Let Harvard (and other colleges) Discriminate Based on Race

From Richard Hanania SCOTUS Must Go for the Heart of the Race State:

If this is the end result of SFFA, it will be the latest in a long line of Supreme Court decisions that sought to push back race- and gender-based governance while only making it stronger. In order to get around this problem, the Supreme Court should make clear that attempts to achieve a racially balanced student body are themselves in violation of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause.

He’s giving the basic Fox News or National Review talking point on this issue. The same talking points which for the past two decades have failed as the left’s cultural influence has only strengthened. I think Harvard should be allowed to discriminate by race, although I oppose it on principle.

I think Republicans fail on two points:

1. The overly-optimistic or unfounded assumption that a purely meritocratic admittance process will somehow fix or attenuate left-wing bias or somehow favor conservatives or conservative interests. This obviously was not the case when in the 1940s the so-called ‘Jewish quotas’ were lifted, copying the MIT approach.

2. The eight colleges that comprise the Ivy League are private intuitions. It’s contradictory to support free markets or freedom of association for other private companies or individuals, but private colleges do not have this right.

Harvard’s cultural influence surged in the 1940’s-1970’s after ending its earlier quotas. All these verbally-smart, exclusively left-wing graduates filled the top spots and ranks of media, business, law, government, and academia, such as Chuck Schumer. Their works had a major influence on the cultural zeitgeist. A Harvard degree was a ticket to the highest rungs of power.

Harvard owes its prestige and influence to the implicit belief that its graduates are exceptionally smart and competent. Affirmative action errodes this, especially if such institutions are transparent about such favoritism and make no attempts at hiding it. If the left wants to destroy one of its strongest institutions by diluting it, by all means let it. As it’s said, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” This is why an MIT degree is more valued than ever, because MIT is very outspoken about not having any favoritism.

This will reduce Harvard’s prestige and gatekeeping power once its motives are made transparent. I don’t know why so many conservatives and intellectuals who otherwise oppose Harvard having so much cultural power, oppose excessive student loan debt, support free markets, and oppose indoctrination care so much about preserving the sanctity of higher education, especially Harvard.

Yes, the conservative argument is that important cultural institutions are worth preserving and saving, but it also acts as a sort of economic toll booth too, which was not its original intended function. Not to mention, these institutions affect discourse and policy, which goes well beyond just learning.

From a ROI standpoint, college is still a ‘good deal’ at an individual level despite student loan debt, as I have argued in the past here, but it’s also possibly an unnecessary economic friction due to its rent-seeking and gatekeeping properties. The 4-year degree has become a necessity for entry into the middle class. This means young people who are in their peak productive years are not in the labor force, where they are valued most. And also the attainment of credentials means delayed family formation, falling fertility rates, and so on.

Massive, widespread affirmative action and other favoritism will only reduce the value of college as a signal in the eyes of employers, which is one way to mitigate the student loan debt problem. This will force employers to find better, more efficient or accurate alternatives.