Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Tribal customs of universities and welfare state administrators 

Vox Day, commenting on the story that Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Tribe lifted passages of one of his books from a lesser known book written eleven years earlier,

I suspect that historians will likely look back on the ascension of the left as the destruction of the academy. It is ironic that they enjoy accusing Christians as anti-intellectual, considering that it was Christians who started nearly every major university. And with the decline of Christianity will come the decline of scholarship, as the cause of truth is rendered secondary to questions of politics and power.

It's worth noting that the only new colleges being founded are Christian colleges, as the atheized universities gradually devolve into morasses of plagiarism, political correctness and low-grade minds filled with secular dogma.

Joseph Bottum documents that it's more than one nineteen-word passage that was lifted.
I was at the Clemens lecture at St. John's University given by Peter Lindert last night, who noted that the one public-private provision of a good with many external benefits that works well in his (admittedly leftish) view of the world was higher education, and that it was formed first as public institutions. True enough, insofar as the colonial colleges were given charters by the Crown. But Charles Kessler noted a few years ago that most of the research universities (like Lindert's UC-Davis) had more leftish roots.
The Left took this path, beginning in the 1870s and 1880s, when it began to build America's first research universities and graduate schools, mostly on the German model, which its intellectual pioneers knew and intended would have a close, symbiotic relation with the modern state they would also eventually construct. Experts from one would baptize the other, for the modern welfare and administrative state would be constantly in need of scientific civil servants, and the modern research university would be constantly honing its sense of social justice and administrative expertness or ambition.

Listening to Lindert and the questions afterwards I could not help but be struck by the truth of Kessler's observation. Students and (more so) faculty were keen to inquire how to create just the right mix of public and private provision and funding for health and pensions. The admiration of the academic audience for the European model was striking. One humorous note: Lindert asked rhetorically why, if greater government spending was deleterious to economic growth, high-spending states like California and Connecticut had not sunk below Alabama and Arkansas? No one had the temerity to remind Lindert that Sweden's per capita income is on a par with Mississippi's. Or worse.

Not once, in a lecture titled �Does Big Government Hurt Economic Growth?�, did the words "property rights" appear. Ignorance or arrogance?