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Roll Over de Tocqueville

The Enlightenment has failed, Mill has been overthrown, and freedom is dead! It appears that de Tocqueville’s worst nightmare in 1830 have finally come true at Harvard nearly 175 years later- the tyranny of the monarch has been replaced by the tyranny of public opinion.

No more can the rational exploration of knowledge be carried out by prominent personalities in the open light of truth. It appears Veritas only applies as long as every militant wing is mollified. Otherwise the person is some sort of a x-o-phobe or a x-ist. President Summers is being crucified on the basis of hear-say and 2nd and 3rd hand accounts.

If prominent people cannot discuss important but controversial topics in public fora, are we saying that we must only listen to the sign waving kooks? If important people cannot discuss these topics, only those of no consequence or limited influence will dare to discuss these issues. These discussions will inevitably be infertile – who cares what these people will say or decide?

Even if you believe President Summers is in error, only in the harsh light of open intellectual discourse can error be corrected and biases exposed. Those who pretend otherwise think they can kill thoughts by not allowing them a voice. They are poor students of history and human behavor. These opinions will not die; these discussions will surface in back rooms and grow there.

I hope that Harvard is proud. Let’s change the motto: “Veritas as long as it suits you!”

February 28, 2005
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