College: slouching toward consumption.

Many people find it strange to realize that higher education spending is classified as a consumption item by the government. Clearly it seems much more naturally classified as an investment. We’re cultivating human capital here. Or at least that’s the proximate reason we come to college.

Yet it’s increasingly clear we’re getting ripped off (or maybe we’re ripping off our future employers?). David Brooks is worried that the lack of measurement in collegiate level educational outcomes is going to doom our higher education system.

There’s an atmosphere of grand fragility hanging over America’s colleges. The grandeur comes from the surging application rates, the international renown, the fancy new dining and athletic facilities. The fragility comes from the fact that colleges are charging more money, but it’s not clear how much actual benefit they are providing.

This is absolutely true insofar as Brooks is concerned with a few core outcomes: critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing. These are from “Academically Adrift,” which Brooks leans on for his assertion that students simply seem to not be learning. He mentions a number of possible remedies, especially (*gasp*) standardized testing. That sounds anathema, but I’m not sure how else we can reach anything close to an objective assessment of learning outcomes that we can interpersonally and inter-temporally compare.

This won’t do, many of my peers cry. College is so much more than answers on a standardized test. It’s four years of incredible experience. We grow as humans. We love, we laugh, we cry. Many travel to foreign lands and do varying degrees of studying there. We network with future leaders in business and politics. We get to see some awesome entertainment events that come to universities to capitalize on scale, especially sports. We also learn a few intellectual things along the way.

This kind of experience is very meaningful for people. But it’s hard to value and definitely hard to assess. Also, its value lies with the student, and not with future employers. However, what we do know is that this kind of life experience might be one of the most valuable things money can buy. This I now turn over to Garrett Jones, who argues persuasively to me that memory ought to be classified as a consumer durable.

People often shrink from driving to a distant, promising restaurant, flying to a new country, trying a new sport–it’s a hassle, and the experience won’t last that long. That’s the wrong way to look at it. When you go bungee jumping, you’re not buying a brief experience: You’re buying a memory, one that might last even longer than a good pair of blue jeans.

Psych research seems to bear this out: People love looking forward to vacations, they don’t like the vacation that much while they’re on it, and then they love the memories. Most of the joy–the utility in econospeak–happens when you’re not having the experience.

One more thing he says: we should accumulate memory as much as we can when we’re young. It’s durable. You get more years to enjoy it the younger you get it. And since it’s the original experience is ephemeral, you don’t get bored of it like many other purchases you buy. It doesn’t lose it’s shine.

Jones doesn’t mention higher ed, but it seems like the perfect candidate to me for this kind of spending. Increasingly, it appears that a justification for college by college students is the accumulation of a treasure trove of memories they intend to cherish. These memories make them happy, and they believe that the experiences they remember helped them to flourish, which makes them all the more gratifying.

I don’t see this is a retort to Brooks though. College has traditionally been an investment in one’s personal human capital. For those who are looking at a person and measuring up the value of their education, they are still likely to be solely interested in how much they learned. I think we can increasingly see college today as having both a consumption and investment component. We’re building our knowledge, and we’re buying memories. Those are memories that mean something to us, and they are instrumental — we get to signal our status in society by sharing our collegiate memories. They pay huge dividends. Almost no one except prospective employers cares what you got out of college other than knowing that you went, and finished, and feel good about it. This unlocks productive dinner conversations with people of privilege who can advance us even further in life.

That’s well and good. But it doesn’t change the fact that the proximate reason for college — to learn — is not being delivered upon. Learning, monetarily, happens to be the most valuable part. Memories have value, but knowledge is what delivers humans to the highest paid levels of the modern service economy. So with college cost inflating, and students increasingly substituting out the most valuable aspect of college for the more temporally gratifying, but subsidiary component, something’s not adding up. What I believe Brooks is saying is that actual transparency about how college is delivering on the things future employers value will help bring that equation into balance. I tend to agree. Without the data, employers can still perform their own assessments, but often take our intellect for granted. We’re screwing them with every marginal increase in beer consumption at the expense of study hours, even as college becomes more and more about professional accreditation. We’re laughing all the way to the bank.

I think my peers would actually agree as well, even though they don’t want to. Like I said, it feels intuitively wrong to call college a consumption purchase. On some level, we know what we’re supposed to be here for. If things keep going along this trajectory, though, college will authentically be pure consumption before long. That means it’s value lies almost solely with the consumer.

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Clarity on student loans.

Let me start by saying I thoroughly enjoyed Barack Obama’s visit to UNC, and all of the ancillary benefits of that (Jimmy Fallon). But let us be clear that this was a political trip in which the president pandered on an issue that appears relevant to young people.

I felt like most of my peers understood that, but all of a sudden it appears that either 1) I was wrong 2) they forgot they were being shallowly pandered to or 3) they don’t understand the implications of that pandering. I’m leaning toward 3. Clearly, one can be pandered do about a substantively good public policy — but I’m willing to bet it’s rare. In any event, it’s not the case with respect to student loans.

But the will to publicity is just too great, as evidenced by this, in which our student body president becomes a shill for the Obama reelection campaign.

What are to be the goals of education spending policy? Increasing access? Affordability for the least well off?

Changing the student loan interest rate does almost none of this.

Will Willkinson notes that most of the beneficiaries are those who have already graduated, many of whom have earned their ticket to upper-middle classdom, or are at least well along that trajectory. In any event, as Justin Wolfers has noted, and which Wilkinson also mentions, we can do a lot better by taking the money and putting it elsewhere.

What would be better? Almost anything. Taking the $6 billion dollars it would cost to keep the rate down for one year and applying it to scholarships for poor students would be one way. One would want to influence people on the margin, so a program that is completely targeted at entrants who are on the financial fence would be far better. Also, poor people spend money we give them. An investment banker clearing six figures but with student debt is much more likely to pocket his reduced interest expense. So again, reducing rates across the board is sub-optimal.

It’s been said that this isn’t an issue because it costs pretty much nothing for the government to borrow, so even lending at just a few percent can allow them to make a profit. Jason Delisle, writing for The Agenda, gives us reason to believe it’s not so simple.

If you subscribe to the argument that we should measure (i.e. discount) the cost of government loans based solely on what the government pays to finance them with Treasury debt, you effectively treat the equity risk taxpayers bear in making the loans as costless. Or more aptly, you exclude it. You treat average expected losses as if they are certain to occur and assume the government won’t need to call on taxpayers to make up for unexpected losses. That is more or less the approach written into a 1990 accounting law that today still binds federal budget analysts at the Congressional Budget Office and every federal agency.

This is because taxpayers are on the hook for all unexpected losses. That makes them equity investors in the program, which makes them assume costly equity risk that isn’t accounted for by the government. According to Delisle, we spend more on the student loan program than on guaranteeing home mortgages or mortgage-backed securities.

Of course, the president isn’t dumb. I’m dumb. Why would he be campaigning on this issue at college campuses if it wasn’t a winning stance to woo young voters, even those who are supposed to be intelligent and inquiring? It is clear that no interest group is immune from rent-seeking. So to that end, kudos to our student body president for going out and advocating for extracting taxpayer rents for subsidizing the future good living of students who incur debt to come here.

Social capital and decay.

A few thoughts that stemmed from Ross Douthat’s latest column. He writes:

The question hanging over the future of American social life, then, is whether all the possibilities of virtual community — the connections forged by Facebook and Twitter; the back alleys of the Internet where fans of “A Dance to the Music of Time” or “Ren & Stimpy” can find one another; the hum of virtual conversation that’s available any hour of the day — can make up for the weakening of flesh-and-blood ties and the decline of traditional communal institutions.

I think this is precisely the question – because we’re not going back from the cliff. We’ve already taken the plunge.

There’s a lot of chatter about the decay of Social Capital. Charles Murray sees it as a huge problem for poorer communities that are lagging socially and economically. Robert Putnam obviously has shed great light on it through Bowling Alone.

My question though is whether we have properly adapted our conception of social capital. One ought to expect social capital as we traditionally conceive it to rapidly decay as people make marginal substitutions of physical interaction for online social networking. They will continue to do so until technology stops advancing in ways that make virtual life more and more pleasant. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a decade we look back at a lot of the early studies of the diminishment of social capital and physical communities as a little archaic and misspecified. It’s very hard to measure anything in social science and assumptions can be critical. People, especially of middle age, appear to me to be quite biased toward personal interaction.

Last thing:

Today, social media are hailed for empowering dissidents and undercutting tyrannies around the world. Yet it’s hard not to watch the Google video and agree with Forbes’s Kashmir Hill when she suggests that such a technology could ultimately “accelerate the arrival of the persistent and pervasive citizen surveillance state,” in which everything you see and do can be recorded, reported, subpoenaed … you name it.

This is why I will shout from the rofftops that, while Orwell gave us so much, it was Huxley who got the future right. People will not live in totalitarian torture forever. Hedonic bliss, however, completely disarms them.

The thing I haven’t heard about Ikea’s new TV.

Admittedly this is minor. And I don’t usually blog about consumer electronics. But there’s one thing I haven’t heard much about the new Ikea all-in-one furniture/HDTV piece (Uppleva).

I think Gruber is right at this isn’t necessarily disruptive innovation, but it takes televisions in the right direction in a few key ways.

There are some practical issues that make it impossible for every component to be wireless, yet we are moving rapidly into a wireless age in every way except with all the damn ad hoc pieces that comprise our entertainment systems. Ikea addresses this by using furniture to hide component wires where wires are needed, to store speakers internally, and then allows the subwoofer to be wireless. Great compromise.

Possibly the most significant thing about this to me though is that Ikea is marrying the it’s ethos of expendability in a very natural way. People keep TV’s for a few years, probably less than a decade, and upgrade periodically. One of the defining features of Ikea furniture, besides its Scandinavian minimalism, is it’s short lifespan. Ikea, copied by Target and other flatterers, made furniture for people who move around, not for people who settle down (although it’s great for that too). Furniture used to be endowed with permanence — an heirloom. Who’s gonna pass their Pöang chair down to the grandkid?

So while I think Ikea is being innovative, I think they are also having a #facepalm moment when they realize that their furniture’s lifespan dovetails nicely with the expected lifespan of consumer electronics. It’s the only way you could bundle this without giving people heartache later, when their TV is outdated, speakers are blown, but their furniture is awesome. It will all suck and you can drop another Grand on a new one!

Evolving on ECB.

From a Credit Suisse report on shadow banking:

This simple framework explains two apparent paradoxes. In Europe, the system cannot be stabilized over the long term without deep changes in the framework of fiscal oversight and mutual support (progress towards fiscal union), nor without politically difficult reforms that boost flexibility and competitiveness in the periphery. This means that the ECB (and the German government) should not, indeed must not, provide unconditional support (firewalls) until these changes have progressed further.

But it also helps explain why – even with growth conditions improving and some signs of life in private credit demand emerging, the Federal Reserve seems to be itching to do more – or at least to make clear its willingness to do more should growth falter or new threats to recovery emerge. That in turn makes perfect sense given that the stock of liquid private collateral – the source material of “shadow money” – still isn’t growing. That’s consistent with an economy operating well below its capacity. It is the modern monetary counterpart of large output gaps. [emphasis mine]

Why does this need to be paradoxical? Maybe ALL central banks ought to provide unconditional support. I used to be of the “no pain no gain” school of Puritanical economics but I think we have to throw off our notion that suffering is the path to salvation. People are dying today. This isn’t completely black and white but I am beginning to find the present to be ever-compelling.

Ann Romney & Choice Feminism.

Reihan Salam, at The Agenda, has a rich interpretation of the significance of the Ann Romney “War on Moms” uproar that got me thinking about a lot of ancillary points, which I’m going to try to coherently elaborate on, especially with respect to feminism.

I didn’t expect the Ann Romney debacle to raise these questions, and I thank Salam for making me think back on some of feminism’s grappling with these issues. As an economics major I’m quite amenable to viewing people atomistically, and thinking as if a husband and wife essentially come together at a table and calculate their optimal division of labor (if you’re Justin Wolfers and Betsey Stevenson, the answer is to hire a nanny and a personal driver). But there are certainly moral and metaphysical dimensions regarding agency and the “flourishing” (a concept we’ve been grappling with since Aristotle) that we want individuals to partake in that make this much more than a positivist problem. At its core, I think this is exactly why Salam says that policies that influence women’s decisions to either work in the home or go out into the market strike such a visceral nerve in the respective political communities.

Specifically, he cites the work of Catherine Hakim on “preference theory.” This is a theory she allegedly has developed to help explain women’s economic and family choices in the modern world. Her theory predicts diversity among modern women as to the ideal family arrangement. This isn’t necessarily good, as Salam quotes her in his piece:

The heterogeneity of women’s preferences and priorities creates conflicting interests between groups of women: sometimes between home-centred women and work-centred women, sometimes between the middle group of adaptive women and women who have one firm priority (whether for family work or employment). The conflicting interests of women have given a great advantage to men, whose interests are comparatively homogeneous; this is one cause of patriarchy and its disproportionate success.

Damn that patriarchy. It’s quite ironic that the opening of opportunity for women in the market has worked both to liberate them and divide them. Men are monolithically oriented toward being breadwinners. Women aren’t so sure. This is bad for women’s interests in jockeying for resources. I think this is plausible. Hakim portrays this is empirically modeled behavior, but I’m not so sure there’s not a tinge of normatively. If women’s diversity of economic participation is bad, then that seems to imply that there are some decisions women ought to be making.

Salam also has a section on how land use regulations can actually exacerbate this problem. Suffice it to say that I also find that compelling (land use is suddenly sexy and seems to find its way into an awful lot of narratives recently). More on that in a minute.

I find this fascinating for the fact that this is an instance when a seemingly banal teapot tempest steeped in superficial politicking actually has some substantive undercurrent. I’m specifically intrigued by what seems to be an ongoing discussion in feminism about whether one ought to be agnostic about women’s work choices.

The extent to which women have authentic agency, as strong patriarchal social forces still prevail, is disputable. I am very libertarian on a lot of these issues and it’s therefore crucial for me to assume people are agentic. I could be wrong. If women in fact lack authentic agency, then what is the value in something like preference theory, which seeks to empirically model women’s choices? If you don’t have agency, you don’t actually choose in any meaningful way. This is a fascinating question to me and one that I think it quite contentious mainly because we can’t measure this with any certainty, and, if we buy the feminist narrative about the power of social currents, then our own thinking is critically debilitated. It seems that Hakim has to assume that modern women have for the most part overcome patriarchal forces. From what Salam quotes, she seems to suggest that:

Preference theory forms part of the new stream of sociological theory that emphasises ideational change as a major cause of social behaviour. Giddens’ theory of reflexive modernity emphasises individualisation as the driving force for change in late modernity. Individualisation frees people from the influence of social class, nation, and family. Agency becomes more important than the social structure as a determinant of behaviour, even when ‘structure’ is understood in Giddens’ sense of rules and resources. Men and women not only gain the freedom to choose their own biography, values and lifestyle, they are forced to make their own decisions because there are no universal certainties or collectively agreed conventions, no fixed models of the good life, as in traditional or early modern industrial societies (Beck et al., 1994; Giddens, 1991).

Yet she refers to ongoing patriarchy up above. In fact, the very reason that women have their own theory about how they make these kinds of decisions seems to suggest the presence of strong social forces that override agency. Why do men not face the same calculus about whether to stay home? I’d love to hear Hakim discuss agency more — I’m sure she has an explanation.

One person who has little tolerance for upper class women making choices about whether to work in the market or at home is feminist Linda Hirshman. In a piece for the American Prospect called “Homeward Bound,” this is what she had to say about Choice Feminism, which, like Salam and presumably Hakim, seeks to be agnostic about women’s work decisions:

Thereafter, however, liberal feminists abandoned the judgmental starting point of the movement in favor of offering women “choices.” The choice talk spilled over from people trying to avoid saying “abortion,” and it provided an irresistible solution to feminists trying to duck the mommy wars. A woman could work, stay home, have 10 children or one, marry or stay single. It all counted as “feminist” as long as she chose it. (So dominant has the concept of choice become that when Charlotte, with a push from her insufferable first husband, quits her job, the writers at Sex and the City have her screaming, “I choose my choice! I choose my choice!”)

What does Hirshman say to that?

Here’s the feminist moral analysis that choice avoided: The family — with its repetitious, socially invisible, physical tasks — is a necessary part of life, but it allows fewer opportunities for full human flourishing than public spheres like the market or the government. This less-flourishing sphere is not the natural or moral responsibility only of women. Therefore, assigning it to women is unjust. Women assigning it to themselves is equally unjust. To paraphrase, as Mark Twain said, “A man who chooses not to read is just as ignorant as a man who cannot read.”

I’ve always found this piece fascinating. Hirshman’s advice is that women who have the means to get a good education and become affluent should. They should marry down, in fact, so that they have resource advantages over their spouse. Her argument is very preachy, but it has potency. One can certainly argue that flourishing demands being in the public sphere. And no one can argue against the notion that women cannot enact beneficial social change if they are at home. One can count on the diversity of personal choice to allow some women to get out there and become leadersBut if you follow Hirshman’s logic, not working when you could sets back women, or at least stands to. It also ensures your inability to flourish. Who wants to be negligent and decadent?

Hirshman has written on this topic a number of times. Most recently, she addressed the Ann Romney controversy in the Washington Post. One point in her piece that struck me:

Women who work in the home do not have the same interest in the recovery of the formal job market as women who have to work for pay. Indeed, wage-earning women probably have more in common with their paycheck-dependent male co-workers on the subject of economic recovery than with household laborers such as Ann Romney.

This I actually find less persuasive. Hirshman says later on that housewives overwhelmingly vote for the GOP, and perhaps she’s trying to find a reason as to why (presumably she believes that Democrats are more supportive of, or at least less antithetical to, the ends of women in the economic sphere). In any case, Hirshman thinks the Ann Romneys of the world are an electoral lost cause, and Democrats can do better by focusing on working women who actually care about equal pay, state-suported reproductive initiatives, and other politically-charged economic issues.

But the notion that women at home are not as interested in job market recovery as working women seems like an incorrect intuition. Here’s Salam again, on land use regulation (promised it’d be back).

Families that place a strong emphasis on allowing female partners to specialize in household production might be particularly drawn to low-cost metropolitan areas, in which land-use regulations are relatively relaxed and housing and other necessities are relatively inexpensive. Families that place a strong emphasis on a less-specialized division of labor, in contrast, might be more drawn to highly productive metropolitan areas rich in job opportunities, thus easing coordination problems between partners in different occupations. Yet these regions also tend to have stricter land-use regulations and thus higher housing costs.

But you can’t just move to a city because you want to both be able to work. City living is expensive (unnecessarily so) and cities are particularly amenable in the modern economy to individuals who are high cognitive performers — the kind of people who are highly educated service workers in jobs that realized most of the income gains over the past half century or so. The tradeoff is that housewives in the suburbs/exurbs might find themselves stuck there. There’s less economic opportunity, and they are possibly not as skilled as their city-dwelling counterparts. If true, these women are much more dependent upon their spouses, who also may be working in the kinds of jobs that have seen less income gains and have been hit hard by the recession. These women are so path dependent as to have a far larger vested interest in recovery. This is my sense, anyway.

We keep em honest.

Read a column from an individual who is allegedly a PhD student at UMass. You can read the column here. My response is below.

More broadly, I notice a consistent problem where people who believe they disagree with alternative world views seek to turn those world views into monolithic beasts. Almost no philosophy is so lacking in nuance, but forcing ourselves to learn more about that philosophy is tedious and makes us vulnerable to conceding ground on our subjective tribal beliefs. This is a problem

Hi Mike,
Not going to take too much of your time, but as an economics major and former opinion editor of a college paper I’m intrigued by your column. Mainly, I’m a little shocked that you are looking to Ron Paul, who  is neither an economist nor necessarily broadly representative of libertarian thinking on all issues, as the clearest articulator of economic thinking by libertarians. There are also a few quotes that stuck out to me as misguided or disingenuous.

“It’s a joke about how not to do economics. Bad economists engage in circular reasoning; they assume what they want to prove.”

I’m guessing you know this isn’t how economics works at all (hence, “bad” economists), and isn’t how the vast majority of libertarian economists think either. Assumptions inform models, not conclusions, and I know of no libertarian economists guilty of this fallacy. The assumption that people engage in mutually beneficial voluntary exchanges is really an assumption about instrumental rationality, which informs all economics models, including ones you work with, I’m sure.
In paragraph four you extrapolate from saying that voluntary exchange increases the personal happiness of both parties to saying that it is “a good thing.” That is not the same thing. I know of no living libertarians, and especially no well-regarded libertarian economists who deny the existence of market failures, especially negative externalities, which are perfect demonstrations of why what’s good for private parties in a single transaction can be detrimental in aggregate. In fact, the numerous examples you cite in the following paragraph are also great articulations of transactions that people actually are personally happier post facto but can be arguably bad on a social level (normative considerations aside). Economists generally believe that voluntary exchange, which is the foundation of the market system, is on average good for maximizing social welfare.

Did free markets lead to bad outcomes? That was an accident. Did government intervention lead to good outcomes? That was an accident too. Thus, any kind of historical experience that disproves libertarian economics can simply be dismissed as a coincidence – such as the great success of the American economy when government intervention was at an all-time high from about 1945 to 1975.

I don’t agree with the Austrian school, but there is a coherent Austrian narrative about business cycles under government intervention and fiat currency that is not entirely unpersuasive on the surface. A standard Austrian charge against central banking is that unnaturally low interest rates distort all transactions and lead to malinvestment, which fuels asset bubbles. Sound familiar?
Crucially, libertarian economists in general aren’t even trying to make the Austrian case. Friedman was a Monetarist (“we’re all Keynesians now”). Scott Sumner is a rather libertarian neoliberal, and is currently leading the charge for an extremely aggressive central bank that pursues NGDP level targeting. The Cato Institute, the most visible libertarian public policy organization, also tepidly supports central banking and AD management through monetary intervention. The gang at George Mason: same story.

So the basic assumption of libertarian economic theory, or subjective value, leads to the conclusion that redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor is good, and thus contradicts libertarian views on the free market. But don’t expect them to notice the irony.

I don’t even know if I agree about your analysis prior to this, but your characterization on the safety net is simply wrong. To cite an early libertarian:

There is no reason why, in a society which has reached the general level of wealth ours has, the first kind of security should not be guaranteed to all without endangering general freedom; that is: some minimum of food, shelter and clothing, sufficient to preserve health. Nor is there any reason why the state should not help to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance in providing for those common hazards of life against which few can make adequate provision.

That’s Hayek. Many libertarians believe in a minimum standard of income necessary for individuals to be able to effectively realize their liberties. You won’t find that in Ron Paul, but this really my point about the pitfalls of singling out one person, especially a radical person. Many modern libertarians are against the current structure of the safety net, but support policies like a national minimum income (Charles Murray).

To support Paul or his libertarian ideas, one must put blind faith in the absolute perfection of the free market and resist the temptation to look at the historical evidence or even just to consider the lessons of one’s own life experience. As such, it is no wonder why most of Paul’s support comes exactly from those people who have the least experience of struggling to survive in a market economy.

I very much agree with this paragraph. Sadly, I wish you would have made this case without launching a disingenuous, wholesale indictment of libertarianism and all of the ideas that libertarians have forwarded. Like most philosophies, libertarianism is not monolithic.

Ta-Nehisi illiberal.

Ta-Nehisi Coates has a terse statement on John Derbyshire’s firing.

Let’s not overthink this: John Derbyshire is a racist. Declaring such does not require an act of  of mind-reading, it requires an act of Derbyshire-reading:
I am a homophobe, though a mild and tolerant one, and a racist, though an even more mild and tolerant one, and those things are going to be illegal pretty soon, the way we are going.
I guess it’s admirable that Rich Lowry is taking time away from pondering why people think he’s a bigot, to denounce Derbyshire. But ‘Derb’ told you what he was in 2003. And National Review continued to employ him. That’s who they are.
What else is there?

I don’t want to waste too much time on this, but Coates links to a piece which has an appended follow-up in which Derb goes to great lengths to elaborate his views on this specific quote. The additional nuance is helpful. An important vein, which I find to be quite liberal, is that private views ought to not be subject to discrimination.

From my reading of Coates, he believes NR ought to have fired Derbyshire when they realized he was bigoted against blacks and homosexuals. That strikes me as particularly, and ironically, illiberal.

I don’t regularly read Coates. My understanding is that people believe he is one of the best bloggers on the web. Maybe this is just a bad example.

If you fight for civil liberty, and especially against discrimination, I think it’s one of the great tests of your tolerance to be able to apply your principles universally. NR did just that: aware of Derb’s private intolerance, the magazine understood that Derb’s and all of its employees’ private thoughts were their own. What solely mattered was the editorial content of the publication, which censors private views of authors who do not align with it.

I commend Rich Lowry for doing that. Coates’ soft suggestion that Lowry is a bigot himself, and should fire employees based on private beliefs, belittles him.

Derb said one thing particularly prescient in the interview Coates links to:

Don’t get me wrong: there are good reasons for the self-imposed restraints that “respectable” conservative journalists like me accept–mainly, that we would be crucified but (sic) the liberal media establishment if we broached those limits, and have to give up opinionating and go find some boring office job somewhere.

Derb didn’t speak for all conservative journalists, but he understood his situation. He should have taken his own advice.