Progressive philosophy and political correctness in US universities


The term university itself suggests and implies that such institutions should be open to all ideas rationally advanced.  Surely, they should not be institutions dedicated to advancing any particular brand of social philosophy.

Sadly, this is not the case.  Almost without exception, U.S. universities are controlled by senior bureaucrats of progressive, left-leaning persuasion.  Unconstrained by any profit-motive, these individuals indulge their own personal preferences in the organization of ‘their’ universities. They do so through a discriminatory allocation of budgets to specific programs, through hiring and tenuring practices,  and through the imposition of speech restrictions to enforce political correctness across ‘their’ campuses.

Evidence is irrefutable about the success of their interventions. University faculty are inexplicably out of balance regarding politics by comparison with the general population.  Regularly, opinion polls show university faculty committing  86 per cent in favor of Democratic Party presidential candidates – even when the choice is between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, or Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale. The history of much more evenly-contested  US presidential elections suggests that enormous bias exists in faculty hiring and promoting, and that enormous pressures are exerted against non-tenured  hired  faculty who fail to toe  the progressive line in their academic publications.

This situation is enormously unhealthy.  Even scholars committed to the progressive philosophy surely must recognize that the closing off of debate, to such an extent, is detrimental to human flourishing.  Safely ensconced at George Mason University, the Virginia Political Economy program has withstood powerful progressive pressures to survive for just short of 60 years as one of a small number of high-quality, non-progressive departments of economics across the nation.

It has done so only through an established academic eminence – two Nobel Prize winners in James M. Buchanan and Vernon Smith, an inter-disciplinarian genius in Gordon Tullock,  the world’s finest black economist, Walter Williams and an army of international recognized scholars attracted by inspired leaders – that has overwhelmed  bureaucratic resistance.

By the way, note that I refer to Walter Williams as black and not as African-American. That is the way that he likes it. Walter is  an American and understands that the noun requires no qualification. Walter’s office also openly displays a Confederate Flag, something that is not widely on display in public offices in this land of the free.

The Virginia Political Economy program was not always so well-placed to survive the onslaught of progressive philosophy. It commenced life in the 1950s at Mr. Jefferson’s academical village in Charlottesville, Virginia. A left -leaning University of Virginia administration, during the late 1960s, viciously attacked and dismantled that program, in the process driving out  two future Nobel Prize winners – James M. Buchanan and Ronald H. Coase –  as well as Gordon Tullock.  Well worth the price, those bureaucratic progressives  defiantly would pronounce once the Prizes were won.

Fortunately for free markets, the Virginia Political Economy program was able to regroup  in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, welcomed by President Marshall Hahn of Virginia Tech who cared much more for scholarship and for putting one over on Mr. Jefferson’s academical village, than he did for any form of crude ideology.

When a revitalized Virginia Political Economy program came down from the mountain to the Big City in 1983, Washington itself realized that a significant blast of fresh air had blown in just south of the Mason-Dixon line. With Ronald Reagan in the White House, the intellectual program, for a time at least, was  warmly welcomed by the government of the nation.

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