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How America's elite universities paved the way for progressivism 70 years ago

What William F. Buckley said about Yale and why it matters today.

Blaze readers are likely familiar with the so-called "Long March" of progressivism through America's institutions, whereby leftists undertook a concerted effort to embed themselves in the media and academia over many decades in order to change American culture and peacefully subvert and overthrow its system of governance.

While books such as Paul Kengor's "Dupes: How America's Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century," have eloquently argued this thesis -- with Kengor comprehensively documenting links from figures like the New York Times' chief Stalin apologist Walter Duranty, to educators like John Dewey, to more modern dupes, useful idiots and true believers -- one particularly striking portrait of the left's strategy comes from William F. Buckley's 1951 classic, "God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of 'Academic Freedom'."

William F. Buckley in Yale's news building in 1950. (Image Source: Yale Alumni Magazine) William F. Buckley in Yale's news building in 1950. (Image Source: Yale Alumni Magazine)

Here is what the prolific National Review founder, who attended Yale from 1946-1950 following his service in the army, wrote about the damage done to his fellow Yale students by the school's economics department alone, some six decades ago:

...if the recent Yale graduate, who exposed himself to Yale economics during his undergraduate years, exhibits enterprise, self-reliance, and independence, it is only because he has turned his back upon his teachers and texts. It is because he has not hearkened to those who assiduously disparage the individual, glorify the government, enshrine security, and discourage self-reliance.

Buckley continues:

[sharequote align="center"]"I believe the net influence of Yale economics to be thoroughly collectivistic."[/sharequote]

I believe the net influence of Yale economics to be thoroughly collectivistic. one should be so naïve as to expect that I could conjure up a list of professors and textbooks who advocate the overthrow, violently or otherwise, of all vestiges of capitalism in favor of an ironclad, comprehensive socialist state. There is very little of this at Yale; but this approach is not needed to accomplish, ultimately, the same transformation. Marx himself, in the course of his lifetime, envisaged two broad lines of action that could be adopted to destroy the bourgeoisie: one was violent revolution; the other, a slow increase of state power, through extended social services, taxation, and regulation, to a point where a smooth transition could be effected from an individualist to a collectivist society. The Communists have come to scorn the latter method, but it is nevertheless evident that the prescience of their most systematic and inspiring philosopher has not been thereby vitiated. It is a revolution of the second type, one that advocates a slow but relentless transfer of power from the individual to the state, that has roots in the Department of Economics at Yale, and unquestionably in similar departments in many colleges throughout the country.

[instory-book ISBN="9780895266927"]

Should you have been under the illusion that Thomas Piketty's bestselling "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" (which we have covered here, here and here) was a new phenomenon, Buckley delves into some of the core economics textbooks to which he and his fellow Yale students were exposed, and in particular the perspective espoused by their authors on inequality of economic outcomes:

"The division of the output among members of the society must be compatible with the society’s standards of justice," [Professor Lorie] Tarshis tells us in his Introduction (p. 3). And as far as the United States is concerned, "The distribution of income is very uneven, and it is questionable whether the maximum social well-being is achieved with this unequal division" (p. 157).

For Morgan, the redistribution of income is a sacred goal:

A spirit of general good will is likely to exist if, as a result of measures like those we are suggesting, the society attains [among other goals] the diminishing inequality of income and wealth [p. 194]. . . . greater equality of wealth brings non-economic advantage in greater social and political democracy [p. 187]. . . . [Our] guiding principles . . . are to move in the direction of lessening inequalities of wealth and income... [which] are generally accepted objectives [p. 183].

In short, "avoidance of great inequality of wealth and income" is a "goal which a healthy democratic society must keep in view" (p. 198).

[Economists] Bowman and Bach have no quarrel, economic or ethical, with the distribution of wealth as it is carried on in a socialist society (p. 575)...

[And] how [do Bowman and Bach seek] to bring about "just" redistribution? The answer is obvious:

. . . the government can go far towards achieving this end through the public economy. . . . The obvious method of approach is through heavy taxes on the high income groups with the funds transferred directly or indirectly (through free or subsidized services) to the low income groups [p. 714].

There is no disagreement among these economists as they condemn the present distribution of income. For reasons "economic, political, and social" something must, they say, be done about it. It is not enough that they believe something must be done about it: we are assured that "most Americans insist on it."

We present Buckley's words here as a a particularly important microcosm and snapshot in time of the left's "Long March."

What was taught at Yale in the 1940s echoes from the Oval Office to the pillars of the Supreme Court off the walls of America's newsrooms and classrooms today.

Ideas matter. And the ideas that begin at America's elite institutions hold sway over a disproportionate percentage of key politicians, executives, entertainers and educators, and inevitably propagate to all Americans.

Given the success of the economic professors of Yale, is it any wonder that the bomb throwers of the 1960s, from Bill Ayers, to Bernadine Dohrn to Kathy Boudin are the teachers of today

Is it any wonder that Common Core would be the progressive's next logical step?


Note: The links to the books in this post will give you an option to elect to donate a percentage of the proceeds from the sale to a charity of your choice. Mercury One, the charity founded by TheBlaze’s Glenn Beck, is one of the options. Donations to Mercury One go towards efforts such as disaster relief, support for education, support for Israel and support for veterans and our military. You can read more about Amazon Smile and Mercury One here.

Follow Ben Weingarten (@bhweingarten) and TheBlazeBooks on Twitter and Facebook.

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