Thursday, April 07, 2005

Since this post may irritate my more liberally inclined readers let me first state that Paul Krugman's point about the " Flat Earth " anti-Science faction in the Republican Party being exceptionally damaging to the image of the GOP and national policy is a valid one. Admittedly, there are some highly-placed people in my party who see public virtue or cynical advantage in promoting ignorance and authoritarian social policy. Unless these psuedo-religious wingnuts are reined in by the Karl Rove types or the libertarian wing of the Republican party regains enough of a voice to provide some balance in intraparty debates, I'm pretty sure these jackasses will manage to alienate enough voters within two election cycles to lose at least one house of Congress to the Left. Maybe even the presidency in 2008.

Where Krugman fails is where he usually does,in imagining negative characteristics to be a monopoly of the right side of the spectrum. In "An Aademic Question" Krugman basically argues that conservatism is now intrinsically opposed to scientific thought and that the monolithic domination of American universities by the Left is simply a natural order of things. James Miller at TCS and Lubos Motl have issued rebuttals to Krugman's more ineptly reasoned points but I wanted to highlight the lacuna that is driving Paul Krugman's argument.

"Conservatives should be worried by the alienation of the universities; they should at least wonder if some of the fault lies not in the professors, but in themselves. Instead, they're seeking a Lysenkoist solution that would have politics determine courses' content.

And it wouldn't just be a matter of demanding that historians play down the role of slavery in early America, or that economists give the macroeconomic theories of Friedrich Hayek as much respect as those of John Maynard Keynes"

The question is not whether or not Friedrich Hayek should be put on a pedastal on par with Lord Keynes but whether a freshman can graduate from a first rate university without ever hearing Hayek's name or that of equivalent figures whose ideas and actions have had a deep impact on the affairs of the 20th century. They can and that's the crux of the problem, an intellectual cleansing of university programs of ideas, thinkers and points of view that most irritate politically active leftists.

Politics have determined the course content at most major universities. Politics have driven out the required canon, instituted grade inflation, established fuzzy " studies" programs that are often sinecures for race and gender socialists, defunded traditional history fields, established speech codes and put white males at a disadvantage in the hiring process.

It has been politics from one direction up until now. No, students suing professors isn't the solution but leaving university policy in the hands of people like Paul Krugman isn't the answer either.
The overall point that you are making in this post is a valid one and would be worth debating - if issues today could be discussed rationally. The days when solutions could be brought about by a general consensus, once the intellectual and political debates had occurred, have passed. That once more breathable atmosphere does not exist today and has not existed since the early 90's. That is the time when the republicans, of which I was a member, decided that their guiding principle would be, from that day forward, to win at any ideological cost. This pursuit would occur no matter what constituency could be collected under the same roof. Their mantra would be that rational debate and consensus is for losers.

Your beginning admissions in this post seems to convey a belief on your part that those of your non-wingnut persuasion are still in charge of this stitched together "winning" party. The emphasis on the word winning is important only because it seems to be enough of a payment to have appeased the former ideological pure in the party. You seem to believe that the wingnuts (those that have helped the republicans establish their current dominance) will eventually be reined in. The only basis I can find for this thinking is that you must still think, at this late hour in your party, that thought will prevail over the religious emotions that have been tapped, and that ideological pure beliefs will be pursued over the keeping of power. With a rational group of people this might be true. Unfortunately you would have to be completely hypnotized to believe that the current facade, structure, and constituency of the republican party is made of rational bricks. The republican party of today is constructed of mud, straw, and faith - a faith that reason, debate, and consensus should not stand in the way of what their constituents believe to be right.

To conclude I will just say that your arguments against Paul Krugman's editorial in passed days would have been worth debating. However, lighting a match of reason during a raging fire of ignorance is not a very productive pursuit. In my view your time would be better spent saving your own home from its more irrational occupants then tearing at the shingles of your disrespectful neighbors house.
Hello Anon,

At one time, I was as deeply interested in domestic political issues as in foreign policy. My interest has waned not because the issues are not important but because in the late 1980's I became aware of the creeping artificiality/scripted nature of public debate.

This phenomenon was driven in part by the " infotainment" cycle of shows like Crossfire but also by the rise of increasingly sophisticated spin doctoring, scientific polling and the replacement of policy advisors with political consultants.

By the mid-1990's you had full-fledged distractor debates on non-issues being raised and engaged in by both sides in order to " feed the media" and divert public attention from more serious disputes. As a technique it still captivates the attention of the great majority of the politically aware who become engrossed in the minute Left-Right exchanges over Terry Schiavo or steroid use in baseball. Both sides engage in this -it is now part of how the game is played.

This is a separate question from whether or not the religious crazies control the GOP. My perception is that cynicism runs a little deeper than you have indicated among political pros, despite their claims of piety. And that when the true crazies stampede the party over a cliff, as they surely will at an inopportune moment, a sudden outbreak of realism may come back in to fashion among GOP leaders who previously sounded very socially conservative.

The libertarian Republicans, having self-destructed during the Gingrich revolution, should be rebuilding at this point in time so as to step into the breach with answers and ideas when the opportunity arises. It's their only shot for influence at this point in time.

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