Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Sign in to follow this  
softwareNerd

Ward Churchill's academic freedom

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

A Colorado professor, Ward Churchill, has been in the news recently, for comments referring to the victims in the World Trade Center as "little Eichmanns", and implying that they deserved their fate.

The professor has tenure, and that makes it very difficult for the university to fire him. Conservatives are completely unable to rebutt his claim that he has the freedom of speech and cannot be fired because the University is owned by the government.

My take on it is that the real problem here is state ownership of universities. Conservatives wouldn't dare suggest that.

Any thoughts?

Edited by softwareNerd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The ARI had a press release on this very topic today. Onkar Ghate basically says the exactly the same thing, that this issue would not exist if the university were private.

I live in Colorado and have been completely immersed in this issue for the past two weeks, listening to AM talk radio. Churchill's comments about the 9/11 victims is only the tip of the iceberg. This man is a monster.

One of the local radio shows has made it their personal mission to get this guy fired. They have gathered quite a bit of information about him, including sound bytes of one his lectures. Here's a link.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The professor has tenure, and that makes it very difficult for the university to fire him. Conservatives are completely unable to rebutt his claim that he has the freedom of speech and cannot be fired because the University is owned by the government.

My take on it is that the real problem here is state ownership of universities. Conservatives wouldn't dare suggest that.

I don't see any evidence that this has to do with state ownership of universities. Tenure exists in private universities as well, and there is as much chance -- indeed more chance -- of such an idiot keeping his job at a Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Chicago or Stanford. U. South Florida (a state institute) actually fired a tenured professor, Sami Al-Arian, for his pro-terrorist activities. The true reason why Churchill hasn't been fired is very simply because there isn't anyone in charge with the power or cojones to fire him, and that is a function of academia, not the state funding of universities. If there is enough of an outcry, the chances of firing a tenured professor in response to publish outcry is greater than in a private university. So while there are many things wrong with state-funded universities (the idea of them being one thing), this isn't an example.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't see any evidence that this has to do with state ownership of universities.

In the sense you mean it, ofcourse you are right. Private universities have some pretty "out there" professors.

However, in a case like this the government is playing two roles. In the role of university owner, it ought to fire him. The problem is that in its role as government, it ought not to do so. Assuming certain conditions in his contract/tenure, in one role, firing him is compatible with his right of free speech, in the other role it isn't.

Obviously, the people in government are the same, regardless of what role they play. So, there is no objective way to split the decision.

The real solution is not to fire him, but not to have this issue arise in the context of a governmental decision. Stop government funding of all education.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't see any evidence that this has to do with state ownership of universities. Tenure exists in private universities as well, and there is as much chance -- indeed more chance -- of such an idiot keeping his job at a Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Chicago or Stanford. U. South Florida (a state institute) actually fired a tenured professor, Sami Al-Arian, for his pro-terrorist activities. The true reason why Churchill hasn't been fired is very simply because there isn't anyone in charge with the power or cojones to fire him, and that is a function of academia, not the state funding of universities. If there is enough of an outcry, the chances of firing a tenured professor in response to publish outcry is greater than in a private university. So while there are many things wrong with state-funded universities (the idea of them being one thing), this isn't an example.

State ownership of universities is very much the issue in the Ward Churchill furor. If Churchill were employed by a strictly private sector institution, his critics could decry his 9/11 writings but would have no grounds for demanding his firing. For example, I may not like what Paul Krugman or William Safire say in the New York Times, but I can't demand that the Times fire them based on my disagreement. Churchill is a different matter. It is because his employment is financed with state and federal tax money that those who contribute (involuntarily) to his salary have a valid reason for calling for his dismissal. No citizen should have to finance views that he disagrees with. No one should have to provide a platform for one's ideological enemy.

Of course, this principle applies not only to Churchill but to every other tax-funded employee. I should not be required to fund (via taxation) any professor who believes in the income tax, anti-trust law, the minimum wage, federal housing, the Federal Reserve, farm subsidies, or even government schools.

So ARI and Onkar Ghate have the correct analysis: "We are right in objecting to being forced to fund their ideas, loathsome or otherwise. The only solution, however, is a free market in education." Yet, a portion of Ghate's message is wrong-headed: "But it is no solution for the government to put pressure (or worse) on public universities whenever a professor teaches ideas opposed to the views of a majority of taxpayers. The moment the government becomes arbiter of what can and cannot be taught on campus, the moment speech becomes subject to majority vote, censorship results."

I find it surprising that Ghate does not understand that government's being an arbiter of what can and cannot be taught on campus is the inevitable result of government financing of schools. The power to subsidize is the power to control. To think otherwise is utopian day-dreaming.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I find it surprising that Ghate does not understand that government's being an arbiter of what can and cannot be taught on campus is the inevitable result of government financing of schools.  The power to subsidize is the power to control.  To think otherwise is utopian day-dreaming.

I'm not sure how you interpreted that Ghate does not understand the results of government funded schools. That the whole point of the column, that publicly funded schools created the Ward Churchill issue. The government should not have the right to dictate what is taught in schools, but they do because the schools are government funded; that's half the problem. The other half is that fact that a portion of money extorted from me, and every other Colorado taxpayer, goes into Churchill's pocket and provides him a platform for his violent, anti-capitalistic, racist rhetoric.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm not sure how you interpreted that Ghate does not understand the results of government funded schools.  That the whole point of the column, that publicly funded schools created the Ward Churchill issue.

Here is what Ghate said, "But it is no solution for the government to put pressure (or worse) on public universities whenever a professor teaches ideas opposed to the views of a majority of taxpayers. The moment the government becomes arbiter of what can and cannot be taught on campus, the moment speech becomes subject to majority vote, censorship results."

What Ghate seems not to understand is that the very nature of government funding is to select one goal over another. The moment the government spends the first dollar on “public” education, it has by the very act of spending become an arbiter of what is taught. If it chooses to fund classes that teach, say, French but not Arabic, it has made one preference over the other. If it chooses basketball over yoga, or Thurber over Rand, or Keynes over Mises, such choices may or may not be the right ones, but they are the inevitable results of giving politicians final power over the educational tax dollar. And it is simply not possible to have an educational system that prohibits the funder from exercising control over the program. We could approach government financing by giving every citizen an equal dollar amount and letting him spend it on educational purposes as he wishes. But, as you can imagine, there would inevitiably be strings attached by the state under pressure from special interest groups to forbid spending on this, that and the other. All in the name of "objectivity" of course!

The government should not have the right to dictate what is taught in schools, but they do because the schools are government funded; that's half the problem.  The other half is that fact that a portion of money extorted from me, and every other Colorado taxpayer, goes into Churchill's pocket and provides him a platform for his violent, anti-capitalistic, racist rhetoric.

On this we agree.

Edited by Tom Robinson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In general, should universities (private or public) be allowed to fire professors for expressing evil views? I suppose it would have to depend upon the job description. If a professor were hired solely for the role of teacher, then I think he could only be (morally) fired if, say, it could be proven that his teaching style were heavily biased (as that would mean he is not doing his job well.)

On the other hand, if a professor were hired as both a teacher and a writer of academic papers and/or speaker, the issue gets more complicated.

What do you all think about this (especially those of you who work either as professors or college/university administrators)?

Btw, Byan: I'm from Denver, too (Golden, actually.) Are you involved in any of the local Objectivist groups? I usually attend the "Meetup" lunches @ Racine's on Sherman, and there will be one this Saturday. If you want info, check out http://aynrand.meetup.com/42/events/4084593/ .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In general, should universities (private or public) be allowed to fire professors for expressing evil views?  I suppose it would have to depend upon the job description.  If a professor were hired solely for the role of teacher, then I think he could only be (morally) fired if, say, it could be proven that his teaching style were heavily biased (as that would mean he is not doing his job well.)

On the other hand, if a professor were hired as both a teacher and a writer of academic papers and/or speaker, the issue gets more complicated. 

What do you all think about this (especially those of you who work either as professors or college/university administrators)?

An important principle of law is that contracts that require the violation of a third party's rights are invalid. Suppose, Randrew, that you and I sign a contract that calls for me to deliver to your store 100 bootleg cellphones cloned from other cellular phones with valid ESN numbers. Since the contract involves an activity which is fraudulent, the agreement would be unenforceable under any rational system of law.

Similarly, employment contracts that stipulate salaries to be paid with funds coerced from others should also be considered invalid. No one has a "right" to something obtained by means of coercion. Thus, Churchill has no "right" to his job at the University of Colorado, regardless of what insane views he may have expressed.

Edited by Tom Robinson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If Churchill were employed by a strictly private sector institution, his critics could decry his 9/11 writings but would have no grounds for demanding his firing.

I think your grounds would be the same: the question is whether your reasoning would be as persuasive to the boss. As a taxpayer (if you were) you would have perhaps a bit more clout; but if you were an actual benefactor to a private university, the threat to pull your funding might hold some sway. You can demand that the NYT fire Safire -- they can ignore you, just as much as SUNY could ignore you if he were employed in their system.

No one should have to provide a platform for one's ideological enemy.

For that matter, no one should have to provide a platform for one's ideological comrades, but it might be in your best interest to do so. Voluntary payments are a nice way to sort out the distinction.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think your grounds would be the same: the question is whether your reasoning would be as persuasive to the boss. As a taxpayer (if you were) you would have perhaps a bit more clout; but if you were an actual benefactor to a private university, the threat to pull your funding might hold some sway. You can demand that the NYT fire Safire -- they can ignore you, just as much as SUNY could ignore you if he were employed in their system.

Let's observe that nobody is calling for Dark Night Press (under whose imprimatur the "little Eichmanns" essay was printed) to discontinue publishing Churchill's writings. Such a suggestion would be as absurd as calling for the Green Party not to endorse Ralph Nader on the grounds that Nader is too socialist. Churchill's critics, unlike benefactors of private universities, have no individual power to withdraw their (coerced) funding of the professor's salary. So their logical and legitimate recourse is to call for his removal from the government feeding trough.

Edited by Tom Robinson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In general, should universities (private or public) be allowed to fire professors for expressing evil views?  I suppose it would have to depend upon the job description.  If a professor were hired solely for the role of teacher, then I think he could only be (morally) fired if, say, it could be proven that his teaching style were heavily biased (as that would mean he is not doing his job well.)

On the other hand, if a professor were hired as both a teacher and a writer of academic papers and/or speaker, the issue gets more complicated.

If there is a valid (which means, in part, explicit) agreement between a university and a teacher, that agreement must be respected. Every university has some set of rules which they expect faculty to live by, and if you violate that agreement, they have just cause to fire you (tenure or not) -- if they have the courage and inclination to act. That puts the burden on establishing certain forms of behavior as rule-violations. Advocating the violent overthrow of the state is prohibited, and so is being persistently off-topic in a course (that one surprised me). It would not matter one bit if a person were hired only to teach -- if you act in violation of the rules, you can be fired. A university could establish rules for firing that distinguish between "instructional only" faculty and "instructional and research" faculty, but I doubt any university would do such a thing.

Should an insurance company be allowed to fire a person for public support of Nazism? Of course: all employment is to some extent at-will. A non-contract employee can be fired at a moment's notice; a contract employee can be fired under the conditions specified in the contract. The Al-Arian case, as I understand it, hinges on his failure to clearly distinguish betweeen his personal acts and his acts as representative of the university and his refusal to obey directives from a superior). I imagine that (1) the UC administration is not strongly inclined to take action and (2) he will be more clever about following the rules. Except: he apparently used his putative Native American blood as a basis for being hired, and that seems to be quite in question, given a bit of geneological research.

At UC, here are the legal grounds for dismissal: "The grounds for dismissal shall be demonstrable professional incompetence, neglect of duty, insubordination, conviction of a felony or any offense involving moral turpitude upon a plea or verdict of guilty or following a plea of nolo contendere, or sexual harassment or other conduct which falls below minimum standards of professional integrity" (emphasis added). There is always a loophole.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If there is a valid (which means, in part, explicit) agreement between a university and a teacher, that agreement must be respected.

Not if it is contingent on violation of the rights of others. See Post #10 above.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
An important principle of law is that contracts that require the violation of a third party's rights are invalid.  Suppose, Randrew, that you and I sign a contract that calls for me to deliver to your store 100 bootleg cellphones cloned from other cellular phones with valid ESN numbers.  Since the contract involves an activity which is fraudulent, the agreement would be unenforceable under any rational system of law.

You've gotten that a little bit confused. The principle is that you're thinking of is the contract defense of illegality -- that the agreement is illegal. That is what makes the above described contract unenforceable. Rights violations only enter in to the discussion of contracts if laws prohibit rights violations. A contract requiring you to deliver 100 kilos of crack cocaine would similarly be unenforceable, because it requires you to do something illegal (but which does not violate any rights).

Similarly, employment contracts that stipulate salaries to be paid with funds coerced from others should also be considered invalid.

Perhaps, but I don't know of any such contract in a university setting, which make such a stipulation. UC salaries are paid from a general fund which includes both tax-derived money from the state and money given voluntarily (as donation or tuition). For that reason, you can't know if a given faculty member's salary is paid with taxes, with tuition money, or with donations. And that mixing of funds holds in private universities as well as state ones, because private universities receive large amounts of coerced tax money (though less than state schools do). In some special cases you can know that a particular faculty line is funded with a private contribution (usually identifiable by the fact that this is a named chair position). Apart form that, there is no known means of determining if an individual is being paid with coercively-derived funds or non-coercively derived funds, and therefore no way to know under your representation whether the given contract is or should be enforced.

This mixing of funds poses an impossible paradox, and it isn't limited to universities. Private industries often benefit directly from these stolen funds, for example in the construction industry, it is not uncommon for companies to receive contracts from the government to build structures. Is it your position that no contract if valid if it is made with a company that does business with the government?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You've gotten that a little bit confused. The principle is that you're thinking of is the contract defense of illegality -- that the agreement is illegal. That is what makes the above described contract unenforceable. Rights violations only enter in to the discussion of contracts if laws prohibit rights violations. A contract requiring you to deliver 100 kilos of crack cocaine would similarly be unenforceable, because it requires you to do something illegal (but which does not violate any rights).

No confusion. The principle is the same. To uphold any contract that entails coercion is to legitimize the violation of individual rights. Whether a particular activity is legal or not is irrelevant to the question of whether the advocates of a free society should endorse enforcement of agreements that require the initiation of force.

Perhaps, but I don't know of any such contract in a university setting, which make such a stipulation. UC salaries are paid from a general fund which includes both tax-derived money from the state and money given voluntarily (as donation or tuition).

Perhaps this state university has set aside a special building that has been financed entirely with private funds, that is maintained by privately funded janitors and groundskeepers, that is staffed with privately funded professors, and which is filled exclusively with students who receive no state or federal tuition aid. I suspect, however, that the biggest slice of Churchill’s salary cake comes right out of Joe Taxpayer’s pocket. I would suggest, then, that the only thing Churchill is owed is whatever a private benefactor may wish to toss into his tin cup.

For that reason, you can't know if a given faculty member's salary is paid with taxes, with tuition money, or with donations. And that mixing of funds holds in private universities as well as state ones, because private universities receive large amounts of coerced tax money (though less than state schools do). In some special cases you can know that a particular faculty line is funded with a private contribution (usually identifiable by the fact that this is a named chair position). Apart form that, there is no known means of determining if an individual is being paid with coercively-derived funds or non-coercively derived funds, and therefore no way to know under your representation whether the given contract is or should be enforced.

All Colorado has to do is deny Churchill a teaching position in any facility that is partially or wholly funded by taxes. Since Churchill is not entitled to any portion of coerced funds, he has no grounds for demanding that the university pay him anything -- except what a citizen may of his own free will send Churchill’s way. We will grant Churchill the right to keep any pennies that donors specifically earmark for his "contributions" to higher education.

This mixing of funds poses an impossible paradox, and it isn't limited to universities. Private industries often benefit directly from these stolen funds, for example in the construction industry, it is not uncommon for companies to receive contracts from the government to build structures. Is it your position that no contract if valid if it is made with a company that does business with the government?

Actually it is a good idea to avoid, if possible, doing business with companies that get big non-military government contracts. Admittedly, it is impossible to know the source of every dollar in the marketplace. But in the case of Churchill, there is no doubt where his loot is coming from. He has no more entitlement to it than a modern "artist" has to his NEA grant.

Edited by Tom Robinson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
No confusion.  The principle is the same.
Well, there is a basic difference. If you were speaking about the defense of illegality, that actually is a legal principle that exists, and is useable as a basis for not complying with a contract. Whereas there does not exist any legal principle of rights violation immunity. Although, in a utopian world, rights violations would be against the law, so you could derive an unenforceability of contracts that require one person to violate the rights of another from the fact that such actions might be illegal. But there does not exist any principle that contracts are unenforceable if doing so requires violation of rights. Something to keep in mind is that contract enforcement is a matter of law and not a matter of morality, so any wishes you might have regarding what kinds of contracts are enforced has to be mediated through law.
To uphold any contract that entails coercion is to legitimize the violation of individual rights.
You should check the details of this contract -- there is nowhere in the agreement that such an entailment is stated. If you can find it, please point to it: I certainly won't claim to have examined all of the relevant documents in infinite detail. All I'm saying is that your implication that such a condition exists in the agreement is so far without factual support.
I suspect, however, that the biggest slice of Churchill’s salary cake comes right out of Joe Taxpayer’s pocket.
Do you have a basis for that speculation? My suspicion is that it is more along the lines of 30% tax support. In my case it's closer to 10%, and I'd be quite happy to take a 10% pay cut in return for not having to pay almost half of my salary in taxes.
I would suggest, then, that the only thing Churchill is owed is whatever a private benefactor may wish to toss into his tin cup.
Sure, but that's just a specific instance of the general fact that nobody has any absolute obligations to anyone else.
filled exclusively with students who receive no state or federal tuition aid
That's a good point which I hadn't given proper consideration to. It means that that the distinction between private and public universities is even less credible, because private universities are chock full of thieving students receiving stolen money. Teachers have no obligation to teach students who receive stolen funds. The interesting thing is that under federal law, we are prohibited from knowing who these thieves are, and therefore since they are not segregated into a special ghetto, we have to treat all students as thieves. Yet another appalling consequence of taxation.

Since Churchill is not entitled to any portion of coerced funds, he has no grounds for demanding that the university pay him anything -- except what a citizen may of his own free will send Churchill’s way.
The point that you're ignoring is that this objection applies to all obligations, not just university professors. All businesses are polluted with coerced funds. Joe Schmoe who runs the corner hotdog stand is supported by coerced funds, since his customers include government employees who buy lunch from him, and the money that they hand over is coerced from taxpayers. You would not believe how much of the funds that Office Max takes in is stolen from taxpayers.

You ignored my earlier question so I will repeat it and ask you directly to answer the question. Is it your position that no contract is valid if it is made with a company that does business with the government? Don't tell me about good ideas, answer the question that I asked. Your smokescreen about non-military contracts or big contracts is irrelevant, since theft is theft, regardless of the size -- are you excusing small-scale theft? Are you aware that coercive taxation is entirely inconsistent with Objectivism, even if the money goes to fund the military or the courts? I'm waiting for a defense of the idea that no contract is valid when one of the parties uses some amount of coerced funds to make good on the contractual obligation. That is a ridiculous claim because it means, in our modern socialist society, that no contracts are provably valid since they all involve tainted money.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tenure would still exist in a fully privitised university system. I personally don't understand the objections to it - I can see why people oppose it under a state system, but not when private institutions are involved (I'm not simply saying 'a private university has the right to offer tenure if they wish' since that's a truism - I think that tenure is actually a good idea).

Similarly, employment contracts that stipulate salaries to be paid with funds coerced from others should also be considered invalid
You mean like policemen and those in the military?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Well, there is a basic difference. If you were speaking about the defense of illegality, that actually is a legal principle that exists, and is useable as a basis for not complying with a contract. Whereas there does not exist any legal principle of rights violation immunity. Although, in a utopian world, rights violations would be against the law, so you could derive an unenforceability of contracts that require one person to violate the rights of another from the fact that such actions might be illegal. But there does not exist any principle that contracts are unenforceable if doing so requires violation of rights.

As I said before, "Whether a particular activity is legal or not is irrelevant to the question of whether the advocates of a free society should endorse enforcement of agreements that require the initiation of force." Since Ward Churchill's employment is with a state university that is primarily financed with stolen money, any claim to a job paid with that money is morally invalid.

Something to keep in mind is that contract enforcement is a matter of law and not a matter of morality, so any wishes you might have regarding  what kinds of contracts are enforced has to be mediated through law.

But we are not mediating legal disputes here. We are talking about whether we should stand by Ward Churchill in his claim for a university post financed with stolen money. I say let him go to the devil.

You should check the details of this contract -- there is nowhere in the agreement that such an entailment is stated. If you can find it, please point to it: I certainly won't claim to have examined all of the relevant documents in infinite detail. All I'm saying is that your implication that such a condition exists in the agreement is so far without factual support.Do you have a basis for that speculation? My suspicion is that it is more along the lines of 30% tax support.

If merely one percent of Churchill’s salary is stolen wealth, he still has no moral title to that portion. I do not argue that he has no right to teach at a university. My position is that he has no right to any money obtained by threat of force. If he continues to teach at the University of Colorado, let him do so in that special building that has been financed entirely with private funds, that is maintained by privately funded janitors and groundskeepers, that is lighted and heated via privately funded utility bills.

Sure, but that's just a specific instance of the general fact that nobody has any absolute obligations to anyone else.

Then the case for not enforcing state university employment contracts is even stronger.

The point that you're ignoring is that this objection applies to all obligations, not just university professors. All businesses are polluted with coerced funds. Joe Schmoe who runs the corner hotdog stand is supported by coerced funds, since his customers include government employees who buy lunch from him, and the money that they hand over is coerced from taxpayers. You would not believe how much of the funds that Office Max takes in is stolen from taxpayers.

I did not ignore your point but previously acknowledged that it is impossible to know the source of every buyer’s dollar in the marketplace. But in Churchill’s case there is no ambiguity. Unless the University of Colorado has recently been taken off the state budget, we can make an intuitively plausible hypothesis that each month a check funded with taxes is made out to Ward Churchill, PhD. If Churchill continues working there, he will continue to be paid with coerced funds. No doubt, those funds will go to some other nutty professor once he’s gone. But the vital point is that, contract or not, his rights (moral, not legal) are not violated if he gets canned.

You ignored my earlier question so I will repeat it and ask you directly to answer the question.  Is it your position that no contract is valid if it is made with a company that does business with the government? Don't tell me about good ideas, answer the question that I asked. Your smokescreen about non-military contracts or big contracts is irrelevant, since theft is theft, regardless of the size -- are you excusing small-scale theft?

No individual is morally entitled to any funds that come by way of the threat of force. So let’s say Acme Printing is contracted to run off one million draft registration posters. If the laissez faire revolution comes tomorrow, Acme will be told by the government’s new administrators, “We’re bankrupt. You’ll be paid off if there’s anything left once we reimburse our primary creditors, the taxpayers.” Of course, the revolution will not start on time, but there is no reason that we cannot say in the interim that Acme is not entitled to coerced funds. What about Acme’s suppliers of ink and paper? The same rules apply. If a bank robber contracts to buy a house with stolen funds, we cannot say the seller of the house has a right to keep all the cash that belongs to First National.

Are you aware that coercive taxation is entirely inconsistent with Objectivism, even if the money goes to fund the military or the courts?

Virtue of Selfishness, pp. 116-120.

I'm waiting for a defense of the idea that no contract is valid when one of the parties uses some amount of coerced funds to make good on the contractual obligation.

Should a pawn shop not have to return without being compensated a wristwatch burglarized from Dave Odden’s home and sold to the pawn shop? Since the shop owner came by the watch through theft (even though the owner was not himself the thief), he has no right to the watch, and Odden should not have to pay to get his watch back.

  That is a ridiculous claim because it means, in our modern socialist society, that no contracts are provably valid since they all involve tainted money.

Proudhon made a similar argument. I have more than once conceded that it is not possible to trace every stolen dollar back to its rightful owner. But in the case of Ward Churchill, there is no such ambiguity. Churchill’s salary did not come from bake sales and car washes. It came from the theft of Colorado property owners and income earners. We can deny Churchill right to a tax-funded position, by way of Ayn Rand’s insight: “If some men are entitled by right to the products of the work of others, it means that those others are deprived of rights and condemned to slave labor.” (“Man’s Rights.”)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Tenure would still exist in a fully privitised university system. I personally don't understand the objections to it - I can see why people oppose it under a state system, but not when private institutions are involved (I'm not simply saying 'a private university has the right to offer tenure if they wish' since that's a truism - I think that tenure is actually a good idea).

I fully agree.

You mean like policemen and those in the military?

“Are you aware that coercive taxation is entirely inconsistent with Objectivism, even if the money goes to fund the military or the courts?.” --Dave Odden Feb. 16, 2005

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I fully agree.

“Are you aware that coercive taxation is entirely inconsistent with Objectivism, even if the money goes to fund the military or the courts?.” --Dave Odden Feb. 16,

I agree 100%, but that doesnt imply that those who currently work in jobs involving coercive taxation should have no contractual rights. It would be like claiming there is no problem with a state funded university throwing out a student for no reason, since the student's education was partly funded by the state.

Edited by Hal

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Since Ward Churchill's employment is with a state university that is primarily financed with stolen money,  any claim to a job paid with that money is morally invalid.
Similarly, any claims by police, court clerks, judges, etc. to a right to a paycheck is even more invalid since their salaries are entirely paid in stolen money.

But we are not mediating legal disputes here. We are talking about whether we should stand by Ward Churchill in his claim for a university post financed with stolen money.  I say let him go to the devil.
On this point we can agree: his university should simply fire him and be done with it. In addition, there should be no taxation, period. Perhaps you misspoke when you said "An important principle of law is that contracts that require the violation of a third party's rights are invalid" (it would be quite reasonable to abandon that claim since it is false and irrelevant -- false for the reasons I just stated, over and over, and irrelevant because no contract exists requiring anyone to be violate rights in order to satisfy the agreement). I take it that this is your implicit public retraction of your earlier claim.
If merely one percent of Churchill’s salary is stolen wealth, he still has no moral title to that portion.

At least you're being consistent. As you probably know, about 40% of created wealth is stolen by the various governments in the US, which means that at least 40% of money anywhere in the US is probably tainted by having been stolen. All employers use this tainted money to pay their employees. Virtually all contracts in he US are in fact satisfied by payment with some portion of tainted money. Your position on the invalidity of contracts paid with some amount of tainted money effectively means that contracts are meaningless in a non-utopian society. And of course all of this land was originally stolen (from thieves, who stole from thieves....).

Anyhow, you've completely lost sight of the two important facts that surround this matter. First, taxation is immoral, plain and simple, and money should not be stolen by force for any purpose. You should advocate an end to taxation, without any hemming and hawing and excuses. No taxes. Second, a person has an enforceable "right" to a job only to the extent that is set forth in a contract or other form of employment agreement. The fact that an employer accepts stolen money to make good on their obligations does not negate the existence of their obligations. As I have pointed out, in Churchill's specific case, he is keeping his job not because of a legal obligation to do so, but rather because of a conscious decision on the part of the UC administration to keep this bum. The moral fault lies with the UC administrators who actively seek out stolen money, and who advocate taxation as a cheap fix to their problem of managing an educational institution.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Similarly, any claims by police, court clerks, judges, etc. to a right to a paycheck is even more invalid since their salaries are entirely paid in stolen money.

Earlier you wrote, ". . . coercive taxation is entirely inconsistent with Objectivism, even if the money goes to fund the military or the courts."

On this point we can agree: his university should simply fire him and be done with it. In addition, there should be no taxation, period. Perhaps you misspoke when you said "An important principle of law is that contracts that require the violation of a third party's rights are invalid" (it would be quite reasonable to abandon that claim since it is false and irrelevant -- false for the reasons I just stated, over and over,

Clearly my statement is not false. If the law acknowledges Citizen A’s right to certain property, then the law will not enforce any contract between Citizen B and C which entails coercively separating A from his property. Now this same principle is valid with regard to moral law. If the advocates of laissez faire oppose taxation, then they cannot logically support upholding any contract which calls for payment in tax funds.

and irrelevant because no contract exists requiring anyone to be violate rights in order to satisfy the agreement).

Unless you can show that Colorado taxpayers are legally permitted to hold back any portion of their tax bill that goes towards paying Professor Churchill’s salary, then the statement above is not true.

I take it that this is your implicit public retraction of your earlier claim.

I take it that this is your attempt to see something that is not there.

At least you're being consistent. As you probably know, about 40% of created wealth is stolen by the various governments in the US, which means that at least 40% of money anywhere in the US is probably tainted by having been stolen. All employers use this tainted money to pay their employees. Virtually all contracts in he US are in fact satisfied by payment with some portion of tainted money. Your position on the invalidity of contracts paid with some amount of tainted money effectively means that contracts are meaningless in a non-utopian society.

Straw man. I have not taken a position “on the invalidity of contracts paid with some amount of tainted money.” “Tainted” is a concept that you have introduced in an unsuccessful attempt to argue that everything is hopelessly confused and there can be no way of setting the world right. My argument has dealt strictly with the supposed "right" to funds which have clearly been obtained by theft. In the Churchill case, the loot is not “tainted”; it’s blatantly stolen, and we don’t have to track it back very far. The State of Colorado coerced X dollars from its citizens and paid Churchill a portion of it. If Churchill is entitled to his loot, then we must rise up to defend the "right" of every welfare bum to a share of what others have labored for. Contracts are not meaningless in our society. But contracts which are premised on robbing wage-earner Peter to pay nutty professor Paul are morally invalid.

And of course all of this land was originally stolen (from thieves, who stole from thieves....).

This is the same line of attack that socialists subsequent to Proudhon often employ in support of their claim that since all property was at one point stolen, no current property titles can be just. The obvious problem with this argument is that the premise is unproven. If Land Parcel X was stolen from Prehistoric Man A, then we can say that justice requires that it be returned to the victim or his descendants. In some cases, with sufficient documentary evidence, this return can be accomplished. But it is completely illogical to assume that all current land titles are unjust. It is entirely possible that many if not the majority of current land titles are rightfully held. In the absence of contradictory evidence, we say the current holder is the rightful holder.

Anyhow, you've completely lost sight of the two important facts that surround this matter. First, taxation is immoral, plain and simple, and money should not be stolen by force for any purpose.

You have not been paying attention. In Post #10 I wrote, “No one has a ‘right’ to something obtained by means of coercion.”

You should advocate an end to taxation, without any hemming and hawing and excuses. No taxes.

Again, in Post #10 of this thread I wrote, “No one has a ‘right’ to something obtained by means of coercion." Any Objectivist would know this statement implies an end to taxes, eminent domain seizures, minimum wage laws, farm subsidies, government housing, government “art,” and every other root and branch of the welfare state.

Second, a person has an enforceable "right" to a job only to the extent that is set forth in a contract or other form of employment agreement. The fact that an employer accepts stolen money to make good on their obligations does not negate the existence of their obligations.

I have already addressed this point in Post #16: Professor Churchill can teach in the University of Colorado’s “special building that has been financed entirely with private funds, that is maintained by privately funded janitors and groundskeepers.” Shall we call it Midas Mulligan Hall?

As I have pointed out, in Churchill's specific case, he is keeping his job not because of a legal obligation to do so, but rather because of a conscious decision on the part of the UC administration to keep this bum. The moral fault lies with the UC administrators who actively seek out stolen money, and who advocate taxation as a cheap fix to their problem of managing an educational institution.

If the UC administrators “actively seek out stolen money,” and if Churchill knowingly entered into an arrangement with them to receive such money, then Churchill and his employers constitute a criminal conspiracy for which they should serve jail time.

Edited by Tom Robinson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If the UC administrators “actively seek out stolen money,” and if Churchill knowingly entered into an arrangement with them to receive such money, then Churchill and his employers constitute a criminal conspiracy for which they should serve jail time.

First off, its CU. Second, how did this thread get so far off the actual issue regarding Ward Churchill?

The reality is most colleges in this country recieve funding from money extorted from taxpayers. That's the way that the educational system works. Any argument that Churchill should be fired because he recieves an income from tax money is irrelevant. By that logic, every single person at every single public institution should also be fired.

Obviously, coersive taxation is wrong and you and me and most of the other people that post on this board all advocate that it be abolished. But that is not the issue at hand regarding Churchill. He should be fired for openly advocating violence against the United States government and citizens, not because of the source of his income. First amendment rights guarantee that you will not be jailed for things you say and write, but they don't exempt you from other consequences, such as losing your job.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
First off, its CU.  Second, how did this thread get so far off the actual issue regarding Ward Churchill?

The reality is most colleges in this country recieve funding from money extorted from taxpayers.  That's the way that the educational system works.  Any argument that Churchill should be fired because he recieves an income from tax money is irrelevant.  By that logic, every single person at every single public institution should also be fired.

My position is not that all public employees must be fired, only that their supposed contractual "right" to a tax-funded position is morally invalid. In theory, they could work for free. With regard to Churchill, I've made it clear that if some private donor wishes to endow the creep, fine.

Obviously, coersive taxation is wrong and you and me and most of the other people that post on this board all advocate that it be abolished.  But that is not the issue at hand regarding Churchill.  He should be fired for openly advocating violence against the United States government and citizens, not because of the source of his income.  First amendment rights guarantee that you will not be jailed for things you say and write, but they don't exempt you from other consequences, such as losing your job.

I'm not aware of any law that requires an institution to fire employees who advocate violence against the United States government. On the other hand, if CU requires a loyalty oath of its instructors, and if Churchill's essay constitutes a violation of such, then firing him would not break the "valid agreement between a university and a teacher," that we have been told must be respected.

Edited by Tom Robinson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×