though Sylvia notes that they support whoever needs their help, regardless of religious affiliation. I wonder why, given the importance of Christianity in many black communities, we hear so little about it in the media. We end with a final word from Sylvia, who urges anyone struggling with the pain of losing a child to reach out to VBMU.

    Sylvia and Bob are doing vital, necessary work, and I am so proud that all of us here are able to support them. And if you want to make additional donations, please visit the websites for the Woodson Center and Voices of Black Mothers United.

    Unfortunately, we only had a little over a half hour for our conversation. So to round out this week’s episode, I’m including a speech I delivered when I accepted the Bradley Prize in a ceremony in Washington, D.C. earlier this month. It was a tremendous honor, and I want to share the moment with all of you here.

    Ten percent of net revenue from this newsletter goes to support the Woodson Center and programs like Voices of Black Mothers United. To help support these absolutely essential organizations, become a subscriber to this newsletter, or donate directly to the Woodson Center and Voice of Black Mothers United.

    0:00 The work of the Woodson Center

    2:26 Sylvia’s recent five-city tour to support victims of violence

    4:40 How tragedy moved Sylvia to start Voices of Black Mothers United

    9:29 Sylvia: We must work with the police in our communities

    13:38 What role does race play in VBMU’s work? And where are the fathers?

    18:20 The importance of forgiveness in the healing process

    22:07 How VBMU is reaching out beyond black communities

    25:23 Sylvia: The pain of mothers who lose children to police violence is no different than mine

    28:39 Glenn: Why do we hear so little about Christian faith’s role in healing?

    34:10 Glenn's Bradley Prize acceptance speech, May 17, 2022

    Links

    The Woodson Center

    Voices of Black Mothers United

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit glennloury.substack.com/subscribe

  • This week, I’m back with my friend John McWhorter. A lot has happened since we last spoke, so let’s get to it.

    We begin by discussing the horrific, racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo, New York. John states that, among other things, the event makes him wish we had a word besides “racism” to help us distinguish between truly racist acts like that shooting and situations where there may be racial disparities but no actual racism present. One of the shooter’s motivations was so-called “great replacement” theory, or the idea that there is a conspiracy on the part of Democrats or Jews or whoever to “replace” large parts of the white population in the US with Latino immigrants. Tucker Carlson has given much airtime to a version of this theory (though without any overt antisemitism), and I’ve appeared on one of Tucker Carlson’s shows in the past. John asks me if I think Tucker is indirectly responsible for stirring up ugly sentiments toward immigrants of the short held by the shooter. I respond that, while I don’t endorse everything Tucker says on his show, I don’t believe him to be a racist. After all, Democrats often point to the impact that the country’s shifting demographics may have on elections. We need to be able to debate the immigration issue on its merits. It’s perfectly legitimate to believe that we need tighter controls on who is allowed to live in this country, and one ought to be able to say so without being charged with racism or xenophobia. We move on to last week’s Bradley Prize ceremony, where I received the honor and delivered a speech. John recounts a time when a white woman condescendingly gave him a book by Walter Mosley in an attempt to “educate” him. The incident turned John off of Mosley’s writing, but he’s come back to it, and he is delighted by what he’s found. (When is Mosley going to get a Pulitzer or a National Book Award? It’s past time!) And finally, we discuss the difficult problem of mass shootings, mental illness, and the second amendment.

    I grab hold of more than one third rail in this one. As always, I want to hear your thoughts. Post them below!

    This post is free and available to the public. To receive early access to TGS episodes, an ad-free podcast feed, Q&As, and other exclusive content and benefits, click below.

    0:00 John: We need a word besides “racism” to distinguish racial inequities from what happened in Buffalo

    10:49 Glenn: I don’t agree with everything Tucker Carlson says, but he’s not a racist

    20:22 Demographic change is happening in the US, but how should we understand it?

    28:07 What does Tucker think he’s doing and what is he actually doing?

    36:21 Glenn: We should be able to freely debate immigration policy without evoking racial tropes

    46:31 Glenn accepts the Bradley Prize at the organization’s gala 

    51:13 How a white woman’s condescension stopped John from reading Walter Mosley

    57:42 Can we disentangle incidents like the Buffalo shooting from ideology?

    1:02:34 A correction from Glenn

    Links and Readings

    John’s book, Woke Racism

    Glenn Greenwald’s Substack post, “The Demented - and Selective - Game of Instantly Blaming Political Opponents For Mass Shootings”

    Part 1 of the NYT’s series on Tucker Carlson

    Glenn and John discussing whether Glenn should appear on Tucker Carlson’s show

    A partial transcript of Glenn’s appearance on Tucker Carlson’s show

    Glenn and John discussing Glenn’s appearance on Tucker Carlson’s show

    John’s NYT column on Walter Mosley

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit glennloury.substack.com/subscribe

  • This week’s episode is a throwback to 2015, when Daniel Kaufman, professor of philosophy at Missouri State University, editor of the online magazine the Electric Agora, and (at that time) a mainstay on bloggingheads.tv and meaningoflife.tv, invited me onto his show Sophia. I stumbled across this video again last month, and I think it remains an illuminating discussion that addresses some fundamental questions about economics and the social sciences.

    We begin by discussing the “science” part of the social sciences. I explain that we economists tend not to philosophize about our discipline as much as other social scientists. But many major economic thinkers (think Keynes, Marx, and others) elaborate concepts that do ask fundamental questions about the nature of economics. To call a discipline a “science” implies that its findings are testable and replicable, that its insights are able to predict future conditions from present conditions. Does economics do that? I argue that it does. Of course, since much economic data is drawn from real-world behavior rather than controlled experiments, it can be difficult to isolate variables in a way that would satisfy, say, a physicist. This is because markets exist within particular cultures and under particular social arrangements that are not themselves purely economic in nature. And cultural values are going to affect, at least to some extent, how people behave within markets. The idea that people will try to maximize utility in a rational way is important to economics, but of course we know that humans often behave in ways that seem irrational. How does economics incorporate irrationality into its methodology? And finally, Dan and I were speaking at a time when the (still ongoing) replication crisis was all over the news. Is replication as seemingly dire a problem in economics as it is in psychology?

    Dan’s training in philosophy helps him to ask some really deep questions here, and I think you can tell I relished the opportunity to answer them. Love to know what you think about this “classic” episode.

    This post is free and available to the public. To receive early access to TGS episodes, an ad-free podcast feed, Q&As, and other exclusive content and benefits, click below.

    5:44 How scientific are the social sciences?

    11:20 Glenn defends the reliability of economic predictions

    29:47 The strengths and weaknesses of “natural experiments”

    36:48 How much does culture affect economic behavior?

    50:06 New insights from behavioral economics

    58:12 Dan: We trust the social sciences too much

    Links and Readings

    Dan’s website, the Electric Agora

    The Electric Agora on YouTube

    Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir’a book, Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit glennloury.substack.com/subscribe

  • This week’s plan for the show was to have Edmund Santurri, professor of philosophy and religion at St. Olaf College, join John McWhorter and I to talk about his soon-to-be terminated appointment as the director of the college’s Institute for Freedom & Community. Ed’s situation is the latest instance of a college’s administration folding to pressure from left-wing activists (more on that below). Unfortunately, Ed was only able to join us for the very beginning of this episode before tech glitches had their way with us. Ed’s story is important, and I do wish we had been able to carry on a full conversation, but it was not to be.

    We do make some headway, though. Ed begins by explaining how, after he invited a series of speakers viewed by some as controversial, St. Olaf’s administration announced that they would remove him from his role as director of the Institute for Freedom & Community a year earlier than had been agreed upon. One might ask: What good is an institute devoted to free inquiry if it refuses to engage with controversial ideas? Ed begins to explain the recent history of student protests at the college, but we’re then forced to whittle our trialogue down to a dialogue. John expresses his disgust for the St. Olaf administrators responsible for Ed’s removal (which I share) and talks about the important work of FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. We then debate whether there is a right-wing equivalent to left-wing campus cancel culture. I don’t think there is, but John thinks one can be found in attempts to remove books dealing with gender and sexuality from public grade schools and attempts to remove trans, nonbinary, and gender fluid teachers from classrooms. He’s not that worried about nonbinary gender identity in children. But I have to confess, I think the performative dimension of that sort of expression may be an indicator of a worrisome direction in our society. We then move on to something about which everyone can agree: My house is awesome. John visited it for the first time last week when he was in Providence for my festschrift, a conference held in my honor in which many of my dear and distinguished friends gathered to discuss my work and its impact. It was a moving and humbling event, and we’re hoping to post some video from it here soon. We finish our conversation with an extended debate about the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision that will almost certainly overturn Roe v. Wade and the political environment that led to a draft of Samuel Alito’s majority opinion being leaked to the press.

    It’s good to have John back after his absence. I know you’ll all have some things to say about this one, so don’t hesitate to post a comment.

    This post is free and available to the public. To receive early access to TGS episodes, an ad-free podcast feed, Q&As, and other exclusive content and benefits, click below.

    0:00 Why Ed is being removed from the directorship of the Institute for Freedom & Community

    11:39 The pressure campaigns waged against past Institute events

    17:43 John: Administrators at St. Olaf should be ashamed of themselves

    19:50 Are right-wing campaigns against openly trans and nonbinary elementary school teachers the equivalent of left-wing cancel culture? 

    29:05 What are the social determinants of gender identity in young people?

    37:53 Glenn’s awesome house

    41:18 A festschrift for Glenn 

    48:08 Can we separate jurisprudence from the lived consequences of overturning Roe v. Wade? 

    56:12 Do the ends now justify the means in American politics?

    Links and Readings

    Inside Higher Ed on Ed’s removal from the Institute for Freedom & Community

    FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

    FIRE’s letter to St. Olaf’s president protesting Ed’s removal

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit glennloury.substack.com/subscribe

  • This week, I welcome Briahna Joy Gray to TGS. I’ve appeared on her podcast, Bad Faith, and now she’s here to return the favor. Briahna and I have some pretty pronounced political differences—she’s the former National Press Secretary for Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, after all. But we get along anyway, because we both believe in the importance of free speech and open debate. And make no mistake, there is a lot of debate in this episode.

    [Note: We recorded this conversation at Brown’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, and there was no video equipment on hand. Instead, Nikita Petrov has created an animation version of me to provide some visual stimulation.]

    I may be uncomfortable saying that I’m a “man of the right,” but I’m certainly “conservative for a black guy.” But Briahna points out that there are many black people who have benefited from America’s economic opportunities and know it. They may vote Democrat, but they’re hardly socialists. Many conservatives say that their voices are shut out of mainstream discourse, and the left has a similar complaint. I point out that the Democratic Party has repeatedly undercut Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaigns, and Briahna explains why Democrats have been and continue to be hostile toward progressive policies and politicians. She argues that neither Democratic nor Republican policies reflect the actual desires of the majority of voters, as political parties no longer need to vie for broad majorities in order to win elections. After that, the debate begins in earnest. We address three major points of contention: increasing taxes on the very rich in order to expand the social safety net, Medicare for All, and student debt cancellation. I’m skeptical of all of these policies, to varying degrees, while Briahna believes they’re necessary in order to remedy the (admittedly vast) disparities we see all around us. We wrap up by discussing the fascinating convergence between certain factions of the left and right in criticizing what appears to be a march toward escalating US intervention in Ukraine.

    I enjoy a good debate, and I suspect that Briahna does, too. Maybe that’s why, despite our differences, we get along so well. Let me know what you think in the comments.

    This post is free and available to the public. To receive early access to TGS episodes, an ad-free podcast feed, Q&As, and other exclusive content and benefits, click below.

    0:00 Acknowledging the black middle class

    14:04 How the Democratic Party works against progressives

    21:11 Briahna: The interests of political parties no longer reflect the interests of voters

    26:53 Should we increase taxes on the very rich in order to fund the social safety net?

    34:51 Briahna makes the case for Medicare for All

    43:21 Should we cancel student debt?

    54:30 The left-right alliance over intervention in Ukraine

    Bad Faith’s Patreon page

    Ben Carson’s book, Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story

    Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page’s 2014 study, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens”

    Vann R. Newkirk II’s Atlantic piece, “The American Health-Care System Increases Income Inequality”

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit glennloury.substack.com/subscribe

  • Normally I would post one of my bi-weekly conversations with John McWhorter today, but John and I had too many scheduling conflicts to find time to talk this week (he’ll return in two weeks). So in his stead, I’m talking with Greg Thomas, co-founder of the Jazz Leadership Project and senior fellow at the Institute for Cultural Evolution.

    We begin by discussing Greg’s work with the Jazz Leadership Project, which uses the principles of jazz to train leaders within businesses and organizations. He’s got some big-league clients, so I was interested to know how Greg implements ideas and strategies from an originally African American art form within a corporate environment. Greg was a friend of the great critic, poet, and novelist Stanley Crouch, and I ask him about how they came to know each other. This leads us to discuss the intellectual lineage that runs from Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray through Crouch. These thinkers were deeply rooted in black art, culture, and politics, but they were also, to varying degrees, skeptical of race as a foundational concept. Is there anyone now continuing this tradition? Greg talks about his own efforts in that direction, but he also notes that the modern Enlightenment tradition, which sought a scientific foundation for knowledge and institutions, has been at least partially displaced by postmodern thought, which seeks to critique the Enlightenment. Greg argues that such a critique is fine, so long as we don’t abandon modernity’s gains. He then introduces some ideas from integral theory and from the philosopher Anthony Appiah that he believes can help reconcile the need both to preserve culturally specific traditions and to claim membership in a broader cosmopolitan community. And finally, Greg tells me about some of his daughter’s impressive accomplishments, including building the We Read Too app.

    I really enjoyed having Greg on as a guest, and I hope to have him back on for an episode with both John and I soon.

    This post is free and available to the public. To receive early access to TGS episodes, an ad-free podcast feed, Q&As, and other exclusive content and benefits, click below.

    0:00 Greg’s work with the Jazz Leadership Project

    12:35 How does a “black” art form operate within a corporate environment?

    17:27 What’s left of the legacy of Ralph Ellison, Albert Murray, and Stanley Crouch?

    25:04 Black culture after the postmodern turn

    32:45 Greg’s work with the Institute for Cultural Evolution

    36:40 Greg’s critique of Black Lives Matter

    40:48 Rooted cosmopolitanism and the “Faustian bargain” of whiteness

    50:46 Greg’s very accomplished daughter

    Links and Readings

    The Jazz Leadership Project

    The Institute for Cultural Evolution

    Greg’s Substack post, “Why Race-Based Framings of Social Issues Hurt Us All”

    Stanley Crouch’s Notes of a Hanging Judge: Essays and Reviews, 1979-1989 

    Video from Combating Racism and Antisemitism Together

    Steve McIntosh’s Developmental Politics: How America Can Grow Into a Better Version of Itself

    Charles Love’s Race Crazy: BLM, 1619, and the Progressive Racism Movement

    Kwame Anthony Appiah’s, Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers

    Danielle Allen 

    Resmaa Menakem, My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies

    Kaya Thomas Wilson’s We Read Too app 

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit glennloury.substack.com/subscribe

  • On this week’s episode of The Glenn Show, I welcome my old friend Stephanie Lepp, the Executive Producer at the Center for Humane Technology. I first met Stephanie through her husband, Nathaniel, who was a student of mine at Brown. Stephanie produced a podcast called Reckonings, which told the stories of how people transform their worldviews. I went on the show in 2015 and told the story of the evolution of my own political worldview (links below). Since then, we've been wanting to do another round. It's time! This time, Stephanie joins me on The Glenn Show, to once again help me wrestle with how my views have changed and with my responsibilities as a public intellectual.

    Stephanie begins by asking me to step back and consider a big-picture question: What is my goal as a public intellectual? It’s not something I often ask myself in such explicit terms, and Stephanie pushes me to articulate a response. Stephanie engages me on the affirmative action question in order to get me to speak not just about my critique of preferences, but to think about whether critique is enough. It’s one thing to criticize a program or idea, she says, and another to propose a solution. I agree, of course, but the critique does have to be made, and not just in the case of affirmative action. I see it as my job to make clear that the systemic prejudices affirmative action programs were designed to ameliorate are largely in the past. When we see large-scale failure in black communities today, the responsibility for those failures rests, to a great extent, on the shoulders of the members of those communities. Stephanie suggests that, given my position as a public intellectual, when I speak about these problems, I not only describe social reality but actually influence it. If that is true (and I’m not sure to what extent it is), should I reorient my way of engaging with matters of public concern? Stephanie says, “Evolution is beautiful, but it’s not pretty.” This leads me to wonder: Is our present political turmoil an ugly but necessary process that will result in improvement over time, if properly attended to? I'm doubtful. Finally, I offer a critique of Stephanie’s own brand of “promiscuous pragmatic pluralism.”

    It was such a pleasure to reconnect with an old friend and talk through these issues. I’m looking forward to your thoughts!

    This post is free and available to the public. To receive early access to TGS episodes, an ad-free podcast feed, Q&As, and other exclusive content and benefits, click below.

    0:00 What is Glenn’s goal as a public intellectual?

    11:12 Glenn has his critique of affirmative action …

    21:57 … but is articulating the critique enough? 

    27:23 Glenn: My raison d’être is to give voice to my contempt for the failures of my people

    36:36 Stephanie: At a certain point, you’re not describing reality, you’re influencing it

    43:02 The case for integralism 

    51:39 “Evolution is beautiful, but it’s not pretty”

    1:00:06 Glenn’s critique of Stephanie’s “promiscuous pragmatic pluralism” 

    1:06:47 A preliminary look into the married life of the Lourys

    Reckonings, “The Conscience of a Public Intellectual, pt. 1”

    Reckonings, “The Conscience of a Public Intellectual, pt. 2”

    Reckonings, “The Enemy Within”

    Chloé Valdary’s Theory of Enchantment

    Ken Wilber’s A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science, and Spirituality

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit glennloury.substack.com/subscribe

  • This week, John and I are talking about the ten-year anniversary of the Trayvon Martin shooting, one of the most politically consequential events of the 2010s. A decade later, are we in a better place than where we started?

    John and I begin by discussing the New York Times’s recent package commemorating the event, which features a written piece by Charles Blow and video interviews with Barack Obama, Henry Louis Gates, and Al Sharpton. All of them reinforce the mainstream narrative about Martin’s death—that he had been senselessly attacked by Zimmerman for no reason. Yet much evidence supports Zimmerman’s story: that he shot Martin in self-defense after Martin assaulted him. John discusses how his skepticism toward the mainstream Trayvon Martin narrative contributed to the end of his relationship with The Root. My own skepticism continues to pose challenges for me, as many of my students resist when I ask them to consider the facts of the case rather than the “poetic truth” the case has come to represent. John suggests that we can learn from recalling how the O.J. Simpson trial unfolded. The public story about the trial had more to do with race and the cops than it did with the brutal murder of two innocent people, even if most people now acknowledge that Simpson’s not guilty verdict was mistaken. There are people contesting the mainstream narratives around Martin and Michael Brown, including excellent documentaries by Joel Gilbert and Shelby and Eli Steele. These counternarratives are vital correctives, but where are the consequences for those who continue to push bogus information? And we end with a bit of a palate cleanser, with John taking us through the life and work of Scott Joplin.

    Is there a way, at this late date, to turn the narratives about Martin, Michael Brown, and others around? How can we turn back the tide unleashed by these events and their political afterlife? Let me know your thoughts.

    This post is free and available to the public. To receive early access to TGS episodes, an ad-free podcast feed, Q&As, and other exclusive content and benefits, click below.

    0:00 The NYT commemorates the tenth anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s death

    7:20 What really happened between Martin and George Zimmerman?

    14:35 How John’s relationship with The Root frayed

    19:33 Learning from the O.J. Simpson case

    32:24 Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown on the big and small screen

    40:55 Where are the consequences for those who get it wrong?

    46:00 Remembering Scott Joplin

    Links and Readings

    The NYT’s Trayvon Martin anniversary package

    Joel Gilbert’s book, The Trayvon Hoax: Unmasking the Witness Fraud That Divided America

    Joel Gilbert’s documentary, The Trayvon Hoax: Unmasking the Witness Fraud That Divided America

    Eli and Shelby Steele’s documentary, What Killed Michael Brown?

    Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story

    Jason Riley’s WSJ opinion piece, “Will Amazon Suppress the True Michael Brown Story?”

    The 2015 DOJ statement announcing the closure of the investigation of the Trayvon Martin shooting

    John’s NYT piece, “Scott Joplin’s Ragtime Is Ambrosia. Here’s Why It Matters.”

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit glennloury.substack.com/subscribe

  • Over the last couple years, I’ve been in communication with Noam Dworman, the owner of the Comedy Cellar in New York, which is one of the most influential comedy clubs in the country. He suggested that we collaborate and put together a show that would explore the relationship between truth, free speech, and comedy. After a lot of back and forth, we came up with the idea of putting non-comedian intellectuals into conversation with professional stand-up comics. We weren’t quite sure what would happen, but we both sensed the idea had great potential.

    And so, last month, The Glenn Show held its first live event. Roland Fryer, Coleman Hughes, and I served as the “serious” participants, and Noam invited the comics Andrew Schulz, Judy Gold, Shane Gillis, T.J., and Rick Crom to come up and offer their thoughts. The event also included special appearances from Nikki Jax and the stellar Sam Jay. Noam and I wanted to know, are there certain truths that only comics can get away with telling? Can delivering a potentially unsettling idea in comedic form make people more receptive to it?

    The place was packed—tickets sold out in just a few days. The atmosphere was electric. After I introduced the event and kicked things off with an opening provocation, the show took on a life of its own. As you’ll see, the comics took the idea and ran with it. There are moments of chaos, moments of profundity, and a lot of laughs. I couldn’t have asked for a better live debut for TGS, and I am excited to be able to share with all of you who made it possible through your support.

    We’re planning on doing more of these events in the future, so let us know what you think!

    Many, many thanks to Noam Dworman for his hard work, generosity, and for providing video and audio of the event. The title sequence was created by our own Nikita Petrov.

    This post is free and available to the public. To receive early access to TGS episodes, an ad-free podcast feed, Q&As, and other exclusive content and benefits, click below.

    0:00 Some unspeakable truths

    8:07 Are comics now afraid to speak their minds onstage?

    19:38 The difference between telling the truth and getting a laugh

    28:42 Can jokes actually do harm?

    36:50 Nikki Jax on comedy and trans issues

    43:34 Who actually “cancels” comics, audiences or corporations?

    50:26 Sam Jay on artistic freedom and mob mentality

    55:55 Q&A: I’m worried people won’t understand that my one-woman show is satire. What should I do?

    58:42 Q&A: Does comedy have real power or is it ‘just jokes’?

    1:06:35 Q&A: Do comics sometimes inadvertently reinforce wrongheaded points of view?

    1:10:23 Q&A: Why are Ivy Leaguers so unfunny?

    1:13:13 Q&A: Are college campuses inhospitable environments for comedy?

    1:16:45 Q&A: What got Roland suspended at Harvard?

    1:20:20 Q&A: Does the general public need social media training?

    1:22:31 Q&A: Is there a way to stop corporations from folding to social media pressure campaigns?

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit glennloury.substack.com/subscribe

  • This week I welcome Sam Harris to TGS. Sam is a neuroscientist and philosopher, the host of the podcast Making Sense, and the proprietor of the meditation app Waking Up. He’s a searching, truly open-minded thinker who follows the evidence where it leads, even if that means admitting that he was wrong about a previously held position.

    We begin by discussing Sam’s uncertainty about how to navigate some aspects of the discourse on race. He wants a world in which race simply doesn’t matter all that much, but he’s unsure of how to bring that world into being. Sam highlights the stakes of the affirmative action question by asking us to imagine that we have to undergo brain surgery at the hands of a surgeon who got through medical school despite relatively low performance. Would we want this surgeon operating on us or our children? (I raised a similar concern in the past.) We then move on to Charles Murray, who Sam has had as a guest on his podcast. Sam was appalled by Charles’s treatment at Middlebury College, where he was violently deplatformed by a group of student protesters. Sam shares my view that nobody, and especially not a figure as significant as Charles, should be prevented from airing their views in public, no matter how wrongheaded we might find them. (For the record, I don’t find Charles to be “wrongheaded.”) If you disagree with a speaker, argue with them. We know that certain groups perform worse on tests and other quantifiable measures of academic performance than others, but we’re not yet sure why. Sam asks an intriguing question: Are there certain things we’re better off not knowing? If we knew that a given group had an inherent, perhaps ineradicable disadvantage on quantifiable measurements of performance, would we want to know? Could the social ill that such knowledge might produce make us worse off than the social good that would come from it? We then consider whether there are still circumstances in which affirmative action is necessary. From there, we pivot to God. Sam is, famously, a critic of organized religion. But religion is one thing and belief in God another. Sam frames the question of belief as one that can be addressed through mindful introspection. But at the level of community, it seems more difficult to find a secular alternative to the networks of support and spiritual sustenance that many find in temples, churches, synagogues, and mosques.

    I had a great time thinking along with Sam. There is much more that we could have discussed had time allowed, so hopefully he’ll join me again soon.

    Note: We encountered some problems with Sam’s audio. As a result, the sound quality on his end is less than optimal. Many apologies.

    This post is free and available to the public. To receive early access to TGS episodes, an ad-free podcast feed, Q&As, and other exclusive content and benefits, click below.

    0:00 The principle that race shouldn’t matter and the fact that it does

    6:17 The high stakes of affirmative action

    17:00 In defense of Charles Murray

    25:35 Are there facts we’re better off not knowing?

    36:30 When does affirmative action make sense and when is it counterproductive?

    48:01 Is belief in God irrational?

    52:32 Suffering and the illusion of self

    1:00:27 Finding meaning in secular community

    Links and Readings

    Sam’s books

    Sam’s podcast, Making Sense

    Sam’s app, Waking Up

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit glennloury.substack.com/subscribe