Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Imagine That You Head a University Without a Mises Library

Jay Nordlinger is doing a series of Impromptus here, here, and here, on the classical liberal university in Guatemala City, Francisco Marroquin University. The university has things like the Ludwig von Mises library. The university has also had an effect on the state of Guatemala. Guatemala now is #33 on the Freedom Index.

At the other end of the scale is the modern American safe-space university where student activists are outraged by the Chalkening of Trump 2016 slogans on campus. They feel that the Chalkening is a form of political violence.

(Of course, they are right. On my view politics is violence and so when Trump supporters chalk the campus with Trump slogans they are in fact making a show of force. Just like lefty peaceful protesters.)

The natural reaction of conservatives is to brand the administrators of these special snowflake universities as spineless. So they are, no doubt.

But I think that they are rather trapped by their liberal ideology. If you believe in the current mainstream identity politics then you believe, on principle, that activists organizing peaceful protests on anything must be given the benefit of the doubt as to their sincerity and as the the justice of their cause. After all, nobody with white privilege can really know what it is like to be marginalized and oppressed.

And anyway, I suspect that most academic careerists are rather narrow and limited people. They are good at what they do, attaching to a mentor, getting through a PhD, getting tenure track and impressing the right people on the way to tenure. I doubt if a person with those kind of skills is going to end up as a great academic leader with the chops to defend the principle of open debate and freedom and lead a university through tough times.

I don’t think that your average academic really can see around the corner to the end game of the activist culture. I don’t think they really understands how it leads to SJW mobs, to the bad science of climate change, to the subvention of the university to the power of government and its agenda of force, and ultimately to rebellion and conflict.

We have seen the Trump phenomenon, and how the Trump supporters can explain away anything. You think that campus lefties are any different? Call it group think, or peer pressure, or witch hunt: all humans are social animals and they don’t like to stick out as different. We all, almost all, go along to get along.

Of course, our liberal friends in the ruling class, who never hear a discouraging word about their follies and their corruption, imagine themselves a cut above the average Trumpster. They are educated, you see. Not only that, they have graduated summa cum laude from liberal confirmation preparation classes, and know the liberal catechism by heart.

The problem for liberals is that, educated as they may be in liberal pieties and the rituals of peaceful protest, they do not understand the larger processes of power. That has been the lesson of the Obama administration, which has recklessly pushed the limits of its power and provoked a head of rebellion that has resulted in the most Republican Congress in 70 years and now provoked the Trump phenomenon.

Here is what the Obamis don't understand.

The reason for the rule of law is not to protect private property. It is to provide a process for adjudicating disputes in a way that both sides to the dispute can respect.

The reason for a legislature is to require that changes in government force have a majority support. And according to Buchanan and Tullock in The Calculus of Consent the way that legislative voting systems work is that, to get a majority, the supporters of a legislative proposal have to buy the support of people nominally opposed to the measure.

The reason to have a Supreme Court that does not find rights in the penumbras of the Constitution is that decisions that find new rights in dark corners set up conflict and disunion. As in Roe v. Wade, and maybe in the gay marriage case.

The reason to limit the president’s power to take unilateral executive actions is that unilateral executive actions really make the people on the receiving end angry, because, after all, an executive action is the unilateral power play of the sovereign, done without consultation and compromise.

The reason to limit the scope of government regulation and to maintain a small and limited government is that the regulatory state ends up being springtime for special interests that can influence and corrupt government in a thousand ways without showing up on the media radar.

Notice that I am not talking here about deliberate attempts to nobble the opposition with malice aforethought, like Lois Lerner and the IRS attempt to hinder the operations of Tea Party groups. And I am not talking about the liberal attack on “dark money” or the liberal proposal to criminalize the opposition to their climate-change agenda. And I am not talking about the fact that settled science says that big government cannot work because it cannot compute prices and it does not have the bandwidth of the market and the price system. I am just talking about the divisive effects of unilateral executive actions and the inevitable corruptions of big government regulation.

The reason for all these checks and balances on the use of political power is to soften the clunking fist of government power. It is to present government action as a kind of consensus rather than a brutal cram-down. It is to pretend that everyone is included in the political community and has a right to be consulted and to be heard. It is, in many ways, pure illusion, because force is force, and power is power, but it softens the hard edges of political conflict.

In my view, today’s liberals have forgotten all these timeless nuggets of political wisdom in the rush to implement any and all items of the liberal agenda during the blessed hour of power during the Obama years. But I think that this reckless program of power is a gigantic mistake, and liberals will pay for this mistake big time in the years ahead.

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