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April 29, 2003

Hate and Minorities


I recently read a paper entitled the “Political Economy of Hatred” (which you can read here). The author, Edward Glaeser, a Harvard professor, has also written papers providing economic analyses of such non-traditional topics as American obesity. (A survey of his papers, which you can see here, reveals Professor Glaeser to be fairly left-wing politically, e.g., blaming the lack of a European-style welfare state in the U.S. on American racism and praising the rise of the early-20th century regulatory state as a superior alternative to an all-too-easily-corrupted justice system.)

In the “Political Economy of Hatred”—apparently inspired by 9/11—Professor Glaeser develops a mathematical treatment of the supply and demand for hatred based on various sociological insights. He takes these assumptions as facts for the purposes of his paper and doesn’t attempt to test or evaluate them with new data. The details of his model are hard for this non-economist to follow since the good professor is constantly attaching what are (to me, anyway) highly opaque mathematical conditions to the equations in his model. Glaeser treats these as more or less “obvious”—and hopefully they are to other economists.

Exercises like this paper are, of course, highly susceptible to the problem of “garbage-in-garbarge-out,” as they essentially feed the model’s assumptions back to you in a mathematicized form. Their real value is creating fairly rigorous statements of various hypotheses that can then be examined empirically. None-the-less, if we assume Professor Glaeser’s assumptions--his own and those derived from the extensive research cited in the text--are reasonable, and they seem to be on first sight, his model provides some non-obvious insights into the nature of political hatred and what makes it grow and shrink. His most original insights, as best I can tell, derive from the fact that he, as an economist, incorporates not only the benefits of hating minorities but also the costs that hatred entails, because it restricts the number of beneficial transactions that are normally possible with the hated group:

If hatred detracts from beneficial interactions, why do people listen to hateful messages about other groups? There are at least four different reasons why people listen to messages of hate. First, hateful messages, which tell about the crimes of minorities, may appear to contain useful information…A second source of demand is that messages of hate are often subsidized. …A third reason why people listen to hate is that these messages are frequently wrapped up in titillating stories…[Fourth,] [t]he demonization of minorities can provide an external explanation for catastrophes. The Germans could blame the loss in World War I on the Jews, and Arabs can blame their poverty on America and Israel. According to this view, people want an explanation (other than their own mistakes) for their problems, and the preachers of hatred provide a balm to their self-esteem.

Professor Glaeser, reflecting what I take to be his politics, confines his examples to racism against blacks in America, anti-Semitism in 19th and 20th century Germany, and anti-Americanism in the contemporary Middle East. Being the mischievous fellow I am, however, I propose to apply his insights to the tendency for contemporary American academics in the humanities to preach anti-capitalist hatred.

For example, note how easily the four tendencies noted above can be applied to students absorbing hate-filled anti-capitalist messages at their liberal arts colleges: re #1, the professors’ messages could appear to contain useful information about the scary world of work which they are about to enter, as low-end minions, no less; re #2, professors are in an excellent position to subsidize students who parrot their messages with praise, higher grades, plum assignments, etc.; re #3, students are easily titillated by tales of the rich and infamous (the Vanity Fair approach to class relations); re #4, the key practical objection to the notion, obvious to all right-thinking 18-year-olds, that American society should long ago have adopted a European-style welfare state is that the Left has somehow failed to convince the country to enact it. Fortunately, this strange failure of persuasion can conveniently be blamed on the evil capitalist-entrepreneurial minority.

Returning to Professor Glaeser’s paper, he outlines the main ideas of his model:

The history of hatred suggests that when people are willing to listen, political entrepreneurs [i.e., anticapitalist academics] can make hatred. By telling tales of past crimes, people [i.e., students] can be convinced that some out-group is populated with dangerous criminals. This paper attempts to understand when we should expect to see the congruence of a supply of hatred and a willingness to listen, or demand, for hatred.

The demand for hatred is shaped by the costs of being hateful. People [i.e., ordinary working stiffs] who interact frequently with [the entrepreneurial capitalist minority] in peaceful market settings will find hatred a costly emotion. Naturally, they will tend to avoid messages that describe any interaction with [entrepreneurial capitalist] minorities as trading with the enemy. Conversely, people who are either unconnected with the [capitalist entrepreneurial] minority [like Humanities professors and students], or who actually [benefit from redistribution of income away from the capitalist minority, like Humanities professors and students], will find hatred much less costly. Segregation [on left-wing campuses] and [manifestly benefiting from redistribution away from the targeted minority] create a willingness to listen to hatred.

One of the non-intuitive concepts Professor Glaeser’s model demonstrates is that when the oppressive majority profits unduly from its interactions with the targeted minority this tends to increase the degree of hatred directed at that minority:

…when people from different ethnic groups interact, the individual from the majority group [on campus] receives “s” percent of the benefits. I assume 1>s. If s>1, then majority group members are essentially stealing from minorities, and hatred would be an attractive complement to these activities… [According to the model] [i]ncreases in the value of s increase hatred because economic or social interactions become more exploitative. If interacting with the minority group primarily means doing them harm, then hatred becomes more attractive.

This is a particularly apt description of the case in anti-capitalist arts & letters academia, in which the flow of value is strictly from the capitalist-entrepreneurial minority to the academics (none whatever going back the other way). Another insight that Professor Glaeser’s theory suggests is that his variable “r”—which he defines as the innate interest in the subsidy that accompanies hate-filled messages—would be increased by the real-world developments that in fact accompanied the rise of the militantly anti-capitalist professoriat:

If hatred provides explanations for misfortunes, then r might be a function r(y- y~ ), where y reflects income and y~ reflects a relevant income benchmark (such as past income or median income in society). This adoption of the model would predict that hatred should flourish during recessions [i.e., during most of the 1970s] or after military defeats [i.e., the 1970s]. It would also predict that hatred is particularly appealing to the [comparatively] less successful members of society (see Woodward, 1953, for example) [like, say, highly educated but relatively poorly paid liberal arts academics.]

Two more interesting insights of Professor Glaeser’s theory concern his variables “p” –the percentage that the hated minority constitutes of the total population—and “m” –a measure of how commonly members of the dominant group to interact economically with members of the hated minority:

Higher levels of p and m both lead to more economic interactions with minorities, and integration increases the costs of hatred. The positive impact of interaction is not that familiarity generates positive information, but rather that it is painful to walk around hating people with whom you regularly interact…The impact of “p” is most interesting. Higher levels of p have an immediate demand effect which acts to reduce hatred—a larger minority is costlier to hate.

That would seem to suggest that attempts, largely successful, to drive right wing academics out of our universities are a key element in increasing the level of hate politics in the college environment. It would also suggest that if colleges have any interest in toning down the volume of political hate on campus, they should recruit some pro-capitalists.

Yeah, yeah, I know—that’ll be the day.



P.S. After getting in touch with Professor Glaeser, I realized that I had been a really bad journalist (by failing to check with the people I write about.) My posting gives an erroneous impression of his politics, a failing he rather gently takes me to task over in his comment. My apologies for making assumptions based on a quick and superficial overview of his work.

posted by Friedrich at April 29, 2003


It appears that it would tone down the hate toward capitalists, which was the original point of your argument. But I'm not sure I see how it tones down other hate. Obviously hiring pro-capitalists will tone down the hate toward capitalists! I'm not sure if it addresses, say, the pro-life vs. pro-choice issue, or anti-semitism, etc.

Posted by: cindyincidentally on April 29, 2003 12:06 PM

You've probably run into more of this than I have, but there are righties who make an entertaining (and useful) case about "diversity" on campus. What with all the talk about Hispanics and African Americans, etc etc, the one group that's super-underrepresented is righties. There's more and more racial diversity, and less and less political diversity. Why fixate on racial categories?

Which is something I've always wondered: if you're going to slice and dice the population, why fixate on race and sex? Over and over and over again. How boring, and how insulting. Why not on hair color, height, mah-johngg abilities, perfect pitch, etc? I think those of us who let the race-and-sex crowd get away with this ought to be ashamed of ourselves.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 29, 2003 1:53 PM

Thanks. I really needed a good laugh today.

One comment on the original text:
"People [i.e., ordinary working stiffs] who interact frequently with [the entrepreneurial capitalist minority] in peaceful market settings will find hatred a costly emotion." Having worked among the working stiffs, and currently working toward working more with the stiffs instead of the suits, I have to disagree with Glaeser. My own theory is that those dismissed as ordinary working stiffs are to busy working and living life to do much about their hatreds, but they certainly have them.

Additionally, Glaeser seems to have the idea that a normal human is without hatred, restentments, and other troublesome feelings. This certainly contributes to the problem of “garbage-in-garbarge-out.”

Posted by: j.c. on April 29, 2003 3:50 PM

J.C.--Maybe I summarized his material badly, but Prof. Glaeser doesn't say that the average person is without hate (or resentment or irritation or whatever) at a given moment, simply that people tend to rein their negative feelings towards a person or group if they recognize the value of their relationship with that person or group. Your boss may be a schmuck, but (in comparison to a lot of other schmucks out there) he is a useful schmuck--interacting with him gets you paid. Your feelings towards him may develop into full blown hatred, but if you go in that direction, there will be a cost involved--you will have to quit your job and get a new one. Glaeser's point is that this works like supply and demand--there are counterbalancing factors in play, so that your level of hatred is determined both by what hatred gets you (emotional satisfaction, affiliation with other people who share your hatred) and what it costs you (financially, emotionally, socially).

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on April 29, 2003 4:16 PM

My post was eaten! Anyway, Fried, I wasn't clear. Glaeser doesn't say that the average person is without hate, but he certainly seems to hold hate not as an aspect of life but as something with a cause. Perhaps I misread, but he... doesn’t seem egalitarian and I get a cramp when people seem to be suggesting that the group of better people should address what they might do for those who aren't quite so better.

His voice, to the extent that has writing has one, has a condescending tone and the smile of one who’s oh so proud of himself for being so patient.

Posted by: j.c. on April 30, 2003 1:54 AM

I, for one, think you did a very nice job summarizing my work (and I never said that average people are without hate, quite the contrary).

I also agree wholeheartedly with the view that hatred of the rich, or capitalism, is a perpetual tool of the left (witness the polemics by Gore surrounding the Enron scandal). One social science question related to this is: why is hatred of the rich so much stronger in Europe than in the U.S. (I'll do more on this in my book on hatred).

One last point. I have always taught my students that one standard in writing papers is that people should not be able to figure out your politics from your work. As such, I must take pleasure in your deduction that I am some sort of far-left, underpaid anti-capitalist academic.

My support for Bush is a matter of public record, and I can think of few government interventions in the market that aren't mistakes. I strongly supported the war in Iraq. Reagan is a personal hero and I despise the Carter presidency.

I do think that race hatred and anti-Semitic hatred are responsible for awful things-- but surely that doesn't make me left wing? I also believe that governments have an obligation to protect private property (which is the real message of the regulation paper). Good governments succeed if they protect their citizens' lives and property both from each other, and just as importantly from the government itself. If these views are left wing, then you surely must think that Hamilton and Madison were Marxists.

Desite my defensive tone, I was generally just amused at being taken for a red. I am quite grateful for the write-up and grateful to the readers who wrote in. As a social scientist, the best thing that I can hope for is to push debate.

Posted by: Ed Glaeser on May 1, 2003 9:56 AM

Sorry to have grossly misrepresented your political position, Professor Glaeser--obviously, if a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, I'm pretty much the atomic bomb.

Anyway, however ignorant, we Blowhards are always on the lookout for new thinking in the sciences that have implications for the cultural realm. In that regard, I'd like to beg humbly (okay, I'll out-and-out grovel) for you to extend the ideas in your paper to develop a model of how cultural "politicians"--artists, critics, journalists, theorists--may affect swings in popular taste via positive and negative campaigning. (Even if you're not interested, couldn't you assign it as homework for some grad student? I mean, there have to be some advantages in being a professor.)

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on May 1, 2003 5:08 PM

Hmmm... Is this misread an example of the hate currently being fomented against the entire professoriate? Hehehe.

There's a typo in Aristotle's quote at the beginning of section II.

Posted by: gb on May 1, 2003 10:02 PM

Ok, I am an a blue collar worker. The real deal as they say. I have no problem with that but the oh so helpful left wing think that without their guidance ordinary people can,t come to a logical conclusion. BS. I judge people by how they act not what they say. I don't trust the Muslims. Why? Do you need a laundy list of terrorist acts including but not limited to 9/11. If this were 1943 I'd be pissed at the at the Japanese. We are not plaster saints, we're humans and guess what; find a language that doesn't contain a word for someone not of the group. Outlander, barbarian, infidel. We trust the familar and distrust the unfamilar, with good reason sometimes.
My Granny told me the tale of Bur Possom when I was a child some people should read that story again.

Posted by: Turtle on May 6, 2003 8:45 PM

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