A Top College Reinstates the SAT (David Leonhardt, Feb. 5, 2024, NY Times)

Three Dartmouth economists and a sociologist then dug into the numbers. One of their main findings did not surprise them: Test scores were a better predictor than high school grades — or student essays and teacher recommendations — of how well students would fare at Dartmouth. […]

As the four professors — Elizabeth Cascio, Bruce Sacerdote, Doug Staiger and Michele Tine — wrote in a memo, referring to the SAT’s 1,600-point scale, “There are hundreds of less-advantaged applicants with scores in the 1,400 range who should be submitting scores to identify themselves to admissions, but do not under test-optional policies.” Some of these applicants were rejected because the admissions office could not be confident about their academic qualifications. The students would have probably been accepted had they submitted their test scores, Lee Coffin, Dartmouth’s dean of admissions, told me.

That finding, as much as any other, led to Dartmouth’s announcement this morning. “Our goal at Dartmouth is academic excellence in the service of training the broadest swath of future leaders,” Beilock told me. “I’m convinced by the data that this will help us do that.”

It’s worth acknowledging a crucial part of this story. Dartmouth admits disadvantaged students who have scores that are lower on average than those of privileged students. The college doesn’t apologize for that. Students from poor neighborhoods or troubled high schools have effectively been running with wind in their face. They are not competing fairly with affluent teenagers.

The conservative Ivy.


The Two-Parent Privilege is Real: A review of Melissa Kearney’s important new book.
JUSTIN VASSALLO, 2/02/24, Liberal Patriot)

In her new book, The Two-Parent Privilege: How Americans Stopped Getting Married and Started Falling Behind, economist Melissa S. Kearney takes an unflinching look at how the fragmentation of the ordinary American family is, in fact, both an overlooked dimension and driver of modern inequality. “It is not only that lacking two parents makes it harder for some kids to go to college and lead a comfortable life,” Kearney contends. “In the aggregate, it also undermines social mobility and perpetuates inequality across generations.”

Backed with abundant data, Kearney argues the collapse of marriage as a social institution among lower-income families has compounded the demographic consequences of stagnant wages and the loss of steady employment in many sectors and regions. This phenomenon, she writes, is inextricable from the education gap, the geographic narrowing of economic opportunities, and policy decisions that have reinforced the advantages of the already well-off.

That which is accessible to all is, be definition, not a privilege.


J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and the Cosmic Music of the Beginnings: The Inklings expressed interest in ancient mythologies that described the creation of the world through music. (Robert Lazu Kmita, February 6, 2024, European Conservative)

However, the theological theory about music that is most similar to Tolkien’s vision presented in The Silmarillion (in “Ainulindalë,” “The Music of the Ainur”) is that of the extraordinary medieval saint and prophetess, St. Hildegard of Bingen (c. 1098-1179). As Barbara Newman has shown in her introduction to the critical edition of the musical work Symphonia armonie celestium revelatione (Symphony of the Harmony of Celestial Revelations), Hildegard asserts that God is the creator of music, while “the ultimate unmusical spirit was the devil.”

In one of her letters, Hildegard claims that, before committing the Original Sin, Adam’s voice had exceptional musical qualities: “In his voice was the sweetness of every harmonic sound, and of the whole art of music.” Upon hearing the music sung by Adam, the devil, terrified and filled with envy, recalls the beauty of God’s celestial hymns that he had heard before the fall. What follows, we know from the biblical text. From Hildegard’s vision, we learn about music of divine origin and about the fallen angel, who, unable to bear it, wanted to replace the divine harmony with his own musical creation.

The music of the Inklings
The closest of friends, Tolkien and Lewis, showed in some of their literary writings a special preference for a kind of doctrine about the creation of the world that can be named the ‘musical cosmogony.’ This might be a fitting and proper name for those ancient mythologies, including some mentioned above, that describe the creation of the whole world through music.

Beauty is objective


Goofy ‘God’s Army’ convoy on Texas border shows Trump’s MAGA movement is just one long con (Rex Huppke, 2/05/24, USA TODAY)

In Texas, the MAGA movement again reveals its impotence
So God’s Army’s foot soldiers came, in underwhelming numbers, and accomplished little beyond showing everyone how tragically gullible they are and making the locals twitchy. That’s MAGA in a nutshell: loud, threatening and, in the end, impotent.

…they lack manhood.


Taking on the right-on with cold, hard facts: a review of Social Justice Fallacies by Thomas Sowell (Jaspreet Singh Boparai, 2/05/24, The Critic)

These days, “idealism” means never having to say you’re sorry, and Sowell is disgusted by the mechanisms whereby intellectuals are protected from the consequences of their decisions, particularly when their ideas end in failure and cause people to suffer.

Sowell thinks the most dangerous intellectuals are the clever ones who don’t realise they have a faulty grasp of information that could change their ideas. Most of us would agree that decisions ought to be made by those with the most relevant knowledge. The problem is that intellectuals often disagree, not just on what constitutes “relevant knowledge”, but on bigger questions involving what knowledge itself really is.

To a normal person, this all looks like hair-splitting. Yet arguments about the definition of knowledge can have life-and-death consequences. Intellectuals have the job of trying to settle these questions for everyone ’s benefit. Alas, too many of them forget about benefiting others. Many develop a taste for using other people as lab rats. Sowell reminds us:

Intellectual élites crusading for their intellectual goals have, for centuries, seen children as a special target for their messages. As far back as the eighteenth century, William Godwin said that children — other people’s children — “are a sort of raw material put into our hands”. Their minds “are like a sheet of white paper”.

Sowell has a special contempt for Woodrow Wilson, who was president of Princeton University before he became US president. Wilson epitomises the smugness, self-righteousness and passive-aggressive authoritarianism of those who believe in a dictatorship of professors and seem to regard freedom as conditional on your race and whether you have the right academic qualifications to make decisions for yourself.

Wilson is one of the central figures in the “Progressive Movement” of the early 20th century, who were obsessed with breeding and eugenics; Madison Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race (1916) helped shape much of their thinking. Grant deplored “a sentimental belief in the sanctity of human life”, especially when it was used “both to prevent the elimination of defective infants and the sterilisation of such adults as are themselves of no value to the community”. Idealism provides no protection against dark ideas, it seems.

MAGA and the Progressives are united by their Darwinism.



Only when corporations became so large that an owner could no longer learn the names of all of his employees did anyone start to talk about “human resources” in the abstract.

And even then it was hardly inevitable that the systematic science of selecting and managing workers would end up looking like the schoolmarmish, therapeutic, risk-averse paper-pushing that characterizes H.R. departments today. One textbook defines H.R. as “a largely behavioral science approach to the study of nonunion work situations, with particular emphasis on the practice and organization of management.” This is a pithy way of saying that H.R. sees bosses as economic actors and workers as psychological ones. From the beginning, H.R. has been the discipline addressed not so much to workers’ welfare as to their feelings.

As soon as the field of human resources was isolated from the rest of management, extravagant claims started to be made on its behalf. Henry Ford II said in 1946 that “solving the problem of human relations in production” could be as big a revolution as the assembly line. “Our task is nothing less than to rehumanize industry,” one psychologist declared in 1919. More recently, Silicon Valley C.E.O.s have mixed human resources with California-style spiritualism. Tony Hsieh of Zappos called his management system, Holacracy, “the next stage in the evolution of human consciousness.” His book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, spent twenty-seven weeks on the New York Times best seller list.

Zappos employees were not quite as enthusiastic about Holacracy. When the company offered buyouts to anyone who would not commit to the system, nearly twenty percent of employees took the money and quit. In November 2020, Hsieh barricaded himself inside a pool shed in New London, Connecticut, got high on nitrous oxide and marijuana, and burned himself and the shed to the ground. He was forty-six.

Just let us do our jobs.


Federal Regulations: The “Administrative State” in Context (Federalism Index Project)

Federal agencies are tasked by Congress to create rules (“administrative laws”), which have the effect of law. Each year, regulatory agencies produce a significantly higher number of rules than laws passed by Congress. According to regulations scholar and historian Clyde Wayne Crews, agencies, rather than elected Congressional officials now do the vast majority of lawmaking today – raising questions not only about the economic cost of regulation, but the constitutionality of the regulatory process as it has evolved over time. Crews has monitored the number of rules passed in relation to laws, and produced a measure which he terms – somewhat playfully – “the Unconstitutionality Index.”

The Unconstitutionality Index measures the ratio of rules issued by agencies relative to laws passed by Congress and signed by the president. The following chart is based on Crews’ original research, and provides a summary view of public laws as a ratio of final rules. While Crews acknowledges that his formula is “somewhat lighthearted” and that there are “unavoidable complexities” in trying to measure the Unconstitutionality of rules, his work does provide empirical validation of the claim that there has been a significant shift in lawmaking from Congress to agencies.

In the last decade, there have been – on average – 22 final rules for every law passed by Congress and signed by the President:

How many regulations?

Measuring and tracking the real size or growth of regulatory activity over time has proved to be difficult. In part, this is because researchers lack consistent measures across time and across jurisdictions. In 2014, researchers at George Mason University published a database that attempted to quantify federal regulation, using the best available data going back to 1970. Using a novel method they termed “restrictions analysis”, the authors created a tool that helps to give a sense of the volume of regulatory restrictions. As the following chart shows, the total number of restrictions in the Code of Federal Regulations more than doubled from 1970 to 2022:


Sikh Americans, citing ‘transnational repression,’ vote for an independent homeland (Richa Karmarkar, 2/01/24, RNS)

Last Sunday (Jan. 28), more than 120,000 Sikhs of all ages and occupations took part in a historic referendum in San Francisco on the creation of an autonomous homeland in northwestern India. They braved hourslong lines after already long commutes, in many cases from neighboring states, to reach the polling place in the City by the Bay.

These Sikhs, almost all of them U.S. citizens and residents, were voting aspirationally for the creation of Khalistan — a hoped-for but nonexistent “land of the pure” that would stand separate from the nation of India.

Organized by Sikhs for Justice, an activist group that is banned in India, the vote was aimed at raising the profile of Sikh efforts to convince the government of India to allow Punjab, the state where the Sikhi faith was born, to secede.

There is no India


I will be a first minister for all’: Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill marks historic moment for once unionist state (Rory Carroll, 3 Feb 2024, The Guardian)

The chamber’s ornate ceiling remained blue, red and gold, and Portland stone still held up the Stormont edifice, but the beaming Sinn Féin faces declared this was a historic moment for Irish nationalism.

Michelle O’Neill became Northern Ireland’s first nationalist first minister in a day of symbolism and pomp that restored devolved government and etched an epitaph on the tomb of what was once a unionist state.

The union endured – Northern Ireland remains part of the UK and a referendum on Irish unity is not on the horizon – but when the assembly nominated O’Neill at 2.33pm yesterday for republicans the countdown to potential unification ticked louder.

Once we faced no external threats our allies in South Africa, Northern Ireland and Israel had to settle their internal issues in favor of democracy.


The nitty-gritty of freedom: a review of Everyday Freedom: Designing the Framework for a Flourishing Society; By Philip K. Howard (Robert VerBruggen, February 1, 2024, Washington Examiner)

Howard believes these actors need greater authority to use their own judgment, coupled with norms of reasonableness and subject to oversight through clear lines of authority, to solve problems — and that this type of freedom, which he dubs “everyday freedom” or the “freedom to do what’s right,” has disappeared as individual rights, written regulations, and legal liability have expanded.

The change began in the 1960s, when “the social and legal institutions of America were remade to try to eliminate unfair choices by people in positions of responsibility,” rooted in a growing distrust of authority and a desire to confront very real abuses of power. One effect of this shift, alas, was to suppress basic judgment and common sense, replacing them with rules so detailed no one could possibly learn them all and demands for officials to justify each decision they made, with lawsuits from private parties waiting in the wings.

This led to a sense of alienation. Human beings thrive when they draw on their intuitions and talents to solve problems, and the new system discourages exactly that. It also led to massive inefficiency, dysfunction, and distrust as people in what should be positions of power shied away from doing their duties, focusing instead on compliance and lawsuit avoidance.