Socialism’s Enduring Appeal

One thing that the average person on the street doesn’t appreciate is just how much socialism rules the schools, especially the good ones. There’s a socialist tradition about controlling the Commanding Heights of the economy, and that must include the good schools too. While studying computer science at an Ivy League school, your correspondent heard tell that there were still intrepid scholars who would give traditional style lectures, but the socialists would call them late at night threatening them with tenure denials. This might sound like relatively tame stuff in the real world, but it’s amazing how intellectually violent these academics can be.

I ended up going to MIT to study environmental policy in the political science department—what at MIT is called Course 17—and never really thought about socialism because my studies concerned the intersection of the social and natural environments, something that my technical background prepared me for and for which MIT appeared to be ideally suited.

One of the great things about elite schools are your fellow students. The teachers may be a little crazy and inaccessible, but one’s fellow students are super smart and interacting with them can be even more rewarding and informative than interacting with the faculty. So there was a typical graduate student party in somebody’s apartment and your correspondent went because talking about books and ideas, especially with smart people, was his idea of a good time.

The problem was, your correspondent had a subscription to The New Republic, and the most recent issue featured a critical look at socialism and wealth redistribution schemes. So at the party I mention some of these criticisms. You know, something like, “Well clearly you have to admit that the demographic consequences of wealth redistribution schemes are problematic. I mean, there’s so much supporting evidence.”

I didn’t even really think too much about it at the time because it wasn’t like I was quoting The National Review. These were liberal intellectual critiques from a respected liberal intellectual publication. But it got kind of creepy because my classmates got really quiet, and before long your correspondent became the sole focus of attention of six MIT graduate students whose collective goal was to convince me I was wrong.

Needless to say, it didn’t end well, but it’s instructive to consider why. First, clearly my opinions were of particular interest to these students. They might argue that they just really care about common people, and “social justice”—a euphemism for socialism—but I think they care mostly about themselves and their career. That is, the whole reason why they studied political science is because they believed in wealth redistribution and they envisioned themselves to be the wealth redistributors! Apparently it was a career field, and a popular one! Moreover, I would argue that the real motivation isn’t even wealth redistribution, it’s status. These smart students were interested in politics, which is all about the relative differences and competition between different groups of people. But wealth redistribution is a power trip, an opportunity to pick winners, and pick up some spare change on the side.

But more than that, there was a certain disdain for what in the 2016 came to be known as deplorables. I was a patriotic American,  a conservative, and a Christian, but I tried not to be obnoxious about it, but I also tried to defend my positions and not retreat. This turned out to be very difficult to do, especially as my fellow status-seeking socialist students seemed to disdain patriotism, nationalism, and Christianity. The socialism was much more powerful and prevalent than what I had envisioned our predicted. The other students had all received a social science undergraduate education, but my technical  background kept me insulated from and in some sense unprepared to deal with this pervasive socialism. And of course, such conflicts couldn’t be addressed because such socialism couldn’t be acknowledged. To be blunt, I had been outed in the most fundamental sense as politically incorrect: notions such as truth and evidence and arguments were irrelevant as I was now outside the tribe, so the social dynamics were, as you might guess, destined to get very strange indeed.

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