Donald Trump and the new campus political correctness movement have a lot in common. Both want to create safe spaces where people fear no challenge from the exercise of others’ liberties. In the case of the campus PC movement, their disdain for freedom is obvious. They want to stop others from saying things that may offend them or undermine their world view. But the modern university grows out the enlightenment, which of course gave much offense to aristocrats, priests, and various other purveyors of received wisdom. Illiberal political correctness is thus at war with the classical liberal ideas on which our universities are founded.
Donald Trump also wants to create safe spaces for people who do not want to be challenged by the liberty of others. This self-proclaimed master of the art of the deal is no friend of making markets more open. He opposes free trade agreements that would let our citizens and those of other nations make more mutually beneficial deals. He also promises literally to build a fence around America. To be sure, there is a national security threat to the United States from radical Islamic terrorism. But Trump’s proposals to ban Muslim immigration is at once excessive and ineffective. Why couldn’t jihadis simply pretend to be Middle Eastern Christians? Trump’s proposal is better understood as an attempt to insulate America from religious ideas that many disdain. His illiberal program is at war with America’s freedom.
The safe spaces offered by Trump and the PC movement lure people inside for similar reasons.
After serving two terms in office, with some reluctance, President Theodore Roosevelt decided not to run for an unprecedented third term, keeping with the tradition started by George Washington. Though, that decision was not an easy one. He stepped aside for two main reasons: first, he had (begrudgingly) made a pledge not to run for a third term, and second, he personally selected William Howard Taft, his longtime friend and confidant, as his successor with the understanding that Taft would continue his progressive policies. Even until the Republican Convention, Teddy considered throwing his hat into the ring, but stood by his pledge.
Freedom means different things to different people. But one way of understanding what it means to live in a free country is that you don’t have to worry about the government taking action against you for no good reason.
What is a good reason? One possibility is that you have not broken the law. But in the US, this is no longer an adequate reason. There are so many laws that people probably break them daily. Thus, if the government wants to get you for some other reason, they can arrest and prosecute you for breaking one of the laws that everyone breaks. This is obviously a strong reason for cutting back on the scope and number of our laws.
But under the existing system, your freedom and protection turns on the discretion and judgement of prosecutors, police officers, and other government officials. Thus, if one pisses them off – if they get mad at you for a good or bad reason – one is in danger of being prosecuted. This suggests that our system requires a mechanism for constraining discretion.
Untruth is more insinuating than truth and flatters to deceive. An untruth is easy to slip into a passage about a different subject, especially when it is covered in a patina of righteous generosity. It is then not so much unnoticed as unexamined, for who wants to examine righteous generosity? In the case of such untruths repetition is made to play the role of verification: what everyone, or at any rate everyone of a certain standing, says three times is true.