Harvey Mansfield

“’We have now an American political party and a European one.  Not all Americans who vote for the European party want to become Europeans.  But it doesn’t matter because that’s what they’re voting for.  They’re voting for dependency, for lack of ambition, and for insolvency.’OB-VN585_winter_D_20121130183111

“Few have thought as hard, or as much, about how democracies can preserve individual liberty and national virtue as the eminent political scientist Harvey Mansfield.  When it comes to assessing the state of the American experiment in self-government today, his diagnosis is grim, and he has never been one to mince words.

“This year marks his 50th as a teacher at the university [Harvard].  It isn’t easy being the most visible conservative intellectual at an institution that has drifted ever further to the left for a half-century. ‘I live in a one-party state and very much more so a one-party university,’ says the 80-year old professor with a sigh. ‘It’s disgusting. I get along very well because everybody thinks the fact that I’m here means the things I say about Harvard can’t be true. I am a kind of pet—a pet dissenter.’

“At a time when his colleagues are obsessed with trendy quantitative methods and even trendier ‘identity studies,’ Mr. Mansfield holds steadfast to an older tradition that looks to the Western canon as the best guide to human affairs.  For him, Greek philosophy and the works of thinker such as Machiavelli and Tocqueville aren’t historical curiosities; Mr. Mansfield sees writers grappling heroically with political and moral problems that are timeless and universally relevant.

“By that measure, the electorate that granted Barack Obama a second term was unwise—the president achieved ‘a sneaky victory,’ Mansfield says.  ‘The Democrats said nothing about their plans for the future.  All they did was attack the other side.  Obama’s campaign consisted entirely of saying ‘I’m on your side’ to the American people, to those in the middle.  No matter what comes next, this silence about the future is ominous.’

“At one level Mr. Obama’s silence reveals the exhaustion of the progressive agenda, of which his presidency is the spiritual culmination, Mr. Mansfield says.  That movement ‘depends on the idea that things will get better and better and progress will be made in the actualization of equality.’  It is telling then, that during the 2012 campaign progressives were ‘confined to defending what they’ve already achieved or making small improvement—student loans, free condoms.  The Democrats are the party of free condoms. That’s typical for them.’

“But Democrats’ refusal to address the future in positive terms, he adds, also reveals the party’s intent to create ‘an entitlement or welfare state that takes issues off the bargaining table and renders them above politics.’  The end goal, Mr. Mansfield worries, is to sideline the American constitutional tradition in favor of ‘a practical constitution consisting of progressive measures the left has passed that cannot be revoked.  And that is what would be fixed in our political system—not the Constitution.’

“It is a project begun at the turn of the previous century by ‘an alliance of experts and victims,’ Mr. Mansfield says. ‘Social scientists and political scientists were very much involved in the foundation of the progressive movement.  What those experts did was find ways to improve the wellbeing of the poor, the incompetent, all those who have the right to vote but can’t quite govern their own lives.  And still to this day we see in the Democratic Party the alliance between Ph.D.s and victims.’

“The Obama campaign’s dissection of the public into subsets of race, sex and class resentments is a case in point.  ‘Victims come in different kinds,’ says Mr. Mansfield, ‘so they’re treated differently.  You push different buttons to get them to react.’

“The threat to self-government is clear.’ The American founders wanted people to live under the Constitution,’ Mr. Mansfield says. ‘But the progressives want the Constitution to live under the American people.’

“So is it still possible to pull back from the brink of America’s Europeanization?  Mr. Mansfield is optimistic. ‘The material for recovery is there,’ he says. ‘Ambition, for one thing.  I teach at a university where all the students are ambitious.  They all want to do something with their lives.’  That is in contrast to students he has met in Europe, where ‘it was depressing to see young people  with small ambitions, very cultivated and intelligent people so stunted.’  He adds with a smile: ‘Our other main resource is the Constitution.’”  Sohrab Ahmari, The Wall Street Journal, December 1-2, 2012, p. A13

Editor’s Comment:  I want to make three observations regarding this interesting Wall Street Journal article: a) For those who want to know why Harvard University went radical, progressive, Fabian, secular humanist, communist one needs to read The Great Deceit: Social Pseudo-Sciences and Keynes at Harvard written by former Harvard graduates and published by Archibald B. Roosevelt’s Veritas Foundation.  The book begins with the Fabian Window now “displayed in Beatrice Webb House, a memorial financed by the world socialist movement.”  H. G. Wells, once a member of the Fabian movement denounced them “as the new Machiavellians.”  I personally believe that The Great Deceit is one of the most important works of the 20th century and should be reprinted for the 21st century.  Anyone interested in helping to make this a reality please contact me at P. O. Box 129, Manitou Springs, CO 80829; b) Ted Cruz, a newly elected U.S. Senator from the state of Texas, attended the Harvard Law School along with Barack Obama.  He told World magazine that “there were more self-declared communists on the Harvard faculty than there were Republicans.  If you asked the Harvard faculty to vote on whether this nation should become a socialist nation, 80 percent of the faculty would vote yes and 10 percent would think that was too conservative.” c) Harvard University now funds various “sex weeks” on campus and a new S&M group will shortly be recognized.  Hence, Dr. Mansfield may be correct that Harvard students are ambitious, but if they lack the morality to lead then jot me down as one who sees America’s educational culture in the sewer and not worthy of leadership.

            

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