Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Larry Summers Controversy

So the NY Times has begun to get into this issue with a little bit more depth a day after. It's worth a read to get a better picture of what happened the other day at the conference. Basically, he is asking is it strictly discrimination that is keeping women out of the academic positions in math and science or are there other factors as play instead or as well? Do women simply have different preferences whether they come from biological or cultural roots? Do women put a higher priority to starting a family rather than giving all to a career than men do?

I remember back in my freshman year in 2001, my intro to macroeconomics professor mentioned that Summers had gotten in trouble awhile ago for saying that developed countries should pay non-developed ones to take in their toxic and hazardous waste since the preferences of those living in poverty were significantly different than the ones of those in the developed countries. Basically, when you are struggling along, trying to survive, you might increase your risk of cancer, etc. in order to buy your kids some food and some shoes. Those who are richer are willing to pay significantly more to improve their environment as more immediate concerns are taken care of.

The prof loved talking about Summers since he was quite the Democrat and was convinced that there were some smart treasury secretaries under Clinton, including Summers, who were helping the economy flourish.

I was able to find out what I was referring to online. There is plenty of complaining about it. Here's one take on it.

In both cases I think people are getting a little too sensitive and I worry about shutting off debate and discussion about controversial issues and ideas. I am not saying that either positions are right or that people don't have a right argue against them, but it often seems that when someone makes a statement outside of the liberal side of controversy, activists immediately start gunning for the person's job. It creates a toxic atmosphere where people are too restrained to talk about things that need to be discussed frankly. I would argue the same for the controversy about Donovan McNabb created by Rush Limbaugh last year as well.

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