Richard Hanania & Rob Henderson: The Rise of Wokeness and the Influence of Civil Rights Law — #39

Steve Hsu: Welcome to Manifold. I'm super excited today to have Richard Hanania and Rob Henderson as my guests. They've both been individually on this podcast before. It's great to have them both here at the same time. I'm also going to apologize to them because I was supposed to be in, I think it was in Dallas for a UATX, University of Austin. I guess it was a panel as part of their Summer Forbidden Courses program and the three of us were supposed to be together. I was on a revenge travel family trip. In Italy and Greece, and so I, I thought I could get back in time for the panel, but it turns out the flights and ferries were not working out, and by the way, the revenge just I don't want to disclose too much, but the revenge is the, on the part of my wife, who just demanded that we have a family trip this summer, so I, I, you know, I didn't have any choice, even though I committed many months in advance to be there with Richard and Rob, but the way it worked out, I had to cancel it to kind of the last minute, so I apologize to you guys.

And I kind of, if you don't mind, would like to just start a little bit with, like, what would we have said to the students at that panel if we had all been there, because we could talk about that. And then maybe for my listeners who don't know that much about UATX, we could just introduce what that university is.

The way I would describe it is it's a new private university which is going to be located in Austin, Texas. It's got some big billionaire backers. It's already raised a fair amount of money. And they want to have a very strong commitment to truth and freedom of expression. So, it's kind of in a way, like I don't want to abuse the term, but it's a little bit of an anti-woke new university that they're trying to create.

And so, they've started out by running these forbidden courses in the summer, which allows students to discuss things which are absolutely not allowed to be discussed at all the other universities in the United States today. So, Richard, what, what would we have discussed if we'd been on the panel?

Richard Hanania: so, you know, we had a discussion. It was basically Rob interviewing me about my forthcoming book, Origins of Woke. Rob has a book coming out too, but that's, that's in February, while mine is relatively closer, coming out in mid-September. and yeah, so we basically went over wokeness as law, where it comes from.

I think that my book and my work in general has a unique perspective to bring on these issues. I think a lot of people are thinking of their very surface or high level they're thinking about it in terms of you know, the culture and sort of ideas and this, you know, this This place of like, you know, why do people believe these crazy things that other people are disagreeing with and trying to push back on?

And, you know, my, my main argument is that there's a lot of, you know, laws and government regulations that are pretty in the weeds and, you know, pretty technical and, you know, are not, you know, exactly obvious to just a casual observer that are driving a lot of this. So, it was basically, you know, Rob, Rob has read my book.

We talked about it. we unfortunately didn't get a lot of. We didn't actually get a chance to ask questions. There were just time constraints. At the same time, I did attend one other panel where I heard a lot of the kids talk about, you know, like, why can't we have class based affirmative action?

And that sort of stuck in my mind and annoyed me a little bit. So, I have an essay that I've just published today we're doing this on July 5th, that was about how class-based preferences would actually be worse. So, there was, you know, something like intellectually that that, that came out of, that came out of my trip down there.

Rob Henderson: Yeah, yeah, I read Richard's book like, I don't know, a few weeks before. So, we, we, yeah, we talked a lot about his book. Yeah, I asked him just a few questions and we explored you know, various sort of aspects of, of the, you know, his argument and, yeah, I remember after so, so we didn't get to take questions, unfortunately, but I stuck around after I know Richard, you had to leave later that evening or the next day, but I continue to teach for the remainder of the week.

So some students did ask me some questions and You know, they, some of them, so it's interesting, like, you know, you mentioned the, the students at the other panel who you know, they, they tended to have sort of relatively progressive views, you know some of them anyway, on, like, class based affirmative action, I don't think anyone challenged, or, or, or rather supported, like, race based affirmative action, or maybe a couple of them did, but they really like this idea of class based affirmative action, but then I also heard some other students later after you and I spoke you know, I asked you that question about vaccines, And they were, you know, like, they, so we had, we had a handful of students who were, you know, uncertain about COVID vaccines and they liked everything you said, except the thing about the vaccines, they're like on board with like 95% of, of Hanania's body of work, but you, your stance on vaccines seem to offend some of them.

Richard Hanania: It convinces me. I thought it was just idiots on Twitter, but I've really got to do an anti-vaccine. I've never bothered with it, but it's really, really necessary. Dorian Abbot, even though he didn't like it.

Challenging, but there are

Rob Henderson: Smart young 20-year-old kids who were like, you know,

Richard Hanania: Some girl, you're vaccinated.

I'm like, it's amazing what tribalism has done to people. But yeah, you know, I believe that there are smart young people who are vaccine skeptics and yeah, I'm constantly reminded of that.

Steve Hsu: So, for my listeners, Richard. Can you just give, I don't know if you're officially on your book tour yet, but you probably have like a two-minute presser of your book that you could give, right?

Richard Hanania: Yeah, sure. I mean you can order it from Amazon right now It's available for a pre order and it's

Rob Henderson: out in September, right?

Richard Hanania: It's yeah, it's coming out in September, and Rob tells me that, you know, pre orders are very important, so people want to pre order now. We don't, we don't have, we don't have a cover yet, but the cover's going to be out, I think, probably, maybe by the time people listen to this.

And we've got some really cool blurbs, and we've got a cool cover design that I like. but yeah, so people can order now. Yeah, we got that. And so, if people are Rob Henderson too. So, if people are, you know, if you're, if you're going to order it eventually, you know, just buy it now because the presales all go, go in the bank and it helps promotion and other efforts.

And so, you know, the idea is I just, you know, I've been watching the Wars over Wokeness even before it was called Wokeness. I mean, going back to, you know when I was in law school about a decade, a decade ago and You know, like these things that people think are sort of new that just maybe popped up in the last, you know, five or 10 years with the great awakening or, you know, really took off under George Floyd.

A lot of the fundamental assumptions of this stuff has been law in the United States since the late 1960s or early 1970s. And what I think we're seeing with wokeness the book is, you know, ambitiously called the origins of woke because I'm trying to explain like this is, I'm trying to make a strong social science case of where this comes from.

They, you know, there were all these policies that basically, you know, enshrined this, and made institutions behave on the basis of certain beliefs. so, in the nine, you know, 1965, there was an executive order, 1, 12 46, for example, that said all government contractors. And that's a huge portion of the workforce.

All the government contractors have to have an affirmative action program. They all have to go Cal, you know, calculate the race and sex of all their different employees in different areas, and then look for goals and timetables. if they have any uh, if there are any uh, is there anything called underutilization?

There were 65 executive orders, but it, really, the present regime didn't come until 1971. That same year you had the Duke versus Greer Power Company case disparate impact. A lot of Steve's listeners are going to be familiar with this. They basically said you don't have to have the intention of discrimination you don't have to. You know, there, there doesn't have to be.

It's not like just treating people on account of race. It's the fact that you give a test and some people and white people do better than black people. Therefore, you know, the burden of proof goes on you, the employer, to show that you're not doing something wrong. And that didn't apply just to tests that apply to literally everything the government wanted to go after you for like, you know, criminal background checks and things were anything that has a racial disparity.

And so, these are just two examples. I mean, you have a harassment law. the sexual harassment stuff really took off in the 1980s. you have racial harassment stuff. You know, there are big, big penalties for employers if they have a racially or, you know, insensitive environment or an environment where women arguably can feel uncomfortable.

And so, of course, what happened was, you know, employers and, you know, the private sector and institutions. They took precautions. They brought in human resources professionals who told them what's not going to get them into trouble. What's, you know, not going to cost them money, how to keep the government off their back, how to stay in good standing with their contractors and this sort of monster you know, from within institutions.

You know, this is, this is the, you know, the, you could see, you know, this stuff that used to be called just straight up affirmative action compliance. you know, this is the, these are the precursors to the right. and so, yeah, I mean, these people, a lot of people yeah. You know, they talk about the ideas behind this.

They were there, but they were given the opening through civil rights law. And the hopeful part of this book, it's not only a book of social science, but also a book that hopes to be a guide to people who want to do something about this. It could be undone in the same ways uh, though, you know, through government action.

So SFFA v Harvard is just one example of this, but one, one Supreme Court case, or one executive order, or one government decision isn't going to change things. It's just the sort of the opening shot of what I hope will be a larger program.

Steve Hsu: So, I, I just want to kind of square your account with what I personally experienced.

And of course, I'm just an N of one, but it did seem to me like you know, a lot of these things were controversial. So, so, you know, it might've been law, but one could still in the academy have sort of two respectable professors debating the merits. Of, you know, a particular piece of legislation or rigs versus powers and, and you were allowed to have, you could be on the other side of it and the students wouldn't immediately call you a Nazi or a racist or something, right?

So, so, and then suddenly it seemed like, no, you couldn't be on the other side of that. And if you were on the other side of that, you couldn't even, you could at that point not be allowed to speak on campus because you were dangerous or evil. And that seemed like a relatively kind of sudden, sudden change.

Yeah. In the mindset of the students and, and maybe when Rob was on my show, we even talked about the fact that I think he was at Yale when the Halloween massacre thing happened at Silliman College. So, does that, like, do you have a view on that, Richard? Like, you're saying maybe all these processes were kind of moving along in the background.

But was there a sudden social change at all in the way that these ideas were regarded?

Richard Hanania: Yeah, I think obviously there was. I mean, you look at Zach's Zach Goldberg's work on the Great Awakening about what happened in the Prestige Press. Clearly, something happened in the you know, starting around 2011 or 2012, and clearly 2020 was crazy.

You know, the way I look at it, sort of, is the culture finally caught up to the law. and so basically the law said, look, everything you do is racist. that went against a lot of, you know, American traditions and ideas and the constitution and basically, you know, the way a lot of people, you know, understood the world just because it's ridiculous.

And then, you know, eventually in the 2010s, you got people who started to take that really, really seriously. My friend Gabriel Rossman is a professor at Sociology at UCLA, calls civil rights law a force multiplier. So, like in the, you know, it's like something like in the military. It's like if you, you know, if you're an activist, if you're some kind of, you know a malcontent who's working for a company or something, I mean, you grab onto your race or your identity and you can really make corporations or you can really make institutions suffer just because you have, you know, you have the laws.

On your side. So, yeah, I mean, I think that, you know, this is such a, this is such a, it's like studying a comparative book studying the rise of Christianity. Right? It's like you can write volumes of books looking at the problem from a different perspective. You can look at, you know, the laws of the Roman Empire and you can look at culture and you can look at media and you can look at 100 different things.

But, you know, I still make an argument for, although it's, you know, these things are, you know, these the degree of wokeness is going to Even flow over time and of course it always, it always has you know, I still try to make the argument that there is a causal case that it was actually the reforms of the 1960s and 1970s that did this.

I mean, clearly, you know, there's still a lot to talk about with the greater will getting in the summer Floyd and all that other stuff.

Steve Hsu: Would it, would it be fair to say that, you know, there's one strain of civil rights law. If you go all the way back to the sixties, what was really about blindness. So, the idea that, okay, we, in the South, they were mistreating African Americans. And the first move was to make things race blind so that you couldn't mistreat one group. But the other strain goes way beyond that to disparate impact, which says, well, if any group is not doing well, it must be the fault of racists that they're not doing well. They couldn't possibly have any personal agency or, you know, there couldn't be some sociological cause for it.

It's really Got to be active discrimination causing them to not do as well as the other group, and therefore, we have to actively fix it like I like being an old kind of liberal. I was okay with the race-blind part of the civil rights movement. I was actually very for that. But this other part seems crazy.

It seems like kind of sloppy social science and et cetera, et cetera. So

Richard Hanania: yeah, well, there was, you know, they were these two like You know, the race, black stuff, and the equal record, the equity, what we would call today, the equal representation sort of ideas. They were really intertwined from the start.

So, before the Civil Rights Act was passed, I mean, people, people who are against the Civil Rights Act worried about this. there was a case in Illinois where the state where the state government went after Motorola because they, you know, they gave him, This black guy went to like their, whatever their equivalent of the EEOC was at the state level in Illinois and said, you know, this test is racist because I'm a black man and blacks, you know, don't do as well as on this test.

And this was written up in the New York Times. This was during the civil rights debate and Congress noticed this and then everyone in Congress agreed. Okay, we can't let that happen. So actually, they did actually say, you know, we're going to put some stuff in the Civil Rights Act. There's something called the power amendment, which explicitly allows tests. I mean, it's amazing. professionally called what it calls professionally developed tests. And so, people, you know, people understood that this was a danger but at the same time, you know, the people who wrote the civil rights act and voted on it did not think we would get you know, we would get something like the disparate impact regime.

Now it wasn't, it didn't take a lot of time. I mean, the people who warned about what was happening were correct. The duke uh, Griggs power company case was only in 1971. so, you have, you know, seven years. the people who went, who became, you know, activists who went into the government, who went into the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the EEOC, that's, you know, they enforce civil rights law within the government, they were activists, they were the kind of people who just wanted equal results for black people and, you know, thought they were overcoming the long history of Racism and, you know, from the start, I mean, it's not like they came in in 1964 1965 or completely naive, like, no, the idea of disparate impact was already in the air.

So, there's a different level. Yes. Congress. I mean, the way they the people who you know, the people most representative to the you know, the most representative of the public that, you know, the people's representatives who went and actually voted on the bill thought they were doing the color blindness thing.

The civil rights movement in general. no, the, you know, the seeds of all the stuff we see today was already there.

Rob Henderson: Yeah, you know, Richard, I don't know when you and I talked, I mean, so, so one thing that you do in your book is you say that like you, that people overrate ideas and that this is really civil rights law, but then I'm thinking today, if these laws were to all be overturned, I think the ideas would still be pervasive and the activists would still be very much in support of the, like it wouldn't go away, right?

Like the agitators and the malcontents. And they would still be pushing for it, right?

Richard Hanania: In the conclusion of my book, you know, it says basically you are hopefully rolling back civil rights law today. So, you know, it took 60 years to get, you know, from this regime to like the crazy culture that we have today.

You're fighting for a generation; you're fighting for a generation or two down the line. they're still going to be there. I hope that, like, I hope that we, you know, we roll back a lot of the civil rights laws. Then the next time there's a corporation, you know, there's you know, there's a recession or something, corporations downsize, they realize, hey, maybe these DEI people and maybe these human resources, maybe we don't need them as much as we did.

You know, the trial lawyers, they go find some other cash cow and they stop focusing on civil rights law because the civil rights cases become harder to win. It's not going to be like a, like a... You know, a V Day where everyone says, okay, we've defeated wokeness today. It's going to be, you know, a sort of quiet changing of incentives that has, you know, effects on the culture decades down the line, which is, which is like how civil rights law led to wokeness in the first place.

That's how we'll get to a non-woke culture from changing the law.

Steve Hsu: So, we could differentiate between, you know, the battle lines as, you know they affect. Society in general versus the atmosphere on campus, and I don't really see the atmosphere on campus being fixed anytime soon. So, in other words, people expressing, you know, your beliefs or my beliefs are going to be a big trouble on university campuses for a long, at least significant amount of time to come, even if in society, they actually, the Supreme Court says, Hey, no more affirmative action, right?

Do you agree with that?

Richard Hanania: Yeah, no, the campuses are the hardest thing. And I think, I think that we. You know, I'll say for, I think we over rate the campuses relative to everything else in society. So, when like we really, when you say, oh, we could debate affirmative action and campuses, you know, until five or 10 years ago, you know, you really, you know, I had a professor once tell me, you know, you think universities are bad.

You should see the HR offices at major corporations. And so like, you know, the, it was sort of like the great awakening went through corporate America and, you know, they became, you know, crazier in the last five or 10 years, you know, now they're, you know, they're giving statements on this and that, but they are, you know, the zero tolerance policies that came out of corporate America that people used to mock before people focused on universities were always there.

Now, intellectuals, people like us didn't focus on it as much because people like us spend a lot of time at universities, right? And so, intellectuals care a lot about universities. and, but so all this other stuff, I think is like, has always been there in business. And I think that one thing civil rights will do, look, the, the, the bus, you know, corporate America is going to be the easiest to change because they respond, they respond to incentive, they care about the profit motive.

They're not just filled with these activists who just want to, who are in their job because they want to change the world. They have some of those but still the profit, the profit motive disciplines them, right? And the selection effects of people bringing them in is different from the universities.

And you're, and you're right, the universities are, you know, the most ideologically committed to liberalism. Even in that case though, I mean, it's pretty amazing to think how we got here. I mean, I tell this, I told the story at UATX, and I tell it in my book. It was the federal government that went to Columbia University and said, we want data on your race and gender of the people you're hiring because we want to see if you're violating civil rights law.

And the pre–Columbia University fought this tooth and nail. The president of Columbia wrote a letter saying, we're not even that kind of university. We don't even collect that data. We don't want to be that kind of university. And then he says at the end of his life, his open letter, you know, this is, we need federal funding.

And if this is what we have to do, this is what we'll have to do. And so, yeah, I mean, that's 19, that's, that's the early 1970s, where 2020, the universities are a completely different thing. but there's a history here, and you're, you're right. They're going to, they're going to, they're, they're crazy now. I mean, I don't, I don't doubt it.

They're going to be crazy for a while. And, you know, that's just, that's just life. It's something we're going to have to deal with.

Steve Hsu: But, by the way, again, drawing from just my personal experience, but, you know, being older than you guys, I would say, you know, having had a long, Career, side career in business, at least in technology startups and, you know, interacting with a fair number of, you know, fortune 500 type people as well.

If you go back long enough, like maybe just 20 years ago and you talk to the CEO of a major company, like a CD level person at a, at a, at a big company, they will say things like, well, we have to do this stuff for compliance reasons. It insulates us against lawsuits. But I think it's crazy. So, so, you know, I would have a lot of 20 years ago.

I'd have a lot of conversations with senior management like that. Today, it's much more common to meet a CEO who actually believes is like a true believer in this, like maybe even like the BlackRock CEO is like a true believer in this stuff. They're not just signaling it. They actually believe it. And then if you're in, like, I'm often meeting them in some kind of quasi-intellectual setting, like it's some, you know, oligarch meeting where they've invited me as one of the token intellectuals or something.

Because it's in a kind of intellectual setting, I can then start questioning, like, well, why do you believe X? And, and, you know, realize that they don't really, obviously they don't have, they're not familiar with all the social science or psychometrics or, or anything, but they do actually sincerely believe.

Now, so now we have a larger and larger percentage of the top leadership of these private companies who don't just, aren't just doing it because they have to, but they're doing it because they really believe in it. So, I think that was a major change in the last 20 years.

Richard Hanania: Yeah. I don't, I don't, I don't doubt that's true.

I, you know, I, I don't doubt that's true. It's, you know, the question. They seem to, they seem to blow with the wind, and I think that, you know, the market pressure is going to select, you know, for people, the craziest things they believe, you know, and if people are allowed to have, you know, diverse opinions in corporations, they're going to select for certain kinds of people.

So, I, you know, I'm not surprised about that sort of business. You know, ape the language of, of power. I mean, I think that's, I think that's right. I think most people, you know, should understand that most people are not intellectuals. They're just absorbing you know, what they hear, what they read in the New York Times or what they hear on TV.

And so, yeah, there's a, you know, I think you know, I think that like if you're going to your, you're making a list of like the hardest and, you know, least hardest and easiest people to disabuse of wokeness, I think probably business executives are easiest and, you know, women's studies professors are, are the hardest.

Yeah. Right. And it's the hardest thing that we're facing. Right.

Rob Henderson: 20 years ago, people weren't getting fired either, right? I mean, cancel culture. I mean, I, you know, I guess it existed to some degree, but doesn't. That's at least, you know, what my, my, you know, vague recollection, but then also from what I read from the early 2000s, it didn't exist quite on this level.

Richard Hanania: Well, in the 1990s, there was case after case of like, you know uh, a corporation's getting, you know, smacked down with like huge hundreds of millions of dollars losing in lawsuits or fines or whatever one after the other. And then. You know, they would like things like Coca Cola, where they would say, change your entire hiring practices.

You don't have this committee that looks at diversity. The federal government was doing this in the 1990s. I think the early 2000s, just sort of the war on terror, just sort of 9 11 distracted people for a few years. But this has been going on for a very long time.

Rob Henderson: Yeah, but in terms of, that's not enough, I think, to turn someone into a true believer, right?

Like changing the policies around the way that your corporation is run, versus you personally, your reputation and your job and your livelihood and your reputation is at stake.

Richard Hanania: This is Trevor's, Robert Trevor's, his theory of self-deception, right? People believe what's adaptive. If the legal environment tells you this is the right thing to believe, people will become true believers.

Rob Henderson: But do you think, like, 25 years ago, I think it was, it was enough, right, to say, well, you know, the regulations, the policies are changing, and that's what it says, and so that's good enough for me, so you just do it, whereas I think now, it's not enough to say, like, if you were to just publicly say, oh, like, this is what we're supposed to do, civil rights law, and all the, like, that's, that's the reason why you do it.

I think that would upset a lot of people. I think, like, 20 years ago, that would have been like, oh, he's just doing what he has to do. Today, it's like...

Richard Hanania: But people weren't saying that 20 years ago. People were, you know, had to feel like they had to, you know, say this was all good stuff to do 25 years ago, too.

So, uh...

Rob Henderson: You think so? You think, like, you had to be sort of an openly true believer that, you know, decades ago?

Steve Hsu: Well, I think decades ago, at least in a private, you know, casual conversation, they could, they could reveal to me that... We don't really believe in this stuff, but we have to do it because we don't want to get sued.

Whereas now, in the same kind of conversation, they're revealing that they, quote, truly believe it. And I think it's this triverization that you were talking about, Richard. Like, if, if you reached adulthood well before this was the norm, then you could still hold on to your earlier beliefs and just comply, because your full power is forcing you to comply.

But the people who grew up with it, sort of triverized themselves, because they realized, like, oh, I better believe this, because this is what all good people believe. And then eventually they just quote, sincerely,

Richard Hanania: I like that term. Yeah. It's like a black panther supporter, by the way, which is just sort of a funny irony of all this.

Steve Hsu: Well, the funny thing is that, and this, like this guy, Richard Sander at the UCLA law professor who coined the term mismatch, a lot of these guys were social activists in the sixties and seventies. And because it's correlated with being an acute observer of society. So, you were an acute observer of society in the 60s and 70s and you thought, hey, there's something wrong, we got to help African Americans or whatever.

But then, like, now that they're 60 years old, they're looking like, wait, now I'm still an acute observer of society, and things have gone crazy, and we might even be hurting, in the case of Sander, he would say, we're even hurting these black students. Although I think,

Richard Hanania: I think, yeah, that might be Sander, but I think Travers is actually still a leftist.

I, I don't think...

Steve Hsu: Oh, yeah, yeah, I meant, I meant Sander, but, but it's, I'm not surprised to find people who are considered far right now by the wokest, but if you actually look at their history in the 60s, they had very high social consciousness, and... You know, we're, we're, you know, very progressive, et cetera, for, for the time, they were very progressive.

Richard Hanania: Yeah, I don't think many educated people were not, you know, sort of in favor of civil rights in the 1960s or 1970s. That was just sort of, you.

Now, you're talking about intellectuals.

Steve Hsu: Among intellectuals, yeah, there were very few that weren't for it.

Rob Henderson: Yeah. One thing that shocked me recently, because I've seen this too, like, you know, I read like old articles, you know, in the archives of the Atlantic or something, and it was still acceptable in polite society to take the other side on affirmative action or to openly question it.

I mean, now I, you see a little bit of it now, but it's mostly framed from the perspective of um quotas against Asian Americans. You know, that guy Jay Caspian Kang and the New Yorker, he's written some interesting pieces recently about it. But like for the most part, the right thing to think about affirmative action is that it's good.

It's an unmitigated good. There are no, there are no downsides, whereas it didn't seem to be 15 years ago. And I wonder, like, is this, because I've seen, like, and I think, Richard, you're aware, you too, Steve, probably, about the, like, the gap in terms of, like, public opinion on, on affirmative action and quotas based around race versus, like, people who are highly educated with graduate degrees.

People who work in academia. I mean, the magnitude of that gap seems maybe larger than almost any other topical socio-political issue. I mean, maybe abortion would be another one. But to me, I was just shocked at how much affirmative action seems to be so important to intellectuals and to elites relative to the public at large.

It's just there's such a large distance between the two.

Richard Hanania: I think your typical New York Times editor, I mean, might just not have You know, just not know the degree of like the preferences. So, I think when they see someone attacking affirmative action, they're like, why are you being so mean, right? It's just a little nudge on the scale to help a black person who might have had a difficult life.

You know, I think that the whole system is so like, you know, they obscure what they're doing, and you can see it reading the opinions in SFFA, but then you look at the data and like how different it is from the way Harvard and UNC talk about this stuff. yeah, I think a lot of it is just, just that the whole system, you know, it benefits from obfuscation. So, you've probably seen polls recently that if you ask about affirmative, and this is like how, you know, we, we too are also sort of out of touch. We know what affirmative action is, but if you actually ask, you know, a poll, like you see in this headline, most Asians support affirmative action.

If you just say, do you support affirmative, oh, sounds good. It's affirmative. It's action. I mean, whatever. We'll use assertiveness and do something that sounds good. Right. We, we all know what that means. If you ask, should, you know.

Rob Henderson: [unclear] institutions be taken into account.

Richard Hanania: Yes, you get, you know, 70, 80% you know, disapproval or whatever. So yeah, I mean even to like to determine what political opinion is and what elite opinion is when there's just like so many lies in the system is actually quite difficult.

Rob Henderson: I mean, it's, it's interesting to me because like so many other issues, it's almost 50 50 like pro-life or pro-choice or whatever, like, like gun rights, like, you know, 50% of the country likes guns, 50% of them don't like guns.

But then with affirmative action or race-conscious policies, it's like 70, 80% of the country doesn't like it. And it's like the exact reverse or even more so among intellectuals and elites. It's just like, it's not 50 50. It's like, oh yeah, maybe, maybe I actually don't, I don't know the public polling on transgender issue, but maybe that's.

Steve Hsu:That might be another, you know.

Richard Hanania: I saw a really remarkable poll, like, can your gender be changed?

And like 60% of Americans say no, no, that's not like, that's not, you know, that, that opinion is rarely appearing in the New York Times or Washington Post today. It was somewhat remarkable, like 40 or 50% said it was immoral to ever change your gender. I mean, that is not a view that is represented only in institutions.

So yeah, that probably is probably the most extreme disparity now, but yeah, affirmative action is up there too.

Rob Henderson: Yeah. I don't know. Yeah. Affirmative action just gets, yeah.

Steve Hsu: I'm just agreeing with you, Rob. Like, if you look at the details of, what was it, Prop 16 in California that tried to repeal 209, the average people were not having it.

Even average people of color were not having it, right? It's only elites. It was just astonishing. Like, the, the, the, the UC system and the, the Democratic state apparatus. They were all telling people, this is how you have to vote on 16, but then the average African American or Hispanic Californian wasn't having it.

So, there is this huge common people versus elites’ divergence on many of these issues, particularly affirmative action.

Rob Henderson: What accounts for that? I just don't like it personally, it's hard for me to totally wrap my head around why this in particular, the other issues, I guess, because I've been around so many people and it's just, I sort of understand the other issues.

At least I can sort of model the theory of mind of like, why, whatever, anti-gun or pro-choice, like, that's okay, fine. But the affirmative action one, just how desperately people believe in this this one is a little, and, and, and the sort of the dishonesty and duplicity around like, yes, like, you know, Asian Americans do suffer from the, what, unfair admissions practices, and the unwillingness to just sort of be honest about this is, is really interesting to me.

Steve Hsu: I think, you know, this meme that they have the bell curve distribution, they have like the simple person's take, and then they have the midwit take, and then they have the high IQ take, which comes back around to the simple person's, it's an example of that, but a little bit, but with the elites, they've basically been taught, and you know, like our system invests a lot of resources in this, because when you're taking your, you guys know this better than me, but when you're taking your humanities, social science course requirements in college, They make sure to spend a lot of hours telling you, well, there really are no, you know, first of all, race doesn't exist at all.

And then there can't be any differences in performance between people. If there are, if there are differences, they're, they're kind of small. And so, for you to not want to have adequate black representation on campus makes you very mean spirited, right? And I think, I think only a very kind of free thinking or careful person who reads the wrong things during college Thanks Escapes being brainwashed really by that set of teachings which were put in place very deliberately.

So, when I first started as a professor at the University of Oregon, there was no ethnic studies requirement. And I was socially good friends with many professors in the sociology department. There was this joke that the University of Oregon was like the 11th UC campus. It's like UC Eugene.

Because so many of the professors were like Berkeley grad, Berkeley PhDs, and stuff like this. So, anyway, I was good friends with these Berkeley grads who had, you know become professors of sociology at Oregon. And at the time, this was the 90s, they were fighting to institute an ethnic studies requirement.

So that meant if you wanted to, in order to graduate, whether your major was computer science or physics or whatever, you had to take it. an ethnic studies course taught by one of my buddies. And when they got in there, they were, number one, they're going to, we're going to spend two weeks telling you why race is a social construct.

Now we're going to spend two weeks telling you why, you know, the definition of black is different in Brazil than in the South. And, you know, all these standard teachings, which you're, you know, educated, educated people are supposed to know in our culture. There's a channel by which that is You know, beamed into their heads and they can't graduate from the University of Oregon post 1995 or whenever they got the requirement in, you know, in place or 98 or whatever.

You just could not escape the university without dealing with that. I don't want to call it propaganda because some of it is, is, is, is fine. It's a teaching of race relations and the history of race relations in the United States. But certain aspects of the viewpoint, which are maybe not even empirically correct.

Are forced down the throats of every student at every one of these universities. So how can they escape? Like, if you're just a normal person who's a little bit conformist, and you just kind of, like, assume most of what the professor tells you is correct, it's very hard to come out. Unless you're, like, particularly disagreeable or intellectual or rigorous.

You're going to come out thinking, like, yeah, that's the way it is, right? But the, the, the bulk of the population that didn't graduate from, you know, a flagship university or whatever, they, they don't have all that stuff. They didn't, they didn't get all that propaganda. Maybe now they're getting that propaganda in, like, eighth grade.

They weren't in the past, but maybe they are now. But, but, so that, that's my... Sort of causal

Rob Henderson: reconstruction, maybe I missed that sort of a critical window, that critical period of like, like we talked earlier about getting triverized, like a long, like I just missed that window. And so now, like, when I look at it, just on the one hand, you know, like, even now, like, because I heard a lot of those arguments at Yale about like, On the one hand, race doesn't exist, but then it's this critically, socially important thing, and, you know, okay, well, if race doesn't exist, what does it matter, like, what percentage of this demographic or that demographic makes up the campus, if, like, none of us are actually different, then who cares?

And I could, I still can't reconcile that, like, I, yeah, I must have missed that developmental window. Yeah, I think you're

Steve Hsu: also like a little bit too smart and a little bit too wanting to reason from first principles like all these things or check the empirical justification for arguments like you can, you can recognize, wait, you're making a very serious claim there.

What's, what's the evidence, right? But most kids are not just going to accept it. It was in my textbook, you know, professor X told me all this when I was a freshman. So, but you're different.

Richard Hanania: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I mean, I think there's something, you know, it's not just brainwashing. I think there's something specific about this race issue that I think causes difficulties.

I mean, a lot of multiethnic countries do have racial preferences. They do have affirmative action. And I think, you know, I think the reason is that the group disparities really do make. People uncomfortable and particularly with the American history of you know, if you have a bunch of black students on campus who are arguing for one thing, and even though, you know, maybe it's not the overwhelming position of the black community overall that affirmative action is good, but look, among blacks who go to the Ivy Leagues and who are on the Ivy League campuses, unquestionably they are overwhelmingly in favor of affirmative action, right?

I mean, who wants to disagree with them? I mean, nobody wants to, right?

Steve Hsu: It's a bad look. It's a bad look to be disagreeing with all those people, right?

Richard Hanania: This is, I mean, this is the women's tears argument, but also it applies just as well to race. You know, white Americans don't want to be don't want to be seen as disagreeing with black people, particularly black people who have more of a sort of emotional stake in the issue than most white Americans do, or most people of other races do.

So, yeah, they're, I mean, they're genuine. Yeah, there are genuine, you know, things here.

Rob Henderson: Sort of like opinion cartels.

Richard Hanania: Yeah, it's, yeah, I mean, it's, it's going to, it's going to cause discomfort. I mean, it's going to cause discomfort if, like, if they really, you know, don't have as much, you know, affirmative action going forward, if the demographics of these universities do change.

There's going to be a lot of discomfort. Maybe we'll get over it just because there's... Fewer minority, you know, affirmative action admits around to complain and make people feel uncomfortable. But yeah, I mean, it's, they're sort of complicated sort of psychological issues in volunteering.

Rob Henderson: What's going on with people when they think that okay, so if this, this demographic is underrepresented in this field or in this college campus or, or discipline or what have you, then I guess they, like, the, the typical response is that there must be some sort of discrimination, systemic or otherwise.

But then if there's an over representation of a demographic, what is the, what's the progressive Like, what's the steelman progressive response for, like, why Harvard is 20% Asian, whatever, or Berkeley, Berkeley might be a better example because there's no sort of quotas or anything, like, what is the sort of steelman progressive stance on why Berkeley is 40 plus percent Asian?

Richard Hanania: The smartest possible liberal, I don't know, like, I don't hear many of them say this, but I guess if I tried to imagine what the smartest liberal would say, it would be something like, longs of luck. We are a society of, you know, where there's been historical disadvantages based on race. It hits Blacks the hardest, maybe it hits, you know, Hispanics to a lower extent.

And look, Asians were also discriminated against, but like what they accomplish in spite of that is like, you know, just evidence of their work ethic or whatever. And, you know, that's something we should play with. But, okay. Well, I mean, I don't, I don't think they actually do say this. It's hard for them to argue.

But I think, you know, I think the best argument would be something along those lines.

Steve Hsu: I don't think this is the smartest possible liberal argument, but a common one which is used by smart liberals is just to kind of back away from the criteria that are used in, you know, for, quote, merit. So, they just say, like, oh, well, what, what difference does it make whether someone scored 1500 or 1600?

At some point, they're all, like, qualified to be on campus. And so, you guys are sort of just foolishly over emphasizing all of these academic achievements of these Asians, which, quote, make them, quote, better qualified for, at Harvard than some other group of, quote, good students. So, they just want to denigrate, tear down that whole thing.

The ironic thing is then, though, if you ask them about their kids, and you say, oh, how's Johnny doing in high school? And of course, you're talking to some liberal who's a professor or a lawyer or something. Then they got really mad because, well, Johnny missed the National Merit Semifinalist cut, and I was so mad because I just wanted to get him into the Kumon math program, and he just wouldn't go.

And it's like, then they realize, then they reveal that actually, no, they actually do believe in these various metrics. but publicly they won't say that. They'll say, well, these, you guys are just being overly...

Richard Hanania: Well, the anti-Asian, the anti-Asian discrimination is consistent with the official diversity justification because you say you want an institution that looks a lot like America and you want, you know, different groups, you could just say, well, Asians don't look like America, so we need to help white people.

I mean, they don't want to say that. They don't want to say that. They don't want to say that.

Rob Henderson: We need to help white people? Is that what [you said]?

Richard Hanania: If you did want to make that argument, yeah, it would be consistent with the entire diversity rationale.

Rob Henderson: Right. Well, they don't look like America, right? Because at least among the Ivy League universities, they are on paper officially underrepresented, right?

I think there's something like about 50% worse.

Richard Hanania: without affirmative action there, or maybe it'd be the same. I don't know, but there would be fewer, you know, with affirmative action holding back Asians. And that has, that does have a justification in that, like, they already don't look like America because 20% of America is not Asian and so if you made it 30 or 40% that would even be, you know, a bigger problem from that perspective.

Rob Henderson: Well, there's, there's an interesting sort of inconsistency. I talked to a friend of mine, this Hispanic guy I went to Yale with. And, and so, so on paper, you know, Yale's only what, like, 50% white. But then you look around campus and it looks like a lot more than 50% white. and my friend's explanation of this is that you basically have a lot of white people pretending to be Hispanic.

You know, like saying, you know, like, like making up some lie about how they had liked a Cuban grandfather. Or like their step, you know, sometimes they use a stepparent, and they identify because they were raised by, you know, a step family member, or something like that, and this is like good enough for them to, to claim Hispanic status you know, sort of like Elizabeth Warren route.

Richard Hanania: Yeah, look, well, look how long it took for Elizabeth Warren to get caught, right? She went all the way to becoming a professor.

Rob Henderson: And then, like, they don't make you do a 23andMe when you apply to an Ivy League school.

Richard Hanania: No, you don't, you can say anything. You know, that's the thing, yeah, there must be, I mean, there must be massive fraud going on, of course.

Rob Henderson: Yeah. Oh, I know of at least two white guys who've pretended to be Hispanic and, and gay. One of them is to get a college application for a finance internship. So, one was for college. One was for a finance internship. Both were successful. And these were like the whitest guys you've ever seen. So, like, you know, this, this, this tactic works.

I'm surprised more people don't do it. Yeah.

Steve Hsu: I think the whole Hispanic category is incoherent because some of these guys would not be out of place on the streets of. of Lisbon or Madrid or Barcelona or Rome and, but because they're descendants of down, down on their luck, imperialist colonialists, they get all the benefits.

They could be literally genetically 100% European descended from people who colonized and genocided Latin Americans, but for some reason, because our diversity bureaucrats are not very smart, those guys get. But the bulk of the benefits of affirmative action,

Richard Hanania: This is going back to the government thing.

It's not that it doesn't necessarily that they're not very smart. It's that the government's got them in the business of counting people in a certain way. And they just stick with the categories. It didn't matter if they didn't make sense. It didn't matter if Asians became overrepresented. There are four races in the world, whites, Hispanics, blacks, Asians.

Right. And who cares about anything else? Everything else has to be fitted to that worldview and sort of the social construction of race, I think, is like the best argument for like government mattering here because I have a Google Ngrams uh, you know, analysis in my uh, in my book, which shows that these categories of Hispanic, Latino, Asian, American API, they, you know, they take off, they become government categories.

Before they take off in the culture before they really become people are using them in books in the broader culture So, you know, what clear example can you get that the federal government is really shaping how people see them?

Steve Hsu: Oh, I totally as a teacher Yeah, I totally agree with your example Richard The remark about them not being very clever is that when you explain this to them their heads kind of explode in the video Yeah Like this guy has no You know now that we have 23 and me and ancestry and so if I can say like this guy has literally no indigenous Yeah.

Admixture. Yeah. He's completely descended from the same people that in Northern Italy, you know, like, or Northern Spain could easily pass as German if they wanted to. And you're giving this guy freedom of action because his last name is Spanish, right? But it's totally incoherent.

Richard Hanania: Yeah, and I appreciate this uh the Supreme Court decision, the majority opinion and also the Gorsuch concurrence really gets into sort of the absurdity of racial classifications.

Gorsuch actually cites Dave Bernstein, who I interviewed on my podcast, who wrote a book called Classified on the history of this stuff and who I cited in my book. So, it's, it's great to see sort of you know, it's sort of great to see that argument making inroads.

Steve Hsu: Yeah. So, we're, we're okay. We're on the topic now of the Supreme Court decision.

So maybe we could discuss that for a little bit. Richard, you wrote a piece that I read on your sub stack, which, you know, actually, to be honest, like brightened my mood a lot because although I was very happy at the decision and have actually been involved in this effort for 20 years now, I was still pretty pessimistic.

You know, when you read that carve out language in the decision about you know, nothing in this decision prevents people from Revealing the obstacles they've overcome, or the adversity that they've overcome, perhaps race related, et cetera. So, my assumption was just the schools are going to cheat and use the personal essays as a way to distribute uh, racial preferences.

But I think you had a take in your sub stack saying it's not going to be as easy as that. And you, you expect actually some retrenchment to happen as a result of this.

Richard Hanania: Yeah, I mean, it's, you know, I think that when you look at the, you know, the briefs filed by the University of California system and the University of Michigan system, they didn't, they didn't recover the blacks at Berkeley, I think was 7% or 8% or something before they got rid of affirmative action.

It's still 3% today. You could look at the entire system as a whole and see things didn't change that much. but Berkeley, it really hit hard because Berkeley has the highest admission standards in California of the public schools. same thing with the University of Michigan. you know, like the UCLA Law School and then you look at the University of Michigan, University of Michigan Law School.

It did, it did have an effect. and so, this is the clearest, you know, this is the clearest thing we have. Numbers because you need affirmative action to get, you know, to get racial parody at top universities. and so, yeah, it's not like they could do whatever they want. I mean, they were, they were sued in this case, and they spent a lot of time fighting this case because they want to do something very specific and it's not going to be as easy to just do the same thing.

They can, you know, fudge, they can, you know they can, you know fudge the process a little bit, but they can't create a paper trail because they're going to be sued and they're going to be doing things that are clearly illegal. And, you know, when you have discovery and you're, you know, you can find all these things in a lawsuit, I mean, you can, you can get in trouble there.

And so, yeah, I do expect we will see, we will see sort of a shift in the demographics of universities, but like, one thing I should, you know emphasize is that look, if, if you know, if three Supreme Court justices, you know, are you know, die in a plane crash and right now Biden gets to appoint the other three, this won't matter this, you know, even if they, they don't even have to overturn this case.

You know, it's going to, even if the Supreme, even if the Supreme Court composition stays the same, if the Democrats are still in power and they are appointing all the judges at the at the circuit court level and at the district court level who are interpreting this the Supreme Court decision in SFFA you know, they're going to, they're going to hollow it out.

So, like, what, what Robert said about, you know, it's okay, you know, you can still mention race in an essay if this or that, I mean, how that is read will really depend on who is, you know, interpreting these things. So, yeah, I mean, this is going to, this alone makes a difference but there are elections and there are courts and how much of a difference it matters in the end is going to depend on, you know, 2028 and which old people die at the right times.

That's just our system.

Steve Hsu: Yeah, I agree with that. Now. One difference is that when Prop 209 passed in California and the equivalent ballot initiative in Michigan, the schools were caught off guard. And actually, the language from the administrators at that time was, wow, we did have this big drop in diversity.

Asians are not diverse. So, we had this huge drop in diversity. but it's not our fault because this was forced on us by this crazy ballot measure and we're good. We're still good, good people. This is a bad outcome, but it's not our fault, but they kind of lived with it. And then gradually, what Sander would say is they started cheating more and more so that the amount of cheating has been ramping up.

In this case, Harvard and many of these other schools immediately said defiantly, you see that you, they quoted Robert's language and they said, you see that language? We're going to drive a Mack truck through that language. I mean, they literally sent that out to the whole Harvard community. I received the email, so, so it's a little bit different, the situation between what happened with 209 and, you know, state measures.

Richard Hanania: I mean, but they also say, they also say, well, of course, abide by the, you know, by the law. So yeah, I mean, it's going to be disputed and, you know, we'll, we'll see you know, and you know, it's, and like, it's possible that they just, and I say this in the piece, it's possible that they just get rid of all standards and just have a lottery system.

That's going to have an effect. They didn't want to do that. That's not what they want to do now. Maybe they do value diversity so much. They'll get rid of all standards in order to get diversity because just having enough blacks and Hispanics is just like such an ideological imperative for them, but that's going to have costs for the universities and the broader society.

There's going to be, you know, it's, and it's different from like getting rid of affirmative action to just one, you know, just the UC system or just Michigan to have competition within universities. Well, some universities can maybe take the Supreme Court more seriously than others. you know, some of them will maintain standards and some of them will not, there's going to be, you know, selection pressures here too.

So yeah, I mean, there's a lot of reasons, you know, to be optimistic and to think that, you know, there's, there's going to be an effect here. Now we can't, it could end up worse. you know, like there's always a possibility that, like, we just have, like, they all become communist, you know, they all become communes, you know, Marxist communes and, you know, we don't have standards at all, and, like, we wish we could go back to the days of affirmative action but, you know, you're causing them some discomfort, and you just have to sort of understand that the world is unpredictable, and you're dealing with ideologically bad actors, and, you know, that's just an unfortunate reality of the world.

Rob Henderson: Are these schools still tests optional? The SAT, is that, is that no longer required for Harvard? I think it's true for Yale. I know MIT reversed that somewhat recently, but a lot of these places have gone like fully test optional, right? University of Chicago, I think, as well.

Steve Hsu: I can, I can tell you the situation because my kids are high school age kids, so I'm pretty familiar with what's going on right now with college applications.

MIT went test optional because of COVID, but then they did an internal study and realized they could, they were not, they were admitting kids that were struggling with the MIT curriculum when they didn't have the information from the test scores. So, they went back to requiring test scores. And I believe they're the only elite university right now that requires it.

Even Caltech doesn't. In fact, Caltech went the other way. Caltech is going to be destroyed because they basically now don't, they just said we're not accepting test scores. Now and forever, which is 100% against the, it's not even optional. It's not even optional. They warn you in the application not to write your scores anywhere in the application.

So, and then in the middle, in the middle, our schools like Harvard and Yale, where it's optional. And I think people interpret that. I was even reading what some admissions, you know consultants, and such were saying, guidance counselors, they were saying like, well, you know, if you're in, not in a. You know preferred category you better submit high scores or you don't have a good chance of getting in but then for other groups I think Harvard is counting on There being a much less dense data trail For the people who they're going to grant preference one way or the other and it's just going to be much harder to compare Like what they're doing because there just won't be scores for whole subset of students So just You know, having done a bunch of the statistical analysis related to this SFFA suit and what they tried to demonstrate, if you just tried to imagine doing that without having some kind of standardized scores across the board, it's just very tough, it would be that much tougher to prove that the school is up to no good.

And so, they're kind of just laying the groundwork for being in that situation. Yeah, I

Richard Hanania: mean, yeah, you got to, I mean, you've got to, you've got to let them. I mean, they're private institutions in the end. And if they really, you know, are just committed to, you know racial diversity over all else, Yeah, they're, you know, they're going to find a way.

And I, but I think that like, you know, in a way, that's sort of them, you know, I think what happened during COVID, I think the, you know, the sort of the ideological discrediting of the education system has in a lot of ways been good. I have an article on the school choice movement, and there's just been radical changes at the state level in the last year or so.

And this was because, I mean, COVID 19 and the rise of critical race theory and stuff. We have like eight or nine states now that just say, we're privatizing that. Anyone who wants to can check out of the education system. We'll give you a voucher and you can use it on homeschooling or private schooling or whatever you want.

We'll see what the empirical results of this are, but it makes me very hopeful. And, you know, if the universities just, just want to discredit themselves the way public education has, you know, great. I think universities have, especially universities, have too big of a role to play in our society.

Rob Henderson: The Caltech one is interesting that they wouldn't even want the test scores. So, I spoke with a professor a few weeks ago. He's a STEM professor and basically said that the GRE test is optional in his department. And I think it was the department chair who said something like Ever since we eliminated, or no, no, ever since we made the GRE optional, our diversity scores have improved and so have our average GRE scores.

And my friend said, well, that's, that's because only the Asian applicants are submitting their scores now and the department was like, yeah, but still like, you know, how great for our department that we have, you know, more diversity and higher test scores simultaneously. It's like a win, right?

Like in a way it's like strategic. That makes sense. So then to just eliminate it, like this, just, we're not even going to take the score. That's just mind blowing. But I guess, yeah, if you don't want a paper trail, if you're really committed to diversity above all else, above merit or, or, or like a quality pool of applicants, man, that is really, yeah, that's, that's, that's wild.

Steve Hsu: If you're a hardcore professor at Caltech, and I know some you know, you're not happy about this, but on the other hand, you have to balance that against things like, you know, one of the founders of Caltech was a guy called Robert Milliken, who was the first person to measure the charge of the electron, so not, not an inconsequential guy in the history of science.

And in the middle of the Caltech campus, there's this huge library which is by far the tallest building on campus. And it used to be called Millikan Library. But as of the summer of Floyd, and all kinds of craziness, now it's no longer called Millikan Library. Because Millikan was a, quote, eugenicist, apparently.

So, if you're a professor at Caltech you're probably not going to want to say too much about how they're admitting undergrads. Because look what happened to old Millikan. Like, if you didn't... If you weren't the guy who figured out the structure of DNA or measured the charge of the electron, you're probably at jeopardy.

So, you probably just want to keep your mouth.

Rob Henderson: shut. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, the Affirmative Action thing, I mean, I guess I was less optimistic than you, Richard. I mean, I've just seen so many stories, so many people are just 100% committed to this idea of... Diversity. And then I, yeah, I saw the, you know, the, the Harvard statement, some of the other elite schools wrote something similar about how they're going to comply with this decision.

And wink, wink, basically, we found a loophole. And yeah, but I also wonder if these, like, if they go to a lottery system, if they're going to eliminate the test requirement, if eventually, like, will anything ever destroy the prestige of these schools? You know, I've heard this interesting argument that yeah.

You know, one reason why these elite universities don't want to accept too many Asians is because Harvard wouldn't be Harvard if it took too many Asians. You guys might have heard this argument before, but then the historical parallel that everyone usually invokes is the lifting of the Jewish quotas in the mid 20th century that once You know, once the, the, the smart Jewish students supplanted the, the WASP elites, I don't think these universities actually lost their prestige, right?

Because they were taking really smart students, and maybe that is the sort of, the source of their status, is actually having like smart, talented people. And whatever uh, people think now, I mean, if, if, if suddenly Harvard were to become 50%, you know, really smart Asians, would they actually lose much prestige?

Would that be worse than just doing a lottery system and being diverse? Like, what's, what's more sort of prestigious, being diverse or being smart? Yeah,

Richard Hanania: you're forcing them into some choices they don't have to make. I think that's why they fought for the, for somebody you know, I just had a realization the other day that the legacy admissions, I mean, liberals are really going hard after legacy admissions.

And so, one thing, you know, I think that that, that could hurt them if they're getting rid of affirmative action makes it harder to have legacy admissions because legacy admissions, you know, they get, they get a lot of money out of legacy admissions. maybe, maybe it was necessary. Maybe they needed these, you know, good preferences to blacks and Hispanics to justify giving preferences to, to rich white people.

Other times it wouldn't have worked. you, I mean, these are bad actors and you're forcing them into tough decisions. And I think that's a, you know, that's a good thing. Yeah.

Steve Hsu: Two, two empirical points for you. So, I, I had a conversation over the July 4th weekend with a big hedge fund guy who's a donor and he was just outraged at them going after legacies because, and his, his point was the reason they're able to offer such favorable financial aid packages to underrepresented minorities who, you know, you get in on preference and then it's free.

Right. So pretty good deal. I mean, it's amazing that these schools can do that, but it's mainly because they are so successful at fundraising, but that fundraising is linked to preference for legacy. So, he just said they're just going to kill the whole thing if they get rid of the legacy. one empirical point, another empirical point from him, you know, he's a hedge fund guy, former banker at Goldman and other places.

He said the way they're doing recruitment now at these big banks and also McKinsey and places like this. First Actually, two levels of screening are all online and maybe have some tasks or some interview questions or something. So, the leg up you have from being a Harvard or Ivy grad is actually being diluted.

Like, like those processes that those companies are putting in place are actually biasing a little more toward meritocratic. So even though you went to Ohio State, if you're really sharp, those first two screeners might take out a lot of Ivy kids. And leave in a lot more state flagship kids. So, he actually said that was a hopeful thing from his perspective.

That, that, that, that, the new methodology of corporate recruiting is actually reducing the amount of advantage that graduates have. How the hell do they know they

Richard Hanania: don't cheat on the online screening?

Steve Hsu: I don't know how they do it. I mean, they could have a little camera on you while you're, I don't, I don't know, I don't know what platform they use to do these screens, but you know, the same way we professors have to resort to various methods to make sure students are cheating on some of our online assessments.

I mean, there are, there are services that you can buy where there's actually like guys with like a whole bunch of different screens on their screen and they're watching to see if anybody looks like they're cheating. So, I don't know how they do it.

Rob Henderson: The screening process is this is some kind of like a, like a, like a, like a psychometric test or something along those lines.

Is that, is that what it is? I need to ask.

Steve Hsu: him in more detail, but you know, it could be maybe not that sophisticated, but it could be like the first level of the screen if you got to submit your resume. And they're looking carefully at your resume, and you might say, okay, well fine, they're always going to weigh the Harvard, the Yale guy's resume higher than the Ohio State guy's.

But if they're actually looking at like, what courses did this guy take, and what grades he got, a kid with a 4.0 at Ohio State still, you know, probably has a good chance of getting advanced to the next level. Whereas in the older, more clubby system, maybe that guy was just excluded. Even at level one, but now he can get through level one and then maybe for level two They take a little test on finance or something like that.

I don't know but um, he said that corporate recruiting was getting more meritocratic over time.

Richard Hanania: Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of people don't have enough faith in markets. They just think that universities can do whatever they want. You know, they can, they can all be, you can just let in the dumbest people. They can just go off and they'll all get, you know, cozy jobs at hedge funds or, you know, banks or, or whatever.

And no, they, you know, there are market forces that discipline these things. So

Rob Henderson: most of the students from the elite universities who apply at elite firms don't actually get hired. You know, like, it's easy to see from, you know that sort of selection bias, that sort of you know, after the fact, you look at, you know, whatever, Goldman or whatever, and you see that most of their employees or staff are, are graduates of these elite universities, but there was this process beforehand where, you know, there are a lot of people from Fancy universities who apply, and most of them actually fail.

a lot of them are, you know, they sort of get filtered out along the way. You know, I know people who've gone through that sort of brutal process of even getting hired, but then later you get sort of laid off because of just how intense the workload is. or you just sort of burn out. So, yeah, I mean that, yeah, I think that makes sense that the, that, that they'll sort of update, right.

The, the, the market forces. But then what I worry about is that the universities won't do this. And so, you know, maybe, maybe to an elite consultancy, a degree from whatever a Stanford or Princeton doesn't mean what it used to mean anymore, or they're willing to sort of expand and look, look at Ohio State and some of these other places.

But within the university system, there's that, that name is still going to probably be valued to the same amount, to the same degree. Yep.

Steve Hsu: I think so. Yeah. Yeah. You won't, I don't think you can fully eliminate the value, the prestige value anytime soon. It will take a long time, I think, before it. is really materially diluted away.

So, you guys are optimistic now, how do you think this is going to bleed over into other aspects of so, so they, they, they strongly invoke the equal protection clause, right? Of the 14th amendment. And they interpret it as literally equal treatment, right? Different racial groups. So now there seem to be lots of, so let's say on the corporate hiring side or, or wherever examples where that's, you know, clearly not the case there, there are groups getting very strong preferences. Now, do you think that that will enable or at least signal to attorneys to, to, to pursue legal challenges to these private sector preferences?

Richard Hanania: Yeah. I mean, I think a lot of ways this is actually more important.

Like I say, we talk so much and focus so much on universities, but look, there's the, the rest of the world out there and yeah, the disparate impact, I mean uh, Clarence Thomas, everyone. A concurrence that, you know, the whole intellectual foundation of disparate impact is built on a house of sand.

And so yeah, this thing, I mean, this, but this doesn't get litigate actually as much as affirmative action for the same reason that, you know, we talked about before most, you know, intellectuals care more about affirmative action that they do, you know, becoming a manager at Walmart or an executive or whatever.

So yeah, I think that, like, I think conservatives are focusing on this. There's this, you know, the, America first, there's a public interest firm run by Stephen Miller. That's you know, sending letters to corporations and threatening to sue them. You know, it's like, like with affirmative action at universities, it depends on which judge you get.

I mean, we have a good indication how the Supreme Court will rule on these things. I think there's no reason to think that they're going to, you know, they're skeptical of this diversity at universities, but, you know, which actually has more legal support and more legal precedent than some of this other stuff that it's going on in the private sector.

So, yeah, I mean, it's, I think there's, you know, there's potential to be major change here.

Steve Hsu: By the way, yeah. you know, this guy, Ed Blum, B L U M, the guy who you know, basically has been working on this project for 20 years now and he's the main guy behind S F A. If you're at all interested in the history of this, I, I, I think it's still up on YouTube.

So, he lives in Houston, I believe, and he's friendly with the Houston Asian American, I would say actually Chinese American community down there. So. There's actually a video of Ed Blum giving a talk to a group of Chinese Americans and the group that he's meeting with, like, he's old friends with one of the guys in the group and those guys are not Polish at all.

They speak broken English, they're recent immigrants, it's really, they're very like sincere, clearly not elite Americans you know, they might be professionals, but they speak broken English and stuff, they have heavy accents. But Blume gets up there and talks about his motivations for why he's pursuing this challenge.

And I invite everybody to look into this because, like, of course on the left they think Blume is, I mean, he's Jewish, but he's a secret Nazi evil guy or something, right wing ideologue. You know, they can believe anything about Blume. And even on the right, I think people who are totally supportive of SFFA, they don't really know anything about this guy Blume.

But if you, if you listen to this talk, he comes across as 100% sincere. Not wanting what happened to his forebears, Jewish applicants to the Ivy League, to happen to these brown Americans who happen to be from Asia. And I don't, you know if he's acting, he's a better actor than Robert De Niro. Okay, I actually take him at face value, and I mean, I've communicated with this guy over the years.

So, if you're at all interested in how things happen, like the level of commitment and sincere, you know, hard work over decades that it takes to move the needle to get a case to the Supreme Court and win it, it's just, it's an amazing story. I invite anybody who's interested in this topic, I invite you to look, go on YouTube and try to find this video.

Rob Henderson: Yeah, that sounds really interesting. You know, I, so I mentioned before that the gap between like, you know the general public opinion and the elites I saw, I saw one, one poll, I think this was in Pew. which showed, so, so generally speaking, unsurprisingly, people with, who, college graduates, postgraduate degrees, they were the most supportive relative to people without degrees.

This was true for whites and for blacks as well, that less educated whites, less educated blacks were far less supportive of affirmative action. I didn't see anything on Asians, but I would love to see that as well, because that's You know, I, I see, you know, in response to the Supreme Court decision, you know, I look at Instagram and I look at, well, you know, of course, like prestige media to social media and prestige media, all of these Asian students and graduates of these elite universities are just, you know, screeching in tears how horrible it is that these universities are you know, no longer able to, to discriminate based on race.

And to me, it's just fascinating. Like. That they, they seem, themselves seem to have sort of no connection with the kinds of people you're describing, Steve, or people with, you know, heavy accents, broken English, people who are also trying to make their way in America. And for these elite Asians, just know, like, I don't know if it doesn't occur to them or if they just don't care or if it really is you know, kind of this duplicitous signaling game that they're playing.

But yeah, to see the distance, the gap between those two, you know, those.

Steve Hsu: two groups. You know, Asians might have a little bit of, you know, they might be a little bit shifted in terms of conformism relative to other groups. So, they may have a tendency to be like students who pay attention and are conformed to what their professors tell them.

So, you do have these highly educated, maybe status signaling Asians who really want to align with affirmative action and against SFFA. So, there is definitely that population. And I think, whereas I would say the following, every meeting I go to, which, whether it's a rationalist meeting or a tech meeting in Silicon Valley, or even sometimes a physics meeting, I will have male, young male, Asian Americans, whether South Asian or East Asian, come up to me, they will come up to me and say, hey, are you Steve Hsu. And then they'll say, I've been reading about this stuff on your blog for 20 years or 10 years and I just want to say thank you because this system is bullshit and most of these guys are actually radicalized like they're actually because if you're 17 and you're like a gunner. You're a smart Asian American kid and you're what's your dream?

Your dream is to get into a top university, and you work your fucking ass off in high school taking AP classes and doing all that stuff, so you care about it, you care about it, and then they fuck you. And you see people who are much less qualified than you, even white kids who are less qualified than you, getting into the top schools, and you don't get into the top schools.

These kids are radicalized. And they, of course, they're not going to shout it off that, you know, they might work at McKinsey, they're not going to go into the office at McKinsey and say it out loud to their people. But when they see me, they make a little beeline, and they say like, and then they, so I, I, I, it's a biased sample, but I think their is a shit ton of radicalized, mostly male, young Asian Americans who know the score, let's just put it that way. So that's my experience.

Richard Hanania: Yeah, it's anecdotal. I mean, we're still waiting for them. I mean, we have a varum as well. We are South Asian. We'll see if there's going to be. You know, I'm interested if, if we'll ever see East Asians in the culture, sort of the East Asian male, you know, you have these leftists who write these uh, articles about him.

He's sort of invisible and. It's, it's, it's true, but you know, we'll see if it stays that way.

Rob Henderson: Wait, wait, who's invisible? Vivek is invisible. Not Vivek. No,

Steve Hsu: East Asian men.

Richard Hanania: I mean, you've seen these articles. Oh, East Asian. I think Wesley Yang might, might touch on this, that sort of East Asians is just sort of you know, and males are sort of, well, not, not females as much.

I mean, there's been, you know, East Asian female celebrities for a while. I mean, going back to like you know, like uh, what's her name? Connie Chang? What's her name? The old yeah. I mean, we've had this for decades. but yeah, East Asian males, just a very, very you know, high levels of underrepresentation in the culture, you know, Andrew Yang notwithstanding and so, yeah, I mean, it'll be interesting if that ever changes. And I bring up Vivek because we do see, we do see South Asians, I mean, they seem to be, you know, well represented in politics but East Asians not.

Rob Henderson: So much. I did see, wasn't there a study on this about, like, the, the bamboo ceiling doesn't affect South Asians as much as East Asians?

Richard Hanania: Yeah, yeah, they're, they're different, I mean, they're different races.

Rob Henderson: Loquacious, you know, different, different customs, different traits.

Steve Hsu: The co-founder of my new startup, which is an AI large language model startup. My co-founder is a guy called Tushar Sheth, who's South Asian, grew up in Michigan. and was actually in the Obama White House at one point as a policy guy.

And he and I have had this discussion just recently about, you know, there are very, very many. South Asians who have risen to high positions now in both the U. K. and the U. S. and far fewer East Asians. And so, the question is like, what, what's, this is debated a lot online too, like, and I'll just give you my take on it, which is that first of all, if you look at India, you're talking about a billion people, and all the elites there speak English.

So, the schools are English based, and so you have a much bigger reservoir of people who can speak English and operate well. In a Western country, then you have originating from China. So that's one factor. Another factor related to that is that, you know, Hindi is an Indo-European language. So, if you're studying Hindi, you'll see a lot of cognates.

So, it's much easier to learn English from a Hindi base than from, say, a Chinese or Japanese or Korean base. Now, the other issue is that, you know, while Americans were sleeping, you know, the Chinese built, effectively, the large, in some sense, the largest economy in the world. So, there were plenty of openings for...

Chinese people, East Asian people rise to the top of huge companies like TSMC or, or BYD or, you know Huawei, you know, like they didn't have to come to the West and try to rise within the West. They had a continent sized country to build up over the last 30 years. So, the, the, the, the human capital pool was split.

Only a smaller fraction of the human capital pool came to the West. If you compare East Asians versus South Asians. And then the final thing, which is something my dad emphasized to me when I was growing up, is that if you're a Confucian, the whole Western business style and political style is just wrong for you.

So, in other words, like Confucians are taught not to talk too much. It's kind of shameful to go into a meeting and dominate the meeting. It's, and you're not supposed to do that actually. It's considered bad. And so, you would be penalized. So, if you were at a Chinese company and you kept dominating every meeting and inserting your opinion and you were kind of a loud, brash guy, loquacious.

Guy, the other Chinese guys would be like, you know, what's wrong with this guy? We're not promoting. He's not he's not going to get the promotion Someone else is going to So just a different cultural style that work, you know It works their cultural style the South Asian cultural style works better in the West than the East Asian cultural style So I think those are the main factors and there might even be if you're a behavior geneticist You might even say there's like some maybe some Systematic shift in personality types or something like that between the different populations.

I think that's more speculative, but I think all those factors basically combine to what we see now, which is that you know this guy, Vivek, but maybe there isn't any corresponding East Asian guy like him. Yeah.

Rob Henderson: No, and Andrew Yang, I know Richard's not a fan though.

Steve Hsu: No, Andrew Yang, I like Andrew.

Richard Hanania: Yang. I like, I mean, I like him personally. Yeah, I mean, the language thing, I mean, these Indians, Americans, I mean, they, you know, they're, they're usually second generation. I, I don't know if I, you know, buy the, this language thing, because it, it, it is, you know, it is a second generation that tends to be intellectually, you know, leaders or political leaders so they, you know, and these Asian kids, they do, do well enough on, you know, math Olympians, they do, they do good on the test taking and the other sort of objective measures, and so, if they, if it's human capital, the ones from India, kid.

Steve Hsu: It's a separate Question. You could say like, okay, of the kids born and raised in the U. S. Are South Asians doing better or worse than East Asians? And then that's a separate comparison. But if you look at the total pool, like, of course, like the CEO of Google and the CEO of Microsoft They didn't grow up here.

They came from India. So, then you could say, well, is there an equivalent pool of people who could have come from China and obtained those positions at Google and Microsoft? And it's a lesser pool because, A, more people stayed to build the economy in China. And secondly, like, very few of those people could have ever gotten to the level of English proficiency, actually, that Satya and I

Rob Henderson: did recently learn that a, like, a shockingly high number, like, I wouldn't have predicted this, of, of East Asian, like Americans of East Asian descent something like 65% we're, we're not born in the U.S. So it's actually like most Asians in America are, are yeah, they're, they're not sort of native-born citizens. So yeah, there is something maybe, yeah, this, I guess would be consistent with your point, Steve. That, you know, if you're from a different culture.

Steve Hsu: Yeah. If you want to compare the ones that were born here, I agree with Richard.

The language thing is probably not the issue at that point, but, um. But, you know, the personality thing or the Confucian values thing might, might matter actually. You know,

Richard Hanania: There's a book called The China Chinese Model, I think by a guy named Daniel Bell that I read. It had a passage that I don't know if this is true or not, but it sort of floored me if it's true.

He said in the entire history of the East Asian democracies, they'd never produced a single politician who was known for being a great public speaker. Is this true? Do you have any idea if that's true? Because if it's true, that is pretty, that's a pretty remarkable fact.

Steve Hsu: I'm not sure that that's actually true.

I would have to think about it, but I do think that public speaking wasn't necessarily considered one of the main criteria for choosing, you know, a leader.

Richard Hanania: But it's interesting. It seems, it seems of the same kind, right? It seems like, you know, this big man sort of charismatic sort of personality, the kind of person who succeeds in corporate America or like becomes a great entrepreneur, right?

And then if it's like Asians are also not producing people who are great, you know. public speakers too. You know, that's also interesting. It seems like there's a personality cluster here. That explains a lot.

Steve Hsu: We're talking a lot about like...

Rob Henderson: Go ahead, Rob. Well, I was just going to say that, well, you know, we've been talking a lot about things like personality traits, cultural traits, these kinds of differences, but also, is there a difference in interest?

You know, like, do South Asians have a stronger interest in leadership positions or political positions or being in a sort of a, the center of attention, say compared to East Asians? Or is that sort of culture Yeah, that seems like it's all part of that sort of intertwined. Sure.

Steve Hsu: It could be, you know, it would be interesting if you took like, oh, hey, you could do this as research, Rob for, for South Asians and East Asians that are born and raised in sort of the US, or you play.

Are there systematic Big Five personality shifts between those populations? I wouldn't be that surprised. Like, I wouldn't be surprised if the South Asians are a little higher on extraversion and openness, maybe, than the Asian Americans. And

Rob Henderson: That question... Maybe like the assertiveness facet. Or look up, you.

Richard Hanania: should look up if you have the data on marriages.

If the men, if the assertiveness probably can be measured in men of one race marrying the women of other races, right? I think that that's probably a good metric. Good proxy.

Yeah, I think that would be very interesting. You have the Asian data, but Indians don't actually out marry that much, so maybe it's actually hard to. Hard to study, but it would be interesting.

Rob Henderson: Number of messages sent from a dating app.

Steve Hsu: Profile.

Richard Hanania: OKCupid stuff did have it broken down. They did have it broken down by Maybe not number of messages.

Steve Hsu: I mean, there's, there's, you know, there's the scary type. There were Middle Easterners, there were South.

Richard Hanania: Asians, I think there were East Asians.

The old OKCupid data is really good. I don't know about the number of messages. but yeah, that would be interesting, too.

Rob Henderson: Willingness to spam randos on Twitter. You know, like, I just anecdotally, I do get a lot of, like, messages from Indian guys. And not so many from East Asian guys.

Richard Hanania: Yeah, same here. It's a great data source actually.

Because you see who's participating in the conversation. Yeah.

Rob Henderson: But then when I host, when I host in person meetups, a lot of, a lot of East Asian guys show up and, and a couple of women on occasion too, as well. So, you know, I think it's, you know, what's a, what's a better measure of extroversion showing up in person to meet someone or, you know, spamming someone on Twitter, asking them to promote your stuff, you know, like,

Steve Hsu: Yeah, read this article.

Yeah. The other funny thing I would say is that, you know, my wife is from Taiwan and she follows. You know, I am able to follow much more carefully, like what's going on in things like culture in China and Taiwan and stuff like that. And, and, you know, when I, being an Asian American, I'm familiar with all the stereotypes, right?

Of like the way that, you know, Chinese people in America or Koreans in America are supposed to be. But she just laughs because she knows all, she knows plenty of people with like the big man personality or the, the slutty party girl personality. Like them, they have all types over there too. But they're not as constrained by being like, if you're a tiny minority in this alien culture, you're, you're not really that free to be yourself, but if you're in Beijing or Shenzhen, you can be yourself and you do see like crazy wide range of, you know, personality types and ways, ways that people behave and stuff like that.

But you have to be attuned to it. You can't just be some, you know, Western guy who doesn't really know anything about what's happening there and make a judgment about it.

Rob Henderson: Oh, interesting. So, you think that being like an ethnic minority, a minority. May sort of compress differences within that sort of ethnic minority group.

Steve Hsu: A little bit, or maybe it's a little harder for the other group to see, like the diversity of stuff that's going on within your little community. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. I mean, they're definitely crazy, like, Playboy player types of... You know, Gangnam or Tokyo or Shanghai. There's no doubt. Right. But you don't, you don't really think of there being that many of those in, even in Los Angeles.

Richard Hanania: Should be reflected. You could probably reflect that an out of wedlock births and crime rate, right? If there really was that, apparently there might not be, if you look.

Steve Hsu: into like the, like just sort of shady, quasi criminal, like type guys in China, like the kinds of activities, like You know, pimps, drug dealers, you know, con artists, stuff.

There are all kinds of crazy, nasty stuff that those guys get up to. That, you know, white Americans probably just can't imagine, you know, like average Asian Americans doing that stuff. Unless it's some, like, triad gang stereotype. But, but yeah, I mean, if you, if you could read the papers over there, you'd see like, wow, there's all this kind of crazy, there's a crazy nightlife [unclear] going on over there.

Yeah, it sounds like maybe it's like the opposite.

Richard Hanania: Maybe because they don't have that much diversity in their society, they can exaggerate these differences. It's sort of like how like the last names in English, they were like black is like an English last name. Well, that guy's really black. He's just like the darkest Englishman, right?

And this guy's brown and this guy's, this guy's white. So maybe it's, sort of the argument is the opposite. Like in America, we have a better understanding of human variation. Well, if you're a homogenous society, small differences seem gigantic. Yeah, it could be.

Steve Hsu: I mean, I, I'm not, I'm not discounting the possibility that the society could be more homogenous you know, than say America or say probably is more homogenous in America, for sure.

But, but there's still within that homogeneity, there is, there, there are all kinds of types.

Richard Hanania: Yeah, I'm sure there are. Yeah. Slutty party girl. Yeah, you do see that in America. You do see the Asian Slutty party. You see Tela, Tela tequila. Is she Chinese? What is Tela Tequila?

Rob Henderson: I haven't heard that name in like 15 years.

Kela Tequila. Steve, Richard. This is like 2005. Like,

Richard Hanania: no, you know, she, she's, she's Vietnamese, but yeah, she was oh. Vietnamese. She'd become like a white nationalist like a couple years ago. You didn't see this? What? Like in 2016. Like a Nazi. Like more than a white nationalist. She was like tweeting these crazy things and then got banned.

Anyway, some slutty MTV Asian girls who were big.

Steve Hsu: and hot. Well, I guess, I guess so, so I guess you do know some of that type here.

Richard Hanania: Yeah. Basics. Tequila follower.

Rob Henderson: Diversity is our strength.

Steve Hsu: Yes. So, Rob, you, I think you said you have to go in 10 minutes, is that? yep, yep. That's right. Yep. Any last topics?

I think we haven't heard that much from Rob. So, Rob, you want to, you want to, Oh, not.

Rob Henderson: at all. I mean, you know, I think we've, we've, we've covered a lot of ground here. I mean, yeah, just, we talked about Richard's book. We talked about affirmative action. I've yeah, I'm, I'm, I'm somewhat skeptical. It will be nice too, yeah, it'll be, it'll be interesting.

I like the position Richard, you know, Richard mentioned earlier that we've put them in a sort of a tough, tough spot. Yeah. And however they respond, you know, it's just so easy, like, to, like, no one seems to be on the side of the elite universities, regardless of what they do, they're going to get attacked either from the right or from the left, and it is, it is interesting to see, you know, them get attacked from, from the left, but I, well, yeah, and Richard, you, you're, you're a skeptic of class based Yeah.

Affirmative action. I think, you know, I think you made a pretty persuasive argument on that. But you mentioned this in our talk to in our panel discussion about how Children or people shouldn't be punished for their parents’ success. And yet in your, your, your piece, you'd mentioned how you know, if you have two people of, of equivalent ability, but one comes from, from the rich family, you should take the person from, from the rich family.

Is that right? Or, or the, the more sort of talented family think there's an

Steve Hsu: An argument for it, right?

Richard Hanania: An argument, people are trying to make the case that you should, you know, give everyone treats it as self-evident. at least they few, they get a u uh, U A T X that like the person from the worst background is going to be better off.

And I say, no, I, you know, I don't know. There are things that go in both directions. I'd let private institutions do what they want, but I don't, definitely don't want, like, to force them all not to do legacies or to uh, to have class-based preferences and then try to sort of, like, make that the model that replaces DEI.

I just think that'll be a disaster.

Rob Henderson: Yeah. Yeah, that shocked me. I mean, just the, the, the, the sort of the energy and the fervor. So, yeah, the students at UATX had this too about like how important it was to give disadvantaged, like economically disadvantaged people some kind of

Steve Hsu: benefit.

Richard Hanania: I think a lot of people who are like anti woke want to be like, you know, I'm still a good person, I'm still.

Rob Henderson: like you.

They want to be on the side of the oppressed and the dispossessed. Yeah. Yeah. And I don't think like, I think it's enough to just say like, let's just focus on merit and, you know, naturally some, some people from, from poor backgrounds or, or you know, racial ethnic minorities, like you're just naturally going to get like just random variation.

Some of them are going to get in, but like the tinkering thing, like the willingness to hold people to lower standards, regardless of where they're from or what their upbringing was like, that to me is just like, it seems so obviously wrong. yeah. I

Steve Hsu: think, I think, though, like, just at a purely, like, technocratic, from a technocratic perspective, you could say, like, oh, the kid who didn't go to one of these top high schools and whose parents couldn't hire admissions consultants and, and SAT tutors, their score might actually under represent their ability, right?

So, there is a, just a technical reason why you might want to give them a little boost. Just trying to get out their true ability, which is maybe not as well represented in the, in the file. So yeah, I can.

Rob Henderson: Yeah, I can. I can believe that to some extent. I mean, but I, I think like, yeah, in, in, in barring some, some extremely unusual circumstances, like I took an IQ test when I was a kid living in the foster homes and I'm sure it like very, it, it was a, you know, very inaccurate representation of my latent ability.

But that was like an extremely unusual situation. I think like most, you know, so if you look like, you know, what is it like poor, poor children in the U S are four times more likely to graduate from, from college than foster kids. And I mean, I think like if you're, if you're poor, but you're not like in an extremely unusual and unstable situation, like you, your talents and your abilities will, will.

Probably be pretty apparent pretty early on. and so, the argument that like, yeah, maybe these, these, these grades, and these scores aren't, aren't reliable. I don't know if I, or, or aren't valid rather. I don't know if I will buy that. One thing I would like in terms of just practical policy, I think like the SAT should just be made compulsory and free.

I do think like, like a lot of, a lot of students. whose parents didn't go to college. Like, they're not even aware, like, when the SAT takes place, or they're not aware that they can get some kind of a reduced fee or a waiver. so, I think, like, that would be, like, a very simple way to, whatever, increase some kind of diversity without having to lower standards or lower merit.

Just give everyone the test and see who's doing well on them. Do we?

Richard Hanania: Even now, like, it's better for... High IQ kids from poor backgrounds go to college, the best college Possible, rather than trying to make it. I mean, like, do we, like, I, I'm not sure that we, we know that, I mean, I know a lot of people who were at grad school and, you know, in their thirties making, you know, $30,000 a year just because they, you know, they stated went, got as much school because they're good at tests.

They just were too good at tests, hyper specialized.

Rob Henderson: If they were worse at tests, they'd be richer.

Steve Hsu: Instead of letting them go to grad school, Richard, you gave them some entrepreneurship bootcamp or something or how to be a playa bootcamp.

Richard Hanania: Yeah. I'd like that. I mean, rather than say, yeah, give some real-life coaching outside of universities.

I just want the whole university model to be the last semester.

Steve Hsu: I taught a class at Michigan state for PhD students in engineering and physics, and it was about tech technology, entrepreneurship. And these kids knew nothing. They didn't know how the banking system worked. They didn't know how the stock market worked.

I mean, they were all highly trained. They could solve partial differential equations and program it in Python. But they didn't know anything about the economy. They didn't know anything about how companies are formed, how venture capitals are... And a lot of them, their eyes were like saucers after a while.

They're like, wait, this is how people get rich in our society? And then, at the end, like all of them were saying like, yeah, I want to start a company now. Yeah, yeah. Like, that's kind of like practical education that plenty of, like, you know, elite schools are not giving to their kids.

It's more pickup coaching. Yeah, I didn't teach a game, but that could be like an extra credit assignment or something.

Rob Henderson: I mean, honestly, at this point, like, yeah, that's a whole other, a whole other topic, but I think, yeah, like, that would be... You know, instead of, instead of learning, you know, geometry, like learning basic social skills at this point, or like dating, or, or how to sort of exist in the social world, I think a lot of, a lot of young people would benefit from that too.

So yeah, maybe, maybe, maybe we're focusing too much on academic credentials, as Richard pointed out, which I actually, I actually do agree with. Because, like, the people who set education policy and the people who, you know, just people who are members of the chattering class who talk about these things, they were good at school, they were good at tests, they went to college, and therefore they think that, you know, this is the be all and end all, and everyone should follow this same, this same path.

But I still think it's, it's, it's, it's good to have that information, right? Like, if you are, do well on a standardized test, just to, like, know that, you have that ability within you, even if you don't go to college, I think, I think there's just some value in that. Yeah,

Steve Hsu: absolutely. But I, I do think that, like, you know, we're intellectuals, I think we're all PhDs, right?

And, and so, we have a very special viewpoint. If you go into the business world, their kind of default assumption is that academia is kind of goofy, useless stuff, right? So, they're like, well, I didn't learn anything in college, I had to learn how to sell vacuum cleaners’ door to door. That's my real education, right?

And that's, that's actually kind of the default assumption among a lot of businesspeople.

Richard Hanania: Yeah, good for them. Good for them. I mean, that's an,

Rob Henderson: but they, but yet they still probably want someone with a bachelor's degree at least. Right. So, there is, you know, there is that sort of education cartel.

Steve Hsu: They've kind of been brainwashed a little bit like, and also like in my lifetime, I saw the rise of the MBA.

So, when I was young, almost nobody got an MBA. And there were only a few MBA programs in the United States like Harvard. And then that became like a kind of British professional credential if you want to get into upper management, but that wasn't the case, you know 30 years ago, 40 years ago. So, you could, you could, we could wind that back to and like disabuse people of the idea that I was saying this to the guys that I was teaching entrepreneurship to.

I said, look at your MBA program because there's no professor over there that's actually raised a big venture around. They have no idea how to negotiate. negotiate with a venture capitalist, right? They have no clue, right? They're academics who write papers for other academics, even at a business school.

And so, you know, I think it would be totally possible to wind back the clock to a more practical kind of business education.

Rob Henderson: So, so I just want to say.

Steve Hsu: Where are you, you're no longer...

Rob Henderson: Well, yeah, I'll give you, I'll give you the, yeah, the 22nd yeah, I'm, I'm still in Cambridge. I'm here on a, what, a graduate visa which allows me to remain in the UK for up to, up to three years. I may not stay for the full three years, but I'm still based here. I'm in the States a lot though.

I was just in the States for about a month actually. did the UATX Forbidden Courses program. I recorded some lectures in Miami for Jordan Peterson's new online learning platform. I was in LA. I've sort of been bouncing around back and forth. You know, a friend calls me I've never used this term myself before, but he calls me a digital nomad, which is pretty accurate.

I mean, I'll be in New York next week and then I'll be back in LA in September. So, yeah, back and forth a lot, but mostly, mostly just substacking some public speaking stuff. Final, final touches on my book and some other, other side projects, but it's nice to sort of be completely disentangled from proper academia after finishing at Cambridge.

Steve Hsu: Do you, do you know where you think you'll be based, like, a year from now, or any ideas? I have,

Rob Henderson: I have no, no idea. If you know, my, my girlfriend, she, you know, she sometimes wants to, she wants us to, so she likes her job here in Cambridge, and that's why we're here. One reason why we're here. She works here.

But she has family in Malaysia and in Singapore, and I like Singapore a lot, actually, and so we've been playing around with this idea of relocating to Singapore as well, but we've been, we've been talking about that for like a year. I don't know if it'll ever happen. For all I know, we're going to be in Austin in a year, but the short answer is we don't know.

I like Austin a lot. I don't know, but I, but I, but I, sometimes I miss California too. you know, I grew up there and despite all the sort of, you know, political missteps of that state it's still, it's still beautiful. So, you know, we'll see. Yeah, it's

Steve Hsu: still beautiful and has a great vibe. I mean, like, you know, I'm put up with a lot of nasty politics in exchange for that.

Rob Henderson: Absolutely.

Richard Hanania: Cool.

Steve Hsu: Let's do it again before too long, and wish you guys both the best.

Richard Hanania: Thanks, Steve.

Rob Henderson: Thanks, Steve. Thanks, Richard.

Creators and Guests

Stephen Hsu
Stephen Hsu
Steve Hsu is Professor of Theoretical Physics and of Computational Mathematics, Science, and Engineering at Michigan State University.
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