03 February 2022

The Woke Mob Comes for Professors Amy Wax and Kathleen Stock

Stephen Kershnar

A Tale of Two Professors

Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer

January 23, 2022


            In two cases, administrators and academics are trying to silence high profile professors.  

Recently, the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s dean, Ted Ruger, announced that he will try to sanction law professor Amy Wax. In a 2017 Philadelphia Inquirer article, Wax and University of San Diego law professor Larry Alexander said that the country is paying a price for breakdown of the country's bourgeois culture. They argued that since the 1950s, the decline of bourgeois values - such as hard work, marriage, respect for authority, and self-discipline - contributed to societal problems such as opioid abuse, half of all children being born to single mothers, male labor force participation rates down to Great-Depression-era levels, and many college students lacking basic skills.

In a 2017 interview with The Daily Pennsylvanian, Wax argued that not all cultures equally prepare people to be productive in an advanced economy. She said, "everyone wants to go to countries ruled by white Europeans" because of their superior norms. Wax added that she did not believe in the superiority of one race over another but was describing the situation in various countries and cultures. Again, with the exception of a few East Asian nations, no adult seriously doubts this claim. By the millions, people vote with their feet in favor of Wax’s claims.

In 2021 on Glenn Loury’s website, Wax wrote “As long as most Asians support Democrats and help to advance their positions, I think the United States is better off with fewer Asians and less Asian immigration.” Wax argued that Asians are ungrateful for the advantages of living in the US. This can be seen, she claimed, because they vote disproportionately for the “pernicious" Democratic Party. She further noted that this voting pattern is "mystifying" because the Democratic Party pushes equal outcomes despite well-known group differences. Regardless of whether one agrees, the claims are plausible.    

In a 2017 interview with Loury, Wax said regarding affirmative action: "Take Penn Law School, or some top 10 law school... Here's a very inconvenient fact ... I don't think I've ever seen a Black student graduate in the top quarter of the class, and rarely, rarely in the top half ... I can think of one or two students who scored in the top half in my required first year course.” This claim surprises no one who is familiar with elite law schools. Penn is ranked 6th.

In 2017, a petition to fire Amy Wax was started. Today it has 76,000 signatures. 33 of her Penn Law colleagues denounced her Philadelphia Inquirer  and Daily Pennsylvanian statements. Ruger later banned her from teaching required first-year courses.

In England, Kathleen Stock, a professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex recently resigned. She  argued that people cannot change their sex. She also argued that many trans women are males – consider, for example, ones with penises who are sexually attracted to females – and, as a result, they should not be in places where females undress or sleep in an unrestricted way. She said ad nauseum that she thinks trans people should live free from fear of violence, harassment, or discrimination, but that her claims about identity are distinct from the need to protect these rights.  

When Stock was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, philosophers from the most elite universities – for example, Cambridge, Harvard, MIT, Oxford, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale – and others denounced Stock. The professors said, “We are dismayed that the British government has chosen to honour her for this harmful rhetoric.”

Stock’s resignation followed her having been told by police to stay away from her campus for safety reasons. Students at her university, put up posters and graffiti demanding that she be fired. The Sussex branch of the University and College Union called for an investigation into transphobia. An ironic fact is that Stock is a left-wing lesbian and sex-nonconforming woman. Some of the elite philosophers who denounced her used to be her friends and allies. The revolution always eats its own.

Were Wax or Stock to teach at a public American university, the Constitution would make it illegal for the schools to sanction them. Their speech and writing were not pursuant to their official duties. See Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006). Even if their speech and writings were pursuant to their official duties, and it was not, their speech is still protected because it would easily pass the Pickering test. Pickering v. Board of Education, 391 U.S. 563 (1968). Specifically, their speech is a matter of public concern and their interest in commenting on matters of public concern outweigh the state’s interest of the State regarding the public services it provides.

Note two things. First, regarding Wax, no one seriously doubts that the country would be better off with bourgeois values or that – with the exception of a few East Asian countries - Western culture is better.    

Second, regarding Stock, it is hard to dispute that biologically, trans women are not women. Whether trans women are gender-women – that is, women according to cultural norms – depends on what we do and should think a woman is. At the very least, it is worth discussing Stock’s careful-and-technical arguments. There are additional reasons to be wary of radically revising our view of gender. Consider athletics, gender-transition contagion, and the percentage of people who change their minds about transitioning.  

The mean-spirited bullying of Wax and Stock is not unique. Professors from Colorado, Cornell, Oxford, Princeton, Rutgers, etc. have been blackballed, publicly denounced, or pressured to retract articles. The elite schools matter because they have an enormous influence on the country’s commanding heights. Consider, for example, Big Tech, government, Hollywood, mainstream media, and Wall Street. What the elites believe will flow down to culture, law, and the rest of academia. This abuse will continue until alumni cut off donations, boards of trustee fire disgraceful administrators (for example, Penn’s Ruger), and federal and state governments defund these institutions.


13 January 2022

Against CUNY and SUNY Vaccine Mandates

Stephen Kershnar

Kathy Hochul’s Mandate

Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer

January 10, 2021


            Kathy Hochul recently required CUNY and SUNY faculty members be vaccinated.

            The state should not protect faculty against themselves. That is, the state should avoid paternalistic employment conditions. The state would not be justified in requiring that faculty – or other employees – avoid divorce, obesity, or gender-transition even if such requirements were good for the faculty. Here I take no position on whether such requirements would be good for them. In addition, the state should not interfere with whether a faculty member gets an abortion because a woman owns her own body. This is true regardless of whether abortion makes a woman’s life go worse.

            The issue, then, is whether the vaccine mandate protects the unvaccinated from harming others. First, consider whether unvaccinated faculty endanger students. Students are in little danger from Covid. John Hopkins Medical School professor Marty Makary points out that over the last 6 months, the chance of a younger person (15-24) dying from or with Covid is 0.001%, that is, 1 in 100,000. Because the data does not distinguish between dying from Covid or dying from something else while infected with Covid, let us assume that the number overestimates Covid deaths by a factor of 2 (I made this number up). Thus, the chance of a younger person dying of Covid is 1 in 200,000. This still overestimates the risk an unvaccinated person imposes on a student because the unvaccinated person has less than a 100% chance of getting Covid and less than a 100% of passing it on – whether directly or indirectly - to a vulnerable person. Let us again assume that these numbers are 33% each –likely an overestimate - and we end up with a 1 in 1.8 million chance that someone choosing not to be vaccinated causes a student to die. This is too low a risk to have the state require an employee put an unwanted substance into her body.  

            By analogy, many people – including me – think that the state should permit abortion even if the fetus is a person because the fetus infringes on the woman’s right to control her body. This is true even if abortion has a 100% chance of killing a person. In short, we do and should take very seriously a person’s right to control her body. This applies to unwanted vaccinations in a manner similar to abortion, although the former involves a less significant impact on a woman’s body. On a side note, zygotes and embryos are not people, but this is a discussion for another day. 

            Second, consider whether unvaccinated faculty endanger vaccinated employees, for example, vaccinated faculty. Vaccinated people have a 0.003% chance of dying from Covid, that is, 3 in 100,000. On campuses, the risk is noticeably lower because they have fewer people 75 and older than does the general population. Again, given this low risk and the small risk that an unvaccinated person transmits the virus to a vulnerable, vaccinated employee, this is too low a risk to pressure someone to take a strongly unwanted substance into her body. By analogy, CUNY and SUNY do not require faculty to get a flu, pneumonia, or shingles shots despite these being contagious diseases. CUNY and SUNY also do not require that faculty not be obese, get divorced, or gender transition, even though these have contagion-like effects.

            Third, consider whether unvaccinated faculty endanger unvaccinated employees, for example, unvaccinated faculty. Such faculty have chosen to assume a greater risk than if they were vaccinated. By analogy, we do not and should not require that faculty members get the flu shot in order to protect those who choose not to get a flu shot. Because they assumed the risk, the unvaccinated have no special claim to state protection, especially if the protection involves strongarming people to put unwanted substances into their bodies. In any case, the risk is not all that great because in the US, the unvaccinated are only 7 times more likely to die from Covid than the vaccinated and the risk of the former is quite small.

            Fourth, consider the public. If Hochul’s order is designed to protect the public, then it is not faculty-specific. If Hochul wants to require it of all New York employees, she should do so. Singling out the faculty is just taking advantage of their weakness – specifically, their far-left ideology – and is not a principled attempt to focus on a dangerous group. By analogy, if the New York wants to lessen or eliminate gun ownership, it should not do so by requiring that CUNY and SUNY faculty not own guns as a condition on employment. Rather, it should mandate this for all of its employees.

            One expects this sort of virus-related idiocy on campuses these days. Amherst requires students to wear two masks if they are not wearing a KN95 mask. Cornell recommends its students wear masks outdoors. Georgetown requires events be held virtually or outdoors. Princeton requires that vaccinated students not leave the county unless they are on a sports team.  

            One objection is that vaccination provides a public good. A public good is one that for which people cannot be excluded and for which one person’s consumption of the good does not make less available to others. Examples include clean air and nuclear defense. The state should be wary of requiring important rights be waived in order to bring about public goods. For example, consider an imaginary scenario in which that contraceptive implants and IUDs in teenage girls produce very good results because they significantly reduce the number of dropouts, out-of-wedlock births, and welfare usage. Further assume that these things are a public good because of their effects on communities. New York still should not require this for teenage girls who attend public schools. Nor should it require this for girls whose mothers work for CUNY or SUNY. We should take a person’s right to control her body seriously.  

Disclosure: I had three Moderna-shots.

29 December 2021

Immigration and the Soul of a Nation

Stephen Kershnar

Immigration and the Essence of a Nation

Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer

December 27, 2021


            Large numbers of immigrants have recently come to the United States. This will change the country.  

            Using Census Bureau numbers, the Center for Immigration Studies reports that in the US there are now 46 million immigrants (legal and illegal). This is the largest number ever recorded. Immigrants are now 14.2% of the population. Roughly, this percentage has tripled since 1970 and doubled since 1990. It is nearly the highest percentage ever. The highest was in 1890 when 14.8% of the population were immigrants. By 1910, the percentage of immigrants began to drop precipitously.

            This flood of immigrants ratcheted up the country’s population. Using Bureau of Labor numbers, roughly 86 million people – 26% of the US population – are immigrants and their children. This makes the country considerably more crowded than it was in the 70’s and 80’s.

This flood of immigration is not only new but differs from the rest of the world. In 2015, the US had a larger immigrant population than any other country. It had 19% of the world’s immigrants despite having 4% of its population. Currently, no other country has even a quarter the number of immigrants we do.

            The Biden administration is on track to let in more than 2 million illegal aliens. There were already more than 22 million illegal aliens in the country. On one estimate, the average illegal alien and her children cost taxpayers $8,000 per year. As a group they cost taxpayers more than $100 billion per year. These estimates are controversial and other estimates are far lower. Still, on most estimates, illegal aliens pull money out of citizens’ wallets.   

            The question is how this flood of immigrants will change the US. One important issue here is whether the United States is constituted by a people, a set of ideas, or both. Many countries are constituted by a people or a limited number of peoples. Consider, for example, China, Denmark, Israel, Japan, Norway, and South Korea.

It is often thought that the US is not constituted by a limited number of peoples - despite its Western European and African heritage - rather it consists of a set of ideas. These ideas include economic and political freedom, specific Constitution-based content and structures, and individualism. This is what allows the US to persist despite incorporating 86 million new people. The question arises whether the new peoples accept this set of ideas.

Currently, the politically freest countries in the world are European and some East Asian countries (Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan). The economically freest countries largely follow roughly the same pattern. It is not obvious that immigrants from countries that are currently and historically unfree will support the American set of ideas. As George Mason’s economist Garrett Jones argues, immigrants tend to bring their worldview with them and change the country they move into to be more like the country from which they came. If this is correct, we can expect immigrants who come from countries with less of a history of freedom to be less likely to support this set of ideas than those from countries with better histories.

This is not merely an economic finding. Consider whether the historic American people – that is, current Americans minus immigrants and their children - would have voted for the Biden administration and Democratic Party that continues to try to cut back on freedom, engages in political corruption, and considers destroying long-standing American institutions. For political freedom, consider free speech on university campuses, gun ownership, and social media censorship. For economic freedom, consider attempts to jack up taxes and regulations, monitor people’s bank accounts, and push affirmative action and quotas. For corruption, consider immigration policies that run roughshod over the law, Obama-era IRS corruption, the Russia Hoax, and unconstitutional Covid policies. For attempts to change long-standing American institutions, consider attempts to add DC and Puerto Rico as states, eliminate the electoral college, nationalize election procedure, and pack the Supreme Court. Consider, also, the administration’s indifference to inflation. Were the 86 million new people not here, most, if not all, of these changes would not have occurred and the proposed changes would not get serious consideration.

This is not to say that immigrants do not bring plenty to the nation. They clearly do. But it is to say that they will greatly change it. This is especially true with regard to immigrants who are not from Western or East Asian nations. Part of the problem here might be cultural diversity. The most culturally diverse countries in the world are poor – consider India - and often unfree – consider, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, and Nigeria. Economist Erkan Gören found that cultural diversity is inversely related to per capita income. Still, one might doubt whether cultural diversity causes poverty or unfreedom. Some of the worst nations in the world lack diversity. Consider Haiti and Rwanda.

Massive immigration - especially from non-European and non-East-Asian countries – will likely change the set of ideas that are part of the American identity and affect Americans’ wealth. Even if this were not true, it is unclear that a nation is merely a set of political institutions or a way for citizens to become wealthier. Arguably, it is a people who have a shared history and identify with one another. This explains why no leading figure supports admitting 20 million third-world immigrants a year even if doing so would make us freer and richer. Similarly, almost no one wants Americans to be citizens of ten or more countries and, thus, have little connection to the American people. It also explains why almost no one wants her small town to be flooded with Hasidic Jews or strictly observant Muslims regardless of how they vote and regardless of whether they are pleasant and supercharge the business community.

As the US takes in a massive number of immigrants it will change the country. This change is worth considering before we let in another 46 million.