If more of the American electorate were aware of three things, I would like to think that one of our two national parties would have a significantly more difficult time maintaining power.
These three things pertain to the contemporary American university. And the party that has an interest invested in keeping Americans in the dark about these facts is the party of which President Barack H. Obama is the titular head.
The first fact is that the professorial class consists overwhelmingly of hard leftists.
The second is that these hard leftists vote almost invariably vote for Democrats and never—never—for Republicans.
Third and finally, Democratic politicians are continually busy at work advocating on behalf of the ideas that their academic counterparts are just as busily formulating. To put it more simply, there is an inseparable connection between the theoretical imaginings of leftist academics and the policy prescriptions of leftist politicians—i.e. Democrats.
Take the Democrats tactic of choice, for instance.
Democrats are known for nothing if not their penchant for wailing over “the greed” of “millionaires and billionaires” who “exploit” the rest of us by refusing to “pay their fair share” of taxes. As his relentless assaults against his election opponent have amply demonstrated, Barack Obama is the Democrat par excellence when it comes to advancing this line.
Republicans refer to this as the politics of “class warfare” and/or “envy.” Democrats resist the charge. However, when we look beyond the surface of sound bites, sloganeering, and photo shoots to the university, what we discover is that the Republicans’ charge is not wide of the mark. Leftists, you see—always to be counted upon to depart from the ethical traditions of the civilization to which they owe their existence—do not regard envy as the vicious character disposition that it has always been held to be. Much less do they view envy as one of the seven deadly sins that St. Thomas Aquinas and other Christian theorists spent centuries deploring.
Ronald Dworkin is one of the better known legal scholars of our time. A Harvard professor and prolific writer on topics ranging from philosophy of law to ethics to political philosophy, he has engaged in lively exchanges with the most distinguished of contemporary thinkers, including Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
In other words, Dworkin is not some fringe thinker.
This is important to bear in mind, for Dworkin reveals just how Obama and his fellow partisans think about “social” or “economic justice.”
For Dworkin, justice is to be measured in terms of an “ideal” distribution of resources. There are two kinds of resources, “personal” and “impersonal.” The former consists in those mental and physical attributes, like health, strength, talent, that make success in life either harder or easier to come by. Impersonal resources, on the other hand, are material goods, tangible things—properties and property rights.
We can determine whether there exists an ideal distribution of resources—justice—by applying what Dworkin refers to as “the envy test.” He writes: “Someone envies the resource-set of another person when he would prefer that resource-set to his own, and would therefore trade his own for it.” If, though, “no member of the community envies the total set of resources under the control of any other member,” then “equality is perfect” and, thus, justice is achieved.
Notice, an “ideal” distribution of resources is an “equal” distribution of resources, and such a distribution is a “just” distribution.
Things get worse.
Dworkin invites us to engage in an imaginary “auction” where only impersonal resources can be traded. That is, only property and property rights can be “equalized.” Still, even if there is perfect equality of material possessions, some people may still envy the looks and talents of others. And even if personal resources are more or less comparable, luck may supply unfair advantages to some people.
In order to rectify, as much as possible, these situations, there must be “compensatory strategies to repair…inequalities in personal resources and luck.” These “compensatory programs” can be “modeled on hypothetical insurance markets” and “financed by general taxation.”
Dworkin is clear that if there are conflicts between the demands of equality and liberty, then “invasions of liberties” will be justified if they are “necessary to protect an egalitarian distribution of resources and opportunities.”
The point here is clear: there is nothing of a person’s that the government may not confiscate as long as there are others in society who envy it.
The kind of thinking on display in the work of academics like Ronald Dworkin finds expression in the policies of Democratic politicians like Barack Obama.
This is what Americans need to realize—even if the Democrats would like for us to remain ignorant of it.