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University of Minnesota Hall of Shame

TH-911

Christine Russell reports: Here’s another instance of political correctness on a college campus going a smidge too far, courtesy of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities: A proposed resolution to recognize the 9/11 terrorist attacks on campus each year was rejected by the Minnesota Student Association as it may potentially violate a “safe space” on campus.

From Campus Reform:

“This resolution was non-controversial and was supported by the MSA’s President and Vice-President,” said Amundson, “However, several members, in exchanges with CRs rep Theo Menon, were militant in their opposition to it due to a perceived bias toward Muslims.”

Other proponents of the resolution argued in forum that its passage could bring up controversial topics, and that a healthy dialogue and campus tension reduction would ensue from the moment of recognition.

At-large MSA representative and Director of Diversity and Inclusion David Algadi voiced severe criticism of the resolution. He also made sure to emphasize 9/11’s status as a national tragedy in his response.

“The passing of this resolution might make a space that is unsafe for students on campus even more unsafe,” said Algadi, “Islamophobia and racism fueled through that are alive and well.” Read the rest of this entry »

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[VIDEO] Even President Obama Disturbed by Infantilized PC Campus Censorship Culture

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‘I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view.’

 reports: President Obama condemned the rash of liberal political correctness seen recently in American colleges Monday, saying “that’s not the way we learn” and that
liberal-huhcollege students shouldn’t be “coddled and protected from different points of view.”

“Sometimes there are folks on college campuses who are liberal, and maybe even agree with me on a bunch of issues, who sometimes aren’t listening to the other side, and that’s a problem too.”

— President Obama, speaking at a town hall in Iowa

Speaking at a town hall in Iowa about affordable college education, Obama launched into his remarks after a question about Dr. Ben Carson’s proposal to stop government funding to schools with political biases.

[Read the full story here, at freebeacon.com]

Obama slammed Carson’s idea, but he segued into his criticism of left-wing intolerance for opposing viewpoints that have popped up on campuses around the country.

“I’ve heard some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African Americans or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women.”

“Sometimes there are folks on college campuses who are liberal, and maybe even agree
with me on a bunch of issues, who sometimes aren’t listening to the other side, and that’s a problem too,” Obama said…

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“And you know, I’ve got to tell you, I don’t agree with that either. I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view.”

“And you know, I’ve got to tell you, I don’t agree with that either. I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view.

campus-censorship

“You know, I think you should be able to—anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them. But you shouldn’t silence them by saying, ‘You can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.’ That’s not the way we learn either.”

You know, I think you should be able to—anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them. Read the rest of this entry »


TRIGGER WARNING! University of Michigan Student Writer Suspended by Campus Newspaper for Satirical Column

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The column was offensive to progressives so obviously, the student needed to be punished.

Read it below, courtesy of the College Fix.

Read the ‘hostile’ column that got student writer suspended by campus newspaper

Editor’s note: Below is a satirical column penned by University of Michigan student Omar Mahmood, who writes for both the mainstream campus newspaper The Michigan Daily and the conservative independent publication the Michigan Review. Or at least he did.

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After his column was published last week, Mahmood tells The College Fix: “I received a call from the editorial editor [of the Daily] telling me that I had created a ‘hostile environment’ among the editorial staff and that someone had felt threatened because of what I had written … The issue had been taken to the editor in chief who procured a bylaw by which I was given an ultimatum to leave the Review or leave the Daily within a week. I was not allowed to know the name of the offended individuals.” He added the newspaper’s leaders are “forcing me to write a letter of apology as a condition for staying on the Daily” and suspended his regular column in the Daily.

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Mahmood has written for both the Review and the Daily concurrently for this fall semester, but after this controversial column was published the Daily’s editors decided “Mr. Mahmood’s involvement with the Michigan Review presents a conflict of interest. Our bylaws say that once a determination is made that a conflict of interest exists, the person in question will have one week to resign from either the Daily or the organization causing the conflict of interest,” according to a statement from the Daily to The College Fix.

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Without further ado, we present to you “Do The Left Thing” by Omar Mahmood:

TRIGGER WARNING! Read the rest of this entry »


The New Campus Sex Puritans

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The neo-puritans want to bureaucratize your sex life, and criminalize incorrect behavior. Will the progressive left have any better luck regulating sexual behaviour than the puritanical right did? 

2014-wente-headMargaret Wente writes: Sixty years ago, sexual behaviour among the young caused deep alarm among the puritanical religious right. Today, it causes deep alarm among the puritanical progressive left. Like their forebears, they are doing their best to restrict and regulate it.

This weekend, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that makes universities redefine consensual sex. From now on, students must effectively obtain the “affirmative consent” of their partners, which must be “ongoing” every step of the way.

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“Sexual violence is anything that makes someone feel unsafe; it could be catcalls, peer pressure to act a certain way in a situation, verbal harassment and unwanted touching. Many of these things occur daily without anyone giving a second thought to them.”

— Jami Coughler, program co-ordinator of the sexual violence support centre at Ontario’s Brock University

Those accused of violating the consent rule will be judged on the puritan-girlpreponderance of the evidence. Perpetrators face suspension or expulsion, and universities face heavy penalties for failure to enforce.

“…sexual violence includes such offences as ‘criticizing the partner sexually’ and ‘withholding sex and affection’ – things that in my day were known as ‘being in a bad relationship.'”

The new measure is designed to stem a tidal wave of rape on campus that, in fact, does not exist. (Violent crime, including sexual assault, has been in decline for 20 years.) Even so, universities across North America have set up vast new administrative apparatuses to deal with the crisis. Many of them have also expanded the meaning of “sexual violence” to include anything that makes you feel bad. Read the rest of this entry »


CNN Poll: Trust in Government Lower than an Arthropod on a Gravel Parking Lot Low

"See how low to the ground I am? According to my analysis, public faith in government is even lower."

“See how low to the ground I am? Research shows that trust in government is even lower.”

“The number who trust the government all or most of the time has sunk so low…”

CNN‘s  delivers the bad news: Four decades after President Richard Nixon resigned, a slight majority of gpoj-approved-panicAmericans still consider Watergate a very serious matter, a new national survey shows. But how serious depends on when you were born.

” …that it is hard to remember that there was ever a time when Americans routinely trusted the government.”

— CNN Polling Director Keating Holland

The CNN/ORC International poll’s release comes one day before the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s resignation on August 9, 1974. With the Watergate scandal escalating, the second-term Republican president had lost much of his political backing, and he faced almost certain impeachment and the prospects of being removed from office by a Democratic-dominated House and Senate.

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There’s a big generational divide over the significance of the scandal, with a majority of those older than 40 describing Watergate as a very serious problem and those under 40 saying it was just politics.

“Just 13% of Americans say the government can be trusted to do what is right always or most of the time.”

The poll also indicates that the public’s trust in government is at an all-time low. Read the rest of this entry »


Reality Check: Sexual Assaults at University of Michigan Don’t Support Claim of an ‘Epidemic’

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For AEIdeas writes: There’s been a lot of attention paid recently to the issue of “campus sexual assaults” and some of the media including the Washington Post and MSNBC have referred to it as an “epidemic.” Doesn’t the term “epidemic” suggest that there is a widespread and growing number of campus sexual assaults? If so, the crime data from at least one major college campus — the University of Michigan — don’t support the term “epidemic” and in fact suggest the exact opposite – a declining trend in sexual assaults, both on and off campus, and for assaults reported to both police and university offices.

“sexual assaults at UM has been trending downward for the last decade”

The chart above shows the annual number of sexual assaults at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor from their annual crimes reports, like this most recent one. It should be noted that the UM crime reports include sexual assaults that took place: a) on-campus, b) off campus (including out of state) and c) on public property. Further, it includes sexual assaults reported to: a) the University of Michigan Campus Police Department, b) other police departments and c) non-police organizations like the UM Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center. Therefore, it’s a pretty comprehensive report that covers off-campus sexual assaults and assaults not reported to campus police, but to another police department or to a university office or official – in contrast to some universities that  apparently only report sexual assaults on campus and only to the campus police.

“…the downward trend in sexual assaults at UM is consistent with the downward trend in the national incidence of rape, which has fallen by 45% over the last 20 years…”

As the chart above shows, the number of “campus” sexual assaults at UM has been trending downward for the last decade, and in 2012 (most recent year available) the number of sexual assaults (34) was about half the numbers in 2004 (64), 2005 (65) and 2006 (65). Read the rest of this entry »


9 Public College Presidents Pay Tops $1 Million

college-unaffordability

The number of public college presidents earning over $1 million more than doubled in the 2012-2013 fiscal year from the year before, according to a new survey.

The Chronicle of Higher Education study found that nine college presidents earned more than $1 million in total compensation in 2013, compared to just four in 2012.

Elwood Gordon Gee, President of West Virginia University

Elwood Gordon Gee, President of West Virginia University

Public college presidents first exceeded the $1 million total compensation mark in 2006-2007, according to the survey.

Gordon Gee topped the list, earning $6.1 million as the head of Ohio State University. Gee resigned that post last year after making comments about Roman Catholics, the University of Notre Dame and Southeastern Conference schools. He is now president of West Virginia University.

The study took into account base salary, bonuses, retirement, severance and deferred pay — an incentive offered to presidents who stay in their positions for an agreed-upon period of time.

Four of the college presidents on the top 10 list have retired. Two others have accepted positions at other universities.

The top 10 earners in the fiscal year 2012-2013 were:

Gordon Gee, president of the West Virginia University

Gee’s compensation total is based on payments he received at the Ohio State University, from which he resigned in June of 2013 after six years as president. Gee earned $6.1 million in 2013, which includes $3.3 million in deferred pay and $1.55 in retirement and severance pay.

Bowen Loftin, president of Texas A&M University at College Station

Loftin earned $1.6 million, and resigned from his position in January after three years. He now serves as chancellor of the University of Missouri. Loftin’s $425,000 base salary did not change from 2012 to 2013, however in 2013 Loftin was paid $950,000 in severance and retirement pay.

Hamid Shirvani, president of North Dakota University system

Shirvani earned roughly $1.3 million in 2013. He retired in June 2013, after less than a year in his position overseeing the 11-campus system. He was paid $962,095 in severance and retirement pay — more than double his $349,000 base salary.

Renu Khator, University of Houston main campus

Khator earned roughly $1.26 million in 2013. She has served in the position since 2008. Nearly 45 percent of Khator’s total compensation comes from bonus pay and deferred pay on top of her $700,000 base salary. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] The Great Society’s Triumph and Tragedy

The Great Society was launched on May 22, 1964, during Lyndon Baines Johnson‘s address at the University of Michigan. The speech was a milestone in American history, heralding fundamental changes that advanced racial equality while also decisively expanding the scale and scope of government. It is no exaggeration to say that the Great Society created the foundation for America’s modern welfare state. Half a century later, has America achieved Johnson’s vision?

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The Great Society at Fifty

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What LBJ wrought

For The Weekly StandardNicholas Eberstadt writes: May 22, 2014, marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s “Great Society” address, delivered at the spring commencement for the University of Michigan.

[Below: On Jan. 4, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson outlined his goals for a Great Society in his State of the Union. You can watch and read his entire speech at millercenter.org]

That speech remains the most ambitious call to date by any president (our current commander in chief included) to use the awesome powers of the American state to effect a far-reaching transformation of the society that state was established to serve. It also stands as the high-water mark for Washington’s confidence in the broad meliorative properties of government social policy, scientifically applied.

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No less important, the Great Society pledge, and the fruit this would ultimately bear, profoundly recast the common understanding of the ends of governance in our country. The address heralded fundamental changes​—​some then already underway, others still only being envisioned​—​that would decisively expand the scale and scope of government in American life and greatly alter the relationship between that same government and the governed in our country today.

In his oration, LBJ offered a grand vision of what an American welfare state​—​big, generous, and interventionist​—​might accomplish. Difficult as this may be for most citizens now alive to recall, the United States in the early 1960s was not yet a modern welfare state: Our only nationwide social program in those days was the Social Security system, which provided benefits for workers’ retirement and disability and for orphaned or abandoned children of workers. Johnson had gradually been unveiling this vision, starting with his declaration of a “War on Poverty” in his first State of the Union months earlier in 1964, just weeks after John F. Kennedy’s assassination. In LBJ’s words,  “The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in our time. But that,” he said, “is just the beginning.”

The Great Society proposed to reach even further: to bring about wholesale renewal of our cities, beautification of our natural surroundings, vitalization of our educational system. All this, and much more​—​and the solutions to the many obstacles encountered in this great endeavor, we were told, would assuredly be found, since this undertaking would “assemble the best thought and the broadest knowledge from all over the world to find those answers for America.”

Memorably, Johnson insisted that the constraints on achieving the goals he outlined were not availability of the national wealth necessary for the task or the uncertainties inherent in such complex human enterprises, but instead simply our country’s resolve​—​whether we as a polity possessed sufficient “wisdom” to embark on the venture.
Read the rest of this entry »


Heather Mac Donald: The Supreme Court’s Schuette Decision Exposes the Absurdity of Racial-Preferences Jurisprudence

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Photo by Pete Souza

For City Journal, Heather Mac Donald writes: In a victory for common sense, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in late April that voters could require colorblind admissions to their state’s public universities without running afoul of the Constitution. Several of the justices arrived at this seemingly self-evident conclusion via tortured routes, however, and Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg rejected it. Their opinions reveal the counterfactual condition of race jurisprudence today, while also unwittingly providing a rationale for knocking down academic racial preferences entirely. Sotomayor’s long, impassioned dissent opens a disturbing window into her racialized worldview and offers an example of what might be called the black-studies-ification of elite discourse.

[See Heather Mac Donald’s book: The Burden of Bad Ideas: How Modern Intellectuals Misshape Our Society at Amazon.com]

The roots of the recent decision, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights . . . By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), were planted in 2003, when the Court upheld the use of racial admissions preferences by the University of Michigan’s law school. Preference opponents responded with a ballot initiative to amend the state constitution, prohibiting Michigan’s government from discriminating against, or according preferential treatment to, any individual or group based on race, gender, or national origin. The campaign over the initiative, Proposal 2, was highly visible and hard-fought, focusing primarily on the measure’s effect on admissions to the state’s public universities. Proponents of preferences, led by BAMN, argued that Proposal 2 would drastically reduce minority enrollment at the University of Michigan and that it was a thinly veiled excuse for racism. Voters rejected those arguments and passed the initiative with 58 percent of the vote in 2006. BAMN then sued to overturn Proposal 2 as unconstitutional. The group lost in federal district court but won in the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Proposal 2’s backers appealed to the Supreme Court. Read the rest of this entry »


Jonah Goldberg: Obama’s Stand-up Routine

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Too bad the joke is on his youthful audience. 

If you’ve seen some of Obama’s speeches in the last week, perhaps you’ve noticed how he’s becoming quite the jokester. Obama’s spiteful sarcasm—disguised as humor, of course—is becoming increasingly hollow, divisive, unseemly. Nobody likes a bully, or a sore winner. I’m surprised he’s not called out more for his overuse of the most un-presidential rhetorical habit: the straw man. It’s one thing for a contender on the campaign trail, trying to climb his way up to an elected job, another for a man already holding the highest office in the land. The way Obama creates an imaginary opponent, then defeats that fictional opponent with zingers, snark, and bluster, is a peculiar thing to watch.

I can imagine a group of actual conservatives watching one of these speeches, finding absolutely nothing they can identify with, then, even agreeing with him about this awful enemy the president is describing. “Wow, who is that guy? He sounds like a real bastard!” “Yeah, let’s go find him and beat the snot out of him!” It’s easy to win an argument when you’re playing both roles in the debate. I’ve been hoping someone smart and entertaining would notice and report on this. Fortunately, Jonah Goldberg is back from vacation, and on the job:

Jonah Goldberg writes:

President Obama was doing his favorite thing this week: talking to crowds of adoring young people who already agree with him while acting like he persuaded them about something.

“…the president is utterly incapable of arguing with anything other than a fictional opponent.”

They also seemed to give Obama the impression that he’s a really funny guy. On Wednesday, he told a crowd of 1,400 at the University of Michigan that he visited a local deli, Zingerman’s. He proceeded to tell a long story about ordering the small Reuben sandwich, which he said was “killer.” That description got a good laugh. Then he explained how he thought the sandwich was too big, so he shared it with his adviser, Valerie Jarrett.

[Jonah’s book, The Tyranny of Cliches, is available at Amazon]

“After I finished [my] half, I wanted [her] half back,” Obama said. “But it was too late, all she had was the pickle – so I took the pickle.”

“Took the pickle” was a huge laugh line.

Pickle is a funny word, but still; when an audience thinks this is a knee-slapper, you know it’s not a rough crowd.

But Obama had a serious point to make as well. Zingerman’s “is a business that treats its workers well and rewards honest work with honest wages. And that’s what I’m here to talk about today.” He then segued into a pitch for raising the minimum wage.

National Review’s Andrew Johnson noted that Zingerman’s is pretty expensive. That small Reuben cost $13.99 – pickle included! (Thank you! I’m here all week. Please tip your servers.) The large goes for nearly $17. The irony might have been lost on the president that Zingerman’s “honest wages” also lead to high prices.

Read the rest of this entry »


Exclusive: Melissa Harris-Perry Admits to Using Racial-Detection Hardware Assistance Devices, For Knowing When Stuff is Racist

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Robby Soave reports:

At a recent forum at the University of Michigan, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry explained to her audience that white people will never understand why things are racist, because they lack an innate “racial trigger,” that instantly tells them when to be outraged.

Harris-Perry, on the other hand, has a very finely-tuned racial trigger.

Sometimes Harris-Perry’s innate racial trigger doesn’t work at all, she conceded, privately, to an undercover reporter allied with Punditfromanotherplanet’s media bureau. Other times, Harris-Perry said, her sixth sense isn’t sensitive enough to detect racism at levels below .04%,  (MSNBC policy requires detection at microscopic .0002 % levels) so enhancements are required, to boost otherwise invisible signals.

Punditfromanotherplanet has learned that Ms. Harris-Perry employs additional detection assistance, from miniature electronics, with on-board hardware and software analysis systems, discreetly embedded in her jewelry, clothing, or hair.

For our exclusive report, an inside source captured Harris-Perry explaining her earring detection system to a colleague. Harris-Perry reportedly said,

“These earrings–which only appear to be ordinary tampons–actually contain miniaturized micro-processor cartridges, with AMPC, advanced-motivation-parsing-capability, that can detect racist signals, analyze the data, and pass the results into my earpiece, alerting me to barely-detectable low-flying hateful statements, and amplify racially questionable comments”

Since wearing tampon cartridge detectors on her earlobes, and other customized feminine protection products as jewelry, isn’t convenient, or practical (that was just a stunt, she explained, though Harris-Perry admitted she occasionally wears them at home, too) having multiple devices and multiple secret locations for the devices helps her spot hidden racist intentions, comments, and otherwise undetectable shadings.

“Sometimes I wear a detection device inside my bra. I have them custom made, with exquisite fabrics, and bluetooth capability, to communicate racial and social analysis wirelessly. The bra, too, is wireless, and is really supportive, both physically and emotionally”

Harris-Perry reportedly employs signal-amplyfing technology concealed in her clothing not only during professional and academic appearances, but also in casual social situations, not just when she’s on the air. “It’s made me a better person”, she said.

Read the rest of this entry »


College’s ‘Neutral’ Policy Stiffs Libertarian Students, Funds Their Opponents

College-policy-stiffs-libertarians

Robby Soave reports:  More troubling details have emerged in the case of a libertarian student club’s lawsuit against against the University of Michigan: Not only did UM administrators refuse to give the group funding for an anti-affirmative action event, but they also gave liberal students funding for a pro-affirmative action event just days before.

UM collects mandatory fees from students in order to distribute money to student groups for events and speaker fees–about $300,000 each year. However, administrators claim to have a blanket policy against using the money for political or religious events. On this basis, they denied the Young Americans for Liberty its request for $1,000 to cover the cost of bringing anti-affirmative action activist Jennifer Gratz to campus.

The Daily Caller previously reported on YAL’s lawsuit, which claims that the university provided funds to other political and even religious groups as recently as 2010. 

Read the rest of this entry »


Why I Bought A House In Detroit For $500

The author boarding up his home, 2009. Photograph by Mike Williams

The author boarding up his home, 2009. Photograph by Mike Williams

  writes:  After college, as my friends left Michigan for better opportunities, I was determined to help fix this broken, chaotic city by building my own home in the middle of it. I was 23 years old.

My first job out of college was working for a construction company in Detroit.

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“We’re an all-black company and I need a clean-cut white boy,” my boss told me over drinks in a downtown bar when he hired me. “Customers in the suburbs don’t want to hire a black man.”

When a service call would come in, we would ask, “Does he sound white or black?” If it was the former, I would bid the job. If the latter, my boss would. Detroit is one of the most segregated metro areas in the nation, and for the first time I was getting what it felt like to be on the other side of that line. In contrast to the abstract verbal yoga students at the University of Michigan would perform when speaking about race, this was refreshing. And terrifying. I couldn’t hide behind fancy words any longer.

Read the rest of this entry »


Here’s How the Muslim World Believes Women Should Dress

Daniel Pipes  writes:  A survey conducted in seven Muslim-majority countries (Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Pakistan) finds that a median of 10 percent of the respondents prefer women to wear either a niqab or burqa when in public. The specific country figures range enormously, from 74 percent approval of these two garments in Saudi Arabia and 35 percent in Pakistan to 3 percent in Lebanon and Tunisia and just 2 percent in Turkey.

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Woman No. 4, whose hair and ears are covered by an amira, was overall far and away deemed the most appropriately dressed for appearing in public, with 44 percent of the vote, followed in a distant second place by the lighter hijab of woman No. 5 at 12 percent. No head covering at all found a measly 4 percent support.

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Sweet Crude: Texas Oil Production Data Reveals Spectacular Gains

AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

HOUSTON — Simone Sebastian reports: Oil production in Texas has hit its highest monthly rate on record, more than doubling in less than three years, according new federal data.

The state pumped 2.7 million barrels of crude per day during September, the highest monthly average since at least January 1981. Texas oil production had been declining since the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s monthly record-keeping began in 1981. But the tide abruptly turned in 2008 with the beginning of the shale oil and gas boom.

For 25 straight months, the state’s oil production rate has increased by more than 25 percent year-over-year, notes economist Mark J. Perry, a professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Management.

“Output in America’s  No. 1 oil-producing state — Texas — continues its phenomenal, meteoric rise,” Perry wrote on his Carpe Diem blog. “That production surge has to be one of the most significant increases in oil output ever recorded in the U.S. over such a short period of time.”

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The Death of Liberalism on College Campuses

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Robby Soave writes:  At universities across the country, liberalism is going extinct. I know what you’re thinking: Surely, he’s joking. Or even, good riddance!

No, I’m not joking. Campus liberalism really is in a death spiral — and this is not happy news.

I witnessed firsthand what passes for “liberal” discourse these days at a guest lecture at the University of Michigan last month. A libertarian student group invited anti-affirmative action activist Jennifer Gratz to give a speech to students about her issue and its recent history at the Supreme Court.

Radical activists — many who weren’t even U-M students — repeatedly attempted to hijack the event, talking over and shouting down Gratz at every opportunity. Never mind that that the event was organized exclusively by members of a libertarian club who wanted to hear from a libertarian-aligned speaker; the mob was not going to let anyone express ideas they didn’t like.

Read the rest of this entry »


Government Isn’t Us

Jay Cost

Last week, in remarks about further increasing efficiency in government after having “made huge swaths of your government more efficient and more transparent, and more accountable than ever before,” President Barack Obama said:

[In] this democracy, we the people recognize that this government belongs to us, and it’s up to each of us and every one of us to make it work better. We can’t just stand on the sidelines. We can’t take comfort in just being cynical. We all have a stake in government success—because the government is us.

That last sentence might sound familiar to seasoned observers of the president. Back in 2010, at the University of Michigan’s commencement (and as Tea Party opposition to the president and his health care bill reached its peak), Obama said, “When our government is spoken of as some menacing, threatening foreign entity, it ignores the fact that in our democracy, government is us.”

In early May, at Ohio State’s commencement, he did not use the phrase “government is us,” but he made essentially the same point:

Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.

With trust in government near an all-time low, the president’s agenda stalled in the House because of skeptical Republicans, and a host of scandals that raise questions about governmental integrity and competence, we should expect to hear a lot more of this from President Obama over the next few weeks and months. Cynicism about government is bad because, in the end, it is just “us.” Why worry?

This is pernicious nonsense. It is, of course, typical for presidents of both parties to trot out poll-tested phrases that lack internal logic or external validity. Even so, for somebody who fancies himself a scholar-president in the mold of Woodrow Wilson, it is not asking too much for him to evince a little more understanding of the constitutional foundations of the republic.

For starters, this is not a “democracy” in the sense that Obama suggests. Government is not “us” inasmuch as we elect representatives whose job it is to represent our interests as they formulate policy. This should immediately induce some measure of skepticism about the government, for it points directly at the principal-agent problem. That is, how can principals (i.e., the voters) make sure that their agents (i.e., their elected representatives) are actually working on behalf of the public, rather than for their own personal gain? As questions of public policy become more complex, and the agents become more entrenched, it becomes harder and harder for citizens to ensure that the people they elect are doing the job they were sent to do.

Moreover, there is an inherent difficulty in aggregating the interests of individual citizens into something that rightly can be called “the public good.” Many times, for instance, the policy demands of one faction will result in harm to another. What to do then? At the very least, one cannot merely assume that a “democracy” will ensure that the public good is promoted after all the votes are counted, as Obama seems to suggest. If an aggressive faction holds a numerical majority, should the minority then expect to be plundered? How does that serve the public good?

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