Brandon Bartlett is a philosophy junior and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.
The average university has nearly 12 liberal professors for every 1 conservative professor, and at face value this seems to make a strong case for liberalism. If those who would be expected to know the most about the world overwhelmingly favor a certain viewpoint, then who am I to disagree?
And yet, I cannot help but feel that conservatism has something to offer both universities and the country. I hope to make a case for that through this article in a way that is both true to my own position and shows the proper respect for my professors. If I must fail at one of these tasks, I pray it be the former.
To begin, let us take the face value argument to its logical end: If it is true that my leftist professors know best about what should be done for the economy, human rights and global relations, then the only reasonable thing to do would be to put them in charge.
If they actually know best, then giving the vote to someone as unqualified as me is the equivalent of giving the vote to a child, or a jackal for that matter — it would be a waste. We would be tying one hand behind our back (for what reason, again?), hoping for the best.
And yet, our civilization agreed that democracy is superior to oligarchy, and it seems that history would confirm this hypothesis. So let this be our starting point.
The Weakness of Education
“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried,” Winston Churchill once said.
In deciding to be democratic, we have decided against the well-educated oligarch — and we have even decided against a system in which the more educated get more voting power. Instead, for whatever reason, we have decided that in politics all opinions are equal.
The best sense that I have been able to make of this is the assumption that each person, regardless of education or social standing, has an equal chance of being wrong. And after some thought, I have become convinced that this is correct.
Education, it seems, works very much like armor: It is just as good at halting the blade of a deceitful enemy as that of a corrective surgeon. This is why the change that a 30-second ad may have on the opinions of the layman is far greater than the change that volumes of peer-reviewed research can have on an intellectual.
A professor’s beliefs are stable, for she has a reason behind each one; the public opinion can change overnight and for no reason at all. The layman’s strength is that he can move quickly, but this strength is based on a certain unwavering impulsiveness, a refusal to weigh every option and deliberate over every consequence.
It seems the public is quick and the academy is slow; and yet, we must admit that the converse is also true. While the above professor may never be swayed by the research that she has read, the views she holds are often years ahead of public opinion; which is to say that while the university speeds ahead into the future, the public lags several decades behind.
The public, then, is a slow moving mass full of rapidly transforming individuals, whereas the academy is, or at least should be, a rapidly moving mass full of static individuals.
And this paradoxical system works perfectly as long as both parties closely watch the other: the public must apply the ideas emerging from the university and the university must take in feedback from the applications of the public.
However, this balance was broken when the academy began ignoring the consequences of its ideas. It gave us Marxism, a forgivable mistake, but has still refused to repent after the world was forced to witness the largest genocide ever practiced. It gave us postmodernism, a forgivable mistake, but has yet to recount after the philosophy was proven utterly untenable (I shall attempt to prove this thesis in my next article).
The university was meant to be a safety net, the vanguard, the filter for new ideas, a partitioned section of society to test the most radical and creative of philosophies. But as it turned its back on the people, the people have been forced to turn their backs on it.
The people no longer know where their ideas will lead them, but this uncertain chaos was deemed a better option than continuing down the same path as before. That is why we saw the up-shoot of “outsider candidates,” and the reason why even the most avid of Trump supporters have no idea what is going to happen in the next four to eight years.
So why is conservatism a viable position? Because, at least for now, it represents the prudence of the people, the feedback for the academy; the wisdom that our democracy is demanding that we re-examine. Who am I