MIT (1): In the Belly of the Beast

Many conservatives want to quit their jobs and become a conservative writer full time. A few years ago, I actually did that in the belly of the liberal beast in Cambridge, MA at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which everybody just calls MIT. There I studied political science — what they call Course 17 — and was pretty excited about it because I already had degrees in electrical engineering and computer science (EECS) — what they call Course 6 — so I figured MIT was a natural fit.  I knew Cambridge was very liberal, but I figured so long as I kept my arguments logical and empirical and stayed away from quoting Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and William F. Buckley at length then I’d be okay.

Was I wrong! It turns out that Course 17 wasn’t just liberal, it was almost pure socialist. I thought when I was in Course 17 that I was at MIT, but it turns out that the thought processes of Course 17 are fundamentally different from and incompatible with Course 6. Figuring this out took a while though. And part of the reason I wanted to run this particular experiment — being a Course 6 guy in Course 17 — was to understand, “From where would the pressure come?” That is, how would I get in trouble, and how would I find out, and what would happen? Would it be a direct confrontation? Would it be a behind the back stealth attack? And how would I even know?

Even then I wouldn’t take the time to write up my experiences. conservatives when they tangle with socialists tend to take their licks and move on, which I understand and sometimes even admire, and I don’t want to be that guy that hangs onto something that would be better left forgotten. But the same socialist attacks I experienced at MIT were pretty severe, turned out to be just plain wrong, and have significant policy consequences. This write-up is being undertaken because I think the story might be entertaining and informative, but there’s just one way to find out — write it up and put it out there. However, there’s a second reason: similar attacks are being used by the political establishment and deep state in the United States Government (USG) to the point that they threaten the effectiveness of the USG and the health of America. So I want to write up what happened because what I experienced at MIT is constrained, defined, and historical. That is, I have the benefit of hindsight, while the current deep-state machinations being directed at the new administration are ongoing.  Experience shows that Course 17 likes the wealth and status associated with being at MIT, which is driven by the Institute’s excellence in EECS (Course 6), Physics (Course 8), and Mathematics (Course 18). The problem with Course 17 is that it doesn’t really stress the “science” in political science — instead it stresses the politics.

I earned by computer science degree at a different school on the east coast, and there I heard rumors of PhD students giving traditional lectures on say history with no leftist content or perspective and receiving phone calls in the middle of the night from rabid socialists who were going to “get them” and “destroy their careers.” Being a computer scientist, this made little sense, and I had to admit that I didn’t really believe the stories. I thought that the conservative students were insufficiently brave and that I was going to show them how it was done. After all, I was pretty smart and an EECS guy at an EECS school, what could go wrong? Besides, I wanted to help: I was a kid from America who wanted to do good. I was also smart enough to realize that one doesn’t go into a top department and start broadcasting that you’re a conservative from the start. So my initial position was to focus on the natural environment because it combined science, quantitative analysis, and policy, which seemed a natural combination that would be appreciated by the professors in Course 17. Understanding the behavior of the global environmental system required the science and engineering of Course 6, but formulating policies that preserved the global environment required an understanding of political science, policy, and Course 17.

In fact, it’s not even clear what being a “conservative” means. Classic works like those from Edmund Burke indicate that conservatism is more a perspective than a field of study, so I will devote some time to exploring that question in this blog. Finally, I realized that becoming a political science professor was a long shot, but I figured I could always fall back on my EECS degrees. It’s good to have a backup plan when doing something fun but not very remunerative like studying political science, and it turned out that backup plan was very much needed and returned benefits that were impossible to predict when I packed up a trailer, got in my car, and headed across country to big, bad MIT.



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