Race, Inequality, Cultural Crisis and Courage: A Conversation with Economist Glenn C. Loury

Albert Mohler: This is Thinking in Public, a program dedicated to intelligent conversation about frontline theological and cultural issues with the people who are shaping them. I’m Albert Mohler, your host and president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. 

Glenn C. Loury is the Merchant P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences and Professor of Economics at Brown University. He earned his BA in Mathematics in Northwestern University, his PhD in Economics in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He’s also served on the economics faculties of Harvard University and Boston University. Professor Loury is a distinguished scholar of economics. He’s a notable public intellectual in the United States, having published more than 200 essays in various academic outlets. He’s also a proficient scholar on racial and social policy issues. He’s written several books on the topic of race in America. I’m very much looking forward to this conversation today with Glenn Loury. 

Professor Glenn Loury, welcome to Thinking in Public.

Glenn Loury: Very good to be with you, Dr. Mohler.

Albert Mohler: There’s so many things I want to talk to you about, some of them as current as just about the headlines every day these days, and some of them in, say the mid range, but I want to tell you that as we begin, I’m very indebted to you for a key intellectual concept that I use over and over again, I find it indispensable in thinking about, for example, the relative cultural position of Christians in a society. And that’s the concept of social capital. And like I say, I come back to it again and again, tell us about the development of social capital as a concept.

Glenn Loury: Well, I was very fortunate. I was writing a dissertation at MIT, a graduate student in the 1970s. My topic was, well, it was very similar to the headlines of the day about race and racial inequality. But it was the 1970s. And I was trying to think about, “We’ve had a civil rights movement and we have these equal opportunity laws and so on, but will we expect to see the economic gap between black and white converge under the benefit of equal opportunity?” And I thought there was reason to worry not, and that reason had to do with the way that communities organize. So I developed a little theory, with small T, of human development as an economist in which I incorporate it into the way economists ordinarily think about human capital, skills and education and work experience and so on.

This idea of social effects, this idea that the neighborhood, the peer group, the household that you’re raised in, the community that you grow up in would also contribute to your human development. I called it social capital. I was very fortunate that Robert Putnam, the political scientist, the guy behind Bowling Alone, his most recent book, Our Kids, American Grace, he’s writing a book about religion, Dr. Mohler. This is Bob Putnam, Harvard political scientist. He embraced the concept and he gave me credit.

Albert Mohler: He’s been a guest on this program, by the way.

Glenn Loury: Very good. And it’s entirely appropriate. Anyway, he adopted the concept in his own work and he credited me with having been an originator. Also, the late sociologist, James S. Coleman, now deceased, the University of Chicago for many years, a great sociologist, also cited my dissertation as one of the originators of this idea. It’s a commonplace phrase. It’s natural enough. I don’t want to get too much credit, but I don’t mind that people associate my name with it.

Albert Mohler: Well, it’s extremely helpful to me in thinking about any individual or group in a society and relative to the rest of the society. For instance, I use it often in dealing with the effects of secularization and the moral liberalization of a culture, just looking at, say the role of traditional Christians in society and our posture in the society. And it’s clear that throughout, say most of the 20th century, people who joined our churches and identified with us actually gained social capital by associating with us. Now holding to many beliefs that are outside the mainstream of the culture on sexuality and gendered any number of things means that you lose social capital by joining our churches.

Look, that’s something that the evangelicalism in the United States wasn’t prepared for. We thought, and I’m speaking of this as a movement with a mind, but thought that evangelicalism was moving into the accumulation of greater social capital in the last half of the 20th century, only to find out that it’s being cashed out in the 21st century.

Glenn Loury: Well, I guess it depends on how the currents of the larger culture shift one way or the other and where you are situated relative to that, but it may be that the quality of the bonds within the church are stronger and quality, you know?

Albert Mohler: Right.

Glenn Loury: And maybe the intensive connections between people are more valuable at the end of the day.

Albert Mohler: Well, it’s also a warning to us that we not see the essence of our mission as gaining social capital. Speaking as a theologian, that can be at the expense of the gospel. But nonetheless, I’m very indebted to you for that concept and find that I have to use it every week in lectures and writing and speaking.

Glenn Loury: Thank you.

Albert Mohler: I’ve been following your work for a very long time and frankly, in terms of your definition of some of the most important issues of our day, then for any expertise in the area of economics, which I find fascinating from a Christian worldview perspective, but your work and your reputation has been expanded beyond what many people think of as the field of classical economics into, well, the headlines. So for instance, I have benefited by your book written almost 20 years ago, The Anatomy of Racial Inequality. And one of the things I want to say is you’re very careful in defining terms. Not every thinker or author is so careful. When you wrote this book in the first part of the 21st century, you are defining the issues related to race in a careful way that I wish you delineate for us now.

Glenn Loury: Well, I appreciate that opportunity. Those were lectures I gave at Harvard back in the year 2000. They were published in 2002. Three lectures, “Racial Stereotypes,” “Racial Stigma,” and “Racial Justice.” I wrote an introductory chapter and a concluding chapter and put them together and putting them out at the book. You say careful definitions. Well, that’s how they train us in graduate school in economics, you know?

They train us with rigorous mathematical formulations of your concepts. Economics underwent a transformation early in the 20th century. And one of my teachers, the late great Paul Samuelson, was instrumental in fomenting this transformation where formal mathematical analysis was brought more to the forefront of economics. So in any case, I was trained to think carefully and precisely about the matters that I would address. And I would respect a race. Of course, I can’t recapitulate the entire argument of the book, or even do justice to it, but I did want to be clear about what we’re talking about when we talk about race. And I settled upon a conception that involves two qualities of social cognition, categorization, and signification. I say race has embodied social signification.

When we talk about race, we’re saying marks on people’s bodies, like the color of my skin, the texture of my hair, the shape of the bones in my face. These are marks on my body that people can see, and I can’t easily disguise or change them. And that has significance that people impute significance to. That’s what we’re talking about when we talk about race. And I go on from there to develop different ideas. But in every step along the way, I want to be able to say with some precision exactly what it is that I’m talking about. And this, if I may say so, is a discipline that unfortunately is not adhered to so much by many people commenting about race and racial inequality in America today.

Albert Mohler: That’s why I think this conversation could be particularly helpful, not only to me but to those who will be watching the program and benefiting by it. As you begin the book, you said you presented your lectures at Harvard then put on an introduction and a conclusion, but in the introduction, you give us an advanced word about three axioms that you set forward. The first is constructivism and the second is anti-essentialist and the third is ingrained racial stigma. That made a great deal of sense to me. Again, I just invite you to explain those three axioms, because even as they were rooted in conversation then, they’re very much rooted in conversation now.

Glenn Loury: Well, again, I welcome the opportunity. Basically I was saying here’s some stuff that I’m going to assume for this argument, but I’m not going to try to demonstrate it independently. I mean, these are the principles or the guidelines that will shape the argument. Constructivism is a claim about, well, what is race? And I’m saying race is a social phenomenon. I’m not talking about biological race, I’m not talking about people’s genes, I’m talking about the categories black and white in the United States, which obviously have a historical, a political, and a social history. They didn’t come from nowhere. And they don’t mean the same thing in Brazil where there also are light-skinned and dark-skinned people. And they don’t mean the same thing in South Africa where there are also light-skinned and dark-skinned people, all of these societies have come to understand race, that is to say, have come to associate certain connotations or certain significances with certain categorical marks on the body in different ways. So constructivism is being clear that I’m talking about the social phenomenon of race, not the biological phenomenon.

Anti-essentialism is a related notion, and I’m saying, “There’s inequality between these racial groups.” And one way to account for it would just be to say that they are different, that some people came from Africa, some people came from Northern Europe, some people came from Northeast Asia. These populations are essentially different, different in their genetic makeup in ways that bear on social outcomes. And while that could be true, it’s a scientific claim, it’s a scientific claim, for the sake of my argument, I was assuming that it was not true. And I’m getting criticized for making that assumption by some developmental and psychologists who study the heritability of human intelligence, because they want to question whether or not the claim is true. I’m not addressing the biology of race, I’m saying for the sake of my argument, I’m going to try to explain racial inequality without reference to essential disparity.

And finally, the ingrained stigma, same also, I received some pushback. Says the following. It says, “Here we are in America, we’re talking about blacks.” I made clear in my introduction that I’d be talking about blacks. What is the history relevant to my concern about inequality that’s most salient for blacks in America? It’s slavery. What was slavery? Here, I quote the sociologist, Orlando Patterson of Harvard, his book, Slavery and Social Death was published almost 40 years ago. It’s a masterful compendium analyzing the institution of slavery over three millennia, going back to antiquity and coming forward to the 19th century American experience. Patterson defined slavery as the, “Permanent, violent domination of natally alienated and generally dishonored persons.”

Now permanent, violent domination we see right away. The natal alienation is that the slave status carries forward to the offspring of the slave. So the slave and the offspring are separated by the ownership claims of the master. And general dishonor is the most important part of his definition of slavery. The slave is not a full, equal person in the society, he is a generally dishonored person. Slaves could be very proficient at their skill, they might even accumulate wealth in some societies, in some instances through their functionary roles that they might play. They might rise to great influence within the royal household and so forth, but they could never be king. They could never take an honored place in society. This is Patterson.

So what I’m saying is, in the case of the United States of America, in the early decades, mostly I suppose in the 18th century, as chattel slavery was coming into existence, plantation slavery and so forth, here we have the United States of America, we have the founding of our Republic, we have the enlightenment ideas reflected in the declaration of independence, and then the Bill of Rights to the constitution affirming certain notions about the worth of the individual person. And yet we also have chattel slavery going on at the same time, and that’s a problem. That’s a problem that we only are able to reconcile… And when I say we, I talk about the American establishment at the time of the founding of the country, only able to reconcile that in effect, seeing in the Negro, in the slave, someone who was less than fully, fully human, otherwise the idea that all men are created equal, and the idea that there is an ongoing traffic and chattel could not be mutually consistent. Now, of course we eventually, in the fullness of time, came to see things in a very different light. And again, when I say we, I talk about the sensibility of the leadership, intellectual and political classes of the country, began with racial stigma, the blackness, having a connotation of negativity of social unfitness of lack of civility, of lack of intelligence and so forth that carries with the African-American even after the emancipation. Sorry to take so long to say that, but thank you.

Albert Mohler: No, that’s helpful. When I read that introductory section of your book and then follow up to the book, which again goes back to your lectures of 2000, I felt like it was as current as if you had written it since earlier this year. But you have written and said a great deal since the first of this year. I want to turn later to the issue of the controversy at Brown University. But I want to go to a very important essay that was published by the Manhattan Institute, which is a conservative think tank that I’ve appreciated for a very long time. Back in May of 2019, before the most immediate controversies hit in the United States, but frankly they’re all already here in 2019 when you said this and wrote this work. The title of it is, Why Does Racial Inequality Persist?: Culture, Causation, and Responsibility.

I have to tell you, Professor Loury, I find it to be one of the most clarifying, and frankly, courageous arguments made in light of the contemporary headlines. I just want to ask you to walk us through this because you talk about two causal narratives about the persistence of racial inequality, and we’re talking about the United States. One is the bias narrative and the other is the development narrative. Now in sociology, this has been the argument between the culturalist and the structuralist, but I like the way you describe it, those two narratives, please explain how they work.

Glenn Loury: Again, thank you. I appreciate the opportunity because this is so important in my mind. We know the bias narrative is very familiar. We see it in the newspaper and on television every day. The bias narrative is that America is a fundamentally racist society. White supremacy is an ideology that infects institutions from the Ivy League to the U.S. military to corporate America et cetera. And that it’s because of African-Americans being treated unfairly in the normal intercourse of social conduct that the disparities persist. It’s bias, it’s racism, it’s discrimination, it’s exclusion, it’s marginalization. There’s a million different ways of saying it. Now we’re talking about a population that descends from people who were slaves, and we’re talking about a country where for a hundred years after the emancipation or these slaves, they and their descendants were not granted the rights of full citizenship, voting rights and of being treated fairly in ordinary commerce and public affairs.

So it’s not as if people are completely crazy to talk about bias, but we’re talking about also a country that now we’re a half century past the civil rights movement, a country that freed the slaves, that in the fullness of time, amended its constitution, amended its law and its cultural practice to try to create something approximating equality of opportunity. And that now is a place where a Black Lives Matter movement can spring up, where anti-racism can take hold in the minds of the consciousnesses of all the progressive people across the land and where something like a fair opportunity or something approximating equality of opportunity could be argued to have been obtained. So the bias narrative, in my mind, doesn’t explain what we’re looking at. It doesn’t explain the educational gap, the test score gap, the low levels of reading and math proficiency of youngsters who are African American in this country. It doesn’t explain 7 in 10 kids born to a black woman being born to a woman without a husband. It doesn’t explain a homicide rate that’s off the charts. It does not explain, not withstanding the best efforts of some people to say so, the over representation of African Americans amongst those who are incarcerated. In my opinion, bias doesn’t explain that. Well, what does explain it? I think black people in America and anywhere else are just as capable of accomplishment as any other people. I think their human potential was no less, but I think human potential must be actually realized through processes of development. Children have to be raised and they have to be educated. Young people have to learn how to control their impulses and how to tailor their behaviors to adapt the disciplines to acquire the skills and habits and traits that allow them to be successful in society. That’s development.

I juxtapose that to the bias narrative, this alternative way of looking at things, it’s not mutually exclusive, but it’s a very different outlook. That’s an outlook on development. So if I see a lot of idle kids standing on a corner, some of them getting into the trouble with life, I see kids flanking out of school, not getting their high school diplomas or not being able to read and write effectively so as to be able to get a job, if I see a lot of encounters with police officers that end up going bad because people are engaged in activities they shouldn’t be engaged in, or they are behaving in ways that cause the police to draw attention to them in the first place, and I see a racial disparity in that. I’m asking myself, “What went on in their childhood? What kind of school did the kid go to? What was the nature of the social capital that influenced the developmental dynamic that we see reflected in that kid’s behavior?” And when African American youngsters are deprived of the opportunity to develop their potential as human beings, we will see racial inequality.

The reason that I make the distinction, and thank you for giving me time to say this, is that what you want to do about the problem is completely different, depending upon whether you think it’s bias or development that’s going on. And I want to be clear, this is not about assigning fault. This is not about blaming the victim, it’s not about pointing a finger, it’s not about judgment. It’s about being clear as to what’s actually happening in the society. If I have a development problem and I call it a bias problem, I don’t address my attention to the places that have to be intervened with and the processes that have to be changed in order to solve the problem. You can call white people responsible for black people’s poor condition if you want to, but unless you actually address the condition, you will not have made any progress.

Albert Mohler: When you look at those two narratives, and you’ve intellectually been very honest to say that first narrative you mentioned, the bias narrative, it has a basis in history, no one can deny that. It has a basis in not only slavery and Jim’s Crow segregation, but all kinds of institutional structural laws and policy-

Glenn Loury: Continuing to some extent, even to this day. Excuse me for interrupting.

Albert Mohler: … And I think we have to acknowledge that we’re not in the position we were in 1789, we’re not in the position we were in 1866, we’re not in the position we were in 1966. And so holding these two narratives together, I’ve been working on these issues for a very long time, from a very different place. And as a Christian theologian, one of the issues that has become more and more apparent to me, committed to human dignity and human flourishing is that this developmental narrative you talk about is understandable in Christian theological terms, for example, in the Christian category of subsidiarity, which is basically the principle that says that truth, flourishing, beauty, goodness, what you would call social capital, they are the most efficient and the most real in the smallest unit of society. They subside there.

And then based upon, for instance the social power, and as a theologian, I’m going to say God’s purpose for marriage, marriage then becomes the first social context of adding social capital, to use your category. And then that’s expanded to the family and then to the kinship structure and then to community. On and on and on. Eventually, in a highly rationalized developed society like the United States, you’ve got state government, federal government and all the rest. But the point is that if there is a deficiency, if there’s a break, if there’s an absence at the lowest, most fundamental level, then no subsequent level can fully correct it, no matter how intentional it is, no matter how much money it spends. Not to say that it doesn’t have a role. If there’s a hungry child right now, I want the federal bureaucrat to feed that child. It just is far less likely that’s going to happen efficiently in a way that leads to human flourishing if there isn’t marriage and family in the beginning. It seems to me to be a real theological analogy, to the point you’re making here.

Glenn Loury: Will you allow me to comment on that?

Albert Mohler: Please.

Glenn Loury: I know about subsidiarity from 40 years ago, reading a little book by the late Father Richard John Neuhaus, the theologian, and Peter Berger, the sociologist, To Empower People, if I’m not mistaken, was the title of this little pamphlet put on the American Enterprise Institute.

Albert Mohler: That’s right.

Glenn Loury:  And the argument, they called it Mediating Structures, they call it Between the Individual and the State, various associations and connectivity. And this point that there’s some things that can be done of a lower level than at this massive, bureaucratic, impersonal, legalistic, structural intervention is I think exactly right. And it’s still very, very important. There is really no substitute for the family, is there?

Albert Mohler: No.

Glenn Loury: I’m talking about raising kids. You can do it, but a loving mother and father supporting and nurturing and modeling and furthering the development of that human being, I mean, we, that’s a pretty good way of doing it. And when I look at the state of the black American family, regrettably, and it’s not very popular to say this because people think you’re wagging your finger in their faces, but I just want to say if you’re going to talk about racial inequality, you have to be talking about that, amongst other things. You must be talking about that because that’s where a lot of the action is.

Albert Mohler: Well, it’s very sensitive, of course. I’m a white Protestant theologian speaking about these things. But I’m committed to human flourishing, I’m committed to trying to achieve the best results for everyone in the society around me because I am a Christian, but that leads me to a very difficult posture in this situation, which I want to say, I don’t believe it’s ever possible to remediate what’s lost if marriage and family and kinship and community are not intact. And that means, to use your narrative of how social capital’s gain, deeply invested in social moral purposes such as the raising of children and the investment in those children. And as you say, leading those children to harness their impulses and also gain cognitive skills and social and emotional skills to be functional in society. And then to promote children and reward them in this and discipline them as the Bible would say, in “the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

But here’s the posture that I’m in. I’ve considered it a privilege to talk to you about this and to think it through together. I do have to make moral judgments. As a theologian, this is what I do, but their moral judgment is not made in moral indignation, but rather in moral concern. So the bottom line is this, I don’t think there can be any alleviation of that basic pattern of inequality until there is a return to a culture in which children are born to married couples who stay married and invest their energies in those children. That’s the reward system of the entire community.

Now, when I say that, again, I’m accused of blaming the victim as well. And I’m going to say, “Look, there are victims. There really are, because there are children who are born into this situation. They haven’t decided that. And there are people who, for other reasons, they may never have seen an example of a fully thriving community in that way. There are other issues, but that’s the brokenheartedness of the perplexity of the white, evangelical, conservative Christian, trying to think these things through now.

Glenn Loury: Well, I know what’s going to be said from our postmodern friends and colleagues around the country, they’re going to say there is no pushing on the string. You cannot reweave the fabric by pushing on the string. The unraveling is well advanced, my identity is upon us, there’s no going back. They’re going to say, and with great respect, Dr. Mohler, that your Christian hopefulness is not going to put a genie back in the bottle again, I’m sorry. This is the 21st century, not 1950s. And so on. The women are liberated. The gays are out of the closet. The transgender are on the march. Sorry, fella. So we had better deal with the real world, they’re going to say, the world that we’re in, and that’s a world in which these institutions have been lost.

Albert Mohler: I hear that.

Glenn Loury: And they’re also going to say, excuse me, but I’ll just put this on the table, that liberty, liberation, freedom… As I say, the gays are out of the closet. And as I say, the women are untethered from the kitchen. The ways of life don’t have to only be what has been taught to us by our traditional inheritance. They’re not conservatives, Dr. Mohler. I mean that in the small “c”, the literal sense of the word. They’re iconoclast. They want a new world.

Albert Mohler: I get it. And I understand the world- they’re making it. And that’s how I began by saying, our social capital’s decreasing and theirs is increasing. Folks who believe like I believe aren’t going to get tenure at Brown University.

Glenn Loury: And they’re not making very many movies or TV shows either.

Albert Mohler: No, but here’s the issue in which I find myself. And again, when you’re talking to a postmodernist, this is something that someone from standpoint of epistemology or anything, they just don’t get this. But look, I don’t believe these things are true because I believe them, I believe them because I believe they’re true. So independent of Albert Mohler or Glenn Loury or anywhere else, I still think this is the way the world’s going to work. You’re making your brave new world, but one the chief apologetic questions I ask people is, how’s it working out for you? I understand the human autonomy, the liberation motif and all that, but it’s not producing people who can replicate themselves in a society. 

You mentioned Peter Berger and Richard John Neuhaus. Dr. Neuhaus was a friend. And I participated with him in some projects. And Peter Berger is a major influence on me, but I want to go back to the founder of sociology at Harvard, Pitirim Sorokin, who made the argument that the question is, you’ve got your brand new society. He was addressing this primarily to the Bolshevik Revolution where he was almost a victim. But his point was, how are you replicating this? How are you having babies? How are you producing a next generation? And of course, it’s not going to be a thriving project. I’ll state that it’s not going to work.

Glenn Loury: I sighed because my son, Glen II, is a gay man. He’s in a long-term relationship with his partner. And we have this conversation and it’s always sensitive. We are in a loving relationship, father and son. He’s a wonderful, wonderful human being. I thank God for him. And he’s a writer and a bank official and he’s a great guy. But I can hear him, “Not everybody has to have kids, Dad. There are enough people having kids. Can I just be free to live my life?” Freedom. “I’m not making policy for the world. I’m just trying to be happy in my life.” And it’s hard, man. What are you going to say? You got to say, “Go forward and be happy, I think, if that’s your kid.” At least, I’m going to say that, I shouldn’t have put that in the second person.

Albert Mohler: Well, I understand it. And look, there are a lot of Christian families struggling with the same issue, but I just want to say, I think we have to say, I have to say, I also want your happiness, but I don’t think the conditions that you stipulate are actually going to produce happiness. I can’t legally or culturally prevent X or Y from happening or you from doing this, but I can just tell you, from my perspective at least, I owe you to tell you that I’m a Christian, God has a better plan. And he makes that very clear. And denying that plan can’t lead to happiness. You might die, speaking to anyone in this situation, regardless of whether it’s LGBTQ or radical second-wave feminism or just about anything, you may actually die thinking you’re happy, but you’re not producing the conditions of happiness for those who will follow you. This is tough stuff to talk about these days, but I appreciate your willingness to talk about it.

Glenn Loury: I told my son – I just want to say this because he was raised in the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Mattapan, the neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts. And those are good people. Those are good Bible-believing Christian people that would have given exactly the same comment or speech that you just gave right now. And my son, Glenn, is mad at them because they make the speech that you just made. And I’m saying, “Come on, man, you got to meet them halfway. They’re good people. Let’s try and work through this together. If you reject those people, man, believe me, the people coming behind them are much less friendly to your flourishing,” you know?

Albert Mohler: Right. To make that point, I have many of the national media who say to me the Christian right is scary. And I want to say, “well, wait till you meet the non-Christian right.” You’re going to be asking me back.

Glenn Loury: You’ve got a lot of wisdom in that.

Albert Mohler: The current context-  and all this is there, I want to commend people. We’ll put a link in the program to your essay, Why Does Racial Inequality Persist? But before I turn to the situation at Brown, I just want to ask you, you make the so what? Or the what then? Argument both in the beginning and the end. For instance, you say that if you take the bias narrative, let’s say that everyone in the country buys into the bias narrative. You asked the question, then what? Then will it be safe to walk on the South side of Chicago after midnight? That’s I think very fair and brave, but let me say, let’s take the development narrative. I just want to ask you Glenn Loury, then what? Now what?

Glenn Loury: Well, that’s a fair point and I don’t have a formula. I can’t be sure that a focus on development could solve the problem of walking safely on the South side of Chicago, because there’s a lot of kids out there who have not been well developed. And there are a lot of guns out there and there’re gangs and there’s drugs. And it’s a very, very tough situation. But here’s what I want to say. Let’s just start with basics. Babies are being gunned down in the street. This is barbarity as far as behavior is concerned, and it must be condemned, but this is also pathos. This is loss, this is pain, this is suffering, this is agony. This is a tragedy and we must, and I’ll put it in Christian terms, minister to these people. We must be present as witnesses to this tragedy. We must speak for what we know to be virtuous and right. We must hold up a banner here. Can I guarantee you that that kind of witness will solve the problem? No, I cannot. I cannot promise you that homicides will go down if half as many, or a third, or a tenth as many who are looting stores on North Michigan Avenue in Chicago were instead running up and down the streets, demanding that the perpetrator of these horrific crimes be apprehended and brought to justice.

I assure you, and we know this from the way that the country reacts to mass shootings when there’s a school shooting and the kids… And they’re most often white kids, I’m sorry to have to report, and it’s a tragedy. And our heart goes out to these people. Well, there are black kids and numerous, I mean, many, many more who are being not in one room at one time or who were losing these lives. This is a horrible, horrible thing. So I must tell you, and this is a partisan comment, I hold it against Black Lives Matter that they neglect this. They want to talk about cops. Okay, let’s talk about cops. We can talk about cops, but believe me, 10 times, 50 times as many black people are losing their lives at the hands of criminals, folks, people, murderous gang settling disputes by firing their weapons into crowds, killing babies. These are black people. This is a reality of certain black communities.

I’m trying to answer your question. You said, what would the subsidiarity imply about this? It would mean witness. It would mean voice. It would mean a prophetic condemnation, a call to a higher ground. It would mean organization of interventions. When I was more active in my church back in Boston when my kids were young, I can remember some of the pastors in Boston, Ray Hammond was one of them, Eugene Rivers was another one, then Bruce Wall was there, they all ran congregations around the city and they would go out at 1:00 o’clock in the morning and they would stand and pray on street corners where they knew the gangbangers were hanging out.

They would go to the funerals and they would have these kids and they’re coming to a relationship with Jesus in their congregations and then leading youth ministries and blah blah blah. You can’t tell me that there’s nothing that can be done. Would it solve the problem? No, I can’t guarantee that it would solve the problem, but one thing it would do, it would be to affirm the dignity of our community, the human dignity of our community. That’s the kind of thing that my development orientation would call for.

Albert Mohler: That development orientation in this sense is just as moral, and I’ll argue, actually driven by a more profound moral impulse, even than the bias narrative, because the bias narrative, the immorality of slavery, the immorality of segregation and race-based discrimination, frankly, anyone who’s not going to argue for the immorality of race-based chattel slavery in the United States doesn’t deserve to be a part of the conversation. But once you make that agreement, the moral issue is then what’s now causing inequality? Where’s the brokenness now? And how can we actually resolve it? But that leads me to say that for white conservative Christians in the United States, and for the evangelical movement, a part of what we have to recognize is that also driven by biblical concerns, we want to address what’s necessary for human development to take place in the present, in the future, as well as in the past.

But that also means we got to deal with people who right now are inheriting brokenness. We need to do everything actually to help as much as we can the people who are actually right now trying to raise boys without a father in the home, who are trying to create order out of disorder in our neighborhood or in our community, are trying to pull together as much of a family and kinship structure as possible. And that’s why I think we have so many African-American churches in particular who do a just remarkable work doing that in their communities. And I’m in awe the many times I’m watching what these churches are doing.

Glenn Loury: Yes sir.

Albert Mohler: And I want to be a part of doing what’s right, not just saying what’s wrong.

Glenn Loury: I got to give voice to this. I run a podcast and one of the things I do is I always try to argue the other side, even the other side from what I actually believe. Here’s what they’re going to say, Dr. Mohler, they’re going to say, “That’s fine. That’s fine. But I tell you what, here’s what politics can do, it can tax, it can create programs, it can allocate resources. What about healthcare?” They’re going to say. “What about housing?” They’re going to say. “What about money for education? We need more money for the schools.” Those are the things that the public conversation should be focused on because those are the things that are amenable to remedy through political action. That’s why it’s important to have.

And then there’s going to be a program and Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden or somebody is going to embody that program, and so you’re going to have a political argument. And they’re going to say, “What you’re talking about is not really politics, what you’re talking about is something for the private sector, for volunteerism, for charity or whatever. So let’s just be clear what we’re talking about, keep talking to church and when we go into the voting booth, we’ll figure out how to spend the money.”

Albert Mohler: Well, I don’t think it’s accidental that many of the people who are dealing with these questions, I think most productively are actually economists. I would say you and Thomas Sowell, for instance, who I credit with a lot of influence in my thinking. I mentioned in the beginning of the conversation your notion of social capital, but behind that is the notion of capital. And so again, in my response to that as a political argument or to Bernie or to Joe Biden is you’re writing checks you’re not going to be able to cash. In other words, the conditions that produce the wealth or the capital that would actually pay for what you’re talking about, you’re undermining by doing that. So you’re going to get the immediate thrill of announcing a big program, but number one, if you don’t fix what’s more fundamental, it’s not going to work. And number two, you’re going to run out of the money. And so then what?

Glenn Loury: I’m glad you mentioned Thomas Sowell. He’s a great man and he’s 90-years-old or so, God love him. And he just deserves to be respected as a great man. You know?

Albert Mohler: Absolutely.

Glenn Loury: Some of us are trying to get the White House to consider him for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and I think it’s a very good thing. But you’re right. I am an economist. And when I put the green eye shade on, I’m looking at the 1960s and ’70s expansion of the welfare state, the great society and whatnot, model cities and all of this job training and whatever, whatever. And what do we got to show for it? We had a war on poverty and as the joke goes, poverty one, not quite. I’m not going to say the great society was nothing. I’m not going to say Medicaid. You want to get rid of Medicaid or whatever. I’m not going to go quite that far, but I do think there’s a point about incentives, about how markets work, about the Laffer curve, you can raise the tax rate all you want to, but after a while, it’s going to stop working. You can teach a person to fish, or you can just make sure they get a check every month. These are things that are true. And I think the history of our social policy shows that there are diminishing returns rapidly setting in to throwing money at problems and thinking you’re going to solve them.

Albert Mohler: No, I can understand why it’s politically successful as a policy, but even looking at the war on poverty, the blunt statistics demonstrate that poverty was actually a more pressing problem 20 years after the war on poverty than it was before. In terms of causality, all kinds of things went into it, but again, I have to go back to the development narrative that you demonstrate and say, “Well, but the problem is that what actually would have produced tremendous wealth and capital, intact families, intact communities, ordered societies, low crime rate and all that, without that, it turned out that poverty was more expensive than the war on poverty could address.”

I want poverty to be pushed back. I want human flourishing to happen. And by the way, I appreciate what you said about Thomas Sowell. His book, The Conflict of Visions is, I think, one of the most important books in conservative history just in terms of setting out the issues, not to mention the incredible work he’s done in social theory and economics. And also just an incredibly courageous man who believes in liberty. But Professor Loury, I’d like to shift the conversation to ask you, how’s it going for you at Brown University?

Glenn Loury: When I decided I’m going to launch a Patreon account and ask people if they like my podcast, then they would like to support my work, they could go ahead and make a contribution just as an insurance policy. No, I’m kidding. I am launching the accounts though, and if you follow my podcast, that’s The Glenn Show, which you can find on YouTube, you’ll hear about it in due course. Thanks for allowing me to get that commercial in. They’re not about to fire me at Brown. I have tenure, I’m well paid, I’m respected by my colleagues. They know that I’m a distinguished member of the faculty. They appreciate that I’m having an impact, which at the end of the day is good for the university on the national conversation about important questions. So I don’t want to overstate the case. Now, having said that, I’m the odd man out in almost every faculty meeting about almost any issue.

Albert Mohler: I think so.

Glenn Loury: When it comes to equity diversity, and inclusion, I’m saying, “Don’t lower the standards for the black applicants, hold them to the same standard and help us meet the standard. Don’t worry about the short-term number. Don’t be trying to get to 10% or 12% overnight if there’s a pipeline shortage and whatnot, let’s take the longer view.” And when it comes to the curriculum, I’m the one who’s saying, “Let’s read the classics,” believe it or not. That’s what I’m saying. Dead white men, no, no. Just good books. We’ve got some good books written by some folks who are not dead or are not white or not male. I’m prepared to read them too, let’s reads the books, and on and on and on. And I will find myself to be a relatively lonely voice.

Glenn Loury: So when the president of my university sent around the letter after George Floyd’s death apparently at the hands of the police officer in Minneapolis a few months ago, she sent around the letter and it was like a manifesto written by Black Lives Matter. And it had every officer of the university signature on it and she put it forward as we, as us. And I thought, “Oh my God, we’re a university. And here’s group think being enshrined by the official hierarchy of the university and we’re all supposed to think the same thing here. And even if 99% of us think it, that’s not the way a university should be conducting its affairs. The universities don’t have positions on the New Deal. Universities don’t have positions on the Iraq war. Universities don’t have position, in my opinion, on Biden versus Trump.

Universities cultivate and protect this great treasure of the historically accumulated learning and wisdom of humankind and they try to propagate it to the next generation. That’s what universities do. And if you’re going to speak to political issues, don’t speak as a partisan, speak in the analytical registers, talk in terms of what the philosophical implications of the greatest thinking of humankind is for the character’s circumstance. Don’t be a flack, don’t be CNN. This is what I’m saying to my university president.

I’m still employed at Brown but you know what, no one has come to me and said… A number of people have written privately, and they said, “I agree with you. I agree with you. I agree.” No one has come to me and said, “I hated every word of what you have to say,” but I’m sure it’s true for many of my colleagues, maybe the decline in my dinner party invitations… This is before COVID. Maybe the decline in my dinner party invitations is an indication that I’m not in good favor with some of my colleagues, but professionally I’m okay.

Albert Mohler: I want to ask you an honest question, and you can answer it, I can’t. But you’ve taught it at Harvard Brown, many other leading universities. How possible would it be now for someone who’s a young Glenn Loury to be hired to teach at Brown or Harvard, or for that matter, University of Michigan or anywhere else like that?

Glenn Loury: All right. If this person were organic chemist with a good publication record in organic chemistry, who has a sideline tweeted or blog of thoughts of the sort that I’ve given voice to here, I’d say they have a 30% chance to get hired. But if they were a professor of English, of history, of sociology and they were trying to get hired, the number would be zero. They would have no chance whatsoever. They would be peripherally excluded. No one would even bother to consider them because it would just be beyond the pale. It would just be considered unspeakable. So I think things do differ as between the STEM fields and the humanities in terms of the severity, but they’re having even scientists sign loyalty oaths now. Even scientists are having to issue statements about their commitments to diversity, which is a bizarre… These are loyalty oaths. It’s a bizarre thing to behold.

Albert Mohler: Well, I’m looking at things like these diversity and inclusion evaluations use to faculty in which as a part of the tenure process, and then even post tenure evaluation, what they’re requiring is… I know this is where it gets to all fields, you’ve got to… I was talking to someone a matter of weeks ago who’s in the STEM fields. And I said, “How does that work?” And he said, “Well, I’ve got to try to find sources that are representing ethnic LGBTQ or whatever kind of links. And put those in my paper, or I’m not going to get accepted into the peer review journal in this.” And I’m just thinking, “Well, that’s an-“

Glenn Loury: That’s an outrage.

Albert Mohler: But isn’t that where all this is headed?

Glenn Loury: Yeah, actually, it is where it’s headed. It’s a threat to our civilization. It is a debasement of the currency. It undermines standards of scientific judgment. You’re going to cite somebody because of the color of their skin or the way their genitalia fall or what their preferences are? And you’re going to site, not based upon the scientific property of the contribution, but in order to have a representative set of citations, and why are you doing this? Because people can’t get tenure without having articles published that get a lot of citations. So people are writing papers, and now they’re not getting enough citations and they’re black. And so you’ve got to get them more citations by encouraging scholars to cite them, not for the content of the paper, but for the color of the author? That’s the road to intellectuals serfdom. I’ve perhaps overstated, but I assure you only slightly.

Albert Mohler: No, I asked the question because I sense it’s that way. I have conversation with a conservative professor, not only conservative, but conservative professors in elite institutions, and they often point to themselves as examples that conservatives can indeed teach in those institutions. But my question is always, could you be hired now? And what’s being required in so many of these search processes and other things is a positive confession of agreement on many issues that are outside the field for that matter before there’s any continuation of this. And especially in fields, as you mentioned, like English or history, but with some exceptions. Law is increasingly headed the same direction. I have to wonder about economics. I just have to ask you.

Glenn Loury: Well, I’d like to think that, but I think I’d be foolish to ignore the possibility of it. Economics is distinctive in that we’re a pretty analytical discipline. We’re anchored in the methods of inquiry that are very statistical and really require a focus in the research that is not at all political, it doesn’t lend itself to the ideological expression. People want to get to the bottom line, they want to see the equations, they want the graphs and the tables. They want to know the standard error on your estimate. They want to see your model, this kind of thing. That’s what goes into the journals. So I think economics should be pretty hard for the postmodern relativist to conquer, but I have to put it, the barbarians are at the gates.

Albert Mohler: That’s right.

Glenn Loury: That’s an unkind way of saying it, but it’s the way I tend to look at it. I see the camel’s nose under the tent, or whatever the right metaphor is here, of modern concerns, especially about diversity, equity and inclusion creeping into the profession. An editor of a major journal, The Journal of Political Economy, a guy who was a professor at the University of Chicago has been in effect canceled because people have gone after him for being a racist based on a tweet. He tweeted something about Black Lives Matter. People got mad at him and there’s a lot of concern about the underrepresented minorities and about the place of women in the profession, which is causing committees to be formed, statements to be issued and so on. So I’d be foolish to ignore the possibility that economics could be effective, but I think relative to history, sociology, English departments and so on, economics is still pretty much unaffected by this development.

Albert Mohler: As you say, the barbarians are at the gate, or another way to put it is that the long march to the institutions is already well underway. And I don’t think they’re going stop at the door of the economics department any more than they did at theology. And so we’re all in this great battle. And as you say, it’s a civilizational battle together. You’re a man of rare courage and insight, and Professor Loury, I just want to thank you again for joining with me today for Thinking in Public.

Glenn Loury: Thank you very much, Dr. Mohler. It’s been my pleasure to be with you.

Albert Mohler: That was a conversation worth having. And as I said, many of these issues right now are on the headlines of the United States, but behind the headlines are people, and behind the headlines are ideas. Understanding those ideas and the clash of those ideas, the worldview implications of what’s taking place in the headlines, and for that matter right now on the streets. The future of higher education in America, what’s happening, even as Professor Loury said, the barbarians are at the gates. A lot for us to think about, and I really appreciate the conversation.

Thanks again to my guest, Glenn Loury, for thinking with me today. If you enjoyed today’s episode of Thinking in Public, you’ll find more than a hundred of these conversations at albertmohler.com under the tab, Thinking in Public. For more information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com. Thank you for joining me for Thinking in Public. Until next time, keep thinking. I’m Albert Mohler.