Forty years ago, Harvard, America’s oldest university, was often ranked the best in the world. Unfortunately, it has been destroying itself at an accelerating pace, with little chance of returning to its former glory. More on this below.
Do a thought experiment. If no White man (meaning someone descended from the tribes that inhabited Europe and nearby areas for some tens of thousands of years) had ever existed with an IQ of more than 100, what would the world look like today? Western civilization is frequently traced back to those who lived in Greece about 2,500 years ago. A small number of Greek thinkers in that period had enormous and lasting influence on mathematics, science, political thought, philosophy, literature, the arts, and architecture, such as Pythagoras, Aristotle and Plato.
Without smart White men, the great engineering of ancient Rome would not exist, nor the political ideas and thoughts of Cicero and his contemporaries. The Renaissance was dominated by White men like DaVinci and Galileo, who made unmatched contributions to the sciences and the arts. The Scottish and English Enlightenment provided the institutions in which great physicists, mathematicians, engineers, political theorists and philosophers — such as Isaac Newton, John Locke, Adam Smith and Benjamin Franklin — could thrive. Without their work, no steam and internal combustion engines, and thus no steamships, railroads or airplanes would have existed until a later time.
The great classical composers, including Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, were White men who all lived within a couple of hundred miles of Vienna and gave us much of the music that is still played everywhere. White male inventors — like Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell — gave us the lightbulb, the photograph, the telephone and much more. More recently, it was primarily White men who initially developed quantum physics and the semiconductor. Without the semiconductor, powerful computers would not exist, nor would the internet, the cellphone, and all the other electronic toys the world is addicted to.
If you did a global survey of non-White men and asked them if they would prefer a world of no White men — without all of the things they have invented or created — or a world with White men with all of their contributions and liabilities, what do you think they would say? White men did not obtain their dominance in so many areas because they were, on average, smarter than others, but because early on, they created the political structures and the rule of law, which enabled more of them to reach their potential. Some IQ tests indicate that Asians may be, on average, smarter than Europeans. But they did not develop the institutions to enable greater success. All of that may be changing.
Harvard was founded by White men, who were responsible for much of its past excellence as well as its current decline. Harvard professor Omar Sultan Haque has written an exceptional essay where he explains that what happened to Harvard resembles a crime scene. He wrote: “The historic levels of grade inflation on campus also match levels of denial, insularity, truth-inflation, and ideological capture. … Openness to dissenting voices and free inquiry are as rare at Harvard as is spotting the mythical dodo bird of the Ivy League in Harvard Yard: a student who is working class, conservative, religious, rural in origin, heterosexual, and believes their gender matches their biological sex.”
Mr. Haque argued: “Universities are supposed to be the most free places to speak and pursue the truth in our most free nation on earth. They are not.” Diversity of opinion and expression is punished, and “wrongthink” is censured. Conservative ideas and thinkers, particularly if they are minorities, are repressed and ignored. One example: “Thomas Sowell is arguably the most influential African American intellectual of the last 100 years. … Yet, one will rarely find his writings on Harvard syllabi.” Students and professors will “know more about the ideas of radical left-wing writers who are in comparison academic lightweights, who have published far fewer, and more mediocre, scholarly books and articles.” I would go a step further and argue that Mr. Sowell is the most influential living economist because of the clarity and expression of his thought and the volume and quality of his work in many areas of economics.
Other Ivy League universities are suffering from the same disease, but none has fallen further than Harvard. One of my degrees is from Columbia University, where enforced groupthink has become the norm in most departments — other than math, engineering and the hard sciences. It still has a few professors of economics, including in the business school, who are free-market types and perhaps even Republicans.
Given tenure and the large endowments, there is too little pressure within the rich schools for necessary reform. More likely, they will slowly wither and shrink in importance as employers drop the premiums they used to pay for Ivy League graduates. Employers increasingly realize that the brown-skinned kid who worked her way through a state university is likely to be a better employee than the White or Black guy who was chosen to be indoctrinated by an “elite” university. The Asian and Jewish kids see there are better alternatives than going to schools that are no longer meritocracies and have lost their former reputations for excellence.
• Richard W. Rahn is chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth and MCon LLC.
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