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SHILO BROOKS: Welcome back to the Free Mind podcast, where we discuss philosophic and political ideas with adventurous disregard for intellectual trends. I'm Shilo Brooks from the Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization at the University of Colorado Boulder. Today's podcast features a lecture by Glenn Loury of Brown University, who discusses racial inequality in America from a heterodox point of view. Loury is the Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Economis at Brown. He received his BA in mathematics from Northwestern and his PhD in economics from MIT. As an economic theorist, he's published widely and lectured throughout the world on his research. He's also among America's leading critics writing on racial inequality, and his books on the subject include The Anatomy of Racial Inequality and Race, Incarceration, and American Values. Professor Loury has been elected a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economics Association and a member of the American Philosophical Society. And he's also a Fellow of the American Econometric Society and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His lecture is entitled "Unspeakable Truths about Racial Inequality." It was the Benson's Center's great pleasure to provide Professor Lowery with an occasion to add complexity and nuance to the conventional narrative on race in America.
GLENN LOURY: Thank you very much. Thank you, Shilo. I really appreciate that generous introduction. I'm very grateful for the audience and for the opportunity. And I just want you to know I have a lecture prepared that I'm gonna share and then open up for Q&A. I am a Black American intellectual living in an age of persistent racial inequality in my country. As a Black man, I feel compelled to represent the interest of my people. But that reference is not unambiguous. As an intellectual I feel that I must seek out the truth and speak such truth as I am given to know. As an American at this critical moment of racial reckoning in our country, I feel that imperative all the more urgently. What are my responsibilities, I ask? Do they conflict with one another? I'm going to explore that question tonight. My conclusion, my responsibilities as a Black man, as an American and as an intellectual are not in conflict. My responsibility is to defend and to speak the truth. I would try to defend that position as best I can in what follows. I'll also try to illustrate the threat that cancel culture poses to a rational discourse about racial inequality in America, which our country now so desperately needs. Finally, I'll try to model how an intellectual who truly loves his people should respond. I'll do this by enunciating out loud what have increasingly become unspeakable truths. So brace yourselves.
So let me begin with a provocation. Consider this story from my hometown newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, that ran some years ago. Things have only gotten worse since. I ask you to bear with me as I take a moment here, because these details matter. We must look them squarely in the face. I quote, "Six people were killed including a 15-year-old girl and at least 63 others were wounded in shootings across Chicago over Memorial Day weekend." That's one city. That's one weekend. I continue, "The total number of people shot during the weekend this year surpassed last year's holiday when 55 people were shot, 22 fatally. The most recent homicide happened late Monday in Washington Park neighborhood on the South Side. Officers responding to a call of shots fired at 11 p.m. found James Taylor." He had a name. Can we speak his name? "James Taylor, lying on the ground near his vehicle on the 5100 block of South Calumet Avenue. This according to the Chicago Police and the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office. Taylor lived about a mile and a half away at the 6500 block of South Ellis. He had been shot in the chest and was pronounced dead at the scene. Witnesses at the scene were not cooperating with detectives. About the same time a man was shot to death in the West Rogers Park neighborhood on the North Side. Officers responding to a call of shots fired at about 11 pm. found 39-year-old Johann John lying in a gangway in the 6400 block of North Rockwell. John, who lived in the 100 block of North Ashland in Evanston, was shot in the neck and taken to the present St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, where he was later pronounced dead. Police said he was 25 years old. Our source said that shooting stemmed from a dispute between two women, one of them had a child with the man and the other was his girlfriend. The women were armed and the man was eventually shot during the argument. No weapons were recovered from the scene. Finally, about 5:20 p.m. on Saturday, a man was shot to death in the Fuller Park neighborhood on the South Side. Gavin Whitmore, 27, was sitting in the driver's seat of a vehicle with a passenger, 26-year-old Ashley Harrison in the 200 block of West Ridge Street when someone walked up to the vehicle and shot him in the head, according to the police and the Medical Examiner's Office. Whitmore of the 5800 block West 63rd place was pronounced dead at the scene, 5:29 p.m." Close quote.
All of the victims were Black people. 63 shot, 15 dead, one weekend, one city. Here's the thing, reports such as this could be multiplied dozens of times effortlessly. If a Black intellectual truly believes that Black lives matter, then what is he supposed to say in response to such nauseating reports? That there's nothing to see here? I think not. Violence on such a scale as this, involving Blacks as both perpetrators and victims, poses a dilemma to someone like myself. On the one hand, as the Harvard legal scholar Randall Kennedy has observed, we elites need to represent the decent, law-abiding majority of African-Americans power in fearfully, inside their homes and the face of such violence. We must do that not just to enhance our group's reputation as in the politics of respectability, but mainly as a precondition for our own dignity and self-respect. On the other hand, we elites must also counter the demonization of young Black men, which the larger American culture has for some time now been feverishly engaged in.
Even as we condemn murderers, we cannot help but view with sympathy the plight of many youngsters who, though not incorrigible, have nonetheless committed crimes. We must wrestle with complex historical and contemporary causes internal and external to the Black experience that help account for this pathology. And there's no way around it. This is pathology. The behavior in question here is not okay. That one cannot do social, psychological explanations does not resolve all moral questions here. Where is the self-respecting Black intellectual to take his stand, I ask? Must he say anything to his own people about how some of us are living? Has he anything to say? Is there space in American public discourses for nuanced, subtle, morally sophisticated engagement with these questions? Or are they mere fodder for what amount to tendentious, cynical and overtly politically partisan arguments on behalf of something called racial equity?
And what about those so-called white intellectuals? Do they have to remain mute? Must they limit themselves to incanting anti-racist slogans? I don't know all the answers here, but I know that those victims had names, I know they had families, I know they did not deserve their fate, I know that Black intellectuals must bear witness to what actually is taking place in our midst. Must wrestle with complex historical and contemporary causes, both within and outside of the Black community that bear on these tragedies. Must tell truths about what is happening and must not hide from the truth with platitudes, euphemisms and lies. I know despite whatever causal factors may be at play, that Black intellectuals must insist that each youngster is capable of choosing a moral way of life. I know that for the sake of the dignity and self-respect of my people and for the future of my country, we American intellectuals of all colors must never lose sight of what a moral way of life consists in. And yet we are in danger of doing precisely that, I fear.
Here's why. Socially mediated behavioral issues lie at the root of today's racial inequality problem. They are real and they must be faced squarely if we are to grasp why racial disparities persist. Activists on the left of American politics claim that something called white supremacy or implicit bias or old-fashioned anti-Black racism are sufficient to account for Black disadvantage. This is a bluff that relies on cancel culture to be sustained. Those making such arguments are in effect daring you to disagree with them. They're threatening to cancel you if you do not accept their account. You must be a racist. You must believe something is intrinsically wrong with Black people if you don't attribute pathological behavior among them to systemic injustice. You must think Blacks are inferior, for how else could one explain the disparities? Blaming the victim is the offense they will convict you of if you're lucky.
I claim that this is a dare. This is debater's trick because at the end of the day, what are those folks saying when they declare that mass incarceration is racism? That the high number of Blacks in jails is self-evidently a sign of racial antipathy? To respond, no, it's mainly a sign of antisocial behavior by criminals who happened to be Black, one is being dismissed as a more reprobate. This is so even if the speaker is Black. Just ask Justice Clarence Thomas. Nobody wants to be canceled. Well we should all want to stay in touch with reality. Common sense and much evidence suggests that on the whole people are not being arrested, convicted and sentenced in this country because of their race. Those in prisons, and there may well be too many, are in the main, those who have broken the law, who have hurt others or stolen things or otherwise violated basic behavioral norms, which makes civil society possible. Seeing prisons as a racist conspiracy to confine Black people is an absurd proposition. No serious person could believe it. Not really.
Indeed, it is self-evident that those taking lives on the streets of St. Louis, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Chicago to a man are behaving despicably. Moreover, those bearing the cost of such pathology, almost exclusively, other Blacks. An ideology that describes this violent behavior to racism is laughable. Of course this is an unspeakable truth but no writers social critic of whatever race should be canceled for saying so. Or consider the educational achievement gap. Anti-racism advocates in effect are daring you to notice that some groups send their children to elite colleges and universities and outside's numbers compared to other groups due to the fact that their academic preparation is magnitudes higher and better and finer. They're daring you to declare such excellence to be an admirable achievement. One isn't it born knowing these things. One acquire such intellectual mastery through effort.
Why is that some youngsters acquire these skills and others not? That is a very deep and interesting question. One which I am quite prepared to entertain, but the simple retort "racism" is laughable. As this such disparities have nothing to do with behavior, with cultural patterns, with what peer groups value, with how people spend their time, with what they identify as being critical to their own self respect. Anyone believing such nonsense is a fool. Asians are set sardonically according to the politically correct script to be right model minorities. Well, as a matter of fact, a pretty compelling case can be made that their culture is critical to their success. Read Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou's book, The Asian American Achievement Paradox. They've interviewed families in Southern California trying to learn how these kids get into Dartmouth and Columbia and Cornell at such high rates. They find that these families exhibit cultural patterns, embrace values, adopt practices, engage in behaviors and follow disciplines that orient them in such a way as to facilitate the achievements of their children. It defies common sense as well as the evidence to assert that they do not, or conversely to ascertain the paucity of African-Americans performing near the top of the intellectual spectrum.
I speak here of excellence and of the relatively low number of Blacks who exhibit it has nothing to do with behavior. That this outcome is due to institutional forces alone. That quite frankly is an absurdity. No serious person could believe it. Neither does anybody actually believe that 70% of African-American babies being born to a woman without a husband is A, a good thing. Nobody really thinks so, or B, is due to anti-Black racism. People say this, but they don't believe it. They're bluffing. They're daring you to observe that the 21st century failures of African-Americans to take full advantage of the opportunities created by the 20th century's civil rights revolution are palpable and damning. These failures are being denied at every turn. And these denials are sustained by a threat to cancel dissenters as being racist. But this position is not tenable. The end of Jim Crow segregation and the advent of the era of equal rights was transformative. And now a half century down the line, we still have these disparities to the extent that we have them, and this is a shameful blight on our society, I agree. But the plain fact of the matter is that a considerable responsibility for this state of affairs lies with Blacks ourselves. Dare we Americans acknowledge this? Now do we wanna avoid being canceled? Leftist critics tout the racial wealth gap. They act as if pointing to the absence of wealth in the African-American community is ipso facto an indictment of the American system. Even as Black Caribbean and African immigrants are starting businesses, penetrating the professions, presenting themselves at Ivy League institutions as outside numbers and so forth. In doing so, they behave like other immigrant groups in our nation's past. Yes they're immigrants, not natives. And yes, I admit immigration is positively selective. But still, something is dreadfully wrong. When adverse patterns of behavior readily visible in the native born Black population go without being adequately discussed to the point at anybody daring even to mention them risk being, risk being called a racist. This bluff will not be sustained indefinitely, I predict. Despite the outcome of the recent election, I think we are already beginning to see the collapse of this house of cards.
There is a second unspeakable truth, and it is that structural racism isn't an explanation at all. It's an empty category. The invocation and political argument of structural racism is both a bluff and a bludgeon. It is a bluff in the sense that it offers an explanation that is not an explanation at all. And in effect, dares the listener to come back. So for example, if someone says there are too many Blacks in prison in the U.S., that's due to structural racism, what you're being dared to say is, no, Blacks are so many amongst criminals and that's why there are so many in prison. It's their fault, not the system's fault. It's the implication of that. And it's a bludgeon in the sense that use of the phrase is mainly a rhetorical move. Users don't even pretend to offer evidence-based arguments beyond noting the fact of the racial disparity itself. It does not go in the cause and effect. Rather it asserts shadowy causes that are never fully specified, let alone demonstrated. We're all just supposed to know that it's the fault of something called structural racism, abetted by an environment of something called white privilege, furthered by an ideology of white supremacy that purportedly characterize as the society. It explains everything confronted by any racial disparity that causes structural racism. History I would argue is rather more complicated than such just-so stories would suggest. These racial disparities have multiple inner woven and interacting causes from culture to politics, to economics, to historical accident, to environmental influence and yes, also to the nefarious doings of particular actors who may or may not be racist. As well as systems of law and policy that disadvantage some groups without having been so intended. But I wanna know what they're talking about when they say structural racism and effect use of the term expresses a disposition. It really caused me to solidarity and asked for my fealty, for my affirmation of a system of belief. This is a very mischievous way of talking, especially in a university, although I can certainly understand why it might work well on Twitter.
Here's another unspeakable truth. We must put police killings of Black Americans into perspective. There are about 1200 people killed by police in the United States each year according to the carefully documented data, best kept by the Washington Post, which enumerates every such incident. Roughly 300 of those killed are African-American, about one fourth, while Blacks are about 13% of the population. So that is an over-representation, though still far less than a majority of the people killed. More whites than Blacks are killed by police in this country,1200, maybe too many. I'm prepared to entertain that idea. I'd be happy to discuss the training of police or the recruitment of them, the rules of engagement that they have with citizens, the accountability they should face in the event they overstep their authority. These are all legitimate questions. And there is a racial disparity although as I have noted that there is also a disparity in Blacks' rate of participation in criminal activity, which must be reckoned with as well. I'm making no claim here one way or the other about the existence of discrimination against Blacks in the police use of force. This is a debate about which evidence could be brought to bear. There well may be some racial discrimination in police use of force, especially non-lethal force. But in terms of police killings, we are talking about 300 victims per year who are Black. All of them are not unarmed innocents. Some are engaged in violent conflict with police officers that leads to them being killed. Some are instances like George Floyd. Problematic in the extreme without question that deserve the scrutiny of concerned persons.
Still, we need to bear in mind if this is a country of more than 300 million people with scores of concentrated urban areas where police interact with citizens. Tens of thousands of arrests occurred daily in the United States. So these events which are extremely regrettable and often do not reflect well on the police are nevertheless rare. To put it into perspective, there are about 17,000 homicides in the United States each year, nearly half of which entailed Black perpetrators and victims. The vast majority of those are Black victims I should say. For every Black killed by the police, there are more than 25 Black people who meet their end because of homicide committed by other Blacks. This is not to ignore the significance of holding police accountable for how they exercise their power. It's really to notice how very easy it is overstate the significance and the extent of this phenomenon precisely as the activists have done. The narrative that something called white supremacy or systemic racism have put a metaphorical knee on the neck of Black America is simply false. The idea that as a Black person I dare not step from my door for fear that the police would round me up or gun me down or bludgeon me to death because of my race is ridiculous. That's like not going out of doors for fear of being struck by lightning. The tenacious just interpretation of every one of these incidents where violent conflict emerges between police and an African-American such that the incident is read as if it were the latter-day instantiation of the lynching of Emmett Till. That posture I'm obliged to report is simply preposterous. Fear of being canceled is the only thing that keeps many honest people outside of the alt-right from saying so out loud. I wanna also to stress the dangers of seeing police killings primarily through a racial lens. These events are regrettable regardless of the race of the people who are involved. Invoking race, emphasizing that the officer is white and the victim is Black tacitly presumes that the reason the officer acted as he did was because the dead young man was Black. But we don't necessarily know that. Moreover, once we get into the habit of racializing these events, we may not be able to contain that racialization merely to instances of white police officers killing Black citizens. We may find ourselves soon, soon enough, in a world where we talk about Black criminals who kill unarmed white victims, a world no thoughtful person should welcome. Since there are many such instances of Black criminals harming white people. These are criminals harming people who should be dealt with accordingly. They do not stand in for their race when they act badly. White victims of crimes committed by Blacks ought to see themselves mainly in racial terms. Just flip the script. What's good for the goose is good for the gander here. Race is not the only thing that's going on. It shouldn't be made the central issue. We shouldn't want to live in a world where such events are interpreted primarily through a racial lens. People are playing with fire when they bring that sensibility to police-citizen interactions. This will not be the end of the story.
Likewise, I suspect that what we're seeing from progressives in the academy and the media is only one side of the whiteness card. That is, I wonder if the white guilt and the white apologia and the white fragility and all this talk about white privilege, if that view of the world could not exist except also to give birth to a white pride backlash even if the latter is seldom expressed overtly, it'd been politically incorrect to do so. Confronted by someone who was constantly bludgeoning me about the evils of colonialism, urging me to tear down the statues of dead white men, insisting that I apologize for what my forebears did to peoples of color in years past, demanding that I settled my historical indebtedness via reparation and so forth, I well might begin to ask myself, were I one of those white oppressors, exactly on what foundation does human civilization in the 21st century stand? I might begin to enumerate the great works of philosophy, mathematics and science that ushered in the Age of Enlightenment that allowed modern medicine to exist, that gave rise to the core of human knowledge about the origins of the space or of the universe. I might begin to tick off the great artistic achievements of European culture, the architectural innovations, the paintings, the symphonies. And then we're in a particularly agitated mood, I might even ask those peoples of color, who think that they can simply bully me into a state of guilt-ridden self-loathing, where is their civilization?
Now, everything I just said, every word of it, is racist and white supremacist rhetoric. I know that. And I wish to stipulate here that I would never actually say it myself. I'm not here attempting to justify that position. I'm simply noticing that if I were a white person, it might tempt me and I can not help to think that it is tempting a great many white people. We can wag our fingers at them all we want, but they are a part of the racism mongers package. If one is gonna go down this route, one has got to expect this. How can we make whiteness into a site of unrelenting moral indictment without also occasioning it to be the basis of pride, of identity, and ultimately of self-affirmation? One risks cancellation for saying this.
But the right idea, says Glenn Loury, is the idea of Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. or someone like that. It is to transcend that racial particular realism while stressing the universality of our humanity. That is the right idea if only fitfully and by degrees. The right idea is to carry on with our march toward the great goal of, yes, I'll say it, race blindness, to move toward a world where no person's worth is contingent upon racial inheritance. This is the only way to address a legacy of historical racism effectively without running into a reactionary chauvinism. Promoting anti-whiteness, and Black Lives Matter often seemed to flirt with this. May cause you to reap what you sow in a backlash of pro-whiteness.
Here we have yet another unspeakable truth, which as a responsible Black intellectual, it is my duty to apprise you of. I would add that there is an assumption of Black fragility built into all of this, or at least of Black lack of resilience, that lurks behind many anti-racism arguments. Blacks are being treated like infants whom one dare not touch, who dare not say the wrong word in front of us, to ask any question that might offend us, to demand anything from us for fear that we will be so adversely impacted by that. The presumption is that Black people cannot be disagreed with, criticized, called to account or asked for anything. No one asks Black people what do you owe America? How about that? Not just what does America owe you, reparations for slavery and et cetera, what do we owe America? How about duty? How about honor? When you take agency away from people, you remove the possibility of holding them to account and the capacity to maintain judgments and standards so that you can evaluate what they do.
If a youngster who happens to be Black has no choice about whether or not to join a gang, pick up a gun and become a criminal, since society has failed him by not providing adequate housing, health care and income supports, job opportunities and so forth, then it becomes impossible to discriminate us between the Black youngsters who do and do not pick up guns and become members of gangs under those same conditions. That is to maintain within African-American society a judgment of our fellows' behavior and to affirm expectations of right living, since don't you know we're all the victims of anti-Black racism? The end result of all of this is that we are leveled down morally by a presumed lack of control over our lives and lack of accountability for what we do. What is more, there's a deep irony in first declaring white America to be systemically racist, but then mounting a campaign to demand that whites recognize their own racism and deliver Blacks from its consequences. I wanna say this such advocates, if indeed you're right that your oppressors are racist, why would you expect them to respond to your moral appeal? You are in effect putting yourself on the mercy of a court, which you are simultaneously decrying is unrelentingly biased. The logic of such advocacy escapes me.
I wanna talk about achieving true equality for Black Americans here. I'm reminded amidst the contemporary turmoil of the period after the emancipation more than 150 years ago, there was a brief moment of pro-Freedmen sentiment during reconstruction in the immediate aftermath of the war, but it was all washed away by the long dark night of Jim Crow. Blacks were set back. But in the wake of this setback emerged some of the greatest achievements of African-American history. Thus the Freedmen who had been liberated from slavery in 1863 were almost universally illiterate. Within a half century, their increased literacy rate rivals anything that has been seen in terms of mass populations acquiring the capacity to read. That was significant for it helped bring them into the modern world. We now look at the Black family perhaps lamenting the high rate of birth to mothers who are not married. But that is a modern, post-1960 phenomenon. In fact the health of the African-American social fiber coming out of slavery was remarkable. Books have been written about this. Businesses were built, people acquired land, people educated their children, people acquired skills. They constantly faced opposition at every step along the way. No Blacks need apply, whites only this and that and the other. And nevertheless they build a foundation from which could be launched a civil rights movement in the mid-20th century that would change the politics of the country forever. As my friend Robert Woodson is fond of saying, "When whites were at their worst, we Blacks were at our best." Such potentiality is now in a way forgotten as we throw ourselves, as I say, on the mercy of the court. There's nothing we can do. We're pressed right here. Our kids are not doing well in school, our communities are troubled, but here we are. We ask that you save us. This of the very same population about which such a noble history of extraordinary accomplishment under unimaginably adverse conditions could be told.
So pull yourself up by the bootstraps. A cliché--people will laugh when you say it. They will roll their eyes. Take responsibility for your life. No one is coming to save you. It's no one else's job to raise your children. These observations have no place in the discussion? Take responsibility for your life. This is not fair. This is not a statement about justice. People think there's some benevolent being in the sky that will make sure everything works out fairly, but that's not so. Life is full of tragedy and atrocity and barbarity. That's not fair. It's not right. It's just the way things happen to be. Here then is my final unspeakable truth, which I utter now in defiance of cancel culture. If we Blacks want to walk with dignity, if we want to be truly equal, then we must realize that white people can not give us equality. We actually have to earn equal status. Please don't cancel me just yet because I'm on the side of Black people here. But I am obliged to report that equality of dignity, equality of standing, equality of honor, of feeling secure in one's position within society, equality of being able to command the respect of others, it's not something that can be handed over to us. Rather it is something that we have to wrest from a cruel and indifferent world with the hard work of our bare hands, inspired by the example of our enslaved and newly freed ancestors. We have to make ourselves equal. No one can do it for us. So there, I've actually said it. I await fatalistically the furious response of the thought police. Thank you.
SHILO BROOKS: Thank you, Glenn. I wanna remind people that we're gonna have a Q&A so enter your questions in the Q&A box below and we'll get to as many as we can. Thanks for the terrific lecture, Glenn. I've got a couple of questions that have rolled in. So I think I'll just start with these. There's a historian in the audience who says the following: that they couldn't agree with you more that history is very complicated. But they say, most people prefer memorable stories, parables, myths, simplified tales, these sorts of things over nuanced history of the kind you presented when you presented these statistics. How do we best tell true stories that could free all of us from pressure, and how are we supposed to tell those stories without being canceled, in other words?
GLENN LOURY: Okay. Let me see if I understand the question. History is complicated, but narrative, simple narrative about history is what most people view the world through the lens of. There is an existing narrative, which emphasizes racism. How would we change the narrative? And I'm not sure I have anything useful to say about that. I think starting to talk differently might be one way to do it, but that's a platitude. I don't have a game plan here. But I'm in the university so I think about teaching my students and there I try to make them aware of the fact that the questions in front of us are ancient. They're not new. There's very little that's new under the sun. And when you start looking across culture and across time, it brings a kind of relativism to it. I'm talking now about my own practice, which is not necessarily a formula for everybody, but the deemphasis of identity I think of course it's pushing against the site guys. I understand that, but I think this is a correct position and therefore should be affirmed that we're more than these categories that we sorted ourselves into. And identity politics easily elides into identity pedagogy and even identity epistemology. I mean, and I think these latter claims, which are creeping, creeping, creeping into our lives in the university should be resisted. So I'm rambling a little bit now, and I apologize, but I'm stimulated by the question without being able to give a definitive answer to it.
SHILO BROOKS: Yeah. Fair. I mean, it's a difficult question. In a way your whole talk was trying to address. Here's an interesting question from what appears to be a university employee. And I've heard you speak about courage before and they need to be courageous. And you talked about in your lecture, the people are bluffing and these kinds of things daring you to call them out. This person says our university sent out an email that the Black community is understandably upset about the mishandling of the Capitol riots. Why are there not cost of saying such over-generalizing things? Acting as if Blackness is a single entity and that Black people share all thoughts? It seems ridiculous this person says, and in some ways dangerous yet it was seemingly seen and received without any pushback whatsoever. How does an entry-level employee tell the president that he's way off on this?
GLENN LOURY: This is at CU?
SHILO BROOKS: I'm not sure. I suspect.
GLENN LOURY: Okay. Well I'm not asking you to violate anyone's privacy. I'm struck by that. Black people have a reaction to the Capitol riots? I wonder what it might be. The presumption is breathtaking actually. Let me just say here from my own account, that's a racist way of talking. Put any other group in that sentence. Put whites in that sentence. So I think it's objectionable at many levels frankly. Group think, Blackness is a way of seeing the world? It's partisan. I don't know. I'm sorry I'm reacting somewhat emotionally. I think it's a very bad thing. I think it should be objected to. Where are the faculty in such a university? Cowardice? People won't defend the integrity of the public discourse, the rationality of it? I don't know. Again, I ramble a little bit, but sounds very bad to me.
SHILO BROOKS: Yeah. Yeah. Thank you. So there's a few questions here about, you talked about transcending racial particularism in all sorts of places, but especially in the university where this seems to be, as your talk pointed out, on the tip of everyone's tongue. And so someone asks, what recommendations do you have for white professors addressing topics in class concerning racial politics? How do we say honest to the issues while showing sufficient sensitivity to students, particularly Black students?
GLENN LOURY: The sad thing here is that you may not be able to. I mean, you can make declarations, but that will only go so far. I'm aware of the fact that I have cover in virtue of being a Black person. That literally the meaning of an utterance from me is distinct in a classroom setting. The exact same words with the exact same intonation in the exact same context will have a different meaning if the professor is white. This goes to the question of motive. And motive is unobservable. The person who's using the racial identity of the speaker to draw conclusions about the speaker's character is filling in the blanks of what they can't see based on what it is that they hear the speaker is saying. So when I talk about Black-on-Black crime, I didn't use that word, but I in effect was using those words. And say that Black lives matter are off. When I talk about morality and the Black community and call for the need to decry pathological behavior, I use words like that, those words in a classroom by a white professor, I can't imagine them being spoken with equanimity with people just simply shrugging, that person is going to be in trouble. They're going to be in the de facto trouble that some component of the university community are gonna condemn them. I don't think this is the way things should be, but I do think it's the way things are. And in fact, the reason that I have stepped way out on the limb that I stepped on in this lecture is because I think I have a responsibility to do that in virtue of the fact that such cover as I may be enjoying has been bequested to me for the time being. We'll see how long it lasts. I'm basically daring them to come and cancel me.
SHILO BROOKS: Yes, indeed. Although, I mean, you've said so much on your podcast. I think if they wanted to cancel you by now [laughs] you'd be canceled.
GLENN LOURY: I'd be good and canceled.
SHILO BROOKS: You'd be good and canceled. Yeah. So somebody asks here, they say, "Thank you for your lecture. It seems to me that even if your understanding of recent events is correct, you still seem to think that some degree of police reform is necessary." And they say, "It also seems to me that reforming a transient bureaucracy like the police would be impossible without mass demonstrations like the ones we've had. Shouldn't we appreciate last summer's protest under this light? There was no other recourse," this person says.
GLENN LOURY: I don't think I agree, although I do agree that I say reform of policing is a good thing. There are areas where reform could be usefully implemented. I don't think there's the crisis warranting the scale of disruption and a crisis for the country as that wave of demonstrations engendered. I mean, cities were smoldering, people died, et cetera. I won't belabor it. I think that the image of America as a failed state in terms of racial equity communicated by the rhetoric of those disturbances and demonstrations is a false description of the actual state of affairs.
So while Derek Chauvin with his knee on George Floyd's neck, I think something failed in the system there. I mean, I don't think that should be happening. I could point out that similar things have happened to white people, but I'd be belaboring a point already made my argument in the speech. So that kind of thing needs to stop. And I think, or should occasion a constructive institutional response aimed at mitigating or limiting that kind of thing. But as I said, things have to be kept in perspective. And if the question is the value of Black life, then I made my case in the paper that there are other places to look to, to get agitated about. Not that the same demonstrations would be effective as a counterpoint, but that the energy that goes into the expressive behavior that is organized around, this is organization. This is the animation of the spirit of a people. And we hurt back to the 1950s and '60s and the quote unquote the movement on behalf of racial justice. But I really don't know what it means here in the 21st century. I mean, I understand about law. I understand about changing law. I don't know about hearts and minds and I try to give voice to this in my remarks. There are many subtle snares and twist and turns here. It's not at all clear that morality is being advanced in some generic way. Anyway, again, I'm rambling. My response is okay, let's reform policing, but it is not a first order issue with social justice in the country in my opinion. And no, I don't think that the civil disturbances should be the protest and so forth viewed in that light. It shouldn't necessarily be seen as a positive thing. I've got problems.
SHILO BROOKS: Thanks. Yeah. Yeah. There a number of people have asked, just beccause I've been talking about your podcast, what its title is. It's called "The Glenn Show." I think we're winning you some fans over right now.
GLENN LOURY: It's called "The Glenn Show," and it's hosted by Bloggingheads.tv, where I've been podcasting for over a decade. And I have a Patrion page. Patrion.com/glennshow. So you can check me out.
SHILO BROOKS: Yeah. Check it out. I highly recommend "The Glenn Show" to everybody. We've got a couple of questions and I've heard you address this before because a lot of times when you emphasize cultural causes of racism, this compels people to say that maybe you think systemic racism doesn't exist at all. I've heard you add some nuance to this before, and we've got some people wondering if you would do that again. Folks are saying, "Does he think systemic racism doesn't exist?" "Do you believe there are no systemic issues affecting people of color," et cetera. And I know this is a question that I've heard you answer before, so I'm curious if you might add the nuance to this and give your position on the culture versus systemic dialogue.
GLENN LOURY: Okay. Okay. So I mean, it's a matter of perspective and it's a matter of emphasis. It's certainly not a matter of all or nothing. I could give many examples, but I'll just give one. The rise of the incarceration footprint in America from 1980 to 2000 is really a pretty remarkable historical dynamic. Blacks have vastly overrepresented amongst the prison population. A lot of the politics, and I've written about this in my book, "Race, Incarceration, and American Values" develops this argument. It's hard to understand that story without taking on board the history of racial discrimination and bias, racial stigma, stereotype, racial domination, racial control. I mean, there are many books, but one that comes to mind is the historian Khalil Muhammad's book, "The Condemnation of Blackness" in which he compares immigrant populations from south and eastern Europe into the American seaboard cities in the years 1890, 1900, 1910 with Black migrants coming out of the south into industrializing America roughly the same time. And there are social problems in both of these communities, but the treatment of criminality in Blacks, excuse me, the treatment is very different by race and as it's discussed by our academics and journalists and public leaders and political figures is interpreted through the lens of the legacy of slavery and of the post-slavery social situation of America. I mean, a lot could be said about that. The war on drugs. So I'm giving examples of systemic racism as one might see them playing out in American history. The war on drugs. So basically what you've got is a large illicit traffic in the retail area that's in the hands of low-income, poorly educated, mostly men, mostly minority in the cities, mostly Black. And you've got a demand side to that market, which is very ecumenical. I mean, people are using drugs all across the socio-economic spectrum. It's no surprise that the most disadvantaged people would be on the supply side of the elicit commerce. Their alternative opportunities are not so great. But when we come down punitively with a ton of bricks on the people who were on the selling side of that market, in effect they're balancing our cultural budget on the backs of the people who are at least advantage. And there's gonna be a racial coloration to that in the actual history of the United States. I don't know if that's what you're asking me about here, Shilo, to try to point out that I wouldn't try to tell the history, the social history of America without attention to racism. But if you're talking about employment today, the U.S. labor market, there's differences in the average pay to workers by race, but there are mostly accounted for econometric studies by controlling for the skills that people bring to the labor market. If you're talking about the kinds of things that I was talking about, the state of the Black American family, which I think to some degree is lamentable, I know that's an unspeakable thing, but I think it's demonstrably. Or the violence problem that I was talking about with the achievement gap problem in education and so forth. I think the narrative of systemic racism, I mean, as I say, I think it's a sentiment. I think you're asking me to get on board the project of making things better. I don't think you're actually explaining the historical phenomenon. And as I say, often the explanations will point in directions that one might not have anticipated when one set out.
SHILO BROOKS: Yeah. Thank you. There's a couple of questions here that are-- Well they're calling Glenn Loury an optimist. And they're wondering, and I don't know if you can call Glenn Loury an optimist, but that's what they're doing. And they're saying, "Thank you for being a model of intellectual courage." Could you say more about why you're optimistic that the bluff or the debater's trick of systemic racism as you call it would ultimately fail? Why and when? And then somebody else says in a related question, "You say that racist philosophies are crumbling before our eyes despite the recent election." It seems like they say, well, it seems like these things are more ascendant than ever. So these folks, birds of a feather, wonder if he might address that.
GLENN LOURY: I get where they're coming from. I read the newspapers like the next person. But here, let me give an analogy. So everybody knows what a financial bubble is. This is a security or a set of securities that keep going up and up and up. And what drives it is that everybody is anticipating that it's gonna continue to go up. It's an inter-subjective thing. It's people interacting. Hierarchy is a belief. What do I think the other person is thinking that I'm thinking about what they're thinking. This kind of idea. A bubble rises and it's untethered by anything. The value could go to infinity, it seems,ecause as long as you think it's gonna be worth more tomorrow than it is today, you're willing to pay a premium to buy it today. And I call it the economist in me. You say optimism. I don't know. I think that it might be cold logic. If I'm right about the facts, okay? If my, this is absurd, this is ridiculous, no one could really believe it are actually correct, objective descriptions of the facts. And if I'm wrong about the facts, all the bets are off. But if I'm right, what we have here is a kind of bubble. And my quote optimism is maybe my fatalism, that all bubbles burst, including this one. Now when it bursts, it's not gonna be pretty. It never is. People go bankrupt. And some of the stuff that's gonna come out, I gave you my speech of the white supremacist who is tired of being told that he and his ancestors are responsible for all the ills of civilization. And he starts saying, well, just whose civilization was that that you were telling me I'm responsible for all of its ills? It's the one that keeps you living until you're 90 years old. Kind of thing like that. As again, I'm not saying it. I'm just saying somebody could say it. Somebody is saying it almost certainly. Twitter can't ban them all, but I'm like that.
SHILO BROOKS: Thanks. So this is somebody who wants to push back on your claim that Blacks need to take responsibility for quality. They say, "Well, do whites have no role to play at all?" In other words, don't we white people need to consider white attitudes, for example, that all Black men are criminals. Don't we have responsibility? And what is that responsibility to acknowledge attitudes and prejudices?
GLENN LOURY: Sure to a point. I think it's possible to overdo it. I'm thinking of the example of this fellow McNeil, who was forced out at the New York Times. I don't wanna get down into the minutia. Let me respond to the question. Who is a white who's bending over backwards to apologize for something he shouldn't have to apologize for was the end of that sentence. But let me respond to the question. Sure. But if you're at a service station pumping gas at one o'clock in the morning and a vehicle rolls up next to you where the radio was playing loudly and you'd look through and you see that there are young Black men sitting in the front seat of that vehicle, and you're afraid. You clutch your purse if you're a woman or you become especially alert to the possibility that injury might befall you. I don't know if that's something to apologize about. I think that's an interesting problem. Should I try to disabuse myself of those instincts? I think we could have a discussion about that. But I wanna say a couple of more things. All of this is embedded within law and policy. And of course to the extent that we don't wanna see people without health care, or we think that there's inadequate housing, or we say that laws against discrimination should be enforced or whatever. That's the role of the government and quote unquote white people that is to say Americans have the responsibility for what their government does in terms of law and social provision and basic rules of the road. So there's that. But I think the racialization of these issues most of the time the things that we're talking about are issues of schools that are not failing or public safety issues or whatever. And they are not specifically racial issues. And so I don't think-- Sorry. Here's what I'm trying to say. I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth. I'm actually talking to two different audiences. I started out saying that I'm a Black intellectual and I'm an American. And I said that I have to be concerned about my people. And I said that the reference was ambiguous. I'm speaking both as an African-American to my quote unquote community, or those concerned about it, including intellectual classes like the students that I teach at Brown University who will go forth into the world and will man and woman the industries of cultural production that help to shape the way we think about our common life together. And I'm also speaking to the American public, because as we saw, cities were burning. It's a crisis issue for the country here. I wanna empower people who might be cowering, afraid to engage with such truths as I think I have been given to know. I wanna empower them to think very seriously about succumbing to this regime that we're embedded in of cancellation and the threat there of inhibiting an honest discourse about what's going on. So I go on too long about that. But I would answer to the question, of course there are things that quote, unquote, white people should do. Most of those things will not be things that they should do qua being white people.
SHILO BROOKS: Yeah. Thank you. We've got a couple of questions here that ask about the comments you made about folks of Asian descent and the book you recommended. So somebody asks about the Biden administration dropping the lawsuit against Harvard and other Ivy League schools. But I think it related to this, there's an Asian undergraduate who's posted a question and she says that she had heard of a school, whether it's her school or another school, she doesn't say that has excluded Asian American students from the students of color category. This is a high school, a kind of elite public high school. They've excluded students of color Asians from the students of color category. In a recent report the district stated that the decision was made because their students of Asian descent did not experience the achievement and opportunity gaps of the students of color category. And she says, "Could this be an example of people of color being acquainted to those who are unsuccessful and underperforming?" And she says, "What other aspects of society do you think that this view could extend to? Is there a way "that an individual could do something about this?"
GLENN LOURY: Thank you. The question is very well stated. The book I had in mind, I wanna just reiterate, "The Asian American Achievement Paradox," Min Zhou, Z-H-O-U and Jennifer Lee. Asians as people of color, I mean, there's always been, hasn't there? This kind of embarrassment to the social justice equity and inclusion, diversity agenda. Embarrassment that whereas the effort is premised on a sense of white domination and a need to correct for racial inequity, the Asian-American population is overrepresented in many of these venues like at Harvard. They are not white. I mean, there's just no way around that. Asians are people of color just by definition. Now you can say historically underrepresented groups, that's one euphemism. Or you can say disadvantage minorities. This is another euphemism. But they both fail the test of not applying to Asian-Americans because many have been historically excluded and are disadvantaged. I'm just gonna say this. I think there's a kind of shell game going on and it's part of the reason why I'm an optimist, because this is a bubble that I don't see how it can possibly be sustained. What everyone thinks about the affirmative action legalisms, I am not now opining about that one way or the other. The racial justification for extraordinary intervention on behalf of some but not other minorities, I don't think it stands the test. I think it is full of contradictions. So what can one do about it?
SHILO BROOKS: Thanks. There's a couple of questions here that I'm gonna lump together about the topic that you and John McWhorter have spoken a lot about, and that's any racism education. Somebody sort of asks you your views about it in general, but more particularly somebody says, "When I read people like Kitney charitably, it seems that he and others are turning to the new category of anti-racist and racist as a way of overcoming the problem of the white moderate as King discussed it in his letter from the Birmingham jail. If this attempt to redefine categories is prudential, do you think it could have some positive effects, changes to policy or any potential positive consequences too costly given the concerns you've articulated?" And also they say, "Do you think the intellectuals behind that movement are prudentially motivated or do they really believe their ideas?"
GLENN LOURY: Wait a minute. Will you just describe again in the questioner's voice what the movement is that he's asking me about?
SHILO BROOKS: So they're asking about the anti-racism movement and they're asking whether it's a response to in a way overcoming the problem of the white moderate as articulated in King's letter from the Birmingham jail. And then they wanna know whether any racism education could conceivably have any positive effects or whether it's just sort of all downhill socially. And then whether those people who propound the anti-racism education, do they really believe their ideas or they motivated by prudence such as overcoming the problem with the white moderate, et cetera?
GLENN LOURY: Do we really wanna be in the position of saying that the white moderate was a moral reprobate? I mean, in other words-- [laughs] No, I'm sorry. I'm being a little bit flippant. The person who was not a radical is gonna be judged by this kind of anachronistic, retroactive application of moral judgment? They didn't all see the revolution coming and get on the side of the revolution in advance? Some people merely said, "I'm in favor of civil rights, but I'm not prepared to overturn the whole structure in order to achieve it." Anyway. So I don't think that moderation is necessarily a bad thing, but I'm intentionally being a little playful. I don't see any good coming out of this anti-racism agenda and I think it could be influential. I mean, Kitney is pretty radical I think that some of the stuff that he says. Every action of the federal government should be judged through the lens of a racial disparity impact statement? Really? In other words, the degree of regulatory intervention of the government in the affairs of people should in some sense on behalf of the issue of racial equity should take on the same degree of regulatory and truthness as we do now on behalf of protecting the environment? We have a crisis of racism requiring the mobilization of the government? Now what I'm gonna say here is political. I don't see any way around it. I understand why President Joe Biden would say so. He had to build a political coalition in order to get elected. But it boggles the mind. It boggles the mind that people would talk seriously about such enterprise. We really don't wanna ground our public affairs in race. That's a mistake. We're not South Africa here. We don't wanna build into our law categories of recognizing people based upon their racial identities. That's what we should be moving away from. I'm sorry that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
SHILO BROOKS: Thank you. There's somebody who asks about the role of whites in amplifying some of the current racial movement. They talk about for example the way that whites are playing a role in adopting the term, this is a term used to refer to people from countries of Latin heritage, Latin with the term x after it. That this is not very popular with American Hispanics for example, this term, but it's been selected for amplification by white elites. It's used by white elites. And they wonder whether similar dynamics are playing out in black equality movements with white elites. And how those movements would be different had there not been as much intervention from white elites.
GLENN LOURY: I think that's an interesting question. I'm not an expert on linguistics. It seems to me you need one here. Obviously the terms that we use to communicate with each other are in some sense arbitrary, but we have to somehow agree upon those terms. Look at the pronoun battles about the transgender issue. We have to agree on the terms that we're going to use in order to be able to effectively communicate with one another. And the fact that there could exist kind of virtue signaling movements where people begin to express themselves in a certain way in part, because they wanna communicate solidarity with certain values, and also in part because they anticipate that others expect them to communicate in that way. And so like the Latinx phrasiology, it becomes A, if I don't do it, then they're gonna think I'm insensitive. But the complexity of it is revealed by the fact that within the community in question, there is already a diversity and variation in how people are experiencing that. And I just think there's a writer. I'm a professor so I talk about books all the time, okay? So there's this writer called Rogers Brubaker. He's a sociology professor at UCLA and he has a book called "Ethnicity without Groups." And I will not lecture, okay? But I just wanna say this. His main point, one of his main points is that when we look at the world in group terms, in part we are responding to the manipulations and interventions of interested parties who act on behalf of their own agendas. Okay? Organizations, movements, individual people who have career concerns, they've they fashioned themselves in a certain identity, a way in order to advance their interests and the tropes, the tropes of these moves, these racial moves that people make, these plays. Perhaps I could call them plays. The instrumentality of it can come down to how you talk. Did you use the right word? And I see the Latinx in that context. I'm not against it, I'm not for it. I merely am to some degree amused by the machinations that go on around it, because I see power plays at work, I see virtue signaling at work, I see coercion and compulsion at work. You dare not say it.
SHILO BROOKS: Yeah. Yeah. Thank you. This is a question that I'm gonna hitch to one of my own, which is that when we were talking before we started the webinar, you mentioned a course you were teaching on free inquiry. I wonder if you might talk a little more about that course and tell us some of your goals, some of the texts that you're using. And this is related to a question that somebody asks here. They say, "In your mind, what tangible methods do educators have to encourage nuance thinking in young people who are constantly bombarded by messages of absolutes." They say, "I'm a high school teacher and I'm deeply concerned that students I work with are not equipped in this regard and I feel lost when it comes out to help them develop those skills in any meaningful way," so it occurs to me to delink perhaps this question to the course you're teaching and some of your goals in that course.
GLENN LOURY: Well, yeah. Read books. I mean, this is again, it's gonna seem a little bit like a poster or a bumper sticker. I mean, I think that you gotta get out of yourself. You gotta read books, including the great works. Again, I'm not a classicist or anything like that, but I'll tell you in this course because it puts your situation in perspective and it gives it a very different light. So in this course, we start with Plato with the "Apology of Socrates," okay? So this is one of the classic texts in Western philosophy. We go on to Milton, John Milton, the "Areopagitica." That this is a petition to the British parliament not to impose licensing requirements on the printing of books. And he makes a sustained argument on behalf of the freedom of the printing and the dissemination of books. We're reading right now this week, we're reading John Stuart Mill "On Liberty," which is a classic text in modern political theory. And we're going on to some other stuff. I mean, we're gonna read 20th century stuff. We're gonna read Vaclav Havel, "The Power of the Powerless." This is the Czech playwright turned politician, who was a dissident in the anti-Soviet days in the Eastern and Central European societies and the Islamists died and all of that. And he has this brilliant essay explaining how it is that dissidents actually were instrumental in overturning the order. And George Orwell "Politics and the English Language." So we're reading texts like that. But we're also going to do some contemporary case studies. We're gonna talk about me too. We're gonna talk about Justice Kavanaugh, things like that. That's what we're doing in the course.
SHILO BROOKS: Yeah. Sounds like a terrific course. We know you're on East Coast time so I just wanna take a few more, everybody, because we don't want to keep Glenn too late. This one's a hard one and it addresses the theme of the series. And I suspect it's gonna be difficult to answer. The person asks for some advice, but since it addresses the theme of the series, I'm willing to pose it to you. He says, "I'm a 59-year-old white man and I serve in a leadership role in a community facing organization.I want very much for me personally, and the organization I work for to be a force for positive discussion. I don't wanna continue the self-censorship I fear I've entered. What one or two practical steps would you recommend? Where can I start?"
GLENN LOURY: This is a difficult question. I want first to say that if you're committed to the organization and it's work, you wanna be careful. You wanna preserve your viability within the system, so to speak. You want not to be made irrelevant by simply doing what I just did in that lecture [laughs]. You wanna behave strategically. I've got to name another book. Please forgive me. This brilliant book by Albert Hirschman, the late economist called "Exit, Voice, and Loyalty" in which he reflects on this dilemma. If you're within an organization, which you think maybe is not being run as well as it could be, you can leave, exit or you can speak up, voice. Staying in the organization and lapsing into silence is a way of leaving the conversation. Now loyalty comes in in the sense that if you voice a contrary opinion, you know that there is gonna be blow back that's costly to you. So the willingness to voice the opinion knowing the consequences of doing so is in a way an expression of loyalty, because it's taking on the cost of speaking in an uncomfortable manner on behalf of the interests of furthering the organization's well-being as you best understand it.
SHILO BROOKS: So what I wanna say is one wants to play the long game here. One wants to think about not just saying what one thinks is true, but also think about-- I'm sorry. I know I'm not being very helpful because I'm speaking in generalities and I don't know enough about the particular situation to say more. But steps, small steps here. Let me give an analogy. Suppose I'm in the first class cabin of an airline and I'm seated next to someone who has a Bible open on their table next to me. Now I'm a religious person, but I don't want to presume upon the other person's religion somehow. And I wanna develop the comfort zone of being able to talk about religion a little bit at a time. I don't wanna come right out with all that I might be thinking. Or I might be a religious skeptic. And likewise I might be reluctant to make my feelings entirely immediately known for fear of offense, but I might also be interested in conversation if the possibility of that conversation lies there. So there's a way of kind of exploring it. And I'm sorry, I go on too long about this and it's a serious situation. And I take seriously the responsibility of trying to be of some help. But I think it's very difficult to do so without knowing more.
SHILO BROOKS: Yeah. Thank you. There's somebody here who I think has some familiarity with you. On the one hand you appear like as a conservative, a sort of typical conservative, but they say, they wonder whether you might address your views about baby bonds and improve subsidies for health care because they worry that you're presenting yourself as too in-step with the right. And so they want you to--
GLENN LOURY: Well it's interesting because I didn't really speak to the question of what should be the nature of the social contract for Americans. I talked about racial inequality. And in fact, I think it's a fair question. I've said publicly that I thought baby bonds was worth a look. I mean, this is the general idea that we might try to, it's a step toward a kind of universal basic income. And I think there are reasons not to wanna sort of go whole hog all in one leap into instituting institutions of income transfer that could have very far reaching and not necessarily entirely desirable effects on the nature of social responsibility and whatnot. I'd wanna think about that. But I mean, if wholesale social security scale implementation of transfer programs of a universal basic income source. But the idea that every American might be endowed with some that when they turn in age of majrity, that could be a way of getting them started in life. It's not the craziest idea in the world. It's not something that I would be peremptory really against from some kind of ideological point of view. It's certainly something that I would wanna explore.
But mind you now, that's a question about, it's likewise with health care, likewise with the idea of, if you don't like the Affordable Care Act then tell me what you do like, because we're not going back to a world where people are every man for himself in terms of access to health care. We're going to be committed here one way or another to expanding the social safety net so that the citizens are confident in their access to health care. I see nothing in what I was saying that's inconsistent with that. Now I gotta tell you, I am an economist, okay? So I'm a neo-liberal economist. I'm trained in the mainstream liberal tradition of economic theory. I believe in markets. I think globalization on the whole is a good thing. I think you need to be concerned about the negative effects on people who are priced out of this market or competed out of that. You don't have indifference to the needs of your fellow citizens. But I think on the whole competition and prices, I think that's the way to respond to the climate problem is to get the price of carbon reflected in the marketplace. I would be very positively disposed toward some kind of carbon tax base intervention. I wish that much of our political energies, even though it's not necessarily a popular thing to say, we're going into that rather than going into the micro regulation of every little human activity on behalf of the generic cause of saving the planet. Get the price of carbon right and the problem will take care of itself to a very substantial degree, I'd be inclined to say. But yeah, the things that I was saying about race, about the violence in the cities. Now what's conservative about that? Well, it's the thing that conservatives say. That would be the point that they would make. But if you're living in one of those communities and you're a Black person worried about your safety, I think there are books on the shelves that pretty much nailed this, that those communities are far more quote unquote conservative in terms of law enforcement and public safety than the intellectuals and scribblers who write in the newspapers on their behalf.
So it's true that in my own personal history, I used to be a Reagan Republican back in the '80s. That's a fact. I confess to that. I moved toward the center of American politics in the '90s and the aughts and I wrote books like "Race, Incarceration, and American Vvalues" in which I was decrying the rise in incarceration and such. So I'm complicated. But I'll tell you that this last bit, this last year, the racial conversation has kind of radicalized me in a conservative small c sense, because I think as I tried to give voice to in my talk that the discourse has gone way off the rails.
SHILO BROOKS: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you Professor Lowery. Everybody, it's late on the East Coast so we've gotta let him go. There's still a lot of good questions remaining and I'm sorry that I wasn't able to get to them. Glenn Loury, as always, thank you. Thank you so much for being here with us. Everybody check out "The Glenn Show," check out Glenn's books. [soft music] I promise you, you won't regret it. Thank you so much, Glenn.
GLENN LOURY: You're very welcome Shilo. My pleasure. Good night everyone.
SHILO BROOKS: Good night, everybody. The Free Mind podcast is produced by the Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization at the University of Colorado Boulder. You can email us feedback and firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us online at colorado.edu/center/benson.