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In his recent book, “Constitutional Conservatism,” political scientist Peter Berkowitz calls for the social and libertarian right to come together around the common principles of “liberty, self-government and political moderation.” Berkowitz joins us to talk about his book, U.S. foreign policy, and his charge that the UC system is indoctrinating students with a liberal agenda.

Guests:
Peter Berkowitz, Tad and Dianne Taube Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution; and author of "Constitutional Conservatism: Liberty, Self-Government, and Political Moderation"

  • Narnio

    While there is liberalism in universities, it isn’t necessarily because of propaganda, it’s because universities share knowledge, and with greater knowledge one sees the truth of things, and that truth is neither liberal nor conservative. But that knowledge is often a threat to the powers that be, especially unethical rich people with rapacious tendencies or even criminal inclinations, and that is why those rich people deploy their amoral propagandists to accuse academia of liberalism.

    However what I’m seeing more and more is academics kowtowing to the rich and to industry while taking a cowardly stance about anything controversial. Academics are becoming like politicians, with dollar signs in their eyes, seeking to pull in corporate funding and secure lucrative jobs in order to pull down big salaries. Meanwhile right-wing groups, big corporations and rich people like the Koch brothers are pushing to convert universities into propaganda machines that discourage critical thinking except within narrow domains like chemistry, computer science or genetics.

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      Narnio please give me an actual example where liberal professors share knowledge that is balanced and factual as far as teaching about conservative ideas.

      If truth is neither liberal or conservative then why have professors that are actually liberal? Why not have professors who are neither conservative or liberal, but simply fair?

      • Nario

        In many cases, you never learn the political persuasion of either professors or students. If the topic matter of a course is dealt with honestly then that should never occur. I haven’t been in college for some years but I always avoided courses where the lecturer was likely to be trying to get away with propagandizing.

      • chrisnfolsom

        I once had a political science teacher who from the outset said “I am liberal and that is what I teach, and if you want a conservative teacher you can transfer to so and so’s class” I thought that interesting, and he was one of my most memorable teachers. I think full disclosure is important, and there is may be a problem with teaching being a “liberal art”, supported by unions and tenure you are going to get more liberal teachers – so what, in business you are going to get more conservatives who if pressed will just blame their board of directors and their allegiance to the all mighty dollar, who are anti government unless they can make money off it – and even influence it. There are imbalance everywhere – and there always will be. As enlightened individuals it is upon us to try and make the checks and balances work toward the best end result. All of those titans of business survived their “liberal educational assault” and look where they are now….

      • geraldfnord

        I learned a lot of favourable things about free-market economics from ‘liberal’ professors; they just didn’t identify it as the only valid version. Very often, left and right, the perceived bias of a figure is a function of the opinions of the observer, which is why your anti-colonialist Marxist Muslim is my milk-and-water social justice, moderate Republican, Christian.

  • Cal M

    Michael, curious as to your guest’s response to the following:

    For 30 years now, far-right ideologues have been playing the world’s smallest violin about how ANY media outlet (or university) that doesn’t reflect the most extreme viewpoints is — by definition — biased.

    The trope is tiring, it’s delusional, & it’s counterproductive to a rational democracy that requires people on both sides of the aisle to deal with reality and facts.

  • Anonymous

    Narnio & Bill: thanks for reminding me why I don’t listen to KQED on a regular basis.

    • chrisnfolsom

      Because both sides of a conversation are discussed without using an opinion, rhetoric, or FUD to discredit them – instead of discussing the issues?

      • Anonymous

        Actually, no. I’m quite pleased with today’s discussion. I respect Krasny. It’s the knee-jerk language of the commenters (far-right idealogues, right-wing groups, unethical rich people) that I object to.

        • Eric

          I’m also very disappointed by the ‘liberal’ intolerance. But that just makes me glad that this program aired–people need to hear different points of view.

    • Nario

      I listen to liberal, left-wing, libertarian and paleo-conservative perspectives and I find more often than not they all have the same observations and concerns as regards important issues.

  • chrisnfolsom

    The current problem is that Republicans see the demographic tide turning against them and that the writing on the wall, but are not willing to change. A Liberal would say that things change and you either change with the times, or become irrelevant. Republicans have a mandate as protectors of a static constitution, and as religious conservatives are unwilling to change, neither will they – to the point of trying whatever tactics will protect their beliefs about themselves, their states and the country – even if it means trampling (or reinterpreting) the constitution into the ground.

    • Anonymous

      It all depends on what your idea of “reinterpretation” is. Conservatives would argue that it is “liberals who say that things change and you either change with the times” who are reinterpreting the Constitution.

    • Nario

      You are actually incorrect. The tide is turning in favor of 21st century fascism, which is variously called corporatism or neoconservatism or the New World Order. The masses are for the most part too ignorant or cowardly to recognize how bad things really are.

      Just look at how badly Occupy was treated, and how little the masses seemed to care.

  • Eric

    Berkowitz talks sense in my opinion, but listeners may find it out of resonance with the liberal group think of the bay area. That’s all the more reason to challenge our assumptions with new ideas. Kudo’s to Forum for being willing to bring this to the KQED audience.

    • Ehkzu

      ..and while most listeners probably disagree with his politics that doesn’t mean he isn’t right about the UC System and other universities being pervaded by doctrinaire leftist indoctrination. Ideologues Left and Right tend to be authoritarian and totalitarian wherever they gain power.

      California’s left wing state government is trying to jam a top-down regional planning scheme down our throats while Texas’s right wing government is jamming theocratic laws about women’s health down their throats.

      My very conservative spouse found herself being forced to parrot leftist cant to get a passing grade in some social studies classes at San Jose State U. back in the 1980s. Another conservative friend got the same treatment at SF State U. more recently.

      We have to guard against totalitarianism from both sides.

    • Nario

      It is always correct to point out that “liberalism” by definition does not allow for reverse-discrimination, sexism by women, racist ethnocentrism or revisionist history.

      It is also true that very flawed people who call themselves liberal engage in such behaviors.

  • Candis Meetra Dastmalchi

    Is he joking about Egypt? A military never ever ever ever has the right to overthrow a democratically elected leader. Ever. Did I mention ever?
    How can he be so watered down about that? How can he suggest that it is somehow ok for that to have occurred? Because the president thrown out was Muslim?

    • Nario

      Hi Candis, in your blog’s subtitle you misspelled cesspool. FYI. Here: http://socialvigilanteactivity.blogspot.com/

      • Candis Meetra Dastmalchi

        Hahaa, I know. Darn autocorrect on my iPhone is killing me. Never went back in and fixed lol!

    • chrisnfolsom

      As appalling as the coo was I did like his defense as there is always a relief valve – revolution, or such, and the idea of liberal democracy was interesting. The first thing Morsi seemed to do was consolidate his power through his “presidential decree” and remove much of the protections of the government, the very checks and balances that make a democracy work. The Egyptians voted for Morsi to work within the confines of the office as it was created, not to create the government he wanted. I still don’t like it, and they did set a bad precedent – which conservatives here are now touting as something that should be done to Obama…..

  • Nathan

    In regard to citizen’s united, how can political speech remain equal when money is allowed so much weight in the political process? There is no equality when those with more money have more access to the political process than those who don’t, and thus those with more money are “more free” than those who don’t have large amounts of cash.

  • Candis Meetra Dastmalchi

    Liberal education, by its own definition of general values, includes promoting the exploration of even conservative ideas and viewpoints. As a recent graduate of the CSU system, I can tell you that this does not freely occur. It is increasingly more difficult to even mention ideas rooted in conservatism without being met with eye rolling, scoffing, and general beratment in front of an entire class. As a socially liberal person, even I found this mob like culture off putting.

  • geraldfnord

    What would the guest consider to be the limits to a-pragmatism? I have heard some libertarians say that they would continue to back their principles even if most people weren’t doing too well in a society so ordered, and traditionalist say the same for Tradition, not wishing to sacrifice (respectively) liberty or social capital for the sake of avoiding pain to living humans. (Each, of course, is speaking lightly, as their [sic] usual, immediate, response begins with, ‘Well, that would never happen….’.)

    Also:

    What would the guest say to the nascent Tea Party’s supporters’ repeatedly turning up at town meetings and congressional open houses to shout down anyone with whom they disagreed? Is this conducive to liberty—it does not seem at all classically liberal. (Note: I was against the S.D.S.’s doing the same to proponents of our Vietnam adventure, though they had the excuse that lives were immediately on the line—and despite what conservatives may think, such never controlled the Democratic Party as thoroughly as the Tea Party have the G.O.P..)

    And:
    Perhaps Ms Pelosi was dumb-founded at the question of the constitutionality of the A.C.A. because she assumed that the Republican leadership and the Heritage Foundation had thoroughly vetted it when they came up with it in the early ’90s.

    • chrisnfolsom

      And regarding constitutionality we all knew the Supreme Court would look at it and be the ultimate law of the land regarding it – and they were. But as the Tea Party/conservative believe only in changes they like, not those they don’t like no matter how “legal” they are – by definition – by the Supreme Court. I guess they know better then God too when the conservatives rewrite the New Testament and defend wealth and greed.

      • geraldfnord

        The Postal Service is essentially mandated in the Constitution—why are the Tea partiers up in arms about the extra-Constitutional requirement that it pay its own way?

        • chrisnfolsom

          Perhaps because Obama uses the mail…

  • meh

    Berkowitz is either deliberately disingenuous or stupid, and I’m leaning towards the former. His position with respect to abortion rights seems to be to try to reassure supporters of abortion rights that abortion will continue to be available if Roe is overturned – that is, if the Federal government ceases to regulate an area either via CFR or precedent, the states will ‘do the right thing.’

    Let’s crack that nut….what happened when the Voting Rights Act was overturned? Of course everyone did the right thing – oh, wait, they didn’t! Instead, a number of states, all with conservative Republican legislatures, did the exact opposite and began enacting statutes which effectively restrict access to the polls for people of color and the poor – which is to say, as far as the GOP is concerned, Democrats.

  • susansrwc

    His comment in favor of Citizens United earned him a spot on my jerk list. Freedom of political speech my eye.

    • geraldfnord

      Why? It gives you and Cargill equal rights to buy large blocks of advertising time, just as his other favourite liberties leave you and the Kochs and Soroses of this world with an equal right to sleep on grates and steal bread.

      That’s called ‘principle’. (I cannot say this of this person since he sounds thoughtful and decent and he is a guest, but in many cases the principle in question is ‘There’s good money in stroking the rich whilst kicking the poor.’)

      • chrisnfolsom

        It was wrong when unions used their influence and money to manipulate votes, but it is also wrong to allow companies to do the same thing – especially when they can donate unlimited funds – if we got rid of pacs and such and a company was limited to $5,000 or so then I would have no problem, but a company is not a person it is a board of directors and shareholders, and it is not even a U.S. citizen and this allows foreign nationals to have significant opportunities to influence voting in America – no one should be for that.

      • Nathan

        What are you smoking? Money is not speech. Money is not equally distributed. The top 5% control 72% of the wealth in this country. You can’t say that the wealthy and the poor are equal in their political influence. If money remains the key to speech and influence then the poor and dwindling middle class can whisper, while the wealthy have the ear of politicians and government.

        • chrisnfolsom

          The extra money also allows you to buy votes as we all know that even if you are wrong, if people hear it enough you can change their minds – we do not as a group have free will if we allow it to be influenced by infinite funds – especially when they can be shielded by anonymity through the pac process. No accountability, no freedom.

        • geraldfnord

          i·ro·ny
          /ˈīrənē/

          Noun
          The expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      You don’t know that Citizens United also means that unions have a right to spend all the money they want without disclosing who donated the money? Why do some folks think it only meant the Koch brother and others could spend all the money they wanted per politics?

      • geraldfnord

        Certainly: if I can shout into a loud-hailer and you have laryngitis, and we are both asked to speak to a crowd to persuade them, it is eminently fair that we both be allowed to shout as loudly as we possibly can.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    The guest gave short shrift and even questioned “corporate control” of gov’t. Let’s be specific: Legislators are bought and paid for by huge donations combined with threats of well-financed negative campaigns. In other words, politicians seek to remain electable and they do that by pledging fealty, if you will, to corporate interests, rather than by, for, and interests of the people – us citizens. Consider that we can’t get Glass-Steagall back, we can’t even get consensus for a strong Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, even after Wall Street stole pension funds and sunk economies of other nations. So corporate interests carve out exceptions friendly to them at voters’ expense. Does the guest support public financing of elections and a rollback of corporate personhood to restore the democracy the founding fathers created?

    • chrisnfolsom

      It’s even worse now as you can’t even get the money to think about running for office without selling out – of course having access to a candidate and funding his election will in NO way give you any more influence then the little old lady who sends in a check for $5….. IF you can control you runs for office (which they are doing), you have already won the election before one vote is cast – much easier and cleaner to do.

  • geraldfnord

    Traditionalists fear the destruction (which Schumpeter called ‘creative’, but they wouldn’t) of traditional institutions, but libertarians consider this a feature rather than a bug.

  • Nathan

    The Natural gas shale statement by the guest is hogwash. All one has to do is look at the documentary Gasland to see the groundwater contamination and the venting of the processing tanks and you see that we’re destroying our people and country. The Bush administration, under the leadership up Dick Cheney, passed the Energy Policy Act 0f 2005 which allowed the Gas companies to be exempt from the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and any government regulation of the toxic chemicals used in fracking. It’s deplorable and the burden should be on industry to prove their methods are safe for the public and will not contaminate drinking water and destroy lives.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    Berkowitz just said at 53 minutes into the hour, that fracking is “clean”?? How about the greater issue of private business making expenses (like waste and toxic cleanup) public, while keeping profits private? In other words, they don’t pay for their own mess.

    And what of tax laws? Even Warren Buffett states that it is ludicrous his secretary – who makes a fraction of Warren’s salary, pays more than he does in taxes. Any comments there? If a company benefits from US law, why should they be allowed to hide income offshore?

    • Nathan

      Exactly! They socialize the risk while privatizing the profits.

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      And NO one is stopping Warren Buffet from writing out a BIG check which he can then send to the government!

      • geraldfnord

        A man ran into the bar and told the people there that the river were rising, and that they would all need to fill a bunch of sand-bags to protect everyone’s homes. He was known to be very strong, so it was entirely justified when someone else yelled back, ‘If you’re so sure, fill all you can yourself!.’ the fact that this both might kill him and certainly would fail to hold back the river being morally and practically meaningless…as well as dodging the question of whether the other people there might owe the town anything.

    • Eric

      I see no libertarian ideology rationale to favor a tax structure that favors one type of income over another (i.e., the core reason why Buffett doesn’t pay as much taxes as his secretary). In fact, I can see a strong rationale to the contrary, and social engineering via the tax code (which is what the holy capital gains preferential treatment certainly is) should be avoided.

    • Nario

      Berkowitz knows he is a dirtbag. Listen to his voice closely when he says such things. He’s speaking through a wolfish grin.

  • chrisnfolsom

    This is a wolf in sheep’s clothing – saying you are liberal, but only voting for conservative viewpoints is not liberal. I do like his position on Egypt – there is not easy solution there, but this is the same tact as proclaiming “freedom” as you change the voting rights act. There IS proof of conservatives trying to limit the voting of Democrats – there is no proof of systematic cheating on voting which is their chief claim for all the restrictions they are adding. They might as well go back to guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar as they did not too many years ago.

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    If liberal education is working so well why is American education producing so few science and engineer major. Unlike China and India who are more conservative and are turning out most the the professionals in these areas?

    If liberalism is working so well why do we have more children being born into single parent poverty? And more high school drop outs than at any other time?

    And why do some people confuse religious conservatives who wish to impose religious views on others with those of us who lean conservative who simply want to impose more personal responsibility on the individual which would require that the individual think before they act and then accept ALL the consequences of their free choices.

    And why don’t we see more walk the talk conservatives denouncing ALL corporate welfare?

    • Nario

      There are lots of people graduating in the USA with science and engineering degrees. But students are also aware that jobs are going overseas. They are well aware that American workers are being passed over here in the USA in favor of workers from India, China, Russia etc who are here temporarily to learn our skills and then go home.

      Why study something if there aren’t going to be any jobs? Even if you really love something, that won’t pay off $50k.

    • chrisnfolsom

      >If liberal education is working so well why is American education producing so few science and engineer major.

      – What is the link between “liberal education” and sciences? I don’t believe there is one. I do believe in institutionally (Churches) creating distrust in education
      has had an effect on those really wanting to go there. When you combine the attach on “liberal education” with an attack on hard science by disagreeing with global warming and creation myths you make it worse.

      >If liberalism is working so well why do we have more children being born into single parent poverty?
      – There are more unwed mothers per-capita in bible belt or republican states then “liberal” states. http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/02/mapping-unwed-motherhood/?_r=0. I know this is not exactly your question, but the number do tell a story.

      >And more high school drop outs than at any other time?
      – This is a matter of poverty and demographics, not the schools – would “conservative education” attract more students?
      >And why do some people confuse religious conservatives who wish to impose religious views on others….
      – The main issues is that if you only vote for Republicans you vote for all of what a Republican candidate stands for – as they mostly vote party line and party line has a very conservative religious view you are in fact voting for that religious view – no matte what your belief. I wouldn’t say that YOU have those religious views, but your voting DOES support them.
      >And why don’t we see more walk the talk conservatives denouncing ALL corporate welfare?

      – That last one is on you – it’s tough although we never see all those fiscal conservative talk about limiting military spending either (very few).

  • timholton

    This conversation did nothing to restore my hopes of academia’s continued capacity to contribute to solutions to our economic, social and political problems. Mr Berkowitz seems exceedingly glib and disconnected from reality on several issues. His superficially conciliatory argument presumes the uselessly simplistic binary conservative-liberal/progressive framework — a framework that PRECLUDES reconciliation. All that follows strikes me as therefore worthless.

    No responsible adult is against conserving and no responsible adult is against progress. Why can’t we grow up? Because we frame our politics as a sport– a big superbowl contest. Why? That’s the best way to commodify it and hence make money from it. What this costs us is our maturity as human beings and our capacity to enter the circle of life in meaningful participation. Berkowitz is merely another proponent of our current fake politics.

 His answer to my question on conservative positions on laissez-faire betrayed a startling ignorance about how entrenched that ideology and the assumption of the economic man thesis is, and how deeply and directly it stands in opposition to the ancient wisdom of civilization — by no means only Christian — of the necessity for human society to be governed by charity. Ayn Rand and her direct repudiation of “the code” — i.e., the Golden Rule — DOES rule the minds and behavior of corporate America. Berkowitz’s patronizing chuckle at my invoking the Golden Rule I found quite telling. It betrays a belief that ethics, absolutely conservative (truly understood) concerns about how we treat one another, are marginal to the conversation. Thus is authentic conservative thinking marginalized. Thus is authentic progress denied. Thus does the Left-Right death march go on.

    With such oblivious, debased opining coming from our academics, I say, it’s past time we look elsewhere for wiser heads.

    • chrisnfolsom

      I agree as you can even see now the conversation even went to bashing “liberal” instructors and programs that don’t teach the fundamentals of conservative thought (as per the Tea Party) – if they do not they are wrong. I do not think all institutions think/teach that way, and if they do they are wrong, which means you alter the programs as all programs have to change over time. This is the same tactic of attacking and undercutting the messenger to the point of mistrust, kind of like felling trees, and your believers not only disagree, but are left believing that the person or institutions are actually persecuting them as we can see with the attack on Obama – before he was even in office, and the blank obstructionism he has had to work with even when promoting programs started by conservatives themselves.

  • Nathan

    Intellectual institutions are suppose to provide forums to debate, guide thoughtful discussions, and develop analytical thinking. Unfortunately, too many people don’t have the skills needed to enter this realm when they leave high school. Today’s guest was straight out of an Ivory Tower. The vast majority of his points lacked any meaningful depth, or served as a rhetorical exercise to inflate his own ego, and aside from his point about some narrow courses being taught most points were complete and utter hogwash.

  • Tyranipocrit

    The Tea party is NOT a grassroots movement–don’t make me sick–the
    teabaggers are organized and funded by the 1%. if you want a leader
    look no further than the Koch brothers–you will find SS tattooed on
    their buttocks.

    When you say, Pelosi said “Are you kidding me,”
    put it in context. Otherwise you are blowing hot air and it smells
    like my but.

    Libertarians (sycophants) fail to understand their
    own principles–. they want less government–but they applaud
    corporations and rather unintelligibly fail to recognize that the
    corporations ARE the government and are terrifyingly huge and monstrous
    and interfering–these groups have dismantled and shredded your
    constitution. The Constitution is dead because of your ilk. The bill
    of rights burned in laughter and fat applause by tea baggers,
    libertarians, conservatives, and democrats alike–the corporate big
    government!

    perhaps that is why pelosi said, “are yo kidding
    me?”–because you people–teabaggers and libertarians work so hard to
    distort and destroy the constitution–and have done so quite
    effectively. She was being ironical, smart guy–teabaggers are the
    american Taliban married to Monsanto,, the military Industrial complex
    and fundamental bible thumping Christian psycho cults.

  • Tyranipocrit

    the caller–“progressives drive me nuts with their ‘authoritarianism’.”–what?!!! is he insane? The essence of the progressive movement is in opposition to everything authoritarian–except perhaps green laws–which is nothing more than saying human rights. is it is authoritarian to insist on human rights? Its not authoritarian to forbid murder or rape is it? Environmental pollution and corporatism is both. You do not have the right to pour deadly chemicals in my drinking water or my air–its mine and everyone’s–it is the commons. it is not authoritarian to insist on a social contract and enforce justice..

  • Kenji Yamada

    I’m a liberal, but I found myself agreeing with a number of things that Peter Berkowitz said. Most enthusiastically with his assertion that universities should be encouraging students to hear and seriously consider a wide range of views on politics and social issues, regardless of who might be offended by the content (as distinct from the presentation). I think public radio has the same responsibility to its listeners, so thanks to Forum for making a contribution towards that responsibility with this segment.

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