Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Princeton University historian Allen Guelzo reveals the folly – and notes the irony – of a student at Washington, DC’s, George Washington University taking to the pages of the Washington Post to argue that George Washington, the man, is undeserving to have a major university bear his name. A slice:
So, yes, George Washington owned slaves, and his turn against slavery happened slowly. But this isn’t the only matter to enter into the historical calculus of blame or fame. Washington was fumbling toward the elimination of slavery in an America that was only just emerging from centuries of deeming slavery normal. He was also the indispensable man of a rebellion that began the movement toward ending slavery. Once that government was established, he frankly told Edmund Randolph that if the slaveholding states of the South persisted in wrecking the new republic, “he had made up his mind to remove and be of the Northern” states. Frederick Douglass, in his most famous speech, praised Washington as the man who “could not die till he had broken the chains of his slaves.”
Let his onetime opponent, King George III, have the last word. In 1797, the expatriate painter Benjamin West dined with Rufus King, the American diplomatic envoy to Great Britain. West astounded King with a comment George III made when he learned that Washington had voluntarily surrendered his commission as general-in-chief of the Continental Army at the close of the Revolution, a voluntary submission of military power to civilian rule. “That act,” said the king, placed Washington “in a light the most distinguished of any man living, and that he thought him the greatest character of the age.”
If only on that point, George III got Washington right. And so, I suspect, did the ones who named George Washington University.
Justice Clarence Thomas has been predictably but erroneously pilloried for writing in his Dobbs concurrence that other precedents—including the rights to contraceptives, same-sex marriage and consensual gay sex—ought to be reversed. But that’s not quite what he wrote (“Abortion Goes Back to the People,” Review & Outlook, June 25).
Instead, Justice Thomas noted that those precedents relied on the doctrine of substantive due process, which he and many legal scholars believe to be incoherent. Alternatively, the justice would inquire whether those same rights might be upheld under the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the 14th Amendment, something that libertarians have been advocating for decades.
In other words, Justice Thomas didn’t assert that the rights themselves have no constitutional pedigree, but rather that the underlying cases securing those rights should be revisited because of their faulty legal rationale.
Robert A. Levy
Chairman, Cato Institute
The tragedy of rent control goes far beyond just the palpable destruction brought on by high inflation and lagging rent increases, although we may be headed there again.
A quiet tragedy plays out every day in the lives of everyone who suffers from the stunting of the New York housing market caused by rent control. There is the suffering of the landlords, who unjustly have their properties reduced in value and even destroyed economically, when their legal rents can no longer support maintenance of their buildings. This tragedy is exemplified in an anecdote I read years ago at one of the biannual rent increase hearings. At a raucous hearing where dozens of “pro-tenant” activists demanded rent freezes and rent rollbacks, the owner of a small building approached one of the czars who would determine his fate. He said, “You are killing me. I may have to abandon my building and, with it, the savings of my family that bought it to provide retirement income.” The rent regulator-czar turned to him and said, “Look around. For each of you [landlords] there are twenty of them [tenants].”
It hardly seems to matter whether the management of these companies is comfortable with the messages being pumped out on its behalf online. It appears to have abdicated power to a tiny group of activist employees so imbued with Twitter culture that they cannot recognise the difference between social media and the real world.
And it’s part of a broader problem with woke capitalism, caused by companies paying far too much attention to the views of staff, and too little of customers. Disney, for example, has found its tax status in Florida under threat after some of its employees tried to turn the Magic Kingdom into the Woke Kingdom (or Person-dom, come to think of it) by campaigning on LGBT rights. Again and again, companies are finding themselves caught up in the culture wars, often forced into particular positions in an attempt to appease their Left-wing staff.
There are two problems with that. The first is that there is no need for businesses to take a political position. If they can make a decent product at a fair price, and pay their staff and suppliers on time, that is more than enough of a social purpose. Everything else can be argued about elsewhere.
The second is that, by handing control over to junior staff, it means private sector firms are falling for an affliction more commonly seen in the public sector. They are losing the art of customer service, and forgetting that respect for other people’s views, and tolerance of a wide range of political beliefs, is just common courtesy.
Harvard’s motto is a single word: Veritas. Yale’s is Lux et Veritas. But truth is the first casualty of progressivism. And as for light, there is a great deal more heat generated by the endless identity politics of the modern campus.