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Nov 13, 2004 6:35 pm

OAH and Academic Freedom

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Roderick T. Long - 11/21/2004

> I don't see how we achieve, or
> advance our libertarian state-less
> marriage goals by simply extending
> current state rules to gays,
> polygamists, or others. What is the
> point?

Well, if our *only* concern was with "advancing our libertarian state-less marriage goals," then perhaps we'd have no reason to favour the extension of current state rules to gays, etc. But surely that's *not* all we should care about. As I've asked elsewhere: "What would we say if black couples could have 'civil unions' but only white couples could legally 'marry'?" Would we think there was no reason to extend current state rules to blacks? (This is an extension of a point Jacob Levy makes in his book The Multiculturalism of Fear. Suppose the city government of, say, Birmingham AL decided to change the city's name to "KuKluxKlanville." Technically this would violate no libertarian rights. But surely there would be good reason to oppose it.)

David T. Beito - 11/21/2004

Thanks for th link Jon. We are pressing hard to get a version of our article published in the OAH newsletter. It will be interesting to see if they run it. Montgomery and the rest of the committee have still not responded.

While I disagree with you on whether it is proper for non-experts to publicly take a sand on the war issue, I do think it would be improper for the OAH, faculty senates, or departments to take a position one way or the other. I opposed an attempt, for example, by the UA Faculty Senate, for example, to come out against the war.

Jonathan J. Bean - 11/21/2004

Readers, check out historian Ronald Radosh latest column on the OAH foolery:

Jonathan J. Bean - 11/21/2004

David Montgomery's long diatribe against right-wing repression and the "centrality of dissent" (presumably reserved only for those with left-wing views) ignores not only speech codes but the ways the OAH has politicized itself. By constantly, since the 1960s, filing one resolution after another against a particular war or admininstration policy (always Republican), the OAH has the "chutzpah" to state: "We may get involved in politics, but no one may criticize us--that's an infringement of academic freedom." No, that is the essence of adolescence: All claiming of "rights" and no responsibility for the consequences. The truth is the Left-dominated OAH cannot, will not, look at measures to keep racial and ethnic data "secret" (note the uproar when Bush appointed a "conservative" historian who could not reveal KGB data to other researchers, yet the same critics parade _Shape of the River_, a paean to affirmative action based on "secret" data made available only to them!).

I am tired of OAH members circulating "Historians Against the War" resolutions in my department--everyone signs, of course, except me. Even if I were against the war (I am ambivalent), I do not think it proper for historians to go beyond their expertise. What difference does the view of "Historians" make unless they are specialists in the field? We may all become involved as informed citizens, but as historians we are not entitled to special status as our own members of self-appointed blue-ribbon commissions of people who are really non-experts on the subject.

Above all, Montgomery and the OAH have the utter gall to condemn "watchdog" groups like Campus Watch and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. If groups representing, say, African Americans or women were to speak on academic issues, they would be accorded a respectful hearing, but the OAH's philosophy apparently is "no enemies to the Left, all threats to the Right." Notably, the OAH Report left out F.I.R.E., which has been doing the work protecting free speech and assembly of all members of the university community: liberals, conservatives, radicals, students, faculty, etc.

As for the the "right-wing" threat in the K-12 arena, readers ought to consult Diane Ravitch's wonderful _The Language Police_, which examines how P.C. textbooks have become due to internal censorship among publishers. (Undoubtedly, these publishing censors learned even-handedness from the far-left professors they had in college). Instead, Montgomery warns darkly of "extreme conservative and fundamentalist Christian activists...." Notice how left-wing groups are a) never characterized as "extreme" even when they destroy complete runs of conservative alternative newspapers; b) there was not a SINGLE point of discussion of the threat posed to academic freedom from within the profession. Since 97% of those running the OAH are liberal to radical, they simply cannot imagine the possibility of a "thinking conservative" in their midst because they do their best to mock, "chill" and silence conservative voices from the undergraduate level onward. Hence, few conservatives enter the dismal field of History, knowing a "hostile environment" awaits them (especially if they happen to have the wrong sex or skin color).

To paraphrase Bill Buckley, "there is more ideological diversity (and vigor) in the phonebook of a large city than among liberal arts faculty at our institutions of higher (mis)education!"

Jonathan J. Bean - 11/20/2004

There is a short and long-term POLITICAL problem here that libertarians, comfortable with theory, are wont to tackle.

In the long-term, we (even Horowitz intimates this), may want the State out of the "marriage business," but in the short-term we live in the real, nitty-gritty world of state-governed rules that tightly bind state institutions in particular (note to Horowitz: your point concerning the latitude of private firms is well-taken but I, and most professors/students, teach or attend State universities or colleges. Perhaps I should have made that clear).

I don't see how we achieve, or advance our libertarian state-less marriage goals by simply extending current state rules to gays, polygamists, or others. What is the point?

As for this being a "small number of people," it is difficult to tell, as the "movement" as only just begun (remember Medicare was supposed to be a "small" program). Once attached to State rules or court decisions defining "equal rights" to mean gay marriage or same-sex benefits (but not polygamy), the door will be open to affirmative action of all sorts. As a long student of that area of civil rights, I know that activists take a victory in one area and use our judicial oligarchs, or friendly bureaucrats to extend it in another.

Finally, Horowitz repeatedly states that marriage is a "desirable social institution." Perhaps this is so, though serial monogamy now seems to be the norm, and that institution has been under attack, or not as solid and "desirable" to those people who leave it (divorce) choose something else (cohabitate, remain single) or live "make-do" marriages. And, you skirt the issue of monogamy entirely: The classic argument is that monogamy makes for social stability (no unhappy mate-less males or females, as in polygamous societies). Another argument is that it is better to have two parents raise children; this is supported by social science research.

Interesting how everyone dodged the polygamy question. I searched a database of polls and found that polygamy is even less popular than same sex marriage (92% think it is morally wrong) even though major world religions (e.g., Islam) sanction it. A strong majority actually think a husband with more than one wife ought to be arrested but no one wants to enforce the sodomy statutes ("consenting adults" and all that). Love to see the gender breakdown of that poll!

Here is a strong argument for polygamy: It would help break down the temptation to "stray" into adultery (thus breaking the bonds of contractual marriage), protect the rights of religious groups to practice their "victimless" tenets, and halt the current discrimination against them too.