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Bakija on Social Security

A Transcript article on Democratic reaction to President Bush’s plans to revamp social security reports that:

John Bakija, an assistant professor of economics at Williams College, backs the view that borrowing money to finance a Social Security overhaul leads the country down a road of piling up more debt. The key for the country’s financial success in the long run is to save money, not borrow it, he said.

I’ll leave commentary on the substantive point for another day.

Bakija is clearly a serious scholar. It is nice to see that the Econmics Department, despite having seen massive turnover in the last 20 years, continues to attract such strong economists. Perhaps his syllabus for ECON 120 is not as biased as it could be, but there are clearly many more left wing items in the reading packet than their are right wing ones — although perhaps that claim depends on how one classifies The Economist not optimal. I would certainly like to see both left and right with equal representation as well as a broader selection from across the ideological spectrum.

As always, the problem is not that Williams has professors like Bakija, professors who are active participants in the public square from the non-right-wing side. Williams needs more professors like Bakija! It just needs some professors who disagree with him, professors who would assign work from Heritage Hoover as often as they do from Brookings.

UPDATE: Having had the chance to review the syllabus more closely, and thanks to some of the input in the comments below, I rephrased the above. Upon reflection, I should not have used the word “bias”. Special thanks to Professor Bakija for providing some background information. I was especially pleased to hear that his “students frequently say that they like that they can’t tell what my views are, which I think is important for promoting critical thinking and lively debate in class.” I could not agree more.

Again, Williams needs more professors like Bakija. I hope that Williams tenures him and that he stays for 30 years. But perhaps I am just biased in favor of professors who contribute to EphBlog! ;-)

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Needham ’04 on Churchill

Fellow EphBlogger Mike Needham ’04 has an op-ed in the Washington Times about l’affair Churchill and some Williams history.

Where was this full and unconditional support a few years ago at a peer liberal arts college of Hamilton’s? At my alma mater, Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., liberals were tripping over themselves to condemn the Record, the student newspaper, for running a controversial paid advertisement.

The controversy erupted over the suggestion that anti-Semitism — or “Arab and Islamic Jew-hatred,” as author David Horowitz called it in his ad — was the root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Regardless of your opinions, Mr. Horowitz’s view has more validity than Mr. Churchill’s claim the defenseless and innocent September 11 victims were “little Eichmanns.” Not so in the twisted world of American higher education.

Almost immediately, five professors and the college chaplain and associate chaplain condemned Mr. Horowitz’ paid expression: “Hate speech and inflammatory rhetoric poison the public sphere, and subtly censor victims by frightening them from participating in the arena of public discourse. At a liberal arts college, we can and should hope for better.”

One doesn’t find the same concern today that Mr. Churchill’s language might “subtly censor” or “frighten” those who disagree with his characterization of Americans from “participating in the arena of public discourse.”

See here for a selection of Record articles and letters on the controversy. I could not find a copy of Horowitz’s add. Is one available somewhere? Note especially the letter that Mike refers to. Would Lynch et al object if the Record were to publish some of Churchill’s writings?

Someone should ask them.

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The Diversity Addiction

Oren Cass ’05 has a great op-ed on the “diversity addiction” at Williams.

The history department offered nine American history courses this semester. Four focused explicitly on ethnic studies, two on colonialism and two on slavery.

That adds up to eight, which means the department had the temerity to offer a course not focused on racial issues. But you had to be at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut to enroll, so at least the bigots were kept out of state.

Next semester’s courses are slightly more apple pie, with only three of the seven dedicated to race or gender. But these are the All-Stars, like HIST 468: Sex and Race in Colonial North America, which deserves a lifetime achievement award for getting the holy trinity of gender, race and colonialism into its title.

Read the whole thing.

Why isn’t Cass (or someone with similar views) a member of the President’s Diversity Committee (not sure if this is the appropriate name for the group)? It’s as if the Diversity panel is interested in the diversity of everything except for viewpoints.

Read more

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Diversity of Opinion

Thanks to a suggestion in Todd Gamblin’s ’02 blog, I discovered this handy site for reveiwing political donations by zip code. Here is a listing for all the givers from the 01267 Williamstown zip code. This is a nice compliment to sites that allow you to search by employer.

A quick perusal shows a variety of Eph folks, including members of the administration (McIntre and Ouellette), former presidents (Chandler and Oakley), current professors (Dew ’58, Satterthwaite, Booth, Scholfield, Willingham, Marcus, Fix, Brown, Altschuler, Epping, Reinhardt, Schmidt, Engel, Singham, Skinner), professor emeriti (Sabot, Winston, Markgraf, Faison ’29, Rudolph, Burns ’39), and even faculty spouses (Crampton, Wooters, Versenyi).

Now, since Williams College values diversity — political, intellectual and otherwise — you might expect that some Ephs would donate to Democrats and some to Republicans.

You would be wrong. In terms of politics, the diversity of opinion at Williams seems to run from Kerry to Dean.

I can not find a single person employed by Williams (or married to someone employed by Williams) who has donated money to any Republican candidate or group this electoral cycle.

I suspect that there is a nice Record article in here somewhere . . .

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One problem with academia nationwide,

One problem with academia nationwide, and one that seems particularly worrying in English departments, is the prevalence of group think on certain issues. For example, take this account of last week’s Modern Language Association meeting from The Boston Globe.

In more than a dozen sessions on war-related topics, not a single speaker or audience member expressed support for the war in Iraq or in Afghanistan. The sneering air quotes were flying as speaker after speaker talked of “so-called terrorism,” “the so-called homeland,” “the so-called election of George Bush,” and so forth.

The approach to the war was certainly wide-ranging — from cultural studies to rhetoric to literature to pure political speechifying. In a session on “Shock and Awe,” Graham Hammill of Notre Dame traced the ideas behind the initial bombing back to the Roman historian and orator Tacitus’s idea of arcana imperii, which translates roughly as “mysteries of state.” Like Roman emperors who used rhetoric to sway the populace, Hammill argued, the Shock and Awe campaign was a rhetorical gesture aimed at demonstrating US power as much as flattening Baghdad.

At a different panel, Cynthia Young of the University of Southern California spoke about how the White House uses Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell “to create a distorted multiracial mask on imperialism.” “What does it mean,” Young asked, “when imperialism comes wrapped in a black bow?”

I guess we can be thankful at Williams that comments as inane as Prof. Young’s aren’t routinely made by our faculty. As for intellectual diversity: Last February, 123 faculty members signed a “statement of resistence” to a war in Iraq. There were certainly not 10 faculty members who supported the war and there almost certainly were not 5.

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Very Foundations

Surfing around the Williams web — perhaps I need a new hobby — I am consistently underwhelmed with the news and publication section for alumni. Not only is the most recent Alumni Review not posted but the section on Spectrum (a “monthly Newsletter highlighting activities of the Multicultutural Center and Alumni Networks”) is pathetic. I can understand why something like Spectrum might no longer be publishing (and why it was never really “monthly”) but I don’t see the point in keeping up issues that end in December 2002. Perhaps the best guess is that there was a May 2003 issue, but that that was never posted.

Strangely enough, although our household includes an alumna of color (would that be the appropriate PC phraseology?) we don’t receive it.

Looking on he bright side, however, there is material here to blog about! In the December 2002 issue, Stephen Collingsworth, Assistant Director and Coordinator for Queer Issues at the MCC (Multicultural Center) writes (p. 4):

Because of my background, I guess forget that through being white and living in the United States, I am the benefactor of a history and a country whose very foundations are based on the concept of entitlement and the idea that as a nation, we are not responsible for our actions.

“Very foundation”? I seem to remember something about democracy, freedom, separation of church and state, the rule of law and so on. The Framers of the COnstitution obviously failed to live up to the ideals embodied therein, but they surely deserve points for trying. Collingsworth goes on:

The very concept of capitalism on which the United States economy is based, quite proudly it seems, is rooted in that oppression: slavery. We fought and won a Cold War based on the idea that capitalism is better than the oppressiveness of communism.

It is hard to know where to begin with sentiments like this. Here I always thought that the Cold War had something to do with freedom. Would Collingsworth really rather live in, say, North Korea or Cuba?

In any event, I don’t want to get too political (read: boring) here, but whenever confronted with these sorts of ramblings from outfits like the MCC, I always go back to a simple question: In what nation on Earth are my daughters — of proudly mixed-race parentage — least likely to be treated different from other little girls because of the color of their skin? France? Germany? China? Japan? Although one could, perhaps, make a case from a place like Brazil, it seems that the obvious answer is the United States. For all its many faults, there is no country in which my daughters heritage will cause them so little (and none so far) heartache.

I would feel better about Williams and the MCC if this point, if not embraced, were at least acknowledged as plausible. But that would require a diversity of political viewpoint that Williams does not seem to have enough of.

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