It’s time we finally and permanently put Larry Summers out to pasture.
Many of you will remember Larry Summers. He is the sexist former President of Harvard University who infamously said: “There are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination.” In other words, according to Larry, boys are better than girls at math – they’re just born that way. Shortly after this asinine comment, Larry was summarily dismissed (e.g. FIRED) from Harvard.
Well Larry, turns out not only was your comment grounds for dismissal, you were just plain wrong!
Yesterday, The Boston Globe published this story: “Study finds culture a factor in female math achievement: Nurturing climate produces more elite competitors.” The study referred to in the article will be published in next month’s Notices of the American Mathematical Society. It concludes that cultural or environmental factors, not intellect, are what really limit women’s math achievements.
Unlike other research on gender and math ability, which relied on tests such as the SAT or state assessments to gather data, this study used a survey of the world’s elite mathematicians to demonstrate that women with extreme math ability exist—although recognition varies by country.
Since 1974, tiny Bulgaria has had nine female competitors in the elite International Mathematical Olympiad. East Germany/Germany has had 10, and the USSR/Russia, 13. Over that same time, the United States has had three.
Dr. Nancy Hopkins, a co-founder of The New Agenda, was one of the first academics to speak out against Larry four years ago:
Nancy Hopkins, a biology professor at MIT who was an outspoken critic of Summers, said the new research shows that “this expectation that girls can’t do math has real consequences.”
But Larry’s week did not stop there. Oh no. Turns out that Larry is also partly to blame for the financial woes that our country finds itself in.
The New York Times reported this week that back in 1998, Chairwoman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Brooksley E. Born, warned Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers of the risks inherent in not regulating derivatives. The unregulated derivatives market ultimately would a big part of the unraveling of the U.S. economy.
Ms. Born was President of the Stanford Law, and in 1977, was the first woman appointed to the ABA’s Standing Committee on Federal Judiciary, which evaluates potential federal judges, and in 1980 she was elevated to chair of that committee.
But why would Larry Summers listen to her? She’s a woman.
In “The Woman Greenspan, Rubin & Summers Silenced”, The Nation reports that they didn’t merely ignore Brooksley Burn:
Instead of heeding this oracle’s warnings, Greenspan, Rubin & Summers rushed to silence her. As the Times story reveals, Born’s wise warnings “incited fierce opposition” from Greenspan and Rubin who “concluded that merely discussing new rules threatened the derivatives market.” Greenspan deployed condescension and told Born she didn’t know what she doing and she’d cause a financial crisis. (A senior Commission director who worked with Born suggests that Greenspan and the guys didn’t like her independence. “Brooksley was this woman who was not playing tennis with these guys and not having lunch with these guys. There was a little bit of the feeling that this woman was not of Wall Street.”)
Larry even called her on the telephone to castigate her:
In early 1998, Mr. Rubin’s deputy, Lawrence H. Summers, called Ms. Born and chastised her for taking steps he said would lead to a financial crisis, according to Mr. Greenberger. Mr. Summers said he could not recall the conversation but agreed with Mr. Greenspan and Mr. Rubin that Ms. Born’s proposal was “highly problematic.”
A decade later, we all get to pay for Greenspan, Rubin and Summers’ arrogance.
And while the unregulated derivatives market was sowing the seeds of our economic destruction, Larry was busy with World Bank, making plans to export pollution to less developed countries. Yes, you read that correctly:
In December 1991, while at the World Bank, Summers signed a memo written by staff economist Lant Pritchett which argued among other things (according to its author; the full memo is not public) that free trade would not necessarily benefit the environment in developing countries. Pritchett also drafted what he referred to as an ironic aside to the memo which Summers also signed. The aside was leaked to the press and stated that, developed countries ought to export more pollution to developing countries because these countries would incur the lowest cost from the pollution in terms of lost wages of people made ill or killed by the pollution due to the fact that wages are so low in developing countries. The aside went on to state that “the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that” [source]. Public outcry ensued when the aside was leaked.
Larry Summers: You have failed miserably. Do the country a favor and go play some golf.
Alas, Larry’s not playing golf. He, along with Robert Rubin, is an advisor to Barack Obama:
Barack Obama was in “governing mode,” says one of his aides. In a small room next to A basketball arena at the University of Miami, Fla., the Democratic nominee had convened an emergency session of his new economic brain trust. It was a remarkable gathering for a candidate who, during the primaries, had relied largely on an obscure, baby-faced University of Chicago economist named Austan Goolsbee. With Obama in the room were Bob Rubin and Larry Summers.