The View From 1776
Monday, February 27, 2006
Moscow Show Trials on the Charles
Most people are aware, if not in specificity, that Harvard president Larry Summers has been forced to resign. This local contretemps is of national importance. Railroading president Summers proves that, confronted with the truth openly addressed, liberals can defend themselves only with KGB tactics. It reminds us again that all sides of issues must be presented to students.
When a college or university faculty can force a leader out of office, solely because he questions their dogma, the prospects for education are dimmed. The remedy is, not to scourge the liberals, but to give students full access to the opposing Judeo-Christian knowledge upon which Western civilization was based before the advent of socialist collectivism.
Columnist Ben Shapiro, himself a Harvard Law student, sums the Harvard case in a recent column, which recaps the events leading to the Harvard faculty coup.
“.....Summers faced the uniform wrath of the arts and sciences professors. Those professors were lobbying for the Harvard Corporation to fire Summers. And despite the fact that three out of four Harvard students supported Summers, despite the fact that deans at every graduate school supported him, despite the fact that Summers has restored Harvard’s image as a moderate left, not radical left, institution, this is the end for El Presidente.
“All of which goes to show that for Harvard professors, the university doesn’t matter. The students don’t matter. All that matters is that professors be allowed to pick up their fat paychecks, sit in their tenure-sized offices, spout what they want to spout and buy off students with easy A’s. With Summers’ resignation, Harvard’s faculty adds yet another black spot to their increasingly egregious resume.”
Let it be acknowledged that the shoe was on the other foot in the 1920s and 30s, when college administrations dominated by conservatives forced liberals out of their faculties. Columbia University president Nicholas Murray Butler was as high-handed as any liberal in ousting Professor Charles A. Beard, who published an often-since-discredited book alleging that the Constitution was no more than a conspiracy of wealthy property owners to defraud “the people.” It was in that connection that president Butler, asked if he had read Beard’s last book, is supposed to have said, “I hope so.”
As I have written many times, a Judeo-Christian society is implicitly individualistic in the sense that every citizen must shoulder personal responsibility for his own conduct and that, in doing so, he must seek to acquire moral virtue. In the Western tradition, embracing both the Jewish worship of Almighty God and the Greek philosophical understanding that happiness is, not sensual pleasure, but virtuous conduct, as well as in their synthesis in Christianity, Truth is the goal.
This is in contrast to the liberal conception that individuals are merely Social-Security-number components of social and economic classes and that the object of worship, the source of all good, is the collectivized national state. Individualism in that context is selfish greed, to be muzzled by state regulations and quashed by redistributive taxes.
Truth is not, as liberals opine, merely whatever opinions find public favor at any moment. God-given Truth is fixed and eternal, in the same way that human nature has been unchanged from prehistoric times into the present day.
What is debatable and should be open to candid discussion at the college level is how virtue is to be applied in specific cases. Morality does not evolve, as John Dewey and other socialists taught. Application of Eternal Truth to new circumstances needs continuing and full debate, not dictation of PC dogma.