Center for Freedom and Western Civilization Hosts Glenn Loury

Sophie Mack, Assistant News Editor

The Center for Freedom and Western Civilization hosted Glenn Loury, the Merton P. Stoltz professor of economics at Brown University, to speak on racial disparities in economic outcomes on Thursday, Feb. 24. The event was moderated by Professor of Economics Chad Sparber and held in the Persson Auditorium. 

“I think there is a false narrative that conservatives don’t care about inequality or racial disparities,” Sparber said. “A more accurate view is that conservatives emphasize different causes of and solutions to those problems. Glenn Loury is an expert, and we wanted our students to hear his perspectives. We also knew that Loury is a great speaker and that his students would be engaged with a very important and complex topic.”

The event went smoothly despite a technical glitch in the beginning, according to Sparber. The event was hosted in a question and answer style between Sparber and Loury. 

“It took a couple minutes to overcome a technical glitch and settle into the conversation, but after that, I think it went well,” Sparber said. “We got to hear an expert share his thoughts on persistent racial inequality.”

Affirmative action, a subject of Loury’s work, was among the topics covered during the event. While he supports affirmative action as a useful tool for overcoming biases or historic injustices, other times he also criticizes affirmative action for having skill-reducing incentives, according to Sparber, who questioned Loury on this conclusion during the event.

“I really wanted to press him on this, and I appreciated his answer,” Sparber said. “In perfect ‘two-handed-economist’ fashion, sometimes Loury supports affirmative action, sometimes he doesn’t. It depends on the specific policy application, the goals involved and the implications for incentives.”

According to the description of the event on the Colgate events calendar, as a conservative and economic theorist, Loury is widely published and is among America’s leading critics writing on racial inequality

“I think that the value of Glenn Loury for Colgate students lies in hearing an alternative viewpoint — the perspective of a Black conservative who articulates his ideas with authenticity, passion and careful reasoning,” Professor of Political Science Robert Kraynak said, who also serves as the director of the Center for Freedom and Western Civilization.

Having Loury speak, as an intellectual with alternative views on race and inequality in America, is part of this balanced discussion according to Kraynak. 

“He explained his deep commitment to helping African Americans succeed in America, but he argued that affirmative action is not necessarily the best means to rectifying inequalities, because it diminishes incentives to acquire skills, and it is patronizing to minorities,” Kraynak said. “One point that stood out was his strong defense of American patriotism for African Americans, who should feel that this country is their home and their inheritance, to love and to make it better.” 

In addition to the event in which students, faculty and other attendees had an opportunity to ask Loury questions, a handful of students and faculty also attended a dinner with Loury at the Colgate Inn.

According to senior Owen Hallinan, who attended both the event and the dinner, much of the conversation focused on the relationship between race and politics. Hallinan also mentioned the value of having the opportunity to meet and engage in conversation with Loury in person, “In my economics of education seminar, I was the lead discussant for our affirmative action week and one of the studies read was written by Glenn Loury,” Hallinan said. “During his talk, I was most surprised by his positive position on charter schools and school choice vouchers.”