Tuesday, February 6

conservative intellectuals on campus

To the Editor:

I respect Mark Bauerlein's appeal for more scholarly attention to conservative intellectuals....

But I suggest a different reason for the neglect of serious conservative thinkers in the academic world: Many conservative intellectuals today have discredited their predecessors through distorting their ideas into rationalizations for Republican politics, which the earlier thinkers would have found repugnant. Prominent scholars such as Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams — along with journalists such as Irving and William Kristol, George Will, P.J. O'Rourke, and David Horowitz — pose as acolytes of Leo Strauss or Friedrich A. von Hayek but are in reality cynical publicists for the Republican machine, oligopolistic corporations, and vulgarian billionaires like Richard Mellon Scaife and Rupert Murdoch.

The most modest proposals for liberal reform, like President Clinton's ill-fated national-health-insurance program, are demonized by these intellectuals. Conservative economists at think tanks like the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation have responded to liberals' evidence to the contrary mainly by evading it with sophistic studies. ...

Bauerlein hints, but never quite admits, that the current paucity of first-rate conservative scholars may be due less to liberal bias than to the many conservatives themselves who have chosen to become well-rewarded propagandists rather than intellectuals of integrity.

Donald Lazere
Professor Emeritus of English
California Polytechnic State University
San Luis Obispo, Calif.