Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Reblogged:Rand's "The Establishing of an Establishment" Meets von Mises's Bureaucracy

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

"Government funding means government control." -- Me to a lefty friend years ago, on why I would not sign her petition for more government "support" of the arts.
***

Two professors writing for the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal argue that "Administrators Have Seized the Ivory Tower."

I think the below nicely summarizes what they lay out, as far as the symptoms go:
uni.jpg
Image by Vadim Sherbakov, via Unsplash, license.
The university community faces an expanding bureaucratic framework that values visibility more than substance. The faculty faces an administration that is increasingly indifferent to the variety and nuance of their research and the substance of their teaching. There is more and more empty praise for faculty members in the form of prosaic honors and unimaginative "certificates of appreciation," but less and less understanding of what faculty do and why. Even the focus on the intellectual development of students is being sacrificed to the vacuous goal of "student satisfaction."

In many respects, university administrators are academia's answer to what has become known as the "professional managerial class," or PMC. As Catherine Liu argues in a recent book, the PMC is comprised of educated professionals who embrace a moralizing progressive ideology while believing that it can be realized only in a top-down, hierarchical manner... [bold added]
They make a few stabs at causes, but I found their analysis unsatisfying. Yes, there is corruption. Yes, recent economy-wide (and state-caused!) financial pressures have made administrators keenly aware of budgetary perils. And, yes, politicians of all stripes are pressuring colleges to "provide students with 'job-ready' skills."

I would respectfully submit that they more deeply consider how much the government has academia's neck in the grasp of its grubby little fingers. Per my title, Ludwig von Mises's Bureaucracy will help show, in a mechanistic way, why the college administration bureaucracy keeps growing. That covers "expanding."

As for "progressive [sic] ideology" (which arguably includes some entire faddish areas of study), that is very well laid out by a relatively obscure work that deserves much greater attention: Ayn Rand's 1972 essay, "The Establishing of an Establishment," which is most easily found as a chapter in Philosophy: Who Needs It.

While Mises lays out the general process by which bureaucracy grows, Rand explains how government funding intellectually corrupted academia itself long ago:
[T]he premise to check is the idea that governmental repression is the only way a government can destroy the intellectual life of a country. It is not. There is another way: governmental encouragement.

Governmental encouragement does not order men to believe that the false is true: it merely makes them indifferent to the issue of truth or falsehood.

Bearing this preface in mind, let us consider an example of the methods, processes and results of that policy. [bold added]
This precedes a case study of a "plum" research grant awarded to B.F. Skinner, which Rand concludes in part with:
t is viciously improper for the government to subsidize the enemies of our political system; it is also viciously improper for the government to assume the role of an ideological arbiter. But neither Representative [Cornelius E.] Gallagher [(D-NJ)] nor The New Republic chose to see the answer: that those evils are inherent in the vicious impropriety of the government subsidizing ideas. Both chose to ignore the fact that any intrusion of government into the field of ideas, for or against anyone, withers intellectual freedom and creates an official orthodoxy, a privileged elite. Today, it is called an "Establishment."

...

Consider the desperate financial plight of private universities, then ask yourself what a "bonanza" of this kind will do to them. It is generally known that most universities now depend on government research projects as one of their major sources of income. The government grants to those "Senior" researchers establish every recipient as an unofficially official power. It is his influence -- his ideas, his theories, his preferences in faculty hiring -- that will come to dominate the school, in a silent, unadmitted way. What debt-ridden college administrator would dare antagonize the carrier of the bonanza?

...

The worst part of it is the fact that this method of selection is not confined to the cowardly or the corrupt, that the honest official is obliged to use it. The method is forced on him by the terms of the situation. To pass an informed, independent judgment on the value of every applicant or project in every field of science, an official would have to be a universal scholar. If he consults "experts" in the field, the dilemma remains: either he has to be a scholar who knows which experts to consult -- or he has to surrender his judgment to men trained by the very professors he is supposed to judge. The awarding of grants to famous "leaders," therefore, appears to him as the only fair policy -- on the premise that "somebody made them famous, somebody knows, even if I don't." [bold added]
But Gus, they were talking about power-hungry, woke administrators, not professors! you might say.

Yes, that is true, but that establishment educated those administrators, including the ones plucked from its own ranks, so it is a highly relevant part of the problem.

Government "encouragement" of prominent researchers created an intellectual establishment by causing incompetent or biased showering of money on prominent intellectuals, severing merit from reward.

That establishment then educated the bureaucrats who would later staff the metastasizing bureaucracy so created. It may not be obvious that this was a practically guaranteed outcome, but it should not be surprising.

-- CAV

Link to Original

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...