Sometimes academics make plausible assertions, if you buy their premises, ignore their assumptions, and don’t look for the evidence to back them up. “The humanities and the arts are being cut away, in both primary/secondary and college/university education, in virtually every corner of the world,” University of Chicago law school professor Martha C. Nussbaum writes in Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs The Humanities. “Seen by policy-makers as useless things in order to stay competitive in the global market, they are rapidly losing their place in curricula, and also in the minds and hearts of parents and children.”
“Indeed, what we might call the humanistic aspects of science and social science—the imaginative, creative aspect, and the aspect of rigorous critical thought—are also losing ground as nations prefer to pursue short-term profit by the cultivation of the useful and highly applied skills suited to profit-making.”
But she is not talking about reading Jane Austen, The Federalist Papers or even the U.S. Constitution. “The goal of a nation, says this model of development, should be economic growth,” she writes of the policies she dislikes. “Never mind about distribution and social equality, never mind about the preconditions of stable democracy, never mind about the quality of race and gender relations, never mind about the improvement of other aspects of a human being’s quality of life that are not well linked to economic growth.”
“(Empirical studies have by now shown that political liberty, health, and education are all poorly correlated with growth.)” Actually, matching up the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom with the Freedom House rankings of nations by human rights shows otherwise.
Indeed, the example she gives of a nation that proves her point is South Africa in the days of apartheid. By the way, economist Walter Williams gives a better description of that society in his book, South Africa’s War on Capitalism.
For one thing, the segregationist policies of the white minority government there were bolstered by a system of nationalized industries. Contrary to her claim, theirs was an economy focused on distribution.
It never occurs to Nussbaum that the wealth creation of free markets might lead to fewer inequalities than the planned economies of centralized governments. As to her concern about “race and gender relations,” in other fora she has offered some thoughts on same.
“I look at the various arguments that have been made against same-sex marriage,” she said in an interview with The Nation earlier this year. “And always in the back of the picture is the analogy to miscegenation.”
Then how do you explain the blacks who vote overwhelmingly against same-sex marriage? She doesn’t.
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.