The late lamented William F. Buckley famously quipped that he would rather be governed by the first 500 people in the Cambridge, MA phone directory (i.e., a random sample) than 500 Harvard professors. Stuart Schwartz, himself a professor, explains at some length why. Welcome to the club of “traitors to the New Class”, Stu.
This is an administration stuffed with academics. And not just any academic: These are educators from elite universities, the kind of experts prized by a political and media elite seeking confirmation of a worldview that expects, notes the Washington Examiner, “the rest of us … to shut up and do as we are told.”Inside the Beltway, “Harvard know-it-allness” is a prized commodity; outside, its practitioners are largely regarded as “obnoxious and arrogant” in the classroom and “jaw-droppingly incompetent” out of it. Small wonder trust in government has hit a fifty-year low.Welcome to government by professor. Assorted faculty of Ivy League schools have come together to form an administration with the least real-world and most academic experience of any in modern times, the American Enterprise Institute notes. And so we have a government of scolds, lecturers, and bullies, arrogant academics cheered on by mainstream media when they take a “paddle” to average citizens and taxpayers.Main Street, say hello to Harvard Drive, Chicago Place, and Berkeley Boulevard. The latter are roads that begin in the elite universities and bring “someone better than you” to power in Washington, D.C. Or so says the dean of the School of Law at the University of California at Berkeley, a card-carrying member of what David Brooks of the New York Times fawningly calls “the educated class.”It’s okay to be ordinary, a “swiller of beer,” Berkeley Dean Christopher Edley, Jr. says, but it takes a “superior intellect” like that of Barack Obama and his taxpayer-paid faculty, Ivy Leaguers most, to understand the needs of Main Street.The dean well represents the arrogance of an educated class who sees the ordinary taxpayer as raw material to be shaped by regulations wielded by their intellectual superiors, as one of those superiors — Obama regulatory czar Cass Sunstein — has written.Smart people lead and ordinary people follow, Dr. Sunstein maintains, showing the common touch developed during a lifetime on the law faculties of the University of Chicago and Harvard. He is part of a new breed of executive gathered by the [wannabe-]Professor-in-Chief, all of whom share the view that Joe the Plumber and Millie the Hairstylist are too simple to understand their real needs…and require a federal government led by an educated elite to regulate them into appropriate behavior and values.Ordinary taxpayers, those who simply live life and take up space in the world outside of the faculty lounge…well, it’s about time they recognized that, as the Berkeley dean noted, “what’s good for Harvard and Yale [is] good for America.” […] It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a Harvard Ph.D. to raise the consciousness of a nation of village idiots.And so they gather in Washington to “reengineer” your life according to the “abstract theories” they have taught for so many years, as political observer Michael Barone put it. Witness the latest addition to the administration’s professorial ranks: Dr. Donald Berwick, the Harvard Medical School professor picked to head the Medicare program. Of course, his knowledge of senior health care is academic, having never actually treated seniors.But he has consulted for National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the infamous British rationing board that is responsible for killing more ailing seniors through long waits and treatment denials than any single disease in the United Kingdom. […] With classic understatement, Thomas Lifson noted that the “skill set of the faculty lounge rarely translates into great leadership.” He points to the nation’s last professor-president, Woodrow Wilson, who “paved the way for the emergence of fascism” at the beginning of the last century.Where professors rule, life is cruel. Elite professors have routinely championed thugs and butchers. Ivy League campuses and at least three of Obama’s czars continue to extol the virtues of communism, “a totalitarian and bloodthirsty theory that killed one hundred million people in the 20th century.”And Nazis and Nazi sympathizers have always found a home among our nation’s educated elite. Just this past month, Dr. Stephen H. Norwood of the University of Oklahoma published what critics are calling the definitive study of the relationship of America’s elite universities with the Nazi. In The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower: Complicity and Conflict on American Campuses, Norwood is blunt: Our top universities, led by Harvard and Columbia, openly supported Nazi Europe and gave faculty jobs to Nazis who were no longer welcome in Europe after the Second World War.[…]”Hail the Conquering Professor,” the New York Times proclaimed after passage of health care legislation that takes life and death decisions away from Main Street and empowers the White House faculty lounge. This is the elite group that has given the nation its highest unemployment in three decades, an “ever-expanding government” with exploding payrolls, and who has created a “debt time bomb” threatening the prosperity and freedoms built by generations of “beer swillers” over more than two hundred years.
Read the whole thing. A summary of the Stephen H. Norwood book (published by an obscure bloghost called Cambridge University Press ;-)) can be found here. I ordered the book itself and (G-d willing) will find time to review it upon reading. What I managed to skim via “look inside” looks pretty revealing — and damning, even for somebody broadly familiar with US academia in the 1930s.
Some readers may wonder why humanities academics, of all people, would succumb to flirtations with antidemocratic or post-democratic ideas, be they authoritarianism, its softened guise of paternalism, or its hardened expression as totalitarianism. I do not share this surprise. Humanities academics deal in ideas, and becoming intoxicated by ideas is a professional hazard for them. (Those of us in sciences and engineering may be equally open to intellectual delusions of grandeur, but at least get reminded periodically that “Nature cannot be fooled”, as the great Richard Feynman put it.) The tragicomic history of academics being outright apologists, or mere “useful idiots”, for Communism, Nazism, and now islamofascism should be a cautionary tale for all of us, including about the much broader phenomenon of academics feeling affinity with the “kid-glove tyranny” of transnational oligarchic collectivism.
ADDENDUM: On a related matter, Isi Leibler explains how, sadly, even Israeli universities are not immune to antisemitic academentia (or should this be properly considered an “autoimmune disease” in that specific case?)