I recently wrote about the inaugural Gallup-Purdue Index Report, Great Jobs, Great Lives, which found that “high impact” college practices have a substantial payoff in terms of the “workplace engagement” and well-being of graduates. Many commentators seized on the fact that the study didn’t find substantial differences in outcomes for elite and non-elite college graduates. There are reasons, I think, not to overemphasize this conclusion, as the practices that are connected with the beneficial outcomes are those that were pioneered by, and still characterize the educational experience in, private liberal arts colleges. In that essay, I focused on workplace engagement and promised to revisit the issue of the connection between higher education and well-being.
Archives for June 2014
In an earlier post, I wondered about the claim of the police that they had not viewed the Youtube videos posted by the UCSB shooter. The reports had not made clear whether the UCSB shooter’s parents had failed to notify the police of the videos or the police had simply incompetently failed to look at them. Well now we know and the story may be worse than I suspected. It turns out that the police had been told about the videos – and somehow did not look at them. That represents malpractice in my book. But it gets worse. Initially, the…
In most democratic nations around the world, coalitions of the mainstream right include both classical liberals and conservatives. Depending on the voting rules of the nation, that coalition takes place informally within a single party, as in the United States, or formally across parties, as in the proportional parliamentary systems of Western Europe. These two fundamentally different political sensibilities are drawn together by a common enemy—the social engineering of the left. Both classical liberals and conservatives value personal responsibility, which is often undermined by the grand plans of big government. Social engineering also requires a scope of collective authority that trenches on the liberty valued by classical liberals and unravels the social traditions valued by conservatives. The happy result is fusionism—the united front of both classical liberals and conservatives against socialists and social democrats.
Technological acceleration could threaten fusionism. First, it may speed up the rate of social change, making traditions hard to maintain through civil society. Conservatives may be tempted to think that the state can provide a bulwark against social transformation. Fast technological change has created tensions between conservatives and classical liberals before (witness Tories versus Manchester liberals in nineteenth century England), but the rate of change today seems to me faster than ever and the possibilities for division between classical liberals and conservatives correspondingly greater.
More importantly, technology is beginning to permit personal re-engineering, pitting values of autonomy against values of a more tradition-bound (and frequently religiously based) view of what it means to be human.
The television program Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is worth watching for reasons known and acknowledged by host Neil deGrasse Tyson, and for some he may not be aware of. Tyson exudes an affable authority as he guides viewers through this expensively produced and visually impressive successor to the 1980s blockbuster science documentary Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, hosted by Carl Sagan. While the series presented by Fox and National Geographic is not yet finished (11 of 13 episodes have been aired), its essential features are discernable.
I’m thrilled to be guest blogging this month, and looking forward to discussing the administrative state, political parties, and other topics. For my first post I want to bring up an interesting question that emerged in a review by Ted McAllister (and in the comments) from last week, regarding the origins of the modern regulatory/administrative state. Scholars often trace the birth of the administrative state to the 1880s, especially in two critical episodes: the passage of the Pendleton Act in 1883 which created the modern civil service, and (more importantly) the passage of the Interstate Commerce Act in 1887, which created the Interstate Commerce Commission. This history of the administrative state makes the late nineteenth century the critical turning point in American history.
This is a plausible, but ultimately I think a mistaken history. The regulatory initiatives of the late 19th Century were much more consistent with an earlier view of American constitutionalism that they appear at first glance. They were not necessarily harbingers of the modern administrative state. Tracing the birth of the administrative state to the 1880s is somewhat misleading.
I’ve been traveling today, driving from Amherst back to Washington, and so I’m catching up with some of the comments drawn by the piece on Commencements and the bizarre implication that springs from the judgment of the Court in Lee v. Weisman. I want to thank Carl Scott for his stirring words on Natural Rights & the Right to Choose. But on this matter of whether I would try to make use of the lever revealed in this case, he has me wrong on one critical point: I’m always in favor of the conservatives making use of the ‘principles’ laid down by the Left in order to show how those principles would work quite forcefully against them. The Left persistently fails to live by the rules or principles it lays down for others, and so the only way of making them back away is to use the precedents they set in ways that they’ll find quite jarring.
With the creation of a special congressional committee to investigate the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the three branches of government will soon head for a constitutional collision. Obama administration officials, past and present, will resist the call to testify. They will respond to congressional subpoenas by claiming executive privilege or asserting their right to avoid self-incrimination. To get answers to its questions, the committee may hold Obama officials in contempt. Under today’s misconceived system of judicial supremacy, the courts may decide the winner. If the original understanding of the Constitution prevailed, Congress would probably prevail. But investigations has become yet another matter where Washington, D.C.’s practices have strayed far from the Constitution.
West Point’s graduating cadets were patriotic props for President Obama’s “major speech” on foreign policy. Heavy advertisement of the speech, pre and post, tells us that others were his intended audience. The speech was a defense of his conduct of foreign policy against critics whom he did not name but characterized gratuitously, together with a promise to double down on that conduct in the future.
So it really wasn’t directed at foreign friends or foes. It was an act of domestic politics, and of “major” importance, because Obama’s decisions had been criticized unusually heavily in these election-campaign months—including by persons who normally pay little attention to foreign affairs. His audience was really the loyal media whose tolerance he may have exceeded, and even some of his political base.
Since my son attends UC Santa Barbara, I have been a bit more focused on this shooting than I would have otherwise been. The tragedy has once again followed a familiar pattern of a mentally disturbed individual gaining access to guns (and in this case knives as well) and then using those guns to kill innocent victims.
I am not sure what public policy changes should be adopted to address these issues. But we certainly need hard thinking about these matters.
Here let me mention two issues. First, this case seems especially senseless and tragic, because it seems like it could have been prevented. The killer – I will not use his name – had posted videos on line that suggested he was dangerous and his parents had found out about them. They notified the authorities and police were sent to interview the killer. The police were fooled by the killer and concluded that there was no present threat.
This would simply be a regrettable mistake except for the fact that the police had not viewed the videos when they concluded that the killer was not dangerous. Had they viewed them, it seems likely that this tragedy could have been avoided. Why did they miss the videos?
The reports I have read are not clear about this – am I being too cynical by thinking this is no accident? There are at least two possibilities. The first is that the parents who contacted the authorities did not notify them of the videos. I rate this as relatively unlikely as it is the videos that set them to notify the authorities in the first place. The second possibility is that the police or other bureaucrats involved did not communicate all of the information to the relevant decisionmakers. If that is what happened, then bureaucratic incompetence is the culprit here. (If anyone knows more information about what happened, please leave a comment.)