William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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QUOTE OF THE DAY – AT 11:22 AM. ET:  Harvey Mansfield is an academic hero, one of the few great conservative professors left in the Ivy League.  He mans the barricades at Harvard, trying to hold back the constant tide of lazy liberalism and modern mediocrity that have gripped the academic world.  He was interviewed by The Wall Street Journal:

'We have now an American political party and a European one. Not all Americans who vote for the European party want to become Europeans. But it doesn't matter because that's what they're voting for. They're voting for dependency, for lack of ambition, and for insolvency."

Well, that's direct, isn't it?  It also contains a theme that I've seen grow among the better conservative writers – that this country is in very serious trouble, and that our problems may not be permanent, but reflect potentially catastrophic changes in national direction and style.

"I live in a one-party state and very much more so a one-party university," says the 80-year-old professor with a sigh. "It's disgusting. I get along very well because everybody thinks the fact that I'm here means the things I say about Harvard can't be true. I am a kind of pet—a pet dissenter."

The same can be said of other "prestigious" universities. 

On the election:

...the president achieved "a sneaky victory," Mr. Mansfield says. "The Democrats said nothing about their plans for the future. All they did was attack the other side. Obama's campaign consisted entirely of saying 'I'm on your side' to the American people, to those in the middle. No matter what comes next, this silence about the future is ominous."

At one level Mr. Obama's silence reveals the exhaustion of the progressive agenda, of which his presidency is the spiritual culmination, Mr. Mansfield says. That movement "depends on the idea that things will get better and better and progress will be made in the actualization of equality." It is telling, then, that during the 2012 campaign progressives were "confined to defending what they've already achieved or making small improvements—student loans, free condoms. The Democrats are the party of free condoms. That's typical for them."

And...

Consider the entitlements crisis. "Entitlements are an attack on the common good," Mr. Mansfield says. "Entitlements say that 'I get mine no matter what the state of the country is when I get it.' So it's like a bond or an annuity. What the entitlement does is give the government version of a private security, which is better because the government provides a better guarantee than a private company can."

That is, until the government goes broke, as has occurred across Europe.

Finally...

So is it still possible to pull back from the brink of America's Europeanization? Mr. Mansfield is optimistic. "The material for recovery is there," he says. "Ambition, for one thing. I teach at a university where all the students are ambitious. They all want to do something with their lives." That is in contrast to students he has met in Europe, where "it was depressing to see young people with small ambitions, very cultivated and intelligent people so stunted." He adds with a smile: "Our other main resource is the Constitution."

COMMENT:  Please read the whole interview and e-mail it to friends.  It's one of the best things I've read recently.  Harvey Mansfield is a major resource.

At least we're fighting back.  Be optimistic.

December 1, 2012