Big time American capitalism is off on a crying jag. It's being picked on and discriminated against in colleges and universities, or so say men like Frank O'Connell, the executive director of the John M. Olin Foundation, who tells the world that "today the left is the dominant orthodoxy on campus."
O'Connell is no voice in the wilderness, rather another howl from the herd who are constantly being warned by cowboys like Milton Friedman they'd best beware or the herd members will be heading toward the last round-up: "Businessmen support their enemies. They support people who are undermining the basis of the free enterprise system on which their future depends."
Businessmen like Robert Malott, chairman of the FMC Corporation, are quick to agree that executives should appreciate the dangers and check out who they give their money to: "It would be ironic if one of the benefits of the private enteprise system - corporate earnings - were to be used to weaken the system itself...it is time to recognize that ...we have inadvertantly been sustaining our enemies and crippling our friends." (For more see the July-August Harvard Business Review.)
For some reason not yet known, institutions of higher learning have the strangest and most inaccurate reputations even among their own alumni. Thus for years before he got a rep as a peripatetic bandit consultant, the college professor was thought to be a good-humored, extravagantly impractical, absent-minded man. Mr. Chips wasn't unusual, he was the norm. The norm now, in business eyes at any rate, is a collectivist ideologue and the college, once regarded as a place where nice girls learned a little French at the risk of losing virginity is seen as a left-wing indoctrination center.
Whether or not girls ever learned French or merely to French kiss, colleges have never housed many expositors of controversial ideas. In times of war or political crisis such as the anti-Red frenzy of the early '50s, academic freedom has invariably been set aside as a peace-time luxury. True, during the war in Southeast Asia, anti-Vietnam professors were tolerated and even encouraged, but that was because of the unusual, almost unique situation which saw businessmen, like everybody else, split over the issue.
Academic freedom lives a gasping and tenuous existance even in low pressure times when the adrenaline of fright and anger isn't inciting to classroom suppression. The appointment of Bertell Ollman as chairman of the University of Maryland's Department of Government and politics, will illustrate the point. Oilman had all the academic qualifications for the job, having been nominated by his professonal peers and approved by the various necessary deans. But the university's president wouldn't allow it because Oilman is a Marxist, not a communist, not a Russian agent, just an academic Marxist. He doesn't even serve to be called a parlor pink.
Here we are in a country whose two political parties are both capitalist, a country in which the non-Marxist socialist party went out of business years ago for lack of customers, that has no Communist Party worthy of the name party, a country that ought to look upon Oilman, not as a threat but as a curiosity. If Oilman has no place in higher education, then what are the limits of diversity the businessmen who give the money will permit? What percentage of non-Marxist liberals and how liberal?
The Russians should come over here and study what we're about. You don't have to do what they did to Sharansky to stifle heterdox speculations. If we travel the line we're going on far enough, we will be able to show the world that you can preserve human rights but ensure that acts of free speech become unique rarities. What need to put the heterodox in concentration camps if deciation from the capitalist line earns the blacklist, unemployment and penury?
Business' conviction that it is being picked on extends even to the business-owned mass media. Publishing an accusation that a steel-belted radial tire is unsafe is treated as a collectivist attack on the free enterprise system. Business is riding high just now, still these attempts to make America into the state of monotony will fail and when the wheel does turn, they may be dealing with someone who'll make 'em wish they just had old Ralph Nader to worry about.