...why not boast about Leopold and Loeb?
WHICH IDEAS MATTER?
I was impressed at the Wall
Street Journalized image of Don M. Randel in the October/04
issue (“From the
President”). It made the sense of his remarks tellingly
visual. I was impressed, too, that he wrote that ideas matter.
As a run-of-the-mill alumnus, I am somewhat
dismayed to find the University and the Magazine tending to avoid
the embarrassing fact that ideas matter—as do actions. Instead,
we are treated to exaltation of the business school. We get quasi-meaningful
references to alumni important enough to be featured in Fahrenheit
The idea that Mr. Randel fails to remember is
that economics and business, as taught at our University, have turned
into a kind of fundamentalism. When I was a student in the 1970s,
Chile and the Chicago Boys experiment were highly controversial.
Now, some 30 years later, Chile is still a deeply scarred country,
and the important people have all moved on to other things, like
democratizing Iraq through unbridled free-market capitalism and
mutual back-scratching for dollars.
Another idea that Mr. Randel fails to remember
is that those who received a liberal education, as I did, are expected
to return good for the good they received. I studied Western civilization
under Mr. Weintraub—a stateless man persecuted as a Jew, and
a former refugee—and I understand that civilization is a delicate
creation, that a liberal education should make us highly skeptical
of those who seek and wield power. (Isn’t that the sense of
the lecture that you so recently published after his death?) Instead,
we are treated to role models from our University such as these
famous democratizers: Prudish Attorney General Ashcroft. Conflict-of-interest-ridden
Justice Scalia [who taught at the Law School from 1977 to 1982—Ed.],
who would rather be off pontificating, and shooting ducks and pheasants.
Remote-control general Wolfowitz, nonchalantly corrupting the Republic
with his bad dream of empire. Yet, on page 22 of the same issue
(“On the Quads”),
we find the results of their actions in Deborah Umannabuike, deported
and faced with financial ruin at the age of 20. Surely she wasn’t
damaging our national security, was she?
And surely the ideas on economics and the law
that have emerged from the crucible of the red-hot debates at our
university couldn’t have led to such real-world misery! (Or
is it time for our trusty assistants here at the University of Laputa
to tap us on the heads with bladders?)
So, yes, ideas matter, and actions mat-ter, and
so do things that we see, like that WSJ–style portrait of
Mr. Randel. I suggest that Mr. Randel use the space instead to explain
how he plans to drive out some of the bad ideas (the illiberal ideas)
of the philosopher-kings and economist-kings. Isn’t that how
the “marketplace of ideas” is meant to work? Or is it
Donald J. Gecewicz, AB’76
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