> But writing and signing a statement was a minor cost, so why not give it a try?
So the mask has finally dropped, hasn't it... PASCAL!?
The labor market for your colleagues also extends far beyond GMU.
The pre-commit works for everyone, not just a department chair.
I think I recall in Shakespeare, Henry V, a leader rallying his men to battle,
"Let's to it pell mell, /
Hand-in-hand to heaven/
Or to hell."
Also, B. Franklin or one of that crowd I think, who said "If we don't hang together we shall surely hang separately."
See also the late Thomas Schelling on pre-committing in deterrence.
Whats the likelyhood of some people not signing cause they think wokeness is a fad?
Never consider the possibility that some think you are wrong, for you are certainly always right about everything.
Soooo... Tyler is #5?
A friend who took part in these things told me recently: "The American civil rights and anti-war movements taught us that peaceful demonstration is not a
“One-off”. They are not realistically intended to sway governments as much as the population. Public desire sways the government, but rarely in direct simple ways.
Oddly, peaceful demonstration is a slow, brutal process."
The point in the penultimate paragraph is the best reason to make such public statements and committments when not personally vested in support of the thing being opposed. It draws a line. For the case at hand, lines should be drawn and adminstrations put on notice. As a retired faculty member and former department chair, I can say with certainty that those statements are noticed. Adminstrators hate conflict above all and the only stakeholders that can make life more miserable for them than students are staff and faculty - and they know this.
After 2020, i fully expect my fellow citizens to merrily load me and my entire family into camps and ovens if some talking head talks up the real or imagined danger we pose, a fate which will be stayed only by flight and exit and evasion or superior force. What's more, I don't think precommitment devices work all that well against precisely the sorts of panics where they are needed. But, a laudable effort.
This basically plays fully to the most extreme form of my priors regarding academia as both a mindset (the academic) and a set of real institutions (the academy): they are socially destructive vampiric parasites whose death must be hastened if we are to limit their harm on the future of human civilization. If even the GMU Econ department is happy to abandon a robust public defense of academia’s claimed social purpose (the creation of a space that encourages open inquiry in pursuit of greater truth) than that purpose is well and truly dead and gone. And with it, so should go all of the academy. It’s just a tax vampire plotting the end of civilization on net. May it die in my lifetime.
presumably you or Alex Tabarrok personally asked Tyler Cowen to sign, what did he say?
Only tangentially related, but your signaling model of education has conformity as one of the things being signaled right? Do you think that means that students/faculty are going to be people more susceptible to group mentality than the general population?
I strongly disagree with the "it won't do any good" sentiment. If one is making a public commitment to a couple of principles that are absolutely essential to the success of one's profession, the good that follows from that is tied to an old-fashioned thing called "honor."
In the absence of a public commitment, presumably the nineteen individuals would still subscribe to the same principles, and would react negatively to any breaches of them by the GMU management. But what would they actually do in that event? Would they just slink away quietly as they are picked off one by one, leaving the impression that maybe they deserved to be purged, denied promotions, etc. because of whatever trumped up charges of anti-wokeness are leveled against them? Or would they complain about the injustice of a trumped up accusation as it is made, while allowing their enemies control the content of the accusation, the timing of the accusation, and the targets of the accusations? Or would they just fold, miserably carrying on as compliant minions tamely spreading the gospel of wokeness and socialism as commanded by the management?
The value of going public with one's fundamental principles is that it preemptively frames the debate before any accusations are leveled, and it builds solidarity among those who are standing up for the same principles. Instead of getting away with making up b.s. about one dissident professor to get him fired, now GMU's management knows that if they go after one dissident they will be taking on all nineteen of them simultaneously. The public debate will be about your principles, not about whatever lies they tell about a given individual. Even if GMU's betrayal of the principles is irreversible and the management's purge of those who stand up for them unavoidable, nineteen professors standing together against the purge will greatly raise their public profile and will enable them to set the agenda of the ensuing public debate. If they hope to get an academic job somewhere else, do they want the glory of having seized the high ground and fought their battle for the right principles (which presumably their new employer would have to pay more than just lip service to), or do they want the suspicion and ignominy associated with whatever lies and character assassination were conjured up against them following them wherever they go?
Moreover, in the event of a blatantly political accusation none of the nineteen will be able to rationalize not resisting a breach of their stated principles and not standing up for each other. A private pledge to stand up for a colleague means little because it is too easy to cut ties to that colleague once they become a political hot potato. However, backing out of a public commitment has a serious reputational cost, and personally undertaking such a cost makes sense because of the reciprocity inherent in securing the support of others for one's cause.
George Mason himself set the example for this when he drafted the Fairfax Resolves in 1774 and the Virginia Declaration of Rights in 1776. Mason definitely overcame his fears, poked the bear, became a joiner and signer along with his fellow libertarian revolutionaries, and wound up doing some good for all of America, not just for Fairfax County or for the Commonwealth of Virginia. More importantly, he did some good for himself--how can one live with oneself without standing up for principles that actually matter to one's well being? Is that not sufficient grounds for summoning up some courage and joining with one's compatriots?
I think academics are basically pusillanimous and self centered. They'll rail against their residential water and sewer bill if they think its too high but only join to protest something in the public interest if they think they're conforming with overwhelming public opinion.
I'm very sympathetic with #4. If I was trying to get tenure, I would do absolutely nothing to generate risk.
On the flip side, the whole point of tenure is to make statements like this safe. Any tenured faculty expressing fear of the administration deserves derision.
#3...Talk about a moral hazard. Why is putting it off to the long run preferable?