Are you a Churchill, or a Landrew?

By Alec Rawls © 1997/1998 (900 words) Published in The Stanford Review, 10/7/97

The world is a great morality play between those who believe in liberty, and see agreement between individuals as the basis of cooperation, and those who want to dictate other people's lives. This conflict has raged between nations, where the dictators call cooperation by agreement "capitalist exploitation", and it rages at every level within every nation. Everywhere there are socialists who see the world around as an extension of their own egos, and everywhere there are Churchills who want to give power over to individuals to pursue their own best discoveries of value.

The institution of academia was built by the Churchills -- by those who love truth and inquiry and want all eyes to be open to whatever each can see. Yet by the very nature of the university, with its openness to all, the dictators are let in. They have their opportunities to colonize, to persuade, to promote their fellows. If they are successful enough, they can take control. The battle that must constantly be won is for enlightenment. "A university, if you can keep it." Once you lose it, to forces that do not share your belief in liberty and tolerance -- once the central planning social engineers get control -- don't expect them to fight fair. Expect them to do what it is their nature to do: use their power to garrotte all opposition.

That is what the speech code was: "This year we will let you speak negatively about groups, unless it is to an individual. Yeah, that's the ticket. That is our guess about how to define talking nice. Violate it and we'll kick you out of school."

Supposedly the speech code is no more (the Supreme Court didn't like it), but last year Grover Sayles was fired from the Music Department for noting that a friendly anecdote he had told originated in the country that a young woman in the class was from. Uh oh, he mentioned a group, to an individual! And that was exactly her complaint. What is the matter with that Grover person? Doesn't he know that everyone is horribly ashamed of their group, and to mention it is the equivilant of teasing: "your epidermis is showing"? Girls must be protected from such abuse, and sue the world to high heaven if they are not!

Social engineers are such a wonderful kind of person. All they see in the world is goodness: "If we force everyone to talk nice, everyone will be happier. If someone went ahead and did talk in a not nice way, they would not be happy with their punishment, but that is why they wouldn't do it. All we have to do, to make sure there is no unhappiness, is make sure that the punishments are severe enough that no one will ever break the rules!" Such wonderful dreams our socialist dictators have of tranquility and perfection and everything ordered according to their own minds. They hear their flock bleating: "Help us, Landrew!" (From Star Trek, the old testament.)

There are Landrews throughout certain academic departments. They predominate, of course, in all the victim studies departments. They infect literature and humanities. They preside at the law school. Still, most of these Landrews are potatos (although it is never small beer when the occasional person does get garrotted). The big potatos at Stanford seems to be in the administration of undergraduate life.

Res Ed forms an army of Landrews, out teaching a gospel, not as discerned by right reason, but plucked from dreamy wishes of some administrative dictator, the buzzing of an insect around a head, alit to pen on paper one idle afternoon. Who taught that girl that mentioning her group affiliation is a civil wrong? Some Res Ed minion, undoubtedly.

How to think straight about the distinction between groups and individuals, and how to properly credit information about a person as an individual, these are things that have been studied and understood by people whose further understanding leads them to reject dictatorship. Yet in a university full of scholars we have know nothing bureaucrats invading the most intimate recesses of undergraduate life, imposing a litany of error as a civil code.

Clamber up to the top of this structure and you find the office of student affairs, just happenning at the moment to be taking a handy opportunity to garrotte one of the few student groups that has escaped the purview of Residential Education: one of the fraternities. The Deke house is being expunged from the university on a charge of collective guilt for the cruelty of a couple of idiots egging a couple of other idiots to drink themselves into the hospital.

Clamber higher and you find a man who just wrote a book on separating power, yet smiles on its aggrandizement. It is a matter of instinct, of taste, of fundamental character. Which does one enjoy more, the sucking in of power, like air through the teeth, or the releasing of it, for others to use. Does one prefer order from above, and the illusion of virtue it provides, or does one prefer spontaneous order from below, built on the progress that free inquiry can make?

For all of its separation of power between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, the fundamental separation of power mandated by the United States Constitution is the separation of power from government entire, to be retained instead by the people. That same wisdom is the strength of the university, if we can keep it.

Alexander Rawls is pursuing a Ph.D. in economics.


Next article in Non-ideal Theory volume of Moral Science: Krugman Equalitarian

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