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The Myth of American Meritocracy
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Titus



Joined: 19 May 2012

PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2012 6:50 am    Post subject: The Myth of American Meritocracy Reply with quote

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-myth-of-american-meritocracy/?print=1

Ron Unz, the publisher of The American Conservative, has written a remarkable 20,000+ word article on Ivy admissions.

It is so long and touches on a wide range of extremely important topics so it is hard to take away a quick forum-friendly summary. The quote below discusses the eventual outcomes of a corrupt system of elite selection:

Quote:
Power corrupts and an extreme concentration of power even more so, especially when that concentration of power is endlessly praised and glorified by the major media and the prominent intellectuals which together constitute such an important element of that power. But as time goes by and more and more Americans notice that they are poorer and more indebted than they have ever been before, the blandishments of such propaganda machinery will eventually lose effectiveness, much as did the similar propaganda organs of the decaying Soviet state. Kahlenberg quotes Pat Moynihan as noting that the stagnant American earnings between 1970 and 1985 represented “the longest stretch of ‘flat’ income in the history of the European settlement of North America.”120 The only difference today is that this period of economic stagnation has now extended nearly three times as long, and has also been combined with numerous social, moral, and foreign policy disasters.

Over the last few decades America’s ruling elites have been produced largely as a consequence of the particular selection methods adopted by our top national universities in the late 1960s. Leaving aside the question of whether these methods have been fair or have instead been based on corruption and ethnic favoritism, the elites they have produced have clearly done a very poor job of leading our country, and we must change the methods used to select them.


The elites are selected for characteristics other than competency and without any care for noblesse oblige.

Well worth the time it takes to read.

A good discussion on the article took place in the comment section (and not post) here: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2012/11/the-myth-of-american-meritocracy-how-corrupt-are-ivy-league-admissions.html
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augustine



Joined: 08 Sep 2012
Location: México

PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2012 10:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I didn't read the link, but it seems pretty systemic, IMO. I remember reading a discussion about a guy on the law blogs, where they show all the data and allow discussion underneath, who got a low 160s score on the LSAT and got accepted to Yale. Even I got a better score than that guy but I would never be even remotely considered if I applied to that particular school. And, legitimately, few actually are. The guy chimed in and said, "sorry, bitches... my father and grandfather went to Yale law school" ... And that was that...
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Kuros



Joined: 27 Apr 2004

PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2012 1:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This thread is very promising.

Augustine, if your LSAT score is in the mid-160s that's a very high score. Congratulations. Now, do the smart thing and avoid law school (if you still have the chance).

Okay. I won't hijack this thread. I disagree with the author's passive acceptance of Chinese scholarly claims of a clean meritocracy, particularly one that has lasted 1300 years. No.

Quote:
Over the last 20 years, research has shown that the keju was far from the “ladder of success” it was long widely reputed to be. We know that in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), for instance, merchants’ sons were not allowed to take the examinations at all, and that in the Qing (1644-1911), as Benjamin Elman, a scholar from Princeton University, has decisively shown, “the content of the civil service competition clearly excluded over 90 percent of China’s people from even the first step on the ladder to success.”

In other words, to have any kind of reasonable shot at passing the exams, you needed to come from a family with an established tradition of classical literacy, meaning a family with money to buy books or close connections to another such family. Only 10 percent of the population made that cut.
Furthermore, as a former student of mine, Lawrence Zhang, persuasively argues in his dissertation, the number of Qing officials whose path to glory was facilitated by office purchase has been considerably underestimated. Not only did families from outside the “power elite” spend money to advance their sons in the competition, literati families themselves — long thought to have no need to sink to such tawdry schemes — used their money freely to game the system. With the odds of making it all the way to the highest levels of the exams literally one in a million, who can blame them?

The fact is that a majority of elites in imperial China relied on means other than “merit” to succeed politically: They depended on family connections and material resources, much like political elites in Western societies. Because so few people ever had any hope of passing the exams and yet so many still took part, the consensus today is that the main significance of the examination system was the reinforcement and reproduction of specific modes of elite discourse that served state needs on social, political and cultural levels. Contrary to the claims of Zhang and like-minded writers, it had little to do with scouring every village of the empire in the search for geniuses to recruit to court service.


If anything, the unreliability or even variability of China's examination system in producing a meritocracy supports the OP's author's thesis. In fact, our current system resembles the actual state of the Chinese system.


Last edited by Kuros on Sat Dec 01, 2012 1:53 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Kuros



Joined: 27 Apr 2004

PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2012 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cheating Upwards

NY Magazine interviews Nayeem Ahsan, the high school student at the center of the Stuyvesant cheating scandal.

Quote:
When I ask [Nayeem Ahsan] if he thinks he’d be able to handle the workload at Stuyvesant without cheating, he doesn’t hesitate. “I can definitely study my way out of it. Like, now that my future’s on the line.”

But he says he still wonders if maybe he could have gotten away with his cheating scheme if he spent more time organizing it, or put more locks on his phone. At times, it seems, he’s still trying to rationalize what he did. He says he didn’t think the Regents was as big a deal as the SAT. “I didn’t know I could have gotten kicked out of Stuy if I pulled this off. That was never made clear to me.”

This stops me. He cheated on not just one but three different Regents Exams, and he didn’t think that could get him kicked out of high school?

Nayeem squints. “I mean, like, I really didn’t think so.” Then he sits up straighter. “And now it’s like a second chance. It’s like a second chance that has a lot of dark clouds. It still has consequences, right? I was still suspended. I still won’t be able to go to a decent college. But hopefully I’ll be able to go somewhere. That’s what I’m worried about. Somewhere decent enough to work my way up into a career.”

What career?

“I want to be an investment banker.”
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sallymonster



Joined: 06 Feb 2010
Location: Seattle area

PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2012 10:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

https://career.berkeley.edu/Article/030418a.stm

Quote:
The most common point of entry to paid work in politics is long hours in a nonpaid internship.


In other words, if you want to work in politics, you'd better have family, a benefactor, or a hefty amount of savings to support your living expenses while you spend up to several years "paying your dues" as a campaign volunteer. Unfortunately, most talented people just don't have these resources.

Or I suppose you could get started by running for local office, probably against people who have already spent years volunteering on other politicians' campaigns, hence they know how to win.

It's just so much easier, not to mention lucrative, for great leaders to go into business rather than politics.
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visitorq



Joined: 11 Jan 2008

PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2012 11:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sallymonster wrote:
It's just so much easier, not to mention lucrative, for great leaders to go into business rather than politics.

As it should be. In business they can actually generate wealth and produce things that people want and need. If they were in government these people would have to suck off the public to make ends meet (and the last thing we need are people who are actually competent devoting their energies to that)...
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Fox



Joined: 04 Mar 2009

PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 6:07 pm    Post subject: Re: The Myth of American Meritocracy Reply with quote

Titus wrote:

The elites are selected for characteristics other than competency and without any care for noblesse oblige.


Welcome to all of history.

Seriously, though, it was a pretty good article that really hammered home a set of fairly obvious points using data. If you had asked me if the Ivy League enrollment system was meritocratic before reading it, I'd have said, "Not especially," and that seems to be precisely the correct conclusion. Meritocracy doesn't work in the long term: the genuinely meritorious will rise to the top, and after having done so, rig the system in favor of their descendants and partisans, because they're just as human as anyone else, just as desirous of seeing their friends and family succeed, just as eager to see their agenda fulfilled, and because they are oh-so meritorious, their success in that will be all the more pervasive and lingering.

Merit is no way to choose leaders. Workers, or even perhaps advisors, but not leaders. Leaders first and foremost need virtue. Paradoxically, though, the very act of producing a system by which to genuinely evaluate virtue would render said system useless, so I don't see how we can expect a university admissions board to begin some sort of virtue-based student selection process.
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northway



Joined: 05 Jul 2010

PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 7:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sallymonster wrote:
https://career.berkeley.edu/Article/030418a.stm

Quote:
The most common point of entry to paid work in politics is long hours in a nonpaid internship.


In other words, if you want to work in politics, you'd better have family, a benefactor, or a hefty amount of savings to support your living expenses while you spend up to several years "paying your dues" as a campaign volunteer. Unfortunately, most talented people just don't have these resources.

Or I suppose you could get started by running for local office, probably against people who have already spent years volunteering on other politicians' campaigns, hence they know how to win.

It's just so much easier, not to mention lucrative, for great leaders to go into business rather than politics.


This post is completely ignorant of reality. Paid campaign jobs can be had after a matter of months of unpaid campaign work (which very frequently includes free food and lodging). Hell, one of my friends got a paying gig at 19 (no, not through connections, he simply applied). Once you receive a paying campaign position, it's very doable to get a job in Washington. The only thing preventing anyone with a degree from doing so is their own lack of imagination.
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bucheon bum



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Location: DC area

PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 11:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

northway wrote:
sallymonster wrote:
https://career.berkeley.edu/Article/030418a.stm

Quote:
The most common point of entry to paid work in politics is long hours in a nonpaid internship.


In other words, if you want to work in politics, you'd better have family, a benefactor, or a hefty amount of savings to support your living expenses while you spend up to several years "paying your dues" as a campaign volunteer. Unfortunately, most talented people just don't have these resources.

Or I suppose you could get started by running for local office, probably against people who have already spent years volunteering on other politicians' campaigns, hence they know how to win.

It's just so much easier, not to mention lucrative, for great leaders to go into business rather than politics.


This post is completely ignorant of reality. Paid campaign jobs can be had after a matter of months of unpaid campaign work (which very frequently includes free food and lodging). Hell, one of my friends got a paying gig at 19 (no, not through connections, he simply applied). Once you receive a paying campaign position, it's very doable to get a job in Washington. The only thing preventing anyone with a degree from doing so is their own lack of imagination.


Months of unpaid work. Yeah, that's not a challenge for a student (or recent graduate) whatsoever.

Sorry, but it really isn't as easy as you make it to be. Your friend was a lucky one. Come here to DC and meet thousands of other people who will give you another story. I'd say reality is between the two extremes you and sallymonster have provided.
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bucheon bum



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Location: DC area

PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 11:04 pm    Post subject: Re: The Myth of American Meritocracy Reply with quote

Fox wrote:

Merit is no way to choose leaders. Workers, or even perhaps advisors, but not leaders. Leaders first and foremost need virtue.


They not only need it, they need to have the courage to always follow it. I think that's what's plagued many of our leaders in the last couple decades, especially in the us military: a serious lack of moral courage.
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sallymonster



Joined: 06 Feb 2010
Location: Seattle area

PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 11:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

northway wrote:
sallymonster wrote:
https://career.berkeley.edu/Article/030418a.stm

Quote:
The most common point of entry to paid work in politics is long hours in a nonpaid internship.


In other words, if you want to work in politics, you'd better have family, a benefactor, or a hefty amount of savings to support your living expenses while you spend up to several years "paying your dues" as a campaign volunteer. Unfortunately, most talented people just don't have these resources.

Or I suppose you could get started by running for local office, probably against people who have already spent years volunteering on other politicians' campaigns, hence they know how to win.

It's just so much easier, not to mention lucrative, for great leaders to go into business rather than politics.


This post is completely ignorant of reality. Paid campaign jobs can be had after a matter of months of unpaid campaign work (which very frequently includes free food and lodging). Hell, one of my friends got a paying gig at 19 (no, not through connections, he simply applied). Once you receive a paying campaign position, it's very doable to get a job in Washington. The only thing preventing anyone with a degree from doing so is their own lack of imagination.


How many people that you know have actually gotten internships that included free room and board, where the intern didn't pay an internship program? How many people that you know got a paying job in DC after just a few months? There's always "that one guy" who manages to get a break, but that doesn't make him the norm.

Even if room and board are covered, you still to cover transportation costs, phone bills, and incidental expenses. If room and board isn't cover (most cases), well DC rent is expensive. Even just several months is a long time to go without an income, unless you have a hefty amount of savings (most college students and recent grads don't) or someone else to support you.

I'm glad that your friend managed to get a foot in the door on Capitol Hill. But his case doesn't mean that all talented potential politicians get the same opportunity.
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northway



Joined: 05 Jul 2010

PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 5:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Working on a campaign and working on the Hill are different things entirely. Working campaigns, if you're not getting free housing, there's something wrong, whether or not you're paid. Food is another matter, and depends entirely on where you're organizing. Phones are almost always covered if you have a field organizer position (which are extremely easy to get with minimal campaign experience). Campaigning is not a difficult field to break into, it's just a fairly awful lifestyle to subject yourself to. Those who are willing to do so will succeed.

If you've worked campaigns and been consistently involved with a cause, it's not particularly difficult to get a job on the Hill, either. That said, D.C. isn't cheap, but even this is no different than breaking into any urban industry, and there are plenty of non-rich kids who move to New York or Boston and make good.

Every single person I know through campaigning who has wanted to get a job in Washington has succeeded, and this accounts for about 50% of the campaign workers I've ever had the pleasure of working with. It takes hard work and a willingness to network and put forth an air of confidence, but class isn't the issue here.

That said, becoming a successful politician ain't easy. It takes money and connections, and even then there will always be roadblocks if you don't hail from the elite yourself. That said, the economics of campaign work are hardly preventing people from entering the political class.
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Titus



Joined: 19 May 2012

PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2013 6:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Unz has kept on writing about this. It is extremely interesting:

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/author/ron-unz/

The establishment media has kept its mouth shut (for obvious reasons) but when Unz's research has been discussed the focus is on Asians. This despite Unz's data showing whites to be the most discriminated against. That schools have pushed whites away, and rural whites out entirely, is not newsworthy. That Jews are obviously using ethnic nepotism to elbow their way in is not newsworthy. Asians are kinda-sorta diversity (depending on what kind) so that's the focus.

From the original article:

Quote:
"When examining statistical evidence, the proper aggregation of data is critical. Consider the ratio of the recent 2007–2011 enrollment of Asian students at Harvard relative to their estimated share of America’s recent NMS semifinalists, a reasonable proxy for the high-ability college-age population, and compare this result to the corresponding figure for whites. The Asian ratio is 63 percent, slightly above the white ratio of 61 percent, with both these figures being considerably below parity due to the substantial presence of under-represented racial minorities such as blacks and Hispanics, foreign students, and students of unreported race. Thus, there appears to be no evidence for racial bias against Asians, even excluding the race-neutral impact of athletic recruitment, legacy admissions, and geographical diversity.

However, if we separate out the Jewish students, their ratio turns out to be 435 percent, while the residual ratio for non-Jewish whites drops to just 28 percent, less than half of even the Asian figure. As a consequence, Asians appear under-represented relative to Jews by a factor of seven, while non-Jewish whites are by far the most under-represented group of all, despite any benefits they might receive from athletic, legacy, or geographical distribution factors. The rest of the Ivy League tends to follow a similar pattern, with the overall Jewish ratio being 381 percent, the Asian figure at 62 percent, and the ratio for non-Jewish whites a low 35 percent, all relative to their number of high-ability college-age students.

Just as striking as these wildly disproportionate current numbers have been the longer enrollment trends. In the three decades since I graduated Harvard, the presence of white Gentiles has dropped by as much as 70 percent, despite no remotely comparable decline in the relative size or academic performance of that population; meanwhile, the percentage of Jewish students has actually increased. This period certainly saw a very rapid rise in the number of Asian, Hispanic, and foreign students, as well as some increase in blacks. But it seems rather odd that all of these other gains would have come at the expense of whites of Christian background, and none at the expense of Jews."


Here's why it matters:

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/meritocracy-picking-our-elites-at-random/
Quote:
Now the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and if the actual real-world results produced by our national elites over the last generation or so had been reasonably good, or even merely acceptable, then we might just grit our teeth and accept the totally unfair and biased system used to pick them. But instead our national trajectory has been dreadful, though rarely brought to public attention by our elite media, whose controlling leadership is now usually drawn from much the same background and selection process.

Consider, for example, the recent research findings by Edward Wolff, a highly-regarded finance professor at NYU, which focused on the wealth distribution of American households. Not only did he show that by 2010 the combined net worth of our top 1% had grown nearly as large as that of the bottom 95%, but that the largest component of this change had been the massive impoverishment of the overwhelming majority of Americans, with the median American family having lost at least 47% of their wealth over the last few years. Even this figure is almost certainly a substantial underestimate, since home equity represents the bulk middle class family assets, and housing prices have generally continued their decline since 2010.

Some of Wolff’s other results are just as striking, demonstrating that in real terms average American wealth is now lower than it was in the late 1960s: the typical American family is poorer today than their counterpart of the Kennedy-Johnson era. Indeed, in 2010 nearly a quarter of all American households were totally destitute, with zero or negative total net worth.

And once again, the likely picture in 2013 is probably bleaker since the 2010 figures showed that over 37% of all households had net worth of under $10,000, implying that two years of further housing decline have probably pushed many more families over the brink of financial ruin. Wolff’s historical estimates only stretch back to 1962, and the 2010 rate of financial destitution was far worse than at any point since that year. So it actually appears that the “American dream” has become perhaps fifty years of net impoverishment, an absolutely astonishing development.


The current elite is driving the United States into the ground at a remarkable pace. They are destroying a once-great nation. Their rule is unearned, illegitimate and ruining the country.

The money shot (from original article):

Quote:
Many of the Jewish writers who focus on the history of elite university admissions, including Karabel, Steinberg, and Lemann, have critiqued and rebuked the America of the first half of the Twentieth Century for having been governed by a narrow WASP ascendency, which overwhelmingly dominated and controlled the commanding heights of business, finance, education, and politics; and some of their criticisms are not unreasonable. But we should bear in mind that this dominant group of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants—largely descended from among the earliest American settlers and which had gradually absorbed and assimilated substantial elements of Celtic, Dutch, German, and French background—was generally aligned in culture, religion, ideology, and ancestry with perhaps 60 percent of America’s total population at the time, and therefore hardly represented an alien presence.119 By contrast, a similarly overwhelming domination by a tiny segment of America’s current population, one which is completely misaligned in all these respects, seems far less inherently stable, especially when the institutional roots of such domination have continually increased despite the collapse of the supposedly meritocratic justification. This does not seem like a recipe for a healthy and successful society, nor one which will even long survive in anything like its current form.

Power corrupts and an extreme concentration of power even more so, especially when that concentration of power is endlessly praised and glorified by the major media and the prominent intellectuals which together constitute such an important element of that power. But as time goes by and more and more Americans notice that they are poorer and more indebted than they have ever been before, the blandishments of such propaganda machinery will eventually lose effectiveness, much as did the similar propaganda organs of the decaying Soviet state. Kahlenberg quotes Pat Moynihan as noting that the stagnant American earnings between 1970 and 1985 represented “the longest stretch of ‘flat’ income in the history of the European settlement of North America.”120 The only difference today is that this period of economic stagnation has now extended nearly three times as long, and has also been combined with numerous social, moral, and foreign policy disasters.

Over the last few decades America’s ruling elites have been produced largely as a consequence of the particular selection methods adopted by our top national universities in the late 1960s. Leaving aside the question of whether these methods have been fair or have instead been based on corruption and ethnic favoritism, the elites they have produced have clearly done a very poor job of leading our country, and we must change the methods used to select them. Conservative William F. Buckley, Jr. once famously quipped that he would rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 names listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard. So perhaps an important step in solving our national problems would be to apply a similar method to selecting the vast majority of Harvard’s students.


Unz is a Jew and the three paragraphs above are 100% correct and an entirely unprecedented warning shot being fired at his co-ethnics.

The who/whom of the elite is of major importance. I know none of you want to talk about it but you should be thinking about it. When you read Yglesias promoting Krugman promoting Ezra Klein promoting the research of some Harvard economist your very first thought should be "they don't deserve this and I don't trust them".
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NohopeSeriously



Joined: 17 Jan 2011
Location: The Christian Right-Wing Educational Republic of Korea

PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 6:23 am    Post subject: Re: The Myth of American Meritocracy Reply with quote

Titus wrote:
The elites are selected for characteristics other than competency and without any care for noblesse oblige.


You cannot have a functional and sustainable elite class with democracy and/or Marxist-Leninism. It's impossible.

(You know what? Strangely I get so much criticism from other forum members despite I'm the biggest critic who absolutely dislikes Marxist-Leninism like a plague. There's too much Marxist influence among Dave's ESL Cafe members)
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Kuros



Joined: 27 Apr 2004

PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 6:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Titus wrote:


Quote:
Many of the Jewish writers who focus on the history of elite university admissions, including Karabel, Steinberg, and Lemann, have critiqued and rebuked the America of the first half of the Twentieth Century for having been governed by a narrow WASP ascendency, which overwhelmingly dominated and controlled the commanding heights of business, finance, education, and politics; and some of their criticisms are not unreasonable. But we should bear in mind that this dominant group of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants—largely descended from among the earliest American settlers and which had gradually absorbed and assimilated substantial elements of Celtic, Dutch, German, and French background—was generally aligned in culture, religion, ideology, and ancestry with perhaps 60 percent of America’s total population at the time, and therefore hardly represented an alien presence. By contrast, a similarly overwhelming domination by a tiny segment of America’s current population, one which is completely misaligned in all these respects, seems far less inherently stable, especially when the institutional roots of such domination have continually increased despite the collapse of the supposedly meritocratic justification. This does not seem like a recipe for a healthy and successful society, nor one which will even long survive in anything like its current form.

Power corrupts and an extreme concentration of power even more so, especially when that concentration of power is endlessly praised and glorified by the major media and the prominent intellectuals which together constitute such an important element of that power. But as time goes by and more and more Americans notice that they are poorer and more indebted than they have ever been before, the blandishments of such propaganda machinery will eventually lose effectiveness, much as did the similar propaganda organs of the decaying Soviet state. Kahlenberg quotes Pat Moynihan as noting that the stagnant American earnings between 1970 and 1985 represented “the longest stretch of ‘flat’ income in the history of the European settlement of North America.” The only difference today is that this period of economic stagnation has now extended nearly three times as long, and has also been combined with numerous social, moral, and foreign policy disasters.

Over the last few decades America’s ruling elites have been produced largely as a consequence of the particular selection methods adopted by our top national universities in the late 1960s. Leaving aside the question of whether these methods have been fair or have instead been based on corruption and ethnic favoritism, the elites they have produced have clearly done a very poor job of leading our country, and we must change the methods used to select them. Conservative William F. Buckley, Jr. once famously quipped that he would rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 names listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard. So perhaps an important step in solving our national problems would be to apply a similar method to selecting the vast majority of Harvard’s students.


Unz is a Jew and the three paragraphs above are 100% correct and an entirely unprecedented warning shot being fired at his co-ethnics.

The who/whom of the elite is of major importance. I know none of you want to talk about it but you should be thinking about it. When you read Yglesias promoting Krugman promoting Ezra Klein promoting the research of some Harvard economist your very first thought should be "they don't deserve this and I don't trust them".


Dude, you quote a perfect example where ideology and philosophy trumped ethnicity, and you turn around and state "[Jews] don't deserve this and I don't trust them." It seems to me Unz is to be trusted and it has nothing to do, one way or the other, with him being a Jew.
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