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December 21, 2008



When soviets saw that markets were a superior technocratic tool to achieve this than centrally planned approaches, they began to implement markets into their economic distribution mechanism.
I think that may have been the Yugoslavians (although most would say they "attempted" to do so). The Soviets did make better use of incentives when it came to things like nuclear bombs (either Bryan Caplan or Eric Crampton makes that point arguing against the Austrian calculation problem).

Guiner is so openly into mythmaking it hardly seems worthwhile critiquing her. I didn't read her whole paper, but part of the point seemed to be celebrating mythmaking, "drama" and appealing to the "hearts" of the public. I am reminded of the circularity of Chris Green's argument for textualism because the text of the Constitution instructs us to do so. It's persuasive if (like me) you accept the text itself as a gold standard (though I prefer the Articles of Confederation), but that's just the point at contention.

I don't even disagree with Guinier and Justice Breyer on the legal matter, as I disagree with Brown v. Board on the constitutionality of such school policies. This sort of thing is more John Rosenberg's bag (though he is an un-self-conscious mythmaker and wrong about dropping reliance on test scores for everybody).

Speaking of that, I remember you mentioning former Harvard president Rudenstine as a mythmaker, but I don't think his paper is available online.


I should actually give some kudos to Guinier. She's mashing democracy as applause button, but Caplan's right that having a Supreme Court throw out laws as unconstitutional is inherently undemocratic. To a more genuine democratic fundamentalist, there's an argument to be had over that. I think Guinier is on shaky ground labeling the court largely "conservative" in addition to white and male. My guess is that the general public is relatively authoritarian and prejudiced compared to the courts. As both Samuel Huntington and Eric Alterman will tell you, voters seem to reject affirmative action whenever it comes up in a referendum, even when both major parties, the universities and business establishment are on the other side. I'm really not sure why the universities are such big fans of it. I don't see what they really gain out of it. Mencius Moldbug has a theory, but I don't find it plausible. This stuff about a.a should have gone with my comment mentioning Rudinstine, since Guinier's piece was about public schools, but I forgot to put it there.

Hopefully Anonymous

The various theories for why racial affirmative action exists are probably not all reconcilable with each other. I'm not settled with a coherent explanation.
I'll just add one kind of new one based on a recent post of mine: telescopic philanthropy might be a cheaper way to solve the philanthropic, irrational urge. So by building up a narrative blacks as the most oppressed, for example, one can get the redistributive urge in society relatively cheaply sated by having a race based affirmative action that focuses on blacks.


Maybe I'm engaging in the rational-explanation fallacy, but I find it hard to believe it exists for philanthropic reasons. I think politicians can engage in philanthropy when they have "slack", when voters are indifferent/powerless (such as which rent-seeking agribusiness gets farm subsidies). The Alchian theorem applies without such slack. When it comes to affirmative action voters are on the other side and have passed referenda prohibiting it. These laws have failed to alter the behavior of universities, leading me to believe that as with prohibition there is a powerful demand that is going to skirt the law. It's too much of a mystery why it's in the self-interest of big business to support it. They'd rather not be hit with discrimination lawsuits, and this lifts up the cream of the crop among minorities for companies to hire with an on-paper fair standard (screening by education). It's easy to understand why Democrats support it, minorities (and academics) are their constituents. Similarly, just as Republicans follow business' lead on immigration, they will do so for a.a. The universities are the glaring exception and like Robin Hanson, I don't like explaining it away with preference. I suspect that there is a self-interest explanation, but I just have no idea what it is.

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