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The Curious Case of Kurt Mitman
The top academic econ journal in the world (outside of North America) is the Review of Economic Studies (ReStud). Publishing a single paper there can make or break an economist’s career and grant tenure; analogous to a medical doctor publishing in the New England Journal of Medicine or a biologist publishing in Cell or Nature. If you are an economist and you publish in ReStud, you are automatically somebody. Therefore, the gatekeepers at ReStud are some of the most important representatives of the economics profession. They are the face of the profession to the world.
This is why I was baffled when in 2019 they knowingly appointed a convicted child-rapist, Kurt Mitman, to be their Managing Editor.
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The purpose of this article is to discuss the morality behind that appointment — it is not as black and white as you might think. I have spoken to ~10 econ professors so far: 2 of them think he served his time and should be welcomed back into polite society, 1 is unsure how to feel, while 2 think he should be homeless and kicked out of the profession. Interestingly, 5 had never heard of the incident, so I guess a large reason why I am writing this article is to bring awareness/sunshine to the 50% of the economics profession who had no clue about the moral fabric of their leadership.
The bigger reason for writing this article is simply that I find the themes of fall and redemption to be complex and fascinating. You could make the argument KM is a poster boy for successful rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Or you could just as easily make the argument that anyone who ever touches a child should be immediately euthanized. I wouldn’t hold either against you.
Here are the quick facts:
In 2005, KM pled guilty to a felony conviction for sexually assaulting a minor.
The specific charge was “Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse” which sounds very serious when you read the definition, it is much more than a simple age gap technicality, it doesn’t sound consensual at all: when a person forces another person by actual physical compulsion or threats to engage in acts of anal or oral intercourse.
I wonder what the actual charges *could* have been, if not for the plea deal. In the American judicial system, plea bargains are often struck by reducing the number of charges or the severity of the charges against the defendant.
He was sentenced to 2.5 to 5 years in prison… but released on good behaviour after serving only a small fraction of that time. A slap on the wrist.
The age gap was was 22 to 14
This is important to note because when people hear about this case, they automatically assume it involved some weird technicality e.g. when a 17-year-old buggers a 15-year-old. Boys will be boys, after all! Wrong: 22 is old enough to know that minors literally can’t give consent. When I was 22, for example, I never would have considered hooking up with a student in Grade 8. Would you? It seems unfathomable.
KM was a councillor at a summer camp for gifted students, and the victim was a camper.
Abusing a position of authority makes it worse, obviously, due to the predatory nature of power imbalances. Raping a 14-year old when you are employed to be protecting them is not chill.
If someone has a history of abusing positions of authority, should they be given the most influential position in the entire profession — and therefore the most potential for abuse? I am not suggesting that he is about to molest his colleagues, per se, but if someone exhibits a willingness to abuse their authority in one position, I would argue it makes them more likely to abuse their authority (in whatever capacity) in their next position.
An interesting angle to this story is that KM was released from prison 12 hours per day to commute to PhD classes at UPenn… meaning that while living in jail, KM had a desk/office at Upenn… and nobody in his program knew!
Technically this was not a willful misrepresentation, because the application to his PhD programs did not ask about criminal history. Apparently, UPenn adcoms added this question the next year.
There is a conspiracy theory floating around that KM only received such a light sentence in the first place because his parents are high ranking diplomats/spooks/glowies. His dad was Executive Secretary of the National Security Council, and his mother is the President and CEO of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy.
I don’t think this theory holds water in the context of his 2005 court case… the parents would've been random middle management in the public service at that time. They worked their way up to leadership over the next decade.
I do think it is plausible to speculate his powerful parents are a major reason he remains on the editorial board at REStud in the current year. Imagine a doctor who works for the New England Journal of Medicine. Wouldn’t it be incredibly useful for the US intelligence apparatus to have that doctor under their control, especially during Covid years, when that doctor is in charge of curating Covid papers? You might think it is equally useful for this apparatus to control/shape macroeconomic policy during the Covid years — and beyond, into the “Great Reset.”
The simpler explanation for why KM is on the ReStud board is good ol’ nepotism. KM’s PhD advisor is also a managing editor at ReStud.
KM currently works as an associate professor at Stockholm University
He is essentially living in exile because no school in North America will hire him, despite the fact that based on his merit/research/intelligence, he belongs at a school like Stanford/Yale/Princeton. When he visited Stanford a few years ago, the student body furiously wrote this article.
On Redemption, Restorative Justice, and Hypocrisy
The backlash from the economics profession has paradoxically been too lax and too harsh at the same time.
Too lax, because European society has graciously given KM a second chance at life after he raped a kid, and he has capitalized on it to become one of the major figures in the profession. As an EJMR comment points out: “In any international institution, any government, any private company he would not be chosen for such high profiled position. Period. That tells something about the economics profession.”
Too harsh, because the law tells us the punishment for a crime, say, someone has to do five years in jail. That should be it, right? Criminal acts deserve appropriate punishment by the judicial system, obviously, the question at heart here is how society reacts on top, whether that is appropriate and whether there is a bias. I think this is a conversation worth having. Society should not impose more on top, provided the law is implemented properly (although in this case, you could argue the law didn’t function as intended because he got off with just a slap on the wrist). Else, shouldn't that further punishment be part of the law? After all, society makes the law: it could impose harsher punishments if that seems appropriate. But if it isn't, then that's it. It makes no sense at all, I think, for society to say that the best social policy is to put a price of 5 years of his time for his crimes, but then add that he should never be allowed to work again. It’s broken thinking: pretend to be merciful and compassionate, but then be vindictive in the extreme and make sure the person’s life is totally ruined forever, even at society’s expense. What's the value in destroying his employment prospects going forward? It's hard to understand what rendering someone unemployable accomplishes. Besides, game theory dictates that if a convicted person thinks that he will be ostracized by society forever, incentives to recidivism go up.
Let’s look at the case of Rafael Robb. He was an economist at UPenn who beat his wife to death in 2006 with a chin-up bar. He has since served his time and been released from prison, yet the economics profession unanimously agrees he should not be allowed back into academia. It is unthinkable that he could be the editor at ReStud, despite having the credentials for it. Isn’t this hypocritical, though? According to the standards we have set for KM, Robb should be forgiven (in Europe, at least) as he has served his debt to society. Or is murdering your wife a more repugnant crime than raping a child, and should therefore be more stigmatized? I am not sure that it is. I would call them equally evil crimes. Professor Eric Rasmussen argues in a series of blogposts about Kurt Mitman that he “would not let [Robb] marry my daughter, but I would let him edit my journal.”
Another interesting case is Fabrice Tourre, an economist exiled to Europe where he is now a professor at Copenhagen Business school. He used to work for Goldman-Sachs, was a small figure in the Abacus deal where Goldman-Sachs allowed one of their clients to short-sale hand-picked MBS by selling them to other clients and were fined 500 million dollars by the SEC. For these financial crimes, he was excluded from financial markets for life and so pursued a PhD instead. From all accounts, he is a great guy: smart, humble, creative, knowledgeable. But it was impossible for him to get a job in the US or Canada --- the lawyers always object, and this seems excessive to me. Why exclude him from a university job? That wasn't part of his judgement.
It is interesting to note that support for Kurt Mitman is loosely split along ideological lines: for whatever reason, KM’s most vocal supporters tend to be far-left i.e. the #EconTwitter mafia. Why? He shares their politics. Furthermore, I suspect many of them are actually jealous of him. I suspect many of them consider hooking up with a teenaged boy to be “hot.” I know for a fact these people are out there, and I know for a fact they preach acceptance/tolerance of “Minor Attracted Persons” a little too earnestly. “Oh, being attracted to kids is just a mental illness that can be treated! Like a broken arm, it can be fixed! ” they say. Sure. Ignoring for a minute that pedophilia*** has one of the highest recidivism rates, the more likely explanation is that the left is heavily mentally ill, and they sympathize with their own (I agree pedophilia is a mental illness, obviously).
*** Here is where I would make the distinction between Pedophiles and Hebephiles. Hebephilia is the strong, persistent sexual interest in kids ages 11–14.
While he pledges fealty to the woke crowd in public, I think KM is much too high IQ to be as woke as he purports to be. In fact: he is just smart enough to know that signalling his affiliation with the woke econ crowd helps brush aside his personal history. After all, what's a felony compared to the great cause of ending 300 years of systemic racism? This woke shield is immensely valuable to him. So he keeps playing the game; he keeps retweeting the right people; he keeps accepting the right papers at ReStud, and in turn, they stop caring that he raped a child. Yes, to #EconTwitter, raping a child is more redeemable, than, say, (allegedly) making a bad joke about Martin Luther King, or say, fingering a drunk chick at a party:
Brock Turner received 90 days in jail. Kind of like how KM was let out early for good behaviour. Both paid their debt to society, both received a slap on the wrist. Would Brock Turner be as welcome in the Econ profession as KM is? We both know he isn’t, despite the fact that fingering a drunk chick is much less reprehensible than raping a child. Not only is Brock forbidden from being an elite leader in academia, but he has also been kicked out of university altogether and now he lives with his parents working a minimum wage job. I wonder how he feels seeing someone like KM, who committed a far greater crime, at a top journal? The anger, rage, and bitterness within him must be immense. I can only imagine. For that matter — imagine you were the child raped by KM and had your whole life ruined and traumatized while the offender becomes an editor in a flagship journal, how would you feel?
The point I am driving at here is that left-leaning academics are hypocrites of the highest order with no principles, and the sexualizing of children is yet another Marxist indoctrination tool that has plagued society. Take for example if KM was a 22-year-old conservative male who raped a 14-year-old girl. A legion of wineshrew professors would be calling for his head on Twitter DAILY; there would be mass boycotts and histrionic petitions; they would claim they feel unsafe around him; they would never, ever, shut up about it how this conservative white male raped a young girl. But because KM is a leftist who raped a male, it is okay? Why? The answer of course is that everything is permissible if you’re a leftist. Nothing is permissible if you’re not.
I would not care so much if the double standard was not so… blatant. Twitter mafia think your career should be ended for posting on EJMR, while happily retweeting this child rapist all day long. Surely these very same people would not allow a known EJMR poaster to be ReStud editor. How many EJMR visits are equivalent to raping a child, I wonder? And if one did visit EJMR, could they be forgiven after some light jail time?
The same hypocrisy happens in just about any other type of academic scandal. Plagiarism gets overlooked when it happens on the left, for example, what Princeton historian Kevin Kruse did here is at least as bad as Stephen Oates, Steven Ambrose, and several other centrists/apolitical historians who write for the "middle-aged dad who likes military history" demographic. But Kruse is a libshit twitter celebrity, so it's no big deal. Bill Clinton rapes women. Obama drones children. Kurt Mitman edits ReStud. Biden has dementia (and also probably rapes children; if I had to put money on it). Nobody cares because they are all on the Blue Team™.
There are plenty of other child rapists in academia. Here is a great article by author Lori Handrahan where she lists 219 of them by name and describes each of their individual crimes in detail. Amazing and underappreciated journalism. Of course, these are only the ones we know about.
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