PRESIDENTS CAN’T KEEP PROMISES—HERE’S WHY
WHY SOCIALISM (STILL) SUCKS
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A PRESIDENT
“ISI WAS HANDS DOWN THE MOST MEANINGFUL PART OF MY COLLEGE CAREER.” —SAMANTHA LEAHY, CLEMSON UNIVERSITY ALUM
The Intercollegiate Review is the flagship publication of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. ISI was founded in 1953, when a young journalist named William F. Buckley Jr. led a counterattack against the progressive ideology taking over American colleges. ISI offered students a compelling alternative: conservatism. Join the ISI community and discover why so many prominent Americans—scholars and CEOs, journalists and judges, authors and politicians— point to their ISI experience as transformative.
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2 PUBLISHER’S NOTE 3 CAMPUS CHAOS
Intolerant Leftists Welcome— Conservatives Need Not Apply
24 NOTES FROM THE CONSERVATIVE UNDERGROUND ISI students fight for their rights on campus
26 STUDENT VOICES
34 ARTS & MANNERS
Behind Enemy Lines
The 5 Best Movie Presidents
Pitt’s Marlo Safi tells what it’s like being the only conservative in the room
by Michael Medved
That’s Not Funny
What ISI Taught Me
An Elected King? Brion McClanahan reveals why presidents can’t do most of the things they promised on the campaign trail
by Anthony Sacramone
Claremont McKenna’s Hannah Oh finds an oasis in the left-wing desert
It’s a Boutique World
30 FREEDOM HALL
Meet the president who was “the founder of true conservatism in America”
by James R. Harrigan
Ronald Reagan: The Path to the Presidency
A Socialist in the White House? No Socialism is cool now? Try again, says Brian Domitrovic
Character Counts Steven F. Hayward shows you what to look for in a president
The Education of a President Can the liberal arts teach someone to be leader of the free world? Gleaves Whitney has the answer
32 GOD ON THE QUAD
The Dictatorship of R elativism Comes to Campus Eric Metaxas reveals what happens when truth loses out
INTERCOLLEGIATE REVIEW · Fall 2016
What Sort of President Do You Really Want?
PU B LISH E R
Christopher Long E DITOR
“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
MANAG I NG E DITOR
ASSOCIATE E DITOR n this memorable line from Jurassic Park, Jeff Goldblum’s character Joseph Cunningham observes that everyone involved in building the park asked the wrong DESIG N E R questions and ignored moral implications altogether. Daniel Trost The situation reminds me of how we often think about the presidency today. ADVE RTISI NG MANAG E M E NT The campaign trail is littered with grandiose promises. It may be exciting to Publishing Management Associates Inc. imagine that a candidate could step into the Oval Office and quickly solve all CONTR I B UTI NG E DITORS our problems. But in focusing on the candidates’ every utterance, we fail to ask Emily Butler, Catholic University of America fundamental questions. Like this one, for starters: Elliot Kaufman, Stanford University Do you want a president with the executive power to deliver on dramatic and Jonathan Postiglione, Dartmouth College sweeping campaign promises? Marlo Safi, University of Pittsburgh You won’t read about five-point plans, poll numbers, or the respective agenEli Westerman, Yale University das of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in these pages. The Intercollegiate Review takes a different approach: this issue will help you better understand the presidency itself so you can answer fundamental questions that come up too rarely during presidential races. Such as: What is the role of the president in the federal DOES THE PRESIDENT system the Founders designed? As historian Brion McClanahan explains on page 8, the TO DELIVER ON American Founders, having just thrown off SWEEPING CAMPAIGN PROMISES? a king, were wary of concentrating too much power in a single person. What qualities should we look for in a president? On page 16, presidential scholar Steven Hayward discusses how past presidents have changed the office for good and ill and suggests that we carefully consider how any candidate might do the same. What economic philosophy should guide presidents? Socialism is remarkably popular among young Americans today. But as economic historian Brian Domitrovic reveals on page 12, the results have been grim whenever presidents have flirted with socialist policies. The I ntercollegiate R eview (ISSN #0020-5249) is These are just a few of the questions you will explore in this issue. I hope you published two times during the academic year by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Inc., 3901 Centerville Road, will follow the example of our “unschooled presidents” (page 20) and continue Wilmington, DE 19807-1938. Intercollegiate Studies Instito absorb as much knowledge as you can. It will serve you in any career you tute, Inc. © 2016. All rights reserved. All student members on the ISI mailing list receive choose, just as it did them. the I ntercollegiate R eview free of charge during the
HAVE THE POWER
INTERCOLLEGIATE REVIEW · Fall 2016
academic year. Nonmembers may subscribe to the magazine at $15/two issues or $28/four issues. Please visit www.intercollegiatereview.com to subscribe or for further information. Direct all correspondence to the above address. Address changes may be sent to email@example.com. Direct advertising inquiries to Publishing Management Associates Inc., 129 Phelps Avenue, Suite 312, Rockford, IL 61108-2447, 815-398-8569, pma-inc.net. Opinions expressed in the magazine do not necessarily represent the views of ISI or the editors. The responsibility for opinions and accuracy of facts in articles rests solely with the individual authors. For more information on ISI, visit www.isi.org.
e’ve gotten used to leftists dominating university classrooms, and we’ve even learned to get a laugh out of their fragile sensibilities. How confident can leftists really be in their utopian ideas if they refuse to debate conservative critics? But insecurity can be a dangerous thing with the full force of university administration behind it.
Marquette: Ousting a Tenured Professor A college student approached his teaching assistant after ethics class. The student objected to the fact that the TA had cut students off from even questioning “gay rights,” including same-sex marriage. The TA responded that “some opinions are not appropriate” and accused the student of homophobia. This was at Marquette University. A Catholic school.
INTERCOLLEGIATE REVIEW · Fall 2016
Not knowing where else to turn, the student went to Professor John McAdams, an advocate for free speech and conservative thought. McAdams published a blog post calling out the instructor for “shutting up debate.” Although McAdams had tenure, Marquette placed him on indefinite academic leave and banned him from campus. This
Pitt: You Differ, You Die When ISI students invited free speech advocate and Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at the University of Pittsburgh, they knew they could expect some progressive protests. What they didn’t expect was to be harassed and threatened
academia. The president had asked that McAdams “affirm and commit to the University’s guiding values.” “I do,” McAdams replied. “I always have. In fact, I believe that in standing up for an undergraduate who was bullied and ignored by an instructor and her department, I was abiding by them.”
Cal State Northridge: Ousting a Tenured Professor, Part II Like John McAdams, Dr. Robert Oscar Lopez found out that even tenure couldn’t protect him from the leftist mob. When Lopez started teaching at California State University, Northridge, in 2008, he thought that his university “was going to protect the free exchange of ideas.” How wrong he was. In 2013 Lopez published an article describing the hostile environment he encountered as someone who protested gay marriage and gay adoption (though he is a self-described bisexual). Lopez said that the hostility came in many forms:
spring the university suspended him without pay and said he could be reinstated only if he wrote a letter of apology. Nothing doing. McAdams refused to submit to “self- abasement and compelled speech.” In his response to Marquette’s president, McAdams captured the hypocrisy of the leftists who dominate
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threatening e-mails, public ridicule, blacklists. The situation only got worse. Writing in the Daily Caller, Lopez says: “I could no longer use any computer on campus because of constant hackings. My door had been vandalized. I’d been slandered and set up for an ever-escalating string of charges. Nobody wanted to be seen speaking to me.” This spring, Lopez says, the university threatened to reopen what he had thought was a settled investigation into his having invited his class to attend an event at the Ronald
Reagan Presidential Library without the now-requisite “trigger warnings” for sensitive students. Lopez had had enough. He resigned, giving up his tenure and his pension. “The left’s long and complicated schemes to alienate me had worked,” he writes.
for days after the event had passed. But that is precisely what happened. Radicals created a fake Facebook account in the name of the president of Pitt’s ISI Society and posted fliers falsely accusing him of “mak[ing] fun of sexual assault survivors.” The poster featured the ISI student’s photo and his parents’ home phone number. ISI president Chris Long intercollegiatereview.com
stepped in. He sent a letter to Pitt’s chancellor “out of concern for the personal safety of one of your students who is a member of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.” As Long pointed
out, by not condemning such harassment, the university might “empower some students to feel free to silence fellow students.” The Pitt administration certainly hadn’t stood up for
Oberlin: Everything Is a Trigger You know left-wing campus activists have become too thin-skinned when even the New Yorker is chronicling their hypersensitivity. In December student protesters at Oberlin sent the college president a long list of “nonnegotiable” demands. One of the demands was to be paid an “activism wage”— $8.20 per hour for protesting. And what do Oberlin students protest against? Just about anything. Among their recent targets: • Sophocles’s Antigone: This ancient Greek play is first-year material for any respectable liberal arts school. But in an op-ed calling for “classroom censorship,” a transgender student complained of the play’s “triggering” effects. • Any grade lower than a C: More than 1,300 students signed a petition to ban low grades.
Conservatives Need Not Apply So how does all this madness and anticonservative discrimination flourish? A recent book offers some answers. In Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University, Jon A. Shields and Joshua M. Dunn (an ISI speaker and mentor) highlight how left-leaning academia is. Did you know that far more professors in the social sciences self-identify as Marxist than as
free speech. The vice provost responded to the Milo controversy by saying that when students expressed concerns about future speakers, the university would “intervene swiftly.”
After all, some started “suffering academically” because they were devoting so much time to activism, one student told the New Yorker. • Midterm exams: Another student was outraged at how difficult it was to skip midterms. He admitted that certain professors might allow students to replace a midterm with a conversation during office hours. But “I have to find that professor,” the student complained. He insisted that the oral option become mandatory. As campus radicals protested these supposed outrages, they remained curiously quiet about an Oberlin professor’s disturbing comments. The professor suggested on Facebook that Zionists were behind the 9/11 attacks, the rise of ISIS, and the Charlie Hebdo murders. In one post she wrote that the Rothschild family owned “your news, the media, your oil, and your government.” The board of trustees and many faculty members condemned these repugnant remarks. But Oberlin’s president maintained his “strong belief in academic freedom.”
conservative? Or that sociologists would much rather hire a communist than a Republican? Shields and Dunn interviewed 153 right-leaning academics, and their accounts show that John McAdams and Robert Oscar Lopez are hardly the only conservatives to face hostility. Nearly a third of those interviewed said the bias against conservatism was so strong that they hid their views at least until they earned tenure. One professor said, “It is dangerous to even think [a conservative thought] when I’m on
campus, because it might come out of my mouth.” He added, “I am the equivalent of someone who was gay in Mississippi in 1950. . . . If I came out, that would finish me.”
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INTERCOLLEGIATE REVIEW · Fall 2016
H C R
AN ELECTED KING? WHAT THE PRESIDENT CAN AND CAN’T DO— AND WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
by BRION M c CLANAHAN
mericans have come to expect the president to solve every pressing issue in society. Just look at the questions candidates field on the campaign trail: If you’re elected president, what will you do about X?—where X can be anything from creating jobs, to stopping gun violence, to improving education or health care, to reducing college tuition or gas prices. 8
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Presidential candidates of all conclude treaties with foreign nations. nature’ as may from time to time be parties feed this expectation. Their He can “from time to time give to delegated by the national legislature.” websites are full of five-point plans the Congress Information of the Madison’s position is crucial for to fix whatever ails America, and State of the Union” and make recomunderstanding executive power in on the stump they tout everything mendations about legislation. He is the United States. The framers of they will accomplish as soon as commander in chief of the armed the Constitution were keenly aware they enter the White House. forces, and he is chief diplomat. The of the problems a single executive But when you hear these confident president is also required to “faithcould create for American liberty. declarations, stop and ask yourfully” execute the laws of the United They had recently emerged from a self: Can the president actually do States, and he has a limited veto. nearly eight-year struggle against the the things candidates promise? To discern the meaning of these British Crown, and when debate over In many cases—maybe even most powers, it is important to review not Madison’s Virginia Plan began in cases—the answer is no. May 1787, the delegates The Constitution as to the Philadelphia ratified by the states Convention sat in ACTUALLY in 1787 and 1788 stunned silence over does not grant the the prospect of another ANY OF THE THINGS CANDIDATES president the powsingle executive. ers needed to deliver So the convention on all the promises took pains to create made to voters. Even an executive branch when presidents purthat would not have sue their agenda through executive only James Madison’s notes of the the same power as the king of Great orders—a dubiously constitutional Philadelphia Convention of 1787 but Britain. The national executive would tool—they cannot circumvent Conalso the debates during the ratificanot be “legislator in chief,” nor would gress or the states completely. tion process. As Madison himself he be able to control the newly estabLest you think these constraints later said, it was the ratification lished judicial branch. His powers reveal a “flaw” in the constitutional debates that gave the Constituwould be limited and checked by the structure, consider why the Foundtion its “validity & authority.” Senate, which served as the voice of ers put so many checks on the presiDuring the Philadelphia Conventhe state legislatures until the Sevdent’s power: they understood that tion, delegates like Roger Sherman enteenth Amendment provided for excessive executive authority poses of Connecticut and James Wilson of the popular election of senators. a grave threat to liberty. Having Pennsylvania, who would become If the executive lacked powers “not just thrown off a king, they did not important voices for ratification, legislative” in nature, then why did want to create an elected king. argued that executive power should the Constitution give him the ability Unfortunately, an elected king is be strictly limited. Sherman said that to veto legislation? Several delegates what we expect today—and more the executive branch “was nothing in Philadelphia raised this quesand more it’s what we’re getting. more than an institution for carrying tion. Virginia’s George Mason, who It’s time to rethink the powers of the the will of the legislature into effect,” declined to sign the Constitution, executive branch. We must ask what while Wilson stated that the only powwondered aloud whether the executive the president can constitutionally ers he considered strictly executive branch would lead to “a more dangeraccomplish, not what we hope he or “were those of executing the laws, and ous monarchy” than existed in Great she will do once in the Oval Office. appointing officers, not appertaining Britain, “an elective one.” Benjamin to, and appointed by, the legislature.” Franklin offered this warning: “The What the Constitution Says Madison put an exclamation first man put at the helm will be a So what are the president’s constitupoint on both statements when he good one. No body knows what sort tional powers? said that the president should have may come afterwards. The execuArticle II of the Constitution conthe “power to carry into effect the tive will be always increasing here, tains seemingly vague enumerated national laws, to appoint to offices as elsewhere, till it ends in a monarpowers. Constitutionally, the president in cases not otherwise provided for, chy.” Franklin opposed an absolute must have the “advice and consent of and to execute such other powers veto over the legislature because the Senate” to make nominations or ‘not legislative nor judiciary in their “more power and money would be
CAN THE PRESIDENT DO PROMISE TO ACCOMPLISH?
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demanded, till at last eno’ would be gotten to influence & bribe the Legislature into compleat subjections to the will of the Executive.” Roger Sherman said, “No man could be found so far above the rest in wisdom.” The Philadelphia Convention settled on a qualified veto (Congress can override the president’s decision by a two-thirds vote of each house), but the president’s veto power still became a source of contention during ratification. William Findley of Pennsylvania charged that the veto dangerously blended executive and legislative powers. Even the British king had only a “nominal negative,” Findley said, but under the U.S. Constitution, “No bill can become law without [the president’s] revision.” A Virginia newspaper suggested that the veto power put the United States on the road to absolute monarchy: “If the system proposed had been calculated to extend [the president’s] authority a little farther, he would preponderate against all—he alone would possess the sovereignty of America.” To answer these charges, proponents of the Constitution insisted that the qualified nature of the veto made it safe. Wilson argued that the veto did not give the president “legislative authority.” The president could not initiate legislation but could only sign or veto what Congress sent him; “no bill passes in consequence of having his assent.” Wilson stressed the need to observe the “strict propriety of language” in the C onstitution— no reading between the lines. Both Alexander Hamilton and James Iredell of North Carolina agreed with Wilson’s assessment, with Iredell calling the qualified presidential veto a “happy medium between the possession of an absolute negative, and the executive having no control whatever on acts of legislation.” As president, George Washington believed that all constitutional legislation should pass without interference,
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meaning that the president had to accept legislation in toto. If any part of a bill was unconstitutional, the president’s oath of office obligated him to veto that legislation. In other words, the veto was to be used not as a partisan hammer but as a “security against the enaction of improper laws,” as Hamilton said in Federalist No. 73.
Wielding War Powers What the founding generation feared most was a military dictator with power over the purse and the sword. The Constitution allowed Congress to guard the purse, but several critics argued that the clause making the president commander in chief of the U.S. military was ambiguous, leaving too much room for abuse. George Mason spoke for the majority of those opposed to the commander-in-chief clause when he said in the Virginia Ratifying Convention that he “admitted the propriety of [the president’s] being commander-in-chief, so far as to give orders and have a general superintendency,” but that “it would be dangerous to let him command in person, without any restraint, as he might make bad use of it.” Proponents of the Constitution sought to reassure men like Mason that they had nothing to fear. At the Virginia Ratifying Convention, George Nicholas said that “the army
and navy were to be raised by Congress, and not by the President.” At the North Carolina Ratifying Convention, James Iredell distinguished between the powers of the British king and those of the American president: “The King of Great Britain is not only the commander-in-chief of the land and naval forces, but has power, in time of war, to raise fleets and armies. He has also authority to declare war. The President has not the power of declaring war by his own authority, nor that of raising fleets and armies. These powers are vested in other hands. The power of declaring war is expressly given to Congress, that is, to the two branches of the legislature—the Senate, composed of the representatives of the state legislatures, the House of Representatives, deputed by the people at large. They have also expressly delegated to them the powers of raising and supporting armies, and of providing and maintaining a navy.” Iredell concluded that the power of commander in chief was “sufficiently guarded.” The founding generation drew a clear distinction between “making war” and “declaring war.” No one objected to the president’s ability to repel “sudden attacks,” but even the staunchest advocates of a single executive with the power of commander in chief did not argue that the
president could wage war unilaterally. Congress, as both Nicholas and Iredell emphasized, had the final say in war. Of course, Congress has generally punted this responsibility over the past seventy years, but nothing has changed constitutionally. The only casualty in this long game of unconstitutional expansion of presidential authority over “war powers” has been American liberty. War has been responsible for the most substantial losses of liberty and the greatest expansion of federal power in the history of the United States.
Protect Your Liberty Many members of the founding generation warned about the dangers inherent in a strong executive. During the ratification debates in 1787, one outspoken critic who went by the pen name “An Old Whig” urged his readers to reject the Constitution if for no other reason than it created an elected king: “If we are not prepared to receive a king, let us call another convention to revise the proposed
constitution, and form anew on the principles of [a] confederacy of free republics.” New York governor George Clinton asked why Americans would be willing to accept a government that would “lead you into a system which you heretofore reprobated as odious . . . a monarchical government.” Proponents of the Constitution understood the fears of excessive executive power and emphasized all the restrictions the document placed on that power. Hamilton famously summarized the originalist position on the executive branch in Federalist No. 69. His purpose was to outline the differences between the absolute monarch in Great Britain and the president in America. To Hamilton, the similarities stopped at the job description of “executive.” The American president is “elected by the people for four years,” whereas the British king is “a perpetual and hereditary prince.” The president is not the chief legislator; his power over foreign policy and the military is checked by Congress;
he cannot rule by decree; and he has no power over “the commerce or currency of the nation.” Others echoed Hamilton in their sales pitch to the state ratifying conventions. The originalist understanding is instructive. Rather than asking presidential candidates what they will do about X, Y, or Z, we should be asking where the president derives the constitutional authority to do X, Y, or Z. The president takes a solemn oath “to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The Constitution the president is defending is the one ratified by the founding generation in 1787 and 1788. No amendment has increased executive power. Our presidential model should be John Tyler, who vetoed unconstitutional legislation because he took an oath to protect the Constitution, not Franklin Roosevelt, who said that if Congress would not act, he would—unconstitutionally, of course. We should not seek a president who is “dictator in chief”; we need someone who understands the constitutional limits of executive authority. This is not a popular opinion today, but if the founding generation considered executive authority to be the greatest bane to liberty, we should, too. After all, “our guy” who abuses power will eventually hand the office over to “their guy” who abuses power. This should strike fear into the heart of any American who loves liberty.
Brion McClanahan, PhD, is the author of several books, including The Founding Fathers’ Guide to the Constitution and, most recently, 9 Presidents Who Screwed Up America—and 4 Who Tried to Save Her.
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a SOCIALIST in the White H ouse?
NO by BRIAN DOMITROVIC
ocialism: “state control of the means of production.” That was the definition I heard over and over again during my undergraduate years at Columbia, which came to an end in that fateful year for Communism, 1989. In the 1980s Marxism was all the rage in the academy. Syllabi featured not only The Communist Manifesto (which remains widely assigned today) but also Marx’s Capital and commentaries from innumerable Marxist scholars.
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Then the Berlin Wall fell, and soon the socialist path leads to economic thereafter the Soviet Union collapsed. stagnation at best. To understand Many commentators celebrated the that, we need not look at something triumph of democratic capitalism and as manifestly disastrous as the the “end of history,” in Francis FukuSoviet economy, which was marked yama’s famous phrase. Fukuyama spoke of “a universal evolution SURVEYS SHOW THAT in the direction of THINK MORE FAVORABLY OF capitalism” and said that government planTHAN THEY DO ning was “woefully inadequate” to post industrial economies. But now socialism is enjoying a comeback in by privation and was almost laughAmerica. A Gallup poll released ably unsustainable. We can simply in May shows that 55 percent of look at what has happened when eighteen- to twenty-nine-year-olds American presidents tried to push our have a positive image of socialeconomy in the collectivist direction. ism. Other recent surveys show that The picture isn’t pretty. If we young people think more favorably of don’t understand this history, our socialism than they do capitalism. government may double down on What’s happening here? economic policies that have caused It could be a simple matter of so much trouble in the past. misunderstanding: as Emily Ekins and Joy Pullmann write in The FDR’s Mistakes Federalist, “millennials don’t seem Somehow the socialist impulse in to know what socialism is.” That America, unlike in Britain and other definition of socialism that was hamplaces, never quite fit the Marxian mered into me in college? According definition. It never included actual to a CBS/New York Times survey, government ownership of industries, only 16 percent of young Ameriat least on any scale. The few examples cans could come up with it today. are of outfits that provoke laughter Socialism is not a dirty word to and derision: Amtrak for passenger Americans who have no memory rail service; TSA for airport security. of the Cold War. Still, a lack of direct experience with centrally planned economies should not be an excuse for ignorance. In this presidential election, as in practically every other before it, the economy is one of the most important issues for voters. But somehow a self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” drew more primary votes from under-thirty voters than the eventual major-party nominees combined. This, frankly, is preposterous. We need to understand that socialism involves a lot more than slogans like “free college!” The record is clear:
Socialism in America took a more indirect route. There came to be not quite government ownership of the means of production but government control of a good share of personal income and of the monetary system. The federal government grabbed those powers in 1913, a pivotal year in which . the United States inaugurated both the income tax and the Federal Reserve banking system. The income tax permitted the federal government to take a portion of a person’s income “from any and all sources derived,” as the tax code put it, with no constitutional prohibition of how high that portion could be. It could be as little as 1 percent, which was the bottom rate of the income tax in 1913. Or it could be as high as 100 percent for income over a certain threshold, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt actually proposed. The Federal Reserve enabled the United States to print money that was “legal tender for all debts public and private,” as the saying on the dollar bill has it. This means that if you are selling something, you have to accept this government paper in exchange for it. The Federal Reserve enabled
YOUNG PEOPLE SOCIALISM CAPITALISM WHAT’S HAPPENING HERE?
A 100 percent income tax rate? That’s what FDR wanted. INTERCOLLEGIATE REVIEW · Fall 2016
Kennedy, a Democrat, and Reagan, a Republican, showed that standing against socialism can be a bipartisan cause
the government, in theory at least, to buy anything it wanted, perhaps the entire economy (including the means of production). The Fed could create legal tender ex nihilo, and it faced no obstacle to using new money to underwrite government purchases via the buying of federal debt on the open market. The United States had a credit line of unlimited potential. These revolutionary changes in 1913 planted the possibility of socialism in the United States. The federal government, though, did not immediately exploit its newfound powers to push the country toward socialism. In the 1920s the United States prospered mightily as the government slashed the marginal income tax rate while the Fed stepped out of the way. But as soon as the fabled prosperity of the Roaring ’20s wavered, in stepped the government with socialist policy. Contrary to the common view, the onset of the Great Depression was not at all a “crisis of capitalism.” In fact, the years 1929–33 brought historic governmental intrusions in the economy. In the early 1930s the Fed refused to let the gold standard operate and permit the money supply to expand as the market required. Meanwhile, the government jacked up the top income tax rate from 25 percent to 63 percent. Savage unemployment resulted; the United States experienced conditions as horrendous 14
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as any developed country had since the dawn of the industrial age. All this government intervention in the economy occurred during Herbert Hoover’s administration, before Franklin Roosevelt took office and instituted his New Deal. Under FDR, the U.S. government did something rather fascistic, actually rather National Socialistic: it confiscated and made illegal all private money—namely, all privately held gold. In 1933, by executive order, Roosevelt told the American people that if they did not hand in to the feds, at a deep-discount price, all their gold worth more than $100, they would face a $10,000 fine and/or up to ten years in prison, an order the Supreme Court upheld the next year. The gold haul from American citizens was so great that the government had to build a place to house it all: Fort Knox. By the mid-1930s, the only thing usable as currency, or as a store of savings, was Federal Reserve scrip. On the tax side, FDR built on the Hoover precedent and raised the top rate to 73 percent—nearly triple that of the Roaring ’20s. In 1942 Roosevelt proposed a 100 percent top tax rate; every penny a person earned over $25,000 (about $368,000 today) would go to the government. He even tried to get what he wanted by executive order. Congress approved a 94 percent top tax rate.
FDR perceived that having very high rates on the top earners also made it possible to hit the little guy with substantial taxes. If the top rate was 25 percent, as in the 1920s, the average American preferred that income taxes be reserved for the richest few. But if the top rate was 94 percent, the average American was comfortable paying 20 percent, because the differential was so large. Let’s be clear: the period from 1932 to 1945—when the United States invoked its socialistic powers, dominating the monetary system and introducing confiscatory taxation—brought the very worst years in American history in terms of economic growth, unemployment, and living standards. World War II, for all its feats of production, ate up living standards, manifested both by rationing and by the war bonds that radically depreciated against inflation. World War II represented the one time the United States tended toward classic socialism. Government ownership (or close direction) of the means of production proved useful at producing military goods, but not anything close to a normal way of producing civilian goods.
Kennedy and Reagan
The top income tax rate dropped to 91 percent in 1945 and stayed at that level for another two decades. It took a Democrat to push for change. intercollegiatereview.com
President John F. Kennedy called for “an across-the-board, top-tobottom” tax cut, and in 1963 he signed the reduction into law. The JFK tax cuts slashed all twentyfour rates in the tax code: the top rate fell from 91 to 70 percent; the bottom, from 20 to 14 percent. It was an avowed effort to desocialize the country. Despite the common myth of “Eisenhower prosperity,” the 1950s had brought a recession every twenty-four or thirty-six months. The socialist tax power had hindered economic growth in at least two ways. First, it meant that people couldn’t get ahead, because if they made more money, they got taxed at higher rates. Second, entrepreneurs feared taking a leap, because government was right there implying that it might use its tax, if not its monetary powers, to soak up any income it might deem excessive. Tellingly, the term venture capital came into common usage in 1964, the year JFK’s big tax cut took effect. So what happened when the U.S. government turned away from socialist policies? The economy boomed,
Think socialism is cool? Think again. intercollegiatereview.com
just as it had during the laissez-faire 1920s. The long-term growth rate doubled, to 5 percent. In the 1960s the nation was bereft of recession for the longest period—nine years— possibly in all of American history. By contrast, in the 1930s and ’40s, when the United States indulged the socialistic powers it had given itself decades earlier, the economy proved incapable of maintaining living standards, at times even of keeping people above destitution. When we had socialism-lite, in the 1950s, the economy had a nagging case of the slows. Despite that clear record, the U.S. government meddled in the economy again in the 1970s, going wild with monetary and tax policy. The United States went off the gold standard, leading to hideous inflation—upwards of 14 percent per year. Because the tax code was not adjusted for inflation, tax rates were raised by stealth: if your income merely kept up with the inflation engineered by the Fed— that is, if you saw no actual gain in income—you could be pushed into a higher tax bracket. (This is the
phenomenon known as bracket creep.) The tally was predictable: a 75 percent decline in the stock market, a tripling of the “misery index” (unemployment and inflation added up), and a new consensus that America was in decline, caught in a “malaise,” as President Jimmy Carter put it in 1979. In the 1980s, under President Ronald Reagan, the government walked back its socialistic powers. The Reagan administration stabilized the dollar against the external price of gold (legal again to hold) and cut tax rates just as Kennedy had, but twice—first in 1981 and again in 1986. Up bounded the economy: stocks increased fifteenfold in the following two decades, unemployment was cut in half, and inflation became a thing of the past.
The Lessons of the Past
Anyone even tempted to entertain socialism as a cure to what ails the American economy need only consult the historical record. The story could not be clearer: American prosperity is the product of a free people cooperating together to make and do things. When the government has exerted its powers to control the monetary system and confiscate income, slow growth and unemployment, if not economic misery, have been the result. Tell that to the next person you meet who says our country needs socialism. America owes its legendary prosperity to our ability to get the government to refrain from meddling in the economy. We need presidents who understand that too.
Brian Domitrovic is a historian, professor, and columnist at Forbes.com. He is the author of Econoclasts and the coauthor, with Lawrence Kudlow, of the new book JFK and the Reagan Revolution: A Secret History of American Prosperity. INTERCOLLEGIATE REVIEW · Fall 2016
b y S T E V E N F. H AY WA R D
he 2016 presidential election cycle has produced a circumstance highly unusual in American politics: major-party nominees whose mutual unpopularity appears to exceed the bounds of normal partisan fervor. Unusual, but not unprecedented. After all, a civil war broke out after one especially contentious presidential election
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(1860) in which a large faction of the framers of the Constitution cremind that the chief object of critiAmericans were unwilling to accept ated. The behavior of most modern cism in the Declaration of Indepenthe outcome, and other presidential presidents and candidates—personally dence was King George III, and the victors, such as Andrew Jackson and ambitious politicians making populist political history that the Founders Harry Truman, were highly divisive appeals and offering lavish promises, studied reinforced the conclusion or were elected despite severe doubts often impossible to fulfill, of what they that kings or tyrants who exercised about their character or capacities. will do for the people—is precisely unconstrained power are a constant Character: that’s an important conwhat the Founders wanted to avoid threat to liberty. Many among the sideration rarely discussed in presiwhen they established the presidency. Founders doubted not simply whether dential campaigns these days. Voters a president or other chief executive cite any number of other reasons for George Washington’s was necessary but in fact whether it supporting a particular candidate: “Untrodden Ground” would be dangerous to have one. An agreement with the candidate on Most citizens today regard the presi“elected king” was thought no better important issues or on his or her dent as the center of gravity in our than a hereditary king. (See Brion “vision” for America, the belief that political system; it’s not for nothing McClanahan’s article on page 8.) the nominee’s experience (or somethat the president is referred to as “the But remember, too, that the nation’s times his or her “outsider” status) is leader of the free world.” But this is first constitution, the Articles of what the country needs, or simply a a wholly modern phenomenon. The Confederation, conspicuously lacked desire to see another candidate lose. Constitution begins—Article I—with a chief executive. The absence of But being a successful president Congress rather than the presidency, an executive—the lack of a source involves much more than adopting and before the twentieth century, of the necessary “energy” (Alexthe right policy posiander Hamilton’s tions. Think of the phrase)—contributed THE great presidents in our to the short life of the nation’s history: they Articles. Because there CANNOT BE have typically been were (and still are) no people not only of abilserious examples of UNDERSTOOD APART FROM THE ity and personality but a collective or plural ITSELF. government executive, also of high character. This is no accident. the Founders grudgWhat is greatness, ingly concluded that after all? In 2,400 years we have Congress was considered the most our young republic needed a national not surpassed the understanding of important branch of government. chief executive with sufficient powers. Aristotle, who summed up political Thomas Reed, the legendary Speaker Odd as it may sound today, presigreatness as the ability to translate of the House in the 1890s, turned dent was chosen as the title for the wisdom into action on behalf of the away suggestions that he run for presichief executive because it was conpublic good. To be able to do this, dent because he considered it a lesser sidered a lesser term than goverAristotle argues, requires a comoffice than Speaker. Today Congress nor, which was the alternative title bination of moral virtue, practical is arguably the least important of the Constitutional Convention of wisdom, and public-spiritedness. It the three branches. The slow-motion 1787 considered. President derives is not enough to have a high IQ; in inversion of constitutional philosophy from preside, as in an officer who fact, Aristotle goes to great lengths that has licensed judicial activism on presides over a meeting the way a to show that practical wisdom “is at behalf of a “living” Constitution also chairman sits at the head of a comthe opposite pole from intelligence.” aggrandized the office of the president mittee. The Latin root term from The character of the individuals beyond what the Founders intended. which it derives, praesidere, means who seek the presidency cannot be It is remarkable nowadays to reflect “to sit in front or at the head of” understood apart from the characthat America’s Founders doubted and, significantly, “to defend.” ter of the office itself—both what it whether our new republic should have Clearly the Founders had in mind was designed to be and what it has a president or chief executive officer that the president would be the become. The Founders would be at all, and that it was only after long chief defender of the Constitution appalled by the modern presidency, debate that they settled on creating against the populist furies of Conwhich bears little relation to the office the office of the president. Keep in gress, chiefly by conducting himself
CHARACTER OF PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
CHARACTER OF THE OFFICE
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in the mode of an agent—someone to execute the laws “faithfully.” The fundamental ambivalence to the idea of the constitutional executive can be seen in the brevity of Article II of the Constitution. Whereas Article I enumerates the powers of Congress in specific terms, Article II is very general about the powers of the president. Just as “parchment barriers” alone would be insufficient to protect liberty, the Founders understood that the character of the people who held the office would be more important than whatever specifications they attempted in the text of the Constitution. The success of the republic would depend on what Thomas Jefferson called the “moderation and virtue” of the individuals who led it—especially of the president. In fact, the Founders may not have agreed to create the presidency were it not for the reassuring prospect that George Washington would be the first, precedent-setting occupant. Washington was highly conscious of this historic role. “Few who are not philosophical spectators,” he wrote, “can 18
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realize the difficult and delicate part which a man in my situation has to act. . . . In our progress toward political happiness my station is new; and, if I may use the expression, I walk on untrodden ground. There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn into precedent.”
Presidential Restraint Washington’s republican modesty provided a powerful model for his successors. Americans like to speak of having a president who is “above partisanship,” and Washington was, of course, the only U.S. president who did not belong to a political party. Partisan divisions quickly emerged in this country, taking decisive shape in the quarrels within Washington’s own cabinet. Still, for more than a century after Washington, presidents operated on the understanding that the president’s primary responsibility was to defend the country against threats from enemies abroad and the Constitution against threats at home. Prior to the twentieth century, presidents tended to be more reticent
in their public profile and restrained in their understanding of how to conduct the office than what we are accustomed to today. Most presidents exercised their veto power only over legislation they thought violated the Constitution, and not because they disagreed with the policy judgment of Congress. Presidents did not give many public addresses. Even the State of the Union, now a prime-time television event in which the president addresses both houses of Congresses, was a quiet affair: for well over a century presidents simply wrote an address and had a clerk read it to Congress. According to Jeffrey Tulis, author of the seminal study of the history of presidential rhetoric (The Rhetorical Presidency), only four presidents before Theodore Roosevelt attempted to defend or attack specific proposed legislation in speeches. At one appearance on tour in New York, President Benjamin Harrison begged off commenting on current issues before Congress, saying: “You ask for a speech. It is not very easy to know what one can talk about on such an occasion as this. Those topics which are most familiar to me, because I am brought in daily contact with them, namely public affairs, are in some measure forbidden to me” (emphasis added). Washington’s example of republican restraint started to erode with Andrew Jackson, a person of large ability but mixed character. But even Jackson anchored his politics chiefly within a defense of the Constitution as he understood it. Everything changed in the Progressive Era, when, impatient with the constitutional restraints that are intended to produce thoughtful deliberation in government, Woodrow Wilson and other political thinkers openly criticized the Constitution and argued for a “visionary” president who would speed up the course of History. Ever since, presidents of both intercollegiatereview.com
parties have carried on in this mode, with only the partial exceptions of Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan. It has been a straight line—arguably straight downhill—from Wilson to Barack Obama and his promise to “fundamentally transform” the nation. As the Cato Institute’s Gene Healy puts it in his fine book The Cult of the Presidency: America’s Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power, “We still expect the ‘commander in chief’ to heal the sick, save us from hurricanes, and provide balm for our itchy souls.” Healy calls this, on the part of presidents, “acquired situational narcissism”; the American people have become “presidential romantics.” But our inflated expectations of presidents, together with inflated presidential promises to solve the nation’s problems, probably have contributed to the loss of public confidence in the federal government. The single most salient fact of the past fifty years may well be the survey results showing that public confidence in the ability of the federal government to perform well has declined dramatically, from nearly 70 percent in 1960 to less than 20 percent over the past twenty years. The one sustained reversal of this trend came during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, and it is probably not a coincidence that Reagan’s core message, stated directly in his first inaugural address, was that the American people themselves, and not Washington, would fix the nation’s serious problems.
The Presidential Paradox Understanding the true, constitutional character of the presidency helps us understand the character traits we should look for in a president. “republican modesty ” is not a slogan you’re likely to see emblazoned on a presidential campaign poster. Nor do campaigns dwell much on the elements of political greatness that Aristotle identified: intercollegiatereview.com
moral virtue, practical wisdom, and public-spiritedness. But we would be better served seeking a president who embodies these traits than one with an ambitious “vision” for transforming American society. The president is the focal point of the chief paradox of the republican form of self-government. To be sure, we want presidents who are what used to be called “great men,” in the profound, classical sense of the term. We want people of high character, ability, and large personality to preside over the operation of our government. In a crisis, we rightly want a statesman. But the paradox of republican government, in which we choose our temporary rulers from among the ranks of our fellow citizens, is that we want to be able to look up to our government officials without having them look down on us. This paradox applies to presidents most of all: we want to put them on a pedestal but still gaze upon them at eye level. The most successful and popular presidents have been those who managed this paradox: those who
were able to command our respect and respond to the real needs of our moment—preeminently defending the nation from foreign threats, and securing law and order—while still “connecting” with citizens as an equal. After Barack Obama—after three generations of progressivism only slightly interrupted by the Reagan years—the conservative president we desperately need requires a paradoxical combination of boldness and restraint. The president will need to be bold in challenging the runaway power and reach of his or her own branch, against the fury of the bureaucracy, its client groups, and the media. This boldness is necessary to restore the proper kind of restraint that a republican executive should have in our constitutional order. It is not clear where such a person might come from. The supply of people who understand this seems very short indeed.
Steven F. Hayward is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents, From Woodrow Wilson to Barack Obama. INTERCOLLEGIATE REVIEW · Fall 2016
EDUCATION OF A PRESIDENT
by GLEAVES WHITNEY
an the liberal arts prepare citizens for leadership?
Most of us in higher education want the answer to be a reassuring “yes.” In truth, a resounding “maybe not” better describes our civilization’s long engagement with the topic. 20 INTERCOLLEGIATE REVIEW · Fall 2016
Since antiquity, the value of the liberal arts in forming future leaders has been debatable. Plato groomed Dionysius the Younger to be a philosopher-king at the head of the intercollegiatereview.com
Greek colony of Syracuse, yet the experiment turned out disastrously. Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great, the greatest general of the ancient world, but the conqueror’s excesses made him a dubious standardbearer of the liberal arts. Cicero sent his son Marcus to Athens to study under the best minds, but to his father’s disappointment the youth did not profit by the experience. More recently there emerged the monstrous modern type known as der gebildete Nazi (the cultivated Nazi), who had been liberally educated in the Gymnasium. By night he listened to Bach and read Goethe. By day he exterminated Jews. While the Nazi elite were hardly models of leadership, the opportunity for superb intellectual and moral formation in the Weimar Republic cast doubt on the truism that a liberal education was necessarily a humanizing education. Moreover, numerous historical figures never obtained a liberal education but became leaders of the first order. Moses, Charlemagne, Muhammad, Genghis Khan, and Joan of Arc come to mind. We will never know whether exposure to the liberal arts in their formative years would have made these giants greater leaders. Perhaps because our nation was founded, as Alexander Hamilton put it, through deliberation and with a flourish—claiming to inaugurate nothing less than “a new order for the ages”—Americans have tended to buck history. Even at the outer limits of Western civilization, Americans were more optimistic (or less cynical) than most other peoples when it came to the role of the liberal arts in the intellectual and moral formation of citizenleaders. From colonial days this belief was implanted in Americans’ cultural DNA. Every New England village had its schoolhouse. Every Tidewater plantation had a tutor for its scions. Every frontier settlement taught its children to read and interpret the Bible. Americans’ faith in humane learning entered the law of the land at the beginning of the nation’s audacious experiment with ordered freedom. intercollegiatereview.com
George Washington educated himself to develop self-discipline and prudence
During the summer of 1787, when the framers were drafting the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia, delegates to the Confederation Congress in New York City wrote, in Article 3 of the Northwest Ordinance, “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” Two generations later Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America gave two cheers to the liberal arts: “It cannot be doubted that, in the United States, the instruction of the people powerfully contributes to the support of a democratic republic; and such must always be the case, I believe, where instruction which awakens the understanding is not separated from moral education which amends the heart. But . . . true information is mainly derived from experience; and if the Americans had not been gradually accustomed to govern themselves, their book-learning would not assist them much at the present day.” Let’s pause over Tocqueville’s
observation, for it is apt today. He is saying that a liberal education is of limited value if it leads neither to moral improvement nor to better self-government. Indeed, self-government is the prior condition that makes liberal education profitable to citizens at all. The Frenchman’s observation helps explain why our nation has had an abiding faith in the nexus between the liberal arts and the formation of citizen-leaders. Our hope in the liberal arts is especially apparent in an unexpected source: our presidents. It is unexpected because eleven of the forty-three men who have served as president either did not attend or did not finish college. But being unschooled does not equate with being uneducated. The lack of schooling in the formation of one of every four U.S. presidents underscores the paradox that even the most humble among them were often great champions of education in general and of the liberal arts in particular. Let’s briefly survey three presidents who lived out this paradox.
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George Washington: Civility and Self-Sacrifice
also to buck up their flagging spirits. Many a biographer has asserted that it was Cato that kept Washington’s own spirit buoyed during the winter at Valley Forge and other low points in the quest for independence.
unlike his ongoing experiments at Mount Vernon, but he also encourWe’ll begin with our first president, aged in-depth instruction in hisGeorge Washington. Even though tory, philosophy, and belles lettres, Washington was born into Virginia’s disciplines at the core of the liberal minor gentry, and even though his arts. The new republic would need family hired tutors to prepare citizens to impart a respectfor public service, able degree of and such instrucWAS OUR knowledge in its tion would provide PRESIDENT BUT PERHAPS OUR scions, he would powerful models and always feel embarantimodels of leaderONE. rassed that he did ship. The national not possess the university would fulformal schooling of fill America’s promAdams (Harvard), Jefferson (William As if to make up for his own lack of ise to seed future generations with and Mary), Hamilton (Columbia), or schooling, the Father of Our Nation leading thinkers and thinking leaders. Madison (Princeton). Most of Washchampioned the schooling of others. ington’s learning occurred not in the Especially during his second term as The Unschooled study but in the outdoor school of the president he wrote letters and delivAbraham Lincoln western frontier, where he picked up ered an annual report to Congress Abraham Lincoln is another presisurveying and soldiering. Yet what to encourage the founding of a great dent who captures the irony that we Washington lacked in schooling he national university. Read today, his are highlighting, as he was one of the made up in education. Through obserproposal sounds like the description eleven presidents who never attended vation and self-discipline, he worked of a first-rate land-grant school such or graduated from college. Our prairie hard to acquire prudence—considered as the University of Wisconsin or statesman observed that his formal by Aristotle the indispensable virtue University of Minnesota. Washington schooling amounted to about one year, for the statesman—and was ambitious stressed the teaching of sound agriculif that. Yet he was among the most to enlarge his intellectual muscle. tural techniques and innovation not educated presidents in U.S. history. While still in his teens Washington copied out by hand 110 behavioral maxims and called them Rules of Civility, and at the age of twenty-two he wrote something of a bestseller about his diplomatic mission into the wilds of northwestern Pennsylvania. The truly great book of Washington’s life was one he did not write. It was the play he read again and again, as though it were a love letter: Joseph Addison’s Cato (1713). The tragedy, about one of the last martyrs of the Roman Republic, filled Washington’s imagination with the image of the self-sacrificing hero who transcends death by resisting tyranny. The play also anticipated Romanticism, as its most famous line attests: “A day, an hour, of virtuous liberty is worth a whole eternity in bondage.” Washington saw the play performed and, in turn, had it performed for his soldiers on several occasions during the War for How did a man with only a year of formal schooling Independence, not only to teach his write classics of American statecraft and literature? soldiers about civic republicanism but
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To the chagrin of his father, Abraham discovered reading at an early age, often to the neglect of his farming chores. On the Indiana and Illinois frontier, he closely read anything he could get his hands on, especially Aesop, Euclid, the Bible, Shakespeare, Burns, Franklin, and America’s early state papers. Books such as these he read over and over, internalizing their rich diction and strong cadences. As scholars Ronald White, Garry Wills, and others have shown, it was Lincoln’s perceptive reading of good books that equipped him to write prose that “belongs to the ages.” Think of the most beautiful phrase from his first inaugural address: “the mystic chords of memory.” Shakespearean in power, the phrase captures the sentiment that held Americans together even as they were divided by quarreling sections and generations. Likewise consider the most arresting thought from his second inaugural address, that forgiveness and mercy are more important than judgment in a nation desperate to heal from civil war. No wonder Lincoln is our only president whose speeches have been consistently anthologized for students in English, composition, and history classes. It is no exaggeration to say that his Gettysburg Address and second inaugural address are classics of American statecraft and literature.
Harry Truman: Learning from Thucydides Harry Truman was the last chief executive without a college degree to reach the White House. “Give ’em Hell Harry” was a plainspoken midwesterner who grew up on a farm near Independence, Missouri. All his life he felt the inadequacy of his formal schooling, and all his life he strained against bad eyesight to read the best books he could find. This autodidact would find his books to be indispensable companions in the White House. That is because Truman was not well prepared to assume the presidency when his predecessor, Franklin Roosevelt, died suddenly. The authors he read filled intercollegiatereview.com
Harry Truman, the last president without a college degree, was driven to be well educated
some of the gaps in his understanding of statecraft. Truman hoped that by reading of the mistakes of leaders past, he could avoid making those same mistakes himself. After Truman became president in April 1945, my grandfather, J. B. Whitney Jr., had the opportunity to meet with him in the White House. Whitney had also grown up on a farm near Independence, and the two friends shared much in common. He asked the president how he would deal with all the pressures of the office, especially the escalating conflict with the Soviet Union. The gathering storm would test any leader in the new atomic age. Truman thought about Whitney’s question a moment and answered, “I am going to keep my Thucydides close at hand.” By studying the thinking and actions of men during the Peloponnesian War, Truman hoped to understand better how leaders on both sides of the Iron Curtain might behave.
Drawing Wisdom from the Liberal Arts Despite their lack of formal schooling, these three American presidents
were driven to become well educated. This paradox confirms Aristotle’s observation that one of our first needs as human beings is to know. Some of the best teachers of our unschooled presidents were dead men who lived on as the authors of great books. With such a first-rate faculty as their tutors and companions, Washington, Lincoln, and Truman found a measure of wisdom to deal with the existential crises the United States faced—from the tumult of our nation’s birth in the eighteenth century, to its internal trial by fire in the nineteenth, to the mortal threat of nuclear war in the twentieth. So the lives of these three presidents nudge us toward a tentative “yes” to the question posed at the start of this essay, whether the liberal arts can prepare citizens for leadership. Tentative, because the danger of seeing the liberal arts merely as a cultural affectation—as der gebildete Nazi did—remains always a possibility.
Gleaves Whitney is director of Grand Valley State University’s Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies. INTERCOLLEGIATE REVIEW · Fall 2016
In a presidential election year in which every issue is hotly debated, ISI student leaders are standing up for free speech, religious liberty, and other fundamental principles. Their stories remind us how much good can be done even on militantly progressive campuses. KEEP UP THE FIGHT The Dartmouth Review
he Dartmouth Review, a member of ISI’s Collegiate Network, has been at the forefront of the conservative movement on campus since its founding in 1980. Our paper exposes political correctness, attacks on free speech, and abuses by the Dartmouth administration. Last fall the Review reported on a Black Lives Matter protest that turned violent. Protesters stormed Dartmouth’s Baker-Berry Library, shoving students while screaming profanities
and racial epithets. Never mind that these protesters clearly violated college policy; Dartmouth’s administration tried to shove the incident under the rug. But the Review wouldn’t let the story disappear. Then, in May, the Review and the College Republicans secured Dartmouth’s permission to honor National Police Week with a “Blue Lives Matter” display. Within hours, vandals had torn down the display and replaced it with Black Lives Matter posters. The college stood by and did nothing, but the Review didn’t back down. Finally, after a few days, Dartmouth’s president publicly condemned the removal of the Blue Lives Matter display. You can fight for free speech on campus. —Jonathan Postiglione
A VICTORY FOR REAL EDUCATION The Stanford Review
The vandalized “Blue Lives Matter” display at Dartmouth
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ined with palm trees, Stanford University’s campus is idyllic. Its humanities requirements? Not so much. In February the students of the ISI Collegiate Network’s Stanford
Review launched a petition in support of a Western Civilization humanities requirement for all Stanford freshmen. The proposal addressed the problem that Stanford students were able to satisfy the university’s Thinking Matters program requirements with courses like “The Language of Food” and “Dance in Prison.” We thought it unacceptable for students to study for four years without ever having to contemplate the sources of our liberties and why we cherish them. We were vilified as racist, ethnocentric, colonialist defenders of slavery (and much worse), and campus activists publicly intimidated signers of our petition. But our ballot initiative received nationwide coverage in such intercollegiatereview.com
outlets as the Wall Street Journal, National Review, and Fox News. The left-leaning student body soundly rejected our ballot initiative— but only on the narrow grounds of its Western focus. Suddenly everyone seemed to accept the need for stronger humanities requirements. And in May, Stanford announced a new humanities core, containing multiple tracks focusing on literary and philosophical traditions, including one European track. Best of all, the courses are structured on the Great Books education model. We didn’t get everything we wanted, but by standing up for liberal education, we made a difference. —Elliot Kaufman
Western intellectual tradition. Our group meets weekly to debate foundational questions such as Resolved, That When God Is Dead All Things Are Permissible, or Resolved, That the Poor Man Cannot Be Free. We eat dinner together on weeknights and have Friday luncheons with distinguished academics and public figures. Even more exciting, we have begun working with students at other schools. In the spring we cohosted the first Ivy Debate Symposium, welcoming students from every other Ivy League institution to participate in our distinctive form of debate. —Eli Westerman
FIGHTING FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY Catholic University’s ISI CounterCulture Society
REACHING BEYOND OUR CAMPUS Yale’s Conservative Party
he Conservative Party of the Yale Political Union is proud to be an ISI Society. It’s a fitting match: ISI’s first president, William F. Buckley Jr., was a member of the Conservative Party while at Yale. Like ISI, the Conservative Party seeks to produce principled and profound leaders who are grounded in the intercollegiatereview.com
ou might think a Catholic university entangled in a lawsuit over the HHS mandate would welcome a discussion of religious liberty. But no. A few days before our ISI Society at the Catholic University of America was set to welcome the conservative Catholic blogger Matt Walsh for a talk on religious liberty, university administrators told us that Walsh may not be allowed on campus because of his “controversial views.” We later learned that Campus Ministry was among the groups behind the pushback. Our society resisted the edict and finally forced the administration to
relent. A crowd of 150 packed the room for Walsh’s talk. Protesters lined the back of the room, and several used the Q&A session to accuse the speaker of being “hateful.” But another student raised his hand and said, “Mr. Walsh, I would like to thank you for creating an unsafe place to force people to think and to be uncomfortable and to realize the right to free speech . . . trumps other peoples’ desire not to be internally conflicted and internally harmed by other peoples’ ideas.” The overwhelming applause showed where the majority of those present stood. —Emily Butler
C H A N G E YOUR CAMPUS C U L T U R E Learn how to start an ISI Society or a student publication of your own and receive grants of up to $10,000 from ISI. Visit www.isi.org or e-mail email@example.com. INTERCOLLEGIATE REVIEW · Fall 2016
BEHIND ENEMY LINES by MARLO SAFI
eing the elephant in the room never used to faze me.
As a columnist for my campus newspaper, the Pitt News, I was accustomed to being the lone voice speaking for conservative principles amid bleeding-heart cries for “social justice.” I was also used to being demonized for my beliefs. Still, this past spring I accepted the paper’s offer to become an editor for the Opinions section. My first day on the job, I realized that the editorial board thought of me as more than just the new editor; I was the Arab conservative. After several weeks of congregating with the editorial board, I started selfcensoring my ideas so as not to offend anyone. I often found myself drowned out by my colleagues’ idealistic pleas to end gentrification or by their accusations of sexism. Pretty soon I stopped giving my opinion on contentious issues out of fear of being judged a bigot or a right-wing nutjob. I even hid my laptop, which was covered with stickers celebrating William F. Buckley Jr., Ronald Reagan, free speech, and the Gadsden flag. Despite my fears of being misjudged, I grew more concerned about my sudden selfdoubt. I had considered myself steadfast in my beliefs, but my coworkers’ relentless attacks and judgments got to me. I was inundated with the Pitt News’s
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EVEN PRINCIPLED CONSERVATIVE
STUDENTS CAN GET SWEPT UP IN PROGRESSIVISM ON CAMPUS. IT ALMOST HAPPENED TO ME. grievances about the GOP, the havoc that controversial Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos wreaked when he visited the Pitt campus, and other actions I was guilty of by association. My coworkers also challenged me on gay marriage, Planned Parenthood, and other issues. I began to question my own perspective. I would catch myself at dead ends of thought, with no place to go. Looking back, I can see how easy it is for even principled conservative students to get swept up in the progressive tide on college campuses. It almost happened to me. I was vilified, caricatured, and ostracized. The
way my coworkers reacted to me, I might as well have walked around the office draped in a Confederate flag. But here’s the thing: ultimately I didn’t succumb to the leftist pressure. For weeks I endured frustration and self-doubt, but as I approached the end of my editorship, I reminded myself that I hadn’t embraced conservatism on a whim. Moving past progressivism’s superficial appeal, I had embraced conservative principles based on careful study of the issues and close reading of great conservative thinkers. So while I was at the Pitt News I threw myself into rereading giants like Nobel Prize–w inning economists Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. The pillars of my conservative beliefs became sturdier, not weaker. I embraced being an outcast and decided I could not falter. Although I did not particularly enjoy my time as an editor at the Pitt News, I am eternally grateful for the experience. It taught me about empathy and listening to other perspectives. It also taught me how to be a better conservative. Marlo Safi is a junior at the University of Pittsburgh. This summer she worked at Campus Reform as an ISI Collegiate Network–sponsored intern. intercollegiatereview.com
WHAT ISI TAUGHT ME by HANNAH OH
nlike many of my conservative peers, I wasn’t raised in a traditional Republican household. My Asian immigrant parents were as apolitical and irreligious as you could get: we never discussed politics, watched the news together, or went to church. In a way, I felt like I missed out on some key formative experiences that made me envy my peers. In others ways, however, it was a blessing that I entered college as a clean slate, since it forced me to seek out as much knowledge as During my time at ISI, I learned this observation that first led me to possible to form my own opinions. how to think, not what to think, identify as a campus conservative. In I applied early decision to Clareand for that I am forever grateful. contrast to the campus left, consermont McKenna College because it was ISI provided me with books to read, vatives cherished and enriched the a prestigious liberal arts school with a lectures to listen to, and people to marketplace of ideas, and were far distinct reputation for intellectual and meet, but it never once forced me more willing to treat people as indipolitical diversity. In 1946 Claremont to adhere to a certain set of beliefs. viduals instead of collectives. These was created as a haven for free-market In fact, ISI made sure that many were values that I deeply believed in, economists, anti–New Deal Republiof its conferences included panels and ones that I fervently advocated cans, and World War II veterans in an of guests who disagreed with one at my college with ISI’s support. increasingly progressive environment. another and offered ample time for For students like me, ISI provided Though much had changed since students to delve into and discuss the rare opportunity to be exposed then, I looked to to different views the college to foster PROVIDED THE TO BE in a setting where rigorous debate I was encouraged EXPOSED TO AND EXERCISE to challenge and be among its students. Unfortunately, challenged, exerMY this is far from cise my academic what I got. Conservative students our differences. And, despite those freedoms, and foster true intellecwere ridiculed rather than debated; differences, there was one thing that tual growth. That’s what a college conservative magazines were trashed we universally agreed on: we would education used to look like. Thankrather than read; conservative always treat one another with respect. fully, ISI is picking up the torch. speakers were protested rather than Basic respect for others is sorely embraced. As someone who genuinely missing from college campuses. In wanted to listen to conservatives and the far left academic community Hannah Oh is a recent graduate of understand their views, I decided to especially, students and faculty Claremont McKenna College, where she venture out of my college’s progressive alike have been much more eager to edited the ISI Collegiate Network newspaper bubble and join the Intercollegiate condemn conservatives as “racists” the Claremont Independent. She now Studies Institute (ISI) to challenge and “sexists” than to respectfully works for Jamestown Associates, a political myself with new ideas and people. engage with them face-to-face. It was consulting firm.
RARE OPPORTUNITY DIFFERENT VIEWS ACADEMIC FREEDOMS.
INTERCOLLEGIATE REVIEW · Fall 2016
Not quite what the old master expected:
Rembrandt ponders the inflation of Jeff Koons.
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INTERCOLLEGIATE REVIEW · Fall 2016
JOHN A DA MS A MERICA N C ONSERVAT I V E
ohn Adams isn’t on Mount Rushmore. Presidential rankings typically don’t put him anywhere near the “great” category. Adams could be pompous, thinskinned, and severe. So why, in this presidential issue, is the IR featuring John Adams as a Freedom Hall hero? Because Adams reminds us that adhering to the timeless truths that shaped our nation is better than following trends to gain popularity. And because, as Russell Kirk observes in his seminal book The Conservative Mind (1953), he was “the founder of true conservatism in America.” Adams stood for federalism, ordered liberty, and prudential change, and warned against the dangers of radicalism. In 1770, not long into his career, Adams showed his ability to put principle above passion when he served as the defense lawyer for the British soldiers
30 INTERCOLLEGIATE REVIEW · Fall 2016
who fired on a mob in the Boston Massacre. While hotter heads used the incident to drum up animosity toward the Crown, Adams’s articulate case saved the soldiers from jail time. His defense of the British soldiers by no
means indicated a lack of patriotism. When the time came for deliberate action, Adams pledged his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor in the cause of American independence. Adams distinguished himself as a political
thinker. According to Kirk, his body of work “exceeds, both in bulk and in penetration, any other work on government by an American.” Adams understood that his attacks on radicalism made him the subject of “immense unpopularity”; he stood by his positions nonetheless. As president, Adams expressed apprehension about the public’s tendency to make celebrities of political leaders. Given his refusal to pander to the people or sacrifice his principles, Kirk notes, “it’s surprising that he ever could attain a popularity sufficient to make him president of the United States.” But the current generation might do well to take John Adams as its role model, instead of the braggarts and media magnets so visible today.
pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on [the White House] and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.” —Letter to his wife, Abigail Adams, November 2, 1800
he preservation of liberty depends upon the intellectual and moral character of the people. As long as knowledge and virtue are diffused generally among the body of a nation, it is impossible they should be enslaved.”
he true source of our sufferings has been our timidity. We have been afraid to think. . . . Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.” —“A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law,” 1765
—Notes for an Oration at Braintree, Massachusetts, spring 1772
ur Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
—Message to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts, October 11, 1798
THE RIDDLES OF LIFE
he longer I live, the more I read, the more patiently I think and the more anxiously I inquire, the less I seem to know. . . . Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly. This is enough.” —Letter to his granddaughter Caroline de Windt, January 24, 1820
INTERCOLLEGIATE REVIEW · Fall 2016
GOD ON THE QUAD
THE DICTATORSHIP OF
RELATIVISM COMES TO CAMPUS by ERIC META X AS
We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires. —Pope Benedict XVI
first encountered relativism when I went to college at Yale. Before that I had lived in a working-class world where truth was a real concept. In my parents’ world, truth was something noble and beautiful; it was something that people lived and died for, like freedom. To be an enemy of the truth was to be about the worst thing there was. Since Yale’s motto is Lux et Veritas—Latin for “Light and Truth”— I was eager to get there so that I could begin learning what truth really was. I was genuinely excited about the idea of searching for it. But by the time I got there—in the 1980s—Yale had abandoned the outdated notion that truth was something real, something to be sought after and discovered and treasured. That onetime seminary had instead espoused a winking, postmodern attitude, in which the notion of a singular truth had been replaced by the relativistic theory that there are many “truths” . . . which is to say no truths at all. I began in my sophomore year to hang out with a group
32 INTERCOLLEGIATE REVIEW · Fall 2016
of friends who were politically and theologically liberal. They tended toward a relativistic view of the world, and I began to see things as they did. (Incidentally, this happens a lot in college.) Radical subjectivity was our guiding light. There simply was no right answer. Everyone was equally correct. We all had our own “truths” and that was that. This was the very essence of freedom from constraints and rules—and it was completely undemanding. intercollegiatereview.com
GOD ON THE QUAD A Confused Idea of Truth
less valuable than the person who is adultery is wrong. We’re crazy like But I began to see that relativism healthy. The idea that human life is that. really isn’t anti-truth. Rather, relativinherently sacred, at every stage, they Of course, Christians do not believe ism is a confused idea of what truth find simply incomprehensible. only in moral laws and in doctrine. To actually is. As those examples suggest, relativtreat truth as authoritarianism and Relativists pretend that the only ists find the idea of moral truths espefundamentalism is to set up a straw alternative to relativism is authoricially problematic. To them, moral man. The Bible itself strongly contarianism and fundamentalism. If truths have no validity independent of demns the Pharisees, who were full of you want to talk about truth—or God the “values” treasured by the person or moral rules and judgment but had no forbid, about Truth—they immedisociety that asserts them. love and grace for those who struggled ately attack you as morally. People who patriarchal, like those try to turn the God YALE’S MOTTO IS Dead White Males of the Bible into an who dared declare authoritarian figure BUT BY anything to be conwho merely thunders crete and specific and THE TIME I GOT THERE THE SCHOOL judgment may rather historical. They will quickly flip their HAD EMBRACED . probably suggest that wigs and worldviews you have violent and when they encounoppressive tendencies. They’re sinBut as a Christian, I cannot dister the figure of Jesus. He famously cerely threatened by the idea of truth. miss the idea of truth as relativists showed grace to the woman taken in The quintessential illustration of do. Christians believe in moral laws adultery and did not condemn her as the authoritarian and fundamentaland in doctrine. We believe in a moral the Pharisees did. So Jesus was no ist idea of truth came from a Wallace order and in rules about how we are authoritarian or fundamentalist. But Stevens poem we read in class called to conduct ourselves, physically and neither was he a relativist. He said to “Dance of the Macabre Mice.” Stevens otherw ise. For example, we believe the woman, “Go and sin no more.” He writes sarcastically about an equesthat marriage is sacred and that didn’t wink at sin; he acknowledged it trian statue of some military hero as sin and then he forgave it. holding an outstretched sword. He To have only half the truth is to depicts the equestrian statue not as have none. heroic and glorious but as militaristic and oppressive. Mice crawl all over the “One Word of Truth” statue and then dance “out to the tip In his magnificent Nobel Prize of Monsieur’s sword.” They are lightacceptance speech in 1970, Aleksandr footed and victorious in their battle Solzhenitsyn quoted a famous Ruswith the dead equestrian hero. “What sian proverb: “One word of truth shall a beautiful tableau,” the poem declares outweigh the whole world.” Truth is with archness and irony, “The arm of the thing that makes evil dictators bronze outstretched against all evil!” tremble; it is the thing that can never It mocks not just the idea of heroism lose, that cannot long be suppressed, but the very idea of goodness and evil. that according to Shakespeare To the relativist, all truths are as “will out,” sooner or later. Eventuoutdated as Stevens’s statue. The ally it must arise from the darkness beautiful idea that we are created in and be victorious. Truth always the image of God is also unacceptable. wins out. Always. Lest we forget. The relativist prefers to think of us as just part of a broad evolutionary conEric Metaxas is the New York Times tinuum, not much different from apes bestselling author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, or stoats or cockroaches. The child in Martyr, Prophet, Spy. His newest book is If the womb is somehow infinitely less You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of valuable than the child outside the American Liberty. He can be found online at womb, and the person in a coma is far www.ericmetaxas.com.
LUX ET VERITAS— “LIGHT AND TRUTH”— RELATIVISM
INTERCOLLEGIATE REVIEW · Fall 2016
ARTS & MANNERS
THE 5 BEST MOVIE
PRESIDENTS by MICHAEL MEDVED
’ve always wanted to see a starstudded, big-screen treatment of the life of Franklin Pierce, arguably the worst president in American history. With movie star good looks before movies even existed, Pierce ranks with JFK as the chief executive whose striking appearance most impressed his contemporaries. Pierce looked splendid in his uniform as a general in the Mexican War, though his problems with alcohol led critics to dismiss him as “hero of many a well-fought bottle.” The hopelessly deadlocked 1852 Democratic convention produced his surprise nomination, but before moving into the White House he saw his only surviving son perish in a gruesome train wreck. This experience left his wife a half-mad recluse while President Pierce drank heavily and made disastrous decisions that led inexorably toward Civil War. Okay, that movie probably won’t happen. But plenty of films about presidents have been made. Here are the five best.
INTERCOLLEGIATE REVIEW · Fall 2016
Fortunately, Honest Abe took over the White House just four years after Pierce left, and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln counts as the most satisfying film ever made about any U.S. president. In his Oscar-winning performance, Daniel Day Lewis transforms the familiar, marble-monument figure into a character of unfamiliar passion, depth, and even vulnerability. Sally Field is so well
cast as Mary Todd Lincoln and David Strathairn so persuasive as Secretary of State William Henry Seward that they make these two major figures of Lincoln’s life more sympathetic than they’ve ever appeared in history that’s merely written. Above all, Spielberg’s rich, lyrical masterpiece counts as a love letter to American politics, in all its shabbiness and grandeur, as the president wheels and deals to pass the Thirteenth Amendment to end slavery. intercollegiatereview.com
ARTS & MANNERS
No rating of chief executives would place John Adams at Lincoln’s level, but the second president nonetheless received epic treatment in HBO’s eighthour miniseries. John Adams covers its subject’s incalculable contributions to revolution and independence, without undue focus on his single, turbulent, and mostly frustrating term as president. Paul Giamatti capture’s the hero’s truculence, brilliance, and stubborn nobility, while Laura Linney as Abigail drives home the point that you don’t have to qualify as the greatest president to have experienced the greatest American love story.
Give ’em Hell, Harry! (1975)
This film can’t compare to Lincoln or John Adams in terms of epic sweep or historical recreations, but it stands in a class of its own as a riveting character study and display of transcendent acting ability. James Whitmore toured the country in a triumphant one-man stage show, and producers Bill Sargent and Joseph E. Bluth filmed a Seattle performance of that unforgettable theatrical event. The resulting movie won an Oscar nomination for Whitmore and left audiences feeling all the intercollegiatereview.com
Missiles of 4. The October (1974)
The year before Give ’em Hell, Harry! earned well-deserved Academy Award attention, a stunningly effective docudrama electrified audiences on ABCTV. The Missiles of October offered two-and-a-half hours of masterful storytelling in covering the thirteen days of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, in which the United States and the Soviet Union came closer than ever before (or ever since) to thermonuclear annihilation. With William Devane as President John F. Kennedy and the young Martin Sheen as Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the television play shows the leaders of the Camelot era agonizing to defend America’s place in the world while still avoiding war. The focus on high-level strategy
meetings inside the White House never becomes claustrophobic thanks to the quality of the acting and the brilliance of the script (by Stanley R. Greenberg, based on a book by RFK).
5. Sunrise at Campobello (1960)
Ralph Bellamy, another member of the Missiles of October cast (he played UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson), had a prior brush with presidential greatness when he starred as Franklin Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello. This sentimental if irresistible story of FDR’s struggle to overcome the paralysis that suddenly afflicted him on a family vacation in 1921 also stars the luminous Greer Garson as Eleanor. The real Mrs. Roosevelt actually visited the set, no doubt pleased to see the glamorous actress bringing more elegance and serenity to her role in the movie than the actual First Lady could muster for her role in the White House. Franz Waxman wrote the stirring, and suitably soupy, musical score. If Ralph Bellamy served as an effective FDR, it’s worth noting that Bill Murray emphatically did not: his role as a randy Roosevelt in Hyde Park on Hudson (2012) stands as one of the worst examples of presidential miscasting. Another instance thrust the fleshy, gravelvoiced Nick Nolte into the part of the sleek, slender aristocrat Thomas Jefferson in the well- intentioned but disappointing Jefferson in Paris in 1995. As I commented at the time, casting Nolte as Jefferson because they both had vaguely southern accents would be the equivalent of asking Pee Wee Herman to play James Madison because they shared small stature. At times, however, asking contemporary entertainers to fill presidential shoes can work better than expected. Even the strange notion of a blustery TV reality star credibly occupying the Oval Office can, on occasion, win more than its share of positive reviews.
2. John Adams
immediacy of live theater or, even better, of a private visit to the White House for an intimate chat with President Truman. Whitmore speaks directly to the audience and to other historical characters who never appear on stage. All the controversies of an embattled, eventful administration (including the dropping of the A-bomb, McCarthyism, recognition of Israel, and the allegedly doomed campaign against Thomas Dewey) present the main character as a decent, unshakable example of downto-earth Americanism.
Film critic and historian Michael Medved hosts a daily, nationally syndicated radio talk show. His latest book, The American Miracle, will be published in October. INTERCOLLEGIATE REVIEW · Fall 2016
ARTS & MANNERS
THAT’S NOT COMEDY
by ANTHONY SACR AMONE
o Stephen Fry—actor, author, raconteur, Apple fan boy, gay activist, atheist—had literally millions of adoring Twitter followers, right up to the time he deactivated his account. His crime? As host of the British equivalent of the Academy Awards, he noted the irony that the winner of the Best Costume award dressed like a “bag lady.”
It didn’t matter that the “lady” in question, Jenny Beavan, happened to be a friend of Fry’s and was not upset by the comment. Excoriated online for his so-called misogyny, Fry had had enough: “Let us grieve at what twitter has become. A stalking ground for the sanctimoniously self-righteous who love to second-guess, to leap to conclusions and be offended—worse, to be offended on behalf of others they do not even know.” Fellow Brit wit John Cleese has also had it with the virtual Torquemadas and has decided to forgo college campus appearances: “Political correctness has been taken from being a good idea, which is ‘Let’s not be mean in particular to people who are not able to look after themselves very well,’ to the point where any 36
INTERCOLLEGIATE REVIEW · Fall 2016
kind of criticism of any individual or group could be labeled cruel. . . . Humor is critical.” On this side of the pond, we have similar expressions of despair at the perpetually outraged, from Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Tina Fey (“There’s a real culture of demanding apologies, and I’m opting out of that”), and Mel Brooks. Talking about his classic Western spoof, Blazing Saddles, Brooks exclaimed: “They can’t make that movie today because everybody’s so politically correct. You know, the NAACP would stop a
great movie that would do such a great service to black people because of the N-word. . . . Politically correct is absolutely wrong. Because it inhibits the freedom of thought.” Fear of offending the wrong groups has become so intense that at least one comedy club, Seattle’s Comedy Nest, has crafted a “safe space” for audiences. As Heat Street reports, the club has imposed “a stringent set of rules curbing gender bias and banning anything that could be construed as misogyny, racism, homophobia or intercollegiatereview.com
controversial comics, who knew that merely transphobia. And at least half The New Gatekeepers to utter a profane word was a way of drawof the comics at the weekly safe Censorship and the vetting ing a culture-war line, a way of challenging space event must be femaleof language we have always Mom and Dad’s buttoned-up generation. identifying.” (No mention had with us. They’re as old as What’s different today is that young people whether Republicans and traPlato’s attack on poets, stonset themselves up as the gatekeepers of ditional Christians are among ing for blasphemy, the Catholic speech and normalizers of acceptable ideas. the protected classes.) But don’t Index of Forbidden Books, GosOne student wrote an “Open Letter to Jerry worry: according to Seattle komizdat, and the Hays Code. Seinfeld,” arguing: “Provocative humor, Weekly, comics at the Comedy Back in the 1950s and ’60s, such as ones dealing with topics of race and Nest are still “free to address it seems like there were more gender politics, can be crass and vulgar, but controversial issues or tell things you couldn’t say on underlying it must be a context that spurs off-color stories about spongeradio and TV than you could. social dialogue about these respective issues. bathing an elder or sex so Edgy stand-up comics were There needs to be a message, a central truth good you know you’re going to eager to push the boundaries of behind comedy for it to work as humor.” contract a UTI.” So there’s that. acceptable language and “civil” “Context”? The idea that there’s a “central The recent documentary discourse. Comedians like Mort truth” that this writer and his colleagues Can We Take a Joke? features Sahl, Dick Gregory, and later agree on is a mirage. What objective moral a number of comics “opting George Carlin, whose famous order do students out” of having recognize? Self-spun every punchJERRY SEINFELD, CHRIS ROCK, TINA FEY, virtual realities line dissected are amenable to no for Orwellian MEL BROOKS, JOHN CLEESE, LISA known power of per“unwords” no LAMPANELLI: suasion, only force. longer in the Newspeak WITH THE . If a mythical ninetyyear-old Lenny Bruce social-justice used the N-word dictionary. onstage today, it Lisa Lampanwould “trigger” any elli, Gilbert number of uninGottfried, tended responses Penn Jillette, from any number of Jim Norton, unintended targets. It Adam Carwouldn’t matter what olla, Heather Bruce’s intention McDonald: was. All that would these are matter is how the just some mere utterance of a word made someone feel— of the comedians who “Seven Dirty Words” routine and heaven help you if it’s a feeling of being speak out in the film. pointed directly to censorship, unsafe, assaulted, or disempowered. (My goodWhat’s interesting is that knew they were flirting with ness, according to Foundation for Individual almost all these folk are on the the law and a swift end to their Rights in Education, even sarcasm is banned left. (Jillette and Carolla are careers if they crossed certain at Australian institutions like the University of small-government libertarians verbal lines. No one knew Queensland and Western Sydney University.) but socially liberal, and outspothis better than Lenny Bruce, Where is our Aristophanes (that paleoken atheists.) And yet even they who was repeatedly arrested paleo-conservative) who will fight for a place are not immune from the profor controversial material he on the stage until both sophistry and tyranny gressive assaults on their right to performed onstage. His use are objects of ridicule, undone by guffaws? laugh at our most treasured shibof profane language, blaspheHe’s certainly not in college. boleths and icons—including, mous ideas, and racial epithets and even especially, gender, made him cultural dynamite. Anthony Sacramone is the Intercollegiate Review’s ethnic, and religious identity. But back then, the younger managing editor. What’s going on? generation embraced these
ARTS & MANNERS
THEY’RE ALL FED UP PERPETUALLY OUTRAGED
INTERCOLLEGIATE REVIEW · Fall 2016
ARTS & MANNERS ARTS & MANNERS
by JAMES R. HARRIGAN
ew things have changed day-to-day American life as much as the free flow of digital entertainment and information from producers to consumers over the past decade. Netflix began streaming content in 2007, and Hulu
followed the next year. HBO, Showtime, Starz, and a host of other streaming services followed. By now it is possible to watch on demand just about every TV show, movie, and sporting event there has ever been. But that’s just the beginning. Spotify launched in 2008, making it possible to stream just about any song that has ever been recorded. Want to learn something? Head to YouTube, or Khan Academy, or to
INTERCOLLEGIATE REVIEW · Fall 2016
any number of world-class universities that post their course lectures online free of charge. For the first time in human history, people can consume
exactly what they want, when they want, how they want. It has become a boutique world. The shift doesn’t stop with entertainment. We are
boutique consumers of news in town, and a national cultural actors, writers, and even newsmen. For all and commentary now, too. identity began to develop. the talk of inequality and social disparWhere there were once just And no sooner had it fully ity in present-day America, the distance a few news outlets for most developed than it was under between the observed and their observers Americans, there are now, threat, as cable TV redefined has been flattened, and remarkably so. quite literally, thousands. And the entire space in the move to So what’s the problem? For all the advanthey are all accessible at any retail consumption. The three tages that have come with the shift from minute of the day with a few channels available to most wholesale, to retail, to boutique consumption, simple keystrokes. The raft of Americans became hundreds. somehow it feels like something essential has information available to anyone There was one dedicated to been lost. As we retreat into our respective who wants it dwarfs what was nearly every niche market corners to enjoy the things we enjoy, we are available just balkanizing ourselves along a generation preferential and, more imporago. The idea of tant, ideological lines. And A WHERE WE CAN GET waiting for the everyone is guilty. With each evening news PRACTICALLY passing year we enjoy less or the morning less in common with one HAS LOTS OF . and paper seems another. The bonds that hold quaint on the BUT WHAT ARE WE ? us together are loosening. best of days, This was Robert Nisbet’s and ridicumid-twentieth-century lous most others. imaginable. Although cable fear in a nutshell. In his landmark book The But all of this upside is not news started by playing things Quest for Community (1953), Nisbet showed without potential ill effects. straight, before long clear ideothat a growing individualism would result As we plunge headlong into a logical markets had developed. in a loss of community, which would in turn boutique pop culture, or more Progressives don’t watch Fox rob Americans of the ability to resist the appropriately multiple boutique News. Conservatives don’t encroaching power of the federal governpop cultures, we come to miss watch MSNBC. No one is all ment. He was right, but he could not foreboth the wholesale and retail that clear on who watches CNN. see the role that technology would play in versions that defined previIt seems as if it has ever been so, isolating people further, only this time in ous eras of American social but this division is a relatively very small pockets of their own making. life. The ramifications of this recent turn of events. It’s almost So what is to be done? First, be cognizant will play out over decades and impossible to remember now, that you live in an echo chamber of your own will prove to be at least as but at one time the entire nation making. Make the effort to break out of it important as the immediate got its news straight from the from time to time. Take a wholesale view gratification this shift entails. mouth of Walter Cronkite. of things every now and again by remindAnd everyone believed what he ing yourself of what links us all rather than Balkanization said. It really was that simple. dwelling on your own parochial concerns. To understand where we The move to boutique conSecond, check out the retail space inhabited are, it’s important to undersumption, made possible by by others. Leave your own world behind for a stand where we’ve been. the ubiquity of high-speed while and spend some time in the larger worlds For most of our history, we internet access, has brought still shared by groups of people who have were wholesale consumers of us to a new level of complexthoughts considerably different from your own. information. Entertainment ity. And the benefits are clear. Finally, return to and enjoy your bouand news came from precious Most important is the beauty tique space, but do it without forgetfew sources, and people either of boutique living. Everything ting that other people, radically difaccepted them or lived withis available at every moment. ferent from you, are doing it too. out. News came from the local With Twitter, Facebook, newspaper and in short reels Instagram, and message Dr. James R. Harrigan is director of Academic at the movies. By the 1950s, boards of every description, Programs at Strata, in Logan, Utah, and CEO of network news (and television just about anyone can interact FreedomTrust in Denver, Colorado. more generally) was the new kid with their favorite athletes,
ANYTHING ON BENEFITS LOSING
INTERCOLLEGIATE REVIEW · Fall 2016
ARTS & MANNERS
WEALTH, POVERTY AND POLITICS
REVISED AND ENLARGED EDITION
Wealth, Poverty and Politics is a new approach to understanding ageold issues about economic disparities among nations and within nations. These disparities are examined in the light of history, economics, geography, demography and culture. Wealth, Poverty and Politics is also a challenge to much that is being said today about income distribution and wealth concentration— a challenge to the underlying assumptions and to the ambiguous words and misleading statistics in which those assumptions are embedded, often even by leading economists. This includes statistics about the much-discussed “top one percent.”
This revised and enlarged edition should be especially valuable to those who teach, and who want to confront their students with more than one way of looking at issues that are too important to be settled by whatever the prevailing orthodoxy happens to be. *********
A true gem in terms of exposing the demagoguery and sheer ignorance of politicians and intellectuals in their claims about wealth and poverty… Dr. Sowell’s new book tosses a monkey wrench into most of the things said about income by politicians, intellectuals and assorted hustlers, plus it’s a fun read. (Professor Walter E. Williams, George Mason University) At a time when many politicians, academics and media commentators are focusing on income inequality, Thomas Sowell’s Wealth, Poverty and Politics: An International Perspective offers a refreshing and stimulating view. (Professor John B. Taylor, Stanford University) Sowell… draws from this well of research to do what he has done so well for so long: question basic assumptions behind public policy and follow the facts where they lead him. ( Jason Riley, Wall Street Journal) Had such an approach been available in this reviewer’s student days, his understanding of the world would be that much better. (Library Journal) It’s a scandal that economist Thomas Sowell has not been awarded the Nobel Prize. No one alive has turned out so many insightful, richly researched books. His latest is another triumph of crackling observations that underscore the ignorance of our economists and policymakers. His take on how culture, geography, politics and social factors affect how societies progress— or don’t— will rile those addicted to political correctness but leave everyone else wiser. (Steve Forbes, Forbes magazine) FOR COMPLIMENTARY EXAMINATION COPIES OR DESK COPIES, PLEASE CONTACT perseusacademic.com.
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“ ISI GAVE ME AN EDUCATION THAT EVEN HARVARD COULDN’T.” —Christopher Lacaria, Harvard alumnus
ince 1953, students like you have joined ISI to understand—and advance—America’s founding principles and the Western tradition. Begin your ISI experience and:
• Start an ISI Society on your campus with a grant of up to $10,000. Host prominent speakers, run a reading group, and attend ISI leadership conferences • Learn from the greatest texts and the best teachers at one of ISI’s weeklong summer seminars • Start an independent newspaper on your campus, receive professional journalism training, and apply for an internship with a major media outlet • Explore the West’s intellectual tradition in ISI’s highly selective, yearlong Honors Program • Take advantage of many other opportunities: graduate fellowships, essay contests, chances to network, and more
“I’ve had amazing experiences— and it all began with ISI.” —Marc Thiessen, author, columnist, and former presidential speechwriter
JOIN.ISI.ORG 800-526-7022 • email@example.com
Published on Sep 7, 2016