Sean Illing in Vox:
College professors are increasingly liberal — according to a study cited in the Washington Post earlier this year, the percentage of American professors identifying as “liberal” or “far left” jumped from 42 percent in 1990 to 60 percent in 2014.
Glenn Loury is an outlier in this environment — his politics are difficult to pin down exactly, but they’re probably best described as right of center. An author and professor of economics at Brown University, Loury has written books questioning what he sees as the liberal orthodoxy on race and history, including One by One From the Inside Out and The Anatomy of Racial Inequality.
I spoke with Loury earlier this month about his views on political correctness, the legacy of state-sanctioned racism, and his disagreements with the Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates. Our conversation, edited for length and clarity, follows.
Sean Illing: “Political correctness” has become a catchall term. Often it’s a trite signaling device or it’s used to paper over nasty rhetoric. Occasionally, though, it’s a legitimate backlash against a tendency to suppress uncomfortable speech. What do you think about this term and the way it’s used?
Glenn Loury: My argument about political correctness is not tendentious or partisan — it's analytical. The core of the argument is that when groups care a lot about maintaining conformity of belief on some matter of critical interest to them, then the hunt for heretics is always ongoing. We're always looking for deviants. The willingness to speak in certain ways can be a sign of deviance, because if speakers know that punishment awaits them for speaking in particular ways, the only speakers willing to take the risks are indeed people who are not reliable on whatever the core belief or value is.