A Harvard Ph.D. should have been able to figure out what was going on


Jason Richwine, Heritage Foundation scholar and Harvard School of Public Policy PhD, was forced to resign last week after people actually read some of his work.  Here’s conservative commentator Byron York:

On Friday morning, the 31 year-old scholar resigned from the Heritage Foundation, where he had co-authored the new report, “The Fiscal Cost of Unlawful Immigrants and Amnesty to the U.S. Taxpayer.” The paper, released last Monday and written largely by Heritage scholar Robert Rector, argued that Hispanic immigrants to the United States, most of them low-skill, end up costing the government more in benefits than they pay in taxes. It was an explosive entry into the debate over the comprehensive immigration reform measure currently being considered in the Senate. By the time of its release, reform advocates on the left and right had already published a number of “prebuttals” arguing that Rector and Richwine had it all wrong, that in fact immigration would be a net benefit in years to come.

Heritage expected that debate. What it did not expect was the firestorm that broke out Wednesday morning when a liberal Washington Post blogger posted an article titled, “Heritage study co-author opposed letting in immigrants with low IQs.” The blogger, Dylan Matthews, wrote that Richwine, who earned a doctorate from Harvard University in 2009, had written a dissertation, “IQ and Immigration Policy,”which argued that on average immigrants to the U.S., particularly Hispanic immigrants, have lower IQ scores than “the white native population.” Admitting immigrants with higher IQs, Richwine argued, would be a better immigration policy than admitting low-IQ newcomers.

. . . .

It got worse. In the 24 hours that followed the Post’s initial report, other outlets noted that in 2010 Richwine published two articles on a website called AlternativeRight.com, which describes itself as “an online magazine dedicated to heretical perspectives on society and culture” but is better defined as a site with a strong white nationalist perspective. Then a web video surfaced of Richwine saying, during a 2008 panel discussion, “Decades of psychometric testing has indicated that at least in America, you have Jews with the highest average IQ, usually followed by East Asians, then you have non-Jewish whites, Hispanics, and then blacks. These are real differences, and they’re not going to go away tomorrow, and for that reason we have to address them in our immigration discussions and our debates.

To repeat, this is the description of a conservative commentator.  Here’s how he then sets up Richwine’s reply:

By Friday, he was saying his goodbyes at Heritage and wondering what had happened. “It still amazes me that it would be me who is portrayed this way,” Richwine says. “I have a pretty good educational background, I have a good background in doing very good quantitative work. The idea that I am some sort of foaming-at-the-mouth extremist never even crossed my mind.”

They should have fired him for that view: you don’t have to be “foaming at the mouth” or “extremist” to hold wrong or ill-formed racist views.  As a matter of fact, not being an ignorant extremist just makes the charge more damning.  York makes effectively the same point:

That is true, but assessments of AlternativeRight at the time of its founding pegged it as a white nationalist site. The site’s editors “hide their sexist and racist ideologies behind the gloss of sweet-sounding, pseudo-intellectual terms,” wrote Tim Mak, then a reporter for David Frum’s old site FrumForum. “Instead of spouting racism, Alternative Right is engaging in the much more respectable-sounding analysis of ‘human biological diversity’ and ‘socio-biology.'” Mak’s article appeared the same week Richwine published his piece for AlternativeRight.

And even if the words in the site’s articles sounded respectable, a Harvard Ph.D. should have been able to figure out what was going on.