Reading Mr. Will, as is often the case, is a mixed bag. He's likely right to question language from Senator Obama claiming "more young black men languish in prison than attend colleges and universities." yet there is more than just some truthiness there. This NYT's article Plight Deepens for Black Men, Studies Warn might be "amusing" to George Will yet this MSNBC piece Reports offer grim forecast for young black men: New studies find them falling further out of labor force, mainstream society from the same period echoes the same concern. The study Cellblocks or Classrooms?: The Funding of Higher Education and Corrections and Its Impact on African American Men might be another link worthy of sharing yet you'll need to click through ERIC for the PDF download.
The following suggests George Will just can't help himself:
... Liberalism likes victimization narratives and the related assumption that individuals are blank slates on which "society" writes. Hence liberals locate the cause of crime in flawed social conditions that liberalism supposedly can fix. ...I'm at least somewhat a "liberal" George but you don't have permissions to speak on my behalf. Beyond his twisting what liberals believe, let's check out his own sources. He presumably relies much on Dr. Heather Mac Donald's recent Is the Criminal-Justice System Racist? - No: the high percentage of blacks behind bars reflects crime rates, not bigotry. This Manhattan Institute scholar is the "John M. Olin fellow at the Manhattan Institute and ... a recipient of 2005 Bradley Prize for Outstanding Intellectual Achievement." I'll not bother with wading into her research yet disagree from my time in the criminal defense trenches that to wind up in either state or federal prison is a "lifetime achievement award for persistence in criminal offending". That her writing begins with "The race industry and its elite enablers take it as self-evident that high black incarceration rates result from discrimination." also has me wondering about her work. "Elite enablers"?
George also relies on "America's premier social scientist" James Q. Wilson. Indeed Dr. Wilson is top drawer yet "premier" seems a bit bold. This Pepperdine University scholar is the Ronald Reagan Professor of Public Policy. That he's connected with the American Enterprise Institute should not be a surprise. A trustee of the RAND Corporation no less, he's connected with Big Insurance to boot. His widely used government textbook got some coverage this Spring over the issue of global warming denial. This is a book that he wrote with John DiIulio Jr., infamous among the Bu$hies for his Mayberry Machiavellian quote after he headed up Bu$hCo's White House office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives.
Back to Professor Wilson, George adds an odd close. He writes,
... Wilson dryly adds, the report does not explore "whether society gets as much from universities as it does from prisons."When two smart guys like George Will and Dr. Wilson seem to relish a little anti-intellectualism that worries me. Here's my real concern however ... In the marketplace of ideas, do people (those rare few that even bother reading the news) especially in Alabama, get a fair dose of competing ideas. Media Matters' Black and White and Re(a)d All Over:The Conservative Advantage in Syndicated Op-Ed Columns suggests that I'm right to be anxious. And for the record, I'm hardly thinking that Dean Broder is a centrist. What gives? John Gunn