Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Can College Students Learn to Disagree?

My op-ed “Can College Students Learn to Disagree? The Importance of Contrasting Ideology with Prudence” just came out in Frontpagemag.  It contrasts  recent experiences with my speaker program at Brooklyn College and the Mill Series at Lafayette College with the recent riots at Berkeley and elsewhere.

My friend and coauthor Dan Klein just emailed and mentioned that I mix up Karl Polanyi with Michael Polanyi.  The republic of science concept was in Michael Polanyi's article.  
Dan suggests that Russell Kirk's objection to ideology is misguided. Dan suggests using "fanaticism," "dogma," or "foolishness" in place of "ideology." Dan points out that we libertarians are as ideological as leftists.

I agree with Dan in terms of political tactics, although I don't think that colleges should play an ideological role.  There should be some effort to reflect the spectrum of views in American society.  The claim that "science is settled" is most often code for insistence on left ideological positions that are not only not settled but nonsensically tendentious.  

Universities' substitution of ideology for prudential debate will end in their diminished role, especially if the Republican approach proves to become more economically successful than the Democratic. 

With respect to politics, the ideological approach is more tactically effective than the conservative approach, which is why after many decades of both conservatism and leftism, the nation has changed just as the leftists have hoped: in  the direction of socialism. The conservatives have lost every step of the way.  Part of the reason is their rejection of libertarianism, without which they lack the numbers to win elections.  The Trump administration may overturn some of the Obama administration's gaffes, but he is unlikely to leave a legacy of an opposing ideology. In that he is like the Tafts, Goldwater, and Reagan.
The error of conservatism is that compromise inevitably leads to the end toward which an opposing party with a consistent, unitary aim favors.  Conservatism only works if there is a level playing field with diverse interests that counterbalance each other. Instead, America has a soft socialist progressivism that aims in one direction, with every other interest counterbalancing each other and compromising with each other. 

The result is that the one interest with a consistent, unitary aim wins over time, and the party or parties that are conservative and believe in compromise and gradualism lose  over time.  The approach of National Review and other conservatives to vote for the lesser evil in time leads to the greater evil anyway.  At some point socialism needs to be overturned with radical, ideologically motivated steps. 

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